Hope and the Autumn Dance

As I stood on my deck, a tree unloaded its entire leaf burden. It was as if God said, “It’s now 3:24 on this date I created. Disengage.”

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. 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.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

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

Hope’s Introduction

This blog began as therapy for the Alzheimer’s journey in our family. Then it slowly morphed into more posts about hope.

But how did it all begin? What was the impetus for sharing my words in cyberspace?

The thief first appeared as a slight blip on the memory screen. A word forgotten, a key chain misplaced. We laughed — at first.

Then more and more items were misplaced, numerous words forgotten until finally our parents’ identities disappeared.

We no longer laughed. Instead, we sought out doctors and resources — someone who would tell us why Mom acted so strangely, why Dad could no longer drive.

Then the dreaded diagnosis: dementia for Dad, Alzheimer’s for Mom. The Long Good-bye.

The memory thief smirked. He had completed his work and left us bereft.

Sometimes our precious ones forget. Eventually, they no longer remember those they have birthed and raised.

Dad was a gentle man, a Mennonite farmer who lifted hay bales all day and threw them into a truck, then spent the evening softly strumming his guitar.

Henry, often called Hank, was soft-spoken and so introverted that when he prayed or gave advice — everyone listened intently.

How I wish I would have written down more of his wisdom before he became forever silent.

He was a man of faith, with a history of athleticism. A triathlete who was scouted by the Yankees and became a basketball legend at Phillips University in his hometown: Enid, Oklahoma.

Yet not even his faith nor years of exercise and outdoor living could save him from the memory thief.

Like a good farmer, he took care of the land and his home. One November day, a fire threatened to destroy the farmhouse.

He beat out the flames until he was sure everything was safe, then stumbled outside to gulp fresh air.

That’s where Mom found him, with his shirt hanging off his chest, deadly burns all over his body.

After four months in the hospital, several surgeries, daily debreeding sessions, graftings, sleepless nights, scars that roiled our stomachs, the acrid stench of putrified flesh — Dad was finally released.

He returned home, unable to remember how the tractor made ruts in the plowed field or how to create chords on his guitar, why the cows didn’t come home without the gentle farmer calling them in.

Trauma-induced dementia,” the doctors said. “Keep him at home as long as you can, but be prepared for a difficult journey.”

Mom, the nurse, retired from her job. They moved from the farm to town, into a house that could accommodate a wheelchair, if needed.

“I’ll never put him in a nursing home,” Mom said. She became his caregiver, daily, monthly, for ten long years.

My sister moved home to help. Together they fed him, bathed him, rolled him over when he graduated to the hospital bed.

The silencing of his wise advice cut deeply into our lives, and my heart ached when I visited.

We connected through music, so I sang to him. A spark would kindle in his eyes, especially for his favorite hymn, “Blessed Assurance.”

Then one April, when the spring tulips erupted into bright yellow and purple blooms, when the promise of life budded everywhere — the spark disappeared.

I knew it would not be long.

In May, he graduated to heaven. A release for all of us, especially for Dad.

      Sometimes death is a relief.

 

With her mate of 54 years buried, Mom devoted herself to volunteer work. She served meals to the hungry and counted Bingo cards at the nursing home.

One Thanksgiving, she said, “I’m so glad I’m not in a nursing home — yet.”

I wondered later if she had a premonition.

She began to misplace the pots and pans. She safety-pinned her house keys to the waistband of her pants, just in case she forgot how to get back into the house. She parked her car in the same spot at the grocery store so she could find it when she came out.

She coped so well, it took us a while to figure out something was drastically wrong.

Then fainting spells, hard falls, congestive heart failure and a pacemaker. The doctor said, “She can’t live independently anymore. Alzheimer’s and an inoperable benign brain tumor.”

We had already contracted with a beautiful assisted living facility. But she fought us. “Why are you putting me here? There’s nothing wrong with me.”

We lied and hated it. “It’s only for a little while, Mom. Rehab after your pacemaker surgery. The doctor ordered it.”

A partial truth is still a lie.

She lived in assisted living for eight years and now has graduated to the Alzheimer’s wing. Confusion deepens. No more fun trips to the mall with her best friend. No more biscuits and gravy at Braum’s. No more crocheted projects.

She sits quietly in her chair, often in the dark, pretending to read. Not comprehending the words.

Sometimes they forget and sometimes life forces them to forget.

No matter what the situation or the health issue, caregivers are left to figure out a new normal — to search for hope and continue to love while dealing with this brutal disease.

We can find hope in the Long Goodbye. We learn patience and strive for joy. We treasure each moment we can still hold a hand, sing a hymn or stroke a forehead.

Sometimes they forget, but as long as we remember — their legacies continue.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

The above excerpt is from my book Sometimes They Forget, available on Amazon and Kindle.

Hope’s Intensity

To increase awareness of Domestic Violence Month, this is a re-post about the intensity of writing a novel on the topic of domestic abuse. One out of four women live in destructive relationships. Some of them sit next to you at church or at work. Some of them are in your family. It is important to know how to help.

“Your book is so intense.”

nvs-coverSeveral readers have used this statement to describe my novel No Visible Scars.

“Yes,” I answer. “This book IS intense. It’s supposed to be because of the topic.”

Without the intensity, I would not be true to my characters or to the major plotlines of the story.

The main character jumps right off the pages of First Samuel in the Old Testament. She lived a life of intensity.

Abigail — living with her abusive husband during a time period and a culture where she had no other options. We don’t know if the abuse was physical, emotional or mental.

But we can guess. Probably all of the above, judging how women were treated during the time she lived and in her corner of the world.

I first wrote Abigail’s contemporary story as a nonfiction treatise, a reason for women to set healthy boundaries within their relationships. It was a plea for them to seek help and find hope.

But several medical professionals and counselors were writing on the same topic. The competition squeezed me out. I could not sell my book.

So I returned to the original call from the Great Creator, to write Abigail’s story and show how she prevailed, how she became a major figure in King David’s kingdom.

At the same time, I was coaching more and more women who shared their experiences:

  • Husbands who turned vicious and took out their frustrations on their women
  • Men who were smart enough not to hit, but still manipulative enough to create fear
  • Boyfriends who attended church and pretended to be good guys so they could find a “nice” woman
  • Husbands who knew all the Bible verses about women submitting but refused to learn how to honor their wives
  • Male pastors who dismissed women as “emotional” and “reactive,” who refused to hear the truth and told these women to just pray about it

And the statistics grew. One out of four women living in destructive relationships. Children learning about skewed marriages where one partner is the victim while the other controls and shames.

Intense? You bet it is.

So I wrote the book while thinking of a pastor’s wife I knew who was belittled in front of their guests. I typed away the long hours while remembering a woman who was locked in her basement and fed scraps. Her husband was a deacon. Her pastor told her to lose weight so he would like her better.

The rough draft pounded out the anguish of all the biblical and contemporary women who suffer because men are more physically powerful and more culturally honored.

Even in the church.

And the book was published, sold and continues to sell because it speaks the truth about a horrific issue.

It shows the importance of knowing how to set boundaries, of moving outside the box to live a life of freedom, of believing that self-care must precede other care.

When I get to heaven, I want to talk to the real Abigail. To thank her for her courage in defying her abuser and standing up for her King.

I want to honor Abigail for the life she led and for those 39 verses where her life appears in the biblical account.

On that day, I will give her a hug of gratitude for the hope she offered all women.

Then I will whisper in her ear, “I told your story. It was intense.”

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Read about Abigail in No Visible Scars, available in print, on Kindle, Goodreads and Kobo. During the month of October, to increase awareness of Domestic Violence Month, the Kindle version of No Visible Scars is available for 99 cents.

 

Hope in a Month

My son and I joke about October being the best month for sports with multiple choices.wood bench - lake - autumn

  • College football begins with all the usual rivalries. Depending on the day and the teams, we wear the appropriate T-shirts.
  • Baseball winds down with the World Series. Sadly, we are not cheering for the Royals this year.
  • The NFL is in full force. Chiefs-wear is always in the laundry basket.
  • College basketball begins. We missed Late Night at the Phog this year, but we’ll be cheering for the Jayhawks.

But October wears another side of her beauty. I love the colors and textures of the 10th month, and it’s my birthday month.

On most October days, I walk through my neighborhood or find a nearby trail. Always on the lookout for interesting bits of nature, I gather acorns, colorful leaves or unusual rocks.

Then I arrange my treasures on the kitchen windowsill where I can see them through the long winter and remember the beautiful days of autumn.

When the leaves let go of their parent limbs and dance to the ground, I gather bouquets to brighten the house. Earth colors are my favorites so gold, orange, red, purple and green spice up my home.

And speaking of spices — this is the month when I begin making soups. My favorite is a mixture of roasted vegetables: acorn squash, colorful peppers, garlic, onion and cauliflower. Then I add homemade chicken broth and use my emulsifying blender to make it smooth. Nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves add the wonder of spice, and sometimes a dash of curry.

October is also an important month for some of my coaching clients. Blindness Awareness Month is the time they focus on helping others learn about this disability and show compassion to those who live with vision loss.

Two of my clients suffer from the same disease: retinitis pigmentosa. Both of them are gifted writers and women who inspire me every time we meet.

For inspirational books that provide humor and hope, check out the website of Amy Bovaird. Her stories of courage and travel with vision loss humble me while reminding all of us writers to share our creative gifts with others.

Another writer is Jena Fellers. She just completed a book, “Mishaps to Mission” where she describes unusual miracles on an ordinary bus trip. Jena also writes informative blog posts about family and ministry.

Although October is such a beautiful month, it is also a reminder of the ugliness some women live with. One out of four women live in destructive relationships. Some of them sit next to you at church or stand in line at Wal-Mart behind you.

They don’t always present with black eyes or bruises, because abuse takes many forms. Some of their scars are invisible yet negatively affect their lives and steal hope.

October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I wrote a novel, No Visible Scars, detailing the story of Abigail who learns how to set healthy boundaries and almost loses everything in the process. But in the end, she emerges with new-found strength and a growing sense of her authenticity.

So as you march through October, give thanks for your vision or your healthy relationships. Take a walk and revel in the textures of this show-off month.

Then root for your favorite sports team and hope for the best.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Hope Wins

Oh, God! I was so afraid!

During the sixth month of pregnancy, thirty plus years ago, I finally ventured out of the bed where I spent the first five months — hoping, begging God to let me keep my baby.

With years of infertility and two miscarriages in my medical chart, the chances for a normal birth were slim.

In June of that year, I waddled out to the backyard’s sunshine and stretched out on the chaise lounge. With my hand over my extended belly, I prayed again for the child within.

Protect him, please. Keep him healthy. I want to hold him. I need you to encourage me, God. Help me. I’m afraid.

When I opened my eyes, a large monarch butterfly floated out of the clouds and landed on my belly.

Hardly daring to breathe, I watched as his wings opened and closed in a foreshadow of blessing.

As the baby moved, I wondered if the monarch might startle and fly away. But he rode the wave, stayed in position and kept his gaze on my face.

For over an hour, the three of us — butterfly, unborn child and scared Mama — baked in the sun, ingested the natural vitamin D and shared in worship.

Then the monarch carefully lifted off, floated around me a couple of times, drank deeply from my colorful zinnia garden and disappeared into the clouds.

Encouraged, I returned to the house and journaled about my experience. Renewed and ready to face whatever was destined to happen during the next few months.

God often uses his creation to encourage, uplift and remind us he is indeed greater than our problems.

Since he is the one who manipulates cellular metabolism, hangs the stars in his front yard and whispers, “Peace be still” in the middle of storms — he can certainly deal with our everyday stresses.

How many scenarios does he manage, helping us when we aren’t alert enough to look for him?

How many traffic accidents are stopped, cancer cells deleted or guns silenced because God showed up?

Perhaps in heaven, we’ll watch a giant video screen and see the divine image beside our sick child, walking down the aisle with us as we graduate or smiling as we choose our first car.

Like the butterfly’s appearance, God is with us, longing to soothe our fears and direct us toward the best path for our lives.

Because of my experience with the monarch, I planted and nurtured a butterfly bush in my back yard. Red clover now grows around the perimeter while a giant sedum waits in one corner for October offerings of sweet nectar.

These plants attract monarchs every year and continue to remind me God is near.

And what of the precious child I carried that summer day? He is now 33 years old, a healthy and sensitive man who makes me proud every day to be called his mom.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more Godwinks about hope, check out Hope Shines, available in print, e-book and large print.

