Hope Confesses

1 peter 2-23It felt ugly and sent me into several days of discouragement. A verbal attack – probably not intentional – but to be my authentic self, I must admit it hurt.

The words questioned my blogging skills, criticized word count and focus, suggested that another direction would be more effective, violated several of the blogging rules I espouse.

Constructive criticism? Possibly. But spoken without any encouragement or positive phrases. The confrontive words “you need to” at the beginning of each sentence.

Worse – the attack was not written where I could ponder each word and form my response. But verbal and quick so I had no time to recover and respond, not even a chance to defend myself.

I wanted to run away, to find some solace in people who love me and believe in my words. But that seemed the coward’s path, and I had responsibilities to fulfill.

Instead, I texted my son, “Pray for me. I need a hug.”

His reply almost immediate, “Certainly.”

We ate at Cracker Barrel that evening because I needed some fried apples and a hashbrown casserole for comfort. I reviewed what had happened that day. Sometimes just verbalizing an experience helps us work through it – to find some point of learning in the criticism, some intent in the phrasing.

And some sense of what to do about the situation.

Then I spent an hour with my journal, writing it out, because that is how I process the experiences of my life – in the written word – the same format that brought about the attack.

Two more days passed as I processed what had been said, thought more about it, prayed for wisdom in how to respond, how to learn from it. Nothing I could do would change the fact that it happened.

But how should I react, as a Christian writer who hopes my words and phrases inspire and encourage? What direction should I take?

With more journaling and more inward scrutiny, I discovered an ugly seed hiding within the heart of my passionate words. Pride whispered, “You’ve been blogging for years. You’ve taught other writers how to blog, and you know all the tools and techniques. You teach at writers conferences and you have over 1300 followers on your blog, for cryin’ out loud! How dare this person attack you when you have such credibility?”

Owie!

In the posture of the repentant, I knelt by my bed and honestly confronted the source. “I don’t like this hurt, God, but I admit the pride that has been wounded. I confess that sour germ to you and ask that you help me not to let is fester or cause bitterness. I do not want to be ugly back to this person. I want to learn to be a better writer, to continue to inspire and encourage as well as inform. I admit the pain, but I want to learn from it.”


Confession does not automatically heal the wound, but it sets us in the right direction for purity of heart and growth of the soul.


“The pure in heart shall see God.” My ultimate bucket list contains this goal.

So as I write and obey this new directive, I will focus on the hope that pours from my passion. I vow to not run from the truth but from the pride that deceives and confuses.

Hopefully, the words that erupt will then be more acceptable – in the marketplace and in my soul.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Hides in the Pages of a New Book

Something special happens when I begin to birth a book. I’m not sure if I am unique in this. Perhaps other writers will comment and let me know if I’m weird or somewhat normal.writing pencil

Because one of my core values is life-long learning, I love to initiate research. So with the new idea, I start to look for credits that may prove my point if it’s a nonfiction book.

For novels, I start to pay attention to settings, cultures, recipes, clothing – anything that will make my characters believable.

Then I go nuts with ideas and start free writing. For nonfiction, I play with an outline.

For novels, I write letters to the characters and let them write me back (I know – weird!).

This is the most exciting part for me – similar to when the doctor said, “Guess what? You’re pregnant!”

I begin to imagine all kinds of scenarios. What will the cover of this book look like? What if this book becomes a best-seller? What if the words I write impact somebody’s life?


The beginning germ of my idea mushrooms and ripples into a story line. Even in nonfiction, it’s important to tell the story.


 

So I feel excited, fulfilled, working away at this idea and waiting to see how it will manifest itself in chapter headings, quotes, character quirks and the resolution of conflict.

As I work on the idea, I imagine my readers – feet propped up in front of a cozy fire, turning the pages inscribed with my words, wiping a tear or tilting back their heads in laughter.

Then I take the idea and play with it from the marketing standpoint. After I find my focus, how many articles can I write from this one idea? Will it be only a novel or can I also write a nonfiction book, using my research as a starting point?

That’s what I’m doing now with all my research about Alzheimer’s and dementia. The Reverend G trilogy is finished, so now I’m putting together a nonfiction book of essays and meditations to help caregivers.

For me, the best part of writing is letting my creativity loose without any roadblocks or fears stopping me. I envision the massive impact this idea will have and the huge numbers of people who will either learn from my topic or change their lives because of it.

Ultimately, I thank God for the idea because he is the one who creates life – in the womb and in my writing soul.

Then I ask him to bless the project and hope again – that it will be very good.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Thrives with the Little Ones

smiley-kids-stand-up_23-2147490130She reached out to touch my hand, her pudgy little toddler fingers soft and warm. Dark brown Hispanic eyes twinkled with joy as we played peek-a-boo around her mother’s shoulder.

I would have given her mother $20 to let me hold her precious daughter, but then maybe the spell would have broken.

We waited in line at Arby’s, still teasing each other for at least ten minutes. The baby grinned at me, two tiny bottom teeth standing like white sentinels in her perky mouth.

Then customer service took over. The child and her mother moved away from me, and I ordered my own meal.

Unlike most of my friends, I do not have grandchildren – yet – and I rarely get to see my great-nieces. So when I’m in contact with a little one, it is a special moment for me.

A time of revived hope as I see the future in a tiny life, untouched by the cares of the world. That little girl has no idea yet of the stresses she will someday encounter nor of the need to pay a gas bill and keep a roof over her head.

She is years away from deciding on a career and thankfully, her choices will be much more varied than mine ever were.

Her grin is free from any emotional baggage – yet even as I played peek-a-boo with her, I begged God to protect her. Statistics prove that one out of three little girls will be sexually assaulted.

Oh God, oh God – may that statistic burn in hell.

As I reflected later that day and remembered the beautiful child, I marveled at how she had increased my hope:

  • Her youth – so much potential ahead of her
  • Her innocence – may life allow her to remain pure
  • Her freedom – in a country that offers so much promise
  • Her gender – with more opportunities for women than ever before
  • Her beauty – who could resist those brown eyes and black hair surrounding clear baby skin?

No wonder God tells us to become like a little child.

No wonder Jesus said, “Let the little ones come unto me.” Perhaps the little ones of his culture also gave him hope.

No wonder our hearts burst with joy when we are accepted and loved by a little child.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Image attribution: www.Freepik.com

Hope in the Preservation

canned-tomatoes-1172877After watching the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, I decided to spend some time with my journal. It’s always been a good practice for me to evaluate the past year and think about what I want to do with my life in the next 12 months.

Along with my journal, I grabbed my Bible and flipped to a Psalm I’ve been studying. Within that sacred text, I found a verse to meditate on – which also gave me some ideas for 2016.

Psalm 31:23 “Oh love the Lord, all you His saints! The Lord preserves the faithful….”

When I focused on the word “preserves” I thought about sand plum jelly we made on the farm and the hours we spent canning tomatoes and green beans. Those wonderful Mason jars provided us with fresh food throughout the winter months and also preserved memories of cooking with Mom in the farm kitchen.

But some of the ideas for my new year came directly from the word “preserve.” How might God preserve me in 2016? What does it mean to be “preserved?”

  • Fresh. Being fresh and refreshed so that I can feel energized for the writing and ministries I do. As preserved foods always taste fresh, I need to make sure I rest well, take care of myself holistically and exercise to preserve my strength.
  • Useable. One reason we canned vegetables was so we could eat them during the months when the garden was frozen. I want to be useable during this new year, available to serve God and help others, writing my best words ever, speaking and coaching and being.
  • Available at any time. All it took was a trip to the cellar to bring up the Mason jars. When God speaks to me or when people need me to help them, when words well up within my spirit and need to be written down – right then – I want to be available. No questions. No doubts. No hesitation.
  • Safe. Our foods were preserved so well, we never suffered from botulism, e coli or any type of toxins. I want the people I serve to feel safe around me. I want my readers to know that when they pick up my books, they won’t have to wonder what type of topics I’ll write about. Even if I have to stretch some comfort zones, I want readers to know that I strive for truth – which creates a type of safety.
  • No Expiration Date. Our sand plum jellies lasted for years and were always edible. All we had to do was skim off the wax on top, then spread that golden orange lusciousness on top of warm bread, fresh from the oven. Although I reached one of those “special” age limits this year, I haven’t reached my expiration yet. I’m still working, serving and praying. I’m still writing and hope to continue – with no retirement in sight and no expiration date warning me to slow down.

So I’m grateful God promises to preserve me, because I want to remain faithful to his calling for me. And I want 2016 to be my best year ever, writing the words he speaks to me – then sharing them with you.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Image Attribution: SXC – Freepik.com

Seeking Hope After Christmas

Because I love Christmas, it is always a bittersweet challenge to pack up everything, tape the boxes closed and carry Christmas to the basement.mantel after Xmas

I simply cannot endure the thought of an entire year before I pull out the twinkle lights, caress my angel collection and replay memories associated with the ornaments.

This Christmas was especially difficult as my son had to work through the holidays. I missed being with him as I remembered Christmases past and the excitement of a little boy discovering his first drum set, a giant box of Legos and a package of plastic army men.

This Christmas also brought more confusion for my mother. Her Alzheimer’s side effects seem to peak during the holidays, when I long for her to remember the daughter she sewed for, the special box of books she placed under the tree with my name on the tag, my excitement when I opened that box and knew I would soon be transported into the mysterious world of Nancy Drew.

This year, Mom didn’t even remember that Dad now lives in heaven. Our quality time was nonexistent, and when I drove her back to assisted living – she argued about living there. She couldn’t even remember why someone had given her presents.

So to preserve some joy of the season, I rearranged my pearl lights on the mantel and merged winter accessories with pine cone candles. Just a touch of Christmas to lessen the loss.

But I needed more. I have learned the best way to preserve the joy of Christmas is to proactively use my Christmas cards. I keep them in a pile beside my Bible, then each morning throughout January and February, I choose one card and pray for that person or the family that sent the card.

I remember special friends and family members, clients and colleagues by reminding God of their importance in my life, lifting up their needs to the only one who can fulfill them.


It helps me tolerate the cold fingers of winter as I focus on the warm love of the God who transcends every season and time.


So as we move into 2016, let’s all try to find more tangible ways to seek hope.

Then next year during Christmas, we can celebrate with extra joy.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

Hanging On To Hope

As the Kansas winter blustered through my yard, I noticed a unique snapshot of the season.leaf - hanging on

Although all the other leaves had already let loose and dropped to the ground, one leaf still hung on.

In spite of the wind, the calendar day and its length of life – a lone leaf clung tightly to the branch that had given it life.

It didn’t take long to wrap my heart around the analogy and honor thousands of saints who continue to cling tightly to their true source of life.

They persevere in spite of the calendar days that scream, “You should have given up already.”

They hang on in spite of the circumstances of life or the opinions of others or even of well-meaning friends who speak cruelty.

These are people who inspire me to persevere as well:

  • The single mom who drives her children to church even though she has been shunned because she’s divorced
  • The writer who revises the same manuscript seven times until every word is as good as it can possibly be – then ignores another rejection to revise it again
  • The cancer patient who refuses to be a victim but spends her time during brutal radiation treatments, praying through her list of friends and family
  • The nonprofit organizations who operate on a financial shoestring and trust God to provide resources each and every day
  • The missionaries who continue to serve even when their prayers don’t merge with the answers they long to see

Persevering folks who keep hanging on to hope even when everything in life attacks them.


Brave and vulnerable caregivers who keep serving even when the days are 36 hours long.

Mothers who keep praying for their prodigals. Fathers who work jobs they hate so their children won’t go hungry. Christians who refuse to deny Christ even though faced with the wrath of a radical Muslim sect.

The power of those who persevere is modeled at the end of Hebrews 11 – saints who refused to be released from torturous prisons, faced rejection and persecution, were destitute and mistreated. They did not receive what they were promised but they hung on anyway. They persevered and “the world was not worthy of them.”

What is required to continue in hope when everyone else has let loose and fallen around us?

Courage and the grace to keep hanging on to the One who empowers us with resurrection life.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

Finding Hope at Christmas

Especially at Christmas, caregivers and families feel the sting of Alzheimer’s and dementia. We hang ornaments and remember past Decembers when our loved ones decorated the tree, sang Christmas carols and laughed while opening presents.christmas_baubles_and_candles

Smells from the kitchen spike memories of Christmas cookies, cinnamon and nutmeg, that special family recipe for peppernuts.

Yet now – everything has changed. Our loved one sits quietly in a chair, unaware of smells and colorful lights, breathing in and out, communicating with no one.

It is the passage of time and the ache of what this disease can do.

Somehow, we must look for joy by searching for its source.

Think back on Christmases past and be grateful for the memories and the legacy preserved within family.

Treasure the presence of your loved one, even though he or she seems mentally far away.

Remember that Christmas is about a baby in a manger who became the Savior on the cross. Someday, in eternity, all Alzheimer’s genes will be nonexistent. No disease there. No memory loss. No sadness.

Be grateful for these moments together, because you, too, are creating a legacy for the generations to come.

Sing a Christmas carol together. Music connections are the last part of the brain to die. You can still communicate with your loved one through music.

With all the excitement and chaos of opening presents, be alert for anxiety in your loved one. He or she may need to return to assisted living long before all the Christmas activities are finished.

Find your own joy in being with family. Each day is a gift. Each time we get together, we make memories. Even if the day is difficult for you, treasure it.

Several years ago, my sister Kris – who is a talented poet – wrote these words:


            “While striding on life’s pathway, fill up your days with cheer

Just laugh at rainbows, small or great, to banish every fear.

Hold tight to what life offers, content with all you do

For all adventures help create the treasure that is you.”


Remember that seasons end, and the season of Alzheimer’s will also end with the death of your loved one. So try to enjoy your time together and know that somewhere deep inside, Mom or Dad, Sister or Brother dearly loves you and wishes you a Merry Christmas.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

 

 

Finding Hope in the Dark

It was a subtle change, yet I felt its impact as if a door slammed shut in my heart.Christmas-Cross

During the Thanksgiving weekend, I visited Mom. Each of the three days when I knocked and entered her room, Mom sat in her chair – in the dark.

