Hope Encounters Loss

For regular followers of my blog and those who have read my books, you might think the title of this post means my mother has passed. No. She is still living in the shadows of Alzheimer’s Disease. Her brave heart still beats.

This loss was a complete surprise – a younger woman in good health – whose body suddenly betrayed her. Within 10 days of feeling so exhausted she drove to the ER, my friend Deb was gone.DM at country store

We did life together. Drank gallons of chai tea, determined the best place to eat by the quality of the guacamole, cried together at sad movies and celebrated birthdays with ice cream.

I will forever miss hearing her voice on the phone, “How ya’ doin’?”

How can a writer deal with such loss and continue to be a wordsmith? What kind of takeaway can I find – some way to honor Deb and the relationship we shared?

Learn from the Experience. I now know all I ever want to know about hemolytic anemia – how the red blood cells become so depleted and how even a transfusion can attack the good cells. If I ever develop a character with this disease, I will know she must be so totally exhausted she cannot even comb her hair. Because that is what Deb experienced. I will also know that even the best medical minds can find no effective long-term treatment.

Value the Journaling Practice. During Deb’s time in ICU when the outcome became clear, I returned home each night to my journal. I wrote out Bible verses that brought me comfort, especially the ones Deb loved. I also screamed the unfairness of it all through words – you know, upper case screaming with a red gel pen and underlining every other word. Writing out my frustrations helped trigger the beginnings of working through my grief.

Understand the Grieving Process. Some of the grieving began as I held Deb’s hand in the ICU and reminded her we had planned another trip to Santa Fe. Although she could not respond, I hoped she heard me. The roller coaster of the grieving process continued throughout those 10 days and then the weeks that followed. Again I learned writers must take care of themselves even as they grieve. This was not the time for me to begin working on a new novel.

Remember the Good Times. As a writer, I crafted the speech I shared at Deb’s memorial service. To recall our trips together, our shared loved of the country and cats, the excitement we had for anything the children and grandchildren did. It was my honor to speak about her and through my words to recall the way she invested in relationships.

Appreciate Each Day. Memes on Facebook and boards on Pinterest often remind us to live each day with purpose, to never take our lives for granted. But when we’re faced with the fragility of life and how quickly someone can be taken from us – the experience underscores how important it is that we appreciate each day. I am hugging my son more often. I am stopping work to pet the cat, taking time for sunsets and worrying less about the calories in dark chocolate.

I plan to spend each day writing my words with purpose and motivation – to make a difference while I am on this earth.

Deb taught me to enjoy ordinary moments while planning for the extraordinary. I am determined to take another trip to Santa Fe and remember how she played her Native American flute, coaxing echoes from the mountains around us.

I will finish the novel Deb encouraged me to write because she knew it deals with the important topic of domestic abuse. In the acknowledgements, I will include her name because she prodded me to find an agent and send the book into the marketplace.

How do we find hope when we encounter loss? One tiny piece at a time.

We must allow ourselves the grace to grieve, to let time salve the wound and allow God’s comfort to work its way into our souls.

Then hope itself becomes a comfort as we treasure our relationships and live each day seeking more ways to appreciate the people we love.

©2017 RJ Thesman – Author and Certified Writing Coach

Goals Print Cover     Before writers can reach their goals, they must effectively set realistic and achievable targets. For a strategic guidebook on “Setting and Reaching Your Writing Goals,” order your copy here. 

Hope Asks Questions

why imageHe was young and bright – this college student who wanted to pursue creative writing. We met at a local coffee shop, two creatives sharing a gift – though decades apart in age.

The hazelnut blend he drank mellowed the atmosphere while I played with the tail end of my English Breakfast tea bag.

He took copious notes of statements I have made hundreds of times with coaching clients:

  • Writing breeds more writing skill, so write every day.
  • Submit a manuscript to a magazine each week.
  • Frontload the week – plan your more creative work on Mondays and Tuesdays.
  • Be consistent with marketing. Whatever platform you use – consistency is the key.
  • Get involved with writers groups. Be in a critique group or have a writing partner.

And of course my pitch, “Hire a writing coach to help you be accountable. I currently have openings.”

I had asked him to bring some of his work and he pulled out a well-worn journal. I knew by the way he touched it, dared to hand it to me – these were words dear to his heart. He was trusting me with his very soul.

He seemed surprised when I praised him for the way he used conflict, the turn of a phrase that did not include a cliché, a-ha moments unique to his voice.

Like all of us, he needed encouragement and a slight push forward to realize the beginning of his writing dreams.

“I don’t mean to offend you,” he said with a polite nod, “but I know my writing asks lots of questions. I know you’re a Christian. I hope that’s okay…you know…that I ask the hard questions.”

For a moment, I wavered between needing to cry and wanting to scream. What have we done to these talented millenials? How did they get the idea that we know all the answers – that it is wrong to ask questions about faith and life?

“I ask questions, too,” I said and watched him visibly relax. “I used to be a black and white Christian where I thought I knew all the answers, because I had been force-fed what I SHOULD believe. Then life happened and those answers weren’t enough.”

I described some of the difficulties I have lived through and how God has been patient as I worked through them – how God hasn’t been afraid to listen to me. I reminded him that some of the greatest saints who ever lived asked hard questions. King David. Moses.

Even Jesus while he was being tortured asked the “Why?” question.

How sad it is that Christendom has thrust itself past these seeking and questioning young adults!

They see us with placards on the evening news, going way beyond the freedom of speech and into the bully pulpit of the streets. They read about how we label and exclude their friends who have chosen an alternative lifestyle. They grieve as we condemn their single moms.

They cannot hear the truth about God because we are so busy screaming at them to perform righteously. We expect them to live by our rules before they ever meet the One who loves them in spite of the rules.

Legalism was never the brand of Jesus.

No wonder they can’t find the God of love when we, His beloved children push them away. Our self-righteousness denies their questions, the very source of how they seek for truth.

In “The Listening Life,” author Adam McHugh writes, “My calling is not the answers but the questions I bring to the world.”

The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke once said, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves…do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.”

To live the answers of life, we must first ask the hard questions. And to accept others with the love of Christ, we must allow them to ask those same difficult questions.

When we stop asking questions, we putrify in the sewage of our own belief systems. Then we program others to believe the same so that we will feel safe within our acceptable righteousness.

We find hope only when we step out of the comfortable morays and seek deeper meanings for our faith. That is when we discover how broad and wide and deep and high is the grace and love of God.

This young man – God love him – is seeking a place for his creative mind to grow. He is also seeking to be accepted as he is – not programmed into a hard wooden pew where his soul will stagnate.

I so hope he finds his way to the truth.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” the Reverend G Trilogy and “Setting & Reaching Your Writing Goals.”

With over 70 million caregivers in the US alone, someone you know needs encouragement. “Sometimes They Forget” helps caregivers find hope in the Alzheimer’s journey and reminds them they are not alone. Order it Here.

Sometimes They Forget

 

 

 

Hope Flows Through Nature

How is it that an ethereal quality can somehow find its energy through a concrete object?

Either the process has emerged through my own visual creativity or it exists within the spiritual realm I cannot see.

For whatever reason it begins, hope is empowered within the realm of nature.Martha Washington geranium

When I cannot stand to watch one more news show or read one more Twitter rant, my deck becomes a haven.

When the question of my heart, “How long oh Lord?” is answered only with silence, I retreat to the outdoor sanctuary.

A cardinal cheers me as he calls for his mate from a nearby tree. The squirrel who thinks my deck is his dining room scampers to retrieve another sunflower seed. Sunset brushes turquoise and coral strokes across the evening canvas.

And my flowers – the Martha Washington geranium I found dying at a nursery in late June now thrives. A reminder that what may appear to be faltering can be revived.  

That deep burgundy petal bordered by a creamy outline urges me to cry out in gratitude. God will indeed revive. He will restore.

This bloom, this geranium teaches that hope is not lost even if appearance underscores it to be so. At the core of despair, we can still find life and once nurtured, once tended, life can thrive again.

A lesson for all who are recovering from too much caring of others and not enough nurture of self.

Coral and TurquoiseAnother flagon of hope waits on my front porch – a treasure found at the end of the plant sales. A turquoise pot filled with coral buds and peachy blooms – the colors of the Southwest I so love.

Each time I turn into my driveway and see this hope-filled pot, I remember the promise I made to myself. “Find a way to visit Santa Fe and Taos.”

To revel in the colors of a land replete with artisans of the earth’s clay. To enjoy the diversity of a demographic where every skin color is not only accepted – but also celebrated.

Hope flows through my plantings and the sounds of nature. No need for prayer when surrounded by God’s art. The Artist himself is here.

And as Abba frames his creative genius with another cinematic sunset, no words describe his color choice, his texture and contrast.

Forget the rest of the world. Let me revel in the hope that flows from the natural world of divine design.

©2017 RJ Thesman

If you’re a writer or you know a writer, “Setting and Reaching Your Writing Goals” can help you move to the next level. Order your copy here.

Goals Print Cover

Hope Risks a Picture

Five years ago, my first author pictures were taken by a good friend and wonderful nature photographer, Ken Ratzlaff. It was time for an update.

An author photo plays many roles. It has to suggest my brand, exude professionalism yet introduce a friendly style. At the same time, it has to look good on social media, the back covers of books and every online vehicle for sales.Rjt - favorite 7

Taking a photo is difficult for me because it triggers some hurtful experiences from my childhood. The things we say to children really do follow them throughout life. We all need to be careful about the words that spill out of our mouths.

But through the years, God has reminded me those past words were spoken by hurting people who had their own problems. And I didn’t have to believe their lies.

So whenever I am faced with any type of personal pictures, I visualize Jesus standing beside the photographer – loving me. I’ve been told the soul of our emotions can be seen in the eyes. I hope that is true for me.

A photographer in my area was available for a photo shoot so I connected with her and we emailed back and forth: availability, the look I wanted to convey, possible sites for the shoot.

She was professional and creative, skilled and patient as we took several poses with a variety of motivations. Check out her website here.

When the photos came, I chose my favorites but I knew it would be wise to ask for a second opinion – or third – or fourth.

So I asked my son and my critique group to help me decide. All of them liked the colors and the various settings. The final decision would be based on my smile, the tilt of my head, the look on my face.

Was I relaxed enough? Did I look friendly yet professional? Was it a picture that would invite new followers?

The results astounded me. No one chose the photos that were MY favorites.

We cannot objectively judge ourselves, either outwardly or inside the sanctum of our souls. We bring too many experiences to the judgment hall – either those hurtful moments from the past or massive pride in the present.

We never see ourselves as others do – either with a positive spin or a negative connotation.

Yet being our authentic selves helps us walk through life with dignity and hope. We feel joy with a new haircut or a fresh mani/pedi. Losing a few unwanted pounds fills us with the expectation that we somehow look younger, appear more attractive.

But the transparency of peace is the one factor we cannot trick our faces into showing. Nor can we substitute true inner peace with any man-made behavior.

Our souls are made up of emotions, the power of self-will and the acceptance of who we are. Taking the risk to show our true selves through a photograph will either enhance our self-value or remind us we have much more to work on.

I am grateful for a new photo to send into cyberspace and paste into the proper place on book covers and social media.

I am also grateful because I know God has healed those raw places that were once afraid of taking a picture.

Have you learned anything about yourself from a recent photo? I’d be interested to know what you think.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of Sometimes They Forget and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

Hope and the BLESS System

During the summer of 2017, my church is utilizing a system to BLESS our neighborhoods. The acrostic works like this:

  • Begin with Prayer
  • Listen and Engage
  • Eat (because we all connect better while we’re eating)
  • Serve Others
  • Story (be willing to share your faith story)

Although I like this concept, I am purposely NOT engaging in this system. Not that I disagree with any of it – I’m just pulling back from any kind of service while I recover from ministry exhaustion.

The ironic beauty of this BLESS system is that God Himself is helping me engage with him. He is blessing me.woman - worship

It’s almost a replay of how God took care of Elijah when he was discouraged and depressed after a massive battle. (If you want to read that story, check out First Kings 19.)

Now, I don’t believe I am anywhere close to being a powerful servant such as Elijah.

I just know God loves me and he’s taking care of me.

Here’s how it works:

Begin with Prayer: At times, I’ve been so depleted, the only prayer words I could speak were “God oh God” or “Jesus, help!” But the sweet truth is that God still heard me. We don’t have to pray a certain way or follow a formula for Abba Father to hear the cries of our hearts.

[Read more about Redefining Prayer]

Listen and Engage: In the quiet of the night when all I hear is the cat’s snores – I sense God near. He is listening to me and for me, and I for him. Sometimes he speaks a verse I’ll look up and journal through. Sometimes it’s just the inner warmth of knowing he’s engaging and connecting with me. I love that. Sometimes it’s whole paragraphs of guidance and truth.

Being listened to = being loved.

Eat: This piece of the acrostic is a bit more eclectic because I’m not talking about real food. Although a healthy recovery does include nutritious eating as in blueberries, dark chocolate, lots of water, repeat.

Emotional and spiritual eating means filling my mind with the words of God and helpful books – fiction and nonfiction. I am inhaling without exhaling, filling up my emotional bucket that has been scraped raw. This type of eating never adds empty calories, but spiritual nutrition flows into every tissue and emotional gap.

Serve Others: It seems impossible to turn off the button of ministering to others. Sometimes I have to catch myself and say, “No! You cannot organize and promote a new ministry, no matter how much it is needed. Stop it!

I am letting go of all expectations and reveling in how God is serving me.

Now, I know some of you out there in cyberspace are thinking, How selfish! Who does she think she is? What would Jesus do?

I’ll tell you what Jesus would do. He would climb right up in Abba’s lap and tell the Holy Spirit to come and comfort him.

When he walked on this earth, Jesus rowed across the lake and took some down time. He had weekend getaways at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. He strolled through a garden and prayed, inhaling the presence of God so he would have strength later to heal and save.

So don’t judge me. I’m telling you Abba is such a personal God he knows when to send me an encouraging word.

He calls me to the deck at just the right time so I can watch a rabbit nurse her bunnies. He commands a flock of geese to fly over me with joyful honks. He whispers to a baby in Wal-Mart who turns around and gives me a single-toothed grin. He plants a book in my hands that helps me understand how ministers become codependent. He tells someone to send me a check so I can pay that climbing electric bill. He heals my son so I don’t have to live in worry.

God knows exactly what I need and when I need to be reminded how much he loves me.

Story: I’ve just shared part of my story with you. It continues to grow and the plot lines interweave. More will be coming in the weeks ahead.

Keep checking in with me to see how God wraps hope around every gift, how he is himself the author of hope.

The guideline God is helping me learn is this: it’s okay to take care of yourself. That means telling others “No” when they ask you to do something. It means setting healthy boundaries. It might even mean getting away from the mess.

So that’s where my story is so far. I’m sticking to it. Be blessed and let God bless you.