 

 

Hope Wears a Tattoo

He was a large, muscular man and when he sat down on the bus, the leather seat expelled air. I peeked at him around the pages of the book I read. My writer brain started to invent a character sketch:

He’s a construction worker by day, a bartender by night and his feet hurt. It feels really good to sit down for the long ride home.

Or . . . he’s a pastor on his way to the inner city church he serves. The dirty T-shirt is a cover-up and helps him relate to the young people in his congregation.

Or . . . he’s an undercover spy and just wants me to think he’s a normal guy. Underneath that T-shirt is a 357 Magnum, holstered but loaded.

Then he crossed one leg, and I discovered he was far from normal. Tattooed on his right leg was the image of a little girl with her name inked above a likeness of her sweet face, “Kelsey Jane, beloved daughter.”

What kind of guy loves his daughter so much he tattoos her picture on his massive leg? Was she one of those tragic little ones that cancer took away?

Or is she a kidnapping victim and he wears her image to help people look for her?

The creative writer at work again.

He caught me staring at the tattoo. Before I could disappear behind the pages of my book, he answered my questions with vulnerable honesty, “I’m divorced, and I don’t get to see her very often. This way, I always carry her with me.”

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I said, “That’s the greatest tattoo I’ve ever seen.”

He tipped his Royals baseball cap toward me, then turned away. I returned to my book — both of us retreating into our own worlds as people do on mass transit.

I almost wanted to find the nearest tattoo establishment and ask for a picture of my son emblazoned near my heart.

Almost.

But I could not forget the image and the question it posed, What kind of guy loves his daughter so much he tattoos her picture on his leg?

Then I remembered another guy who does the same thing — not on his leg, but on his hand — on the tender palm area where he sees it every time he reaches out to help someone.

Almighty God exclaims, “See, I have tattooed your name on my palm. . .” (Isaiah 49:16).

God Himself cares so much about each of us he has tattooed us on the palms of his powerful hands.

In the original Talmud, the meaning of this tattooed engraving was of an unbreakable bond, of a love so intense it was comparable to a mother’s love that could never forget her child.

The Hebrew word for tattoo also included the provision of God’s care, reaching out to protect his children from harm.

As God’s kids, we can depend on that mother love, that unbreakable bond, that caring and loving provision.

Always. Every. Single. Day. Forever.

I often think about that guy on the bus and hope he’s enjoying quality time with his daughter. Usually, I remember him when I’m going through a rough patch and need some encouragement.

The tattoo of Kelsey Jane still makes me smile.

And the visual of my image tattooed on the palm of God’s hand fills me with hope.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out all my books on my Amazon Author Page. Several possibilities are listed where you can read and share hope.

Hope Finds Its Space

When the transitions of life change our circumstances, it may become more difficult to discover hope.

Recently, Mom transferred from assisted living to the Alzheimer’s unit. A necessary change, given her cognitive impairment. Still, for the family she no longer recognizes, it was a clear reminder of the devastation of this disease.

Grateful for the beautiful and efficient multi-level facility where Mom lives, I still wanted to save her — to save all of us — from this fate.

Once again, Mom’s space has disappeared.

A much smaller room, although she still has her familiar furniture: the dark mahogany dresser, the comfy glider/rocker, the end table my sister embellished with decorative tacks, the corner etagere that displays family pictures.

A decreased closet size. No more walk-in with plenty of room for various wardrobes. Mom makes simpler choices these days: easy-to-pull on slacks, polyester tops, socks and shoes. Most of them in her favorite pastel colors. No jewelry. No accessories.

My own wardrobe contrasts with multiple colors and textures, plenty of bling, a few funky hats. Plenty of choices.

But grief threatens for the future. What if my space disappears? What if I can no longer enjoy putting outfits together, find the best bargains, check my reflection in the mirror?

That loss would affect my enjoyment of life.

Mom’s brain no longer calculates the spatial changes. She sleeps, eats and does the activities they tell her to do. Totally compliant, this once fiercely independent woman.

I want to scream at the injustice of life.

One big change in Mom’s new “home” is the bed. No longer able to relax in the daybed my siblings moved from her house, she will now sleep in a hospital bed.

If her nursing mind was capable, she would recognize this change as decline.  More dependent on others to make sure she doesn’t roll out of bed, doesn’t wander during the night.

The change of beds signals the regression of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

The next bed will be a confinement unto death. The beds in the nursing home wing are for patients who can no longer walk. They lie supine, hoping to be spared bed sores as each sunset leads them toward a final resting place — the silk-lined coffin.

Mom used to love the wide spaces of the farm. She hung sheets to flap on the clothesline, held the pins in her mouth and gloried in the cerulean skies of Oklahoma. Her hubby tilled another rotation in the field as she watched. Her children either finished chores or prepped homework for another school day.

It was a good life — spacious in its beauty.

But now, the transition has stolen more freedom and set in motion another arrow toward the final target.

So how do we find hope in such a sad prognosis? By looking at the space to come.

When Mom is finished with her final transition on earth, she will fly to a timeless world with no margins or imitations.

She’ll be free to visit with Dad and her parents or chat with a biblical character she once read about. Maybe she’ll meet one of the authors whose books she read.

Perhaps she’ll step into another dimension, travel to Mars or float above her children and silently cheer us toward the same goal.

Space and time will do its disappearing act rather than the facility where Mom currently lives.

And in the end, hope will take its space in all our hearts when this disease says its final good-bye.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more essays about the Alzheimers journey, check out Sometimes They Forget.

Hope Misreads a Word

As I drove home after meeting with a coaching client, I noticed a white van ahead of me. The logo of its business was printed across the back doors.

Faith Panting.dog panting

What?

As I adjusted my progressive lenses, I realized the name was actually “Faith Painting.”

Somehow the tiny “i” had disappeared in my first glance.

I have no idea what Faith Painting means or how the company chose their name, but I’m sure they are a reputable company.

And as weird as it sounds, I totally understand what it means to experience “Faith Panting.”

Dogs pant when they are tired. After they run around the yard or chase a rabbit, their tongues hang out and they pant, heaving and sometimes dripping saliva.

When we are tired from the struggles of life, weary from one trial after another and discouraged by the darkness of our days — we pant.

We try to catch our breath and figure out what has happened to us.

When we pant from fatigue, we need to take a break, to rest and let our physical and mental resources build up again.

A cup of water from an encouraging friend helps. A greeting card with just the right words helps dry our tears.

The reminder that God will never leave us or forsake us gives us the strength to breathe steady again.

Cats may pant when they are in pain or distress. It’s a signal for help.

Because cats are so independent, they rarely indicate their needs. But cat lovers can tell when their fur babies hurt.

When we are in pain, we pant with the need to let the hurt escape.

We may try to self-medicate or even numb ourselves to the trauma. We may look to an addiction to replace the hole inside.

But faith encourages us to let someone help us.

When loneliness threatens, call a friend and set up a coffee date.

When family relationships fall apart, schedule a counseling appointment with a trusted wisdom-giver.

When a child suffers, talk to another parent who has been through the same issue.

We often prefer to hide within our independence. We think self-sufficiency will solve the problem and decrease the pain.

But we fool ourselves when we continue to pant and look only to ourselves for a solution.

No matter how isolated our world becomes, we will always need each other.

Healthy relationships help bandage our faith hurts.

Another reason dogs pant is to cool off. The process of panting is the same as when our bodies sweat.

Cooling off to a reasonable temperature helps temper inflammation and heart distress.

We need to cool off when anger consumes us.

But let’s be clear: anger is an honest emotion and often prompts us to take an important action.

Anger that consumes us needs to be addressed before it causes real damage. Anger that is internalized can easily become a numbing depression.

And it can sneak up on us before we realize it.

So how do we successfully pant the angers away?

Acknowledge the Anger.

Speak it with truth, even if you have to confront someone in person, “I am so angry with you.”

As we admit to the anger, we know what we’re dealing with. We can move forward to address it.

Admit that You Need Help.

To cool off, a dog needs water and shade.

To pant our way to health, we need help. A trusted counselor, antidepressants, a plan for returning to a healthy emotional temperature.

Take Action.

A brisk walk increases endorphins and helps anger fade. A listing of gratitudes chases the gloomies away.

Watch a funny video and laugh out loud. Visit someone worse off then you. Ever been to a nursing home for an extended stay?

Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have times when faith seems like a weary pant.

That’s when we need to reach for hope.

Nurture ourselves with rest during those discouraging pants.

Ask for help to relieve the pain. Acknowledge how human we are and in need of grace from each other.

We may continue to pant, but at least we’ll move in a direction toward hope-filled faith.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more essays about hope, check out Hope Shines, also available in Large Print.

Hope Celebrates an Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to my creative self. One year ago, I traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to participate in a writers conference called “The Creative Reboot.” Sage Inn

Several aspects of this conference drew me to register. The amazing location, the opportunity to meet Julia Cameron and the focus on creativity.

Location:

Santa Fe is one of my favorite places to visit. It carries the atmosphere of spirituality coupled with history and art.

A great resource that describes the foundations of Santa Fe is the novel, “Death Comes for the Archbishop” by Willa Cather.

The presence of multiple diversities gives Santa Fe its beauty. I met people from all over the world and developed a special relationship with a woman from the Pueblo tribe.

The merchants of Santa Fe take time to visit with customers, sit down for a cup of coffee and truly listen to the needs of lonely hearts.

One waitress in my favorite eatery, the Santa Fe Bite, described the stories behind her multiple bracelets. As a bling woman, I showed her my rings, and we immediately connected.

The architecture of Santa Fe is definitely Southwestern design — no vintage cottages or brick Tudors. But I love the adobe walls, the curved corners and the terracotta color everywhere.

Julia Cameron:

The main presenter at the conference was Julia Cameron. Several years ago, I read “The Artist’s Way” which opened my heart to the joy of being a creative. Julia Cameron - RJT

Whether writing, decorating my seasonal mantel or choosing what to wear each day, my joy of being a creative comes directly from Julia and her books.

I was surprised to find her such a petite lady. Don’t we always think of our she-roes as bigger than life, tall and broad? A powerful visual.

Yet I eclipsed her in height. She graciously accepted my request for a photo and answered several of my questions.

I discovered that she — like me — writes her first drafts in long hand, letting the words flow slowly as the creativity forms a boundary around her words.

Julia challenged me to return to the morning pages and to be more intentional about my artist dates. Her workshops were more than two hours long but felt like 20 minutes. She was humble, intelligent and humorous.

Meeting her in person was one of the towering moments in my creative history.

The Creativity Focus:

Everything I did that week focused on nurturing my creativity, and I added two extra days to my vacation week so I could take advantage of each moment.

  • Leisurely walks in a multitude of art galleries and boutiques
  • The taste of new foods, always spiced with green chiles
  • Interesting conversations with other writers and the people I met throughout Santa Fe
  • A walking tour that opened my eyes to more of the history of the region
  • The novel I began that week and how the main character popped into my head in my quiet motel room
  • Afternoons listening to Hispanic bands in the Plaza gazebo
  • Celebrating with a wedding party who marched out of the Saint Frances Cathedral and around the Plaza. I didn’t know any of the people but applauded and cheered for their excitement.
  • Choosing a special ring — yes, another ring — that included the gems of turquoise, coral and spiny oyster
  • The memories of a research trip to Santa Fe in 2010 with my best friend, Deb Mosher

Embracing my creativity underscores that I belong to the Creator who gifted me with the ability to think outside the box, create solutions to problems and enjoy the textures and colors around me.

All of us are creative. But sometimes we squelch those creative juices with self-doubt, self-sabotage and comparisonitis.

The Creative Reboot Conference was a highlight of my entire 2018. It added to my writing resume and my creative spirit.

I’m so glad I took the risk, stepped into that adventure and added a few extra days to nurture myself in Santa Fe.

Hope sometimes chases us with lovely circumstances and experiences. We just have to be aware of its presence and open our hearts to receive it.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my books on my Amazon Author Page. Then stay tuned for that novel I began in Santa Fe, “The Year of My Redemption,” scheduled for release in 2020.

Hope Delights in Dandelions

They raise their chartreuse heads above the frosted grass. At first, I am cheered by the bright yellow dots in my yard.dandelion on hand

It will soon be time for the garden,” I tell the cat. Her tawny eyes reflect with understanding.

But by the time dandelions lose their sunshiny tops and begin to climb higher, then sprout white seeds that blow all over tarnation, I am no longer thrilled by their presence in my yard.

However, I am amazed how they persevere through every winter and reappear all over the place. Even though I dig them out each spring, they ride the wings of the wind and once again mess up my plans for a weed-less garden.

Weeds are plants out of place. Dandelions are out of place among my peas, green beans and clematis.

