Hope’s Gift of Observation

Most of my reflection time is spent in the solitude of my home study. But occasionally, I venture into the world of people for a cuppa’ Joe. Accompanied by my journal, paper and pen to write ideas or work on another blog post.

I am grateful we can meet in public again, sit in outdoor cafes or lounge among other pilgrims inside a coffee shop.

Observation is a necessary gift for writers.

We learn how to build characters by watching the people around us. We listen to dialogue and underscore accents. We detect smells and touch by the fabrics people wear.

An older couple sits quietly at a round table, slowly chewing croissants without talking or even looking at one another.

Years of marriage enrich the silence of the moment. What is there to talk about after so many meals together?

Maybe these fluffy croissants are their one treat for the week or the month — until the next Social Security check revives their bank balance.

A woman after my own heart reads alone, occasionally sipping her coffee. Obviously engrossed in her book, she seems lost in the words. An occasional grin spreads one side of her mouth. Or a mental struggle as the little “eleven” becomes a crease between her eyebrows.

Is she learning something new, researching for a college class or trying to escape some chaos in her life by entering into a fictional world?

Two women chat near me, slathering cream cheese on their bagels. One talks with a shrill timber. The other is the listener.

If I eavesdrop carefully, I learn about the toddler’s attempts at potty training, how the hubby works hard but does not care about the fatigue of this young mommy, how the oven needs cleaning but who really cares.

Do they suspect I intrude on their privacy? Do they see I am taking notes for my next character sketch? Probably not. Their goal is to share their hearts with each other, to find another soul who empathizes.

Another table fills with businessmen, their Mac books opened to spread sheets and planners — terse statements about sales and marketing. They remind me of Nate, the antagonist in No Visible Scars and how he traded his marriage for his ambition.

The employees of this restaurant assemble salads, soups and steel cut oats to fulfill requests. Working hard yet often rendered invisible. Each customer is captured only by his own story, with his own reason for spending the morning at Panera.

I feel gratitude for this place and for the freedom to sit and observe. Yet I am also aware of the God who cares for each person’s story — the Divine One who designed destinies before the foundation of the world. He who wants desperately for each person in this place to know how much he loves them.

Then the writer in me kicks in, and I play the “What if” game.

What if the older gentleman is hiding a fortune in stolen coins? What if his wife is really his pastor and has no idea about his hidden sin? What if the two women are planning a getaway, another Thelma and Louise adventure?

Away I travel into the world of creative thought, fashioning a new storyline for each character. The gift of observation teaches us how to weave story ideas together. It also brings us to a place of wonder at the uniqueness of each individual — the design for each life.

Before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 2 reminds us, God structured these plans. Yet he gave us the freedom to choose Plan B or C. Graciously, he comes alongside us to protect or comfort when we face the consequences of those choices.

My creative gift mingles with the God-breathed creations around me. Another day of writing. Another moment in time.

Then hope warms my soul as I gather my observations and drive home.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Have you read it yet – my release for this month? The Year of my Redemption is on Amazon, Kindle and Goodreads.

Hope Embraces a Stranger

She was introduced to me as a stranger, this woman who shared the drive to a writers conference. But within five miles we connected, as women often do when they share about their broken hearts, lifelong dreams and always always — their beloved children.

We discovered our common links: college football, country living, the love of animals, months of painful therapy, the ethic of hard work, unsweetened iced tea and browsing through thrift stores.

But we also shared the lifelong dream of writing. So after we finished baring our souls, we stopped for a refill of iced tea and talked shop.

She dreamed of a children’s book, maybe a series. Her desire for the writers conference was to learn more about publishing and marketing. She listened carefully to my experiences and ideas for a possible blog.

Both of us had earned degrees in education, so we knew the value of learning — for others but also for ourselves. One of the fun issues with writing is that learning always continues. A life-long course.

Another connecting point was that both of us were mothers of sons. Proud of the men they had become. Blessed because we made it through those adolescent years when the larvae of manhood simultaneously made us grit our teeth and laugh into our pillows.

She was blessed with several acres where she planted gardens, decorated with bird houses and roamed with her loyal dogs.

My life was stuck in limbo land, living in the city yet craving for sunsets without buildings and the solace of quiet labor.

Yet with all our emotional connections, one fiber spanned any differences and wound itself through our eternal destinies.

We loved the same God.

Neither of us quite understood why our loving God allowed us to be members of the gray divorce club. Yet both of us were certain we would trust this same God with the rest of our lives.

Hope grows when we meet other pilgrims along the road of life and discover common connections. When our heart stirrings become reasons to pray for each other, to spend time and energy getting to know one another.

Then as we embrace our eternal bond, we no longer call each other strangers. Instead, we lock hearts as family.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out the beautiful children’s series written by Rogene McPherson.

Finding Hope When You’re Stuck

One of the qualities of a good life coach is helping clients when they feel stuck. Whether it’s a transition in life or waiting for an answer to prayer, we need to feel we are moving forward.

What is the block? What is holding back the answers? Is it just a matter of timing or something much deeper?

Do some of the micro habits need to be tweaked such as when a writer actually sits down and places fingers on the keyboard?

Or are negative habits contributing to the block such as a pattern of compliance that sometimes keeps women from reaching for their dreams?

Sometimes, it’s just plain old FEAR.

The dark night of the soul can apply to more than religious choices, when God seems to be hiding and we are left to wallow in our frailties.

Especially in these stuck times, we can reach deep and look for hope. God has not disappeared. He may be silent, yet still at work behind the scenes, moving puzzles pieces together.

And our inner creativity may just need a boost of encouragement, an extra chunk of time to rest or a good talking-to. Then the dam breaks, the ideas come pouring out and life moves forward again.

So how do we find that extra dose of hope when we feel stuck in an eternal calendar where nothing flips to the next page?

  • Keep believing that God WILL answer — in his timing. That’s the tough part. The waiting.
  • Understand that every season, even the season of waiting, will eventually end.
  • Believe that even in the stuck place, there is a purpose.
  • Remember we cannot see every detail until we use hindsight. For planners, this is tough.
  • Believe in the positive ending, not a happily-ever-after fable, but the greater good for the greater number of people.
  • Take a chunk of time to get away. Walk. Rest. Reboot. Your answer might be waiting at the end of a nap.
  • Talk to the more mature people you trust. We often know the answer to our problems, but we have to talk it out with a good listener.
  • Journal about the issue. The energy of writing down your thoughts will often enlighten you.
  • Don’t give up. A stuck place is not the end. It’s just a respite before the next season.
  • Keep praying because God honors perseverance.

Hope continues to believe, especially when we cannot see how our faith works. As we believe in what we cannot see, we build more faith muscles. Next time, the waiting won’t be so hard.

Stay in hope. Keep believing the answer will come. Start planning now for how you will celebrate.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Pastor Tanner wasn’t sure if he would survive the tragedy, but then came a surprise answer. Check out his story in The Year of my Redemption.

Hope Finds the Right Person

Weeping and gnashing of teeth. Wasted hours of precious time. A plea to God, “Help me fix this.”

It was a snafu with my supplemental insurance. When I switched in February, someone did not complete the job. I was getting letters from the old insurance which I had cancelled months ago.

So I called my insurance broker, and spoke to two people who both said, “You need to call Medicare.” They gave me the number to contact the right person.

The representative at Medicare told me I had called the wrong department. They would connect me to another area. Instead, they hung up.

So I went online and filled out the chat box. Wrote numerous explanations to a person who chatted back, “We can’t help you. Call your former supplemental insurance.”

At that point, I was using a few of the cleaner swear words.

After a lunch with some fortifying protein, a bite of chocolate and a quickie prayer, I once again called my supplemental insurance. This time, I reached just the right person — a woman who knew exactly what to do.

“I’m fixing this right now, ma’am. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.”

Relief was instantaneous. All I had to do was find the right person.

It is the searches in life that often bring discouragement. The rabbit trails. The run arounds. The hang ups.

But Hope survives when we find:

  • The right person willing to invest time and build a friendship
  • The traveling buddy who drives us to unusual thrift stores for treasure hunts
  • The mechanic who knows how to fix the current problem without inventing new ones
  • The Savior who graces us with peace [Hint: His name is Jesus and his contact number is John 3:16].

Finding the right person solves a host of problems we cannot resolve on our own. But the search requires patience and an abundant helping of Hope.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Pastor Tanner finds the right person for his shattered heart. Check out The Year of my Redemption.

Hope Arrives in a Book

When creativity nudges a book idea, strange things can happen.

Writers usually begin with the germ of an idea, maybe a “What if” question such as: “What if a young girl from Kansas ends up in the land of Oz?”

Sometimes these creative nudges become a puff of wind. They fly away, and the writer forgets about them.

But as we learn to nurture our creativity and pay closer attention to ideas, the nudging sprouts and begins to take root. Then we water it with more ideas, nurture it with the fertilizer of brainstorming and honor it with structure.

After some time of thinking, planning, or wondering through various tunnels of ideas — we begin to actually write.

All this setup can take from days to years, sometimes even decades.

My novel No Visible Scars was 15 years in the making. A long time before I held that book in my hand.

My latest book began as an idea in 2017. I knew a novel was begging to be born, but I had only the scarcest of ideas.

Then I remembered the maxim so many of us follow, “Write what you know.” So I made a list of what I knew at that time:

  • Loss
  • Ministry
  • Kansas, specifically Johnson County
  • Church politics
  • Old houses and DIY projects
  • Gardening
  • Eating gluten free

Then I found my “What if” question. What if a woman who lives in an old house loses a child and seeks help from a minister? What if the minister in Johnson County has also suffered a loss?

From that point, my idea thread wound all over the place and ended up in several knots. Brainstorming sessions with my critique group helped eliminate the unnecessary and solidify the important. And I took long walks where I talked myself through the kinks.

So when I took my creative writing retreat in Santa Fe, circa September, 2018 — I had my skeleton of ideas and a basic structure. I knew the names of my characters and was ready to begin.

I also had a Bible verse that haunted me. “The year of my redemption has come” (Isaiah 63:4). That verse would become my title.

But when I flipped open my new writing pad to begin the first chapter, something entirely different happened. A quirky change. Instead of telling the story from the female protagonist’s viewpoint, the minister jumped out and said, “Let me tell it.”

I have learned not to argue with my characters — or with the God who inspires them.

Pastor Tanner told his story about a tragic loss that led him to his year of redemption. In the process, he learned to care about the woman in my notes who had also suffered a loss. Together these two hurting characters lived out the story and became the book that is now published.

So that is how The Year of my Redemption happened. One of the fun things about books is when we find a surprise waiting in the words.

When writers are also surprised, it germinates hope that the next project will be just as much fun.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out The Year of My Redemption, available on Amazon. And follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads and YouTube.

Hope in Holy Moments

After I read several books by Matthew Kelly, I decided to be more intentional about holy moments. To seek out ways to share love and thus spread the holiness of God into my community.

  • A “thank you” to the person at Target who cleans the grimy carts
  • A “God bless you. It will get better” to the tired mommy fighting three kids while grocery shopping
  • An “I appreciate your service” to the cop at Chipotle who wore a weary face.

But my resolve was challenged at one particular store. I only shop there once or twice each year when they have seasonal sales.

They were touting 30% off on all garden décor. Since the squirrels had massacred my deck cushions, I needed new ones. And I found the perfect pair marked down from $14 to $9. But at the register, they popped up with the original price.

“The sale sign is posted on them,” I argued. The clerk confirmed my observation and started to give me the discount.

“Let me check with the manager, to be sure,” she said as she paged him. “We usually honor the sales price if it still has the sign attached to the shelf.”

But before I saw him, I sensed the anger in his gruff voice.

“The sale was over yesterday,” he growled. “Didn’t you see the date?”

He ripped off the sign and pointed to a microscopic date at the bottom of the paper.

“No, I did not see that because it’s so tiny. What I saw was the giant 30% off which should still be honored.”

“Well, it’s not!” He crumpled the paper and tried to stare me down. “Next time, read the date.” Then he huffed away.

The sales clerk apologized and asked, “Do you still want the cushions?”

“No, I don’t.”

The customer behind me applauded and said, “Good for you.”

As I walked to my car, I said, “Well, God — that was NOT a holy moment.”

Yet maybe it was. Could I show grace now by praying for this obviously harried manager? Maybe he was dealing with a health issue or a loved one in trouble or trying to bring his profits up after COVID year.

And wasn’t it a holy moment to stand my ground, keep to my budget and set healthy boundaries on how I should be treated?

I can live without the cushions, but my soul cannot thrive without nurturing the holiness within me.

Hope still survives and believes that the next holy moment will be more positive.

Still, I’m not going back to that store, no matter what sales they advertise. The manager has lost a customer.

But if he comes to mind, I will hope he finds peace in his soul and a sense of God’s holiness still at work in our world.

Hope shines when we search for a brighter perspective. And holy moments DO happen, even in the unexpected chaos of life.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out books by Matthew Kelly. They’ll make you think about how you’re living your life.

Hope Exists in Layers

With all the natural disasters, political upheavals and the scourge of COVID, I’m re-thinking the topic of Hope. Not that I have abandoned its importance, but rather thinking how Hope presents itself and how we react to it.

All this reflection has led me to believe that Hope exists in layers.

Layer One: The Everyday Expression of Hope

We may glibly use the word “Hope”, even as we bless each other with its presence.

              “Hope you have a good day.”

              “Hope that hamburger is well done.”

              “Hope you enjoy the baseball game.”

Layer One of Hope is important, because it places a positive spin on our lives. The word is easy to say. Even easier to share as we convey a genuine forward-looking attitude.

None of us can live without some sliver of hope.

Layer Two: The Hope Shared During Crises

This layer was so evident during 2020’s year of disasters and the leftovers in 2021. With every hurricane, fire, earthquake, pestilence, shooting and angry outburst — people somehow summoned a measure of hope.

“We’re in this together” became a rallying cry. A promise that fortitude could spread. A Hope that community would survive.

People volunteered to clean up the emotional and physical sludge. Organizations asked for donations, and those with giving hearts complied.

The nightly news included a section about inspiring America. We wept with those who wept. We rejoiced with those who smiled through their tears.

Layer Two requires a sinew of courage we all strive to possess. It underscores that even when we suffer, we are not alone.

In the sharing of Layer Two, we relish the pride of coming together, of connecting for the great good, of forgetting for a moment our petty differences.

We discover again what is truly important.

Layer Three: The Darkest, Longest Road to Recovery

When we reach this layer, we discover our inner core. This type of Hope transcends the others, because it has to duplicate itself every day.

Somehow, this Hope must dig past the detritus of personal chaos.

The journey to Layer Three screams at the unfairness of death yet pushes past the grief because life is too precious to abandon.

These are the volunteers who ignore soul-weary fatigue as they prepare another 1600 meals for the homeless in their community.

These are the firefighters, grimy from hours in sooty ash, who find the gumption to return to the flames and fight again.

These are the nurses with plastic marks creased into their faces from 12-hour shifts in the ICU.

These are the workers, sometimes using bare hands, who remove piles of rubble. They carefully place stone upon stone, because they believe a child might still be alive. The slightest mistake might delete all Hope.

The brave souls who deal with chronic pain day after day after day.

The caregivers who continue to serve because they cannot imagine giving up.

Only the bravest survive in Layer Three. From them, we never hear the monotone of complaint.

They continue to Hope although they have no water, no shelter and no clothing. Their lives have been destroyed, yet Hope keeps their hearts beating.

They long to hear from a loved one when all the cell towers are down. They continue to believe and trust in Hope.

These Layer Three folks are the families who take in strangers, because it’s the right thing to do.

This is the businessman who opens his store, because he has mattresses available for bone-weary National Guardsmen and homeless wanderers.

This is the Red Cross receptionist who answers thousands of calls with the same sweet voice.

Hope is alive but presents itself in various ways — depending on the layer we live through and our reaction to it.