©2017 RJ Thesman

Sometimes They Forget       Goals E-book Cover      Rev_G_Cover

 

 

Hope When We Fall

It happened so quickly, I blacked out. Even now, I have no idea how I turned my foot on that last deck step. I have descended those steps hundreds of times. Somehow, this time was different.God lets us fall

As I woke up twisted in the grass, I was certain something weird had happened to my right foot.

Gingerly I sat up – tested my equilibrium – waited for the dizziness that never came. I scooted across the grass, hoping and praying my hips weren’t broken.

A sudden despair as I looked back at my house which has four levels – not a good scenario if I ended up on crutches.

Then trying to stand on the left foot, praying the right foot was not broken. “Oh God, oh God, oh God.”

Funny how we always cry out to God when we’re in pain. Sad how we forget to acknowledge him when everything’s just fine and dandy.

A testing of the throbbing foot. Could I stand on it? Yes. Could I take a few steps? Ouch, but yes. No nausea. Probably not broken. Hopefully not broken. The right foot, of course. The driving foot.

Immediately, the planner in me began mentally listing my writing clients. Could we do Skype if I couldn’t drive? How would I deal with the groceries? Would my son have the time to help me?

A sudden pulsing of lonely despair. The worst time to be single is when you are in pain.

Soon the swelling began, so I elevated my leg and plopped an ice bag on it. My son then drove me to Urgent Care for an X-ray and a meeting with the medical team.

Hobbling from room to room, I felt old. Hoped I wouldn’t need a cane, but looking for one when I felt out of balance.

No fracture, thank God. Just a severe sprain. Now I know how the Jayhawks feel when they land crooked after an awesome rebound. Feet were never created to twist.

A week of elevating the foot, more ice, anti-inflammatory meds and every five seconds or so a gratitude pause that nothing was broken.

Then the exercises – making the alphabet with my foot. This practice uses all the muscles, tendons and tissues. I love the alphabet. It is my writing tool from which all the words are birthed.

Then hope rebounded as I carefully walked around my cul-de-sac, hung on to the cart in Target without pain. I was healing.

God sometimes lets us fall, although I believe he is near to catch us in his powerful arms.

As we fall – either physically or spiritually – we are reminded how fragile we are. How we need God and each other!

Sometimes we fall because the world is a shaky place. It isn’t easy to keep our equilibrium or to stay the course when every foundation seems unstable.

And I think God lets us fall to protect us from further harm. Perhaps we’re heading in a dangerous direction, so God puts a temporary stop sign in front of us.

Or we’re in such a hurry, we need an occasional fall to remind us to slow down, to rest, to enjoy the best life has to offer.

Ultimately, as we take care of ourselves and return to normalcy – we begin to heal. Hopefully, we also keep that place of gratitude for how God catches us, how the fall could have been much worse.

Hope keeps us steady in our shaky world. Hope also keeps us moving in healthy directions so that when we DO fall, it won’t be so tragic.

Keep steady, dear readers. Keep moving forward. Stay in hope.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of Sometimes They Forget and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

Hope Celebrates Freedom

Amer flagJuly Fourth is such a fun holiday. Whether it’s family picnics, iced tea with lemon, a favorite swimming hole or watching fireworks – everything about July Fourth seems fun.

But a serious side of the topic also presents itself. In our family, this date is a reminder of how fragile life can become. My son, diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, hooked up to tubes in the hospital bed. The fireworks exploding on the TV screen, trying to entertain us in the middle of a crisis.

Nothing colorful, exciting or fun about that time. But later – after a miraculous recovery – we did celebrate. And every year since, the Fourth of July represents extra hugs, a big meal and two scoops of ice cream – just because.

As a writer, freedom is precious because I type out my thoughts, my emotions and my opinions without fear of retribution or arrest. Our freedom of speech is such a precious commodity, never to be taken for granted. May we never lose it.

In the last few years, I have also watched another type of freedom manifested. Women I worked with who finally realized their abusers were not going to respect healthy boundaries. Brave women who said, “Enough!” and found the courage to pack up and leave. The freedom these women now experience is like coming up for air after drowning for years.

The freedom I now feel to explore my writing gift and to schedule my writing clients. No longer chained to the 8 to 8 job or the “available 24-7” mantra. This type of freedom allows me to read a book, take a nap or stir up some brownie batter when I feel like it.

Freedom also comes with a price. Saying “no” to compulsive buying because freelance work means balancing a precarious budget. Facing condemnation when the freedom to leave becomes a reason for judgment in the church pew. Making sure our constitutional laws are followed no matter how far up the ladder one has climbed.

Freedom costs, but it’s worth it.

The ultimate freedom for me is to know who I am and to embrace my authenticity by setting boundaries around anything that might try to take my freedoms from me.

On this Fourth of July – I will speak a prayer of gratitude for all the freedoms I enjoy. I will hug my son again and have another scoop of ice cream. And I will embrace the joy of living in this land of the free, begging God to keep us so.

How do hope and freedom coincide? Easy. Without freedom, we have no hope for a happy future. Without hope, we feel trapped within emotional prisons.

I am grateful for the hope freedom brings and the freedom hope clings to.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author ofSometimes They Forget and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

Hope Fills in the Gaps

Stuck. Between the third and fourth chapter of the gazillionth revision of my novel. Somewhere a segue exists but currently – I can’t find it.

I know it will come – somewhere over the rainbow. But the frustration of the moment calls for a break from writing and a massive piece of comfort chocolate.

AsMind the gap I reflect on life in general and writing in particular, I realize life is filled with gaps. Those years between holding a newborn and watching him walk across the stage to grasp his diploma. A quickly-passing gap. Overwhelming emotion at both ends of said gap.

The gap between the germ of an idea and holding the published book in hand. Multiple revisions and gnashing of teeth. Still stuck between chapters three and four.

But the most telling gap underscores the fragility of life – imaged perfectly in cemeteries. A name engraved on the headstone. A birth date.  A death date.

But it is the gap between those two dates that determines the legacy of that life. What occurred to that person and because of that person during that gap? How many people did she influence? How many friends did he make? Who will mourn the presence of the owner of that gap?

I bring out my journal to analyze my thoughts. Think of the people whose gap moments affected my life: parents, siblings, perhaps even ancestors who prayed for me – folks I have never met. I know them only through faded black and white photos and those headstones in the cemetery.

Teachers. Writers – oh yes – the numbers of writers who have influenced my life and also my calling to write. Innumerable.

Pilgrims within and beyond my family. My  students through the years. My clients now – how much I learn about writing from the actual process of coaching writers!

My son. The brave one who beat cancer. We celebrate every July 4th and believe the fireworks are for him.

The people I know who live with chronic pain and complain far less than I about their daily struggles. These warriors encourage my own gap-living and remind me to endure, to persevere, to grit my teeth and keep trying.

Although we celebrate births and mourn deaths, we don’t pay as much attention to the gap in between. Yet that gap is where hope exists, where it is nurtured and grows, where it expands to affect other gappers.

Perhaps we need to do more of this – to celebrate each other while we have life. To invite another gap-traveler for coffee, to toast each other and determine we will pray for each other. Maybe we need to underscore reasons for more parties, for cake and ice cream just because we love the taste of life.

Should we not celebrate with writers, artists and every day workers who persevere and heroically make it through another day?

And there it is – suddenly the segue I wanted, hiding within the paragraphs of journaling. A nugget of hope within my own gap.

This moment will not be engraved on my tombstone, “On this day in the 2017th year of our Lord, RJ Thesman figured out a way to move from chapter three to chapter four.”

But in the totality of my gap life, I believe the divine One will cheer for me. He will understand the joy I feel in moving forward with my words.

And when he reviews this life with me, he will remind me how important it was to find that segue. His whisper of “Well done” will be my trophy.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of  Sometimes They Forget and the Reverend G Trilogy

Hope Seeks a Vision

Several years ago, I started a vision journal. Some writers use a vision board to piece together plots for a novel or goals for the year. I prefer a journal.marketing vision

In my journal, I write about my visions for the future:

  • A healthy and happy life for my son
  • The country cottage I have always wanted – with a western view so I can watch the sun set and surrounded by gardens of various flowers
  • My desire to make the New York Times bestseller list

Some visions are much deeper and more intense – those desires for peace and contentment no matter what issues are grinding through my life.

Without vision, the scripture says, we perish.

This statement is true, because visions require a fistful of hope – the belief that our hearts’ desires will indeed come to pass.

As I scanned through my journal, I was surprised how many visions had already come to pass:

  • The desire to be a full-time writer
  • A car to replace my former broken down buggy
  • My son in love with his sweetheart

Answered visions are confirmations that God does indeed care about the desires of our hearts. In fact – he is the one who plants them in us in the first place.

Does this mean all my prayer requests and visions are answered with a resounding “Yes?”

Negative. I cannot see the entire timeline of eternity or the answers that lie within each segment. Only God knows what is the best direction for me and which visions will push me toward the finish line.

But confirmed visions do prove that hope is alive. Hope then becomes a force to move our deepest longings into place.

I have added some new visions to my journal and dated them. It may take a lifetime or at least a small timeline to see them become reality. But the process of stating a vision underscores faith and the belief that life CAN indeed turn out okay.

Without vision, the people perish.

Without hope, a vision cannot live.

I vote for owning both.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

Hope Honors Loss

For several years, I have wanted to do this one special thing. Finally this year, I accomplished it.

This feat was not a joyous bucket list fulfillment but rather a moment to honor loss.

On Memorial Day, I clipped a couple of hydrangea blossoms from my container garden, wrapped their stems in a wet paper towel and drove to the cemetery.flat stones - cemetery

No one I know is buried in this particular cemetery, but I am grateful this place exists. For some reason, during this time of recovery, I needed a concrete place to grieve.

It is a Catholic cemetery and bless their hearts – these Catholic sisters and brothers who have provided a special place for grievers like me.

Although I am 36 and 34 years from the losses, somehow the harsh reality never leaves me. Probably because I was not offered the solace of a cemetery plot or the finality of physical closure.

But this cemetery has a special section in their Babyland for mothers like me. One area with flat stones set apart from the other tiny plots of infant and young child deaths.

This area of Babyland – the goal of my mission – lists only one date on a stone and sometimes only the name, “Baby.”

These are the stones that indicate a miscarriage or an abortion – a child not fully formed and never held.

On this Memorial Day, toys were scattered across the stones, flowers, an occasional scribbled note, “We miss you.”

How I wish I would have had the opportunity for a physical closure like this – all those years ago. My stones would have read:

Ryan Michael, November 3, 1981, Born and Died

Rachel Elizabeth, January 6, 1983, Born and Died

I do not know where the remains of my babies lie. The D&C surgery that took what was left of them never indicated what happened to their tiny bodies. I probably do not want to know exactly what the medical community does to a miscarried baby.

A wall of remembrance lists children by their death years. I run my fingers through the engravings of 1981 and 1983, then sit on a nearby bench – listen to a cardinal’s song, let the sunshine dry my tears.

I ask God to hold my babies close. To tell them how much I still miss them. To remind them they have a younger brother and what a wonderful man Caleb is.

Still holding my flowers, I wonder where to place them. I wish for some music, a plaintive hymn sung by a quartet or even the solemnity of “Taps.”

My flowers somehow do not belong on any of the already designated stones. I would not impose on the memories of another grieving mother.

Then I see it. The iron and brass cross stands as a sentinel in this sacred place. So I cemetery crossinsert my flowers, believing the Savior on the Cross is also brother and protector of my children.

The hope that echoes through a cemetery sings with the assurance that death is NOT the end. Someday it will have no sting. Life eternal will exist as a cherished reality.

For those of us who never held our babies, hope cries out the beauty of that someday when we will meet our little ones face to face.

Somehow – for now – that is enough.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

Hope Celebrates the Younger

One of the joys of coaching writers happens when I watch clients succeed.

We brainstorm a title idea together and the a-ha lights our faces. The perfect cover dresses the front of the book while a teasing blurb fills the back.

But oh the best – is the content that soars from an initial idea while a synopsis in black and white merges into sentences, paragraphs and chapters.

We talk about it as a birthing – a coming to life of a project. And truly it feels like the stretching of flesh, the contractions of laboring for that perfect word, the expulsion of life on the page.

A recent birth occurred as Sara Brunsvold launched her book, “Uncage My Brave.”Uncage my brave

It is a relatively small tome with only 51 pages. No “War and Peace” masterpiece needed. Yet within Sara’s work lies her experience with courage, her exhortations to find her source of bravery and uncage the dreams God placed in her heart.

What I like about Sara’s writing is how it has expanded. Not with longer sentences or flowery distractions. Rather, Sara’s gift has deepened. Her communication now draws from a divine well.

I sense in her the role of prophet although I don’t believe she would label herself such. Yet a prophet speaks truth and often expounds with a poetic rhythm that catches the breath and cries for more.

A highlight phrase from Sara: “Carry me, Abba. Hold me still in Your strength. Press my ear to your heart.”

Words such as these cannot emerge from a fanciful wish to communicate. They are conceived in the valleys of grief and the plateaus of doubt. They are wrung out by stepping forward to believe in what cannot be seen, to taste what is not plausible.

When I hold my copy of “Uncage My Brave,” I rejoice that I have had the honor to watch Sara’s dream become reality.

The joy of writers helping writers underscores our purpose in Psalm 45:17, “I will perpetuate your memory through all generations.”

This writer, this Sara Brunsvold, is a younger wordsmith who now surpasses my generation. I rejoice in her accomplishment.

Check out Sara’s blog and order “Uncage My Brave.”

You will no doubt discover hope in her pages and celebration in the unfolding of Sara’s dream.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

Hope Finds Hidden Life

hope ovalWhile watching the DVD of “Eat Pray Love and minding my own business – the divine whisper spoke. “Womb.”

Womb? What could that mean – for me – now?

Only later, while journaling through my day did the interpretation penetrate the fog of my questioning.

While in this recovery mode, I am floating in God’s womb. He is Himself – taking care of me.

Isaiah 41:14, “Do not be afraid…for I myself will help you.”

So what is happening in this divine womb – this time of exceptional care?

Safety. Within this recovery period, I am safe in the pre-designed purpose of God. He is close and protective of me, guiding me – moving through each day with me.

Since it is his womb, I am moving as he moves, breathing his spirit and surrounded by his presence.

“The Spirit of God is arousing me from within…like a pregnant creation” (Romans 8:22 The Message Bible).

Nurture. The warmth of his presence and his nearness is a nurturing reminder of his love. This particular nurture involves the ultimate of his care.

As a result of his nurturing womb I am embraced by a cycle of growth and hope for the future.

Hope. Within his womb and the life being nurtured is a promise of the future. At some point, contractions will begin and life will burst forth.

Will it be the life of a new novel, the restoration of a gifting, a new location for retreat and study or perhaps a new version of the old me?

As long as I stay within the womb, hope will continue to grow.