But these same weeds cause me to reflect on the spiritual lessons God sends through nature.

Perseverance: No matter how many times I dig them out and throw away their roots, dandelions reappear.

They have conquered my garden spaces in spite of toxic chemicals, sharp mower blades and a shovel full of rocks. No amount of mulch deters their upward journey as they poke through the cypress sticks.

Howdy!” they scream. “Here we are again!

That same character trait — that infernal perseverance — is a core value I covet. No matter how someone’s words hurt me or what weapon is used against me, may I continue to persevere.

No matter what life throws at me or how many times my words are rejected by editors, I want to persevere.

May my daily journey always seek the Light, no matter how difficult the journey or how long I have to travel the same path.

Location: Dandelions sprout anywhere and everywhere — between sidewalk cracks, in the middle of rocky landscapes, even cuddled next to strawberry blossoms.

My hope is to be an encouragement no matter where I am — seated on the church pew, waiting in the long line for meds in Wal-Mart, while sweating out stress in the workplace.

Dandelions teach us location is not as important as vocation. A consistent life of character is the goal, no matter where we sprout.

The job may move us to another state, or even a different country with a foreign culture.

Circumstances of life may change our status from “married” to “alone.”

Yet with each new venture, we learn to sprout — to live again — to acclimate within a new version of ourselves.

Effectiveness: Although we kill dandelions in Kansas, some cultures nurture them for the greens and the tea. When these weeds live in the right place, they prove to be useful plants.

Every day, my breath wraps around the goal of effectiveness, to serve God and others. My work — forming words and coaching writers who make their own words — is to help someone else.

The stories I complete, the communication gifts God has given me, my very existence is focused on how to point others toward hope.

I want to be effective and make a difference. Every. Single. Day.

In the graceful writings of Colossians 3:23-24, the Apostle Paul reminds us, “Work hard and cheerfully at all you do, just as though you were working for the Lord and not merely for your masters, remembering it is the Lord Christ who is going to pay you, giving you your full portion of all he owns. He is the one you are really working for” (The Living Bible).

In spite of the spiritual lessons, dandelions are still not welcome in my garden. But as I dig them out and rid the landscape of their threat, they continue to remind me of a higher goal.

Even a weed praises the Creator who does all things so well.

So hope shines as we persevere through each day’s weeds.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more essays about hope, check out Hope Shines, also available in Large Print.

Hope Survives at Home

Something about houses attracts the hope within.

Tudors with their brick facades, happy bungalows — especially the ones equipped with porch swings, cottages framed by specialty gardens.

The memoir I am writing is focused around the theme of various houses in which I have lived.  Maybe I should have become a realtor.

The house Mom bought, then had to leave behind, is a typical Oklahoma ranch. When dementia first began to squeeze its nasty tentacles around Dad’s personality, Mom felt as if she needed to move him off the farm. Into the safety of town and one-level housing.

Neither of them could continue to fully operate within the realities of farm life.

Dementia stole Dad’s vocation from him, and Mom could no longer handle the hard work required in the country life she loved.

They settled into the brick ranch and lived securely as Mom nursed Dad. My sister joined them and helped Mom for 10 shadowy years. Then on a gentle spring morning in May, angels carried Dad away.

Mom stayed in the ranch, unwilling and unable to move anywhere else. In fact, she underscored her idea of the future when she announced, “My next move will be to the cemetery.”

If only it had been that simple.

The ranch soon became the forecaster of Mom’s next move as she began a downward spiral. She forgot the location of her pots and pans, threw away important bills and documents, counted her medications numerous times before swallowing.

It was in the ranch house where Mom passed out, her brave heart needing the extra pulsing of a pacemaker, her head bleeding from where she banged it when she fell.

When she had to leave, a series of ambulance rides transported her from the hospital to the nursing home rehab and later to her studio apartment in assisted living.

Meanwhile, the sturdy ranch house remained. Mom never had a chance to tell it good-bye.

The yard is its best feature, a surrounding halo of my sister’s plantings: zinnias, pansies and the four o’clocks that actually open at four o’clock twice each day.

I like the house, usually finding a slice of serenity inside when I visit the Oklahoma family. Although it is a bit weird to sleep in the bed in which I was conceived, I gaze at pictures on the walls and remember when we gave them to Mom and Dad.

In the closet, I hang my clothes and touch hangers that held Mom’s winter coat, a suit she no longer wears, a knit shirt with embroidered daisies — some of the threads barely hanging on to their frayed outlines.

Mom’s brush and comb still wait on the dresser, flanked by doilies her mother crocheted, their white loops now fading into the yellows of the past.

The massive mahogany furniture which none of us will want — a pronunciation of Mom’s signature style.

Mom never seems to miss the ranch house. She only remembers the farm as her home where she raised three children, cooked harvest meals and hung clothes to flap on the line — fabric silhouettes of each person in her family.

The personality of the ranch house follows me whenever I drive away. I am left with a sense of gratitude that my sister is safe within its walls and I know — in that particular house, our family made an imprint on the earth.

Homes become the measurements of years as each place serves a purpose. Within our respective homes, we wait for that final call to a home that contains no walls, needs no paint and provides the freedom where our spirits forever roam.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Read more about the places and people of hope in Hope Shines, also available in Large Print.

 

Hope Lives in Small Towns

After a recent trip to my hometown, I was struck with the functional differences between the Kansas City metro and Enid, Oklahoma.

In my hometown, most businesses close for Easter, Christmas and even Thanksgiving to allow families time together.

The majority of signs and billboards carry the graphic of either a cross or an empty tomb while the local newspaper prints the Easter story and the “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause” columns each year.

Presumably, many of their consumers actually read them.

Folks in my hometown understand the symbolism of these faith seasons and are not shy about declaring their beliefs.

In small towns, time moves slowly. Folks mosey across intersections, mosey into the stores and lollygag at anyone who has forgotten how to mosey.

In my hometown, you will probably run into relatives or the child of a co-worker or someone from your church.

If you make a new friend at the local Braums, while eating your double-dip of cappuccino chocolate chunk frozen yogurt, your conversation will likely sound like this:

“Weather treatin’ ya’ okay?”

“Yep. You?”

“Can’t complain.”

“You from here or just visitin’?”

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

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

Hope grows in small towns, because everyone hopes you will move back, help with Mama and increase the population by at least one.

When I visit my hometown, I pick up the Okie accent that has never completely left my tongue. I drive more slowly and don’t take chances at the yellow lights because — why hurry?

No one will give me the finger unless he is a farmer who lost several digits during harvest and now waves funny.

It is safer to stop on yellow and finish my cappuccino chocolate chunk frozen yogurt while observing everyone around me. I might see an old chum moseying across the intersection.

The Western Sizzlin’ restaurant recently closed. The entire community grieved and wondered what is this world coming to? We ate at Western Sizzlin’ not only to enjoy the amazing buffet of salads, breads and desserts but also to connect with the community.

We waved at strangers and talked about the wheat crop with friends. We enjoyed the commonalities of improving the economy of the region, tasting the fresh-from-the-oven rolls and remembering simpler times.

Although the world continues to change rapidly and who knows what tomorrow will bring, folks in small towns still trust each other. They know how to mosey their way into each other’s hearts.

Obviously, I miss small towns and the heritage they provide. I miss the folks I know and those I have not met. Their lives are simpler, purer — steeped in the values of country traditions.

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

Although my work lies here in the metro where “Everything is up to date in Kansas City,” a weekend visit transports me back to the security of my foundations and the people who keep hope alive.

Hope shines within the treasure of a simpler life and its precious people.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my book Hope Shines, which details more of the places we can find hope.

 

Hope’s Perspective

During a recent trip to the New Mexican mountains, we searched for deer. Every time someone in the family saw a deer, we cheered. We called to them, hoping to pet them or maybe feed them some leftover crackers.

Deer are a special fixture in the mountains — a cherished part of the wildlife.

But on my drive home, I passed a deer that had been killed on the highway.

Although it made me sad, I realized that’s what happens near the big city.

Wildlife becomes road kill.

A different place. A different perspective.

When a friend of mine was going through divorce, she received a card from her childhood Sunday School teacher. A beautiful woman who was blessed with a happy marriage for 53 years.

She had no clue what my friend had endured for 18 years.

The teacher wrote, “I can’t believe you’re doing this sinful thing. Why couldn’t you work it out? Don’t you know a marriage requires commitment, 100% from both partners?”

My friend felt condemned yet she knew she had tried to make it work. The Sunday School teacher had no idea how to deal with an abusive marriage and how my friend had tried to protect herself and her children.

She was clueless about the courage it takes to leave.

Different lives. Different perspectives.

During a sermon in a fundamental church, I heard a pastor say, “We should never eat out on Sundays. We are forcing others to work on the Sabbath.”

He did not know about the single mom who is grateful for the Sunday crowd at her restaurant. With the bigger tips, she feeds her children for another week.

This pastor could not imagine how it feels to pray for your daily bread, how this single mom works three jobs and every extra penny is a blessing.

Her Sabbath begins with a prayer of thanksgiving for the jobs she maintains. She hopes to be promoted to manager soon and asks God for the endurance to raise her children well.

Different faith walks. Different perspectives.

Anger and condemnation toward others do nothing to improve lives or change situations.

One blip of a circumstantial change and we live from a different perspective.

I have often wished I could go back and do more for single moms, for families struggling with mental illness, for the mother who has to visit with her child through a phone line at the prison.

At the time, I had only the perspective I lived with and my naïve experiences.

Our country is suffering from a lack of qualified perspective.

How many of us would know what to do if our neighborhoods were ravaged by gangs, our children in danger?

Would we leave everything and try to find a safe place?

Wouldn’t we be grateful for a piece of bread, a clean pillow, a helping hand?

The perspective of the refugee is different from that of the weary border guard yet each person is precious in the heart of God.

Hope does not condemn, neither does it refuse to consider a different perspective. Instead, hope listens and considers a better way — a more peaceful path.

I pray every day for our leaders and for the decisions they must make.

But mostly I pray they will look beyond their own perspectives, their political policies and open their minds to possible solutions.

Maybe we need to follow the example of Ruben Martinez and his El Paso Challenge, to do 22 good deeds for our fellow man — in memory of those 22 people who were slaughtered in his town.

Maybe it will be the young people who will ignore the politics and help us find a way to change our perspectives.

Maybe hope comes with a future generation while the rest of us struggle to catch up.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more stories about hope, check out Hope Shines, also available in large print.

Humming Hope

As I worked in my home office, a sound forced me to stop and look around. It was a melody I had not heard for quite a while.musical notes

Humming — a bass voice humming.

My son, who has a lovely voice, was marching up the stairs while humming.

I smiled with a prayer of thanks. After a season of illness, personal questions about his destiny, six months of training — he was finally beginning to move forward.

Applications submitted. Hope for a new beginning.

The hum of restored joy.

Scientists tell us humming and singing create the following health benefits:

  • Reduces stress
  • Creates a meditative state
  • Releases nitrous oxide which unclogs the sinuses
  • Oxygenates the blood
  • Releases endorphins which make us happier
  • Initiates a workout for the body
  • Activates the parasympathetic nervous system
  • Improves breathing
  • Lowers the heart rate
  • Increases the glandular and intestinal activity

I know these facts to be true. When I feel the shadows of discouragement, I often force myself to sing something or at least to begin humming.

Sometimes an old hymn.

One day, it was Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters.

Or a rousing chorus of the Kansas state song, Home on the Range.

I sometimes surprise myself, standing at the stove scrambling a couple of eggs. A sudden hum. A phrase from a song.

It feels good.

Hope hides in the notes of a familiar song. And the energy used to expand the lungs and force a voicing of joy moves me in a more positive direction.

So the next time you’re looking for hope, try to prime your pump with a song.

You might surprise yourself with a bubble of sudden joy.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my Amazon Author page for books and resources that include some flavor of hope.

 

Hope Thrives with the Littles

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

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

I would have given her mother twenty dollars to let me hold her precious daughter, but then maybe the spell would have broken. Surely this gregarious child had been trained to show caution around strangers.

Then customer service interrupted. The child and her mother moved away from me, and I ordered a drink — suddenly bereft, no longer hungry.

future for childrenYet hope revived as I imagined the future for this tiny life, untouched by the cares of this world. That precious little has no idea of the stresses she will someday encounter — the need to pay a gas bill or keep a roof over her head.

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

Her grin was completely free from any emotional baggage, yet even as I played peek-a-boo with her, I begged God to protect her.

Statistics prove one out of four little girls will be sexually assaulted, one out of six little boys.

Oh God – may that statistic burn in hell !