This is the writer who continues to pen the words s/he believes in, even when the hate mail continues to come.

I am striving to be courageous enough for Layer Three even as I pray the need for it will not come.

But if it does, may we all be strong enough to persevere — then emerge victorious on the other side.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

My Layer One Hope is that my newest book will reach the sales goals. Check out The Year of my Redemption.

Hope in the Surprise

The following guest post is written by Jena Fellers.

Do you love surprises? Me, too. But I always hope for good surprises.

Recently, my husband asked me to join him delivering for Door Dash. He had decided to try Door Dash to earn extra income and wanted to see how feasible it was. From the sign-in until the ending is called a Dash.

On our first Dash, I felt surrounded by positive anticipation. Eager to learn and see how things worked made me look forward to every detail — as if it was a fun surprise.

  • How quick will the first order come?
  • How much will it pay?
  • How long will it take the restaurant to prepare the order?
  • How far will the delivery be? Will it take extra time to get another order?

Nothing happened as planned, filling me with more questions and anticipation. Every order was a surprise in some way or another. It could be:

*A new restaurant we had never heard of

*Restaurants with different names inside other large restaurant chains

*Deliveries to employees at a business

*Delivering to someone in a parking lot, a parked semi, or even a private airplane

More of the elderly population ordered than the techie, younger population. The nicest surprise was unexpected tips, with good reviews coming in second.

As with anything, the surprise could also be negative:

*A messed-up order

*Food tumbling over inside the bag

*The restaurant out of an ordered item

*The GPS deciding to freeze or take us the wrong way

*Learning about a stacked order and how to complete it

*Looking for houses without visible house numbers

*The amount of miles or price changing after we accepted the order

*Getting few orders, even though the app said it was busy

A Door Dash driver is certain to experience good and bad surprises. Another guarantee is that orders come in so quickly, it is impossible to dwell on the emotions generated by the surprise.

By the end of the Dash, all problems were resolved. Whether starting with few orders, many orders, high pay, or low — the money averaged out.

This experience opened my eyes to how we should view life itself. Every day is a gift full of surprises.

We can wake up hoping for a surprise, especially when we ask God to guide our day. Life can be an adventure and fun when God is with us.

Possible surprises for today:

*Who should I pray for?

*Will there be someone to help today?

*Can I teach a life lesson to my family?

*Will God give blessings today? For what purpose?

*Will my words make a difference?

*How many smiles can I give?

*Who can I encourage with a phone call or a card?

Our Hope in the surprise can help us get through anything. Good and bad are guaranteed to come, but we place our Hope in the surprise God gives or allows. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul speaks of being content in every situation. This seems possible when we have Hope in His surprise.

This kind of divine surprise gives us something to look forward to. It keeps our focus where we can be content. Like Dashing, we know it will all balance out, regardless of whether the surprises we face are good or bad.

Let’s view the surprise as a treasure given to us. Let’s live in anticipation of what God will do for us, through us, and with us each day.

No need to worry or fret. Another surprise is on its way, so enjoy life to its fullest. Look with Hope for the surprise God has planned today.

©2021 Jena Fellers (guest post) – All Rights Reserved

Jena Fellers is an author, inspirational speaker, and co-pastor. She and her husband pastor Trinity Worship Center in Baxter Springs, Kansas, where their three children and four grandchildren reside. Jena loves to encourage and educate others to follow Christ a little closer. Check out her blog at www.changingfocus.life to find out more about Jena and her books.

Enchanting Hope

As I walked out of Hen House with my groceries, he was loading his trunk with food supplies. He smiled, then asked, “Are you from New Mexico? He pointed toward the tag on my car: “New Mexico — Land of Enchantment.”

“No,” I said, “but I’d like to be. It’s on my bucket list to go there at least twice each year.”

He told me how he grew up in Ruidoso, moving to Kansas to help his elderly parents. But he missed the rich verdure of the New Mexican mountains, the vast expanses of desert and the spiritual history of a land with his Native American roots.

“I long to go for an extended stay,” I said, “maybe a writing retreat in Santa Fe.” 

“You’ll get there,” he said with a confident nod. “People who love New Mexico end up living their dreams.”

As I opened my car door, he tipped his hat and said, “Stay enchanting.”

Throughout the long COVID winter, I thought often of this man and his kind prophecy. Was he an angel in disguise, sent to encourage me on a gloomy day? Or was he merely a nice person, taking care of his parents and trying to share hope with a fellow pilgrim?

Memories of my last two trips to Santa Fe brought tears. The 2012 research trip for my third novel, “Final Grace for Reverend G.”

My bestie, Deb, and I, strolling through art galleries, eating multiple recipes dunked in roasted green chiles, each of us finding handcrafted jewelry and colorful broom skirts.

The trip of a lifetime, I thought. Deb’s lifetime. She passed in 2017 and was not able to return to the Land of Enchantment with me.

My next trip was September, 2018. I attended the Creatives Conference with Julia Cameron as the keynoter. Another trip of a lifetime. But this time, I was alone. Still, it was a beautiful experience.

My quiet time to work through the grief of losing Deb. Although I missed her presence yet felt her spirit, I discovered being by myself was indeed a great way to fashion a writing retreat.

And so much more:

  • Multiple people became new friends as Santa Fe has a tendency to pull people together.
  • A touristy walk provided new insights about the history of this town I love.
  • The discovery of a free trade store where I bought some jewelry — of course — and met other travelers.
  • A kind sales rep in another jewelry store who revealed his lifetime of FBI service in Albuquerque and why he changed careers mid-life.
  • My favorite waitress at the Santa Fe Bite who jangled her bracelets as we shared our love for bling.
  • A surprise wedding as the happy couple and their mariachi band circled around the Plaza.
  • More delicious recipes with roasted green chiles.
  • Soaking my feet in the hotel’s pool after a day of walking.
  • Watching the shadows peek around the Sangre de Cristo mountains, then merge into fabulous sunsets.

Creativity seems to spurt from every pore of Santa Fe. In the evenings, I wrote pages of a new novel. The Year of my Redemption was birthed at the Sage Hotel in Santa Fe. It will always be one of my favorites.

My plan was to return to Santa Fe in 2020 with a new traveling partner. But alas — COVID. Then I hoped 2021 might be the year. Another alas — physical obstacles and chronic pain.

Have I experienced my last trip to Santa Fe? Please, God, no. Can I not hope for another week or two in the Land of Enchantment?

A Pueblo Indian blessing foreshadowed the loss of Deb, now even richer with meaning:

“Hold on to what is good even if it is a handful of earth.

Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands alone.

Hold on to what you must do even if it’s a long way from here.

Hold on to life even when it’s easier letting go.

Hold on to my hand even when I have gone away from you.”

My enchanting hope is to return to the land of clay and pottery, brilliant sunsets and artisans camped around every corner. To live where the everydayness of what we must do thrives with a positive outlook and gratitude for life itself.

Hope breathes through the improbabilities of reaching the desire of the heart, somehow managing to make it happen. A prayer — a wish — a dream all wrapped in the hope of seeing it come to pass.

Even now, mid 2021, the hope survives. A quote from Georgia O’Keefe, resident artist of Santa Fe, ties my hope in a package of possibility, “Once you’ve been to New Mexico, the itch never leaves you.”

I am itching to return.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Watch for the novel that was birthed in Santa Fe. The Year of my Redemption will soon be available on Amazon.

Hope Wonders When

Patience is NOT one of my virtues. Yet it seems as I grow older, God requires more instruction involving patience. Once again, I sit in his school of waiting.

When we wait, our first question is “When?” When will the answers come? How much longer do I need to wait?

Is there a deeper purpose than even the waiting itself — a reasoning God wants me to grasp, a circumstance someone else needs to piece together, something that affects both of us?

On a larger scale than just my small life, when will our communities learn that diversity is a strength? We can add to each other’s lives by embracing our differences as much as we love our commonalities. But when?

The 36-hour day team-tags for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. The body refuses to die even as the brain deteriorates. When will release come?

The only way to end the Alzheimer’s journey is to hold the hand of a loved one as s/he is ushered into eternity.

Writers wait to hear from publishers who hold their words hostage within committee meetings. The words scream to be heard and passed on. When?

In their workbook, Living into the Answers, authors Isenhower and Todd write, “If we leave ourselves open to God’s leading, even in the midst of asking the questions, often God sends us into areas we have not considered.

New areas we have not previously considered or possibly — new spiritual havens where we learn to reframe our questions.

How can we find hope while we wait? How can we best live in our waiting rooms without giving way to the frustrations of impatience?

What did it feel like in the 600-year silence between the Old and New Testaments? For centuries, one decade after another, the people waited for their Messiah.

Generations died out. Saints did not receive the promise, yet somehow hope lived on. Grandfathers continued to share the stories of a miracle-working God — even in the silence.

Mothers tucked their children into beds and whispered, “Maybe tomorrow Messiah will come.”

Yet their tomorrows stretched into the next year and the next.

When Jesus DID come, he was so radical and so unlike the Messiah they expected, they did not recognize the wait was finally over. Instead of rejoicing, they rejected him and killed him. They refused the truth.

As I wait for my limbo land to end, I wonder … has it come and gone, passed me by? Did I somehow miss the answer? If so, how do I retrieve it?

Maybe the eternal one who longs for us to trust him plants the answers in the everyday-ness of life, then waits for us to locate him.

Perhaps our questions are wrapped in the discontent of our days. We cannot truly find the resolve because God is not controlled by time.

Yet as we wait, he graciously holds us in the palm of his mighty and patient hands.

Instead of yearning for a change, maybe we need to just accept today. To find joy in whatever positives surround us.

Then as we cry out for a deeper intimacy with the divine one, he will produce the answers within.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out this excerpt from Hope Shines, available on Amazon and also in Large Print.  

Finding Hope in an Old Story

She is often overlooked as a mere secondary character in Genesis. Yet Hagar’s story contains one of the most insightful verses of all time.

Hagar may have been fairly young as the maid servant of Sarai, Abram’s wife. Because Sarai was not able to conceive, she convinced Abram to take Hagar as his concubine. Hagar was soon pregnant with Ishmael.

Then the real trouble began. A conflict between Hagar and Sarai — jealousy, competition, and the end result. Hagar ran away.

But God found Hagar and encouraged her. Hagar’s a-ha moment was so impactful, she named the place: Beer-lahai-roi: “God Sees Me.”

So in spite of Hagar’s struggles:

  • Becoming a servant to Sarai
  • Forced to have sex with this old man
  • Feeling sick from the pregnancy
  • A cruel mistress
  • So rejected, she ran away
  • Totally alone and sad

In spite of it all, God saw her and met with her. In person. Such an encouraging story of Hope.

Whatever you are struggling with today, know this — God sees you.

  • In the middle of a cancer diagnosis
  • With the side effects of COVID
  • Financial worries
  • Children or grandchildren in trouble
  • Unemployment
  • Mental illness
  • Transitions in life
  • Loss of Hope
  • ________ Fill in your blank

Whatever is happening to you today — God sees you. He is not blind. He is not deaf to your cries.

In fact, the name Ishmael means “God hears.”

So Abba Himself loves you. He sees you. He hears you. He is with you.

Rest in his gift of Hope.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For a continued story about Hagar and Ishmael, check out page 25 in The Invisible Women of Genesis.

When Chronic Pain Finds Hope

Some of my she-roes are women who live with chronic pain. Day after day, decade after decade. Their endurance puts me to shame.

During 2020 – 2021, I experienced just a taste of what they deal with all the time. My chronic pain began with a single step. Most accidents around the home do not occur because of reckless behavior. They just happen.

But they may change our lives.

In July of 2020 — yep — on top of COVID year — I stepped into my garden and felt something pop. “Oh God, oh God! I’ve broken my blessed hip.”

What do you do when you cannot move without pain, but to get help, you need to maneuver toward the phone? You do it anyway. You limp forward . . . slowly.

After my frantic call, a friend drove me to Urgent Care where the X-ray showed no fracture. Thank you, Jesus!

“Probably a hamstring pull,” said the nurse. “Do these exercises.”

Hamstring — oh. Like football players sometimes experience. After a few weeks, they return to the game, fully recovered and able to play again.

I’ll be fine. Uh-huh!

After several weeks of the prescribed exercises and multiple helpings of Advil, I Googled my own info. No fast recovery for me. I contacted my PCP who ordered a CT scan. Then an orthopedic assessment. Multiple chiropractic visits. Weeping and gnashing of teeth.

No major issues on the scans. Nothing definite showing, but I was still in pain. And complaining to whomever would listen. Unlike my she-roes, I do not have a high threshold of pain — any kind of pain.

To continue working, I developed a kind of dance: sit at my desk until the pain screamed, stand at the elevated desk until spasms began, walk until the throbbing subsided, then sit on the heating pad.

Repeat.

Every professional told me, “Hamstrings just take a while to heal.” No one could tell me how long “a while” is.

DEAR GUSSY!

Sammy Watkins with his hamstring pull missed only three weeks of Chiefs’ games until he was back in action. I was already into three months and considered asking the Chiefs if they could assign me a trainer.

Those who suffer with chronic pain deserve a medal, at the very least — a crown of glory. Pain wears on the body, but also on the soul. It tears down hope and reminds us how mortal we are. No matter what good things are happening, the pain grinds an edge on life itself.

After ten more months trying various medications, exercises, and medical expertise, I was back with the PCP for another exam. But this time resulted in a new idea. More probing — ouch — but a clue.

Piriformis Syndrome. Evidently the piriformis nerve and muscle in the right cheek can affect the hamstring, smash down on the sciatica and cause all kinds of nasty problems.

This new diagnosis jump started my hope. Finally, something that made more sense than just “taking a while to heal.” Maybe this was the culprit all along. I did not know I had a piriformis in my back end. I ignore my rear cheeks until I look in the mirror to make sure they’re not getting fatter.

With a heartbeat of fresh hope, I started physical therapy and already feel a slight improvement. I’m committed to doing the new exercises and anything else they suggest, just to get my life back and feel better.

But the professionals also reminded me, “Once you hurt your back, you may always have issues.”

I will need to be careful. No more heavy lifting. No more excessive bending over in the garden. No more thinking I am invincible and “Sure, I can do that.” Shorter sitting times. I continue my rhythmic dance, and the heating pad is my best friend.

Our mortal lives can change in an instant. And I am fully aware my pain is incredibly small in the world of rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy, brain damage and other maladies. But it is, after all, my pain. I am working on being more like my she-roes with fewer bouts of whining.

In the end, total healing and recovery occurs as we enter the Promised Land of eternal Hope. Stepping into heaven will solve everything — every painful trauma, physical problem and emotional hurt.

For now, on this side of forever bliss, I can only pray for those who suffer daily, do my exercises and hope for the best.

Time to stand up and continue my dance.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

If you’re living in chronic pain, perhaps this e-book might help: Finding Hope When Life Unravels.

When Alzheimer’s Affects Hope

She is not the same person I once knew. My mother — the strong, outspoken, active woman who raised three children. Often harsh in her strict disciplinary practices, she was just as hard on herself.

But it was resilience that moved her from childhood poverty to a successful nursing career, a happy marriage and a fulfilling life.

Until the Long Goodbye struck and Alzheimer’s changed her personality.

I do not remember many smiles on my mother’s face. But now, she sits in a wheelchair with a constant grin, revealing the gaps where teeth once anchored.

She knows no one, so every greeting is new. She bears no burdens, because she prepared well. Others handle all the stresses of life. A Bible rests on her lap, but she cannot locate her favorite verses.

She is deaf, so communication is handled with a white board. But she cannot respond. No longer writes even the simplest of sentences. She answers “Yes” or “No” to written questions.

Yet her smile remains. Her visage content. One day just like the next.

In Prayer in the Night, author Tish Harrison Warren admits that some seasons in life might include a variety of afflictions — Alzheimer’s being one of them.

