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We Shall Wear Crowns

I recently discovered I missed posting this when I wrote it almost nine months ago. God brought it to my attention today. Someone must need to read it. His timing is always perfect.

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

As I write this, I celebrate the first-week anniversary of my last chemo treatment. Hooray!

You might assume that my last treatment brought cheer, hope, and excitement to be finished with the ordeal. And you’d be right to some degree. But a bag full of emotions accompanied me to that appointment.

You see, while happiness and congratulations abounded, so did tears of closure. The oncology staff had been my social life, my friends, and my support system for the past six months. We exchanged personal struggles, funny stories, and future dreams. We had built relationships that transcended the normal patient-clinical staff affiliation. The receptionists gave me a paper-star necklace, and the phlebotomist made me a crown…both to commemorate my perseverance. Although I’m sure they do these types of things for others and I looked rather silly, I felt like queen for the day. So, my last treatment became a time of celebration and a time for sorrow.

Such is the way of life. We build relationships only to have them fade into the past like the morning fog gives way to the burning sun. Some human connections, like that of the oncology staff, are meant to last short-term, while others last a lifetime.

These lifetime-ships end in death, causing great grief to those who loved them. Mixed with the sorrow is great joy in knowing our loved ones, if they are believers, are with our Lord. Again, our last experience becomes one of sorrow and one of celebration. As we say our goodbyes here, we receive a crown there for perseverance—a crown far grander than any we can imagine—a crown of righteousness to present to the King of kings.

How about you? What has brought you joy and sorrow recently?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

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Expectations Debilitate

Gray hair is a crown of glory. It is gained in a righteous life. (Proverb 16:31)

Excitement stirred within me when I first felt “stubbies” on my head. The thrill faded quickly when the color of those “stubbies” appeared. White!

No, that’s not right.

“Your hair will most likely come in thicker, curly, and a different color,” they said. I expected dark, auburn maybe, or red even. Golden blonde, as in my youth, appeared in my dreams. But white? Seriously? Silver threads had overtaken my golden strands years ago. I had chosen to enable the gold to maintain its rightful position as the sole heir to the crown on my head, with a little help from Lady Clairol. So, to say my expectations were devastated is an understatement.

Granted curls now enhance my locks. And it is thicker. Two out of three aint bad as they say. But I struggled with white hair. It ages a person. Why the trend for shades of silver caught the attention of young women, I’ll never understand. I want to say to them, “You’ll get there soon enough, honey. And you’ll hate it when you do.” I had heard 60 is the new 40, and I was livin’ it. But thanks to cancer, my age caught up to me and slapped me across the face.

Gray hair maybe my crown of glory, but I sure am not living righteously when I complain.

I need reprimanded for an ungrateful heart. Instead of being thankful for all the blessings the Lord has granted me through this cancer run, I grumble over white hair. The time and energy I waste on fretting about my appearance could, should be spent on rejoicing. I should share all the good things occurring in my life. Let’s face it, if white hair is the only thing I have to concern myself with, live is beyond good.

But expectations dilute praise. Expectations wrestle with joy. Expectations blind us to the value of our true appearance. Expectations debilitate us more than neuropathy.

Just like cancer can destroy our bodies, expectations can destroy our souls. We can fight back.

Here’s how I plan to level my expectations:

  1. Listen to others. Many people have complimented me on my new hair. They can’t all be just trying to be nice.
  2. Focus on the positive. God has enabled me to do everything I could do before. I’m getting stronger every day. I am victorious.
  3.  Accept myself as I am now. Love and acceptance abound toward me from those closest to me, as well as from God. I need to do the same.
  4. Praise instead of whine. Yes, develop an attitude of gratitude. I have much more to be thankful for than to complain about.
  5. Embrace my new normal. Stop comparing myself to others or to the way things were before cancer.
  6. Continue doing what God called me to do—encourage others.
  7. Lift up my eyes to Heaven and remember my destination.
  8. Prepare for that destination and help others prepare for Jesus’ return.

How about you? How do you level your expectations?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

Cancer Reveals God

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)

A friend of mine commented my last blog post: Dandelions, I learned when I began teaching outdoor ed, are not native to North America. The settlers brought them here, because they didn’t know what kinds of greens would be safe to eat here in the New World, but they knew they could eat the greens of dandelions in the spring, and they were prolific. They’re prolific alright. Thank goodness the bees like them, otherwise they’d have one less redeeming quality.

Although I confessed my love for dandelions last week, I understand why others dislike them. Dandelions show up in one spot and, if not dealt with properly, they show up in other areas. They invade and take over until everything is infested. They’re hard to get rid of and seem to always return no matter what you try or how successful you think you are at getting rid of them.

Cancer’s a lot like dandelions. If not treated, the malignant cells multiply and show up in unexpected areas. No matter how successful your treatments are at getting rid of them, the abnormal cells often return with a vengeance.
This dreaded disease has far less good characteristics than do dandelions. In fact, I can only think of one…

Cancer happens so the works of God might be displayed in us. I’ve said it before and if time continues, I’ll say it again and again. God reveals many of His magnificent attributes to us during times of crisis.