Later, as I reflected on my day and remembered the beautiful child, I marveled how she had increased my hope:

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

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

No wonder Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me” (Matthew 19:14).

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

Hope shines in the presence of littles. Hug the little ones in your life today.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my books and resources on my Amazon Author Page. 

 

Hope Reversed

An idea filtered through my soul one Sabbath afternoon as I was journaling thoughts from the morning’s service.blue arrows reversed

Someone had mentioned the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23. These qualities are produced in our lives as we let the Spirit flow through us and as we learn more about what it means to live as a Christian.

But often, I fail in one or a number of these areas. I still have so much to learn about being who God created me to be.

So my hope is restored as I consider how God exhibits these beautiful qualities in my life and within our chaotic world.

Love. No human being has ever unconditionally loved me. A few have accepted my faults and my quirks, but still hoped I might improve. Graded me on a curve of not being “enough.”

But God has never treated me as if I am “less than.” He has shown his love in the orangey-yellow sunsets of the Midwest, in the purr of a cat, in the shelter of a friend’s arms. His love has always been a practical reminder that he alone knows how to look beyond my faults and see my possibilities.

Joy. As a melancholy introvert writer, I must admit joy is sometimes illusive. I cannot manufacture it, so I must find it within the presence of God.

He reminds me to laugh, to play, to give and receive hugs. His joy shines through the eyes of children, through the taste of a new recipe, through the spark of a writing idea.

I imagine heaven will be a place of so much laughter, so much joy — our spirits will be light and free to receive it and share it eternally.

Peace. When the world underscores its chaotic frenzy, God brings peace. The promise Jesus spoke to his anxious disciples stands true today, “I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27 TLB).

God often shares his peace at night, when I finally lie down and surrender the day to him. Since he knows my past but does not condemn me for it, since he accompanies me through every day of the present and creates every second of the future — his peace is a forever gift.

Patience. As an over-achiever (read first-born), patience is difficult for me to even fathom. Yet God shows patience to me every day as I struggle to understand more about him.

He waits for me. Never a hurried tone to his voice. His timing shows an ordered plan for the best outcome.

And when I tend to rush ahead with a project or an idea, his divine whisper to “Wait” reminds me how all-encompassing his patience is.

Kindness.  A working definition of kindness would include compassion and benevolence. Since God formed every cell in my body and he’s walked with me throughout life, he knows exactly how I tick.

A couple of weeks ago, I felt discouraged as a writer. Even with all the marketing and all the self-discipline, the book sales weren’t enough to buy a bag of groceries. Without even a prayer for help, God knew I needed some of his special kindness.

In quick succession, three different encouragements. A writer mentioned a workshop I taught years ago and how it helped her. A card handed to me — “You are a blessing,” it said. Four sales of my newest book, Write and Share Your Story.

God’s kind heart knew I needed his special benevolence. He worked it out behind the scenes and gave me a positive boost.

Several times throughout scripture, God’s lovingkindness is mentioned. I like combining “love” and “kindness” as neither are quite as impactful without the other.

Goodness. We glibly state, “God is good” — usually when something wonderful happens. But even when disaster hits, God is still good.

Although life on this earth is filled with trauma and fear, God is still good. He proves it every time a baby is born — the goodness of God creating life again. When a nonprofit forms to meet a social need, God’s goodness filters through that organization to help the homeless, the hopeless and the abused.

When a social media post spouts hate, God’s goodness seeps through other people who know how to temper their tongues, speak truth and share love. When racism, murder and negative policies rule the nightly news, God whispers his mission, “Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 TNIV).

In short, be good and be alert for his goodness.

Faithfulness. It is one thing to abandon a person. It is quite another to be abandoned.

Our world is filled with people who suffer from attachment disorder. They have been abandoned by a parent, a spouse, a community. So they struggle to find any type of stable relationships and often end up abandoning others.

But not God. He cannot, will not abandon his children. In spite of our failures and the many times we choose an idol over loving him, he sticks with us. In fact, his faithfulness is so definite he starts over every morning — loving us all over again.

My favorite hymn says it better than I.

Gentleness. He is the all-powerful God yet he chooses to be gentle with us. He can dip his hand into a mountain and form a valley yet he sings over us when we are born.

He can whip the ocean into a frothy mess yet he lifts a baby dolphin out of the hurricane’s path. He can stop my heart from beating in a milli-second yet he plants a feral cat in my neighborhood so I can watch her kittens grow.

He is the God of intense ironies, completely mysterious and impossible to understand. Yet children with Down’s Syndrome and elders with Alzheimer’s hear him whisper, “You are special, and I love you.”

Self-Control. We often joke about this piece of the fruit of the Spirit pie. “Oh, if only I had more self-control I’d be 40 pounds lighter.” “I can do all the fruit, but not the self-control part.” “What does God expect? I have an addiction.”

Yet how does God show us the example of self-control? He can wipe us all out in a nano-second. He did it before with a giant flood. Yet he reigns in himself and waits patiently because of all his other attributes — those big ones about love, kindness, goodness and gentleness.

He designed how the planets revolve and rotate. He gave us specific instructions on how to take care of the earth. In spite of the fact that we have failed, he uses self-control and gives us more time to correct our mistakes.

In a world of missed cues and deliberate wrong-doings, he controls the ticking of the Armageddon clock. It will eventually happen, but only with his say-so. And still surrounded by the compassion of his giant heart.

If we are to live in the image of God, then we must observe how he shows us the perfect example. Living a spiritually fruity life feels more doable when I look at how God does it.

Then hope circles around my feeble attempts and whispers, “This is possible.”

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my Amazon Author Page for my books and resources.

 

 

Hope in Preservation

When I focus on the word “preserves” I think about the sand plum jelly we made on the farm, and the hours we spent canning tomatoes and green beans.mason jar candles

Those wonderful Mason jars provided us with fresh food throughout the winter months and also preserved memories of cooking with Mom in the farm kitchen.

But a deeper type of preservation intrigues me now. What does it mean to be emotionally preserved? Can I invent a personal thesaurus around the topic of preservation?

Staying Fresh

Preserved foods always taste fresh, even after years in storage. No matter how we serve them up, if they have been preserved properly — they are a treat.

Psalm 31:23 reminds me, “The Lord preserves the faithful….”

So how can I remain emotionally fresh and alert for each new day? How can the topic of hope keep me fresh in a world of rot?

Self-care comes to mind. Rest and taking care of myself holistically. Exercise to preserve my strength. Throwing away the junk foods, although an occasional treat is allowed. A ten-minute restorative nap. Reading a good book to reboot my brain.

The Availability of Preservation

One reason we canned vegetables was so we could eat them during the months when the garden was frozen. A quick trip to the cellar to bring up the jars. No cost. No trouble.

To be available to others, I need to set healthy boundaries. I cannot help every single person who wants me to edit a book, become a coach or write online content.

Through the years, I have learned my limitations. Saying “No” has become even more important as the years add up. Then I can preserve my availability for what matters.

Some of my boundaries include:

  • no more than ten speaking gigs / year
  • only attending writers conferences where I coach or teach
  • a total of 20 coaching clients / month
  • one month allowed for each book I edit

To be available to the creative urges within, my spirit needs to be rested and alert. Then as an idea flirts with me, I write it down immediately. No self-doubt allowed. No hesitation.

Staying Safe

Because our foods were preserved well, we never suffered from botulism, e coli or any type of toxic side effects. The pressure cooker was sterilized. The jars proactively boiled. No germs allowed.

Because security is one of my core values, I want people to feel safe around me. As readers pick up my books, the topics must be clear. No fear to approach questions that need to be asked.

Even if I stretch some comfort zones, I strive for truth which creates safety in the ask. Ingesting positive words brings the a-ha moment and builds on hope. Confidentiality within the coaching relationships preserves safety.

No Expiration Date.

Our sand plum jellies lasted for years and were always edible. We skimmed off the top layer of wax, then spread the golden lusciousness on top of warm homemade bread.

No need for a QR code on the side of our jars.

When we reach one of those special age limits, when the AARP mailings begin and advertisements for a final resting place, we have not yet reached our expiration date.

Only God knows the beginning and ending of our timelines. Alpha and Omega at work.

So until that date arrives, I want to keep on task. Develop my writing gifts and coaching processes. Continue in hope, no matter what the circumstances. Accept no dread about that final expiration date.

Share hope with others and keep some of the lusciousness of life for myself. Preserve what is good and share what is best.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For writers who want to continue with their craft, check out Write and Share Your Story: Creating Your Personal Experience Article.

Hope-filled Arms

Several people I know, friends and family, are struggling with their arms. Because of chronic illnesses, they can no longer lift more than 10 pounds or even help themselves out of a chair. I grieve for their losses even as I admire their determination to stay in hope.arms - art

Arms are something I take for granted. But as I reflected on this blog post, I thought of several memories where arms left an impression.

My dad’s arms radiated his strength. With those arms, thick and muscular, he pulled calves out of their struggling mothers. He hefted hay bales and tossed them onto moving wagons. He swung at baseballs and sent them over the farthest fences.

When his strength diminished, his arms shook as he tried to feed himself. The skin began to sag as muscles atrophied and finally — all movement ceased except the shallow breaths that kept him alive, until even that capability was gone.

Arms of Strength.

The chubby arms of my toddler son reached toward me for hugs or night-time kisses. The first time I saw his face, I held him in my arms and marveled at the finished miracle of a nine-month creation.

Arms of Love.

My son’s arms grew from toddler stage to teenager. As he practiced and excelled at drums, the tendons in his arms rippled, then held trophies he won for his musical prowess.

Arms of Talent.

But my arms have also felt sadness. Last winter, I held my cat, Betsy, for our final goodbye. She trusted my arms, leaned in for what — I believe — she knew was coming. And when the final injection did its work, her dead weight relaxed with the pressure of finality.

Arms of Sorrow.

Scripture reminds us of another pair of arms, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27 TLB).

And an old hymn repeats the theme. Check it out. “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

We dream of the day in eternity when we will run into the arms of our loved ones, when our guardian angels remind us their arms were always near.

Arms of Security.

I am grateful for the strength in my arms — to pull weeds from stubborn perennial beds, to carry a pot of soup to the table, to guide my hands toward the computer keyboard, to move across the piano keys.

A day will likely come, if God grants me more years, when I may lose my arm strength, when I’ll have to depend on others for movement and the basics of living.

So for now — for this day — I whisper a prayer of gratitude and determine to stay in hope, no matter what happens to my arms.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

My arms have been busy on the keyboard. Check out my newest book: Write and Share Your Story

Is Hope Really Possible?

An encouragement often shared on my blog is the phrase, “Stay in hope.” No matter how life unravels, stay in hope.

What does that statement really mean? Is hope possible in today’s messy world? What does it look like, feel like? Or is it something so ethereal, we cannot find it — fail to grasp hold of it.

To stay in hope requires a conscience effort to move beyond whatever reality presses on us and instead — find a way to focus on a future of gladness.

Staying in hope means we begin with an action which follows with a joyful emotional reaction. So what are some practical action points we can take to find hope?

Focus on the Positive. When life unravels, it is easier to focus on what has gone wrong. The tornado touched down on top of the house. The person we loved is no longer here. The identity thief wiped us out.

None of us can avoid the uncomfortable circumstances of life. But if we constantly think about the struggles, we miss the pathway to hope.

As we focus on the positives of life, those negative tapes begin to fade. If we concentrate on what is good, renewed hope seems possible.

In spite of natural disasters, we are still alive. The grief process can leave us wiser and more centered. When our security is threatened, we can rebuild, restore, redo what we did before — even better this time.

List all the blessings, even those small ones you take for granted: hot water in the shower, a fridge with food in it, a hug from a child.

Stay in that hopeful place of warm and fuzzy vibes.

Surround Yourself with Hopeful People. Our network of people affects everything we do and how we react to life. Being around encouraging people helps us grow hope muscles. When we spend time with people who are positive, we feel better about life.

We may even learn how to fully love ourselves and become an encourager to someone else.

When our friendships revolve around the people who encourage us, we feel more hope surrounding our souls. We look forward to each day and enjoy being with these people. They help us smile and feel positive. They keep us from wallowing in the muck of daily living.

They give us the impetus to stay in hope.

Collect Affirmations. Positive sayings, posters and memes with hope-filled quotes may show up on social media or in home décor departments. My writing study is decorated with several positive affirmations.

Print out and post these messages. A plaque, a swirly design on a piece of barn wood or industrial metal, even a Post-it note with a positive statement — anything to remind you to stay in hope.