Warren notes that Jesus cared about those who bore chronic pain and constant affliction. He healed some. Left others to return to the leper colony, the sick bed, the beggar’s spot near busy markets.

Warren surmises that God Himself “Suffers with the alcoholic, the homeless kid, the Alzheimer’s patient, the bipolar client in a manic spell.”

God sits with us in our pain, understands our need for companionship and offers His hand of comfort as we struggle.

Perhaps my mother smiles within her shadows because she feels One beside her. Maybe she even sees her Savior on a spiritual level the afflicted ones know so well.

Perhaps her contentment comes from knowing He counts down her days and will never leave her. Maybe the personality change is more of a deeper level of partnership — of two souls acquainted with grief and the sorrows of life yet looking forward to a better place.

Within that possibility, I find hope as I stare at the pictures of this unknown woman — this version of the mother I once knew.

Perhaps in a strange way, this is her best season, her days of intimate knowing and divine purpose. Her night that will lead to a brighter day.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For essays about caregiving, check out Sometimes They Forget: Finding Hope in the Alzheimer’s Journey.

Hope Sees the Women

The idea came in the middle of a Sunday School class — BC — before COVID. We were reading through Genesis 11 when I suddenly stopped.

Here was the tale about a young boy, Lot, who was taken from his mother and transported to another location.

For reasons we are not told, Terah (father of Abram) decided to move from Ur of the Chaldeans toward Canaan. Perhaps he wanted to escape the idolatry of his community or maybe he felt restless and needed a change. His son, Haran, had died. Maybe Terah needed to leave the land that represented so much grief. Yet he chose to take only Abram and his wife, Sarai, plus his grandson, Lot.

But what of Lot’s mother, Haran’s wife? Nowhere is she mentioned. Her absence with this small band of travelers feels stark. What would convince this mother to let her son traipse off into a foreign land with his grandfather, uncle and aunt?

The answer lies in the story of another invisible woman, Lot’s mother, who we will call Rhondu (Excerpt from The Invisible Women of Genesis).

The untold story of this woman haunted me, so I began research. But nothing was told about Rhondu, no reasons behind her abandonment.

Then I began to find other women who were behind the scenes. Women who played important roles in the story yet were not honored — often not even named.

The patriarchal structure of scripture and the cultural significance of males buried these women under layers of historical fact.

Yet I know for certain that God loved these women and planted them in particular places and times to move His story forward.

And I know for certain that women are an equally important part of sharing God’s love with the world today.

Yet many are still invisible.

So I wrote a book, The Invisible Women of Genesis. But I wanted even more justice and wondered how to begin the conversation to make sure women are seen. I came up with a few ideas:

> Be more alert and aware of the role of women in today’s world. Male pastors get the attention standing behind the pulpit, but it was probably a female assistant who typed his sermon in readable form. How many other jobs within the church institution are performed by unseen women?

> When I address letters, I no longer use Mr & Mrs with only his name. I use both names: John & Mary Smith. Sometimes I feel radical enough to write her name first: Mary & John Smith.

> Listen to the stories of the invisible women around us: the she-ro who stays up late to launder clothes and prepare tomorrow’s meals, the she-ro who prays for the prodigal child who ignores her, the she-ro who never found the perfect mate and is left out of multiple gatherings, the she-ro who is denied human rights and education, the single mom she-ro, and countless others.

To all the invisible women, God says, “I see you. I have tattooed your name on the palm of my hand. I will never forget you. Someday I will clothe you with a royal robe, place a crown on your head and usher you into my kingdom. You are never invisible to me. You are my bride, my beloved, my beauty.”

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more stories about invisible women, check out The Invisible Women of Genesis – available on Amazon and Kindle.

Hope in the Scars

My son and I often bond over the National Geographic channel, particularly the veterinarian shows. One of our favorites is Heartland Docs, a husband and wife team of vets in northeast Nebraska.

During a recent show, Doctors Erin and Ben answered an emergency call from a horse breeder. One of his prize quarter horses, Lucky, cut his foreleg in a freak accident. The tendons were cut in two places. Lucky could barely stand and bowed his head, as if anticipating his fate.

The prognosis was critical. The options were few:

>Surgery at a renowned clinic with months of rehab, but the level of infection might kill Lucky before they could begin.

>Saying good-bye and putting Lucky down.

The horse breeder said, “I just can’t give up on him. Could we try to treat it here and see if he can heal?

The docs were skeptical but they, too, hated to end Lucky’s life. So they swabbed the wound, gave Lucky massive antibiotics and wrapped the leg in a cast.

Six weeks later, Erin and Ben returned to check on Lucky’s progress. They had little hope for a positive outcome.

But when they sawed off the cast, they saw how the tendons were healing. No infection. Still a guarded prognosis. They wrapped the leg again without a cast so Lucky would be forced to put more weight on it.

Four weeks later, they unwrapped the injured leg. Hair and scar tissue had grown over the wound. Lucky stood strong and solid. He would never return to the race track, but the owner’s daughter could ride and show him at the local 4-H fair.

Dr. Erin concluded the episode. “We couldn’t give up. Although it was a delicate situation, scars are often stronger than the initial tendons.”

Isn’t that the truth? Although we struggle through multiple precarious and traumatic situations, we can decide to never give up.

If we do what is necessary for healing, we may be surprised by the results.

But the scars we wear often become stronger than the initial area that was wounded. We can grow emotional tissue around our pain that helps it heal.

We can accept the bandages others offer us. We can work hard to train ourselves to run with grace again.

And we can let the scars be a witness to our strength-building.

In the end, we may run a different race, live a different life. But we can be strong, even more useful and a treasure to those around us.

Therein lies our hope: to never give up, to accept the pain, to build on our scars.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

A group of women were strengthened by their scars, but no one knew. They were The Invisible Women of Genesis.

March Madness Scores Hope

Every year, as I struggle to survive February, I look forward to March Madness. Then for several weeks, I indulge in TV watching, cheering for my teams and yelling at double the volume.

In 2020, the basketball authorities cancelled March Madness to protect everyone from COVID-19. This year, I was ready.

Like the Uber Eats commercial, “I didn’t get my madness last year, so I needed double the madness.”

March Madness provides the perfect emotional release, adrenalin rush and just downright fun. As I settle in for a game, I announce to the cat, “There will be yelling.”

The cat leaves the room.

Yelling does not include curse words — at least not the usual ones. I was, after all, raised to act like a lady — except during March Madness.

My yelling might call out the refs. “Didn’t you see that? The kid’s head is bleeding. Don’t you think that means a foul? FOR CRYIN’ OUT LOUD!”

“A charge? SERIOUSLY? The defense was not set.”

“Give him a Tee. COME ON!”

I do not yell without credible knowledge. My dad was a triathlete, including top scorer at Phillips University. Our family was definitely into all the sports seasons. And I played basketball in grade school and high school — until the unfortunate knee incident.

I went up for a rebound, and a monster from the other team broadsided me. My body went north, but my knee went east. Those were the days before knee surgeries unless you were a top athlete headed to the NBA.

I was not. I wore an ugly brace for several weeks which did nothing for my social life.

When I taught middle school, the principal “volunteered” me to be a ref for a few games. It is not an easy job. Especially with a whistle in your mouth while breathing hard and running up and down the court.

However, with my experience I do know the difference between a charge and a foul. DEAR GUSSY, REF. GET IT RIGHT!

Usually I yell at the refs or the coaches, “Call time out, Coach. NOW!”

But I also yell at the players when they miss free throws. My dad used to say, “There is no excuse for missing a free throw.” He was right.

You have a clean shot. No one is guarding you. It’s only fifteen feet. NOT AN NBA THREE!

When they miss, I yell, “FREE THROW, FOR PETE’S SAKE!” Sometimes I stand directly in front of the TV — as if they could hear me.

Games are won or lost because of free throws. The best way to beat the pressure is to make the STUPID FREE THROW!

When my son was a teen, we competed with our brackets. The winner got a pizza. Now he’s grown and busy with his life, so I compete with myself. I fill out the bracket after each game. That way, I always win.

After March Madness, I always feel better. No matter who wins. The release valve of yelling works. I highly recommend it.

This has not been a good year for my teams. The Chiefs bombed out in the Super Bowl. The Jayhawks, proteges of James Naismith himself, could not manage to get the ball in the peach basket. FOR CRYIN’ OUT LOUD!

But there is hope. Let’s go, Royals! 

There will be yelling.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out the books on my Amazon Author Page. No yelling in any of them.

Hope in the Hidden Treasures

Once a week, I click onto HGTV and watch a couple of favorite DIY shows. One is Home Town with Ben and Erin Napier. They are transforming their home down of Laurel, Mississippi, by renovating old homes. It’s a fun show with lots of creative ideas.

My other current fave is Good Bones, another redesign of a town — Indianapolis — with a mother and daughter team. Mina is the driving force behind each project while Karen, the mother, is a creative artiste a la retired lawyer.

One of the reasons I like Good Bones is because one of the stars is in my demographic. It’s encouraging that a mature woman is able to power through a wall with a sledgehammer or kick through slats to open a space.

The other reason I like Karen is because she is always finding hidden treasures.

When each segment begins, Karen and Mina tour a nasty old house, dreaming of ways to redesign it and sell it for a profit. Some of these houses have become shelters for hoarders or for squatters. Some are incredibly nasty. I can almost smell the horror of those bathrooms filled with — well, you can imagine.

But Karen searches through the junk and often finds an old window, a piece of furniture, a tapestry, an antique bottle, even a musical instrument. She takes them home, in spite of Mina’s insistence to throw them away, and restores them to their original luster. Then she returns the treasure to the house as a gift to the new homeowner.

I love the idea of restoring what was considered trash. In fact, I’ve done the same myself. Dumpster diving in a college town often produced treasures my son and I could use after we cleaned them, fixed broken screws or painted something a new color.

But hope joins the restoration process when we seek to find the hidden treasures all around us. Even daring to look for treasures within our own souls.

  • What is a treasure we can find from the traumas of 2020?
    • more time with family
    • working from home
    • safety in our own four walls
    • a commitment to do life differently when everything opens.
  • How can we look for treasure in each other?
    • accept differences of opinion
    • embrace diversity
    • guard the hearts of those who are disrespected.
  • What are the concrete treasures we can find around us and restore them to dignity?
    • an autumn leaf to frame
    • stones that become art – like a cat made out of rocks
    • native grasses to bring inside and feature in a pottery vase
  • How does God remind us we are his treasures?
    • By giving us a verse for a particular moment
    • by sharing his presence through music or nature
    • by keeping us in a constant state of readiness for heaven
    • by strengthening us through one struggle so we can meet the next one

Someone at a writers conference once told me I was a treasure. It took me a while to journal through that compliment and fully accept it.

But it IS true. Each of us is a treasure to God and to the people in our personal world. Each human being is a treasure no matter what the gender, the skin color or the choice of political platform.

As we look for the treasures around us, let’s be more cognizant of how we can share hope with each other.

Let’s strive for restoration rather than trashing another. Let’s build on how people and things were originally created and work to make them even better.

Let’s find hope in the hidden treasures.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out these invisible women who were NOT treasured. Then find ways to treasure others. The Invisible Women of Genesis.

Hope Survives with the Women of Passion Week

She is often condemned as the woman who worked too hard to create a hospitable atmosphere. Martha, the sister who kept everything together to serve Jesus and his disciples.

Legend tells us Martha was a wealthy widow, the homeowner of her Bethany villa. She provided housing for her siblings and a place of retreat for her guests.

Martha had a special relationship with the Master, so the events of Passion Week would have greatly impacted her. How would she have reacted to the news coming from Jerusalem?

When the messenger rushed into my villa, I could not at first believe his words. “Jesus is dead. Crucified by the religious leaders and the mob.”

Dead. This gentle Teacher who changed our lives when he brought Lazarus back to life.

How I remembered the depths of our grief as Mary and I buried our little brother. The virus that killed Lazarus was so severe and quick, none of the doctors knew how to treat it. Yet we were certain Jesus could save him.

But the Master hesitated, waited four days while we prepared our brother’s body and walked behind his bier to the family tomb.

When Jesus finally appeared, I dared to confront him, accused him of not caring enough. “I know you could have saved him. Where were you?”

To this day, I remember the iconic mixture of emotion in his voice, his own grief at the tragedy of death. Yet in his eyes, a spark of joyous surprise I would not understand until later. When he called out, “Lazarus, come forth” and welcomed our brother back to the land of the living.

Now Jesus Himself had experienced that darkness, the cessation of life and the journey to the netherworld. His breath stilled. His skillful hands emptied of life’s pulse.

Why did not the Father rescue him from the cross? Was this merely another hesitation by a God who knew more about life and death, how a seed must die in order to produce amazing fruit?

I wrapped a shawl around my shoulders. The chill of early spring greeted me as I trudged toward the hill. Crocus sprouted among the rocks. The promise of life after the death of winter.

As I scrambled up the rocky hillside toward our tomb, I cried out with gratitude. “Thank you, God. My brother no longer lies here, rotting in the dust. My sister thrives, and I am healthy. We are blessed with the gift of life.”

Yet our Savior was dead. Who would care for his body, wrap him in linen and anoint the wounds that killed him? Would he have a place to lie under the stars where his followers could visit him? Should I travel to the holy city and offer my services?

Then a whisper, a remembered phrase the Master comforted me with just before he raised Lazarus. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes will also live.”

And suddenly, I knew. The raising of Lazarus was more than an act of life, a rescuing of Mary and me from the ravages of grief, a chance to start over for our beloved brother.

It was a foreshadowing of what would happen later — not only for the Master but also for all of us who believed. Death was not the end, but only a stepping-stone into the next world. A place of infinite blessing and good, a realm where death and sickness, crucifixion or martyrdom could never win.

I ran back to the house, suddenly filled with a desire to prepare the best foods, clean the villa and straighten up the guest rooms. Perhaps the Master would visit Bethany again, show us another example of renewal and revival. Whatever the schedule he might keep, I had no doubt we would see him again.

Three days later, another messenger ran up our hill and rapped on the door. I met him there, saw his flushed face and grasped his shoulders.

“Tell me. What has happened?”

He gasped for breath, then spouted the words, “His disciples . . . they have seen him. The Master . . . is alive.”

Of course he is. I believe.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more stories about the Women of Passion Week, check out my book available on Amazon.

Hope Lives in the Music

As I walked out of Target, violin music reverberated its lovely sound. Plaintive yet smooth. Obviously a professional recording.

Or was it?

I walked toward my car and looked around the parking lot. Were those melodic notes coming from a car’s stereo? If so, where?

The music sounded too fresh, too lovely to be a tinny recording. Nothing I recognized. No classical memory from years of music training. A new song, perhaps written by an unknown artist.

Then I saw him. Farther east in the parking lot, a young man standing in the spring sunshine. His right arm moving up and down with the bow. His left hand forming the vibrato. Obviously a trained musician.

I drove toward him, drawn by more than curiosity. After the grey February where I struggled to find hope, this offering of loveliness felt like a divine gift.

A note beside him read, “Struggling student. Hard times. Can you help?”

The writer in me wondered at his story. Had he been evicted from his apartment or lost his “other” job like so many artists during the time of COVID?

Was he caring for an elderly parent and needed money for the necessities of healthcare? Were they hungry? Homeless?

Did the music of his soul need encouragement, new strings for his favorite violin? Tuition paid for theory classes?

A baritone voice in my soul, “Help him.”

“How much, Abba?”

“You have a ten in your billfold.”

I am not always a generous giver. Often I am more clearly defined as a saver, a keeper of what I have — just in case life sours.

Yet for this young talent, life was already sour — something not working well. He was giving the only thing possible — his music. For what? His next meal? A reason to stay in hope?

Oh, I know all the arguments the financially secure use: “He’ll probably spend it on drugs or booze. It’s a racket. Don’t fall for it.”

Yet the sadness in his brown eyes would not leave me alone. The song of his heart spoke directly to mine.

It was not my responsibility to monitor his spending habits. It was only my duty to obey and respond. This child of God needed help. I had a little I could spare.

His melancholy notes continued as I rolled down my window and handed him my ten.

“Thank you,” he said with genuine gratitude.

“God bless you.”

As I drove away, I prayed the violinist would be okay, eat well that night, pay whatever bills were outstanding.

Then clearing the tears out of my throat, I thanked God for the beauty of music, for a stranger who parked near Target and shared the melody of his heart.

Hope floated through the afternoon air and landed joyfully in my soul.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

If you don’t have a violinist in your Target parking lot, maybe this e-book will help. Finding Hope When Life Unravels

Hope in the Darkness

It is difficult to stay in hope while we are living within darkness.

Consider the faith of Mary Magdalene. Scripture tells us, “While it was still dark, she went to the tomb” (John 20:1).

While it was still dark, her faith was strong enough to visit the grave of her Lord. She wanted to be with Jesus one more time, to hold his body in her arms and thank him for rescuing her from the demons.

I imagine she had not slept since the horror of standing near the cross and watching him die. Because of her devotion, God granted her the desire of her heart — to see Jesus again.

But this time, he was gloriously — almost unbelievably alive.

Then he gave her the privilege of telling the fearful brothers how she had seen him. He spoke to her, called her by name. Gave her a job to do.

While it was still dark.

When we dwell in dark places, it is so difficult to imagine life at the end of the tunnel. We see only our pain, the challenge of each day. Another twenty-four hours required of us: giving care to a loved one, enduring chronic pain, watching our personal world crumble.

We feel only the raw depth of the struggle.

Our faith tends to fester, encased in a crust of growing bitterness. We inwardly scream questions:

“Why did this happen?”

“When will it end?”

“Where is the answer to my prayer?”

Yet the answer is silence.

At the end of the darkness stands the only One who conquered it. The One who laughed at the eternal outcome of death. The One who understood that sometimes life is much harder than death.

And he conquered the gloom while it was still dark. He had already stepped out of that tomb before Mary came to look for him.

Maybe you live in the depths of a grief that never seems to ease. Every day is a reminder of the emptiness, the place where that loved one used to live.

Maybe you struggle with illness. Every day is a reminder of the health you have lost.

Maybe you trudge through emotional pain, the reminder of what others did to you. Those who did not care enough about your heart.

While you are in the darkness, Love steps out of the tomb, ready to embrace you and give you a reason to live. An abundance of a better life waits for you. The risen Jesus longs to empower you with his hope-filled strength.

Stay in hope. The darkness will gradually fade, and you will breathe life again.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Finding Hope When Life Unravels is an e-book with action points for stepping out of the darkness.

Finding a Hope-filled Friendship

They are older than I by a decade. White hair, wisdom lines on their faces. Walking a bit slower these days.

Yet whenever we meet, I suddenly feel a shared surge of their energy. Not physical, but spiritual. Hope-filled protons of life.

We usually meet once a month for a special meal at Cracker Barrel. Even during COVID-19. Especially during COVID-19.

We stay away from topics of politics or anything ugly confrontive. Yet we can be honest with each other. Disagree. Add another viewpoint to the conversation.

We update each other on the cares and needs of family. Our children always top of the list. Their grandchildren added to the ladder of conversation.

We eat good food, and we laugh a lot. Even during COVID-19. Especially needed during a pandemic that changed how we do life.

Sometimes we talk about the past — how we met in 2006. Memories of work shared, of prayers answered.

Lean in to their hugs. Especially during a pandemic with a shortage of touch.

When I have theological questions, I ask them first. Anything in my writings that might need clarified. They give honest answers. Ask why I am writing on a certain topic. Wonder when the latest book will be published. Their names have appeared numerous times on my Acknowledgements pages.

Through the years, they have attended most of my book-signings. Bought books for their family and friends. Or for someone who needs the words God has given me.

I know with a certainty they pray for me. I feel it, especially when writing is hard. When the words need to be pulled from my soul by a Wordsmith greater than I.

After we meet, I always feel better. Re-energized to work on that elusive novel or organize another writing craft book. Meet with my clients and offer them accountability. Hope for their words. Believe once again that God is faithful.

The last time we met, I hurried home to pray. To thank God for their hope-filled friendship through the years. And to ponder the question, What is it about this lovely couple that fills me with hope and energizes me to live abundantly?

They encourage freely. Never a word of condemnation. None of the spiritual and verbal abuse so common on social media from people who should know better. No negativity of any kind.

They search for the positives. A difficult time gives opportunity to find the silver lining. A doctor’s appointment brings the comment, “Everything will work out fine.” The struggles of 2020 germinate into reasons to “Rejoice always. And again, I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).

They fully trust a higher power. When I express my struggles, they remind me how God is already ahead of me. The loving twinkle in her blue eyes. The ready smile on his face. The statement, “God already knows the answer” a balm to my troubled soul.

They meet my needs. Although I am not starving, a good meal tastes wonderful. Taking home a box of leftovers will remind me to stay in hope the next day and the next. Filling my belly for a complimentary lunch nurtures the aloneness in me. Reminds me someone cares.

They mentor me. When I look back after each meeting, I see how they have taught me something more. How their belief rubs off on me. How they have shared another spiritual nugget so that I can learn. Be better. Live better.

Someday our special lunches will end. One or all of us will leave this earth for a better place. Those who are left will grieve yet rejoice, feel joy for the beauty of what the missing one knows.

But for now, these friends fill a place of emptiness for me. I am grateful for the hope they share, for the joy of being together now and then.

And I hope to someday fill such a place for a younger human I will meet. To be that living hope we all need. To share in holy moments of encouragement.

To teach by example and live by loving another.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Feeling the need for a nugget of hope? Check out Finding Hope When Life Unravels.

Hope Inches Toward Acceptance

A copy of the Serenity Prayer is posted on my refrigerator. Such a beautiful reminder of the seasons of life.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can,  and wisdom to know the difference.”

Wisdom was a frequent prayer as I worked in various ministries, raised my son, made life-changing decisions.

Wisdom is still a daily prayer as life presents the need for quirky decisions: whether to downsize and sell, where to move or if, how to protect our home from COVID-19.

But in spite of the Serenity Prayer, change happens with or without courage. The seasons of life determine new directions, transitions and different pathways. Change has never been my problem.

But acceptance — now that is a different story.

Growing up on the farm, we made do with what we had. But if we needed something, we figured out a way to make it with the tools and materials we already owned. Created something from the bits and pieces around us.

Or changed a situation to make it better.

That work ethic has followed me through life and added to the quality of my days. I have no regrets for changes made, for improvements accomplished.

Even for risks taken.

But acceptance is not easy for a change-maker. To sit around and just let life happen is not in my DNA. If I cannot make a situation better, at least I can work to make it tolerable.

Revise manuscripts until they feel right. Add another exercise to my routine to strengthen aging muscles. Delete from my diet harmful chemicals.

Make the necessary changes.

As a coach, my questions to clients include, “What are the action points we’ll work on this week? How can we move forward and make the changes that will improve your book, help you find a publisher, complete the process?”

Change is easier, because it allows us to DO something — anything — to make improvements. But what if the situation cannot be changed? Ever.

How can we find the hope needed while doing nothing about a situation?

The loss of a best friend, a relative, a job, a business. So many losses in 2020 and the beginnings of 2021. Recently, the loss of power for so many during the coldest week in decades.

Half a million families changed forever by the loss of someone to COVID. When life changes so dramatically, we are never the same. How can we move toward that deep type of acceptance?

My mother has somehow accepted her life in the nursing home. She is content living day by day in her safe environment. No stresses. No bills to worry about. No car that needs an oil change.

The late stages of Alzheimer’s presents a type of acceptance for those affected with the disease. Just get up every morning and eat when they tell you to eat. Play Bingo when it’s time.

Done. Accepted.

To stay in hope and live in peace, we have to let go of the need to change. To accept what cannot be changed and know that even within the acceptance — we will be okay.

We will learn a type of soul contentment.

So let’s change what we can, but accept what cannot be tampered with. Then pray for the peace to live within that acceptance and find joy.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out these steps for moving toward hope, especially when life turns chaotic. Finding Hope When Life Unravels.

Finding Hope When Expectations Change

A friend and I were talking about changing expectations. By now, we both expected certain things in life to have occurred. Situations such as:

  • The house paid for — free and clear
  • Our children settled and happy
  • 2.5 grandchildren
  • A lifetime of marriage to draw on — the whole happily-ever-after dream (cue the Disney music)
  • Plenty of retirement money safely tucked away in trusts and investments
  • Trips planned and enjoyed at least twice / year
  • Good friends meeting regularly for coffee, tea, some sort of chocolate treat (obviously BC – before COVID)
  • The certainty that our lives had impacted people / that we had made a difference in somebody’s world
  • The blessings of the abundant life
  • Looking forward to the next family gathering / maybe a vacation in the mountains or near the beach

Instead, we were both experiencing the following:

  • Financial struggles
  • Bodies that betrayed us and hurt in weird places
  • The solitude of facing life alone
  • Close friends and multiple family members now lying in cemeteries
  • Children struggling to find their way in an uncertain world
  • The over-used word “unprecedented” now a descriptive of daily life
  • Searching for a cheaper place to live / trying to decide whether to downsize or hunker down for whatever comes after COVID
  • Not sure our lives have meant anything to anyone
  • A gray sense of despair
  • Watching blessings happen to others / not so much to us

These were supposed to be the Golden Years. Not so golden. Not even gold-plated.

Promises unfulfilled. Dreams shattered.

So how do we find hope when the expectations have not come through? When what we were promised has not happened?

Simple, yet tough.

Stop looking at the outcomes. Results don’t always describe the journey’s intention.

We are living in the hyphen years, that space on gravestones between birth date and death. We cannot know the impact of the hyphen until eternity.

When we meet those we never knew. Perhaps a reader who found a particular blog post or book we wrote impactful. Maybe another person in despair who saw our smile and decided to live another day.

Perhaps that great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) who watched us live and learn, grow and fail. They cheered us on. Their whispers merely a nudge in our souls.

Since we cannot know our true impact, we can only trust Abba God for the results. Even when the outcomes look so different from what we expected.

When the answers are not what we want to hear. When life does not match up with our expectations. When we tend to focus on what did NOT happen. When we live in the gloom of unanswered prayers.

That is when we must trust hard. To focus instead on the Who rather than the What.

The Who that says:

  • I AM with you, no matter what the circumstances.
  • I AM stronger than the pain of what is happening right now.
  • I AM helping you through this mess, one day, one moment at a time.
  • I AM going to meet every need. Just wait for me.
  • I AM still loving you. Nothing will ever stop my loving you.
  • I AM your ally, the one who will defend you to the end.
  • I AM.

So when the days seem longer than 24 hours, when the expectations fizzle, keep holding on to hope. Check out this video for a dash of strength. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-HIKxnSZSA

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For a few moments of hope, check out my newest e-book Finding Hope When Life Unravels.

Hope Embraces Self-care

A national magazine asked me to write an article about becoming emotionally overwhelmed. So I hammered out 1600+ words. Yet, even as I wrote, another reminder of self-care affected my thought processes.

It has taken me so many years to believe and write this truth. But one purpose of a blog is to be forthright and honest, even vulnerable. So here goes my truth:

Self-Care is a valid spiritual discipline.

Many of us have been taught — dare I say “programmed” — to believe that any type of self-care is selfish, prideful, a sin. Taking care of ourselves feels somehow “less than.”

We believe if we completely wear out for Jesus, we are more spiritual and worthy of heavenly treasures. If we are utterly exhausted, we have completed our earthly journey and won the reward of the faithful.

Yet Jesus taught us to love others as we love ourselves. We cannot truly love others until we have learned how to love and care for ourselves.

And we cannot truly love ourselves until we search under the detritus of other-care to find our lonely souls.

But we are afraid of doing the wrong thing. So we live like the walking wounded, zombie-like versions of who God created us to be. We do for others all the time, sign up to volunteer at various places b/c they have needs and we think we must meet those needs.

Then we wake up one day, completely overwhelmed from bearing the burdens of everyone else and ignoring our own needs.

But Abba God has never asked us to kill ourselves, even for the emotional health of others.

My therapist once complimented me on some choices I made. To replace some old towels with new ones in the lovely colors I enjoy. To schedule a mani/pedi for myself on Valentine’s Day. Just because.

“Both of those decisions are self-care,” she said.

I did not even realize I was taking care of myself. But when I stepped back and saw the basis of these choices as self-care, they felt good. No condemnation. No drama and no guilt.

The beginnings of self-care happen by setting healthy boundaries, by daring to take care of ourselves and saying, “No” to anything that tries to break through those boundaries.

The first boundary is skin. Protecting our physical bodies is the first line of defense. Anything or anyone who violates that boundary is unsafe.

The second boundary is time. This area is where so many of us who have ministered to others fail. We make ourselves available 24/7, refuse to take breaks or even the PTO the job offers so that we can help meet the needs of hurting others.

We don’t see how we are actually harming ourselves.

The third boundary is more subtle, the area we bury until one day we wake up and realize we have lost our true destiny. This boundary is the soul. We ignore soul-care, letting time and other needs dominate.

But the soul is the basis of who we are. We cannot grow without its strengthening. We cannot truly be ourselves without listening to its needs.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way underscores the importance of artist dates. To go somewhere by yourself and for yourself. Not to do anything for anyone else or meet some sort of deadline. But just to be and enjoy the beauty of art around you.

A walk through the arboretum – not during this cold snap of course – but later in the calendar. Browsing through fuzzy yarns and fun crafts at Hobby Lobby. Maybe a late-night or early-morning ice cream run. I can vouch for the Queen of Hearts flavor at Sylas & Maddy’s.

One of my clients introduced me to the coffee shop and serenity of Family Tree Nursery. During Christmas, their trees were so lovely. I plan to go back for some writing time. Or maybe to dream about my spring garden plans. Or maybe just to sip a chai and take care of my soul-self.

I am putting together a list of things I want for myself in these late-in-life days, how I can spend my time just enjoying the moments and being myself, where I can rediscover the root of my dreams.

If that sounds selfish, well — I don’t care. Don’t judge me. I have spent a lifetime in ministry helping others. It is okay to now help myself.

The definition of grace deletes the need for excess works to please God. Grace means accepting his love for me, then recycling that love into a deeper understanding of who I am. Once I am free from the legalism of having to do, I can then truly love others where they are and for who they are.

It is time to learn more about loving myself and find hope in the process. Perhaps you can comment on how you are doing the same.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my newest e-book: Finding Hope When Life Unravels.

Hope-filled Skies

What is it about winter that creates such amazing sun events?

A recent sunrise awed and humbled me as I watched at my kitchen window. What began as a few orange feathers soon turned into a mosaic of turquoise and terra cotta.

Then the sky danced. Ripples of wavy color expanded across the early Saturday palette. Like the fingers of God caressing his canvas with each change of color and texture.

Tears rivered down my cheeks as I imagined the Great Artist fashioning each moment just for me. Oh sure — other people around the world also observed this particular sunrise.

But it felt as if God and I communed on a new level. He showed off, and I gladly received his shameless promotion.

Then it was done as the sky became its usual wintry blue with only a hint of what had been so bold before.

But I was changed — ready to begin the day with words, to coach clients and edit books, to fashion my own plots with more intentional urgency. To write while there is time.

Nothing however compares to the sunset I experienced in Santa Fe.

A new friend and I walked in her subdivision, flanked by the Sangre de Cristo and Sandia mountain ranges. A comfortable September evening wrapped its early autumn calm around us as we chatted.

Then the sunset began — ribbons of color that felt familiar yet unique. An immediate underscoring of why Santa Fe is known for its sunsets.

We paused for a while and watched it expand across the desert landscape, cacti thorny arms reaching upward.

Then twilight began with its dark blue and twinkles of stars to come. We turned around, satisfied with the evening show and ready to finish the day.

But as we circled toward my friend’s house, another sunset formed. It interrupted the night sky with even more vibrant colors of intense light. Cerulean blues surrounded by beams of yellow trimmed in shimmering white.

A double sunset in one evening. Definitely a Santa Fe artistic moment.

I think of that sunset often, especially when I feel homesick for Santa Fe. The surprise and delight coupled with our worshipful “Ah-h-hs” as we expressed our praise of God’s handiwork.

Someday in eternity, I want Abba Father to show me how he makes such beauty. Each morning and evening a new mercy of his artful faithfulness.

I want him to teach me how to paint such brilliance in the sky, then sit back and whisper, “It is good.”

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For winter reading, check out my Amazon Author Page.

How to Find Hope in February

The month of February has always been difficult for me. Usually, the cold and flu bugs continue their romp so the air is filled with germy spores. This year, we are still in the grip of the insidious COVID-19 pandemic.

February’s weather is too cold for leisurely walks, and the ground too frozen for gardens. In spite of the lovely blend of red, pink and white on store shelves signaling the return of Valentine’s Day — February feels bland.

It’s the shortest month yet somehow feels longest.

So how can we find hope in this second month of the year?

Count the Days. How many days until spring? Or how many days until March which feels like spring even as it roars in like a lion. Somehow, just keeping a tab of the days helps us realize we are making progress toward a brighter month.

Do Something Wonderful. February is a great month to plan a getaway somewhere warm or even a visit to family you missed seeing at Christmas. Investigate a local museum, but check first to find out if they’re open in this time of COVID.

Schedule a day of joy in your area. Take an artist’s date as outlined in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Looking forward to an event helps pass the time.

Help Another Soul. As we do something nice for someone else, we focus less on ourselves. Stretch your creative muscles and think of ways to meet the needs of another person.

Make a beef stew for someone who is sick. Take flowers to a widow or a single mom. Make your own valentines and send them to someone who is discouraged or needs to know they are loved.

Get outside yourself and share hope with someone else.

Find New Ways to Share Love. February 14th is the day for expressing our feelings to loved ones. But what if we think outside the box?

Take the whole family and serve soup to the homeless. Make valentines to share with the lonely folks at a nursing home. Give a generous tip to the person behind the counter who serves you. Volunteer at a nonprofit.

Love Yourself. Most of us are willing to help others when we know the need. But sometimes we forget to love ourselves.

Make February your month to begin a new novel — either reading a bestseller or writing one or both. Schedule a mani/pedi to clean the sludge off winter feet.

Reserve one day/week for play and rest. Let a massage therapist work all the January kinks out of you. Forget the rest of the world and enjoy being with yourself.

Embrace the Special Days of February. Do a search for the National Days in February. On those days, follow the prompts for fun activities. Enjoy the variety of each day and the emphasis it brings to your life.

Make Plans for Spring. Forget the rest of the world and enjoy being with yourself. Order from a seed catalog and plan your garden. Think about a new paint color for your office or bedroom. Tape the paint chip to the wall and live with it for a while.

Join an online group and meet new people. Order a brochure for summer vacation and post it near your calendar. Enjoy thinking about what you will do when COVID is over.

Change One Thing. Most of us cannot make a major life change during February, nor do we want to. But changing just ONE thing can lift us above the February blahs.

For example: the curtains in my bedroom were 12 years old and beginning to fade. I found new ones on sale and replaced them. Just that one change brightened my bedroom and boosted my spirits.

What ONE thing can you change to make a difference in your February outlook?

As we initiate some of these ideas, we can live through February with a lighter spirit and a greater sense of hope. Then the winter won’t seem so long. We can look forward to those warmer breezes and sunlit days to come.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my Amazon Author Page for some February reading ideas.  

Hope Finds a January Purpose

Although I did not send the usual number of Christmas cards this year, I did receive several beautiful greetings from many of you. Thank you!

So … what to do with Christmas cards after the eggnog has soured and the poinsettia is dead? Just pitch the cards while cleaning up all the decorations and torn wrappings? No way.

Sometimes I frame cards. One example hangs in my office – a reminder to stay in JOY all through the year.

Use cards to decorate the house next year? Yes.

One particular card declares “Noel” on my kitchen table. I hate to pack it away. Maybe I’ll leave it up through February. It is, after all, a deep red color.

For several years, I used the front cover of Christmas cards as gift tags for the next year. Using a plain brown wrapping with a colorful card was fun and lovely.

But for the last few years, I have enacted a special routine after the holidays. I set my basket of cards on the kitchen table, next to my Bible and a candle. This is my sacred place for meditation, reading and prayer each morning.

Every day when I meet with God, I choose one of the cards and read again the message written inside. Sometimes that includes letters from friends, family and clients. Then I pray for the person who sent the card.

I ask God to bless that person and her/his family during the coming new year — to fill them with hope and joy — to draw them closer to the loving heart of Abba.

If I know of a particular need, I pray for that. Keep them safe, especially this year with COVID-19 still raging, racial injustice still prevalent and political turmoil underscored. Provide for them what they need — a warm and safe home, food every day, enough love to keep them in abundant joy.

This year, I know of many people who are grieving: Oh, sweet Spirit — send them a special touch of comfort. A flash of crimson cardinal that decorates a bleak winter tree, a treasured grandchild with a kiss still sticky from leftover candy canes, a beautiful song that reminds them of their loved one. You know what to do, God. You know the desires of all hearts. Comfort those who need to know you’re close.

Praying through my cards helps Christmas last a little longer and reminds me of all the friends and loved ones who took the time to send me a holiday message.

I feel a bit more loved.

It reminds me how we are connected — through the DNA of family members, through experiences we have shared, through the beauty and power of words, through the bloodline of that baby in the manger who became the Savior on the cross.

Christmas is about more than decorations and presents. And the weeks after Christmas are about more than cleaning up, starting a diet, cashing in gift cards or going back to work.  

Hope travels from one season to the next, especially when it is tethered by praying over my Christmas cards.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

How about starting off the New Year with a brand new book? The Invisible Women of Genesis is available on Amazon.  

Hope in One Simple Thing

As a life coach in a nonprofit for women, I often suggested an action step to help my clients move toward hope.

The same idea can work for anyone — any time.

When life unravels, whether through a personal tragedy or an unexpected circumstance — just do one simple thing.

Do you find joy in the purchase of a new book? Then browse through a bookstore or online. Find a book that interests you and buy it. Or check out your local library and save some bucks.

Do this one simple thing.

Does nature help you cultivate peace? Get outside. Bundle up and take a walk. Drive to a park or jog on one of the local trails. Open your door and step outside for a brief moment of fresh air. Inhale deeply.

Do this one simple thing.

Do animals remind you of God’s creativity? Go to a shelter and adopt a pet. Or feed the feral cats in your neighborhood.

The ferals in my cul-de-sac are fat and happy, because many of us have added food bowls to our porch décor.

If you can’t have an animal, volunteer at a shelter or buy a puppy calendar. Watch The Incredible Dr. Pol for an evening of fun TV.

Do this one simple thing.

What about a creative project? One of my clients painted her bathroom a new color and found some wall décor at Savers.

Maybe it’s time to begin a painting project or a needle craft with fuzzy yarn or write that memoir you’ve been wanting to start.

Do this one simple thing.

Rearrange the furniture. Replace that yucky carpet you hate. Sit down and watch a movie. Some of my favorites for escape include Serendipity, Follow the Stars Home and The Martian Child.

Declutter your office. Clean out your closets and give away barely used clothes. Do something nice for another soul.

Whatever you choose to do, get away from your problems and concentrate on the positive.

Just do one simple thing and move toward hope.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

How can you begin a new year by setting and reaching goals. Check out this resource.

Hope in One-Word Prayers

Hope sometimes hides in simple places, often in one-word prayers.

The prayer life can be taught by spiritual advisors and multiple resources, but I think God most appreciates our prayers when they come from the desperate places of our hearts.

One-word prayers exist in that place where self-sufficiency ends. The gut punch past emotion and any reasoning ability.

My one-word prayers come when I have nothing left — when I’ve exhausted all my personal resources and my attempts to fix the problem.

When all I have left is a plea to Abba Father.

Please. After my first two babies died on their birthdates, getting pregnant again seemed daunting and simply frightening. I could not emotionally lose another child.

So when the pregnancy test read positive, I had only one word for God: “Please.”

As I lay in bed for six months, hoping to keep my child, I repeatedly begged God, “Please.” That baby, my Caleb, was born healthy and screaming a voluminous God-type answer.

But in his 21st year, a massive brain tumor almost took him away. Again, all I could manage on my knees in the ICU was another, “Please.”

God does not always answer these prayers in the affirmative, but this time — he said, “Yes.” My son is now cancer free, 14 years later.

Why. This one-word prayer is rarely answered. God does not have to justify his actions or what he allows. His job description as supreme authority is clear.

But we still ask the question. Most of us have asked “Why?” during 2020. Why this pandemic, this horrific loss of life, jobs, businesses, conferences, travel? No answer.

As my mother lives within the shadows of Alzheimer’s, I have asked, “Why?” In 2020, she fell and broke the same hip twice. She tested positive for COVID. Three times, I pulled out my little black dress and emotionally prepared to drive to her funeral.

But Mom survived to continue in the shadows, oblivious of any family or friends. Why? When she wants to be in heaven. What is the purpose?

I do not know, cannot comprehend the Why. But this one-word prayer often returns.

When. God is transcendent. He exists outside time and space. He does not wear a watch or schedule his day on a cell phone. Eternity and its Maker are timeless.

Yet we exist within the boundaries of twenty-four hours and a yearly calendar. We want to know when God’s promises to us will happen. We need to make plans, be prepared and look the part.

We need something to look forward to.

My vision journal is filled with promises God made to me. My Bible has years marked beside verses God underscored. Yet many of these promises have not occurred. When, God? When?

No answer … yet.

Although one-word prayers come from a deep place of need, they do have a positive spin.

We may feel frustrated by incomplete answers, but these desperate prayers prove our faith. They remind us we have somewhere to go with our Please, Why and When.

They prove we believe in God’s existence even when we cannot explain his ways.

A final one-word prayer is the one I cry when I cannot even imagine another word. It is the place I have gone multiple times throughout life.

And I imagine life will throw other scenarios in my direction where this one-word encapsulates the cry of my heart.

It ignores the Why, because at the point when my tears cannot release, my voice is raw and my mind will not wrap itself around the grief — I don’t care why.

It forgets about When, because that moment represents my exact need. There is no thought of another time.

Yet this word holds a Please with every breath.

This one-word prayer includes every plea ever spoken and reverberates through my universe. It is the word that holds my heart and keeps my life somewhat steady — even in the chaos.

Jesus. The name above all names. The answer to every heart’s cry.

The one-word prayer that echoes with hope.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more posts about the faith walk and prayer, check out Uploading Faith. My Caleb and I wrote it together.

Hope in New Calendars

New calendars represent the epitome of hope. With their blank pages and colorful textures, they invite us to dare — to risk planning something good.

For me, calendar shopping is a rite of passage. The old year has ended. Forget mistakes made and any self-condemnation fostered by regret. New calendars signal it is now time to start over.

Instant grace.

Since I am a paper person, my calendars must satisfy my need for color and texture. The main planner I use provides a yearly refill, available only at Office Max.

Sure, I could order it online but it’s more fun to walk through the store, dream about the desk I want, pick up my calendar refill and sometimes — find a bargain on the Clearance aisle.

The leather binder provides a sturdy reminder as I fill it with the new pages. Be strong and courageous in this new year. Plan good things. Provide encouragement and accountability for my clients. Stay in hope.

This main calendar planner contains my life. Birthdays and anniversaries noted. Holidays circled. Shopping lists and doctors’ appointments scheduled a year in advance.

During one move across the state, I thought I had lost my planner. I nearly perished from anxiety. Fortunately, a friend found it. My heart beat again.

The largest calendar is always a LANG version. I love these calendars, because they are art on the wall. Each month is a lovely surprise of heart and home, country décor and lots of flowers.

Like Monet, I believe “We must always have flowers.”

My giant LANG calendar wears clean pages as I do not write on it. The art on my wall cheers me without notations of what I must do. Rather, it is a reminder to stop for a moment, breathe and enjoy the show.

Last year, I noticed a door chart used by a Zoom presenter. What a great idea — something on the blank door to remind me of deadlines.

So I found one on Amazon, only 10 bucks, complete with the markers and erasers. When each quarter is over, I simply erase the marks and move on to the next quarter.

My final calendar sits on my desk near the mouse pad. It contains my list for each day. When I turn on my office lights and settle in, this calendar reminds me what to do.

At the end of each week, I look at the items without checkmarks and move them to the next week. Such a great way to avoid the self-sabotage of procrastination.

This calendar is also colorful with positive affirmations and famous quotes. I find it each year at Half Price Books — another great place for writers to browse.

You can tell I am a list maker, and I thrive on scheduled routines. While my calendars remind me of work to do and projects to complete, they also cheer me with their colors and quirky sayings.

And when I make those checkmarks beside each entry, I feel a sense of accomplishment. Then I turn off the office lights, go take a walk and look forward to the next day’s hope.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Why not start out the new year with essays about hope? Check out Hope Shines, available in print, e-book and large print.

Hope and the Passing of Time

The days are long but the years are short.”

According to Google — that great know-it-all in cyberspace, Gretchen Rubin is the author of the above quote. It perfectly describes how it feels to jump into a new year.  https://gretchenrubin.com/

I wonder if Rubin is a harried mom who feels as if she is working a 30 hour-day yet somehow, her sweet babies grow faster every year.

From my perspective, as a mom with a grown son, I can attest to the truth of Rubin’s quote. It seems truly impossible that my baby boy is now an incredible grown man.

But reality proves it to be true.

What this quote underscores is the importance of living each day to its fullest, giving to others and saving some joy for ourselves. Because soon we will be looking back on this particular day, this harried year, hoping we lived it well.

As we begin a new year, how can we determine to make each long day matter most?

Remember People are Important. Being kind to others and helping the needy keeps us focused on the importance of other human beings.

The book of Proverbs reminds us to “Defend those who cannot help themselves. Speak up for the poor and needy and see that they get justice” (Proverbs 31:9 TLB).

Begin each day with the determination to be aware of other people. Smile. Speak kind words. Encourage others on their journey through life.

Kindness does not cost you anything, but it is priceless to those who receive it.

Search for Joy. What is it that fills your heart with the warmth of joy? Do more of it.

Take photos of nature, pets and family. Paint a sunset. Restore an old bookcase. Write your memoir. Sing your favorite song.

Each of us is equipped with the capacity to receive and share joy. So make joy a priority every day and do something — at least once / week – that nurtures your inner spirit.

Stay in Hope. We are living in a negative world with multiple problems everywhere. Keep a positive outlook that finds something to be grateful for and focuses on something good.

Let your “What if” statements end in positives rather than the gloom of negative thinking. Instead of “What if the stock market keeps bouncing until it no longer has any dribble left?” Try this, “What if everything evens out and Congress learns how to work together?”

A Bible verse I like to repeat is Psalm 43:5, “Stay in hope for I will yet praise God.”

Living in the “yet” helps me think about hope, move toward my dreams and focus on a positive outcome.

So let’s approach 2021 with the reality of knowing we will soon face the end of another year. With the awareness of how we can help others, with a heart filled with joy and a mindset of hope we can make this year the best possible.

Will you join me?

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Begin the year with a hope-filled outlook. Check out Hope Shines, in regular and large print.  http://amzn.to/2j2fneR

Grieving During the Holidays

The colorful lights, packages wrapped with beautiful bows, Santa’s lap filled with happy children, the music of the season: all these joys spell Christmas.

But what if you are smack in the middle of grief this December? What if some of the joy is colored by sadness?

Over a quarter of a million families will be missing someone this Christmas, due to how COVID has decimated our lives. Numerous other families had to bury Mom or Dad, sister or brother, a best friend or a spouse.

How do we find hope when the holidays offer a raw stab of grief?

Three possibilities float to the surface:

Keep the Traditions. Did Mom make a certain type of pie or a specialty casserole? Bake it yourself and remember what a great cook she was.

Did Dad string the lights on the tree? As you string them alone this Christmas, remember how he made sure they were evenly distributed — how they reflected love throughout the room.

Did the family always meet at Grandma’s house, but now Grandma isn’t there and the house has been sold? Meet where you can and talk about Christmases past. Show pictures to the grandchildren. Keep the memories of Christmas alive.

Each family makes their own traditions. One of my favorites was shopping with my friend, Deb. That event does not happen anymore. Even after three years of grief, I feel the loss so deeply.

But I cannot find hope if I only remember what once was.

Instead, I’ll remember Deb and find a day to shop alone, start with our favorite chai tea and tell her about my purchases. Give the gift I planned for her to a single mom who needs encouragement. Remember the fun of shopping together and toast her with some egg nog.

Fill the Empty Chair. Nothing is more discouraging than that empty chair beside the table. It’s a reminder of loss — a visual of who is missing.

Instead of staring at the emptiness, fill the chair with another person:

  • An international student who cannot fly hundreds of miles to be home for the holidays
  • A single mom who is bereft of her children because it’s his turn to share them with his family
  • A homeless person who longs to feel the warmth of a home and experience a full belly
  • A young parolee who needs to understand how grace means second chances
  • A frontline worker who is too exhausted to cook a meal
  • Anyone you know who might be alone

As we fill the empty chair with another living being, it reminds us life DOES move forward. We don’t have to remain stuck within the grief of Christmas past.

Give Thanks for Memories. We shared many holidays with that special person. We still have some of the gift s/he gave us. Wear that sweater she knitted just for you. Dab on that perfume he gave you. Clasp the necklace or play the CD.

Revel in those precious reminders and give thanks. That person represents a unique place in your journey: spouse, parent, sibling, friend. No one can ever replace her or him.

Share your favorite holiday memories around the table. The stories will help that person seem alive again. When Deb enjoyed her food, she always said, “Uhm, uhm” between bites. I cannot eat guacamole without hearing her soprano gratitude.

Although this holiday may seem especially empty for you and the grief even more fresh — keep the traditions, fill the empty chair and give thanks for the memories.

Then remember your loved one is celebrating Christmas in heaven and probably thinking about you.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Soothe some of your raw grief with a book about hope. Hope Shines is available on Amazon in print, Kindle and Large Print.

Hope Keeps Christmas Simple

Because life is easier when simple, I have decided to merge that principle into my holiday celebrations. What used to be a November and December filled with activities and the traditional holiday set-ups, I have now prefaced with the following questions:

  • How can I simplify the holidays?
  • What gives me the most joy about Thanksgiving and Christmas?
  • What changes do I need to make that keep the spirit of the season yet make life easier?

Christmas Cards

Although I love to send and receive greeting cards throughout the year, the business of addressing and mailing Christmas cards to my entire address list has become overkill. I hereby determine to simplify the process.

I still believe all these people are important in my life, yet I am setting a card boundary. This year, I will save time, money and energy on Christmas cards. Please do not be offended if you are deleted. Consider this your greeting: Merry Christmas!

Holiday Treats

In the past, I have baked and frosted, wrapped and packaged treats for my neighbors, the postman, people at work and anyone else in my life who did not receive a store-bought gift. This year will be different.

The temptation of cookie dough in my large pottery bowl and the smell of rising breads no longer attract me. This year, my kitchen table will NOT be spread with powdered sugar treats fondly called People Puppy Chow. My body will thank me, because I am always tempted to eat half of them.

I vow to protect my heart, my brain and my arteries from excess powdered sugar. So I am setting a culinary boundary.

Holiday Decorations

Throughout the years, my house has often sported decorations in every room. Walking through Pier One, Hallmark stores or Kirkland during this time of the year gives me great joy.

But since a stager opened my eyes to a more simplified décor, I have decided to change my holiday habits. And with COVID on everyone’s mind, I’m staying out of many stores.

Compared to other years, the mantel will seem sparse. My theme is pine cones which remind me of the New Mexico mountains. Simple yet beautiful – a display of God’s creation accented with little pearl lights.

Many former decorations, I will give away. It feels good to share the beauty of my past with someone else. My little tree with its tiny pre-lit globes still works. No need to buy the newer versions. And I hang a simplified number of ornaments that keep the pine cone theme yet add a bit of sparkle.

A simpler Christmas helps me focus more on the meaning of the holiday rather than the trappings of it. The joy of Christmas-giving still belongs with the young, so I have fun planning gifts for my son and his fiancé. The rest of the family already has their gifts — shipped early to avoid the rush.

The holiday surprise of 2020 is the joy of simplification. More room on my storage shelves with less stuff to store. More space in each room. More things to give away and share with someone else.

When I surround myself ONLY with the things that bring me joy, the essential leftovers offer pleasure. And in the choice to simplify my holidays, hope marches into the new year.

A toast of eggnog to all my followers. Enjoy your version of the holidays and let me know in the comments how you will celebrate.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

If you’d like to share a Christmas gift with me, check out my Author Page on Amazon. The purchase of a book or a written review is always acceptable. 

Hope When Christmas Changes

Throughout our city, wherever we traveled, we heard it.

In grocery stores, libraries, Target and Wal-Mart – even during church services where it occurred in stereo sound – one person in the aisle echoed by someone across the room.

The Great Cough of 2016.

In spite of vitamins, clean eating and daily spraying through the house with Lysol, my son and I both caught the Great Cough aka the Christmas bug.

With all our plans for the holidays suddenly deleted, we dragged our pitiful selves to our respective recliners. The cat glanced back and forth as we coughed, trying to rid our bodies of what the doctors called “Upper Respiratory Infection.”

Christmas plans immediately changed. None of our usual holiday foods. I wasn’t cooking anything except chicken soup. Unwrapped presents waited in Amazon boxes. Worse, we were not able to spend Christmas with the family in Oklahoma. We didn’t want to infect the entire clan, and truthfully – they didn’t want us within breathing distance. Why take our germs across the state line to risk the health of the entire family?

This was the first year since I served as a missionary in Honduras that I did not see my mother for Christmas.

We found an Urgent Care facility open on a Sunday. Bless the hearts of that medical staff ! We armed ourselves with legal drugs. Thank you to the hard-working people at CVS. Fully medicated, we each returned to bed and slept late — when the coughing didn’t wake us up.

But Christmas happened in spite of illness. A few days later, my son’s girlfriend and her family invited us for a delicious meal and an evening of fun. We played table games, wearing hygienic gloves, trying not to cough on anyone.

The next day, we piled cough drops into my purse and escaped the sick house for a movie. I highly recommend “Collateral Beauty” with Will Smith’s poignant performance of a man dealing with intense grief. The twist at the end gave us plenty of conversation starters as we managed an evening breakfast at IHOP.

Then we collapsed in our recliners again. Still coughing, but finding some joy in Christmas shows. The Grinch tried to steal Christmas from Cindy Lou Who while George Bailey learned how he lived a wonderful life.

Our Christmas may have looked different and not what we planned but we survived it. The promised Messiah still came. The beauty of Luke chapter two remained solid and the twinkle lights on our tree reflected a glowing  angel at the top.

Hope survived our Christmas changes as gradual healing brought us upright to face a new year. The Great Cough of 2016 did not win, because Christmas is not about food, health, presents or travel.

During 2020, we are again faced with changes at Christmas. Instead of the cough, we have the ever-present and more lethal threat of COVID-19. Yet in spite of masks, social distancing and hygienic wipes — we can still celebrate this beautiful season.

Because the truth of Christmas isn’t about plates filled with ham and scalloped potatoes, opened presents with wrappings all over the floor or even the presence of warm bodies in the room.

Christmas incorporates the beauty of music, joy, light and a Love that forever transforms lives. No matter how we celebrate the season, the root of its beginning cannot change.

And in that security, we find hope in the eternal promise – Immanuel – God is still with us.

© 2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved.

For a holiday gift you can give to a hard-working caregiver, consider Holiday Tips for Caregivers. Available on Amazon and Kindle. 

Hope Creates

When I first read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, an a-ha flashed. Through its pages I learned creativity is a gift, a blessing from the Creator to each of his beloved children.

The more I recognized my own gift of creativity, the more I began to nurture it. Artist dates, inspired by Julia, became a regular part of my week.

And I began to open my heart to the possibility of more creative endeavors.

This adventure enabled me to taste the freedom of inner discovery, to create new words and new worlds within a novel, to experiment with colors in my life, even within my home.

Allowing myself to open up to creative gifts also enriched my spiritual life. After all, the Creator started all this interest with his initial task, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

So when 2020 began to sap my energy, I knew it was time to fight this ravenous beast with another project.

But which one?

During an artist’s date, I browsed through Savers (a nonprofit that supports Big Brothers Big Sisters). Even within a pandemic, people drop off their junk which becomes someone’s treasure.

I found a perfect board, my color of turquoise, naked with possibilities. Reflection occupied a few weeks while Julia’s words cooked, “If we do have to deal with a force beyond ourselves that involves itself in our lives, then we may have to move into action.”

Action to defeat what 2020 was threatening to steal from me — my hope.

Since my platform reflects Hope, I wondered if I could find some interesting letters to post and make the word. A search through Hobby Lobby ended in the crimped barn tin that reminded me of our homestead on the farm.

The letters fit perfectly.

By this time, the project had pushed COVID and its treachery to the background. Now I was on a mission to find the rest of this creative puzzle.

Another coach who focuses on creativity, reminded me not to give too much power to COVID. “It’s only a circumstance in our world right now,” Jill wisely opined.

Another trip to Savers resulted in an unusual pin with feathers, yarn and bling. A perfect match.

Then I remembered a box of odds and ends I keep when jewelry falls apart, the boggles and beads that add texture to creative projects. They filled in the missing pieces for my HOPE design.

Theodore Roethke wrote, “In a dark time, the eye begins to see.”

The eye of my soul saw the initial blank canvas of a board, then imagined it as another reminder to push away from the COVID gloomies and stay in hope.

Now this completed creation holds a special place on my office wall. A bold statement filtered through the lens of some of my favorite things.

A piece of optimism in a discouraging time. A reminder that the Creator still creates within us and smiles at our attempts to search for joy.

What about you? Any creative projects just yearning to break free?

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Another creative project imagined the lives of women in scripture — those incredible ladies who were often ignored, unnamed and considered invisible. Yet God knew their stories. Check out The Invisible Women of Genesis.

Hope in the Treasures

A recent exercise in our Saturday Sisters group resulted in an a-ha moment. We were given a sheet of paper and asked to list our treasures.

This exercise was a different thought process than just listing what we’re grateful for. We all know how to answer several ways to say, “Thank you.”

But this was a deeper, more intimate grinding of thoughts. It forced us to that place within where the desires of our hearts somehow meet the destiny God has for each of us.

A treasure can exist within monetary value as in the movie National Treasure. But this type of treasure exists beyond the superficial counting of gold coins.

These are the treasures we cherish and hold close to our hearts — their value incalculable.

Some of the treasures I listed were:

  • My son, Caleb and his fiancé, Sarah
  • Creativity and the ability to create with words
  • Nature and being outdoors
  • Trips to Santa Fe and Taos
  • Music and how it takes me out of the ordinary world
  • The Five Senses and how they enrich my life
  • Pets and animals of all kind – except snakes and spiders
  • Watching Sports either on TV or in person
  • Lifelong friendships where people accept me for who I am
  • My fleece blanket
  • Family both near and far
  • The heritage of faith that has underscored much of my belief system
  • Reading books of all genres
  • Freedom  

My list of treasures could have continued for several pages. Perhaps I will begin a new journal that lists a different treasure each week.

Winter is not my favorite season, but the first snow each year becomes a treasure of beauty — a reminder that life has begun a new season. And gratitude that I have a roof over my head and a warm fleece blanket.

A verse in Psalms places its parentheses around my treasure list. “Find your delight in the Lord. Then he will give you everything your heart really wants” (Psalm 37:4 NIVr).

Everything my heart REALLY wants. So much of our wants are fleeting. We end up buying stuff, then selling it later or donating it to Goodwill. Half the packages under the Christmas tree will be returned or regifted to someone else.

But the time together as family, the process of giving and receiving, fellowship around the Christmas table, lights reflecting on the faces of our loved ones — those are treasures.

The things our hearts truly long for become the treasures that enrich our lives and end up giving us the most joy.

Perhaps a Thanksgiving exercise might be to list your treasures. To dig deep into what your heart truly delights in, what you would protect with your life, what you would grieve if it was taken away.

Then study your list of treasures to find hope on gloomy winter days. Like me, you’ll probably realize you possess many treasures that result in a full heart of gratitude.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For 2021, I have two openings for Coaching clients. If you want to learn more about the craft of writing or you have a book just burning to get out of your soul, check out my website for Coaching Services.

Hope on a Mission

Typically, my blog posts cover the topics of hope, caregiving or the writing craft. But 2020 has forced me into a more reflective and almost urgent mood.

For all of us, this year has been difficult. For those who have lost loved ones to COVID — tragic. The grief and certain PTSD will continue into the next years. Who knows what long-term effects we will suffer.

But even on the darkest days, hope has continued to sing. Good people have done good things. Creativity has thrived as new ventures, unusual business openings and neighborly deeds have encouraged us.

Image by Daniel Reche of Pixabay

Positive memes on Facebook. The gift of beauty encapsulated in music and the arts. So many people trying hard to create something good out of this chaos.

Imagine then what life would be like if all the good — every shred of it — was gone. No caring healthcare workers. No sweet lullabies at night. No kindness of any kind.

This horrific description foreshadows hell. The place of eternal torment will not have a speck of decency, no light or goodness in any form. Only the darkest, most tormenting creatures in a place completely devoid of anything or anyone good.

And no way of escape. Forever.

This tragic place does exist and will become the final destination for people who ignore God’s plea. But it doesn’t have to end that way.

“Let me love you,” God cries. “Let me save you.”

Eventually, we will all die. We will face the consequences of our choices and step into eternity. We will meet God.

For those who have ignored him throughout life, the problems of 2020 will seem mild compared to a forever without any of God’s beauty, goodness or love.

Those who have embraced and accepted God’s offer of love will be invited into the most glorious place — far away from hell or any of its evil. No COVID. No sickness of any kind. No despair. No loneliness.

Only light and love and goodness. Forever.

We cannot always choose what happens to us. But we CAN choose the final direction we will go.

God has not abandoned us during this pandemic. He is still calling out, wanting to save us. He does not want anyone to suffer the horrid effects of hell.

He wants to pour hope into our hearts and give us something to look forward to.

God gave us the formula long ago. One word. Believe.

To open our minds and heart to the possibility that something better exists. But God’s better world is filled only with holiness — a sacred place of perfection.

God knew none of us would be perfect yet his home — his heaven — is populated only with goodness and perfection.

How in the world can we get there?

God sent the best representative possible — his son. Jesus lived a perfect life, so God allowed him to become our substitute. He paid the penalty for all the wrong things we have done and all the ways we have ignored God.

Jesus already did the hard work. That’s why he said, “It is finished.” He gives us the ticket for entrance into heaven.

Now all we have to do is believe it. If we accept this truth and believe it, then Jesus begins a personal relationship with us. We become children of God. And as family members — we will spend our eternity with God in heaven.

It’s so easy. All you have to do is say something like, “I believe you love me, God. Thank you for sending Jesus to pay my ticket into heaven. I’m sorry I’ve ignored you in the past, but now I want to be in your family.”

If you really mean it, then it is finished. You will not have to worry about a hell worse than 2020. You will have something much better to look forward to.

Please think about it. Time is short. I hope you’ll be with me in heaven.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

If you want to learn more about this topic, check out Uploading Faith. A Millennial and a Baby Boomer wrote it together — my son and me.

7 Holiday Tips for Caregivers

DISCLAIMER: Because COVID-19 has changed the scenario in many assisted living facilities, some of these tips will need to be modified.

The calendar reminds us how deep we are into the holiday season. Our waistlines expand while the stresses of family dynamics emotionally stretch us.

As much as we enjoy the family time, the abundance of good food and the reminders to be grateful — we also need to remember how stressful this time can be for someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

How can we best help our loved ones survive the holidays? How can caregivers find some joy during this stressful time?

Trim the Food Responsibilities. One year into her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Mom tried to figure out a recipe. She wanted to feel part of the festivities but even finding pots and pans proved to be difficult.

As we watched her struggle, worry about the cost of groceries and wonder if she had made her salad — hundreds of times — we realized it was time to stop expecting Mom to cook.

Even if your loved one has a favorite recipe, relieve her of the stress of making it. Give her a simple task and make it together.

Plan Ahead for Shopping. Be prepared with a list and know the easiest way to get in and out of the stores. Forget about Black Friday shopping — too many people, too much noise and parking places are limited.

Be patient. Take plenty of time and be prepared to answer many questions. If possible, buy everything in one store. Then go home.

Better yet, sit down with a laptop and show your loved one the pictures. Then order everything online.

Include Favorite Foods. Even though her appetite has changed, Mom still wants pecan pie. One of my holiday duties includes buying a pecan pie for Mom. I recommend the frozen variety. No fuss.

When we walk into the farm kitchen, Mom always eyes the dessert table. She may not say anything, but I know what she’s looking for. “I brought your pecan pie, Mom, and the first piece goes to you.” Then I dress it with a generous dollop of whipped topping.

Every year, Mom replies, “I DO love pecan pie.” Someday even this sentiment will disappear. Enjoy blessing your loved ones with their favorite foods.

Plan an Activity Together. Although sending Christmas cards is becoming one of those forgotten traditions, my mother’s demographic still considers it a holiday courtesy. She loves receiving her cards.

Remind your loved one who the senders are or tell a favorite story about the person behind the return address.

Be prepared to look at the cards several times during the holidays and tell the same stories. This repetition is part of the Alzheimer’s process. Someday you’ll be glad you took the time to do this simple task.

Be Careful About Timing. If you check your loved one out of assisted living for the day, check back in before dark. As the sun sets, Alzheimer’s patients often experience Sundowner’s Syndrome. They may pace, say the same words over and over and exhibit anxiety.

They feel safer in their rooms before dark, so time your meals and activities accordingly.

Travel is NOT for Everyone. Although we all want to be together during the holidays, travel out of the comfort zones is difficult for the Alzheimer’s patient: several hours cramped in a car or a plane, strangers, noise, unfamiliar surroundings, different types of foods and smells.

It makes more sense to hire a caregiver and let your loved one stay home while you join the rest of the family.

Avoid the false guilt that says you cannot leave for a day or two. Yes, you can. Taking care of yourself is one of the best ways to make it through the marathon of caregiving.

Take a break and be with your family.

Gift-giving. None of us needs more stuff, least of all — the Alzheimer’s patient. Keep the gift-giving simple.

Try these suggestions: a stuffed animal, a baby doll (especially for the women), a pretty picture for the room, a picture of family members with their childhood photos inserted next to the adult photo, a favorite piece of candy, a comfortable sweater.

Be aware that some gifts may disappear. Mom constantly loses things. Last year, I bought her new sheets for her bed. Then I put them on for her. No chance to lose them.

One gift that always works is spending time with your loved one, a hug and a kiss, a “Merry Christmas. I love you.”

Do it while you can.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For a more substantial list of helpful tips, check out Holiday Tips for Caregivers, available on Amazon and Kindle.  

When Hope Meets the Children

During this year of COVID, it may seem odd to cheer for a pregnancy. In fact, when I heard about the youngers in my family planning for babies, I wondered Really? Now?

Who would plan for a pregnancy, for a hospital stay with possible complications, for a new babe during a time with multiple COVID exposures?

Image by Prawny of Pixbay

Who would do such a thing? People staying in hope, that’s who.

During late 2019 and mid-2020, our family has added two new babies to the growing great-grandchildren pod. We now have two boys and two girls.

Even though the matriarch of the family has no recollection of these youngers, the rest of us do.

With the girl grands, we follow their ballgames and cheer for their teams. Support them in science and math contests. Give them creative gifts for Christmas.

Both girls carry so much promise, approaching puberty and beginning to plan out their adult lives.

I pray for them every night — safety from COVID, the fulfillment of their dreams, protection from any kind of abuse, self-confidence and enough gutsy strength to stay focused on their goals — to ignore the whine of peer groups.

The baby boys — one five months, one almost a year — are a delight to watch as they discover their toys, learn how to use a spoon, reach for the cat with chubby baby fingers.

The online Family Album has given us front row seats to their progress and growth.

In their sweet faces, I see the possibility of early verbal skills, of an extrovert who screams with excitement when air planes pass over the house, of creative gifts sometimes hidden within my legacy yet emerging in this new generation.

And their very presence, their little lives, stir up the juices of hope.

These children and others may help us solve the climate change emergency. They may create a new pathway for a vaccine that halts the next pandemic. They may become bankers or teachers or musicians and impact the world.

They have already impacted me by their very existence.

So I am grateful to these young couples who dared to start a family in 2020. They saw the bloom of hope and marched forward to plant seeds of tomorrow-living.

I am grateful for the babies of this next generation and for the positive expectations they elicit — just by being here.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out more stories about hope in Hope Shines, available on Amazon and also in Large Print.

When Guilt Interrupts Hope

As difficult as it is to admit, the Alzheimer’s journey often involves a measure of guilt. Friends might try to soothe with platitudes, reminders that false guilt is not real. Nonetheless, the inner critic continues to scream, “You should have done more!”

During the years when Mom was in assisted living, it was easy to drive the 250 miles to her town and sit with her for a while.

At first, we took walks around the lake or up and down the halls. We sometimes shared a cup of coffee, talked about the grandkids or focused on happier memories.

Sometimes I watched the clock, waiting anxiously for the time I could escape — leave the facility and meet up with family for a nice dinner or browse through the mall and try to forget my mother sat alone in her room. Comforted myself with an empty purchase.

On some level, I knew those years and those visiting opportunities would someday end. But I never could have predicted the trauma of 2020, and what COVID-19 has stolen from us.

Visits in person are no longer possible. In fact, Mom has recently weathered a positive test for the virus. No symptoms. Her isolation now in the past.

This time.

But even window visits are few, only allowed when the authorities can set them up. And my travel for 250 miles is no longer easy or even possible as I’m dealing with my own health issues. A sprained hamstring that prevents travel for longer than an hour.

Now I remember back to those days that seemed so cavalier, sitting in the room with my mother, answering her repeated questions, giving her a hug and a quick “I love you” when I escaped.

I, blessed with the freedom to leave.

COVID has stolen the opportunity to keep the relationship alive even though Mom no longer knows who I am. I still know her, so I feel the guilt of leaving to continue my easy life — while she remained behind.

I have no idea when or if I will see my mother again. I can only hope that on some level she knows her family still cares for her.

So I pray for grace and transfer my need for hope to this woman who sits alone, unaware of COVID-19 or of another year that will soon end.

Then I remind myself not to give a pandemic too much power and instead — try to let go of the guilt.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

If your family is dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease, check out Holiday Tips for Caregivers.

When Hope Meets Up with Q4

We are moving toward the Christmas market and ready to leave the year behind. We have reached our annual goals or transferred them to the next year’s editorial calendar.

Image by Mariana Anatoneag

It’s easy to sit back, take stock of the year and start planning for Auld Lang Syne.

But 2020 has presented a special challenge — the need for daily monitoring and hope searching. We cannot truly relax because this horrid pandemic is still with us, taking lives and disrupting our culture.

It’s time to take a lesson from football.

Although every moment of a football game can be filled with excitement or the dread of rising penalties, it is the fourth quarter — the Q4 — that holds the most promise. Yet those last 15 minutes are when legs start to throb, arms ache and the multiple tackles begin to take their toll.

It takes more grit and strength, more energy and chugs of Gatorade to score in the fourth quarter, to come from behind and win.

This Q4 of 2020 will require even more courage as we begin the winter months. We’ll be cooped up with each other while snow whitens the landscape, washing our masks and wishing 2020 was a distant memory.

COVID-19 was supposed to be under control by now. The perfect vaccine a reality. The economy responding to opened businesses. Yeah, right.

Yet the news is often bleak, the numbers of dead rising and the need for extra strength more important than other quarters of this year.

How can we face this Q4 and make it to December 31?

Stock up on Resources. Not just TP, but also books and movies that enrich thoughts and build warm fuzzies. Find winter-based projects the entire family can enjoy together:

  • Start a puzzle
  • Try a new recipe
  • Write a poem
  • Do something creative
  • Watch the old sitcoms and laugh

Dig Deep. Find that courageous reserve that asks for extra grit to churn out the final seconds of Q4 2020. Fill your fridge magnets with positive quotes and affirmations. Memorize a hope-filled quote or scripture.

One of my favorites is Isaiah 43:2, “You will pass through deep waters, but God will be with you.”

Move Away from Yourself. Find a way to bless someone else: a greeting card, a bouquet of chocolate chip cookies, flowers left on the porch, a phone call, more chocolate.

How about this quote by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., “Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”

Even if we feel the opponent has won, Q4 isn’t over yet. We CAN finish well.

We can build up our hope by encouraging each other and cheering for one another until the final buzzer sounds. In the midst of this Q4, we can go for the win.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Many of the women in the Bible were invisible. Check out these 8 stories from The Invisible Women of Genesis.

Hope Watches the Autumn Dance

As I stood on my deck, a tree unloaded its entire leaf burden. It was as if God said, “It is now 3:24 on this date I created before the foundation of the world. Disengage.”

Photo by Hans Braxmeier – Pixabay

Within seconds, every leaf had let loose from its moorings. The tree stood naked in the autumn wind.

Since then, I have made more of an effort to watch how the autumn leaves fall. Some of them let loose to plummet quickly — as if they have given up on ever becoming anything more than a falling leaf.

Done. Hit the ground. Boom.

Other leaves are more graceful in their descent, twisting and turning as they spiral downward, then find a spot of still-green grass to slide to a landing.

But my favorites are the leaves that dance as if floating toward a purpose: the mulching of the ground, the photosynthesis of time.

These are the leaves that catch a final wisp of Kansas wind and turn upward for a moment, then pirouette in different directions, exposing their golden undersides to the rhythms of autumn.

These are the leaves that take my breath away as they meander across space and take their time letting gravity win.

The analogy of the autumn dance signals that even when nature introduces another winter, the rhythms of life continue.

Day and night. Seasons of life. Turn. Turn. Turn. Winter follows autumn but also promises spring.

I want to be most like the meandering leaves — to take my time enjoying the process of aging, the transitions of life that come to all of us.

Somehow I want to find the cadence of trust that allows my soul to float without worry, to sing in harmony with a greater purpose.

Maybe I can best mimic these graceful leaves by paying more attention to the way nature forms them — like veined boats that gather morning dew and shadow us during summer’s heat.

The reds, golds and oranges of the autumn dance remind me how God colors our world with various shades of skin. He reminds us all are beautiful — different yes, but glorious in our uniqueness.

Then just as God programs each tree in its autumn leaving, he also engages within the seasons of our lives.

He knows that exact moment when we will let go and dance toward a greater purpose, when the questions will be answered and the direction clear.

Gratefully, in his arms we will segue from dance to eternity. From hanging on to hope.

But unlike the leaves, we will fall upward.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

The above post has been a fan favorite, so I include it each year. For more of my writing and books, check out my Amazon Author page.

When Hope Finds Its True Color

My cyclamen bloomed a lovely fuchsia pink. But I bought it with the understanding that it would produce the dark eggplant purple color I love. What a disappointing surprise as the blossoms opened and showed off a deep pink.

Photo by Peter Kok – Pixabay

But a few days later, the blooms started changing. With time, the cyclamen blooms sported the purple I wanted. I just had to wait for the desired result while the plant morphed through its photosynthetic process.

The correct color was there all along, hidden behind the curtains of time. Only the passage of days would bring out the true richness I longed to see.

Isn’t that so like life?

We start a project, write a story or journal about a dream. Then the project becomes a tree house. The story evolves into a novel. The dream wraps around a destiny.

We share coffee with a friend which eventually grows a relationship that adds color and joy to our lives.

We say, “Yes” to Jesus and end up living a life abundant with more grace giftings than we ever thought possible.

One circumstance morphs into another, delighting us with the spontaneity of change and surprising us with the richness of the final result. Living within the surprises of life adds more fun than carefully structured days that grow old and boring in their regularity.

Perhaps we could also give permission for change to others — the opportunity to morph into a richer version of themselves — in time.

Wouldn’t that attitude change how we relate to our children when they seem stuck in the teen years? “Grow up!” we want to scream. But that is exactly what they are doing.

What if we give permission for change to those in authority over us — to the systems of our society stuck in transitional puzzles. It takes time for people and systems to learn how to change. As we morph into the people we long to be, we need to give daily grace.

What if we live in the joy of the surprise and truly learn that expectations do not always bring the best results.

As we gradually grow into hope and faith, we learn how to apply patience. We move into the next seasons of life and accept the things we cannot change.

If we could practice patience and apply grace to ourselves and others, within our world and its destinies — perhaps we could live better lives and embrace the hidden hope of each day.

The blatant ugliness recorded on social media proves nothing except that we all need to grow up. Our freedom to express opinions is a gift.

But why use that freedom to destroy another soul?

How can we grow to become our true color and exhibit the creative beauty God gave us if we don’t give each other the necessary time to morph into our best selves?

No matter how much unraveling we experience, no matter how COVID-19 changes us, we do possess the integrity and the wisdom to grow internally. We can grow our inner texture and let it brighten our souls.

We CAN change into who we should really be.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my newest book, The Invisible Women of Genesis. Their stories underscore the need for hope, change and grace.

When Hope Encounters a Rollercoaster

Memories of fun in the past included rollercoaster rides. Those giant metal or wooden edifices roared as the track connected with the train.

Hands held high. An unplanned scream. Stomach muscles clenched in a clash between fear and excitement.

But today’s rollercoaster comes not from a machine or long lines of customers anticipating the ride of their lives.

No, we are all on a rollercoaster together — the emotional ride of 2020.

Just as we begin to feel a bit more secure, another jerk takes us to a scary elevation of fear or a sudden downturn of despair.

Back and forth. Up and down. The spiral cycles and the stomach clenches once again.

What does this rollercoaster look like in the waning months of 2020?

The Ever-Present Track of Covid-19. Our family had escaped Covid. Everyone was healthy. Then the phone call. The one person most susceptible – the elderly matriarch.

Mom is 92 and confused within the shadows of Alzheimer’s. She does not understand why she has been taken out of her room and placed in isolation. She does not recognize the staff people who now wear full PPE garb and speak to her behind shields.

The cruel rollercoaster of 2020.

Unexpected Circumstances. A simple step down into the garden, expecting to water flowers. Then joy at the colorful blooms became pain as my hamstring pulled, leg and hip out of whack. Doctor visits, chiropractic treatments, a cane to maneuver through my uneven yard. Three months out, and it still hurts to sit or stand.

The uncertain rollercoaster of 2020.

Cancelled Plans. A special birthday trip to my beloved Santa Fe and the wonders of the Southwest. Planned with a friend for months. Excitement flushes out as reality slides around the next turn. Travel is impossible with a hip injury. Wait another year. Forget this anticipation and push back the joy.

The disappointing rollercoaster of 2020.

The Search for Truth. One news channel reports their facts, complete with videos, fact-checking and credible sources. Another channel reports their facts, also complete with videos, fact-checking and credible sources. Yet they totally disagree.

The confusing rollercoaster of 2020.

Science versus Reality. Government agencies we should be able to trust release statements about vaccines, treatments, forecasted dates. Then the next day, they reverse their information. What?! Science changes overnight? How much is politics affecting information — on both sides of the aisle?

The puzzling rollercoaster of 2020.

Relationships Suffering. Families and friends who once worked together, worshipped the same God and rejoiced in spending time together. Now they are jerked apart by opposing views — both sides claiming divine inspiration. Both sides able to quote Bible verses and pound pulpits with their opinions.

The polarizing rollercoaster of 2020.

How can we find hope when our emotions are jerked up and down, around and around, spiraling out of control?

A carnival ride expert once said to focus on what is not moving, something that will not change no matter which direction the rollercoaster heads.

So we can focus on one thing — hang on to the thread of faith, that whisper of constancy that assures us, “For I, the Lord, do not change. Therefore, you are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6).

Eventually, we will step off and away from the rollercoaster of 2020. It will take a while to regain our equilibrium, and we will most certainly face a changed world.

But even as we focus on what steadies us, we can be certain hope will survive. It looks beyond the present tense, reaches toward the future perfect.

To be settled and steady. To feel secure. To know we have survived this year and hope for what promises to be better.

That is the goal of hope, an emotional place that may be shaken but still endures.

In spite of the rollercoaster of 2020, we can end our days with this Kenyan prayer: “From the cowardice that dare not face new truth, from the laziness that is contented with half-truth, from the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth — Good Lord, deliver us.”

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my newest book, just released during this crazy year of 2020. The Invisible Women of Genesis uncovers some of the hidden stories from the women who were present, yet invisible, at the beginning.

 

Hope Travels to a Cemetery

She knelt beside the gravestone, surrounded by other markers unknown to us. Yet even with the multiple spirits in attendance and angels on guard, she was alone.

A young woman seeking closure from the death of her beloved nanny. Decades after the event, yet the pain still as fresh as the day she breathed her last.

When I step onto a cemetery’s soil, I always think of the show Our Town. That scene when major characters sit in their places beside their gravestones and observe family and friends in grief.

No expression on the faces of the dead characters – just an acknowledgement of life lived to its fullest, a few regrets and the somber reality of how quickly our timelines are fulfilled.

For this young woman who lost a lifetime friend, it was a sacred moment. The death of her nanny interrupted her middle-school years and created a searing hole of loss.

We don’t always pay attention to the grief of children: the loss of a pet, a grandparent or even an unexpected move.

As adults, we do what we have to do: arrange the cremation, pack up the belongings, schedule a garage sale to get rid of the detritus of another’s life.

So when children’s needs are passed over, it creates a gap in their growth, a scar that keeps bleeding at the reminders of every holiday, each birthday approached or a surprise smell that brings the loss back into clear focus.

For this woman, even the location of the grave was hidden – a great unknown affecting multiple families who knew this nanny.

Yet the cemetery held the secret, ready to reveal it at the proper time, eager to speed healing and salve a soul.

With the help of an internet site, findagrave.com, we found the general direction of where the grave might be. In the heat of early September we traipsed from row to row.

Thoughts of my own beloveds buried in cemeteries of the Midwest. Grateful for the belief we shared that we would meet again in an eternal state. No deaths there. No Covid-19. No sickness of any kind.

The writer in me paused to reflect on the myriad of stories reflected by dates: a grandfather who passed in 1889, a soldier from WWII, an eight year-old child. I could imagine the sobs of parents and wondered if the cause was the flu epidemic, a dreadful accident, maybe the scourge of smallpox?

Cemeteries provide a sense of history, a reminder of our mortality and a concrete symbol of the toll loss takes. Yet within the provision of closure, these sacred spaces also reflect Bible verses, pictures surrounded by stone, carefully manicured grass that protects vases of artificial or real blooms.

And cemeteries remind us to live life as fully as we can – while we can. Before our chairs are set beside the grave and we observe those who come to mourn.

Finally . . . a cry from my son. He used the background of an online photo to locate the grave. I watched the young woman slowly approach, knew she was glad to find it yet dreading the sight of that precious name and the death date inscribed below.

I carried the crimson mums we found at Wal-Mart, handed them to her, then stepped back to allow her space and time.

The day before our cemetery trip, my son and I prayed for this young woman. We wanted to support her quest and longed to see peace reflected on her lovely face.

After she spent several moments in reflection, she left a letter fastened with a blue posy. Then my son watered the mums and we left, slowly walking toward the car and away from those who could not follow.

Why was this moment so encased with emotion yet filled with hope? Because that young woman will soon become my daughter-in-love. She needed that healing day, and we needed to support her in it.

Hope finds its way into unusual places, but often peeks from an extraordinary moment. Then it reminds us how hope can heal – even decades later – and offers a promise of future joy.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more posts about hope, check out Hope Shines, available on Amazon and also in Large Print.

 

 

When Hope Needs a Greater Miracle

the-thinker-489753_1280Writers are thinkers.

We spend a great deal of time reflecting on plots, characterizations and the best topics for an online post.

So last week, I spent some time thinking about miracles.

We’ve all heard about miracles of healing — maybe even personally experienced one or two. And various publications focus on miraculous stories.

These stories encourage us, especially when life is hard — like it is now — during Covid-19 and its dastardly side effects.

But even as I pray for a global miracle, I reflect on the possibility of leveled miracles.

Some supernatural happenings always occur: the beauty of birth for any species, that phone call about a new job, a card that arrives at just the right time.

Daily miracles that turn the ordinary into something inexplicably extraordinary.

The Israelites watched God perform several miracles that underscored he was on their side (Exodus 7-12).

  • The Nile River turned to blood
  • Swarms of gnats, flies and grasshoppers
  • The deaths of the firstborns

But as amazing as these events were, the hapless and sometimes unbelieving Israelites needed a greater miracle.

Just as they escaped from Egypt, they faced the Red Sea. Behind them galloped the Egyptian army, ready to capture them and force them back into slavery.

So God showed up with a greater miracle.

He sent a strong east wind that divided the water and turned the pathway into dry land. Think Charleston Heston, Cecille B. DeMille and the Ten Commandments 1956 movie.

Can you imagine how frightening it must have been to step between those walls of water? Did they see fish swimming and bumping their snouts against an invisible wall? Did they wonder, what happens if the water suddenly gives way?

But they crossed safely on the other side while Pharaoh and his army perished as God released the torrent.

Today, we need a greater miracle. We’ve faced epidemics before, and scientists have created miraculous vaccines.

But we need more than the right dosage of the correct DNA that destroys Covid-19. We need:

  • Jobs created and/or restored for the thousands of unemployed
  • Comfort for those who have lost loved ones, now approaching 200,000 families
  • Justice for those who died because their skin wasn’t paisley white
  • Strong leadership and courage to do the right thing, no matter which aisle they sit on
  • Women and children rescued and cared for as domestic violence has exponentially increased in 2020

We need solutions to so many problems, no one person can solve them. And this is definitely NOT a political post.

We need a greater miracle.

In times of crisis, our leaders have called for a national fasting and prayer day. Our current time period begs for a mindset of humility, for all of us to cry out, fall to our knees and ask God to perform a greater miracle.

Without divine intervention and global change of heart, we may be facing a social Armageddon with lasting consequences. How many of us are willing to walk through those waters?

God, please, heal our land. Move back the waters once more and let us travel peacefully to the Promised Land.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more essays about hope, check out Uploading Faith.

What Cats Teach Us About Hope

As an observer of the animal kingdom, my neighborhood provides plenty of reflective stimulation. Dogs, cat, hawks — even the occasional fox or skunk.

tabby catBut it is the feral cats along with my house cat that expand my thoughts about hope.

What is it that cats do so well that underscores hope in the time of Covid?

Cats work. No apathy allowed in the world of feral cats. They stay busy hunting for their next meal. Maybe a small bird or a scampering mouse, a grasshopper or a baby bunny (sadly, I have seen this happen).

Survival depends on a reliable food supply. The feral mother teaches her babies how to sneak up on their prey and how to fight their siblings for the next bite.

We all need a sense of purpose. That’s why the unemployment so many are suffering during this pandemic is dangerous.

Besides the obvious lack of finances, despair can grow when we have nothing purposeful to do.

We must find some sort of work or busyness in order to emotionally and physically survive.

Cats play. They are such fun to watch, especially the kittens who have energy to spare. Jumping on a toy, batting a ball around a plastic cylinder or chasing an errant piece of yarn.Pep with ball

Cats play to keep their reflexes sharp and their muscles toned. And cats rarely struggle with stress, unless they are ill.

Play is vital during this time of Covid.

Whether it’s table games with the family or a backyard game of soccer, play forces us to focus on enjoyable activities.

It helps us escape from the harsh realities of our world.

So play often. Read a book, watch a funny movie, pack up a picnic for your local park.

At our house, we often watch YouTube videos of funny animals. Our laughter beats back the gloom carried by the news channels.

Cats rest. A house cat will sleep sixteen or more hours each day. My cat keeps a regular schedule of morning, afternoon and evening naps as well as at least eight hours after we both climb into my bed.

Rest for humans means we turn off any mental noise, breathe deeply and let the world continue without us.

Rest equals peace — that sense of wholeness that avoids confronting the fears which knock at our mind’s door.

Rest is also a spiritual discipline that requires trust and the assurance that no matter what happens, God will take care of us.

Cats require nurture. Even the feral cats come up to me, sniff cautiously, then rub against my leg. They know I can be trusted for a morning snack. And if they let me, I know the right spot to rub on their ears. Their purr confirms it.

Peppernut under chairMy housecat is a needy shorthair. Peppernut requires several lap sessions each day and a vigorous belly rub before bedtime. If I ignore her, she will tap on my hand until I respond. She has trained me well.

During the time of Covid, I have often told my son, “I need a hug.” My signal for nurturing.

He’s a great bear-hugger. For a few moments, we hold each other close. A reminder that someone cares during this crazy time.

The warmth of another body. A physical symbol that echoes the phrase, “I love you.”

It’s also important to nurture ourselves:

  • A mani/pedi, while wearing a mask, of course
  • A long soak in the bath while reading a spell-binding novel
  • A fresh trim to get rid of the Covid split hair
  • Vitamins and healthy nutrition, but also an occasional treat

So during these waning months of 2020, when all we hear is bad news — take a cue from cats. Follow some of the feline regimen.

I promise — you’ll be purring in no time.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For a sampling of bath reading material, check out my Amazon Author Page.

When Dread Attacks Hope

dreadOur world is being attacked by a vicious virus. But we are also facing a mental virus that threatens to destroy hope.

That virus is dread.

Multiple scientists and pundits are predicting the fall and winter of 2020 will be the worst season ever.

We will see an uptick of Covid cases coupled with the usual flu outbreaks. They warn that we may experience a worldwide tragedy — an apocalyptic pandemic.

A prophecy of dread.

The definition of dread is “to anticipate with great apprehension.”

It is a level stronger than fear, because it feeds on the imagination. It fills in the gaps with the worst possible scenario which grows with each new dread-filled prediction.

Dread not only believes the negative outcome, it escalates the emotion of fear and makes it feel more personal.

Every year, I dread winter because I don’t like to be cold, I hate driving on icy streets and the entire landscape is as gray as my mood.

Winter is a personal attack called Seasonal Affective Disorder. So I have to prepare myself with comfort and strategies to avoid excessive gloom:

  • A daily dose of St John’s Wort to lighten my mood
  • New soup recipes to warm up the kitchen
  • An abundance of great reading material
  • Projects that excite me and bring color into my world
  • A focus on the end of winter as I mark off each day
  • The enjoyment of the holiday season which creates a break in the calendar and adds fun time with family

Each year, I try to invent new ways to make it through the November – February imprisonment. This year will require even more intentional methods to escape illness and tragedy.

To fight the dread of the anticipated 2020 winter season, we will need to be even more diligent to look for hope. To constantly remind ourselves to steer clear of that apprehension fed by the reality of Covid-19.

As a lifelong list-maker, I’ve come up with some strategies to help me approach this fall and winter with a more positive attitude:

  • Continue self-care and other-care. Read “wear a mask, social distance and pay attention to hygiene.”
  • Lockdown was working, so I plan to continue my stay-at-home discipline except for essentials. I will try to talk myself out of fudging on what “essential” means.
  • Fill my home and office with fun projects such as decluttering (again), some DIY wall art, maybe finally painting my office.
  • Stay even more connected to family and friends
  • Start a new coaching process for teaching others how to Write a Legacy
  • Stay informed but only watch the news at certain times of the day and only in small intervals
  • Pray my guts out for the end of Covid-19
  • Help my son and his beloved plan their wedding
  • Focus my journaling on more gratitudes and less grumblings
  • Sing more often and with greater volume
  • Surround myself with color — none of those drab wintry grays
  • Plan for how I can buy my next car

Will you join me with your own practical strategies? I’d love to hear how you’re planning to face the dreaded fall and winter of 2020.

Let’s fight against the spirit of dread by letting hope carry us through. Let’s look forward to 2021, to a clean environment, a fresh start and freedom from viruses of any kind.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Start your stack of winter reading by checking out my Amazon Author Page.

Hope Shows Up in School Supplies

How wonderful that in the middle of August’s dog days we find a spark of fun! School supplies are on sale.

As a child, I shopped at TG&Y with Mom, imagining what the new school year might bring. Would this be the year Mom would buy me the coveted box of 64 crayons with the sharpener on the back? Alas! It never happened during elementary school.

Many years later, one of my friends treated me to the box of 64, still replete with the sharpener on the back. Even as an adult, it was a wonderful gift.

Every year, shopping for school supplies represented a new take on hope. It was akin to the cleaning of the chalkboard — the chance to start over, to learn more facts and read more books.

The energy of a new year felt as fresh as the package of #2 yellow pencils. Would my teacher like me? Would I be chosen to pass out the “Weekly Readerson Fridays?

Even into high school and college years, the hunt for the perfect pens, the best paper and the sturdiest notebooks required research. We clipped coupons and drove all over town for the best bargains.

Then as a single mom, it was more difficult to save the money required for my son’s list. The year he needed an electronic calculator completely tanked my budget.

But even then, we shared the excitement of the new year and the possibility of setting fresh goals, making new friends, celebrating successes.

We made a day of it: shopping at K-Mart (the modern version of TG&Y), opened boxes of hand-me-down clothes from the cousin just a bit older, played with the new compass and protractor, bought a pizza and a liter of Pepsi for supper.

Now as a writer, school supplies birth colorful paper goods, my favorite Pentel gel pens, journals with moleskin covers designed by George Stanley and legal pads for first drafts.

I wait until late August when the kids have already chosen their supplies. Then I dig through the discarded piles to find my treasures. Write down the cost in my list of office deductions.

Throughout the year, these supplies bring excitement — waiting in my stash for the day I need a new journal, a fresh pen for a booksigning, some colorful 3×5 cards to help structure my novel.  And every time I open a new package, I revisit the years when school supplies meant a new start.

Hope implies a beginning again, fresh grace, the forgetting of what has been and the reaching toward new growth.

Whether it’s in a physical classroom, virtual online Zoom lectures or the quiet office of an introverted writer, we all need the promise of hope.

Here’s to those pens and papers that invite us to believe again. Hope shines when we dare to embrace a fresh start.

 

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

The above post is an excerpt from Hope Shines, a book of essays about fresh starts. Check it out on Amazon, then leave a review. Thanks !