Provision. Within the protective sac of the womb, provision grows the new life, allows it to flourish and find health.

My provisions center around financial needs as well as emotional healing – morsels God feeds me each day.

When I meet with him and ask for help, I am humbled by the bounty of his provision. He knows how much I need and exactly when to provide it.

As Joyce Meyer says, “Ask God for what you want. Trust him for what you need.”

Surprise. Even with our modern technologies, the contents of a womb can still offer surprises.

As a planner, I am not a fan of surprises – except when I write fiction and the characters delight me with something unusual.

But with God – I know his surprises are safe and acceptable. I can trust he will surprise me with something good.

I never expected to be in this place during this season of life. But God surprised me with definite guidance for this direction.

And because he knows exactly how to ease me into surprises, he once again underscores infinite love.

Love. Ultimately, the womb is a place of pure love. Like a cradle completely enclosed in warmth and safety, the womb guards what is to be born.

Within that protective boundary, nothing and no one can touch the fragile life being nurtured and prepared.

Although I don’t fully understand the depth of God’s nurturing for me, I do know his nearness signals a great heart filled with love.

And I look forward to whatever surprises he has for me – knowing they will bring a new life wrapped in hope.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

 

 

Hope Redefines Prayer

“True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that – it is spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

Praying_HandsFor many years, I was a student of prayer. With every new book about prayer that was published, I visited the library to check it out or hurried into Borders with my coupons.

Two of those books quickly became favorites: “Intercessory Prayer” by Dutch Sheets and “Prayer” by Richard Foster.

Then I was blessed with two mentors who taught me even more about the beauty and power of connecting with God in prayer. And finally, I became a how-to-pray teacher myself. The privilege of praying for others became one of my highest honors.

Yet – even now – prayer can be a mystery. How is it that this incredible God of the universe delights in hearing from us mere humans?

It is because we are his children and so beloved that he desires to communicate with us – to listen and to speak with us.

But now, because of the stress burden, I have found myself hobbling along in prayer. Sometimes all I can do is whisper, “Help me, Jesus.”

Where once I prayed long petitions for others and pleaded with God to meet their needs, now I simply cannot. Too much exhaling has left me with no divine breath.

Spiritually – yes, I am okay. Actually, I am more aware of God’s presence in the daily doings of life. I just have nothing left to give to anyone else. Nor can I intercede with long pathos for other pilgrims.

This change saddened me until I read an encouragement from my latest favorite book. In “The Listening Life,” Adam McHugh writes, “I have grown more restrained in my speech to God. I have come to see prayer more as a way of being with God and less as an opportunity to talk.”

The mystery continues even as recovery progresses. It is well with my soul because that inner sacred space is not dependent on how I can pray.

Rather, prayer is another example of God’s abundant grace wrapped in hope.

God knows who I am and how I am. My connection with him whether in prayer or inhaling his nearness brings spiritual wholeness.

How I pray is not as important as who I love – the divine One who loved me first.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

 

 

Hope Repurposes a Life

I love to find something that has been discarded and repurpose it. Sometimes it’s a piece of furniture from a dumpster find, a pot made from an old bowl or a scarf that becomes a wall hanging.vintage door

My repurposing gift probably stems from growing up on a farm and “making do” with whatever we had. DIY projects began on the family farm.

Need to make a straight row for the garden? Use sticks and baling twine. Create a toy out of a piece of cardboard and/or leftover wood from another project.

The farm rules stated, “If you don’t have it, make it with whatever you already have.”

Creativity thrived but we didn’t think of our projects as displayed creativity. More like survival. Repurposing became our way of life.

The process of repurposing has now expanded beyond furniture, wall hangings or garden projects.

I find myself taking the pieces of a former life and remaking them into something new.

After a lifetime of ministry with people, I am now focused on the ministry of words – a solitude of sentences and intentional rest.

Still in transition, I wonder how to stop being who I was? How can I best become the “me” for this season of life?

Henri Nouwen writes, “The task is to persevere within the solitude.”

It is not a struggle to write, edit and create in the quiet of my home. This is the creative side of me that has always existed.

It is just different, a new normal and I have to discover the best way to function within my changing role.

When I repurpose an object, I sit awhile and look at it from all angles. How shall I paint it or redesign it? How can it be used most effectively?

Think Tom Hanks in “Castaway as he sat on the beach staring at a piece of metal until he imagined it as a sail.

To repurpose a life requires even more thinking. How can I use my gifts to bless others when my audience lives in cyberspace? Is this moment best used writing a blog post, editing a book, taking a creative walk or reading a novel?

Which choice will strengthen me in this new role and allow me to end the day with a sense of productivity?

Can I be content to just “be?”

Madeleine L’Engle wrote, “We need to take time away from busy-ness, time to be. Taking ‘being’ time is something we all need for our spiritual health.”

To repurpose my life, I often just sit and “be.” This is hard for me – the natural “doer,” the “planner,” the “initiator.”

But as I am learning the principle of quiet reflection, I find a stronger creativity emerges when I return to the words.

Projects are completed. New ideas nurtured.

The beauty of this personal repurposing project is the assurance that God loves me no matter what I do. He saved me to “be.”

Perhaps this transition will change me into a different person. That’s okay, too.

Because hope thrives when we can be ourselves, embrace life and move forward with joy.

Who knows? I may find a new purpose for myself and be more authentic than ever before.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

 

 

 

Hope Misses Mom

This is the first year I will not call her on Mother’s Day.Mom

What’s the use?

She cannot hear what I say. She will not remember it is Mother’s Day. She does not care about the passage of time.

Each day is the same as the day before. She waits in the world of Alzheimer’s where time moves backward. Clarity only occurs in the distant past.

She will remember me as a child, finishing my chores, then perched in my tree with another library book or my five-year diary.

But thankfully – although we are hundreds of miles apart, I still remember her. I have already sent the frilly card. On Sunday, I will also send my thoughts and prayers through the universe.

God, oh God, you will whisper “I love you” to her – won’t you?

This Alzheimer’s journey is such an ironic place of memory versus reality.

I could use this space to laud her for years of mothering, for practical lessons taught and for the courage she always displayed.

Appropriate adjectives for her life would include: strong, resolute, determined.

These traits still show up when she occasionally complains that someone has stolen her teeth or broken into her home.

More of the hysteria of dementia.

Since the present is so unpleasant, we have only past memories to connect us.

My sister will read my card to her. Mom may wonder at my signature. She will not fathom that who I miss is not the present mother but the one who became confidante, friend and encourager.

I am grateful her brave heart still beats. The connection still exists.

To lose a mother is to cease hearing the heartbeat that nurtured us in the womb.

To lose the one person who is eternal cheerleader, even when we both age beyond the boundaries that held us close.

So I will pray for her on Mother’s Day, knowing the eternal Abba will hold each of us close.

And I will look at her picture, miss the woman she was, even as I hope for Alzheimer’s end.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

Silent Saturdays Disrupt Hope

We have recently celebrated Holy Week with its tragic Friday event and the victorious Resurrection Sunday.

saturdayBut the day in the middle – the silent Saturday – lives on in many of our lives.

It must have been the darkest day for those early believers. Their Savior was dead and the resurrection was only a prophecy they weren’t sure would become reality.

Discouragement. Frustration. Doubt.

In hindsight, we know the end of the story. But silent Saturdays continue to haunt many present day believers.

We have come to faith, considered the meaning behind the crucifixion and based our lives on its Gospel message. We know Christ lives and will return again. The Holy Spirit gifts us and guides us. All that is good.

Yet many of us still dwell within our personal silences:

  • The woman who has prayed for her abusive husband, now going on 28 years. She believes yet the answer waits behind the veil of Saturday’s silence. He continues to abuse her. She continues to stay because she believes God has asked her to.
  • The man who needs a job to support his family. He is trained, highly educated with stellar references, yet his silent Saturday continues. His hope dries like brittle resumé
  • The family that has journeyed through cancer with a beloved child. Every remission brings hope. Then another tumor interrupts hope. Their silent Saturdays revolve around chemo, radiation treatments and the fear that constantly threatens.
  • The spouse who sits beside his beloved – a woman who no longer recognizes him. Alzheimer’s has stolen his resurrection joy because her afflicted brain is wrapped in the tentacles of a silent Saturday.
  • The writers who persevere , waiting for that first book contract
  • The hostages who pray for release
  • The marginalized who fight for equality and wonder how many years and how many court dates exist between Friday and Sunday

At some point in life, we all struggle to endure another day – to somehow crawl past our silent Saturdays into victorious Sunday.

But the waiting continues and requires courage to keep breathing, keep struggling, keep hoping.

Answers hide within the loving heart of God as our “Why” questions echo off canyon walls of aloneness.

Yet the only hope we truly have is to repeat the glorious cries of those early believers. “He is not here.” Resurrection dawns.

Someday time will morph into eternity. Silent Saturdays will no longer exist and we will understand why we needed to wait so long.

All we can do now is cling to the hope that Sunday will return. Then we will forever be finished with the silence.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget and the Reverend G Trilogy 

 

 

 

Hope Finds 3 Options

Number 3When security officials train employees for active shooter situations, they present three options:

  • Run – get out of the building and run away – fast
  • Hide – blockade the door to your room and hide inside
  • Fight – if you cannot run or hide, be prepared to disarm, injure or kill the shooter

Unfortunately in our scary world, we need to be prepared to use these options.

But we can also exercise these three options when life unravels and we need to find hope. What are some examples from history and also from the present?

Run:

  • When boundaries are not respected and a workplace grows unhealthy, we leave.
  • When Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, the only way he could respect his employer and obey God was to run.
  • If a woman is living in a destructive relationship, she calls 9-1-1 and hurries to her safe place.

Sometimes the most courageous choice is to run.

Hide:

  • When Elijah was exhausted and afraid, he hid in a cave. God empathized and sent ravens to feed him.
  • When exhausted ministers need a break, they take Sabbaticals. They hide from the many needs so they can recover and return refreshed.
  • When a young mother is overwhelmed with the diapers and the late night feedings, she calls a friend and takes a break. She hides away for a while.
  • When the 36 hour-day overwhelms a caregiver, he calls a friend to sit with his loved one and hides inside the theatre to watch a movie.

Sometimes the healthiest option is to hide for a while and let healing happen.

Fight:

  • When the enemy of our souls attacks with fear, we fight with the sword of the Spirit. We repeat our trust verses – outloud – because the enemy needs to hear our courage and he is a slow learner.
  • When we are charged unfairly for a medical bill, we call customer service. We don’t stop until our questions are answered and the situation resolved.
  • When we see someone being abused – whether it’s a woman, a person of a different color or a child – we report it to the proper authorities. We speak up against injustice. Think Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson and Carolyn Custis James.
  • When Jesus experienced injustice, he often took action and fought back. Sometimes he spoke up, “Get behind me, Satan.” Sometimes he pitched tables across the church foyer.

Confrontation feels uncomfortable yet sometimes it is the only way to make our point and speak our truth.

Three options move us toward hope because in each scenario, the situation deserves some type of action. Run, Hide or Fight. Then we wake up the next morning feeling safer and glad we chose wisely.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy 

 

 

When Connections Alter Hope

She seems more content now with her life in assisted living, but the contentment itself tears her farther away from family.

Have I mentioned how much I hate Alzheimer’s?

Several weeks ago, I drove 250 miles to be with family – a precious time with siblings, extended family at a reunion and quality time with Mom.

But my plans did not fit in with the plaque-infested changes in her brain. My plans included several hours in her room catching up, a walk around the lake to watch the ducks and geese placidly float, maybe a stroll through the facility – greeting her friends.

Instead, she dismissed me. “Thanks for coming. ‘Bye.”

So instead of parking my car and walking arm in arm into the facility, I watched as she opened the door – all by herself – and walked inside.

A few months ago, she stood at the door and waved goodbye. Not this time. Once inside the comfort of her routine, she marched toward her room.

Away from the door. Away from me.

On one hand, I am grateful she has acclimated to her studio apartment. She feels comfortable with the activities planned for each day and the white-haired friends who sit beside her in the dining room.

These people now represent her world and the building has become her home. I am only an occasional visitor – a person from her past who sits next to her until she grows tired of me. Then the inevitable dismissal, “Thanks for coming. ‘Bye.”

Alzheimer’s Disease not only steals the memories and names of loved one, it also alters familiar patterns. The relationships that once defined our lives become blurred in the needs of the present.

The shopping trips we shared, the laughter around a game of Scrabble, cheering together for our favorite team – all these familiar activities now relegated to a life once lived.

And the people who colored those events are now just human beings who happen to be visiting. The familial connections fade. The absence of recognition will soon follow.

Time with others is precious, especially while we know how to communicate and relate to each other. Once that connection disappears, we have only the memories to treasure.

Enjoy your time with family while everyone still understands what family means.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

 

 

Hope Observes

coffee and bagelMost of my reflecting time is spent in the solitude of my home study. But occasionally, I venture into the world of people for a cuppa Joe. I often bring a journal, a book to read, paper and pen to write ideas or work on a blog post – such as this one.

As I reflected in a local Panera, I wished I owned stock in the company. Throughout the years, I have ingested gallons of their teas and lately – experienced the scrumptious delight of their gluten free chocolate cookies. Better than a brownie, I promise!

Whenever I join the human race in a public place, I observe the people. Some of them may become characters in a future novel. Yes – writers do insert real people in their books. Live your life with caution.

An older couple sits quietly at a round table, slowly chewing croissants without talking or even looking at one another. Years of marriage enrich the silence of the moment. What is there to talk about after so many years together? Maybe these fluffy croissants are their one treat for the week or the month – until the next Social Security check revives their bank balance.

A woman after my own heart reads alone, occasionally sipping her coffee. Obviously engrossed in her book, she seems lost in the words. Is she learning something new, researching for a college class or trying to escape some chaos in her present life by entering into the fictional world of the book’s protagonist?

Two women chat near me, slathering butter on their bagels. One talks with a shrill timber. The other is the listener. If I eavesdrop carefully, I learn about the toddler’s attempts at potty training, how the hubby works hard but does not care about the fatigue of this young mommy.

Do they suspect I intrude on their privacy? Do they care? Probably not, as their goal is to share their hearts with each other, to find another soul who empathizes.

Another table filled with businessmen, their Mac books opened to spread sheets and planners – terse statements about sales and marketing.

And the workers who assemble salads, soups and steel cut oats to fulfill requests. Working hard yet often rendered invisible because each customer is captured by his own story with his own reason for spending the morning at Panera.

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

Then the writer in me kicks in and I play the What If game:

  • What if the older gentleman is hiding a fortune in stolen coins?
  • What if his wife is really his pastor and has no idea about his hidden sin?
  • What if the pastor is hiding the fortune in stolen coins?

And away I go into the world of creative thought, fashioning a new story for each character I observe.

Don’t you think God the Creator had fun designing our lives before we were born?

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

Hope Remembers Jewel

We met as volunteers at a pregnancy crisis center – she with a desire to publish her books, I with the time and expertise to help her.praying woman silhouette

As writers, we both understood the calling and the passion of words – of using written tools to communicate God’s love.

We shared a room at a writers conference. I helped her publish another book.

Then our paths separated as I moved away. Yet somehow the connection endured, mainly because of her persistence in prayer.

She handwrote long letters, wanting to know what I was writing, where I was submitting my work.

And I knew, as surely as I knew her name – Jewel was persisting in prayer for my words.

Every consecutive letter – always snail mail as computers were not her love language – ended with “How are your writings? I am praying.”

And for every new book I published, I sent her a copy inscribed with “Thank you for praying these words into being.”

The years passed and I read of her progressive health issues, the struggle of car problems so frustrating for this dedicated widow, how to pay the rising taxes so she could stay in her home. The tales of grandchildren and the support of her family added color to her missives.

She asked about my son and always – always ended with, “How are your writings? I am praying.”

Then came that horrible day when the Easter card I had sent her was returned. A note from her beloved children, “Mom passed away – peacefully.”

No more letters from my Jewel. No more questions about my writing. Our connection now separated by the boundary of eternity.

This week, as I readied my office to become a true writer’s study, I thought about Jewel. Now that I am transitioning into the place I’ve always wanted to be, I knew she would find pleasure in the journey.

Is Jewel asking God about my writings? Is she reminding him of all the packets of prayer stored up on behalf of my passion?

Since God treasures all our tears and keeps them in a heavenly flask, does he also store prayers in a special file labeled for our destinies?

Do the prayers of a lifetime, from a faithful warrior, still affect the present?

I believe they do.

I live in the hope that our prayers for our children will continue to storm the throne of God – even when we are gone.

And God will listen because he cares. He will act, because we care.

Even now, I believe my writings are covered with Jewel’s prayers. The words will make an eternal difference, because one woman cared. And one woman prayed.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

Hope Rests

It takes a while to stop spinning.

Like a tire with loosened lug nuts, the wheel spinning around its axis, the transition from full-time ministry into semi-retirement spins. The slowing down requires intentional rest.sleeping woman

To be intentionally still – listening for God or just sitting in the sunshine causes a need for reboot.

How can the transition be handled in a way that is healthy – for the body, soul and spirit? How does one move from excessive productivity to recovery?

I have been in this position before, but never at this level of intensity. I find myself sinking into the unknown while grasping for the best Source of wisdom I know. My usual methods of resting – a meager force. Giant question marks shadow my new direction.

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him” (Psalm 62:1).

Restoring sleep helps and then daily naps. Nutrition that builds up the tissues, although my body screams only for chocolate. The temptation to load my freezer with scrumptious blackberry chocolate chip gelato from Target. No, no – I cannot yield.

Restorative care involves clearing the mind as well – to refuse the rewind of what led to the final decision – mistakes admitted, grace given.

To find a way to pour that same grace over and around myself feels almost selfish and I feel alone in the attempt.

I pull out my colors and find comfort in the texture of markings on paper. Turn on the TV to watch basketball and yell at the refs. Read empty-minded fiction books as I pump on the exercise bike. These words require no emotional deposits.

Sit and stare at the blooming redbud tree, dotted with black and white chickadees hopping in the April breeze. Glory in the fractional moment as a red-headed woodpecker perches beside the male cardinal on my deck. Red and black on the background of the greening elm. God’s creation in living color. To spend more time outside is my goal … if Kansas ever warms up this year.

I spend more time on my knees, bringing my fatigue and questions to the Wise One – begging for the balm of divine healing.

The incredible voice of the Shepherd King and his Psalms wash over me with their curative rhythms: fret not, be still and know, God alone is surely my refuge.

Several years ago I dreamed of a heavenly bedroom. I had been carried there by my guardian angel and was surrounded in the brightest whites – a soft coverlet, giant pillows and the clearest air.

Around me, more angels – tucking me in, stroking my brow, murmuring love. Being cared for. Receiving compassion straight from Abba’s heart.

That I so vividly remember the dream underscores how deeply I need my Beloved Divine to show up.

Ultimately, restorative care and the rest required to eliminate stress just takes time – a day, a week, another day. No guidelines here.

A friend told me she slept for months after retirement. A client has pursued rest and direction for three years.

And I – in my self-sufficient planning mode – thought I would be rested after just one week. That would be a “No.”

I listen hard for the gentle voice that assures me I am not alone. I will eventually find soul energy again. The words will pour forth and the direction will be made clear.

Isaiah speaks from his prophetic viewpoint, “God will comfort all my waste places. He will make my wilderness like Eden, my desert like a garden. Joy and gladness will be found in me and thanksgiving – the voice of praise.” (Isaiah 51:3).

So I wait and rest, trusting in the One who reminds me where hope originates. He places his words in my mouth and covers me with his gentle hand.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

Hope Finds Another One

A few weeks ago, I met another one – an injured saint completely exhausted from serving God and others.Call to Serve

These wounded warriors seem to surface everywhere I go: former staff from a well-known nonprofit who are expected to pray 24/7 until they drop.

Missionaries fatigued from the struggle of cross cultural shock, language study and the stress of starting new churches.

Ministers – both male and female – expected to raise money for church programs while staying focused on the needs of the people.

Pastors’ wives criticized for each pound they gain or the style of clothing they wear or their failure to fill every gap in the church – play the piano, organize the library, show hospitality to everyone, attend every function.

Those who serve day after day with more and more tasks piled on them because the needs are so great and the money so slim.

Even when they try to set healthy boundaries, their voices are not heard. Their pleas ignored.

Then one day – they break. Tears choke and limbs refuse to move. They lie frozen in a fetal position as their bodies scream, “Enough!”

Then comes the judgment:

  • “You’re supposed to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ.”
  • “Complaining is a sin. So is laziness. The Bible calls it sloth.”
  • “How can you be so selfish when the whole world needs Jesus?”

Condemnation wraps itself around the soul like a blanket of destiny. Burnout, broken relationships, chronic illnesses and a shattered sense of self.

The call to serve has become a death sentence and no one in the support group seems to understand.

Have these warriors failed or has the system itself failed them? Have we required so much of our workers they have nothing left to treasure of themselves? How can they possibly love others if they are denied loving themselves?

Even Jesus rowed across the lake to escape from the enormous needs of the people.

So what can we do for these wounded ones? How can we help them recover?

  • Provide a place of rest – a retreat center, a rent-free apartment, a vacation far away from the source of the stress.
  • Initiate the healing process – a leave of absence with expenses paid, a counselor to help them work through the grief.
  • Show grace – no condemnation and no gossip.
  • Solitude – allow them time and space. Don’t text, call or email because they will answer and automatically want to help YOU, pray with YOU, minister to YOU. They are programmed as helpers. Don’t force them back into that role.
  • Meet their daily needs – a casserole on the porch, a gift card in the mail, a letter of encouragement. But NO condemning Bible verses enclosed.
  • Apologize for devaluing their personhood, for expecting supernatural strength from a homo sapien.
  • Pray for God’s healing comfort and for the gentle salve of the Holy Spirit to wash over their hobbled souls.

Then finally – commit to do a better job next time, to set guidelines that protect the hearts of those who serve, to listen to the cries of the faithful servants.

God does not demand that we kill ourselves for the Gospel. Jesus already paid the sacrifice.

It’s okay to admit, “It is finished.”

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy 

 

 

Hope Fights the Doubt

Ever had one of those seasons where doubt gnawed at your soul and kept you from living in abundant joy?doubt-cartoon

Yeah, me, too. In fact…recently.

With a life-changing decision on the line, I followed my usual checklist for making choices:

  • What does God say about this decision – his voice deep in my soul?
  • What does the Bible say about this choice?
  • What do godly friends tell me?
  • What do the circumstances show me?
  • Do I have peace about the decision?

When the majority of those questions agree, then I feel ready to step into the next season of life.

So I spent several days in spiritual contemplation, fasting and prayer then checked my options with my bulleted list. Check. Check. All five checks. With the decision made, I felt such peace – I gulped fresh draughts of air.

Until doubt bombarded my soul with its constant “What if’s?”

What if this is the craziest thing you’ve ever done? What if this really isn’t God’s will for you and you’ve been royally deceived – again? What if this turns into chaos, then what are you going to do, sister?

Some of the old legalism tapes replayed in my psyche – the old stuff that says, “You’d better make the right decision or God will zap you.”

Yes, I know that is a lie, but old tapes rewind, pause and replay no matter how many times we shush them.

And the other legalism tape screams, “Doubt is not faith. Anyone who doubts is not worthy of the kingdom of God.”

I did say legalism is insidious, cruel and based on lies – right?

But doubt is not always a bad thing for it is in seeking the truth that we search for God. Without some form of doubt, we are left to roll around in our self-sufficiency and think we’re always right – no matter what happens.

Doubt rides with us in a roller coaster of belief systems, circumstantial evidence and core values until finally – dizzy from the ups and downs of emotional turmoil, we whisper, “Whatever, Lord. Just make this struggle go away.”

In a recent devotional, Megan Anderson wrote, “Doubt and discontent are natural symptoms of growth; they nudge us away from the pitfalls of apathy and complacency. At the same time, a lack of clear direction can be taxing on our hearts.

Taxing on the heart – yes! That was the feeling I experienced as I replayed my decision and the possible things that might go wrong if I chose unwisely.

Give me a confirmation, God,” I begged. He answered only by reminding me of who he is – my Husband and Maker who takes care of his bride.

Then God reminded me that decisions always have a risk factor. But even if a particular choice isn’t the best path – a mistake is not necessarily a sin.

Take that – you old legalism liar.

A mistake is not necessarily a sin.

So … I’m going forward with the final decision, sometimes feeling joy and sometimes walking through fields of terror – yet determined to trust and see how God will provide.

Ultimately doubt points us to where our faith originates and eventually lands – right smack in the arms of God.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope States Faith

At a recent conference, I heard Rachel Held Evans speak about why she is a Christian. So I thought about her topic and decided to share my thoughts with you.christian-because

I am a Christian because I was born in America. Religious freedom is a gift that wraps our souls in the joy of grace and the privilege of accepting what we believe and who our faith is centered around.

If I had been born in the Middle East, I might have been raised in an Islamic culture with no opportunity to learn about Christianity. Within that culture’s religion, I might have been commanded to strap on a bomb, walk into a café and detonate myself to somehow appease an angry god.

Instead, I was raised with the image of a loving Jesus who did the dying for me – once and for all. Rather than destruction of the soul and body, grace was offered as a free gift. Instead of strapping on dynamite, all I had to do was reach out and accept love.

So I am a Christian because of where I was born and raised. Thank you, God!

I am a Christian because Mabel Gruneau took time out of her busy schedule to organize a Child Evangelism event in my home town. During that event, Mabel used a wordless book – filled with lovely colors – to explain salvation in a way I could understand. I ran – yes – ran to the front of the room and cried, “I believe in you” to Jesus.

I am a Christian because of my home church and the saints who walked their faith in front of my observant eyes. Sunday school teachers such as Lillian Sawatzsky, Lydia Warkentin and Duane Janzen taught me the groundwork of faith.

My youth minister, Dave Gerbrandt showed me how faith works in practical daily life while my pastor, Lynford Becker helped me see how passages in the Bible – written so long ago – still applied to me.

I am a Christian because of the power of music. In the denomination where I grew up music was more than just a slot in the bulletin during each service. It was the fabric of our lives. The choir members and the directors, Lloyd Ediger and Jake Classen, invited me as a teenager to join the choir and learn how to sing true harmony.

My piano teacher, Arlene Flaming, taught me how to play with the proper techniques but more importantly – how to invite the power of music to travel from the keyboard to the soul. She helped me grow as an accompanist and soloist so I could share the gift of music with others. It is because of her that I still sit down to play and worship the God who speaks with rhythm and glory.

I am a Christian because my parents made a commitment that church would be for our entire family. No dropping me off at the door. Dad and Mom both served faithfully in the church and with Dad’s perfectionist personality, we were early for every single service – Wednesday nights, Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings. Then revival meetings two or three times a year. The church was almost like a second home.

I am a Christian because of who Jesus is. Of all the religious leaders in history, Jesus is the only one who truly respected women, allowed them to use their giftings and invited them to sit at his feet and learn.

Jesus is also the only religious leader whose body cannot be found because he came alive after death. With all our DNA tests and archaeological studies, no one has ever found the body or any portion of the physical body of Jesus. So I am a Christian because the God I serve is alive.

I am a Christian because of Oklahoma Bible Academy – a Christian school in the little town of Meno, Oklahoma. At OBA, my teachers somehow merged academia with theology. Some of my teachers were seminarians, pastors, scientists deeply schooled in how faith integrates with life. The education I received at OBA was priceless and it was there during a chapel service – I believed God was calling me to a lifetime of ministry.

I am a Christian because I have studied other religions. During high school and college, I researched other denominations and the religions of the world. While I served as an international minister at the University of Kansas and learned about the faith of my students – I discovered other gods and their legalistic rules.

None of the world’s religions even begin to offer the grace-wrapped salvation story of a God who loved mankind to the extent that he would send his only son to repair the breach sin caused.

No other religion is so founded on sacrificial love and so grounded in historic faith that it cannot be logically explained but only individually accepted.

I am a Christian because throughout my lifetime, this same loving God has personally met with me, sent his Holy Spirit to guide me and several times – actually touched me with his healing hands.

When I have most needed my eternal Husband and Maker, he has been present. During the darkest of times, he has answered my cries with, “I am here.” He has never betrayed me, abandoned me or allowed me to doubt that he would somehow find a way to help me.

Ultimately, I am a Christian because I fell in love with Jesus and never got over it.

So what about you? What is your faith story and why do you believe as you do?

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope Discovers Eternity Present

In those foggy moments before the alarm rings and consciousness reminds me of the day ahead, I listen hard for soul whispers.when-god-reaches-out

It is often in the early morning when the meditations of my heart remind me I am not alone. The treasure of Psalm 127:2 becomes reality, “God gives to his beloved even in his sleep.”

A gift. A divine murmur to remind me all is well.

Such a moment happened in a recent morning as I heard a voice call my name, “Rebecca.”

It was a female voice, so perhaps its source was the nurturing comfort of the trinity’s feminine side. Or maybe an angel assigned to take care of me. Perhaps a sweet relative who has passed to glory.

Although I could not identify its owner, I knew it was no one in the realm of earth’s present. Rather, the voice traveled from eternity.

Then a touch, a stroke of my hair and the assurance of being loved – completely and forever adored by the divine One.

The rest of my day filtered through that comforting feeling of being surrounded by God’s love.

How can this happen – when eternity interrupts our life on earth and makes itself so very known we cannot ignore or deny its presence?

Is it those moments when God knows we need more than just a Bible verse to underscore Emanuel with us?

Does he long to remind us that eternity’s reality is not so far away?

We think of heaven as an ethereal universe far beyond our own galaxy, but what if it is all around us? What if we are separated only by a thin curtain between the physical and spiritual worlds?

What if God is always reaching out to us, to give a hug or stroke a fevered forehead and we’re just too focused on the now to realize he is there?

This was not the first time eternity chose to visit. A few years ago, I received word that a good friend was involved in a motorcycle accident. No helmet. Brain damage. The intensive care unit with beeping machines.

I prayed throughout the night, then somehow knew Rich had crossed over. The phone call was no surprise. Tears yet joy for the assurance that death’s sting was swallowed in victory.

Then two days later, suddenly Rich stood in my hallway. A gentle smile on his face, he wore the cowboy lariat necklace so popular in New Mexico – a coral stone set in silver, the black leather strap.

No words exchanged, but I knew he was thanking me for my prayers. And it was a token from eternity that Rich was all right, would always and forever be okay.

And then he was gone. Again.

How thin is that veil between this world and the next? It cannot be measured by our finite minds, but for me – its very transparency brings comfort.

Those we have seemed to have lost are not lost at all. They are closer than we imagine – a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on. And right there, standing with them, is the Savior of our souls – this One who dares to love us in spite of who we are or what we have done.

So I listen hard for those divine whispers and hang on to the hope that maybe I’ll hear the same voice and feel the touch again.

God is, after all, just a whisper away.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy 

 

 

Finding Hope When the Dream Dies

country-cabinEvery year since – forever – seed catalogs have arrived in my mailbox during the last of the winter weeks. They are a harbinger of hope because nothing spells faith like planting seeds and believing perennials, green beans and marigolds will indeed sprout and come to life.

But this year, I am throwing the catalogs into the recycling bin. I cannot even bear to look at pictures of purple lobelia or happy-faced pansies.

This year, I have finally realized I can no longer maintain my gardens.

Reality began to set in during last year’s season when I tried to dig weeds and spread mulch. Within minutes, grass allergies kicked in, and I ran to the house for my meds. Even so, the next day – dark circles rimmed my eyes and the fatigue of immune system warfare affected my energy levels.

I ignored the symptoms because gardening has been so important to me. Just the therapy of digging in fresh soil, following my farming ancestors’ passion to coax the sprouting of life has brought me annual joy.

Gardening has nurtured my dream – to own a cottage in the country surrounded by flowers and produce where bees drink nectar and butterflies land for a respite during their annual migration.

But reality clarifies the cost of mulch and new plants, plus the hours required to make such gardens appear. Reality also underscores that my body and its accompanying allergens now betray me.

I can no longer hang on to a dream I cannot produce.

My dilemma reminds me of my mother’s situation – the woman who worked hard to pay off her house only to be forced to leave it. The realities of Alzheimer’s care betrayed her. Staying in her home mirrors my dream of a garden home.

Now both of us must delete what we wished for.

This year, I will woefully allow the native grasses to engulf my garden spaces. I may move the blueberries and golden raspberries to pots that require little care. I may plant a small row of green beans, enough for a skillet full of nutritious flavor.

But I will no longer drool over the pictures in seed catalogs or plan new plots for hybrid clematis.

This year I will step back and let nature rule. Perhaps my garden dream will morph into an eternal garden where the price my physical body pays no longer affects me.

Instead of  working on my dream, I will stroll through local nurseries to touch leaves, stroke petals and remember the gardens I once nurtured.

To reach toward hope, I will remind myself that the giving up of the dream still yields results albeit a different type of fruit:

  • Saving money
  • Giving away tools to someone who needs them
  • Finding more time to write and read
  • Preserving my health

And when the twinges of grief remind me what is lost, I can always counter with the truth of what will someday be.

Reality forces us to change, but hope answers that the changes may point toward something better.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy 

 

 

Finding Hope in the Ugly

To keep an open mind and fully underscore my value system, I believe it is important to listen to both sides of an argument.enough-walls

As a Christian, I look for the root of divinity – seeking God’s presence in the everydayness of life and watching for ways God shows up – usually in surprising places.

As a writer, I research and analyze characters, settings and the ever-changing plotlines of life.

Thus, the story we humans have been writing within the last months of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 intrigues, appalls and forces me to ask the question:

Haven’t we already erected enough walls?

We’ve tried to divide and conquer through ugly Facebook posts, malicious Tweets and the constant debates on every news channel – no matter what the political standard. Yes, Fox News can be just as ugly as CNN.

I believe Jesus would not waste his time watching either channel.

Instead of spending his precious waning hours typing hate on a Facebook page, Jesus would be mowing the lawn for an elderly woman.

Instead of using his energy to emasculate his fellow man, Jesus would fix a meal for a single mom and her kids – then tuck an extra fifty-dollar bill inside the napkin.

Instead of listening to commentators yell at each other on the idiot box – who can hear what they’re saying anyway? Jesus would be on his knees begging God’s mercy for our fractured land.

Instead of screaming in uppercase with red text, Jesus would use his hands to touch the weeping face of a homeless man, fix a broken fence on the other side of the tracks and make sure his neighbors knew they were welcome in his home if their electricity was shut off.

The one thing Jesus would NOT do…would be to use his pulpit to bully the other side with religious rhetoric. He was, you’ll remember, constantly reminding the zealots that he who is without sin should throw the first stone.

We erect walls because they keep us away from someone different from ourselves. And yet, these emotional and socio-economic walls actually reveal our greatest fear: that I am like you and you are like me – a human being in need of love, compassion and grace.

The abused woman and the happily-married woman are the same inside. They want their heart cries to be heard. They want to be honored, cherished and respected for who they are.

The homosexual and the heterosexual are the same inside. Each wants to be accepted and loved. They seek love in different ways, but their goal is the same. Love me. Care about me.

The Muslim and the Christian are the same inside – each bowing the knee and hoping the mystery of God will hear their prayer requests. Their belief systems are different – yes – but at the core, each seeker hopes God will somehow show up and save them.

But it is easier for us to type vitriol than it is to connect with someone we fear.

Can we not realize how much alike we are – a blob of needy and messy humanity whose lives constantly unravel – homo sapiens who want to be understood and need to know our lives have meaning.

Yet it is somehow more satisfying to scream than it is to hug.

It is more appealing to argue than to compromise.

Can we not use our energy to do good rather than trying to defeat each other? Can we join together and dig deeper to consider what our calling really involves?

To get our hands dirty helping others and let our hearts be bloodied with the capacity to meet needs.

To search for the humanity and the divinity in each other and respond with grace.

To not revel in the fight but rather join together in the process of rescue.

Scripture and history teach us it is not one side or the other, but rather both/and.

I wonder which side of the wall Jesus stands on, knocking as always and hoping some lonely soul will answer.

Because what we all need is hope, and we cannot find it when we refuse to scale the walls.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy 

 

 

Hope Explains Beauty

confident-womanThe friend request made it through my Facebook filter, so I thought…okay, I’ll confirm this person. Maybe he wants to know about my latest book.

Click. Accept. Then came his first post, “You are so-o-o beautiful.”

GAG!

Facebook didn’t allow me enough space to reply, so I decided to vent on this week’s blog post and maybe teach this guy something valuable.

His statement was obviously a response about my profile headshot which I attribute to a gifted photographer and a makeup artist. It is placed on my Facebook page to help promote my books and build my brand, but it is not a reflection of how I ascertain beauty.

In fact, I believe the most beautiful women are those with an inner glow that comes from an eternal source.

A chorus from my high school years explains this type of beauty:

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me 

All His wonderful passion and purity

Oh, thou Savior divine

All my nature refine

Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.”

 

 This type of inner beauty cannot be determined by a profile picture. It has to be matured and nurtured throughout the years, often through difficult trials and a commitment to grow faith in spite of turmoil.

In today’s world, temporary beauty is identified by celebrity status, the perfect hairdo and the size four dress. Yet women know lasting beauty involves utilizing our gifts, developing self-confidence and using our voices to speak our truth.

Whether we’re stay-at-home moms or CEO’s in top corporations, beauty is determined more by WHO we are rather than how we look.

And that is the beauty that lasts.

What this Facebook guy doesn’t know is that I am happiest in my jammies with no makeup, working on my next book. My second happiest place is outside, with my hands in the dirt and sweat dripping off my nose, planting next season’s flowers and dreaming about how my gardens will thrive.

Beauty for me is reflected in the fresh dewdrop on a red rose, the turquoise and coral swirls of a sunset or the trouble-free sparkle in a newborn’s eyes. True beauty has nothing to do with the outer visage we show each other.

To experience someone’s true beauty, we must be vulnerable enough to really see them, hear them and understand the core of their being. We must reach beyond our opinions and accept the soul’s inner space, to search for that place that defines personality, heart desire and the passion of chasing our dreams.

For men who try to use pickup lines to invite relationship, I remind them words are empty. Women of beauty seek men of honor – guys who don’t rate women on a 1-10 scale or call them nasty if they disagree about a particular topic.

Women want men who are trustworthy, whose behavior mirrors their words – men who remain honorable throughout the years, men who aren’t afraid to cheer for women when they lead or make more money, men who truly listen when a woman speaks her heart.

Hope expands when women are accepted for the beauty God has placed within them – not the cultural norms printed on magazine covers and photoshopped to attain a certain luster.

True beauty begins inside the soul and no matter what happens in the aging process – that type of beauty cannot be destroyed.

So…to the Facebook “friend” who somehow thought I would be impressed with his overused and tired pick up line, I have a simple response to his feeble attempt to connect….

“Delete.”

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy 

 

 

Finding Hope When You’re Stuck

So many people I know, including myself, are stuck – waiting for an answer to prayer – the answer that will help us move forward.

We have prayed, fasted, cried out to God and yet – nothing.waiting

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

The requests of these folks are not for wealth or a better car. They ask for direction and wisdom, for a simple interview that might lead to a job, for a roof over their heads or a definitive place to worship.

But silence echoes in eerie response. Almost as if the back story of the 400 years of silence between the Old Testament and the coming of the Messiah is being replayed.

The dark night of the soul when God seems to be in hiding and we are left to wallow in our frailties.

But hope determines God has not disappeared. He may be silent yet is still at work – behind the scenes, moving puzzle pieces together, then declaring the perfect time for a reveal.

So what do we do when the answers don’t come, when we feel stuck in an eternal calendar where nothing seems to flip us to the next section?

  • Keep believing God WILL answer – in his time
  • Keep praying because God honors persevering prayer
  • Know God has a plan and he promises it will be a good one
  • Understand that every season – even seasons of waiting – will eventually end
  • Remember we cannot see every detail that relates to our prayer requests. We cannot know the eternal value or the sacred reasoning behind life’s waiting rooms.
  • Post this verse where we can see it every day: “There is a happy end for the man of peace” (Psalm 37:37 Amplified).

Hope continues to believe – especially when we cannot see how our faith works. We believe in what we cannot see, still knowing a facet of eternal value exists though none of the waiting makes sense.

In the meantime, hope continues – one whispered prayer at a time – believing in that happy end and in the One who will someday make it happen.

©2017 RJ Thesman – Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy http://amzn.to/2kG29Ur

Hope Finishes a Book

The idea began two years ago when I read “How to Blog a Book” by Nina Amir. Since that time, I have recommended Amir’s book to many of my writing clients.

The jist of her book is the process of using blog content – already written, edited and published online – to create a hard copy print book.

When I finished Amir’s book, I looked up and said, “Well, duh!

After blogging for five years, I had enough content for several books, but I wanted to focus on only one theme, one category and one idea.

The decision was easy. “Sometimes They Forget” – the collection of essays I have written about the caregiving journey through Alzheimer’s Disease.bookcoverimage-stf

This book, unlike the Reverend G trilogy, tugged at my desire for authenticity as the long-distance caregiver and forced me to dig deep – then deeper still – to reach those painful places in my soul.

I needed to record how the awful reality feels when Alzheimer’s invades a family.

From the cemetery wanderings when I visited my ancestors’ graves to the honesty of admitting how we must sometimes lie to Mom. The inclusion of holiday tips for caregivers, the seven stages of Alzheimer’s and caregiving tips I share when I speak at events – all these posts present some practical ideas for families dealing with this brutal disease.

I am hoping families just entering Stage One will feel encouraged to know others have gone before them and survived.

As I re-read my essay asking the why question, it caused me to review my faith values and underscore the truth that even if I cannot understand why God allowed this disease to enter my mother’s life, I will still trust his heart.

My goal was to finish the book before Christmas 2016, but then the Great Virus invaded. Illness interrupted my timeline.

The deadline changed with a new target date which I am pleased to announce – I WILL meet.

February 3rd is my mother’s birthday – 88 years. “Sometimes They Forget” will be released on that day and soon after – on Kindle. The book is an acknowledgement of her courage and a small way to honor her.

You, my blog followers, have encouraged me with your comments and with your appreciation of my words. I hope you will also consider this new book as a memorial to my mother and as a way to make it through your own Alzheimer’s journey – or share it with someone else.

The sub-title of “Sometimes They Forget” is “Finding Hope in the Alzheimer’s Journey.” My prayer is that hope will multiply and the ripple effect will bring some measure of peace to those families who live with the Long Good-bye.

Thank you for your support and for your prayers as this book is released on February 3rd.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

 

 

Hope Finds a Word

Many of my friends are choosing their words for the year. Although I don’t usually follow suit, one word has surfaced. This word and its meaning once stymied me because I could not find a practical way to utilize it.

But as I have searched for a workable definition, the practice and discipline of using this word has moved front and center.ballet-dancers

I believe this word is important to me – especially in 2017 – because of what happened in 2016. As a Christian, I was appalled at the vitriol I read on social media and how followers of Christ used their freedom of speech as a weapon.

Certainly, we should stand up for what we believe, but to attack other human beings – creations of God – just because they believe differently? Sheesh!

They will know we are Christians by our love.

So my word for the year addresses my traumatized soul and also gives me a higher bar to attain. The word is GRACE.

I know the Sunday School definition for grace: God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. But I have searched for the practical version, a way to actually BE a Christian rather than just writing and/or posting my beliefs – hoping to stay away from the ugliness and cruelty witnessed last year.

The definition I have settled on is, “Grace is the disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy or clemency.”

To live with a focus on kindness, to show grace to the checker at Target who has been on her feet for eight hours and the guy in front of me is yelling at her because his coupon expired.

To see the tears threatening to spill over and when it is my turn, to briefly touch her hand and say, “I’m sorry about what just happened. I think you’re doing a great job.”

To park in the lot at Wal-Mart and instead of rushing inside to get my stuff, to show grace-filled courtesy to the elderly woman, lift her trunk and help her empty the cart – then offer to take her cart inside so she doesn’t have to walk all that way on a gimpy leg.

To realize none of us act as we should every single day and give grace when someone barks an insult or uses only one finger to wave at me in traffic.

To be grateful for my freedoms yet allow with grace for the differences among us as we exercise those freedoms.

And how does grace look if I turn it inward? What are the practical ways I can give myself grace in this new year?

To realize I am an achiever, yet my projects are not more important than my health. To rest even if I’m not sleepy.

To allow myself breaks to take a long walk, to sit on the deck and marvel at the colors of the blue jay at my feeder.

To realize I gain five pounds every winter as I hibernate from the cold and give myself grace because I always lose those same pounds in the spring.

To admit the truth about the aging process – it DOES happen so I need to give myself grace and not hate the changes morphing me into a visual of my ancestors. After all, each year brings me closer to heaven where age will not matter.

To realize my garden cannot look like the magazine covers, no matter how hard I work. To give myself grace and let some of the plots grow over with natural grasses and even weeds. This graceful strategy will give me more time to write, reflect and pray.

To believe that grace also leads to gracefulness – a beautiful visual of a ballerina floating across the stage. Can I float through 2017 with a new version of gracefulness, slowing down and just being myself?

In her book, “Walking on Water,” Madeleine L’Engle writes exactly what I want to embrace. “…To take time away from busyness, time to BE. To take BEING time – something we all need for our spiritual health. Slow me down, Lord. When I am constantly running, there is no time for being. When there is no time for being, there is no time for listening.”

So as I float through 2017, my goal is to show kindness, to offer courtesy and to fight for clemency – to allow for the differences among us and love in spite of them.

Hope calls me to be more grace-filled and graceful in the next twelve months. Will you join me?

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Uses Her Voice

One of the best tools to build relationships is the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman.

When we know our love language and the love languages of our friends and family, we can feed care into each others’ souls.voices-invisible

Recently, I discussed love languages with my son and reminded him about my primary language. “Acts of service,” I said. “I feel most loved when someone does something for me.”

Conversely, I often show love to others by helping them and doing kind things for them.

After a long month of illness, my love tank was pointed to empty. So I decided to tell my son exactly what I needed.

If we do not use our voices, we become invisible and our needs are not heard.

“Son, my love tank is empty.”

“Huh?”

“You know, acts of service and all that love language discussion we had. I need my love tank filled.”

“What does that even mean, Mom?”

“It means…after being sick for so long and eating nothing but chicken soup, grapefruit and cough drops, I think my body needs some iron. That means I need a really good hamburger – not the cheap drive-through kind of burger. My body needs a buffalo burger with parmesan garlic sauce and potato wedges on the side. Lots of wedges.”

“So…you need me to go to Buffalo Wild Wings and get you a burger?”

“Now you’re catching on. Don’t forget the extra wedges.”

An hour later, completely satisfied after a whopping burger and salty wedges, I realized how good food affects our moods. Not only did my body respond to the burger with additional energy, I felt as if I might be moving toward healing. Hope returned.

But to make that leap, I needed to use my voice.

If I had continued to fill the house with my pitiful moaning, slurping leftover chicken soup and begging God to take me to heaven – nothing would have improved. My iron content would have plummeted and my love tank remained empty.

But because I spoke my need and used my voice, my son had the opportunity to do a kind deed. He knew exactly what I needed.

Isn’t life easier when we know what people need? Yet we often sulk in our self-sufficiency, thus depriving ourselves and others of finding the resolution to our problems.

Hope responds to authenticity and when we speak our truth – we all benefit.

Let’s make 2017 a better year by exercising authenticity, using our voices and speaking our truth. Then we can help each other move toward more compassion, kindness and hope.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

Hope When Christmas Changes

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

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

I called it The Great Cough of 2016.pharmaceutical-symbol

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

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

So Christmas plans changed. None of our usual holiday foods. I wasn’t cooking anything except chicken soup. Unwrapped presents waited in Amazon boxes. Worse, we were not able to spend Christmas with the family in Oklahoma. This was the first year since I served as a missionary that I did not see my mother for Christmas.

But we could  not force ourselves into the car for a five hour trip. And why take our germs across the state line to risk the health of the entire family?

We found an urgent care open on a Sunday – bless the hearts of that staff ! We armed ourselves with legal drugs – thank you to the hard-working pharmacy staff ! We stayed in bed and slept late – when the coughing didn’t wake us up.

Then Christmas happened in spite of illness. My son’s girlfriend and her family invited us for a delicious meal and an evening of fun – playing table games with hygienic gloves on, trying not to cough on anyone.

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

Then we collapsed into our recliners again – still coughing. The Grinch tried to steal Christmas from Cindy Lou Who while George Bailey learned how to live a wonderful life.

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

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

Christmas incorporates the beauty of music, joy, light and a Love that forever transforms lives. No matter how we celebrate the season, the root of its beginning cannot change. And in that security, we find hope in the eternal promise – Immanuel – God with us.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Shares a Vision

For several years, this vision has been floating from my heart to my head and back again. I have tried to ignore it and push it back from whence it came, because acting on it seemed superfluous.

country-manorBut recently, the vision has resurfaced because I have met more women in need.

Here’s the problem: Numerous single women who are active in ministry struggle to find affordable housing. They manage nonprofits, meet the needs of the underprivileged and fill the gaps the churches cannot or will not attempt.

These brave women use their giftings to impact the world yet struggle to make a living. They are at the mercy of landlords who keep upping the rent or they own houses they can no longer maintain or sell without losing more money.

Currently, I know three of these women personally who are living in temporary housing, struggling to find a safe place they can afford and continue doing the ministry God has called them to do.

Here’s the vision: Remodel an old school or an old motel into beautiful apartments for these women. Each woman would have her own space yet she would be sharing in a community of others who could encourage her and become a sort of family.

Like a convent – only nondenominational.

This vision needs an investor who is willing to embrace the need and is interested more in caring for these women than making a bundle of money. Each woman’s rent would be based on her income and a percentage of what the utilities might cost.

Someone would have to manage the property and requirements for acceptance would have to be decided. But the administrative piece is the easy part. Finding the investor and the property is the tough part.

I can imagine several places around the Kansas City Metro that might fulfill the vision. Perhaps a place in the country where women could walk, garden or find solace from ministry demands.

This vision is not insurmountable. A group of women in the UK have seen it happen.

So I’m posting this idea on my blog, hoping someone will see it who can help with the plight of these women. Since I keep thinking and praying about this wondrous idea, I believe it is possible.

Hope continues in this new year. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see this vision find its reality in 2017?

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Believes at Christmas

With a mug of steaming hot chocolate, I sit in my recliner and turn on the television. A Christmas movie allows two hours of escape from reality – a momentary dream of how Christmas hope might appear.victorian-scene

The Christmas movies are one reason why I continue to budget for cable TV – holiday movies plus Jayhawk ballgames.

Somehow my holiday season needs the extra joy of watching these movies and looking forward to them each year.

Sure, I know they’re fantasy and often end with sappy plot lines and poor writing. In fact, I prefer the Lifetime movies to the Hallmark channel, because the Lifetime versions seem more like the truth.

Plot lines include more single moms or widows who face real life issues when everything doesn’t always work out happily ever after in just two hours.

Still, my favorites are the movies that take me back to another era, to Victorian homes with handmade stairs, cornice boards, lace curtains and gingerbread cookies baking in the oven.

I remember days such as those and exact houses like the ones where actors flow from parlor to bedroom to the sunroom. For a while, I return to the beauty and simple days of Christmas past.

I choose to forget they had no indoor plumbing and parlors were often shut off to conserve heat. Somehow in the movies, the scenario of running outside to the outhouse in subzero temps rarely happens.

Instead, I want to believe in the happily ever after endings of lifetime loves, merry families and warm homes. I long to escape from a Christmas that includes the refugees of Aleppo, the stress of counting pennies and the questions about what our nation may face in 2017.

For two hours, I forget my reality and slip into the possibility of finding hope within memories. I wish my son could have known one house that always represented home, and I still long for that country lane lined with snow-tipped trees and the jingly bells of a carriage arriving at my large manor filled with the smells and sounds of the season. My pretend place where family and friends gather to sing carols, touch the Nativity scene with wonder and tip their glasses of eggnog toward the star at the top of a sparkly Christmas tree.

Christmases past still lie cached in my soul as the sappy movies stir emotions, sounds and textures that momentarily bring comfort. For a few extra dollars each year, I return to those memories and revel in the coziness of how they make me feel.

And somewhere in the land of hope, I find restored belief that Christmas joy will return for another year.

It’s only 365 days away.

©2016 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy  and a contributor to Abba’s Promise 

Hope Fills the White Stocking

Why have I never heard about this tradition? With all the Christmas decorations I’ve made throughout the years, only this year did I discover the legend of the White Stocking.white-stocking

This tradition was begun by a mother who realized her family was so consumed by the trappings and gifts of Christmas, they had forgotten the true meaning of the celebration. She then wrote a poem, outlining her plans for Christmas morning.

The white stocking hung throughout the season, empty, yet in a special place on the mantel. Then on Christmas morning, everyone in the family received a piece of paper.

On the paper, they wrote a gift they wanted to give Jesus – then they placed their papers in the stocking. It was a practical and visual way to remember the meaning of the season.

With the Great Purge of 2016 fresh in my mind, I refused to make a white stocking and add one more thing to my box of decorations.

But I wanted to journal and blog about the idea, to reflect on what I could possibly give the King of kings this Christmas season.

It would be easy in this space to type the usual Sunday School answers:

  • I’ll give him my heart
  • my ten per cent tithe
  • make him the Lord of my life
  • give him all my worship.

While these answers may come from a pure heart, they lose their credibility in the repetition. I want to be more specific – to make myself accountable to this idea and perhaps check myself throughout the new year.

So to be entirely credible, I decided to ask the Lord what he wanted from me. He has everything he needs, and he knows me better than anyone else – this One who fashioned me in my mother’s womb, then held me in his arms after I slithered from her body.

This One who has held me through all these years of life, over mountains of joy and within deepest pits of emotional valleys.

What does the Divine One want from me?

As I reflected on 2016, one common attitude presented itself in a taupe shade of ugliness.

I have spent a great deal of this year trying to figure out how to set boundaries around my life and somehow make it easier – less stressful – more joyful.

I didn’t think life would be so hard during this season of life. I expected to ease off a bit, relax more and enjoy some well-deserved fun.

Instead, I have worked harder with longer hours – still enjoying my work – yet somehow resenting those who have nothing to do but read their AARP magazine and count their retirement money.

Setting healthy boundaries is always a good idea, but I have also expressed my frustration to more than one person and I have written volumes of emotional dither within my journals.

Although I needed to vent and God is a good listener, I think I may have overdone it.

Because when I asked Jesus what he wanted for Christmas, he nudged me toward my complaints and gently reminded me of all the things I should be grateful for.

Although I cannot retire, I CAN still work and enjoy all my jobs – the writing, the coaching and the nonprofit where I help women find empowerment and reach their goals.

Although I am tired of maintaining a house and the gardens have nearly done me in this year, I CAN still work in the gardens, planting and harvesting – eating from the produce God blesses.

In my house, I CAN still bend over carpet stains and try to rub them into oblivion, climb steps up and down – four levels of them – and perch on top of my car while I change the bulb in the garage light.

Although I no longer play competitive softball or run up and down a basketball court, I CAN still stretch in yoga poses and pump away calories on my exercise bike.

Although I tire of counting pennies and searching for coupons, trying to find the best deals – I CAN still pay the bills. So far, my son and I have not starved and we still enjoy hot showers.

Many people in the world cannot count a hot shower or clean water as a simple blessing.

We cannot expect life to be easy here on earth. The only way we reach the goal of the prize of the high calling of God is to go through the hard stuff, to endure and persevere.

So I think my mental white stocking this year will hold only three words – a gift I am going to be more intentional to give the baby in the manger who became the savior on the cross.

I will hold out this gift to him because he deserves it.

And with my gift comes a repentance of wasted words shadowed by resentful thoughts.

This gift also represents my hope that he will receive it with joy, understanding I am still flawed but trying, loving me for my attempts to please him and to live my life with honor.

What gift will I give Jesus this Christmas? What shall I place in the white stocking?

More Thankful Words.

©2016 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy and a contributor to “Abba’s Promise

Hope Keeps It Simple

xmas-mantel-2016Because this year has taught me so many valuable aspects of a simplified life, I have decided to merge the Great Purge of 2016 into my Christmas celebration.

What once was a month filled with activities and the traditional set-up to the holidays, I have now prefaced with the following questions:

  • How can I simplify Christmas?
  • What gives me the most joy about Christmas?
  • Why is a simpler Christmas important?

To simplify Christmas, I am making the following changes:

Christmas Cards

Although I love sending cards for various reasons throughout the year, the business of addressing and mailing almost 100 Christmas cards has become overkill. I am simplifying the process.

If you are one of my readers who regularly receives a Christmas card from me – be forewarned. Yes, I still think you are important and a valued person in my life. However, I’m setting a card boundary and you may be deleted from my list.

This year, I am saving time, money and energy. If you really need a greeting, here it is: Merry Christmas!

Christmas Treats

In the past, I have baked, stirred and frosted special treats for my neighbors, the postman, co-workers and anyone else in my life who did not receive a special store-bought gift.

I no longer need to make treats nor do I need to be tempted by the cookie dough in my large bowl or the smell of rising breads. My kitchen table will not be spread with powdered sugar treats we called People Puppy Chow.

I am relieved, because I usually eat at least half of them. This year I am protecting my heart, my brain and my arteries from excess powdered sugar.

Not even the traditional peppernut recipe will tempt me this year. I am setting a culinary boundary.

If you visit me and expect a Christmas treat, you may be served a rice cake with tuna fish salad on top. Try it! I promise it’s good.

Christmas Decorations

As a Martha Stuart wannabe, my house often sported decorations in every room. When I lived in an old fixer-upper filled with antiques, my house became the neighborhood gathering place for the holidays: the smell of cranberry cider, red and white gingham bows tied to the kitchen cabinet hardware, various trees throughout the house and a gift bag for every visitor.

I still love walking through Pier One, Hallmark stores or Kirkland during this time of the year, but I don’t buy the stuff anymore.

Since the stager opened my eyes to a more simplified décor, I have decided to change my habits.

Compared to other years, the mantel looks sparse. My theme is pine cones which remind me of the New Mexico mountains. Simple yet beautiful – a display of God’s creationxmas-mantel-2016 accented with little pearl lights.

Many of my decorations I sacked up to give away, and it felt good to share with others the beauty of my past.

My little tree still works with its tiny pre-lit globes. Once it begins to fail, I will throw it away and buy one of those tiny table Christmas trees. No need to vacuum fallen needles or wrestle with smashing the tree into the box on New Year’s Day.

A simpler Christmas helps me focus more on the meaning of the holiday rather than the trappings of it.

The joy of Christmas-giving still belongs with the young, so I will plan gifts for my son, my nephew and my nieces. The rest of us don’t need any more stuff.

The Christmas surprise of 2016 is the joy all this simplifying has brought me. More room in my storage shelves because there’s less stuff to store. More space in each room because each room contains less stuff. More things to give away and hopefully share joy with someone else.

The essential leftovers give me pleasure because I have made the choice to surround myself ONLY with the things that bring me joy. Everything else can be given away or thrown away.

And in the decision to simplify my Christmas, I believe joy will follow me into the new year.

A toast of eggnog to all my followers. Enjoy your version of Christmas and let me know in the comments how you’re celebrating.

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

7 Holiday Tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Alz awarenessHow should we deal with our Alzheimer’s loved one during the holidays?

The calendar reminds us that we are deep into the holiday season. Our waistlines are expanding and the stresses of family dynamics emotionally stretch us.

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

So here are seven tips to remember as we move into the holidays:

Don’t expect a dementia or Alzheimer’s loved one to make any food.

One year into her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Mom tried to figure out a recipe so she would feel like she was part of the festivities.

But as we watched her struggle to find pots and pans, worry about the cost of groceries and wonder if she had made her salad – hundreds of times over – we realized it was time to stop expecting Mom to cook.

Even if she has a favorite recipe and everyone still enjoys her marshmallow salad or her french silk pie, relieving her of the stress can be a gift.

If your loved one wants to shop for gifts, plan ahead for this adventure.

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

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

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

Include some of your loved ones’ favorite foods.

Even though her appetite is changing, Mom will want her annual piece of pecan pie. So one of my holiday duties is to buy a premade pecan pie and through the years, I have found the best ones in the frozen section at Target.

When we first walk into the farm kitchen, Mom’s eyes always go to the dessert table. She may not say anything, but I know what she’s looking for.

I brought your pecan pie, Mom, and the first piece goes to you.” Then I dress it with a generous dollop of Cool Whip.

Every year, Mom says, “I DO love pecan pie.” I dread the day when she forgets how to say this one, grateful sentence.

Do an activity together, such as looking through the Christmas cards.

Although sending Christmas cards is becoming one of those traditions celebrated in the past, my mother’s demographic still considers it a holiday courtesy. She loves receiving her cards.

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

Be prepared to look at the cards several times during the holidays and tell the same stories. That’s okay. It’s part of the Alzheimer’s process, and someday – you’ll be glad you took the time to do this.

If you check your loved one out of assisted living for the day, be sure to check back in before dark.

Driving through some beautifully-lit neighborhoods was once a favorite activity. But this idea depends on the level of Alzheimer’s where your loved one exists.

Mom feels uncomfortable outside of assisted living in the dark. Looking at the lights is no longer one of our seasonal pleasures.

As the sun sets, Alzheimer’s patients often experience Sundowner’s Syndrome. They may pace, say the same words over and over and exhibit anxiety.

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

If you are traveling for the holidays, it is usually not a good idea to include your Alzheimer’s loved one.

Although we all want to be together during the holidays, that pleasure becomes less and less tangible. Traveling out of their comfort zone is difficult for Alzheimer’s patients: several hours cramped in a car or a plane, strangers, noise, unfamiliar surroundings, different types of foods and smells.

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

Fight against the false guilt that says you can’t leave for a day or two. Yes, you can. Taking care of yourself is one of the best ways to make it through the marathon of caregiving. So take a break and drive away to be with your family.

What should you buy for the Alzheimer’s patient?

None of us needs more junk, least of all an Alzheimer’s patient who is living in a studio apartment at assisted living. Keep it simple.

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

One Christmas, I gave Mom a wooden cross, made in New Mexico and a bag of her favorite Lifesaver™ mints. She seemed most excited about the mints although the cross was a nice adornment on her wall.

This year I’m giving Mom a hug and a kiss, knowing that next Christmas may be completely different. This year – she still knows who I am, and I am grateful.

Next year – maybe not.

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

 

 

Hope Watches the Autumn Dance

A year ago, I happened to be on the deck as a tree unloaded its entire leaf burden. It was as if God said, “It’s 3:24 on November 2. Disengage.leaves-falling-autumn

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

Since then, I have made more of an effort to watch the leaves fall.

Some of them let loose to fall quickly and suddenly – 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 yet-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 will continue.

Day and night. Seasons of life. Winter will follow autumn but also promise spring.

I want to be most like the meandering leaves and 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 and golds and oranges of the autumn dance remind me how God colors our world with various shades of skin to remind us all are beautiful – different yes – but glorious in our uniqueness.

And just as God programs each tree in its autumn leaving, he also engages within the seasons of my life.

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

Gratefully, in his arms – I will segue from dance to eternity. But unlike the leaves, I will fall upward.

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

 

Hope Finds Gratitude

gratefulDuring this season, it is expected that we give thanks. Most of the time, I do the required thank you’s:

  • Food – especially the whole berry cranberry sauce
  • A roof over my head – even if it feels weird from all the decluttering I’ve done. 
  • My son and my family – of course, always

Yet this year, I want to dig deeper and find my place of gratitude within the corners of my soul – those places I hide from others.

This year, I want to be more vulnerable with my blog followers and maybe in turn – remind all of us that gratitude is more than words.

Perhaps we should consider gratitude a heart condition and thus worthy of even more reflection.

This year, I am thankful because the fragility of life on this earth became graphically personal. One night, a bullet screamed through my bedroom. One inch closer and I would be writing this from heaven instead of Kansas.

Throughout the decluttering exercise and the staging of the house, I have grown more grateful for baring the walls and clearing the floors. Some of my stuff was comfort junk, bought to fill the hole left over from a damaging relationship.

Now I am more determined to surround myself with the essentials, yet achieve balance. My writing office still needs some creative, funky stuff and I am still determined to keep my piano.

As a believer of many years, sometimes I fail to thank God for redemption. All those years ago, my childhood heart opened to the Savior of Nazareth as I ran – yes, ran – down the aisle toward salvation.

May I never forget the wonder of that moment and expressly thank God for the healing of my soul.

Even as I wait for the agent’s response, I am grateful for the opportunity to fly to Denver, stay in a beautiful hotel and pitch the book I hope will be published soon. Thank you, God, for the creativity you have gifted me with and the words that morph from heart to fingers to computer screen to the printed page.

A brief foray into my journals finds entries where I asked God questions and sometimes railed against the answers. I am grateful God lets me be honest with him and I love it when he gives me verses of scripture which may not provide the answer I want but confirms I am forever and gracefully loved.

More than ever before, I am grateful for how God has brought me through the struggles:

  • The loss of two babies
  • Abuse and assault
  • Divorce and all its protracted consequences
  • Watching my son suffer from cancer
  • Dad’s dementia and Mom’s Alzheimer’s journey

While I am not grateful FOR these particular obstacles, I am so thankful that during the struggles and in the aftermath, God has been present. Because he helped me survive, my faith has grown and perseverance has deepened.

And with these experiences in my mental backpack, I have written about realistic topics and helped coach women past the crises.

May we never take for granted how God continues to save us every day.

Because I am a life-long learner, I am still trying to grasp more of the lessons which life and God are teaching me. Thank you, blog followers, for giving me this forum to work out the kinks in my spiritual armor and find the sacred place God longs to purify.

So as we sit around the tables this Thanksgiving and dip into that whole berry cranberry sauce, let’s go deep into the reasons for gratitude.

Forever and always, let us listen hard for the divine One who longs to hear us say, “Thank you, dear Father.”

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

Hope Embraces A Stranger

country-cabinShe was introduced to me as a stranger, this woman who shared the drive to a writer’s conference.

But within five miles we connected – as women often do when they share about their broken hearts, lifelong dreams and always always – their beloved children.

We discovered a common link as women betrayed by husbands in long-term marriages where the happily-ever-after morphed into legal paperwork and the dividing of household goods – in itself a sharing of suffering.

Who gets the family albums? The china great grandmother carefully transported from the old country to America – land of the free and home of the brave.

Women freed from the shackles of toxic relationships. Women who found their brave although it took us several decades.

We saw in each other the heart hidden under years of denial and co-dependency – how we had ignored the truth because we could not manage the raw stream of reality.

We connected through the pain, but shared the lifelong dream of writing. So after we finished baring our souls, we stopped for a refill of iced tea then concentrated on the positives of life.

She – a devotional writer with a quirky sense of humor I admired. My writing – more creative fiction with the trilogy of Reverend G and blog posts such as this one.

Both of us with degrees in education. She with a lifetime of teaching and a recent retirement. My focus on ministry and teaching women how to cope.

Another connecting point – both of us mothers of sons, proud of the men they had become, blessed because we made it through those adolescent years when the larvae of manhood simultaneously made us grit our teeth and laugh into our pillows.

Since that conference, we have shared several meals and the iced tea we both love, the large version for only a dollar at McDonald’s.

Then we found another connection in our love of the country. She – blessed with several acres where she plants gardens, decorates with bird houses and roams with her loyal dogs. My life currently stuck in limbo land, living in the city yet craving for sunsets without buildings and the solace of quiet labor.

Yet with all our emotional connections, the one fiber that spans any differences and winds itself through eternity is that we love the same God. Neither of us quite understanding why he allowed us to be members of the gray divorce club, yet both of us certain we will trust him with the rest of our lives.

Hope grows when we meet other pilgrims along the road of life and discover common connections, heart stirrings and reasons to pray for each other.

Then as we embrace our eternal connection, we no longer call each other strangers but instead lock hearts as family.

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

Hope Streams Through the Promises

In our crazy world of broken promises, it soothes me to know I can depend on one source.

i-promiseThe divine One, God Himself, has never broken any of his covenant promises to me.

Some of his words of hope are recorded within the general principles of the Bible:

  • I will never leave you or forsake you
  • I will be your Comforter
  • I will show you the path to take
  • I will be your Guide
  • I will be your eternal Husband

Although timing for these promises varies, and sometimes the seasons of life interrupt, when God says something and underscores it in print – I am certain it will eventually happen.

But the promises that mean the most to me – those certainties that create the a-ha moments of spiritual awakening – those promises are not recorded in the holy scriptures.

These are the divine whispers during my discouraging nights and my driest spiritual deserts. These are the words that keep me living in hope even when tentacles of fear and uncertainty tighten.

When I walked through the pain of divorce, God spoke his personal promise for my son and me, “There will be hard times ahead, but I will meet every need.”

Even through extended months of unemployment, scary moves away from comfort zones, the horror of watching my son suffer with cancer – through it all – the reminder of God’s statement kept me breathing.

“I will meet every need.”

Indeed – in miraculously beautiful moments recorded in my journals and kept sacred – like the Virgin Mary – ensconced in my heart.

Every. Single. Need. Was. Met.

  • Jobs that suddenly appeared from unusual sources
  • Cars given through the generosity of a good man
  • The healing of my son and my own healings – emotional, spiritual and physical
  • Money that somehow appeared. I constantly affirm God’s math is different from ours. He can make money poof into existence from a negative balance.
  • Friendships spawned in the cusp of brokenness
  • Housing – one of my constant prayers, “Please God, don’t let us be homeless.” A beautiful townhome where we healed for four years then later a mortgage refinanced, gardens where God and I created beautiful color and bountiful food
  • Christmas gifts we received and those we gave – even when the budget no longer stretched far enough
  • A research trip to Santa Fe, featured in the last Reverend G book
  • And much, much more….

Every. Single. Need. Always and Forever. Met. The solo I often sang became reality.

But as sweet and as necessary as the confirmed promise streamed the credibility of the One who made the promise.

The words foreshadowed holiness because they originated from the source of love – the covenant made stronger because of the credibility of the Speaker.

So during this current desert, as I await the resolution for another promise, I continue to look for and listen to the One who has seared my heart with his grace.

“I will meet every need,” he said so clearly. No quantity of time assigned to his statement. Just an eternal assurance that the One who spoke the words will never violate his covenant.

He will meet the needs now as he has done in the past, because he cannot and will not change. His promise forever sealed within the identity of Who he is.

And in that assurance, hope streams.

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

Hope Sets Healthy Boundaries

Isn’t it interesting how we can tell others what to do but not apply that same wisdom to ourselves?

In my life coaching ministry at GateWay of Hope, I often ask women, “What are you doing for fun?” We track their progress and talk about the importance of setting healthy boundaries.

cottage-picket-fenceSometimes we refer to an emotional boundary as setting a fence around the heart.

Likewise with my writing clients. I may ask, “What are you doing for an artist date?”

They tell me about roaming through bookstores, writing morning pages at a quirky and fun coffee shop or choosing a new journal.

Terrific success for my coaching clients. Not such a good job by their coach. I find it increasingly difficult to schedule artist dates and/or find some time for fun in my busy schedule. Am I too busy? Yes. How can I remedy that? Hmm.

One of my friends recently asked me, “What are you doing for Rebecca?”

I had to stop and think about that question, because we often define fun as something we do that costs money.

But I need to consider other things that are just as relaxing and important for me – activities that cost little or nothing. Fun might include playing the piano, banging out chords that help release some of the pressures of a stressful day.

Walking through crunchy leaves or strolling through colorful chrysanthemums at a garden store. These joys remind me of the creator and how he blesses us with an autumn Kansas.

Other possibilities:

  • An occasional movie
  • Watching the baseball playoffs with my son
  • Looking forward to Jayhawk basketball and OU football
  • Pulling out my coloring book and finding a quiet moment on the deck
  • Singing
  • A new color of fingernail polish
  • The turquoise and corals of a Kansas sunset
  • A haircut
  • A new journal or reading through the old one with an attitude of praise

These are some of the things that bring me joy, however I need to work harder at getting away and forcing myself to relax. Is that an oxymoron? Forced relaxation?

Even now, I feel the need for some time away to reboot my soul and refresh that creative spirit in me.

I write better after a break when I feel more energized to connect sentences that form paragraphs, outline chapters and introduce new characters to the world.

So I need to be more proactive about using my time off. I need to actually schedule a writing retreat and a personal sabbatical – wherever and whenever I can – soon.

As 2017 approaches, I need to discipline myself to do the same thing I ask of my clients – to find that special place of inner rest, to plan an artist date, to find my own creative boundaries.

Hope asks accountability of others but also demands spiritual nourishment of the self. Even as I help others, I need to do a better job finding myself and define that fence around my heart.

Anyone else want to join me in the search?

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

Hope Embraces Holy Indifference

During a conference last spring, I won the opportunity to pick a book from the freebie table. But the conference administrator decided to run the contest again – something about the numbers not being equal and fair to everyone.

I didn’t really care but when they repeated the contest – once again – I won. It seemed like a divine coincidence I shouldn’t ignore.

So I approached the book table and prayed I would make the right decision. Only one book seemed interesting, so I grabbed it and put it in my bag to take home.

Then I forgot about it. Months later, I pulled it out of my bag and started thumbing through it – then reading more closely – then highlighting text and writing in the margins.

This book has become a necessary piece of my limbo land puzzle. “Living into the Answers – a Workbook for Personal Spiritual Discernment” is now my traveling companion with journal prompts and prayers for spiritual direction.

Authors Valerie Isenhower and Judith Todd devised an individualized plan for discerning God’s will. With questions such as:

  • What is God’s longing for you?
  • When do you most sense God’s presence?
  • How does God fit into your life story?

I was soon hooked into the value of this little workbook. After I finished, I put it aside for a while and last week – picked it up again.

One of the chapters held a keynote for me which became a prayer, a journal entry and now – this blog post. That keynote is the principle of Holy Indifference.

Ignatius of Loyola actually penned the term back in the sixteenth century – pretty smart for a dead saint. He described Holy Indifference as a state of inner freedom, openness and balance.

But Isenhower and Todd take the principle a bit deeper. Their idea involves a willingness to follow the longings of God for our lives so no matter what he designs for us, we are indifferent to our own versions.

To live within the balance of holy indifference, we determine that we don’t really care about the outcome of a decision. However it turns out – whenever and whatever God designs – is okay. We’ll take it – no matter what.

The point is not to worry about the results and not to lean on our own understanding or even our reasoning capabilities.

This practice of spiritual discernment shifts away from self and centers on God. When we come to a crossroads, we’re not afraid to follow him because we know he has the best in mind for us.

He has considered all our objections and all our feeble plans. He asks us to trust him with everything we are and all that we desire – to walk boldly into the future with him.

Every spiritual question seems to circle back to trust – at least in my life.

Can I trust God enough to move me to a place I will love – even if I can’t see it right now?

Will I trust that God has the best outcome already planned for me – even if it might include doing something I don’t like or giving up something I have treasured?

Am I willing to trust that God’s longing for me will eventually result in something good and beautiful?

Hmm. Holy Indifference replies, “I have considered all the options and God knows best. I will put myself and this decision into his capable hands and trust his heart.”

Sort of makes limbo land less threatening and the outcome more exciting.

©2016 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy

 

Hope Wonders When

I will readily admit – patience is not one of my virtues. Yet it seems God often requires me to learn more about patience in his school of waiting.as-we-wait

After two years living in limbo land, I am still waiting and wondering…when will the answers come?

How much longer do I need to wait? What is the deciding factor that is keeping me in this place of limbo?

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

On a larger scale than just my small life, when will our communities learn that diversity is a good thing – that we can add to each other’s lives by embracing our differences as much as we do our commonalities? When?

A Facebook friend has watched her little boy endure countless surgeries. He’s lived in the hospital longer than he’s lived at home. When will their endless waiting end? When?

The 36-hour day team-tags caregivers to Alzheimer’s patients. The body refuses to die even as the brain deteriorates. When will endurance result in release? The only way to end the Alzheimer’s journey is to hold the hand of a loved one as she is ushered into eternity.

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

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

New areas we have not previously considered…or possibly…God will lead us into a spiritual haven where we can reframe our questions.

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

When, God, when?

I wonder what it must have felt like in the 400-year silence between the Old and New Testaments. For centuries, one decade after another, the people waited for their Messiah.

Generations died out. Saints did not receive the promise, yet somehow hope lived on.

Grandfathers continued to share the stories of a miracle-working God. Mothers tucked their children into bed and whispered, “Maybe tomorrow Messiah will come.”

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

Then – when he did come – he was so radical and so unlike the Messiah they expected – they didn’t recognize the wait was finally over.

Instead of rejoicing, they rejected him and killed him. Now, 2000 years later, they still wait because they haven’t recognized what happened.

As we seek the end of limbo land, maybe we are looking in the wrong location. Maybe the happy ending already happened in a manger in Bethlehem, a hillside sermon, an empty tomb outside the city of Jerusalem.

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

Perhaps our When questions are wrapped in the discontent of our days. We can’t truly find the resolve because God’s When is not controlled by time.

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

Yet as we wait, God sustains and holds us in the palm of his mighty hand.

Instead of waiting and longing and yearning for a change, perhaps we need to just accept today and find the joy in whatever positives surround us.

All the answers will someday be given by the One who is wisdom itself.

Maybe the restlessness of my spirit is merely my heart’s cry for a deeper intimacy with the One who provides the answer in Himself.

At least with Him beside me, I can imagine Hope.

©2016 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G trilogy

Hope Asks Why

“Why, God, why?”why-god-allows

We ask the why question, because we need to find some type of order in life. When situations don’t make sense and we can’t logically figure them out, we ask why.

“Why did both my parents have to struggle through dementia and Alzheimer’s – especially when they were both so healthy? I don’t understand, God. Why?”

“Why did my friend have to lose her husband after the loss of both parents in the same year? Doesn’t that seems a bit unfair? Why?”

“Why do single moms and their children have to suffer the consequences when the dad makes unhealthy choices? Injustice screams, ‘Why?’”

Years ago, when I attended a legalistic church, a young man in our community was killed in a train accident. It was brutal and a terrible shock to all of us. Our youth group met to discuss it. Those were the days before counselors were available.

One of the church leaders gathered us together and said, “This young man died because he must have sinned. So be careful how you live. God is watching.”

Even as a teenager, something about that theory seemed wrong to me so I started my own search. I looked through my dad’s Bible, because it was the King James version and we had been taught it was the only version that espoused truth. However, good old King Jimmy provided no answers for my teenaged heart.

Years later I found more of the answer in a different version of the Bible. Poor old Job who suffered so terribly provided a plausible variation to the Why question: “Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness – He causes it to happen” (Job 37:13 NASB).

For Correction

Sometimes God allows terrible things to happen because we need to be shocked into reality and reminded he is sovereign. Perhaps in those moments of horrific happenings, we will reset our course and start over.

How has this played out in history? How have other historical figures looked at correction? Did Adam and Eve raise Seth differently because of what they learned through their parenting of Cain and Abel? Probably, although I don’t think we can blame parents for the choices their children make.

God reminded the Israelites to stay away from foreign altars by allowing snake bites to kill

caduceus medical symbol chrome

and maim. A drastic resolution, to be sure, but it does explain some of God’s dealings with the Israelites. And today, we have the medical symbol to remind us of this historic event.

Hasn’t history taught us to be careful of the Hitlers of this world because of the Holocaust?

When terrible things happen to us, I think one response should be “What can I learn from this situation?” Rather than the “Why” question, perhaps we should rephrase it with “What?”

As gracious and loving as God is, he sometimes allows terrible things to happen. Why? So we can learn from our experiences and grow up.

But I do not believe we should live in the fear of making a mistake because God might cause a train to run over us. Sheesh!

For His World

We live in a world defined by depravity. Just try to find a television show you wouldn’t mind watching with Jesus plopped beside you on the sofa.

We are deceived into thinking we can fill our minds with pornography and not face any consequences.

We believe we can speed and drive drunk and nothing will happen because we are somehow immortal.

We eat what is not good for us, buy guns and forget to hide the bullets from children, look at someone’s skin color and judge him.

Our world is not a safe place to live, so obviously – bad things are going to happen. Tornadoes, floods, earthquakes – all of these factor into the orb we inhabit. None of us can avoid some sort of tragedy during our lifetimes. It is part of the definition of living.

Why does God allow the world to sometimes turn against us?

To remind us we are human and a better place does exist. Tornadoes will not touch heaven, nor will the sin of someone else force thorny consequences on families.

Heaven and an eternal existence with God is something we long for, live for and hope for. This world will someday disappear.

God wants to remind us he has planned for something better.

For Lovingkindness

This seems the most difficult of the Job answers. Sometimes God allows certain tragedies to happen because he is a loving God.

That seems backward, an opposite world treatise. I do not believe we can ever second guess Almighty God.

But I do wonder… did God allow the groom to be killed the night before his wedding because he would someday betray his bride and destroy his family?

Does God invite little children into his heavenly arms instead of allowing them to live full lives because he knows their homes and their families will be bombed into oblivion and it is kinder to take them out of the horror?

Will God prevent disaster by allowing a change in course?

I do not pretend to know what God determines about anyone else’s life, but I do know he has sometimes worked backward lovingkindness into my destiny.

Hindsight is always wiser than the present experience. God allowed me to be downsized out of a good job. Then he pointed me toward something better.

Unemployment was hard, but the next job was so much better for me and fit my giftings. My “Why?” question became God’s answer, “Just wait and see what I have for you.”

During that year of unemployment, I began writing a book that resulted in a trilogy and taught me how much fun fiction-writing could be.

How does Job 37:13 fit in with the journey of Alzheimer’s? Part of the answer has to include the world we live in.

The stresses, the electromagnetic fields around us that affect our brains, the ways we have destroyed our food chains and how we have polluted our water source, the chemicals we pour into our bodies that taste good  but end up affecting the brain.

All these worldly systems we have invented may contain a clue.

I hope God isn’t correcting me or any of my family members by allowing us to watch Mom suffer.

But I am willing to ask God to teach me through the process, to grow patience in me and hopefully – by sharing these words with you – to transfer hope within this blog.

As Reverend G so aptly says, “The question is ‘Why?’ but the answer is ‘Who.’”

God is in control of everything, and when we cannot understand why – the best thing we can do – is run into his loving arms.

©2016 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy

 

Hope Finds Its Color

cyclamenMy cyclamen is blooming, a lovely pink color – sort of fuchsia. But I bought it with the understanding that it would bloom into the dark purple I love.

What a surprise as the blossoms opened and produced a deep pink instead of the color I expected.

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

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

Isn’t that so like life?

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

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

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

One circumstance morphs into another, delighting us with the spontaneity of change and surprising us with the richness of the final result.

Living within the surprises of life adds more fun than carefully structured days that grow old and boring in their regularity.

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

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

What if we give permission for change to those in authority over us – to the systems of our society that seem stuck in historical and traditional morays.

It takes time for people and systems to change and as we morph into the America we hope to be, we will need to give daily grace.

What if we live in the joy of the surprise and truly learn that expectations do not always bring the best results.

We learn how to apply patience as we gradually grow into our faith, move into the next season of life and accept the things we cannot change.

If we could practice patience and apply grace for ourselves and for others, with our world and our destinies intact – perhaps we could live better lives and embrace the hidden hope of each day.

I am hoping for this type of grace as we approach the November elections. The blatant ugliness recorded on social media proves nothing except that we all need to grow up.

Our freedom to express opinions is a gift. Why use that freedom to destroy another soul?

How can we become our true color and exhibit the creative beauty God gave us if we don’t give each other the necessary time to morph into our best selves?

My hope is that no matter how much unraveling we experience, we will possess the integrity and the wisdom to grow internally and change into who we should really be.

©2016 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy

Hope Ages

In a few weeks, the calendar will flip over and I will celebrate another birthday. How quickly those calendar pages become obsolete.birthday-cake

In the proverbial quote, if I had known I would reach this age, I would have taken better care of myself. But then – maybe I wouldn’t.

We make choices day by day without thinking of the long-term consequences. We grow busy with life, do the best we can with the passing of time and hope everything will work out.

Occasionally we get lucky. Our arteries don’t grow plaque. Our blood runs clear. Our brains continue to remember.

Or not.

Even with the most preventive measures and the best intentions, life sometimes knocks us down. Alzheimer’s, cancer, the tragedies we never expected.

How do we stay in hope even while our bodies unravel? How can we stay focused on today when each twenty-four hour period passes so quickly?

For Christians, our focus is on living with joy and following the example of Jesus.

But Jesus did not age. We do not have a role model for the Medicare years.

We are left to figure out how much gray we will allow to color our roots. We play the game of connect the dots with the brown spots on our arms. We wonder how to remain in joy when joints ache and we can no longer run the bases like our younger selves.

We have to plan for days of fun, because they don’t spontaneously happen anymore. This is why we stare at little children and listen to them giggle. We’re trying to figure out how we once did that and why it disappeared.

Too much analysis leaves us cynical and afraid.

My bucket list is longer now than it was in my twenties, because the time clock is ticking. I want to do more of the things on my list – immediately – or sooner.

So I have decided to stick with the principles that have governed my life thus far:

  • Love others as much as possible
  • Practice the presence of God and breathe in his vitality
  • Love myself as well
  • Do at least one productive thing every day
  • Stay away from negative people
  • Don’t worry about the next twenty-four hours
  • Look forward to eternity

And I plead with the Psalmist, “Oh, God, now that I am old and gray, don’t forsake me. Give me time to tell this new generation and their children about all your mighty miracles” (Psalm 71:18 TLB).

Ultimately, even as age chases me, I know the end of each day brings me closer to the beginning of my eternity.

So I live with the lyrics of Les Miserables, one more day, one day more – one birthday passing and another on the way. One more opportunity to love and live well.

©2016 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy

New Mexico Calls with Hope

What is it about New Mexico that calls to me?  flag-of-new-mexico-l

Surely it is more than the memories of 22 family vacations in the historic mining town of Red River.

Could it be the combination of sights and sounds that provide a sensory experience each day?

  • The pine scent of tall trees, dressed in breath-taking greens
  • A chipmunk daring me to hold out another handful of peanuts so he can stuff his cheeks
  • Hummingbirds dive bombing for a bit of sweet nectar
  • Aspens clapping their leaves in fluttering applause
  • The babbling river that cleanses both the stream and the sediment of my soul

Although my family vacations in Red River, Santa Fe and Taos are my favorite Southwest cities with their terracotta textures, the diversity of their people and the history of fine art.

It is no wonder Georgia O’Keefe chose this land to live in, to find solace in painting its various colors and tones.

Yet this year, I needed the mountains in a new way. Before we climbed into the van for the eight-hour trip, God instructed me that the object of my vacation was to follow the words of Psalm 46:10.

“Be still. Rest quietly. Wait patiently for God.” 

As we drove over the last summit and looked below at the town’s quiet repose, I knew it would be a special vacation – a gifting of rest.

Although seven of our family members bunked together in a condo, I purposely made time for solitude. Every morning, I carried my mug of hot tea and feasted for precious minutes with the divine One.

In the wonder of worship, I sat beside the river and entreated God to replace the murkiness of my soul with clarity and fresh intimacy with him. red-river-stream

I looked upward at the mountain crest – my mountain – at the crevasse carved there, as if God had dipped his hand in it during the second day of creation.

His signature of intense power. A reminder for generations of pilgrims that only God could create such grandeur yet dare to be personally involved in our lives.

God rarely spoke during these morning vistas as we quietly sat together and enjoyed the cool air. As we communed in silence, I embraced the beauty of solitude and the intimacy of being in his presence without speech.

Once again, I breathed deeply of the spiritual fervor of New Mexico, forgot the trials and burdens I left behind and gratefully received the solace God offered.

New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment, but for me – it is the healing irony of mountains and desert, Native Americans and Hispanics, turquoise and coral – somehow blended into a symphony of texture and diversity that rises in a spiritual explosion of praise.

How sweet to experience how it also became a quiet haven for individual retreat where I once again learned to be still and acknowledged that He is God.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G trilogy 

This post first appeared on “Travel Light,” by SuZan Klaasen.