On my bathroom mirror, I have three notes I see every day:

  • Let my heart revive and live.
  • May the God of truth and faithfulness to his promises, bless me.
  • “After the grief fades, after the suffering dwindles away, God Himself will complete me, establish and ground me securely, strengthen and settle me” (First Peter 5:10).

To stay in hope, we need to work at it. As we focus on the positive, surround ourselves with healthy people and remind ourselves of affirmations — we can maintain and grow a more positive attitude.

Then hope becomes more of a reality as we acknowledge its existence and proactively seek to own it.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Ever heard of “booking a blog?” That’s what I’m doing with this post. Check out the entire book, Hope Shines.

Hope in the Painting

It was a nondescript garage sale with a yard full of items. “We’re blending houses,” the owner said, “so we have to choose only what we’ll need together.”

“Me, too,” I said. “My friend and I are blending. We’re gonna’ be like the Golden Girls.”

I didn’t need any of the items in his yard but noticed the painting — mountain aspens with a turquoise background.

Deb would like that, and her birthday’s coming. But does she want another piece of art?

I talked myself out of it and started to drive home. But the Divine Whisper wouldn’t leave me alone. “Go back. You need that painting.”

“It’s probably too expensive,” I argued. But it’s hard to argue against the Divine One. “Okay. At least I can ask about it.” So I turned around and drove back.

The tag on the back noted the original price — $140. But the owner didn’t want it, so we settled on the price — five bucks.

Deb was delighted as we hung it on her wall. It seemed to give off a special aura, a reminder of our mountain travels and the Rockies she loved.

“I hope you got one of your special bargains for this,” she said. “It’s lovely.”

“Yep, I did.” But I never told her how little I paid.

A birthday hug and our usual celebration meal — Mexican with extra guac and chips.

We didn’t know the blended house would never happen, that this was the last time we would party on her special day. A couple of weeks later, she was suddenly struck with hemolytic anemia.

Our goodbye happened in the ICU. “See ya’ later, friend,” I whispered to her closed eyes. “I love you.” An hour later and she was gone.

Then the funeral with the many friends and family who came to honor her life. All of us in shock. Too young. Not fair. The tentacles of grief grabbing our hearts.

Her children graciously gifted me with the painting. I hung it, amazed by how it accented my creamy yellow wall.

A remembered whisper, “You need that painting.”

True. I needed to give it to Deb for her last birthday, if only for a few weeks’ enjoyment. I need it now to remember her with a smile and treasure our times together.

We all need the reminder to underscore how quickly life can change and how we need to celebrate each other — often and with joy.

Happy birthday, Deb, in heaven.

The painting cost five bucks, but you were worth much more — so much more.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Hope Shines is dedicated to the memory of Debby Mosher, who lived her life with shining hope.

 

Hope Goes to School

As a life-long learner, nothing is more exciting to me than a couple of how-to books. Combine those books with the topics I like to pursue, and I am ready for school.

A recent visit to Half-Price Books resulted in some pay-back monies for books read and de-cluttered. Then I used my earnings on two books I “needed” to further my education as a writing coach.

The first book, “Co-Active Coaching” contains a Table of Contents with numerous topics I want to review. As I help my clients move toward their publishing dreams, I also want to keep learning and growing, to help more clients, to see more of my books in print.

Heads up for those of my clients who read this blog. I’ll be learning more about these topics:

  • Listening
  • Intuition
  • Curiosity
  • Self-Management
  • Balance
  • How-to Define Professional Coaching
  • Putting It All Together

The other book seemed like a stretch – at first. But as I scanned through it, I saw the possibilities. “Words That Sell” contains info about writing:

  • Teasers
  • Headers
  • Slogans
  • Authentic Descriptions
  • Clinchers
  • How to Persuade Your Audience
  • Selling Your Ideas

It is focused on tips for copywriting which is another form of writing I may pursue. Creating the back blurbs of my books has taught me the value of a credible pitch and how to convince readers to buy my words.

But the other direction for this book is to help my clients improve their marketing skills. If I can teach them how to devise paragraphs, blog posts and promotional information — they can be more successful selling their own words.

So part of my summer days will be spent in the library, going to school. I’ll spread out these how-to books with my highlighters and notepads, then immerse myself in a personal education project. The goal is to bring positive results for my clients and eventually also — to me.

Now that’s what I call a hope-filled summer.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Learning how to write and share your personal experience article is a valuable tool. For practical tips on how to move toward your publishing dreams, check out my newest writing craft book: Write and Share Your Story: Creating Your Personal Experience Article.

Hope in the Steps

trustOne of my friends is a man of great wisdom. When he speaks, I listen. Recently, I explained to him some of my struggles and the enormous question marks hanging over my life.

“I don’t know what to do,” I said. “I’m a planner, and I need to know my direction. But it’s foggy.”

“Just take one step at a time,” he said.

After our meeting, I opened my journal and added his wisdom to one of the most famous trust verses, Proverbs 3:5-6. It seemed to outline a simple formula that added some security to my questioning heart.

Trust in the Lord” – one step at a time.

Most of life’s decisions require some amount of trust — either in God Himself, in our ability to make wise decisions or in how the circumstances play out. Being able to trust only one step at a time seems more manageable and less overwhelming.

“With all your heart” – one step at a time.

Most of us glibly declare that we trust God, yet do we really believe with all our hearts, with the entire soul and being? Isn’t there always a piece of reticence in decision-making? Trusting with our wholistic self, one step at a time, seems more authentic.

“Lean not on your own understanding” – one step at a time.

Letting go of my self-sufficiency cannot happen in one giant leap, will not preclude every deletion of my pride. Because my true self has served me well, I cannot massively change my attitude all at once. Refusing to lean on myself can only be surrendered one tiny step at a time.

“In all your ways” – one step at a time.

Not just for one big decision, but for all my directionless life. Every ordinary walk-through-life day. As I take the one-step-at-a-time approach in one area of my being, it will foster more trust in every facet — from finances to relationships to choice of décor to nutrition to everything in between.

“Acknowledge Him” – one step at a time.

God is too big to understand his omnipotence and all-knowing power, because we live in the every day, one-day-at-a-time life. As I acknowledge divine wisdom and guidance one step at a time, I experience the relational value of knowing God. This is the difference between religion and relationship, legalism versus love.

“He will make your path straight” – one step at a time.

The cobblestones in my garden set up the perfect analogy. Each stone was mortared, set in pea gravel and arranged to make the perfect pathway. A step off-target would have changed the course.

Although the pathway of life sometimes feels like a meandering current, when we look back on its finished course, we see how it led us straight to the best outcome — into God’s arms.

So as I take one step at a time, each moment becomes a sacred cobblestone, a multi-colored piece to create the finished journey.

Then the questions about direction become hope-filled expressions, and the final destiny shines with joy.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For other analogies about hope, check out Hope Shines – also available in Large Print.

Hope in the Handwriting

It was time to choose a new journal — to begin a new treasure trove of writings and daily reflections.

I sorted through my stash and chose the one that spoke to me — sparkly with pink flower blossoms on both front and back covers. Then opened it to begin a new entry.

A gasp. A memory. Fresh tears.

Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed

photo attribution to Flickr

Written in her unique handwriting was the message my precious friend Deb shared when she gave me that journal. “Your faith can move mountains.”

Underneath the sentence, a mustard seed scotch-taped to the page.

I had forgotten that particular journal was a gift from Deb, a reminder of the verse in Matthew 17:20 where Jesus said, “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

The irony of the verse lies in the size of a mustard seed — only slightly larger than a pin-head.

Yet if we have even that tiny amount of pure faith, total belief in the One who can answer insurmountable prayer requests, we can see metaphorical mountains begin to move.

Deb believed this truth and passed it on to me. She had no idea how short her life would be, how I would treasure her memory and the friendship we shared.

She would have laughed at how I caressed that mustard seed and kissed the writing that came from her hand. She would have been surprised when I cut that cover off and framed it as a constant reminder of who she was and who we were together.

Handwriting is a sacred gift — a special scribbling that identifies us and preserves the energy of its author. It leaves a legacy, a historical mark that we lived. We made an impression on this earth, simply because we existed.

Although Deb is gone, her handwriting proves how she lived and the influence she left on those of us who knew her and loved her. And this reminder of our shared faith has become an art form I now preserve.

I think we all need to write and send more cards, letters that tell about our days, messages that share hope. To slow down and share words that will bless the receiver and prove the significance of our words. Computer keys cannot store the treasure of a friendship like a handwritten note.

Thanks, Deb, for this incredible gift. And for reminding me once again, to find hope in faith.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For an easy-to-understand booklet about faith, check out Uploading Faith: What It Means to Believe.

 

Hope and the Feral Cats

It was a gift — an unexpected pleasure on a discouraging day.

I had just pulled up my Amazon book sales report. Not enough sales for the month, not even close to my goal.

Then I looked outside and laughed in delight.black and white kitten

My neighborhood is blessed with several feral cats. One big guy — all black — I call Onyx. A smaller black and white female I have dubbed Mama.

Several of us feed them. During the winter they shelter under porches, pad across the snow-covered cul-de-sac to the next bowl of food.

But this spring, I noticed Mama growing fatter with pregnancy. She lumbered around the neighborhood, searching for more and more goodies. Then suddenly, she appeared thin and tired. Obviously, she had given birth. Onyx strutted as if proud of his accomplishment.

I did not know where Mama nested, how many babies she had or even if any of them lived. Feral cats don’t always have successful births.

Then, on the exact day I needed a boost, I looked out my front window and laughed. Four kittens crawled out from under the neighbor’s porch. Black and white, some more spotted, a couple more solid black with white booties.

They were at the stage of perfect fluff and fun, jumping on each other and practicing their cat-skills of pounce and conquer. Mama stood to the side, looking exasperated but also maternal.

The neighbor — a big tough guy who hides his soft heart, sneaked bowls onto the porch, then hid behind a bush. The kittens cavorted toward the bowls, joined by Mama as the entire brood ate lustily.

I stayed by my front window for a while, refused to answer a text message or to return to my computer. Knowing I needed the joy of those kittens fed hope and insulated me from further discouragement.

Just a few moments to watch joy in action, the frolicking movements of kittens and the satisfied face-washing after a bowl of milk.

Sometimes all we need is a nugget of hope to remind us life is good, that the creatures God has blessed us with bring a freedom from stress and worry. To be grateful for small blessings and leave the uncertainties for another day.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For some extra nuggets of hope, check out Hope Shines – also available in Large Print.

Hope Lives in Photos

photo albumsSo many photo albums. Boxes and boxes of memories from the beginnings of a life to the present. Photos of my son – even his birth certificate – preserved in plastic sleeves with descriptive tags to indicate his growth: 8 pounds, 3.5 ounces, 19.5 inches long.

Preschool. Kindergarten graduation with a mortar board and tassel. Through the years of puberty – his larvae of manhood – into the present grown man. And a handsome fellow to boot!

Report cards, certificates of attendance and Awana awards. How quickly they grow, then leave.

Other memories: children sitting in multiple classrooms listening to my words, vacations to Europe, Florida, Chicago and my beloved New Mexico.

Photos of family members now gone, a reminder of their younger, more vital days before old age sapped strength and the ICU machines beeped a goodbye.

Some family members still living and working although crowned with greying hair, wisdom wrinkles and those chronic illnesses we try to avoid or hide.

Lives lived and recorded on yellowing film and clipped into binders. But who wants to store these heavy boxes? None of us, especially when we can scan, digitalize and save to that obsequious cloud.

After several people looked through the albums and chose pictures they wanted to keep, it was my task to make the final choices.

I took out the plastic sleeves, stored them for my son and his future home, then threw away those albums. Most of them now faded, their backs broken, cardboard flayed by multiple moves.

A life lived. The memories sealed forever in our hearts, each of us filtering hope from our own perceptions, our viewpoints selective yet valuable.

When we finally ascend to eternity’s arms, will the pictures of our lives be stored by the good we did, the love we shared, the other pilgrims we helped?

I like to think so.

No need for albums then. We’ll have living memorials of the hope we encapsulated within one short life.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Hope Shines and Sometimes They Forget memorialize lives within the genre of essays. Check them out.

 

 

Hope in the Redbud

Every spring, my redbud tree reminds me to stay in hope.Redbud

The usual allegory applies: dead winter becomes a fruitful spring. Trust God in the hard times. Almost a cliché these days.

But a more hidden meaning speaks to me this year, after an interminable winter and the hanging-on-of-grief. After another 12 months of ugliness and insecurity from our nation’s capitol, from both sides who should know better.

In spite of nature’s circumstances and the unknowns of life, here stands my redbud tree.

