You may not believe, but just recently I got my first tattoo. Actually, I got three of them in the same day — something I never thought I would do. But before you freak out too much, please know that each of my tattoos is no bigger than the point of a pencil lead. These are my new radiation marks!

A friend of mine thought it rather ironic that I would get tattoos now since I also am sporting a spiky hairdo I never would have chosen. In fact, people even treat me differently as I encounter store clerks and waitresses. Instead of “can I help you ma’am” I now get an enthusiastic “Heeyyy!” with big smiles and thumbs up. People with short spiky hairdos are apparently very fun and edgy — so naturally, strangers assume the same about me. One day, a friend commented that she thought the cashier at Borders was flirting with me. “Probably not,” I said. “I think it’s just the hair.”

All of the changes in my life over the past 10 1/2 months has been overwhelming at times. Even for a girl who usually thrives on change, this has been a little much. One of the first thoughts that crossed my mind when I received my cancer diagnosis was “things will never be the same.” And the further I go into my story about cancer, I realize more and more how right I was.

But my new ‘do has reminded me that different isn’t worse. It’s just different. And just as I am trying to embrace a look I would never have chosen, I’m also trying to embrace a life I would never have chosen. And I’m hoping in both cases, that it’s actually better than what I would have picked.

Thankfully, knowing Jesus gives me the assurance that the course of my life as it is directed by Him IS better than a life I would have chosen, primarily because of the presence of pain. Left up to me, I would never choose the hard road. Every time I would follow the path of least resistance. In fact, I would probably follow the path of NO resistance. But Jesus not only allows pain into our lives, he uses it for good, redeems it into something beautiful, something we never would experience otherwise.

As Jerry Bridges puts it in Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts, “God’s infinite wisdom is then displayed in bringing good out of even, beauty out of ashes. It is displayed in turning all the forces of evil that rage against His children into good for them. But the good that He brings about is often different from the good we envision.”

Funny thing about my hair — I’ve typically worn it long and straight, at least since I escaped the big permed hair of the 80s. But lately, many people have looked at my crazy, spiky hair and suggested I keep it short. They say it really is more “me.” I’m beginning to wonder if that’s not true for the rest of my life, too.

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” – Romans 5:3-5 from The Message