Alone – with a book on her lap, pretending to read.

Just a few months ago, I often found her at a table with other residents, playing cards – laughing together, competing and exercising their brain cells.

Not this time.

Others still played in the dining hall. I saw them shuffling cards and tossing them at each other, then laughing together, enjoying the camaraderie of the game.

But they played without my mother, and I wondered why.

Then I realized the reason she sat alone, without friends, sans an activity she once enjoyed.

She doesn’t play cards anymore because she can’t. The comprehension required for something as simple as Rook or Uno no longer exists.

So my mother sits in the dark, lost within herself.

After our visit, I began to drive away, then pulled over, beating the steering wheel and crying out to the God who allowed this dark aloneness in my mother’s life.

But then I remembered the book Mom held on her lap, the words she read over and over, even without comprehending.

Her Bible.

Even though Alzheimer’s deletes entertaining card games and clouds the comprehension needed for winning – Mom still knows where to find hope.

She is never truly alone because Emanuel lives within her, loving her through this journey and offering his light to illumine her darkness.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do – Part 6

Alzheimer’s cannot destroy faith.Praying_Hands

During a Thanksgiving weekend several years ago, I visited Mom at the assisted living facility. It was Sunday and per her usual practice, she wanted to go to church.

So she dressed up, picked up her Bible and we walked down the hall toward the dining room. A visiting pastor had volunteered to preach a brief sermon and lead these elderly saints in worship.

The room was filled with Alzheimer’s and dementia residents in various stages of the disease – beautiful shades of white and gray hair, curly perms and a few shining bald heads of the rare men in the crowd.

The pastor kept his words brief, then we sang some of the favorite hymns: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Amazing Grace,” “When We All Get to Heaven.”

Most of the residents hummed along, some fell asleep, a few still knew some of the words. I sang lustily, my mezzo soprano blending with the bass of the pastor. My mother remembered some of the lyrics and hummed through the rest.

Then the pastor said, “Please join me as we all recite Psalm 23.”

I thought, You must be kidding, buddy. These people can’t recite a passage of Scripture. They can barely remember their names.

But they surprised me.

I watched them and listened as around the room – every single resident recited word for word the precious Shepherd’s Psalm.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”

The King James version, with none of them missing a beat.

“He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.”

How many of them prayed that God would restore their lives, do a miracle in their bodies and release them from this disease, this long and tragic goodbye?

“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

A righteous life includes reading the word of God and hiding those words in their hearts so that when the end of life comes, when those final years flip over onto the calendar, these residents would hang on to what really matters.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

These saints understood the Psalm better than I because they live within that valley. I could see it in their eyes, in the faces accessorized with wisdom-carrying wrinkles. They knew this valley and only God could help them walk through it unafraid. And they believed he would comfort them along the way and never leave them alone.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”

Food no longer provided comfort because the appetite was gone, the taste buds had forgotten a favorite flavor or the joy of family meals. Yet smiles surfaced around the group – maybe a dim remembrance of God’s anointing on a life, the cup of joy that once ran over and now waited for its fulfillment.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

My mother, her voice clear, her eyes bright – solid in her faith and waiting for her timeline to end.

Each one of them in the room, recited what they believed. I could not speak. Tears choked me as I realized there’s a place deep within us, a sanctuary of the soul that cannot be stolen by whatever is happening in the brain.

Alzheimer’s cannot and will never destroy faith.

Amen and amen.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do – Part 5

Alzheimer’s cannot guarantee that I will be diagnosed with the disease.Alz awareness

Although the gene often travels through the mother’s line, Alzheimer’s cannot guarantee that I or either of my siblings will suffer from it. Researchers are working all the time to find a cure and to find out the source of the disease.

I intend to work hard to make sure that Alzheimer’s does not happen to me.

What are some of the ways I try to protect myself from the disease? What clues have I discovered from my research and interviews with scientists and experts?

  • Watch out for Stress

The busyness of life, the worries of our society’s dangers, the struggles of our culture – these can all lead to undo stress.

I can feel when stress begins to overwhelm me. That’s when I take a walk, say “No” to any extra activities and find a quiet place to meditate, journal or color.

  • Eat Organic

As much as possible and as my budget allows, I try to eat organic foods. Fast food, junk food, preservatives, additives – I try to stay away from these. I shop at Sprout’s and Trader Joe’s, at the Health Department in Hy-Vee and sometimes at Aldi’s. As much as possible, I try to eat foods that are as close to God’s creation as possible.

My mantra is: If God made it, okay. Eat it with joy. If man made it, don’t waste your money on it.

  • Take Supplements

Turmeric and Rosemary are two of the supplements I use every day. These are both good for the brain. A nutritional doctor once said, “What is good for the heart is good for the brain.”

Another healthy food source is folic acid, so quinoa is my grain of choice. It is high in folic acid and healthy proteins and it is NOT modified or coated with chemicals. I throw quinoa in my oatmeal, my soups and my stir fries. Sometimes, I also scramble it in my eggs.

  • Delete Sugar

Some researchers are now calling Alzheimer’s, “Type 3 Diabetes.” The American diet is filled with sugar, and we are so addicted, we don’t even realize how damaging it can be. From high fructose corn syrup to the additives in our favorite lattes to those easy drive-through treats – sugar is our staple.

But even a two-week fast from sugar can clear the brain, create a glow to the skin and increase energy.

Still not convinced? Consider how our flu and cold season corresponds with sugar season. From Halloween through Easter, we are encouraged to buy candy, all the sweets that go along with the holidays, chocolate for our sweethearts and bags of candy Easter eggs.

We are encouraged to get flu shots and buy cough syrup that is often laced with corn syrup, yet from October – March, our immune systems take a major hit. Then we spread the germs to each other, coat them with more sugar and somebody makes a fortune off our illnesses.

That brings me to the next point.

  • Beware of Massive, General Suggestions for Health

As research for the Reverend G books, I started noticing how often the 50+ generation is urged to get flu shots, Shingles shots and pneumonia vaccines. Yet the numbers of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s continues to rise – at last count, 5.4 million Americans.

Mercury and Aluminum are two of the metals that can contribute to Alzheimer’s and dementia. Many of our vaccinations are made with a base of mercury. Some of us wear metal fillings in our teeth, laced with mercury. And some of the so-called protein drinks given to the elderly are made with a base of aluminum. So are most of our deodorants.

So rather than bare my arm for all these vaccinations and use some of the products mass-produced as healthy – I increase my intake of garlic, onion and the rest of the root vegetables.

During the “sugar” season, I make my own chicken stock and my own vegetable soups, avoid extra sugars and add more garlic to my diet. I even take a garlic and parsley supplement. Ashwagandha is another supplement that improves the immune system so I throw it into my smoothies and soups.

As much as I love dark chocolate, I limit myself to one piece / week. Chocolate can block the amino acids we need. Without amino acids, we are more susceptible to cold sores and the virus that leads to Shingles. So I also take the supplement Lysine, which builds amino acids and prevents cold sores.

These are some of my health practices which I hope will prevent Alzheimer’s from invading my genes. And since I started these practices, I rarely have a cold and the flu hasn’t plagued me for at least five years.

Alzheimer’s cannot guarantee that I will be its victim, and I’ll do everything possible to fight against it.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do – Part 4

Alzheimer’s cannot change lifelong habits.lifestyle image

Although some routines will change as the disease progresses, many of the lifelong habits remain ingrained in the behavior of Alzheimer’s patients.

Mom has always loved to read. She goes to the Hospice sales and buys a stack of books. Then she reads the book on the top of the stack. She no longer comprehends what she reads, and she forgets that she read the top book on the stack – so she reads it again. And again. Then she takes the entire stack to another Hospice sale and buys another bunch of books so she can read the top book on the stack.

She is content as she reads because that has always been one of her habits.

She also reads her Bible every day and a page from her “Our Daily Bread” devotional book. This has always been her morning exercise, so even though comprehension is gone, she continues her devotional practice.

On Sundays, Mom dresses up for church and carries her Bible with her. She can no longer find the passages in the Bible as the order of the books is gone. But every Sunday, no matter what, she has her Bible with her and if the weather is good – she goes to church. Because that is what she has always done.

She begins every morning with coffee, a little cream, no sugar. Morning coffee begins her day. Never tea. Never hot chocolate. Always coffee. Alzheimer’s has not yet destroyed her taste buds.


Even though osteoporosis has shorted her 5’8” frame, Mom continues to demonstrate careful posture. She walks tall, her congestive heart failure causing a bit of breathlessness – but still – her shoulders back, her head erect, her poise intact.

A cartoon bubble over her head might say, “Don’t mess with me. I know who I am.”


Like many in her generation, desserts were always part of the meal, so Mom continues to love her sweets. She plays Bingo every week and often wins. With choices of candy, peanuts or trail mix – she always chooses a Snickers bar.

She cannot understand when I turn down cookies or a piece of cake on the menu at the assisted living dining hall. Sometimes, to treat Mom, I drive her to Braums for an ice cream cone.

Maybe because she has been a lifelong reader, Mom hates the television. She calls it, “The Idiot Box” and only watches the news or turns it on for some noise to break the loneliness.

These habits of life define my mother. They make her real and vulnerable and show her personality. They cement our memories of Mom and remind us that Alzheimer’s cannot steal all of who she is.

The reader, the tall woman, the lover of sweets and hater of TV – these traits characterize my mother. Alzheimer’s cannot take that away from her.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do – Part 3

Alzheimer’s cannot destroy our family ties.family quote

Dad was an introvert while Mom was the talker. They made a great team and even though Mom’s personality stays intact, she seems a bit more closed off since her beloved Hank graduated to heaven.

Yet … our family remains strong and devoted to one another. Mom is still and always will be the matriarch.

She comes from a long line of matriarchal women who raised their children with leather belts and switches from the trees. Women who knew how to kill a chicken, then strip its feathers and fry it to a golden brown.

Women who worked a job outside of home, shopped for the harvest crew and put a huge meal on the table so that hungry men found sustenance. Then woke early the next morning and did it all over again.

Women who fiercely protected their children, used every resource available and saved enough money so their kids could attend college without going into debt.

During this holiday season, we will drive Mom to the same farm where she raised us. I will buy a pecan pie and Cool Whip so she can have her favorite Thanksgiving treat.

She will sit at the table and occasionally speak. When she does, we will listen – even if it doesn’t quite make sense. Because she is the Mom, the grandmother and now – the great-grandmother.

And sometimes, as she sits in the recliner beside the fire, I will catch her with a look on her face and wonder, What is she thinking?

Is she homesick for heaven? Probably. Is she missing her husband, her mother, her grandmothers who taught her so much? Certainly.

Is she remembering those days when she fixed the entire Thanksgiving meal, then organized the clean-up crew, saved all the leftovers and planned how she would make the budget stretch so that every child had a special gift on Christmas? I would bet so.

And sometimes – in the glow from the fire – I see in her the features of all the matriarchs before her and I know Alzheimer’s can never destroy those family ties.

That same strength has been shared with my siblings and I. We have attempted to pass it on to our children so that faith, determination and perseverance never diminishes throughout our generations.

In the Mennonite church, we used to sing, “Blessed be the tie that binds, our hearts in Christian love.” As I observe my mother throughout these waning years of her life, those family ties keep us bound together.

This brutal disease of Alzheimer’s can never destroy those ties.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do – Part 2

Alzheimer’s cannot destroy my mother’s legacy.

She was a registered nurse – not because she loved nursing or even because she had always wanted a career in medicine. She was a nurse because that was her only choice.cross necklace

During World War 2, the war effort needed more nurses. So they put out a plea for women who might be interested (male nurses did not exist at the time). If a woman signed up to be an Army nurse, the government would pay for her training and her license.

My mother wanted to be a writer, but she had no possibility of pursuing a degree at a liberal arts college. The only way she could somehow earn a degree beyond high school was to accept the Army’s offer and become a nurse.

So that’s what she did. It was her only choice, and she made it a good choice because she worked hard all her life to care for others.

Mom finished the training, but just before she was to be sent overseas, the war ended. So she never really served as an Army nurse, but her degree served her well.

I used to watch her dress for work. White uniform (always a dress, slacks were not allowed), white hose, white shoes polished every day, the starched white hat and no jewelry except a simple wedding band.

But one day, I watched as Mom slipped a tiny cross necklace underneath her uniform.

“I thought you weren’t supposed to wear any jewelry,” I queried.

“That’s right, but I wear this next to my heart,” Mom said. “It’s a reminder of who I am.”

“What do you mean?”

“This cross reminds me I’m a Christian. It helps me remember how I should behave when a doctor yells at me, when I have to tell a family that their baby is dead or when I have to clean up someone’s poop. I am serving others because I love Jesus, and he came to earth as a servant. I am serving in his name.”

I have never forgotten that moment. It is part of Mom’s legacy, a piece of who she is.

Alzheimer’s cannot take that away.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do – Part 1

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. So I want to focus my posts this month on the subject of what Alzheimer’s cannot do. We know the havoc this disease can play on families and their loved ones affected by Alzheimer’s. We know what it CAN do….but what can it NOT do?

cat with glassesAlzheimer’s cannot delete my memories of Mom. So many memories, but one that seems to surface is my experience with new glasses frames.

As a freshman in high school, I was strongly affected by my peer group. At 14, I wanted to fit in and noticed the appearance of other girls in my high school – especially the popular ones. So I decided it was time for some new glasses frames.


But our family believed in conservative values and saving as much money as possible. We didn’t buy anything until we really needed it – and even then – we thought long and hard about it. If we needed something, we made it from the tools or ingredients we already owned. I knew Mom was going to be a hard sell.


When I begged her for new glasses, she said, “You don’t need different frames, just because the other kids are getting them. We don’t buy frames until you need new lenses, and your eyes are just fine.”

But after awhile, she must have grown tired of my complaints, because she decided to “make” me some new frames. The creative side of her personality suddenly exploded.

To give my new “look” some texture, Mom used a handful of rice kernels and glued them to my glasses frames. Then, to make them even more “beautiful” and noticeable, she painted them with red polish.

You can imagine how excited I was, an insecure little freshman, wearing my red rice glasses. After a couple of days listening to the snickers of kids at school, I stopped wearing them. Then I suffered with horrendous headaches.

Mom decided to take me to the optometrist – just in case – where he pronounced me ready for new lenses as well as new frames. I was overjoyed!

At my twenty-five year high school reunion, one of my classmates actually remembered the red rice glasses.

And so did I.

Alzheimer’s cannot steal that memory away.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope in Finding the Story

saleAs I drove up to the multi-storied house, the “Estate Sale” sign reminded me of my mission. Look for something I could use at work – some objects that would bring encouragement to the women I coach: maybe a pot of flowers, some beautiful cards, a trinket I could give away.

What I didn’t expect to find was a story.

I joined the crowd of people poking through bedrooms, closets and kitchen – each of us searching for treasures at a reduced price.

Empathy set in as I realized this was a family who had just buried their matriarch. Now they had sold her house and were sorting through what she left behind, offering pieces of her life to strangers.

What sort of life did she live? The question hounded me even as I began to discover clues to her story.

In the garage, colorful pots for planting the cuttings of a new flower or plant. The texture of the pots described a women who was attracted to pottery rather than spray-painted plastic. A woman who appreciated the genuine.

A stack of books pulled me like a magnet into the intrigue of a life past. Most of us can tell our stories by the choices of books we keep on our shelves.

This woman read financial summaries and economic treatises. A mathematical mind, detailed, and carefully constructed to pay attention to pi, cosign and greater than.

A pile of books about alternative health. Was she sickened by a disease no one could treat, so she tried to find help beyond the traditional medical community? Did any of the vitamins, acupuncture or colloidal treatments give her a few more years of quality life?

Sadly – no books on religion. No Bibles. No creative poetry or coffee table books – unless her family already sequestered those to keep alive the memories of mom and grandmother.

The basement, filled with Christmas decorations. Obviously a woman who loved the holidays and filled her lavish home with pine wreaths, Scandinavian villages that lit up and over-sized ornaments, sparkling in the dim basement light.

The story of her life became even more clear as I combed through bedding, crept into closets and fingered vintage textures. This woman knew her own style and didn’t care for polyester cutouts that looked like everyone else.

In the kitchen, more health-conscious books about nutrition, cooking without cholesterol-building substances, how to incorporate chicken instead of beef into favorite recipes.

Suddenly a wave of grief as I chose a casserole pan I needed, wondering how many chicken meals she fixed in that particular pan before she finally succumbed to the frailty of her last days.

Before payment at the front parlor check-out, I walked through the house once more, prayed for the grieving family, found a few more treasures and considered how story follows us throughout life.

What kind of story did my life tell and how was it accented by my stuff? If someone looked through my bookshelves, could they determine I am a student of theology, a creative writer and and a woman who loves color and texture?

If a stranger looked under my deck, would they determine how I garden with old yet favorite tools, that the farmer gene in me has never exited, even after years in the city?

Would my costume jewelry, my terracotta pottery and my wooden rocking chair whisper that I am a simple country girl who finds solace in the beauty of handmade afghans, multiple stacks of books and the comforting jangle of a flowery mobile from New Mexico?

I came away from that estate sale hugging a garden birdhouse with its trailing ivy, a package of Christmas bulbs in my favorite dark purple, the casserole pan I needed to replace its long-ago-broken twin and a sense of story that emanated from the treasures I held.

We are each living the story of our lives. How much of our stuff reflects our authenticity and moves others to consider hope?

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Creates Lifetime Goals

Because I recently achieved one of those milestone birthdays, I meditated and prayed about God’s will for me in this new season of life.Hope word

The answer came as a whisper to “Check out Psalm 92.” Within the Psalmist’s words, I found a description of what I want to be and do in the years to come.

Of course, only God knows the extent of my timeline and the eventual plan he has for me.

But the Psalmist recorded some practical and wise advice that I plan to journal through and cache within my goal-setting process.

  • Flourish in the courts of our God

Whatever I do and wherever I am, I hope to flourish – to do my work with simple trust and hearty obedience, to finish well and make a difference in the Kingdom.

  • Grow in grace and bear fruit in old age

Jesus didn’t face old age, so we don’t have a divine model. But we can look at examples from Scripture to find out how to grow old with grace.

Noah accepted new assignments even when they seemed improbable and a bit crazy; i.e. building a boat while rain was just a weird unknown.

Elizabeth trusted God for the impossible and discerned how he was working in the world she inhabited; i.e. she mentored the mother of Jesus and trusted that her own womb bore God’s messenger.

John wrote the words that would encourage and inspire believers for centuries. Did he realize that one of the greatest hooks of all time would come from his pen? “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was from God and the Word was God.”

  • Be full of spiritual vitality

I want to be so filled with the Spirit and emptied of myself that the love and compassion of Christ precedes me into each room. I want my eyes to portray love and my voice to echo with the truth in a way that draws people to its life-giving source.

  • Rich in trust, love and contentment

I don’t want to be a saint who spends time griping about my aches and pains or the state of the country or the problems of younger generations. I want to be an example of what life-long trust in the God of the universe means – sharing his love while grateful for the breath of each day.

  • A living memorial to show that he is upright and faithful

The memorials of Lincoln and Jefferson focus on the words and grand living of these statesmen. How much greater and a broader goal to be a living memorial of who God is and how he is faithful to every promise.

Psalm 92:13-15 contains the rich truth and goal-setting ideas I can hang my hat on. As I march into this next season of life, even as the birthday ice cream slowly crystallizes in the freezer, I want this to be a fulfilling time of joy – while processing through whatever God desires for me.

He knew me before he made the world, what he planned for me, the good works he prepared for me to do. May that plan be exactly what happens and may it result in hope.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Hope Recovers from Pain

No pain – No gain.

heart - sunsetWe repeat this cliché and although we may believe in the truth of its principle, we would rather not experience it.

The reality is – we hate pain. We pray for healing as soon as we discover a lump, an asymmetrical mole or a rash that looks like shingles.

We scream, “It’s unfair, unjust,” when our identities are stolen or when our hearts are broken.

We hate pain. Yet it is also reality that the sharp bite of a vaccination may protect us from disease. The consequences of a broken commandment may drive us to repentance.


We often gain the most through pain.


As we have searched for answers about my son’s mysterious illness, we have considered the role of pain. Certainly, we asked for healing prayer. Many of you responded. Thank you!

Yet even within the uncertainty, I wondered – oh God – are you trying to teach us more about trust? Is there a higher purpose for these questions about my son’s health? How connected are his physical issues with the spiritual?

Last week, Caleb lay on a table while the doctor used acupuncture to relieve the pressure in my son’s brain.

One of the needles hit a painful place and what had been a comfortable treatment suddenly changed into a definite, “Ouch!”

Caleb bravely endured, then later that night, began to experience relief. The next day, he was 75% better and the following day – 100%.

The pain of that one needle insertion evidently made a different. The pain brought gain.

Treatments continue because we want total and lasting relief. We still don’t know the cause and maybe with further treatment, the answer will come.

But we’re moving beyond the uncertainty and into relief.

What have we learned? Again – the value and treasure of prayer. The prayers of you righteous ones who responded have made a difference.

The expertise of a doctor who specializes in natural treatments and listens to how the body works. If you want the name of a doctor who knows his stuff, email me: Rebecca@RJThesman.net.

We have also learned – again – to trust when we see no way out, when we beat our heads against blank walls and puzzled looks from medical professionals who have no answers. We trust in Yahweh Rophe – the divine Healer.

We have been reminded – again – to keep searching but simultaneously keep trusting that God may heal or he may direct us to those who can help. He may let us walk awhile in the pain and the uncertainty so that we will be grateful, trust wholeheartedly and learn patience.

Pain has become gain. Thank you, God.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

How to Find a Legacy Within Alzheimer’s

Because October is my birthday month, my thoughts often center around the woman who birthed and raised me. Although Dad was a prominent faith figure in my growing up years, it was Mom who pushed me out of the birth canal and then pushed me to become who I am.Arlene Renken - nurse

She was a fighter and an extrovert, unlike the rest of us who liked to disappear within our private worlds to write, listen to music or find our energy in the beautiful solitude of the Oklahoma landscape.

Odd that I speak of Mom in the past tense, even though her brave heart still beats as she stares at the wall opposite her chair. That’s what Alzheimer’s does to a family. We say goodbye, one stage at a time, one regression after another so that when death finally releases our loved one – much of the grieving has already been done. “The Long Goodbye” is aptly titled.

Mom grew up poor, walked to high school (yes, miles away, even in the snow and rain) and wore the same two dresses until her Sunday dress became too worn for church. It was then relegated for school wear as her mother sewed a better one for the Sabbath or one of the cousins passed down a Sunday outfit that wasn’t yet worn out.

As part of her legacy, Mom was determined none of her children would ever be ashamed of their clothes or feel embarrassed because they didn’t fit in. So she learned how to sew, spread out the material on the farmhouse floor, cut, pinned and put together whatever clothes we needed to look like we had some cash in the bank.

Then she made certain that each of us understood the importance of a quality education so that we would never feel the sting of poverty. We grew up with a solid work ethic, attended college, saved our pennies and never bought anything we didn’t really need.


It was a simpler time – a beautiful segment of history, without traffic snarls, school shootings or adultery in every family tree. I miss it every day.


Mom was willing to live in an old farmhouse and fix it up gradually, learning how to wallpaper and restore old pieces of furniture. Much of our house looked like the early-attic variety, but none of us minded. It was a safe place to grow up although cold in the winter and hot in the summer. But who minded when the kitchen smelled like fresh-baked bread, the fields sprouted a golden harvest that supported us all year and the animals taught us about life and death.

As a registered nurse, Mom followed the habits of “old school” nursing. Always dressed in white, her uniform and hat starched and gleaming, her white shoes and hose the perfect accessory. In those days, no jewelry was allowed except a simple wedding band.

But Mom, always a bit of a radical, wore a cross necklace under her slip. “To remind me I’m working as a Christian,” she said. “To keep me focused on what matters when I have to clean someone’s bottom or tell a family their child just died.”

Strength of character. Rock solid faith. Those qualities are hard to imagine in the woman who now rocks back and forth and accuses strangers of stealing her digital clock.

Yet it was those very qualities that taught me how to work well even when no one is watching, how to pray my guts out, how to deal with life when it hurts by working hard and moving forward, how to fight against traditions that are based only on men’s interpretations rather than the powerful voice of God.

Even now, as I have journeyed through a faith crisis and wondered how to find a church that will accept my calling – I know Mom would understand. If I could just communicate with her, she would get that steely gleam in her eye and tell me to “Stop whining. Just get busy and do it.”

She was probably one of the first parents who envisioned the concept of giving your children roots and wings. She taught us well, then let us go and cheered us whether we succeeded or learned hard life lessons through failure.

Never demonstrative with her love, if anyone attacked her kids – they would face the wrath of a woman who knew how to struggle through the worst of life’s catastrophes and conquer them through sheer determination and grit.

No one dare beat up her kids, either emotionally or physically. She would stand tall in her 5’8” frame and declare, “One more word, and I’ll jerk a knot in you.”

So I am proud of the legacy Mom has shared with me, a strength of character that dares to question the establishment yet humbly accepts God’s will.

Even in the shadows of Alzheimer’s, I see Mom’s resolve to finish her course well, to find contentment in the every dayness of Bingo, planned meals and assigned seats during movie night.

The strong woman who raised me still exists somewhere deep within, even though the outer shell gains fragility, age spots and graying hairs.

The legacy continues. Thanks, Mom.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Hope Respects the Alzheimer’s Patient

The blog post for this week was already written, edited and almost scheduled.Alz lady - nurse

Then I had second thoughts.

It was a post about my mother and shared one of the family secrets she told me years ago. I felt it was a great post, and I hoped it would interest my followers as well as give them insights into the life of my mother.

But somehow – I couldn’t post it.

Mom is an extrovert but she has also been a rather private person, hiding her secrets in a sacred soul place. That’s what women in her demographic learned to do.

Never would she have shared her life via social media nor would she want me to do that by proxy for her. I understand. Further, I respect that piece of her personality and choose to keep aspects of her life – and ultimately my family’s life – private.

I know some of the secrets because I snooped in her hope chest years ago and read the beautiful love letters my parents wrote to each other.

Other secrets were told to me by caring and not-so-caring relatives while my instincts picked up on some of the more private stories. When I asked Mom to explain these missing pieces of history, she pursed her lips and changed the subject.

Off limits – even though I am family.


So just because I am a writer, that does not give me license to share with the world all about my mother’s life.


I will say simply that she lived life well. She raised three children and loved her husband with all her heart. She served as a nurse, made sure each of us checked out books from the library each week and inspected our ears after bath time.

And because I respect her and the life she lived, I will keep her secrets in that sacred place of my own soul – a pact between us that no one else needs to know.

I love you, Mom.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Finding Hope When Healing Delays

When healing doesn’t happen, we tend to ask, “Why?”caleb on the beach

Does God have a greater purpose in the process? Have we prayed correctly, cried out to God fervently enough? Have we sinned, somehow preventing God’s awesome power at work?

Everything within me screams, “No! God is so much bigger than my attempts to justify his silence.”

Yet as the days and nights pass and we struggle through the question of “What is wrong with Caleb?” we have to wonder at the delay of answers.

Since God is omniscient and omnipotent and all the other omni’s – he knows exactly what has happened to cause this distress.

He knows every hair on my son’s head as well as every nuclei in his millions of cells. God’s heart beats in sync with my son’s as they are united by blood – the redemptive blood of Christ. I know God loves my son.

Since God knows what’s wrong, then why won’t he tell us? We are searching everywhere for answers – reading internet articles by experts who list the symptoms of a myriad of causes:

Allergies, gluten, mold, diabetes, stroke, brain tumors, carbon monoxide poisoning, Alzheimer’s – really? Alzheimer’s at age 29?

Some of these illnesses we are pursuing; some have been rabbit-trailed. The most dangerous ones met with a resounding, “No, that’s not it.”

Thank you, God.

Yet the giant question mark haunts and no one knows the answer.

Except One.

So why the delay?


I wonder if we are caught in a heavenly conflict – another God versus Satan moment where both sides hold their breath while the Jobs of the earth are tested.


Will we trust God? Will we be still and know that he is God?

Satan smirks but God smiles and sings over us. He knew the ending before the beginning ever germinated.

And when this Job falters, when I cannot sleep for the fear that beats against my mommy heart – the prayers of others sustain me.

Some of you – reading this post – are praying for us. Thank you.

Satan falls because prayers always push him down.

Will we trust God and persevere through to the other side?

We sing out that God Himself, who allows the test is also the One who keeps us from falling.

Yes, bless God. We will stand strong.

Because when healing waits, God has a purpose. And no matter what happens or how it plays out – in the end – God always wins.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

 

Hope Recovers from Fear

My son is sick, and I am afraid.Caleb and Mom at Rachel's wedding

Because he is a cancer survivor (eight years, bless God!), when something happens that interrupts that heart relief of his healing – my soul fears.

Last week, he was disoriented. He couldn’t drive, couldn’t write his name, had trouble putting words together to make a sentence.

The honest prayer of Reverend G poured from me, “Oh God oh God oh God. I can’t stand it.”

We scheduled an appointment with the neurologist who ordered the usual lab work and then an MRI.

The night before the imaging test, I woke up every two and a half hours to check on Caleb – to tiptoe into his bedroom, touch his forehead, check his breathing.


Every two and a half hours – the same amount of time that he woke me up for feedings when he was a baby. Now, 29 years later, my mommy heart somehow answered an internal alarm to check on my grown child.


Every time I returned to bed, I fell to my knees to beg God, “Please! Will you take my last living child? You already have my first two babies. Please, please, save my son!”

My prayers became whimpers of pleading along with the recitations of verses to remind God of his promises:

“No weapon used against us will prosper. No weapon, God. Please.”

“God delivers us from all our fears. Deliver us, oh God.”

“Peace I leave with you. Peace I give unto you. Your beloved peace, I beg of you.”

Then the morning sky, the day of the MRI, that metal machine surrounding my son’s body, imprinting its pictures on the radiologic screen – answers that will bring relief or sorrow.

Oh God oh God oh God. I can’t stand it.

Then the waiting. They read the results. Fax them to the doctor. Contact my son. He texts me.

No tumor. No reoccurrence.

Oh God oh God oh God. I thank you.

But then a reminder of other mothers who will receive bad news this day. Some will not thank God but fall to their knees in grief, stand before a coffin and place flowers on a grave.

Oh God – deliver us from the ravages of death. Come, Lord Jesus.

We still have no answers for this attack on Caleb’s body. More doctors. More tests.

But in the process, hope revives. We will deal with whatever it is and thrust our fear-filled hearts toward the only One who knows the answers.

Hope still survives.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Hope Thrives Through the Aunties’ Prayers

woman prayingAs I closed my prayer journal, I thought once again about my nieces and nephews. These dear ones were the focus of my Sabbath prayers – the next generation that will love justice, show mercy and live as Kingdom-bearers in our world.

Years ago, I determined to pray them through school decisions, career changes and life-long relationships. Now I wonder how my prayers protected them or spurred them to consider a different path, a more focused decision. No matter. I will love them and root for them forever.

And what about the intercessions of my aunties? Judging from the fruit of their lives, I would bet they also kept prayer lists and on those lists, somewhere – my name appears.


It is because of their influence that I write and serve and minister. The glorious result of their example helped frame me as they modeled how to become strong and authentic women.


Most of them now live in eternal glory, yet the memories I carry of them are as distinct as my own reflection in the bedroom mirror.

Mary: the auntie who loved me even when I could not love myself. She never saw the zits, the perm-fried hair or the thunder thighs that mortified me throughout adolescence and high school. Mary just loved me and every time she saw me, I knew she was genuinely glad to see me. How I would love to feel her arms around me again!

Lynda: the teacher auntie who expressed interest in every one of my projects, supported my ministries and showed up, smiling, whenever I sang a solo or gave a speech. I felt important in her presence and knew she cared for me. I would bet, even now, she is checking with God about my activities.

Alma Dee: a busy mother of five, who still found time to spend hours with me, listening to my recitations of Bible verses and encouraging me to study the truth of God’s word. She helped me build a foundation that I later shared with my Bible students and then morphed into the personality of Reverend G.

Ethel: the gracious and kindly auntie who surpassed Martha Stewart in hospitality and the making of home. Her beautiful house was immaculate, her décor creative while her face always carried the shine of God’s love. Even now, this still-living auntie, reflects the presence of God and wears a forever smile, probably knowing she will see Him in person someday soon.

Adina: the widowed auntie who raised her children alone and achieved a master’s degree when it was unusual for women to pursue the higher levels of education. She challenged me to pursue my dreams. Because she persevered, I could, too.

Lucille: the glamourous auntie whose red lipstick shocked and amazed me. I wanted to try that shade – just once. It was at her memorial service that I learned about the depth of her faith and wondered if she, too, had prayed for me.

These aunties are just some of the relatives whom I respected and loved. They taught me the values I still espouse and shared their faith as generously as they gave kisses on the cheek.

Without these aunties and their prayers, I might have chosen another path. I have lived the results of my aunties’ prayers. So I now pass on that treasure for the younger ones who follow me.

Who prayed for you? What difference did those prayers make in your life?

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

How to Find Hope in a Published Book

With the release of “Final Grace for Reverend G,” the trilogy is complete. The gutsy little minister has challenged us to find hope even within the plaque-infested world of Alzheimer’s Disease.Rev G 3 Cover

On the eve of the release, I sat in my office and looked at the three books on my dream shelf. “The Unraveling of Reverend G,” acquired by Pamela Sonnenmoser for CrossRiver Media, not long before she graduated to heaven. The book that surprised even me, because I didn’t think I could write fiction.

Intermission for Reverend G” followed with its characterization of Alzheimer’s and a culmination of a romance between Reverend G and her soulmate, Chris. Another surprise for me because I don’t read romance. I still have no idea how that plot line happened and what made it so successful with my readers. Maybe because the characters were older and the idea of a romance with an Alzheimer’s patient was just flukey enough to be wonderful.

Final Grace for Reverend G” ended the trilogy and hopefully – it will become a best-seller with my readers, reminding us all that hope is eternal and God has a good plan for our lives – even when we face a serious disease.

As I looked at the books and realized the release date had arrived, I wondered – why am I not more excited? I didn’t even feel like celebrating with a bowl of Chunky Monkey ice cream or a slice of cheesecake with blueberries on top.


Was it because I missed Reverend G and the end of the series meant I had to finally let her go?


The publishing of a book is still a big deal to me. Even though I’ve been published before, these were my first novels. This story was real, because it mirrored what my family is going through with Mom. But it’s not the final release that is exciting, or the marketing and promotional activities.

It’s something else.

The achievement of writing and finding a publisher for three books is also a big deal. It marks another goal in my writing career, the answer to many prayers and the culmination of a dream. Seeing my books on library shelves and signing my name on the title page of each book during speaking events or booksignings – I still get chills up and down my arms.

But that doesn’t bring the most excitement.

What really does it for me is when I hear from readers, “Your books gave me ideas for how to deal with my dad. He has dementia, and we just didn’t know what to do.”

Or the CNA who shared the books with her colleagues, hoping they could all learn some new techniques for dealing with patients in assisted living.

The reader in Kansas who buys my books for her friend in Indiana, so she’ll have something encouraging to read as she watches her husband fade away in the last stages of Alzheimer’s.

Or the readers who emailed me, “I didn’t know we could pray so honestly to God. Reverend G taught us that it’s okay to cry out, ‘I can’t stand this.’”

When my readers learn something from the story, when they feel encouraged in their difficult journeys, when they find some hope, when they hear from God through the words he breathed through me – that’s exciting.

The end result of all the hours of writing, editing, revising, and doing it all over again to make it the best it can be is when all that perseverance pays off.

The excitement generates when people read my books and then buy them for someone else – to help another family dealing with the disease.

That’s when I know it was all worth it. And that’s when I’m encouraged to write another book, another blog post or another article so that this writer can somehow make a difference.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Hope Returns with a Bossy Mom

Several weeks ago, I drove to Oklahoma and spent an afternoon with Mom. For the first time in months, she was fairly lucid, bossing me, like her old self.heart - sunset

We took a walk around the perimeter of the assisted living facility, discussed the geese who sometimes fly onto the pond for a drink or goose fellowship – whatever geese do.

Mom remarked how nice the facility is and how glad she is to live there – a reversal of the attitude she sometimes displays when she demands, “Why am I here? Why did you kids do this to me?”

Heartache piled upon guilt.

But on this day, she seemed grateful, and I saw in her the personality I grew up with – the bossy Mom who made sure her kids read at least seven books each week, practiced their musical instruments and worked hard to complete their chores and finish their homework.

Suddenly, we were transported decades back as Mom became herself:

“You need to hem up those pants you’re wearing. They’re dragging on the ground.”

“I did hem them, Mom.”

“Well, you need to do it again – another inch at least.”

“Okay, Mom. When I get home.”

Then we walked to the dining room. Mom instructed me where to sit. “Grab that chair over there. Someone else will sit beside me.”

As the meal was served, Mom worried that I wasn’t eating. “How come you don’t have a plate? Do you want me to order one for you?”

“No. I stopped at Braum’s two hours ago. I’m not hungry.”

“Well, you’ll be hungry by morning. Do you want a cookie? I’ll get you a cookie.”

“No, thanks. I eat gluten free.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m allergic to wheat.”

“Well, that can’t be right. You grew up on a wheat farm and we had bread for every meal.”

“Exactly. That’s why I have an allergy to wheat.”

“Are you sure you don’t want a cookie?”

The nurturing of children continues into old age, even when the brain is infected with Alzheimer’s plaque. A mother longs to feed her children, to make sure they are never hungry, even if they’re just visiting, even if they’ve just eaten.

After the meal, we walked back to Mom’s room. “Do you want to watch the idiot box?” (Mom’s description for the TV).

“No. I’ll just sit here with you or read a book.”

“Yeah. There’s nothing on but junk anyway.” We sat in silence for a while, then suddenly – Mom looked at me, her glasses slightly askew. “Are you dating?”

“No. I’m pretty busy.”

“Well, you should be dating someone. I don’t understand why some wonderful man hasn’t snatched you up.”

It was the nicest compliment she has paid me in years. My throat began to fill with the tears of missing my mom, of not being able to call her and discuss my latest book, of no longer sharing a shopping trip or the latest crochet pattern or the encouragement of a Psalm.

“Thanks, Mom. That’s nice.”

“Well, I’m just askin’.”

For a few hours on a hot July afternoon, Mom and I connected on a level long past. She was again the bossy Mom, demanding answers and commanding me in directions she wanted me to take.

Once again, I was the daughter and our roles were clear, not reversed or confused in the dynamics of what Alzheimer’s does to families.

And for a few hours, we sat together in peace, two women – still joined by an emotional umbilical cord.

It was sweet. I know that may never happen again.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

How to Celebrate a Character’s Life

Because characters are so essential to novels, writers spend hours developing character sketches, running personality assessments on pretend people and recording the information in a workbook or on a vision board.

Since 2010, I have developed the character of Reverend G. I have lived with the voice of this gutsy little minister inside my head and written from her viewpoint what it feels like to experience dementia and early-onset Alzheimer’s. Now that the final book is scheduled for release on August 21, I feel a sense of loss. Rev G 3 Cover

Reverend G fought Alzheimer’s with faith and hope, but she no longer wakes me up at four o’clock in the morning or reminds me that she wants to wear her long white braid draped over her left shoulder. She no longer scolds me when I am too tired to write down a piece of dialogue on the notepad beside my bed. She no longer challenges me to find just the right word that will describe how Zim – her word for Alzheimer’s – is stealing her away piece by piece.

Reverend G’s voice has gone silent.

So to acknowledge the loss and help me move on, my Saturday Sisters decided to initiate a memorial service.

Sat sisters - mem serviceThese sisters and I have done life together for over 20 years. We have prayed together, shared parenting tips and cheered for our Jayhawks. Except for me, they all live in Lawrence, Kansas.

A few weeks ago, I drove to meet them at our usual gathering place, to celebrate together the life and legacy of Reverend G. We began with an introduction and the Lord’s Prayer because this prayer provided an important plot twist at the beginning of Reverend G’s dementia symptoms.

Then I gave a summary of the character sketch, recalling how Reverend G has grown and changed since the first book and how readers told me they appreciated her strength, her faith and the way she honestly cries out to God with, “I can’t stand it!”

Each of the Saturday Sisters shared their favorite stories from the two previous books, then we read Reverend G’s favorite verses: Psalm 46:10, Psalm 43:5 and Psalm 91:1-2.

A sweet warmth permeated the room as we sang two of Reverend G’s favorite songs: “Let It Be” by the Beatles and the wonderful old hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” To round out the musical selections, we harmonized through a few verses of “It Is Well With My Soul.”

Then we prayed for those who suffer with Alzheimer’s and dementia as well as the caregivers who patiently listen to the same stories repeated over and over and watch their loved ones regress into childhood.

We prayed for my mom and for the other moms represented around the table, sad that we can no longer “just call Mom” when we have a problem, grateful for the years we shared yet grieving for the fading away of relationships as our mothers now sometimes forget us.

After our prayer, it was time for the luncheon. Don’t we always follow the sorrow of memorial services with the sustenance and fellowship of food?

The menu included tuna balls (in honor of Gabriel, Reverend G’s cat), cowboy caviar, gluten free blueberry muffins, Reverend G’s blueberry salad, the choice of raspberry or plain lemonade and for dessert – of course – Chunky Monkey ice cream.rev g memorial lunch

My precious Saturday Sisters spent a day encouraging me, believing that the character God and I created had made an impact on the lives of my readers.

When we hugged goodbye – it was with joy and hope that someday Alzheimer’s will be defeated and no one will ever forget their loved ones again.

Although Alzheimer’s still destroys pieces of my mother’s brain and my family still walks through this journey of forgetting – I can now – as a writer – move on.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Hope Thrives at 88

When I first met Donna, stepmother of my friend, I thought she might be in her 70’s. She invited us to spend several days in her lovely apartment in Denver.Denver

During that time, Donna cooked healthy and colorful meals, she instructed us in the best ways to avoid traffic snarls and she led us in lively discussions about baseball – particularly her beloved Colorado Rockies.

Our time with her included hours of experiencing her hospitality and nurturing gifts. When we left, her hugs were genuine and warm.

So I was amazed to discover that she is 88 years old, just one year older than my mother yet in activity and stimulating conversations – decades younger.

Spending time with this wonderful woman reminded me of what no longer exists when I visit Mom.

When Mom lived independently, my visits were always a source of joy. She served my favorite foods, asked me about my work, rejoiced in my latest books or articles. She drove me to Braums – the Oklahoma version of the best-ever ice cream, hamburgers and fries.

Mom and I worshipped together, discussed politics and the importance of women staying strong and setting boundaries.

When the end of the weekend inevitably came, Mom pressed a twenty dollar bill into my hand and said, “It costs money for gas. This should help.”

Those were times of nurturing, of refreshing sleep and practical love. I always left renewed and encouraged.

Since the memory thief called Alzheimers invaded our family, Mom has not been able to nurture, to provide care or to express love as she did before.

Perhaps it is a selfish desire, but I miss those weekends with Mom and the reminder that I am still a daughter, still respected for my individual gifts yet bonded within our family’s traditions.

Alzheimer’s has ripped that nurturing experience into shreds and left me with only faded memories of shopping trips, phone calls and the desire: “I need to discuss this with Mom.”

So when Donna reintroduced that motherly hospitality into my life on one weekend in Denver, it was a bittersweet reminder of what once was possible with my mother.


If the gift of hospitality and the joy of practical love can still thrive at the age of 88, then hope continues into my own advancing years. I am encouraged that Alzheimer’s does not steal from every family.


If the kindness of a nurturing heart can extend toward a friend of a step-daughter and produce gratitude in the fresh mountain air, then the threat of old age and memory loss need not expand into fear.

Once again, I am filled with the hope that maybe when I reach my 80’s – I can still nurture my son and his family, still use my gifts of teaching, writing and service, still find joy in the beginning of every day.

Thank you, Donna, for grafting that hope back into my soul and giving me fresh impetus to march into my tomorrows with a giving mentality.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of “Final Grace for Reverend G” – http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Stage 7 of Alzheimer’s – The Race is Won

As told by Reverend G …

How long will it take before I die?

Day after day and night after long night when I often don’t sleep – I watch for the light.

John 14-3It creeps under the doorway when everything is quiet in the hallways. Then it flirts with the window in the corner of my room as it changes from the mere beginnings of another day into the full-blown afternoon and then again – the silence of evening.

People come into my room and do things to me. They change my sheets and my clothes. They make me feel clean again. They help me go to the bathroom. I wish they didn’t have to do that, but I am so completely helpless.

Once I was a vital pastor who cared for her people and taught about God’s love. I am now a baby – an infant in an adult body.

How long will it take before I die? I am so ready to die, dear God. Will you please let me die?

I remember a beautiful piece of the Bible, and every day I think about these words, “Many homes are up there where my Father lives. Jesus is preparing them for my coming. When everything is ready, he will come and get me so that I can always be with him in heaven” (John 14:3).

I wonder what my home in heaven will look like. I am glad that it will be nothing like this room and this sterile bed where I wait to die.


It will be beautiful, because God is beautiful and he knows how to create the very best for me. No Alzheimer’s exists in heaven. No dementia. No illness of any kind. No more death.


Only great love and the light of God’s goodness, shining through everything – his holiness everywhere.

How long will it be before I get to see that light? I am so ready to be with Jesus.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books – http://bit.ly/1RH27AT

Stage 6 of Alzheimer’s – Back to Childhood

As told by Reverend G …

My mother came to visit me last night, and we made sugar cookies together. Then this morning, she was gone and Chris told me it was a dream.

I think he is wrong. It was too real to be a dream.

Psalm 56-3-4When I was a child, I thought like a child. Now that I am an adult with Alzheimer’s, I still think like a child. I would give anything to start my life over and be a child again – a real child – not this fake, pretend sometimes-adult-sometimes-child personhood.

Chris brushes my hair and tries to braid it, because I have forgotten how to weave the strands in and out, up and under.

My mother does the best job with my hair and tonight, I will ask her to fix it for me.

When I was a child, just yesterday I think, I wanted to stand in front of people and tell them about God. I’m not sure if I ever did that, but that boy, my son – he said I used to preach.

I hope I did it well as I cannot remember any subjects I might have preached about.

The only thing I do remember is what I am reading now in my Bible. It is from a book with a funny name, Psalms. The numbers are 56:3 and 4, “When I am afraid, I will put my confidence in you. Yes, I will trust the promises of God. And since I am trusting him, what can mere man do to me?”

The nurses do funny things to me as they bathe me and try to coax me to eat. I don’t like those little brown cookies with vanilla pudding on top. Too mushy. I like little blue rocks…some kind of berries…on top of Chunky Monkey ice cream.

But no matter what they feed me, somewhere inside me is the God I trust. And since the Bible says I don’t have to be afraid … then that’s what I will hang on to.

Even when I cannot brush my own hair, I will keep my confidence in the God I can trust. He will not let me down.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books – http://bit.ly/1RH27AT

Stage 5 of Alzheimer’s – Early Dementia

As told by Reverend G …

As I practice my A B Cs, I think of my little boy, Jacob. He is … I don’t know … about eight or ten now.

No, I saw him just this morning, and he is grown with a wife. What is her name?

Hebrews 13-5bI cannot find my shoes, even though I took them off just a few minutes ago. This morning, someone had to help me tie them. I forgot how to make the bunny ears go inside each other. Such a strange forgetting.

At least I have not forgotten God. I know he is with me each day and throughout every moment of my waking and sleeping hours. I know this because he promised this and he always keeps his promises.

I will never, never fail you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b).

Perhaps I have failed him in the past. I don’t remember. But that doesn’t matter. He loves me even in my forgetfulness, even in this dreaded journey through dementia and Alzheimer’s.


And no matter how much worse it gets, he will never fail to stay beside me.


I wish I could remember what I had for lunch. It bothers me, because I’m not sure I even ate lunch.

Doc Sanders or some medical person wants me to eat more, because he says I’m too thin. But how can I eat if I can’t remember what to do with food?

This is a quandary. I never expected to have this problem in my life. I wonder if I will feel better about it tomorrow.

I wonder what day it is tomorrow. Somewhere I have a calendar with little squares marked off for each day and a pretty picture at the top. Maybe I will look for that after supper.

Thank you, God, for being with me – even now – as I try to remember my lunch and search for my calendar. Thank you for being timeless.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books – http://bit.ly/1RH27AT

Stage 4 of Alzheimer’s – Diagnosis

As told by Reverend G …

So Doc Sanders tells me I have dementia and early-onset Alzheimer’s. The prognosis includes a gradual regression into childhood and someday, somebody will have to take care of my basic needs because I won’t be able to.Psalm 43-5

Well, God … this is not a happy thought. I’m just being honest and telling you that I can’t stand this.

How in the world can I continue to serve you and be your light that shines in dark places, that helps people see the love of God – if I can’t even take care of myself.

This is really a terrible situation. I can’t stand it.

My son doesn’t understand and he’s angry about it. I have to resign from my pastorate, sell all my earthly goods and go live in assisted living.

Again … I don’t understand why this has happened. None of my ancestors suffered from Alzheimer’s – at least I can’t remember if they did. Oh, I made a joke. Ha!

I can still remember my mother’s face and the little house where I grew up, but I can’t remember what I had for lunch today or yesterday or the day before.

That is common, Doc says. I will forget today and remember far into yesterday – for a while. Someday I will forget even the most basic of survival skills such as: how to eat, how to swallow, how to tie my shoes.


Somewhere in all of this, God, there must be a lesson. Somewhere in all of your plan, I know there is a spectrum of light, a chrysalis that will someday burst into goodness.


I cannot see it, but you can. Oh, God, my God, help me.

Another of your servants, King David, felt discouraged as well. He fashioned a formula for himself and the rest of us when he wrote, “Hope in God for I will yet praise him” (Psalm 43:5).

The Yet Factor. I will yet find something to praise you about in all of this mess. I will yet find a way to seek hope and reach for the light when I don’t understand. I will live in the yet because that is where faith resides.

And even though this diagnosis is not what I wanted to hear, it is no surprise to you, God. You are faithful. You will be with me throughout this journey, and I will yet praise you.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books – http://bit.ly/1RH27AT

Stage 3 of Alzheimer’s – Fear

As told by Reverend G …

Please God, help me! I can’t stand it!

More and more things are disappearing and this week, I lost an entire carton of Chunky Monkey ice cream. It’s my favorite you know – with that creamy texture, bits of chocolate and that slight banana flavor.

How could that happen? How could we find my ice cream in the pantry, slowly dribbling next to the hot tea boxes?

That doesn’t even make sense, God. Nothing makes sense.Stage 3 - Alz

I’m losing more and more concentration. I can’t work well anymore – can’t serve you as I did in the past – can’t put together a decent sermon and preach it.

I forget names and conversations. Words jumble together.

I’m afraid…so afraid.

Why can’t I experience the same trust I once taught to my congregation?

Even now, I read Psalm 34:4 and try to make it mine, “For I cried to him and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.”

Please free me, God, from this terror that follows me every day, then escalates whenever I forget something.


Please help me to somehow find a direction that points toward you in all of this. Let me not lose my faith in the process of losing my sanity.


Help me, God! I can’t stand it!

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books – http://bit.ly/1RH27AT

Stage 2 of Alzheimer’s – Questions

As told by Reverend G … Stage 2 - Alz

Such a subtle change, but scary nonetheless. I wonder what is happening to me but don’t feel the need to check with Doc Sanders.

Tiny signs. A forgotten phrase during the Lord’s Prayer. A trip to the grocery store, then realize I forgot my list and can’t remember anything I need.

Surely it’s only stress or maybe a weird virus where neurons stop firing together. Maybe a simultaneous mix of allergies that somehow have attacked my memory bank.

Why God? Why don’t you tell me what’s going on? I can’t stand it.

Again, you send me to the book of Isaiah – this brave prophet who carried your message so faithfully.

Today I read from Isaiah 48:1-2, “Hear me, my people, you swear allegiance to the Lord…and brag about depending on the God of Israel.”


So if I believe in God’s power to keep me safe and if I depend on him for everything, then I need to live it out.


When I forget my own birthday, rely on God to help me.

When I miss a line in the Lord’s Prayer or the Doxology in front of my entire congregation and I am so embarrassed, trust that God will cover me with grace. He is never too embarrassed to love me.

When I don’t understand what’s happening to me, depend on God’s wisdom.

If, as his follower, I believe I belong to him…if I boast that he is faithful…then I must continue to walk down this road, believing he will walk with me.

I am afraid. I do not understand and yet – I am held in the palm of his mighty hand.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books – http://bit.ly/1RH27AT

Alzheimer’s – Stage 1: Preparation

As told by Reverend G …

Surely the Lord God is with me and will not let his servant tremble with fear.Stage-1-of-Alzheimers

And yet I am somewhat fearful of what may lie ahead. Although I have faithfully served God within my congregation all these years…although I have spoken about faith often and forcefully from the pulpit, still – I am human and wonder what lies ahead.

God has not blessed me with the gift of prophecy but he is starting to warn me. Every morning when I open my Bible, I ask him, “Dear Father, what would you like me to read today? What will you teach me on this lovely morning?”

For the past four mornings, he has repeated the same instruction, “Isaiah 43:2-3.”

“Really? Again? So here I am, reading the same passage and jotting down thoughts in my journal, asking you, sweet Holy Spirit, to make it plain. What does this mean for me?


ʻWhen you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up – the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, your Savior, the Holy One of Israel.


It is a comfort that God promises to be with me in this coming thing – whatever it is. And I see that my part is to trust him. But still, I don’t like the fact that this is a warning of some type of impending doom.

Is this something that will happen to me personally or to someone in my congregation? Not to my beloved son, oh God, please. Not to Jacob or to his bride, Jessie. Please, God. I can’t stand it.

Deep water and great trouble. Rivers of difficulty and the fire of oppression. And no hope that it might not happen because you preface everything with the word, “When.”

When you go through it. When it happens. Three times I see a “When.” Yet I still do not understand.

Oh God, my God, I do trust that you will be with me – no matter what happens. If it is an illness or a tragedy of some kind, you will not leave me to go through it alone. You are indeed the Lord my God, my Savior, my Comforter, my eternal Husband and Maker.

Just help me to be brave. And help me to face whatever it is with my faith intact. Let me never, ever falter. Amen and Amen.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books – www.CrossRiverMedia.com

Why Hope Needs Balance

Like a delicate scale that tips toward the stress side, balance remains a challenge. Work, work and more work – no time for play.scale

Without play, creativity is left to fight against the stress and becomes its own version of writers block.

Not that the words cease to come – thankfully, but the words no longer filter through the divine whisper. Instead, they sound like clichés and the craft becomes lifeless to the writer.

Without play, stress wins because there are always more things to do, more places to go and more tasks to complete.

Play pouts in the corner – unable to garner my attention yet plaguing me with silent screams.

In a corner of my office sits my tote bag, filled with colorful pens, crayons and the latest Mandela. But work calls through the filter of stress, so I ignore the bag even while wishing for just a few moments of playful joy.

In her book about recovering balance, “Finding the Deep River Within” http://amzn.to/1dkf32m Abby Seixas writes, “We must break the cultural habit of sacrificing our inner lives for our outer lives, of giving up depth in deference to speed.”

Stress and its deceptive sister, speed, require that we work hard to complete more tasks. We do them quickly so that we can accomplish more and then check our to-do lists for the momentary satisfaction of achievement.

Yet in that speed, we sacrifice the beauty of rest that ultimately feeds our souls. We give up our need to go deep and find our most intimate selves. We lose our place, sitting in God’s lap where he says, “Be still and know me.”

The delicate scale balances precariously toward burnout.

But the solution is not that difficult. We all have 168 hours each week to figure it out. Yes, work is important. Certainly, work is necessary but then so is play.


It merely takes a smidgeon of self-discipline to stop multi-tasking, to cut away at the distractions and to invite soul time. To breathe deeply, close the eyes against the computer screen glare and embrace solitude.


And in that embrace, we learn to honor our own souls as well as the Divine One who made us in the first place.

To make the decision for more balance brings hope to that inner place where the child still waits for the adult and where memories of laughter, colors and sand castles still thrive.

I commit to that decision. I embrace that hope and if you will excuse me – I must gather my toys and go play.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Image by Flaticon

Hope Beyond the Just

musing-girl-silhouette-1122905-mLast week, I met another creative who said, “I’m just a beginning writer.” I understood what he meant, of course, but I wondered about that little word “just.”

How many times do we use “just” to describe ourselves, not realizing that in the process – we are embracing shame.

“I’m just a beginning writer.”

“I’m just a housewife.”

“I’m just the receptionist.”

To be authentic persons, I believe we should eradicate this use of “just” from our vocabulary.

None of us are “just” anything and when we put ourselves down, we throw ourselves into the trash bag of a “less than” mentality. Any type of emotional trash bag will suffocate us.

“I’m just” is another way of stating, “I’m not enough.” Not rich enough. Not smart enough. Not accomplished enough.

And when we shame ourselves, we become our own judge by comparing our worth to another person.

God never shames us. He never says, “You need to be like that person over there.” Instead, he promises he has a good plan for our lives, for each of us, based on who he created us to be.

Sure, we creatives strive to learn more about writing and become best-selling authors. That’s one of my goals. But even if that never happens, if my words touch ONE heart, if even one person finishes my books with a lesson learned or a nugget of joy intact – that’s success.

Being a housewife, keeping the home operational and raising the children is one of the highest forms of work because it influences the next generation. Just a housewife? Not possible. Wouldn’t it be more uplifting to say, “I am so privileged to be a housewife.”

Anyone who works in an office knows the receptionist is the first line of defense. This important person schedules the daily activities, keeps everything going smoothly and greets customers with a smile. He or she may not earn the salary of the person in the corner office, but just try operating a business without a front office person. “Just” does not begin to describe the value of an efficient and welcoming receptionist.

So instead of thinking of ourselves as “just” anything, let’s look in the mirror and say, “Hey there, Wonderful! God has a good plan for you today, and you’re the only person in the world who can do it. You are enough. March forward with hope for an even better future.”

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Image attributed to www. sxc.hu.

Hope Answers Why

why imageWhen life unravels and we struggle through it, our first response is often, “Why? Why God, did this have to happen?”

“Why did my precious tender-hearted Dad have to disappear into the shadows of dementia?”

“Why does my mother have to continue through this Alzheimer’s journey when she spent half her life taking care of Dad and praying against this disease? I don’t understand, God. Why?”

King David, asked “Why?” And even the son of God, Jesus himself, pleaded for an answer, “Why God have you forsaken me? Why?”

Usually, heaven is silent and we don’t receive an answer to this question. I suppose God wants us to exercise faith and learn how to dig deep within, to trust him when the “Why” question isn’t answered.

And maybe our finite minds can’t understand even if God does tell us what’s going on.

But in one version of the story of Job sits a verse that might help us understand. I’ve only found it in the New American Standard version, but I’ve hung on to it during those times when life unravels.

It is amazing to me that the answer appears in the book of Job – wrapped within the story of this patriarch who suffered so long and so intensely – this good man who lost everything, including his health. Not even his best friends could help him understand.

Yet this verse shouts the answer to our “Why” questions: “Whether for correction or for His world or for lovingkindness, he causes it to happen” (Job 37:13 NASB).

Correction: Sometimes things happen to us so that we will learn important lessons – spiritual or practical lessons.

Our blood pressure spikes. Perhaps the lesson is to balance out life, learn to say, “No” and get the rest our bodies need.

When life unravels, instead of asking “Why?” maybe we should look upward and ask, “God, what are you trying to teach me here?”

His world: Sometimes the things that happen to us are a direct result of the world we live in.

A drive-by shooting takes away a precious child because some irresponsible person fired his gun out the window or reacted to some inner anger and didn’t care about anyone else. We live in a scary world.

Last week, the news was filled with the tragedy of a train derailment. One of the rules of physics is that if you take a curve at 100 miles per hour in a metal car attached to metal rails, some of those train cars may detach and go flying. As a result, people will be hurt and some of them killed because that’s how physics works. It’s incredibly tragic, but our world is filled with tragedies.

Lovingkindness: This is the really hard one. How can it be loving or kind when terrible things happen? Why does a good God allow terrible things to occur?

Maybe it’s because he looks at the situation through timeless eyes and a heart that is bigger than this world.

A teenager is arrested for drunk driving and sentenced to several years of imprisonment and/or probation. His parents are devastated. He misses his graduation. He loses his college scholarship. But isn’t that kinder than if he continues to drink, becomes an alcoholic and ends up killing someone with his car?

Death is not always the worst scenario. A surprise heart attack is tragic, but easier to deal with than a lifetime of slow death with Alzheimer’s.

Is it better to perish in a tornado or to slowly starve to death in a prison camp? Which would you choose? Which death is kinder?

Ultimately, even with this verse in Job, we don’t have control over the unravelings of life. We never know what the next twenty-four hours will hold.

That’s why it’s so important to enjoy each day, to love God and each other with full hearts. That’s why hope is so vital.

Because even when we can’t figure it out, when the “Why’s” of life don’t make sense and heaven is silent – hope keeps us moving toward the next sunrise.

Hope is that eternal optimism that at some point, all our unravelings will make sense and pain will disappear.

And as one pundit has written, “When we get to heaven, we’ll take one look at the replay of our lives and understand what God was doing. Then we’ll understand and we’ll say, ‘Of course.’”

What do you think about Job 37:13?

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Eliminates Shame

A memory from my past whispers, “Shame on you,” and suddenly I am four years old again. I have spilled melted ice cream on the floor. An accident. A lack of mature motor skills. I know that now, but my four year-old self only heard the phrase, “Shame on you.” authenticity - shame

Last week, I finished the book “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown and once again, I wondered about shame. How many times was shame placed irreverently and inadvertently on my infant soul?

How many times did I believe it, and invite that verdict inward so that as an adult, I am still reeling from the impact?

Shame began in the Garden of Eden when Adam said, “This woman you gave me….” He blamed Eve for the sin of eating the fruit, and he blamed God for giving him a woman who was not perfect. The serpent, aka Satan, used that seed of shame and since then has perpetrated this disease on all of Eve’s daughters.

Men also struggle with shame. When someone reminds them they are less than perfect – not a stud on the football field, not enough as a husband and father, not as handsome as Colin Firth (but of course – no one can compare to Colin Firth).

And on and on the shame goes, through the generations. We shame our children and each other. Why can’t you be like your brother?  Why are you bringing home a “C” when you should have earned an “A”?

Shouldn’t you lose a little bit of weight? Wear a different shade of makeup? Be more like the family in the pew ahead of you? Isn’t it past time for you to have a best seller?

And before we know it, we are again wallowing in puddles of muddy shame.

In our hearts, we know God does not place blame and shame on us. Yet, our brains play the same old tapes.

What Brené Brown writes about with such audacity is that becoming our vulnerable selves faces off against the shame and helps us be who God created us to be.

The joy of finding our authentic selves and living out of that reality is that no one can ever shame us again. 

I pray to God that I never shame my son or anyone else. To my knowledge, I have never used those words, “Shame on you,” and I hope I never imply them by rolled eyes, a sideways glance or a snickering sarcasm.

My hope is built on the fact that I am accepted by grace – with no qualifiers, and I want to extend that same grace to others. Because who we are is much more important than what we do or even what we never accomplish.

And even if the world and our culture doesn’t understand the difference, at least my soul knows the Divine one will never ever shame me.

Let’s challenge each other to be our authentic selves, to lay down our whispered past and find hope in the coming eternity. Let’s live out our lives in joyful abandon, always and forever — without shame.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Reproduces

From the final months of 2014 to the first calendar pages of 2015, I have seen how hope reproduces.

Five of my coaching clients have leapt toward their writing dreams. My role as their writing coach has been to encourage them, help them find resources and ask the hard questions that stretch wordsmiths, resulting in stronger creativity and exciting results.Coaching laptop

I have asked their permission to share these results. Normally, my coaching clients receive the highest level of confidentiality but really – I must brag on them and to do that – I must use their names.

Amy Bovaird writes from the beautiful state of Pennsylvania where she encourages her readers and me. She suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa which I knew nothing about until I met Amy. She constantly inspires me and when her book, “Mobility Matters”  was published, I imagine everyone in Pennsylvania heard me cheer. Amy is working on a second book while speaking about hope and encouragement even while she gradually loses her sight. But she writes from that inner sanctum where quality vision exists, using her other senses to find the most effective words and ministry. Check out Amy’s work at AmyBovaird.com.

When Jerry Lout signed up for his very first writers conference, he also decided to enter one of the contests. First conference. First contest. And he won first place in the Adult Nonfiction category. I nearly busted my buttons with pride. He also writes from a place of difficult experience, from the story of a young boy diagnosed with polio. The tagline of Jerry’s blog, “Running Life’s Race with a Limp” chronicles his life and the generations before him. Jerry never writes from the viewpoint of a victim but rather from a victorious heart that knows how to search for and find hope. Jerry’s excellent blog is found at JerryLout.com and next year, I’m confident – he’ll be holding his book.

I met Molly Totoro at a writers conference where she expressed interest in coaching. We’ve been working together over a year now and I am constantly enriched by the words that come from Molly’s posts. We share many of the same creative juices, but Molly’s writing far exceeds mine. She has the most amazing vision for marrying her love of scrapbooking with the need for story. She’s developing a business called Milestone Memoirs while she posts at http://mycozybooknook.blogspot.com/. She is also a contributing writer for a ministry that serves hurting women, GateWay of Hope. You can learn more about Molly through her website at http://steppingstonespublications.com/.

Nancy Kay Grace and I connected at another writers conference. Nancy Kay impressed me with her depth of faith but also with her ability to share that faith with her readers. She posted wonderful devotions and wanted those devotions merged into a publishable book. So we worked together and every time we met, more amazing depth came from Nancy’s soul. Just this last month, that book became a reality. “The Grace Impact” is a beautiful and touching answer to a prayer that Nancy Kay and I shared. You can learn more about Nancy Kay and her speaking ministry at NancyKayGrace.com.

Sometimes hope is wrapped in a nice little package and other times, it requires fortitude to search it out. Author Jane Tucker knows about that type of courage. She wanted to write the book she longed to read, and as an avid reader – she knew what she was looking for. So she began the writing journey, finished her book and then realized it needed a change. So she rewrote the entire book from a more concentrated angle, revised it, let other writers critique it, reworked it and finally submitted it for publication. Just a few weeks ago, Jane received the wonderful and exciting news. “Lottie’s Gift” will be released in 2016, and I can hardly wait. When a writer works that hard on a dream, the final result is sure to be joyful. Jane also writes wonderful stories called “Postcards from the Heartland” on her website at JaneMTucker.com.

As you check out these writers, I think you’ll see why I’m so proud of them, how they encourage me with their perseverance and why I enjoy coaching writers. Hope reproduces as writers continue to move toward their dreams.

And as the Word of God lives in us, then the words he gives us find a home in our readers’ hearts. I hope you’ll follow these creative spirits and help them increase with even more hope.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Creates Traditions

Most of us try to create traditions within our families. Reverend G and her son, Jacob, guarded the tradition of family dinner after church on Sunday. (I know this because she told me; i.e. fictional characters talking to the writer again  http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh).

For my son and me, one of our favorite traditions has revolved around May 5th, Cinco de Mayo. Cinco-de-Mayonshttp://www.mexonline.com/cinco-de-mayo.htm

We have no Hispanic heritage, but we both love Mexican food – so any chance to indulge seems like a good idea.

When my son was younger, I always made enchilada casserole for supper on May 5th. It lasted for several meals and grew spicier with each leftover warm-up. Through the years, I’ve tweaked the recipe so that it is now in the final stage of perfection – at least, we think so. I’m sharing the recipe with you below. Let me know what you think.

I wonder how many of our traditions revolve around food. In our family, food traditions include Christmas peppernuts from the Mennonites, Easter ham and Watergate salad, Thanksgiving zwiebach and pecan pie and the summer harvest monster cookies.

But the special part of our Cinco de Mayo celebration is that it’s usually just my son and me – no other family – no other friends. It’s nicer that way. More chips and salsa for each of us.

Rebecca’s Enchilada Casserole

In a large and deep casserole pan, spray a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil. This prevents the tortillas from sticking and helps you pretend you’re eating something healthy.

Tear up 9 corn tortillas (the small ones) and spread them across the bottom of the pan.

In a skillet, cook 1 pound of ground beef with ½ cup of onions. Sprinkle with red peppers (depending on how hot you like your Mexican food).

Drain off the grease and give it to the dog. He will drink lots of water b/c of the red peppers.

Add 2 small cans of green chiles, 1 can of cream of chicken soup, ½ jar of chunky salsa (the hotter, the better), 1 can of black beans (drained) and ¼ cup of milk. Cook on medium heat until bubbly, then turn off the heat.

Pour half of this mixture on top of the tortillas in the pan.

Cut up ½ of a Mexican Velveeta Cheese bar into small pieces and spread them on top of the soup mixture. You cannot substitute any other type of cheese or it will not taste like my casserole and I will not be responsible for the consequences.

Repeat with another layer of 9 torn up corn tortillas. Pour the rest of the soup mixture on top of these tortillas, then top with the rest of the Mexican Velveeta Cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350° oven for 45 minutes.

Serve with chips and more salsa or guacamole. Sometimes I also make a side dish of Mexican rice which for me is just brown rice, the rest of the salsa and more green chiles.

And to make everyone really happy, serve ice cream for dessert. Reverend G likes Chunky Monkey. Enjoy!

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope’s Foundation

Most of my followers believe there is one true God, and they follow the Christian faith. If you fall into that category, then this blog post is nothing new. You can forward it to a friend or a neighbor.

However, the internet is a vast mission field and long after I am gone – I hope my words will remain, traveling through cyberspace and making a difference to readers.

Hope wordSo I want to post here why I write about hope and how you, too, can find the foundation of hope – to live within the warmth of God’s love.

It’s fairly simple, but through the centuries – some folks have made it difficult as they wrapped the rules of religion around this simple process. That’s called legalism, and it is one of the most damaging and confusing forms of abuse.

So here’s the truth:

Point Number One: God loves us – completely and forever – as far as the Atlantic is from the Pacific and beyond the farthest stars in infinite galaxies. Nothing can ever separate us from the love God wants to share with us.

Point Number Two: We’re not perfect, but God is. Therefore, we have a problem developing a relationship with such a holy God. Nothing we can do will ever make us as perfect as God, so don’t even try. That will drive you crazy.

Point Number Three: Because God loves us with such a vast affection, he wants to invite us into his family. But since we’re not perfect, he decided to create a way we could join his family – like an adoption.

Point Number Four: He sent his perfect son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for all the mistakes we’ve made. Jesus paid the debt when he died, sort of the ultimate price ever paid for an adoption. It’s been taken care of – forever.

Point Number Five: But that paid debt won’t do us any good if we keep ignoring God and what Jesus did for us. We need to believe it’s true and ask God to seal the deal. Tell him you want to begin this relationship with him.

Done! That was the simple part. Now comes the challenge.

Find a decent group of people who are Christians and spend time with them. Learn about the Bible and read it. God wrote the Bible and put lots of information in it that will help you learn more about him. Talk to God and start listening to him. That will strengthen your relationship with him.

And here’s the really great part! When you die, the relationship continues. Your soul goes to live with God in heaven where there’s no sickness, no evil and no problems.

Welcome to the family! All of us spiritually adopted kids are glad you’ve joined us.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed. By believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” John 3:16 The Message Bible

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Finds a Treasure

During the last two weeks, three people at separate times have told me, “You are a treasure.”

I know this is a compliment and I truly appreciate the sentiment. At the same time, I am a bit nonplussed to be described as such.

National+TreasureWhen I think of treasure, my first impression is an antiquity. The movie “National Treasure” comes to mind as Nicholas Gage spends 90 minutes trying to find the lost treasures his Masonic ancestors hid in various places.

Gage, of course, succeeds and manages to fall in love at the same time, which spawns the second movie in the series and pleas from his fans for a third.

Although my joints sometimes cry a different melody, I don’t feel like an antiquity. I have, however, traveled around the block a few times and know a few things about life.

So I have thought about what I treasure and how I might practice more gratitude within my soul for those treasures I hold dear.

My treasures do not represent stuff, because I am antiquated enough to know that eventually – most of our stuff ends up at Goodwill and if I had all the money back that I have spent on stuff throughout the years – I could buy a car.

No, the true treasures for me involve people and memories – those happenings and experiences involving flesh and blood folks that cannot be replaced.

My relationship with my son is a treasure. There’s something especially sweet when our children mature and we move into an easy friendship instead of strictly a parent / child relationship.

We have great discussions about life, politics and important things like which laptop to buy and how to set up the wi-fi.

We express our opinions about  world systems and how we fit into them, the goals each of us hold for 2015 and how we are moving toward our dreams. I so desperately want my son to see his dreams become reality.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I treasure sitting with my child – http://rjthesman.net/2015/03/10/hope-sits-with-my-child/

Another treasure involves growing up on the farm. Although my world now exists in the city, nothing can take from me the joy of climbing a tree, perching in its generous limbs and scribbling my first stories in my Red Chief Tablet.

Watching the massive Oklahoma sunsets change colors, celebrating the waving wheat (“that smells so sweet”) and digging my hands into fresh garden earth to plant seeds that would later produce our supper – these are treasures that make me long for those hard-working blessed days without the stress of internet surfing and bungled emails.

Even writing about the country fills my heart with longing for my dream – a log home tucked safely between old trees that hold their own secrets – one room of that home surrounded by windows with my writing desk perched smack in the middle of all that light and creativity.

Because I am a writer, I observe people so one of my favorite treasures involves the many human beings I have known.

Students from various countries around the world, women who have enriched my life and saved it many times with their nurturing hearts, ministers of both genders and every race who have spoken into my life and the myriads of writers who bless me just by being their weird and wonderful selves.

People are a treasure, walking and talking receptacles of divine cells that God has pronounced, “Very good.”

My life has been enriched by meeting these folks, spending time with them, developing relationships with them, disagreeing with them and praying with them.

So I gladly accept the moniker of “treasure,” because I hope I have somehow spoken into the lives of others the encouragement that keeps me going, the perseverance that keeps me writing and the joy that keeps me breathing.

I would be interested to know what you consider a treasure. How about sharing with all of us your thoughts on the subject?

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Lives in Small Towns

After a recent trip to my hometown, I was struck again with the functional differences between the KC Metro and Enid, Oklahoma.enid

In my hometown, most businesses close for Easter to allow families time together. The majority of signs and billboards carry the graphic of either a cross or an empty tomb while the local newspaper prints the Easter story in the King James Version.

Folks in my hometown understand the symbolism of the season and aren’t shy about declaring their belief in God.

On Good Friday, our family moseys over to the Western Sizzlin’ for a huge salad buffet, well-done steaks and the ice cream machine.

Mosey is a word we don’t use in KC because nobody moseys in the city. Yet in small towns, folks mosey across the intersections, mosey into the stores and lollygag at anyone who doesn’t know how to mosey.

In my hometown, you will likely run into relatives, a colleague or someone from your church. And even if you make a new acquaintance at the ice cream machine, it will be a friendly conversation.

“Weather treatin’ ya’ okay?”

“Yep. You?”

“Can’t complain.”

“You from here or just visitin’?”

Someone who knows my family will inevitably challenge me with the question, “When you movin’ back here to help take care of your mama?”

Folks in small towns grow loyal families to populate the town, support the schools and run the businesses. If you leave, you’d better have a good reason and if you’re a really decent person, you’ll move back and make your family happy.

That’s why hope grows in small towns. Because everyone hopes you will move back, help with mama and increase the population by at least one.

When I visit my hometown and mosey into the stores, I pick up the Okie accent that never really leaves my tongue. I drive more slowly and don’t take chances at the yellow lights because I’m not in a hurry.

At Braums – where everybody goes for an ice cream fix in the afternoon – I wave at strangers and talk about the wheat crop.

Although the world is rapidly changing, folks in small towns still trust each other and somehow mosey their way into each other’s hearts.

Obviously, I miss small towns and the heritage they provide. I miss the folks I know and those I don’t know, because their lives are simpler, purer and steeped in the values of country traditions.

These precious folks live somewhat sheltered lives, safe within their bungalows and the farm lanes they drive in their pickup trucks. They treasure family and work ethics while hanging on to the faith of their ancestors.

Although I know my work is here in the KC Metro, a weekend visit is all it takes to transport me back to the security of my foundation and the people who keep hope alive.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

When Humor Eases the Alzheimer’s Journey

When our children are little, we keep a journal of their cute sayings, their trials with language and their funny mistakes. We laugh and share these moments with grandparents and any friends who will listen.smiley faces

When our parents become children because of plaque-laden Alzheimer’s, we still laugh at their funny stories. These moments aren’t as cute at age 80+, but laughter provides the necessary impetus to make it through another care-giving day.

So when I share the funny things Mom has done, I’m not mocking her or making fun of her. I hope to encourage other caregivers, to share a common bond and to keep humor as one of our coping mechanisms.

Last week, Mom lost her bobby pins. Although she is scheduled for the salon each week, she still fixes her hair every night with tiny curls held in place with bobby pins.

But now, her bobby pins are gone and Mom is convinced they were stolen. “People come into my room at night. And while I’m sleeping, they steal my bobby pins off my head.”

I don’t know why Mom thinks bobby-pin fairies need her particular bobby pins, but when things mysteriously disappear – she always believes someone has stolen them.

The issue of losing possessions and accusing others of theft appears in the Reverend G books. Follow the story and find out how Reverend G’s son deals with the disappearing / stolen angels. http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

The bobby pin story kept us laughing for a while, until Mom lost her bridge and the teeth attached to it. In spite of an application of extra cement by the dentist, Mom managed to loosen her bridge, yank it out of her mouth and then lose it.

Again, she was convinced, “Someone stole my teeth.”

My sister asked, “Why would someone steal your teeth? What would they do with them?”

Always ready with an answer, Mom said, “They could take them to the dentist and trade my bridge for their new teeth.”

The visual flashed through my mind of an older woman carrying a plastic sack filled with stolen teeth. She walks into the dentist’s office and asks, “How much will you give me for these? I need dentures and I’m trying to save money.”

It sort of gives a new significance to the tooth fairy.

©2015 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Finds Holiness in Surprising Places

During a recent trip to Fort Scott, Kansas, my friend and I discovered a wonderful coffee shop. Our chai lattes tasted spicy yet mellow, and the missional atmosphere of this shop impressed us.Rev G quote on Ft Scott wall

Their bookshelves were filled with classics and some Christian fiction. I donated the Reverend G books and promised to bring the third book after its release in August.

But we were most interested in the church service advertised for Sunday morning, so we put it on our calendars and showed up along with about 30 other folks of all ages.

I looked around the room and thought, what a wonderful way to attract those who might be curious about faith. A great way to think outside the box!

I was a bit disappointed when we were handed bulletins – not so outside the box – but even churchy habits are hard to break.

The video sermon was taken from Romans. Seriously? Romans? How can you attract seekers with one of Paul’s most verbose books, a treatise even seasoned believers find difficult to understand.

But it soon became apparent that everyone in attendance was a believer or a seasoned church-goer so we discussed righteousness, legalism and how to determine God’s will.

A lovely young woman sang and accompanied herself on an acoustic guitar. We relaxed and enjoyed her melodies, interspersed with whooshes from the espresso machine. It was fun to meet saints from another town who worship the same God and aren’t afraid to welcome strangers.

Then a wonderful surprise greeted us as we left the building. Across the street was a colorful wall with a unique wooden door – Tuscan colors and the rough textures I love. We each took pictures while my creative mind immediately jumped to the questions: What’s on the other side of that door? What kind of novel can I plot with this door and this wall as the main focus?

Hope finds believers in interesting and surprising places all over the world. We so often root ourselves in our comfortable church pews where it’s easy to snooze through our own spirituality.

But when we move outside our comfortable walls and experience church in different settings, we breathe a fresh invite into the family that makes us Christian.

I’m encouraged to find pockets of believers in various places, worshiping in unique ways and spreading the love of Jesus without the confines of traditional walls. The texture and color of different congregants provide a rich setting for the stories we are all writing within our spiritual selves.

I think God must be glad about these creative venues. He is always able to create a new plan even while His attributes remain the same.

And as one of those creative types who yearns for more spiritual experiences outside the norm, I, too, am glad and filled with hope.

©2015 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

11 Insights from Sabbatical

Many of you who follow my blog have expressed that you were praying for me this week. Thank you.

20150320_111209To honor your kindness, I’d like to share with you the 11 insights God gave me during Sabbatical. Some of them are, of course, repeats – those marching-around-Mount-Sinai-truths we all know. But when God repeats something, it’s important to listen.

Some are from my own readings and journalings – truths my soul needed to savor, a salve to cover spiritual wounds.

Here then are the insights from my Sabbatical week:

1.Even when I am feeling discouraged and wonder where I belong, God never abandons me. I belong to Him. Some of you may be thinking, Well, duh! But again – a truth worth repeating and a treasure for soul memory.

2.When I take a break, my clients and the rest of the world will not fall apart. In fact, I am quite certain the world needed a break from me.

3.Sabbath rest is absolutely necessary to restore the soul. Although I rest every Sunday, my soul needs some extended times with God. Having the freedom to spend hours in his presence was – well – heavenly.

4.God is bigger than the ordinary. We really do focus most of life on ourselves, don’t we? The bills, the paycheck, the job, the weather, the car problems. God’s agenda is so much bigger.

5.To honor my passions is one of the most vital things I must do. Passion is at the heart of who we are, and so often we hide from our passions because they remind us of dreams unfulfilled. Even a little time with our passions helps to restore the soul. This is why King David composed music and Jesus held children on his lap.

6.In helping others, I must also find a way to help myself. As a coach, I ask the powerful questions that point my clients toward their passions. I must also learn to ask myself the same challenging questions, then find a way to push me forward.

7.Asking grace for myself requires that I be willing to give it to others – often and liberally. Grace is the first step toward forgiveness and reconciliation. God requires that we share it.

8.God is eager to spend time with us. The loneliness of the soul is often a clue that the Spirit within seeks time without distractions. We owe the Divine One our undivided attention.

9.It’s a good thing I’m not a bettin’ woman. My brackets are completely destroyed.

10.Quote for the week from Anne Lamott, I trust that when I wake up tomorrow morning, God will still like me.”

11.Tulips are always a happy idea.

So there you have them. Nothing earth-shattering, but insights that filled up half my journal while restoring my soul.

I wish for you a Sabbatical as well – a time to breathe in, to let your body truly rest and to rekindle love for your passions.

Peace be with you.

©2015 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

Hope Rises During Sabbatical

During this week, I am on Sabbatical – taking a rest from ministry as a home stay-cation. Relaxing_Time_by_YuzuruKuN

When I looked at my calendar for April – May and the soon-to-be-released third book of the Reverend G series – I knew I needed to do some proactive regeneration.

A Sabbatical is essential for renewing creativity. Usually scheduled every seventh year, its intent is to build restoration, to fulfill a goal or to complete research for a project.

The goal of my Sabbatical is an emotional reboot, to refresh my senses and inhale more of the divine than I exhale in service.

Fortunately, I work in a ministry that allows me the flexibility to use vacation pay for Sabbatical rest. In fact, at GateWay of Hope, we remind women to take care of themselves, to rest, to have some fun, to just “be.”

So I am trying to be a good example and walk the talk.

It is fairly impossible to be completely absent from work as I wake up at night to pray for those I serve and coach. In those early dawn hours, I will listen intently for clues about my characters and how to best format my current novel.

My one supreme goal is to listen hard – to focus on my Heavenly Husband, scribble His words in my journal and take long walks with Him.

I may cut back some of the death of winter and release spring’s life to my gardens. The spiritual analogy comes easy as I consider any dead spirituality the Master Gardener needs to prune.

I will not wear my watch. I will not place any expectations on myself other than finishing the library book I checked out.

Instead, I wish to wear my celebration of the Sabbath as a break from the common cares.

Some time during my Sabbatical, I will pull out my colors and play with a Mandela. Maybe the weather will be warm enough to do this on my deck.

Jeff Goins writes that “We often listen to the adult in our heads instead of the child in our hearts.”

During this week of restoration, I want to connect with my inner child and crawl into my Father’s lap.

Then hopefully, at the end of the week, as the Creator modeled at the end of his busy week, I can declare my Sabbatical good.

©2015 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Relaxation Image by YuzuruKuN

Hope Sits With My Child

Because of our busy schedules, we rarely see each other. This boy child who has become a man in such a short time – my only living child, my son.

Yet each time we are together, the emotional bond feels as strong as if we had never experienced a separation. We sit in the living room, watching the news or a rerun of Blue Bloods. We switch to ESPN and cheer for the Jayhawks.

sitting on sofasAcross those few feet in my living room, the emotional umbilical cord stretches. We are content to merely sit and be.

A certain joy exists when the child becomes an adult and the two of us can share the same space without the hormonal conflicts of a male teenager and a menopausal woman.

This peace indeed is a palpable blessing.

When I visit my mother in assisted living, we share the same bond. Though the roles are reversed and I am now the child – still we find a peaceful coexistence in the moment.

We watch television or not. We read or not. We sit silently without conflict, knowing that just being together is precious.

Until I sat with my child, I did not realize the pure treasure of sitting with a loved one.

No need for conversation. No stress to finish a chore. No desire to fix a meal or hurry anywhere.

Just the quiet assurance that we are together. Each of us knows a time will come when we cannot share such a physical space.

A sacred communion. An extraordinary gifting.

On either side of this juncture, I cherish the bond. Knowing my child will one day leave, certain my mother will graduate to heaven.

And I will be left – to savor this fragile breath we have shared and find hope that in the future – we will sit together again.

©2015 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Transitions that Lead to Hope

Several people I know, including myself, are muddling through transitions. Some of these uncomfortable places feel like restlessness or that awkward limbo when we try to figure out God’s will for a new season.1 peter 2-23

Some transitions happen automatically because of the seasons of life: the empty nest, a new job or a special calling from the divine. Although natural transitions make us queasy, they’re a bit easier to accept than those places of questioning and identity search.

When restlessness signals a transition yet gives no apparent ending, it adds emotional stress and sometimes a period of spiritual pondering.

Who am I now and what does God require of me? Am I really hearing from God or am I just hormonal?

In these difficult open-ended posturings, it’s important to remember one thing: God can be trusted.

When we can’t see the end of the journey, God has already flipped to the last page. The Alpha and Omega has it covered.

When others try to advise us with their perceptions yet don’t really hear us, God listens fully, knowing the desires of our hearts.

When one step forward leads to a brick wall, God comforts with meanderings that lead us through the maze.

And when we languish in that most difficult of places – the agony of waiting – God provides sustaining power to help us persevere.

1 Peter 2:23 reminds us to “Entrust ourselves to the God who judges justly.”

And that’s where hope wraps us in its warmth.

When we turn over our transitions and our desire for answers to the One who is trust-worthy, he fills in the blanks.

Eventually, transitions move us into new seasons. As Anne Lamott writes, “When God is about to do something exquisite, it starts with something impossible.”

If we learn to entrust each period of change to God, then we can adjust well and in the process – find ourselves smack in the middle of God’s will.

©2015 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

Hope Goes Undercover

Except for sports and the news, I watch little TV. But one show intrigues me, and I am beginning to become a fan.

Undercover Boss” creates a situation where the boss disguises himself or herself and goes undercover to discover how the business really works.

undercover bossUsually the boss realizes that working in the factory or in customer service is much more difficult than it looks. And in the process, the boss discovers who the best workers are, who has true passion for the work and which employees need some coaching to improve.

As the boss and the employees relate, personal stories are revealed which usually include some tragedies or hard luck experiences.

My favorite part of the show happens when the boss reveals herself and then rewards the employees with whatever they need – usually something life-changing: a mortgage paid off, a new car or a college education.

The employee cries, and so do I.

This show empathizes with those who work hard yet receive little incentive until the boss magically shows up and gifts them.

So many times in life, we do things that go unnoticed. We silently forgive someone who has wounded us without talking about the offense. We show up early for work and stay late, do someone else’s work and let them take the credit. We toil behind the scenes while someone else steals the show and the applause.

Many of us agonize in prayer, then rejoice when the answer comes while no one knows how long we persevered on our knees.

Yet there is a heavenly Boss who sees everything we do and knows the motivation behind our behavior. He knows about the man who works hard to provide for his family or the single mom who struggles to save pennies so her children will have a Christmas.

The heavenly Boss sees the perseverance, the weary warrior who continues to pray, the employee who remains honest even while others steal from the company.

Our holy God sees every tear, hears every prayer, feels every rejection and understands every heartache. He sometimes rewards us on earth when we get to see prayers answered and miracles performed.

But most of the rewards will surprise us in heaven when the curtain is pulled on our earthly lives and the Divine will bless us eternally with his resources.

It is that hope that keeps us working and persevering even when it’s hard and we seem to go unnoticed.

If we can just keep our focus on what is to come, we can live each day with the assurance that someday the Boss will reveal Himself and smile at our efforts.

I’m looking forward to that day. How about you?

©2015 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

A Valentine for Reverend G

“Wear your walkin’ shoes,” Chris spoke over the phone line. “I’ll be there in about 15.”

How was I so lucky to have a friend like Chris who recently graduated into a boyfriend? Was it appropriate to call a man in his early sixties a “boy”friend? I suppose I wasn’t a “girl”friend either, with my long white braid that hung over my shoulder and my early-onset Alzheimer’s that hung over what was left of my mind.

But here he was, dressed in bright blue sweats that contrasted nicely with his own white hair and the blue specks in his eyes. My guy friend, holding open the door for me, his Valentine date.valentine heart

We drove in his Caddie to downtown Lawton Springs and parked in one of the special lots that gave us at least two hours to roam. Downtown attracted tourists as well as the college students and locals, even on a warmer-than-average day in February.

Funky boutiques blended in with the national franchises. Starbucks next to Fannie Mae’s Linens, Minsky’s Pizza right across from the sparkly Gallery on the Glow. Even as close as Lawton Springs sat in latitude and longitude to Kansas City Metro, hundreds of people shopped in our city. It was, as the newspaper often quoted, “America’s Greatest Little Town.”

As we walked hand-in-hand along the sidewalk, we saw young people from the college and heard the dialects of international tourists with their Samsung cameras slung over their shoulders.

“Hi, Doctor Jacobs,” called one kid as he passed us on the street. Chris waved his hello, then told me, “One of my students from Theology 101.”

Then a former parishioner whose name I forgot because my Sometimer’s took over. Fortunately, he remembered my name as he tipped his KC Royals baseball cap and said, “Afternoon, Reverend G. God is good all the time.”

“Indeed,” I answered. Good all the time. God was good to give me this sunshiny and slightly brisk day with Chris, as we strolled along like two kids in their first waves of puppy love, knowing all the while that my days of any type of remembrance were numbered.

But hey – live each moment and in each moment. Wasn’t that what I always told my congregation? I think that’s what I said. It had been a while since I stood in front of them and preached something practical yet biblical. Months…days…years…I don’t know.

Chris steered me into the Brownie Bomb, another local franchise that served absolutely scrumptious ice cream with all natural ingredients. Little red tables and chairs invited us to sit while Chris gave the lady behind the counter our orders.

I knew they didn’t stock my usual Chunky Monkey, but Chris ordered my second favorite: the actual Brownie Bomb – bits of brownie batter with extra chocolate chips and a dollop of marshmallow crème on the top. Chris was more of a cherry and nuts man, so he ordered the Cherry Whiz with pecans all over it. Then he filled little Dixie cups with water and brought them to our table. In a few minutes, the lady brought us our ice cream, spoons and napkins.

We dug in, each of us doing our “Yum” sounds as we enjoyed the sugary treats. Then Chris reached into his back pocket and pulled out a red envelope.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Tru,” he said, pushing the envelope toward me.

“Well, thanks, Big Guy. I forgot to get you one, but you know…Sometimer’s and all.”

Chris nodded, and his eyes sparkled as I focused on his face. I slowly opened the envelope, then laughed as several of those candy hearts dropped out. “U R my Sugar” was stamped on one of them. Another one said, “Honey Bun.”

Chris and I took turns eating them, then he said, “Aren’t you going to open the card and read it?”

“Oh, sure.”

Inside, the pretty scroll writing said, “Be mine,” and beside it, in the block letters of Chris’s handwriting, “Please.” Below was a bigger candy heart taped to the card with the letters, “Marry Me” stamped on it.

I pulled the tape off and dunked the heart into my ice cream, then plopped it into my mouth. Chris waited while I chewed, then he took my hand and kissed my fingers, one by one.

“So what do you say, Tru?” he finally asked. “Will you be mine? Won’t you say ‘yes’ and marry me?”

Everything in me wanted to jump across the table and into his arms, repeating “Yes, yes, yes” a thousand times. But one wall still remained before I could make that leap. My fear of marrying a man I might soon forget. My knowledge that the dementia and Alzheimer’s that even now crackled inside my brain might one day change my personality to the point that this incredible guy sitting across from me would actually grow to hate the wife I would become.

I swallowed the last crumbles of the heart, then reached for a drink from my Dixie cup. “Chris, you know I love you. I just can’t marry you yet, not until I have absolute peace about it and my fear is gone. Can you give me just a little more time?”

Chris stood up and leaned over the table. He kissed me on the forehead, then cradled my face in his hands. “My darling Tru, I want you to be certain about this decision. And I’ll wait until you are absolutely sure, but in the meantime….” This time, a kiss right on the mouth. “In the meantime, you’re my Valentine, forever and ever.”

©2015 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Struggles with a Birthday

Exfoliates quoteAll day I thought about her, my mother who lives within the shadows of Alzheimer’s Disease. Celebrating her 88th birthday without me and without any knowledge that she had survived another year.

By mid-afternoon, I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I called assisted living and asked if they could bring Mom to the desk for a phone call.

“It will be just a minute,” the nurse said. “She had such a good day.”

“Really? You helped her celebrate?”

“We partied for all the February birthdays, and your mother had such a good time with our Hawaiian theme. She wore a grass skirt.”

“What?” My mother, the dignified woman with perfect posture, who always carried herself with self-respect. Dressed in a grass skirt?

The nurse continued, “Our activities director decided on the theme. Everyone wore a lei and we had a pretend luau with island music. It was such a great idea.”

I know about activities directors and the impact of their work. Roxie, in the Reverend G books, helps each resident find some type of interest that will increase their sense of significance.

These directors walk a fine line. How do you approach these seasoned seniors who deserve honor even while they have mentally become children? How do you celebrate birthdays for the generation that survived World War 2 and the depression, then rebuilt America and sent their kids to college for the education they always wanted but couldn’t afford?

Now they fidget away their days, shuffling with a variety of walkers, forgetting their names and the children they birthed, aware only of the dinner bell when they file obediently into the dining room and eat silently, then retire to their rooms to turn up the volume on the TV and hope sleep will come soon.

“We had pineapple upside down cake,” the nurse said.

“My mother likes pecan pie. I’ve never seen her eating pineapple anything.” I could not erase the vision of my mother in a grass skirt – this woman who raised me with a no-nonsense approach and a duty-bound responsibility to always do my best and use my gifts to the utmost for God’s glory.

“Oh, here she is!” cried the nurse.

“Hello?” answered a shaky voice.

Too fragile. Not the strong tone I remembered from my visit at Christmas. “Hi, Mom. It’s me, and Caleb is here, too.” I was certain the name of her grandson would trigger a memory.

“Hello?”

“Happy birthday, Mom.”

“Thank you. Hello?”

I ground my teeth and prayed for wisdom. “Did you have a party today?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

She was probably refusing to remember being dressed up like a perky five year-old and forced to wear a stupid grass skirt. I could do nothing to help her. I wanted to scream, but tried a different thought. “Did you have a piece of cake?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

My mother, who used to call me with hour-long conversations, asking about my writing and my work, interested in everything her grandson accomplished – now responding only in mono-syllabic words, phrases she somehow chose from the fog of a plaque-infested brain.

Surely, she would talk to her grandson. “Here’s Caleb.” I handed him the phone.

“Hi, Grandma. Happy birthday.”

“Thank you. Hello?”

“Grandma, it’s me, Caleb. How are you?”

“Hello? What?”

He looked at me, helpless. “Talk louder,” I whispered. “Maybe she can’t hear you.”

“Grandma, we love you.”

“Hello?”

Finally, I took the phone again. “Mom, we’ll see you soon. We just wanted to tell you happy birthday and we love you.”

“Thank you. Hello.” I wondered if all the hello’s really meant good-bye.

Then she was gone, and I imagined her shuffling back to her room, not caring that she is now 88, unaware of 2016, a presidential election coming soon and spring flowers eager to burst through the crust of winter soil.

For a minute, I felt the guilt of being the long-distance caregiver assuaged. We tried to help her celebrate the day, tried to let her know we love her and miss her, wished we could be there.

But it wasn’t enough. The echoes of her voice followed me up the stairs as I hurried to my bedroom to cry.

I hate Alzheimer’s.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyhwedding - rj, ct, mom