Jesus Will Carry You

One of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had to date while going through this cancer journey is God’s peace. It enveloped me during my chemo treatments, like the calmness in the eye of the storm. It sustains me now. When I feel overwhelmed about “what ifs,” the Lord reminds me of His peace. He didn’t calm the storm. He carried me through it. He’s not going to leave me now or ever.

How about you? What has God taught you during your storm?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

Why I Love Dandelions

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3)

Some people consider dandelions an annoying weed that they most destroy at all costs. Our neighbor had been one of those, out every day with herbicides and garden tools killing the plant the moment it popped its tiny head above the ground’s surface.

I, on the other hand, love dandelions.

They mark spring with their bright yellow faces. But that’s not why I love them. They make good wine. But that’s not why I love them. Served with a hot bacon dressing, they make a fine side dish for ham. But that’s not why I love them. They also make mighty tasty jelly. But that’s not why I love them.

                          Dandelion Smiles

I love dandelions because nothing puts a smile on a child’s face more than giving her mother a bouquet of freshly picked flowers. And what kind of flowers are readily available to children? Dandelions.

This week, my daughter and her two-year-old daughter ushered me down memory lane about thirty-five years, as I watched them pick dandelions. Little Lilly’s eyes sparkled with delight with each pluck of a stem just like her mother’s eyes sparkled when she and I picked dandelions so many years ago. She was so proud of her accomplishment. What a cherished memory.

In many ways, dandelions remind me of me.

Cancer has left me with the mark of suffering. I’m not as strong and vibrant as I had been. I don’t have the motivation to do the things I once did. I can’t even walk like I did. I lack stamina. To make matters worse, like a dandelion, my yellow hair has turned white and flighty.

It may be difficult to find beauty and value in my current condition, but my Father loves me with an everlasting love. When He looks at me, His eyes sparkle with delight. He draws me near and holds me when I’m feeling down. Even when I’m feeling good, He’s there admiring me. Oh not because of anything I’ve done or how I look but because of who He is and what Jesus has done for and in me. When He looks on me, His glory shines over me. I’m precious in His sight.

That’s why I love dandelions.

How about you? What flower that speaks to your heart?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

A Firm Foundation

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:11)

 

Hands are amazing.

A few days ago, my two-year-old granddaughter fascinated herself with my hands for about 30 minutes. She bent my fingers ever-so gently this way and that. She flip-flopped my hands at the wrists and patty-caked them. She hid her hands in mine and pretended she didn’t know where they were. It delighted me to watch her. Hands have always fascinated me too. Just think about all the things we do with them.

Feet, however, haven’t been so interesting to me. Yeah, I can pick things up with them, or at least I could, and wiggle my toes. Other than that, my feet carry me from here to there. Nowhere near as mesmerizing as my hands. I never really thought too much about my feet until now.

Now, I realize they are my foundation, and my foundation currently feels as though it’s crumbling. Wiggling my toes has become a blessing. A couple of months ago I could barely move them. Like I said in a previous post, it’s the little things that become huge when you have gone through a crisis. Still, walking is difficult. I’m reminded many times a day how important my foundation is.

Unlike my physical foundation, my spiritual foundation is built on the firm foundation that cannot crumble—Jesus Christ. The prophet Isaiah foretold of God’s plan to build a foundation using His Son. So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic” (Isaiah 28:16). I trust that promise as I rely on the Precious Cornerstone.

I may be stricken with health issues. But I am not stricken with panic. I rest in the assurance that God is in control of every aspect of my life. That doesn’t mean I don’t have moments of despair when irrepressible tears flow. It means I’m damaged. I need help from the only one who is truly capable of restoring my physical foundation. It means my Firm Foundation is still intact and holds me up and will never let me fall.

How about you? On what foundation does your faith rest?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

Little Things Matter

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid. (Luke 12:7)

 

Little things like eyelashes matter a lot to God.

Even your eyelashes are numbered

We take many little things for granted until we don’t have them … take eyelashes and eyebrows for example. Those little hairs that adorn our faces give us expression and, yes, beauty. I missed my lashes and brows to the point of drawing them on every day to avoid that blank look. I even took a class to learn how to apply eye makeup effectively so they wouldn’t look fake.

About three months ago, I noticed dark “shadows” above my eyes. I tried scrubbing them off, thinking the eyebrow pencil had stained my skin. A couple of weeks later, I realized those “shadows” were tiny hairs. My brows had returned. I showed my almost nine-year-old granddaughter who replied, “Cool. Now you can raise your eyebrows at people again.”

A week before Christmas, a friend mentioned my eyelashes, which I hadn’t noticed until then. I was all smiles Christmas Day when I applied mascara for the first time in six months.

Vanity. Vanity. Perhaps. But think about this. Little things matter to God. He is so concerned about the details of our being that He even numbers the hairs on our heads. I always thought of the hairs on my scalp when I read that portion of Scripture. Now I realize my eyebrows, lashes, and even the forbidden chin hair are included in the hairs of my head.

The knowledge of God numbering the hairs of my head flabbergasts me. Imagine, he knows every detail of our beings, not only how many hairs are on our heads, but how many cells in our bodies. He was aware of the cancer cells in my body and revealed them to the diagnostic doctor so He could demonstrate His sovereignty over all things concerning me.

How about you? How has God shown His love to you?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks