Hope Creates

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

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

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

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

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

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

But which one?

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

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

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

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

The letters fit perfectly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

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

Hope in the Treasures

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the treasures I listed were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

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

Hope on a Mission

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

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

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

Image by Daniel Reche of Pixabay

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

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

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

And no way of escape. Forever.

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

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

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

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

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

Only light and love and goodness. Forever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How in the world can we get there?

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

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

7 Holiday Tips for Caregivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take a break and be with your family.

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

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

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

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

Do it while you can.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

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

When Hope Meets the Children

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

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

Image by Prawny of Pixbay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They have already impacted me by their very existence.

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

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

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

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

When Guilt Interrupts Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

This time.

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

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

I, blessed with the freedom to leave.

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

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

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

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

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

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

When Hope Meets Up with Q4

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

Image by Mariana Anatoneag

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

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

It’s time to take a lesson from football.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

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