A neighbor has threatened to cut it down because its gnarled trunk and uneven branches seem out of sync with the rest of the symmetrical neighborhood.

Yet every time I drive home and see that rough bark, I marvel how such lovely pink blossoms manage to push their way to the surface.

And I cannot cut it down — will not allow it to be destroyed just because its trunk is ugly, its presence a misfit.

Even within its lack of beauty, I find hope.

The redbud tree reminds me how important every speck of God’s creation is — even those who do not fit into the traditional boxes.

  • Those creatives who splash weird colors onto canvas while everyone stares and tries to figure them out.
  • Children who don’t fit into the learning structures of schools yet are created for a beautiful purpose.
  • Autistic and Down’s Syndrome loved ones who see life more realistically than those of us with high IQ’s.
  • Every woman who survived high school although she was called “fat and ugly” by the popular kids.
  • The 67% of single moms who leave the church because they no longer fit into the religious culture.
  • And thousands of other categories of people, precious creations of God who find themselves unloved, unaccepted, unappreciated.

It strikes me that Jesus himself was a bit gnarled. The prophet Isaiah reminds us, “There was no attractiveness in him, nothing to make us want him. We despised him and rejected him. . .turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by” (Isaiah 53:2-3 TLB).

So they cut him down.

Yet the truth of resurrection each spring reminds us that although we cannot see the inner beauty of creation, reality does not negate the truth.

Within the rough bark and spikey branches, life beats. Cells reproduce and spring bursts forth with a lovely fuchsia color.

Autistic children become great composers. Kids with ADHD learn how to operate computers and troubleshoot through cyberspace. Single moms raise the next generation of amazing beings. People with Down’s Syndrome teach us all how to love. Immigrants become solid citizens. Creatives remind us that art is subjective.

So I remind my neighbor, “Don’t judge my redbud tree.”

And I remind myself to never look at the outer layers of life. Beauty lies in the next flip of the calendar page.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

If you enjoy reading essays about hope, check out Hope Shines, also available in large print.

The Intensity of Hope

“Your book is so intense.”

Several readers have used this statement to describe my novel No Visible Scars.nvs-cover

“Yes,” I answer. “This book IS intense. It’s supposed to be because of the topic.”

Without the intensity, I would not be true to my characters or to the major plot lines of the story.

The main character jumps right off the pages of First Samuel in the Old Testament. She lived a life of intensity.

Abigail — trying to survive with her abusive husband during a time period and a culture where she had no other options. We don’t know if the abuse was physical, emotional or mental.

But we can guess. Probably all of the above, judging how women were treated during the time she lived and in her corner of the world.

I first wrote Abigail’s story as a nonfiction treatise, a reason for women to set healthy boundaries within their relationships. It was a plea for them to seek help and find hope.

But several medical professionals and counselors were writing on the same topic. The competition squeezed me out. I could not sell my book.

So I returned to the original call from the Great Creator, to write Abigail’s story and show how she prevailed, how she became a major figure in King David’s kingdom.

At the same time, I was coaching more and more women who shared their experiences:

  • Husbands who turned vicious and took out their frustrations on their women
  • Men who were smart enough not to hit, but still manipulative enough to create fear
  • Boyfriends who attended church and pretended to be good guys so they could find a “nice” woman
  • Husbands who knew all the Bible verses about women submitting to them but refused to learn how to honor their wives
  • Male pastors who dismissed women as “emotional” and “reactive,” who would not hear their truth and told them to just pray about it

And the statistics grew. One out of four women living in destructive relationships. Children learning about skewed marriages where one partner is the victim while the other controls and shames.

Intense? You bet it is.

So I wrote the book while thinking of a pastor’s wife I knew who was belittled in front of their guests. I typed away the long hours while remembering a woman who was locked in her basement and fed scraps. Her husband was a deacon. Her pastor told her to lose weight so he would like her better.

The rough draft pounded out the anguish of all the biblical and contemporary women who suffer because men are more physically powerful and more culturally honored.

Even in the church.

And the book was published, sold and continues to sell because it speaks the truth about a horrific issue.

It shows the importance of knowing how to set boundaries, of moving outside the box to live a life of freedom, of believing that self-care must precede other care.

When I get to heaven, I want to talk to the real Abigail. To thank her for her courage in defying her abuser and standing up for her King.

I want to honor Abigail for the life she led and for those 39 verses where her life appears in the biblical account.

On that day, I will give her a hug of gratitude for the hope she offered all women.

Then I will whisper in her ear, “I told your story. It was intense.”

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Read about Abigail in No Visible Scars, available in print, on Kindle, Goodreads and Kobo.

Hope and the Feline Allegory

Peppernut 3

Hello, Peppernut !

Her plaintive cry echoed through the car. A five-hour drive — interminable for a cat who could not understand I was transporting her to a new home. One of my sister’s rescues, Peppernut would become my latest cat, an adopted member of our family.

“It’ll be okay, honey,” I answered her concerned meows. “You’re going to like being the only cat in the house. Life will be good.”

She could not understand. Her native language — feline.

Eventually she settled in as we traveled the remainder of the miles through the Flint Hills and into northeastern Kansas.

Finally, we arrived. Her room was ready. A fresh litter box, food and water, cat treats and some new toys. Plenty of soft places to rest and nap — the usual 16-hour sleep of cats.

She climbed out of the carrier, purred and let me rub her belly. Ready to love and be loved in her new home.

The allegory was not lost on me as so many of us face transitions.

We cannot understand God’s direction for our lives, even the possible moves he asks us to make. Our native language is self-sufficiency.

But when we approach those scary moments — when we don’t know where we’re going or what will happen to us, God whispers encouragement.

“It will be okay, my beloved. You’re going to like this change. This will be good.”

It is only later, when we arrive on the other side of the transition that we realize God was with us all along. He readied the place, providing everything we needed. Even some enjoyable moments — the toys of life.

We are ready then to love him and be loved more deeply by him than we could ever imagine.

If you are facing a change, stay in hope. Even if it seems scary. God is able to make it good.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more allegories on faith, check out Uploading Faith: What It Means to Believe. 

Hope Lets Go

In the never-ending task of downsizing, I constantly ask the questions: Do I need this item anymore? Does this object still give me joy or can I share that joy with another person?

rockerA survey of my guest room focused on the tiny antique rocker. Purchased all those years ago, it intrigued us because it also expanded into a wooden high chair. Perfect for baby Caleb.

But the years had grown my son and weathered the wood. Initially, I saved the rocker / high chair for a future grandbaby. But now, I wondered if that was even feasible.

I would not feed a child in such an old device. Its wooden pegs were beginning to rot. The structure was no longer safe. And who knew how many bacteria still hid within the crevasses of walnut? Not even a bleach bath could reach every tiny surface.

Repaint it? Sand and varnish it? No. My days of restoring furniture and exposing myself to chemicals are long gone.

Use it for something else? Maybe. A plant stand? It no longer fits my décor and the whole purpose is to get rid of stuff.

Did my son want it? “No,” he said with a grimace. No one in the family could find a place for it.

So I decided to give it away. I don’t mess with E-Bay or Craigslist. It’s easier to donate my treasures and claim a deduction. I loaded up the rocker along with sacks of other stuff and left everything with the attendant at the Goodwill store.

But as I drove away, the tears fell. Another piece of life had transitioned away. Another reminder of the aging process and the losses that inevitably shadow our days.

Still, the memories were sweet. I swiped at the tears and thanked God for my little boy, for the years of rocking him to sleep, watching him chase Cheerios across the surface of his high chair.

Then I prayed a blessing over whomever would purchase the rocker. Hope returned with the process of sharing my goods with another, of giving away what once owned my heart.

Life passes so quickly, and our stuff becomes transient. Yet we find hope and joy in living the days well and sharing what we no longer need.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more essays about hope, check out Hope Shines – also available in Large Print.

Hope Defeats Fear

monarchDuring the sixth month of my pregnancy, I waddled outside. The June sunshine brightened my colorful zinnias, so I parked my lawn chair beside the garden and carefully arranged myself within its plastic womb.

Six months. Three more to go. We had made it past the danger zone — those first 12 weeks when this baby’s siblings slithered out of my body and died.

This child seemed stronger, a prototype of health according to sonograms and medical opinions. Yet a niggle of fear colored my days. Things could go wrong so quickly. Hadn’t the past pregnancies taught me that truth?

I dozed, then woke to the sight of a colorful monarch resting on my belly. His wings pulsated, his russet eyes steady on my face. I tried to breathe silently, barely moving lest he leave and break the spell.

The baby kicked, but the monarch rode the wave. Extra flutters of his wings yet a determination to hold on.

A verse I had read that morning filtered through my mind, “Though a thousand fall at my side, though ten thousand are dying around me, the evil will not touch me” (Psalm 91:7 TLB).

Thousands of women lost babies every day. I had been one of them, but not this time. The monarch seemed to tell me, “Hold on. You’re almost there. It’s safe to believe.”

That amazing insect stayed on my belly for the entire afternoon. Precious hours as the two of us communed. A concrete reminder that life would be gifted for my baby and me.

When my son was born in November of that year, the summer sun was long gone. But not the truth of that amazing experience.

Even now, 33 years later, when I see a monarch — I smile and whisper a thank you for the hope that butterfly brought me.

Then I find my son for a quick hug.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

That same son edited our newest book, Uploading Faith: What It Means to Believe.

Hope Lives

woman worshipThe pastor pounded his opinion into our souls. “Death for the believer is a beautiful thing.”

He was wrong. Sure — the aftermath of death — that entrance into heaven is a beautiful result of the life of faith. We can only imagine how it will feel to be free of pain and stress.

But the process of death is not beautiful, not even remotely lovely.

Growing up on a farm, my siblings and I often saw the effects of death. Whether it was a beloved pet smashed under the wheels of a speedy vehicle or a steer slaughtered for the meat, death was shocking and ugly.

And death for humans was no less horrid. Even while performing CPR on my precious grandmother, trying unsuccessfully to bring her back to us — I noted the smells and sights of death. Not a pleasant experience.

Throughout my years in ministry, sitting with families in the ICU, hearing the beeping of machines, smelling the sterile rooms — the approach of death changed the human body until it was almost unrecognizable. Even today when I visit hospitals, I go home and shower off the smell of death.

No wonder mortuaries employ the services of makeup and hair stylists so that our last view of loved ones is more pleasing.

During this holy week, we focus on the crucifixion. But we don’t always realistically picture how awful the death of Jesus was. In The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson presented a more realistic view of the broken body, the torture, the results of sepsis and blood poisoning.

So I wonder what actually happened when Jesus came back to life? We know his scars were not miraculously healed. He later showed his wounds to Thomas and the other disciples.

Did he wake up with unshed tears crusted on his eyelids? Did it take him a while to stretch out his arms and legs, to work out the stiffness from lying on a rocky sepulcher? Were his shoulders sore from being stretched on that cross, the results of dislocation and trying to hold up his body for six hours?

Or did God rejuvenate every cell so that Jesus instantly felt more alive than ever before?

What follows then is speculation on our loved ones and their metamorphosis from the ugliness of death to the power of new life. We know the physical becomes spirit. Jesus had the ability to appear and disappear, to walk through walls. We know the curtain between the physical and the spiritual is thin, like a lacey veil.

How amazing it must be to pass through the portal of death and experience forever life!

Someone once wrote the following truth: “Since our loved ones are with God and God is with us, then they can’t be very far away.”

I find hope in thinking of the nearness of Deb, of Betsy, of my grandmother and of Jesus. While death in all its ugliness is inevitable, eternal life is also a certainty. And that will be a good thing.

The trick is to put aside the horror and focus on what will someday be truly beautiful.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Hope Shines is dedicated to the memory of my precious friend, Deb Mosher, who passed from death to life. She lived with shining hope.

Hope and the Triage Moment

triageMany of us learned the meaning of the word “triage” because we watched M*A*S*H. Every week, the doctors and nurses on our favorite TV show worked through the triage episode. Some patients could wait a while. Others were taken immediately to surgery while several unfortunates received last rites from Father Mulcahy.

The working definition of “triage” means “to assign the degree of urgency to a wounded or ill patient.” Even in today’s healthcare environment, triage nurses and doctors determine the priority of working with a patient, especially during crises.

Recently, I heard a phrase which caused me to stop and ponder its impact: Triage your worry bucket.

Most of us deal with one situation or another. Many of my friends are caring for an elderly parent or two while supporting a kid or two in college. Scores of people I know struggle with medical issues while others are trying to pay off debt and/or college loans.

All it takes is five minutes watching the news on any channel to know we are in serious trouble.

But what can we do about it? Triage the worry bucket.

Decide which issue is most urgent and deal with it first. Put everything else in the waiting room until you’re ready to bring it front and center. By that time, those secondary issues may have dissipated or won’t seem that important.

Most of the national and international issues are out of my control. I cannot do anything about them other than to educate myself so I’ll know how to vote in 2020.

My mother’s Alzheimer’s journey does not warrant any fresh worry. It is what it is. I’ve already worked through most of the grief. Only time will determine how it ends.

My son is an adult, and he makes his own choices. I’ve done my best to raise him, but I cannot control anything he does. So far, he’s being wise. No worries.

Health issues or crisis events can be troubling, depending on what happens. But I cannot worry today about what may or may not become a struggle during the next decade. I’ll triage that worry bucket when the time comes.

So what is on the priority list for my triage bucket? Recently, digestive issues. So I’m working with a doctor, taking my meds and trying to set boundaries around my food choices. Unfortunately, chocolate is NOT on the list.

A possible car purchase is on the horizon. No emergency, thankfully. Just trying to be conscious of the best deal and find something that will last for a while.

The problem escalates when our worry buckets overflow. We cannot make effective decisions when we’re overwhelmed.

But if we purposefully triage the worries and only allow the most urgent struggles to rise to the top, we can deal with whatever life hands us.

I often tell my Coaching clients to take “One microstep at a time.” The same holds true for the crises that pepper our lives.

So triage your worry bucket and live in the hope that one day, all your worries will cease.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

A life of faith helps defeat the overwhelming worry bucket. Check out Uploading Faith: What It Means to Believe.

Hope Empowers

zippered heartOne of the guarantees in life is that people WILL hurt us. Whether it’s a misunderstanding or a response from a toxic personality, someone will ding us.

And – whether we want to admit it or not – we will hurt others.

So what do we do when those fringes of communication break down? How do we move toward reconciliation and repair?

Make a Healthy Choice. We can become bitter about the situation or better. Bitterness does nothing to remedy relationships but makes our souls hard, unable to truly love others. The only way to avoid bitterness and become a better person is to walk through . . . .

Forgiveness. The process of forgiveness is not easy and rarely happens immediately. It may sometimes require years of determination and hours of therapy. Forgiveness involves replacing negative thoughts with positive affirmations, a concentrated effort to do the hard work.

I will admit that I’m still working through the forgiveness process in some situations from my past. But I have learned to even forgive myself for the time it takes me to slough off the pain and move forward.

Set Healthy Boundaries. Even after we work through forgiveness and choose to become better, we may have to set boundaries. Toxic people exist and may continue to abuse or emotionally sear us. Nobody should live with the fear of emotional, verbal or mental assault. For a great resource, check out Boundaries: When to Say Yes and How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life.

Meet with a Third Party. A therapist or a trusted pastor can help you and the other party negotiate toward a more objective view. But to get to this step, both parties must admit to the need for outside help. If the other person refuses to move toward reconciliation, that tells you it is time to . . . .

Let It Go. Again, a somewhat trite phrase but an important step in the healing process. Bitterness often manifests as a lifelong grudge which harms the person carrying the burden more than the one who chooses to move on.

Years ago, I knew of a family — a group of sisters who carried a grudge against their brother. They could not resolve the issue until they stared at him in his coffin. What a waste of time and energy when they could have enjoyed a sibling relationship. But in spite of his attempts toward healing, they simply could not let it go.

Obviously, we will continue to encounter people who will hurt us. And we may struggle not to hurt others. We are all flawed humans.

But we can work to restore healthy relationships and discover how hope is empowered by reconciliation. Then all of us benefit from the ripple effects of emotional healing.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Find more essays about hope in my book Hope Shines, also available in large print.

Hope Searches for Rest

Several people in my world have recently mentioned their need for rest. They admit they are trying to find an oxymoronic balance – to intentionally work at resting.tea -book-rose

My usual response is to seek the true meaning of a word, to discover the hidden secret and find motivation. And to be honest, I admit to my own search for rest:

  • When I cannot cease running from the grief that seems constantly present
  • When the change of identity summons personal soul fatigue
  • When a break in the routine feels like a betrayal of goals
  • When the carefully monitored diet results in its own health issues
  • When I watch a news cycle and wonder how we can ever return to kindness

Anxiety overshadows rest and keeps us from inner calm.

While it may provide relief to leave the daily routines and take a break on a beach, without true inner rest – the stress of life’s anxieties meekly follow.

So how do we determine what is genuine rest? Perhaps each of us must find our own definition, then rearrange life to discover its benefits.

For me, rest is more than a nap, more encompassing than a vacation or a spring break. For my soul to experience true rest, I must learn contentment:

  • No comparing myself to others who count several best-sellers in their resumes
  • No wishful thinking about an easier way to shelter, a smaller place to clean, a discount from the barrage of bills and the huge yard
  • No dwelling in the griefs of what is lost but embracing more thank-yous of what once was
  • No focus on the past or longing for the future but more of a carpe diem to seize each day

And when I fail and the gloomies threaten, to begin again, take a deep breath and believe rest can be achieved.

Hope beckons to weary souls, to those who have cried out for years in repetitive unanswered prayers. But as we accept what we have been given and learn contentment, the deeper searching responds.

Then that elusive place of rest becomes a haven of peace where hope and joy entwine.

As the Serenity Prayer reminds us: “God, grant me serenity (rest) to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Much of my rest happens within the pages of books. Check out my Author Page for some choices.

Hope Seeks Wonder

dandelions - womanIn her best-selling book, Moving On, Sarah Ban Breathnach lists the seven senses. The usual five we know: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. But then she adds knowledge and wonder.

A working definition of “wonder” is “Surprise mingled with admiration caused by something beautiful, unexpected or inexplicable.”

As we age, I think we can lose our sense of wonder. Children can spend hours just looking at a dandelion, caught in the wonder of such a cheery yellow flower.

Many of us cherish the memory of a little boy’s grubby hands, bringing his mommy a stone he dug from the riverbank, a bunch of early spring flowers or a wriggling worm – his wonder of something surprising shared with his precious mom.

In the hubbub of life, we can lose that admiration for the things we cannot explain. Instead, we tend to just move on – to stay busy and do our thing, oblivious of life’s pulsing around us. Avoiding the presence of God in the ordinary.

To restore some hope, I’ve decided to list some of the things that feed my sense of wonder. To force myself to stop and listen, to revel in the world around me and rediscover my intuitive soul.

In my gratitude journal, I’ll include these items that fill me with a surprising beauty, a restored wonder:

  • The sudden silence of my universe as a midnight snow begins to blanket the ground
  • The tiny fingernails of newborns, a reminder of how fragile is the miracle of life
  • The detailed featherings of blue jays – gray, white, black and royal blue – no two the same
  • The consistent hammering of the red-headed woodpecker in my elm tree. How does he not have a migraine after all that pounding on the bark?
  • The way memory blips make life disappear or bring to mind a special moment from decades ago
  • The careful pulsing of my heart, steady and regular – a miracle in itself
  • The moment a soul steps out of its earthly body and transfers to eternity
  • A crackling fire that exudes warmth, aesthetic pleasure and security all at the same time
  • When the souls of two people connect and blossom into love
  • The way God whispers answers to prayer before we utter the request
  • How pets know the exact time we are coming home and run to the door before we turn into the drive
  • The vastness of space and the amazing synchronicity of God’s creation
  • How Patrick Mahomes can turn his body northeast and throw southwest
  • How ideas spark from deep creativity and give writers a place to begin
  • How children give love so easily, not yet marred by the ugliness of self-sufficiency

I need to spend more time experiencing wonder – to nurture this sense and appreciate all the things in my world that are admirable and beautiful.

A focus on wonder helps reboot the hope muscle and reminds me that life is better than it sometimes appears.

As Frederick Buechner wrote, “Never question the truth of what you fail to understand, for the world is filled with wonders.”

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For a book that expresses the wonder of hope, check out Hope Shines.

Hope Comes Full Circle

My mother taught me to love reading. After the farm chores were completed, the supper dishes washed and the homework finished — everyone in our family sat down to read. This discipline meant we drove to the library every week and checked out stacks of books.

Then an important milestone changed my reading habits.library

When I was twelve, Mom gathered my siblings and I for our weekly library run. I searched through each of the young adult books, but couldn’t find one I hadn’t already read or one that truly interested me. And I was NOT going to check out the children’s section. That was for little kids like my brother and sister.

So I wandered into the adult section and found a couple of books I wanted to read. But when I took them to the librarian for her dated stamp, she peered at me over her glasses and said, “These are adult books, young lady.”

“I know, ma’am. But I’ve read all the young adult books. I want to read these.”

“You are not allowed to read any of the books in the adult section. Take them back.”

Five minutes later, Mom found me in the adult section, cradling the books I could not read and crying over my bad luck. I wasn’t old enough yet.

“What’s the matter with you?” Mom demanded. She never wasted time with emotions. Not a nurturer, but a great defender.

When I told her what had happened, she grabbed my hand and those two books. Together, we marched toward the librarian’s towering desk.

Mom’s voice was harsh. “I understand you won’t let my daughter check out these books.”

“That’s right, ma’am. These books are from the adult section and….”

“I know where they’re from. May I remind you this library exists because taxpayers like me pay for it?”

“But ma’am…sh-h-h…we have a policy….”

The volume of Mom’s voice rose. “And may I also remind you that I pay your salary and the electric bill for this place.”

“But ma’am, an adolescent such as your daughter can’t possibly understand these books.”

“My daughter — in fact, all my children read well above their grade levels. If she has any questions about the words, she can ask me. Now…we ARE checking out these books for my daughter. Today.”

During the stare-down of these two powerful women, I felt the electricity of the emotional standoff. But I knew who would win.

Nobody ever beat down my mother, especially when it came to defending her children.

That day, I walked out of the library with The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt and The Grapes of Wrath. I read both books and never had to ask Mom for help with the words.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to participate in that same library’s Author Fest. It was a coming full circle from the adolescent to the adult author.

Unfortunately, the weather from this winter-that-won’t-quit stopped me from attending. I simply could not travel through six inches of snow to that cherished Oklahoma library.

But they promised to keep me on the list for next year. And one of my books is now shelved in the library that wouldn’t allow a young girl to read an adult book.

Life comes full circle and hope travels with it. What we learn as children overshadows how we act as adults. That’s why childhood is so important.

And that’s why words give me hope.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

The book now shelved in that library is titled Hope Shines. Check it out.

When Hope Disappoints

social media wordsSuch a disappointment! As I scrolled through my Facebook posts, I saw the vitriol. Several people I respect had posted ugly words against the congresswomen dressed in white for the State of the Union address. Giant black X’s on their faces.

Those women were dressed in white to honor the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote. It was an important anniversary and a simple way to honor that vital addition to our constitution.

I am SO grateful for the years of protests, the marches and the hard work of these women. I honor Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and the scores of volunteers who were persecuted, harassed and even killed so that I can vote.

Yet because the majority of those women seated in the chamber were from a certain political party, these Facebook posters decided to attack them. No consideration for what they represented with their white outfits. Only personal assault.

Words have the power to bind up — but also to tear down.

Perhaps these people have forgotten that we will all give an account to God for every word spoken, including the words shared through cyberspace (Matthew 12:36).

Most of these Facebook “friends” fight for pro-life policies. And let me clarify before I receive any more hate mail — I, too, am pro-life. But I believe life includes the point of conception and expands until the moment of death.

People outside the womb are as important as babies inside. No one deserves to be X’d out.

How can someone claim to be pro-life yet try to destroy the living of someone else? Isn’t that the epitome of hypocrisy?

This is one reason why millennials are scared away from Christianity. They read the ugliness, the constant name-calling and cannot reconcile negative actions with positive beliefs.

Should we fight for our beliefs? Absolutely! But standing up for our values should not counteract how we speak. Voting for the policies we value does not have to include lambasting those who choose a different belief system. If we slander others, Romans 1:30 calls us to judgment.

I am already dreading the 2020 campaign season with its forecasted ugliness.

Because I am a published author, I need to be active on social media sites. The various places such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and this blog are where I connect with my readers and introduce my new books. I cannot just delete everything and leave.

But I am increasingly disgusted by what I read, posted by normally good people. Maybe it’s because cyberspace makes us feel invisible. We think we are somehow anonymous.

Venom always has a poisonous source. Verbal ugliness stems from prideful anger enveloped in a selfish heart.

I hope these people who have “liked” me will reconsider future posts — ask themselves if their words honor their Savior before they click “Share.”

So far, I see no change. And that causes hope to fade.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my newest book, UPLOADING FAITH: What It Means to Believe. 

Hope for a Book

Uploading FaithIn the middle of supper, my son turned toward me and asked, “What do you think of my generation?” An honest question, laced with hope that my answer might satisfy or invite open debate.

What do I think of his millennial generation, these precious ones born to Baby Boomers during the years of 1981-1996?

“I think your generation includes the smartest, most talented group I have ever known. Yours is the first generation whose native language is computer.”

He seemed pleased. A tiny grin settled in his right dimple.

Then I continued, “But I also think millennials feel sad.”

He nodded, and I saw in his eyes a hint of his own emotional angst. We talked about the traumatic issues that have affected his generation:

  • The heart-stopping moment of 9-11 which defines the millennial generation
  • The numbers of his friends who have overdosed or chosen suicide as a way out of their struggles
  • The side effects of wars, how security seems unattainable
  • The massive college debts and the impossibility of owning a home — financial despair
  • The hypocrisy of those they trusted, leaving them floundering for faith, love and peace

Yet as sad as these bullets, a pathway back to hope is possible.

Barely a year ago, my son and I began a project — a book to present to millennials and those who love them. Our goal was to write an easy-to-understand manual about faith.

We included the basics: Who is God? How can we understand the Trinity? Why does God allow bad things to happen?

Yeah, not easy stuff. But these are some of the questions millennials ask and should ask as they seek honest answers.

I wrote each chapter, then my resident millennial son edited. He took out my Baby Boomer language and prodded me to consider the why of each topic.

Millennials want to know why. They demand authenticity. They will not, cannot accept a fact just because someone says so.

Each chapter was fact-checked for theological accuracy from a trusted pastor. Each word poured over, revised, prayed for.

Even the cover was chosen by my millennial — an abstract photo, the darker colors, block lettering.

This book is our attempt to reach out to those whose hearts are sad. We hope readers will feel less isolated, less confused about this divine One who loves them.

So UPLOADING FAITH: What It Means to Believe is now complete and available for sale. It may be the most important work I have done, certainly a project my son and I accomplished together.

That alone makes it precious.

If you know a millennial, if you are a millennial, consider reading this book. We wrote it because we care about you.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

UPLOADING FAITH: What It Means to Believe is available on Amazon and Kindle.

 

Hope in the Favorite

book with heartWe barely knew each other, the guy in the adjoining cubicle and I. As a mere temp worker, I did what I was told, edited the website, made few friends. Tried to survive as a single mom in the corporate jungle.

Doug was a full-time guy with plenty of responsibilities, a loving wife and four children. His cubicle plastered with photos of his happy life.

An occasional “good morning” greeting. A nod at the coffee bar. The extent of our communication as quick as the creamer melting in my coffee mug.

Yet Doug was going to change my perspective and boost my self-confidence.

This particular company made a big deal about birthdays: balloons, cakes, cards from everyone on staff and a whopping Starbucks gift from management.

I participated in plenty of birthdays for the others, signed my name on their cards. Still, I was surprised when they included me — the temp. On my birthday, purple balloons surrounded my cubicle. Someone remembered my favorite color. A giant cake in the break room, gluten free lemon – another fave.

Someone remembered, cared. As the last echoes of the Happy Birthday song faded, I began to open my cards. A small mountain of beautiful sentiments.

But it was Doug’s card that made me gasp. Tears quickly released. His scrawling signature with a simple phrase, “You are my favorite.”

I grew up in a time period where families made no secret of the favorite child. One of my great grandmothers often labeled a son as her favorite. Another grandchild was “Grandpa’s girl.”

The favorite child was rarely punished. It was always someone else’s fault. The favorite opened the most gifts at Christmas. The last will and testament clearly stated the favorite would receive the major portion of the inheritance.

Maybe the favoritism came from the Bible Belt mentality. David was a man after God’s heart. John the Apostle was the disciple Jesus loved.

But as I grew up, I remember feeling the emotional gap. Clearly, I was nobody’s favorite. Firstborns rarely held that position. We were too bossy, such over-achievers.

I didn’t know how deeply that rejection scar dug, how it was still embedded in my soul. Until I opened Doug’s card.

“You are my favorite.”

He had no idea how that simple phrase encouraged me, how I stood a little taller that day and couldn’t stop smiling. I whispered a “Thank you” but it didn’t seem enough.

What I have learned since then is that I am and always have been — a favorite. God Himself smiled when I was born, rejoiced over me with singing. In the years past, he has caressed my hair at night when I cried, provided for my needs, healed my son.

Because he is so present in every way, every place — God is able to spread his expansive love to every human being on earth. Without holding back from any of us. Open arms to match his open heart.

So if you find yourself needing a smidgen of hope, remember this tiny yet truthful phrase. Wrap your heart around it. Let it make you stand tall and feel loved.

“You are God’s favorite.”

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out Hope Shines on Amazon, Kindle and in Large Print.

Hope for Happy Children

Caleb - RJT (2)He’s in a sweet spot – finally – this child of mine who has conquered so many battles: a malignant brain tumor, chemo, radiation, a disastrous hernia surgery, the death of his best friend and other challenging losses.

But now – thank you, God – he is happy. The IT training he’s enrolled in is a perfect fit. He’s already an expert in mobile technology. Now he’s moving toward a systems administrator certification. For the first time in his life, he’s excited about going to class.

He has a part-time job with perfect hours. A convenience store where he helps people pump gas and keeps the coffee brewing. Only a six-minute drive from home. Easy peasey.

He and his girlfriend are cute together. Both love dogs and Mexican food. They’re active in a small group at church. They have friends and family who support their relationship.

Sure, he still has challenges: the ever-present medical bills, car issues, icy roads. But he’s happier than I’ve seen him in a long time.

And this cheerfulness makes his mama happy as well. A boulder-sized burden has lifted from my heart.

So if I, as a human mother, feel such joy over the happiness of my child – doesn’t God feel the same when his children experience abundance?

For too long, we have been taught about a judgmental, condemning God. A divine One who delights only in the suffering of his creation. The falsity that we can only grow and thrive when we struggle.

Yes, challenges do force us to take a deep breath and pray for strength. We learn about hope and God’s faithfulness when our journey includes rocks and valleys. We discover our own power when we are forced to live from our guts.

But when things go well, we can also learn about the joy of abundance, the peace of prosperity – also topics in scripture. God blessed the last part of Job’s life.

Surely our loving Father feels a sense of relief for us when life is good. His child is following his heart. His beloved is finding her niche. I believe God finds delight in our victories and joys, just as we do when our children live in emotional prosperity.

Our hope is multiplied with God’s smile.

For now, my son and I enjoy this plateau of happiness. I am proud of my boy for staying the course, for reaching this pinnacle. I am also proud of the way he humbly lives each day, rejoicing in goodness.

Although I will continue to trust God when life unravels, now I choose to celebrate and hope these good times will be extended.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Soon I will participate in an Author Fest in my home town. My Hope Shines book will be featured. Have you read it yet?

Hope in the SAD

I come alive in March.

In fact, I count off the weeks during January and February, looking forward to the day I can flip the calendar to March.

Why March? Because it signals the beginning of spring. The days are longer. The sunshine is brighter.

sad emojiFor years, I didn’t know how to define my problem with the first two months of the year. Then I read an article about Seasonal Affective Disorder and recognized my symptoms:

  • Feeling sad – duh!
  • Losing interest in normal activities
  • Low energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Wanting to escape, move, go somewhere warm – I added this one.

Check, check and double check.

Every January and February I wish I could become a snowbird – flee to Arizona and bask in the warmth. But instead, the cold gray days of the Midwest seem to multiply as 31 days in January plus 28 in February equal 500 million.

But hope lies in the knowledge that seasons DO change. March DOES come in like a lion, and I will once again roar.

So I focus on hope and do what works for me:

  • As much light as possible
  • When the sun DOES shine, I stand in it
  • Extra portions of the supplement Saint John’s Wort
  • Extra exercise, especially walking which releases endorphins. On cold days, you can find me walking around the perimeter of Target or Wal-Mart.
  • Plenty of self-care, homemade soups and comfort food like blueberry muffins
  • Coffee chats with friends
  • Reminding myself creative energy WILL return – in March
  • Staying in gratitude. Every day, finding some reason to say, “Thank you, God.”

And if the SAD gloomies persist, curl up with a good book and a heavy blanket.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

If you also suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder, curl up with Hope Shines until March.    

When Hope Doesn’t Work Out

My New Year’s Day began with a cup of hot cocoa and a few hours watching the Rose Parade. But the day quickly turned sour with a painful cry upstairs.betsy reading rev g

Betsy, my tortoiseshell cat of 18 years, was in distress. I knew her days were numbered. Multiply 18 times 7. How many animals live to be 126?

Kidney disease had plagued her for a year. She was on special foods prescribed by the vet and she drank incessantly, usually trying to sneak a few laps from my son’s favorite cup.

But this was different. She stopped eating and nothing I tried worked.

Two days earlier, we had rushed to the vet who attempted a blood draw. Betsy’s veins were collapsing. Kidneys were failing as well as the liver. Maybe extra fluids would help.

We tried, but her time was up.

So I spent the rest of New Year’s Day following Betsy around the house as she tried to get comfortable. She searched out dark corners. Animals will often search for a place to die – alone.

I told her what a good kitty she had been, how she became the model for Gabriel in my Reverend G trilogy, how she was famous on Facebook. I petted her, held her, kept my tears blocked. Expected her to die that night yet was grateful she didn’t.

I hoped and prayed, fervently, that Creator God would take her so I wouldn’t have to make that final decision.

But hope doesn’t always work out with a beautiful ending. Death is a consequence of life.

Although I grew up on a farm and have owned a plethora of pets, I never needed to put an animal to sleep. But Betsy’s cries were laced with pain.

Love does not allow suffering.

January 2, 9:18am. The vet and the staff at the pet hospital were compassionate and kind. My son and I had several moments to say goodbye. Then a couple of simple injections and she was gone, asleep in my arms. My tears finally released.

It has now been almost a month, and I still listen for her meow when I come home, wait for her to cuddle with me at night, cherish her satisfied purr.

Then I remember how hope deferred this request and left me bereft. Although I treasure the years of Betsy’s companionship, I am sick of death and loss.

The unconditional love of our pets reminds us how needy we are, how important is that sweet connection, how we can comfort each other by just being present.

Ah, Betsy – I will miss you forever. Thanks for letting me love you.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

What HOPE Means

hope ovalDuring the end of 2018, I reflected on the Hope series of this blog. For several years, I’ve used practical anecdotes and surrounded them with the umbrella of Hope. I’ve also written a book, using this blog series. Check out Hope Shines.

But what does it really mean to have Hope? After several weeks of thought and plenty of dark chocolate fortitude, I came up with my own definition. Using the acrostic form, I believe HOPE includes an Honest Optimism with Positive Expectations.

It’s impossible for me to think about Hope unless I can approach it with Honesty. I cannot visualize an attitude of optimism unless I have honestly looked at a situation.

Those of us who have lived through a debilitating depression know we cannot imagine ourselves out of the gloom. We must honestly approach our despair and seek help.

Reality often slams us into hopeless thoughts. It takes a bit of self-will to move past those gloomies. So my Hope must be laced with an honest appraisal of the situation.

Some people are genuinely Optimistic – you know, those cup-half-full folks. But without Hope, it is impossible to conjure up a hooray scenario and manipulate that cup to be what it’s not. Therefore, optimism is a definitive piece of the Hope puzzle.

Again, we have to lace that optimism with honesty. Sometimes we just have to live through the dark times, believing and hoping we will feel optimistic in the next season.

To stay positive, especially during these chaotic days, I keep healthy affirmations on my tongue. I sing, play piano and repeat the more positive Bible verses that have carried me through past struggles.

One of my favorites is the entire Psalm 34. In fact, many of the Psalms carry Hope as a major theme.

Again, honesty rules. I find nothing positive for my friends who have not been paid while doing their government jobs. Yet I Hope the powers in Washington, DC will find a compromise that will remedy this ridiculous situation.

Finally, expectations. Those of us who are Chiefs fans expect our team to go the whole way. Patriots and Saints fans have different expectations.

The fun and the challenge of expectations is that we cannot really know the outcome until after the final seconds tick off the clock. The same is true of our Hope in 2019.

So as we continue into this new year, let’s find our Hope by honestly approaching each day, laced with an optimistic attitude and moving forward with positive expectations.

What about you? How do you define Hope?

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my Amazon Author page for some winter reading. All of my books have an underlying theme of Hope.