Hope Conquers the Chaos

As a writer, observation is one of my most important tools. Awareness of this tool causes me to listen for dialects when people talk and later incorporate those rhythms into the characters who people my novels.

Observation notes interesting quirks such as the depth of a dimple, a spontaneous laugh or fingers drumming on a barn wood plank. The benefits of observation add color and texture to my words without plagiarizing on the lives before me.change - chaos

Sometimes a graphic or a word suddenly surprises me with its potential. I see it, reflect on it and journal through it. Soon it becomes a theme, a sentence that stretches into a paragraph or as in this case – a graphic morphs into a blog post.

“All great changes are preceded by chaos” read the graphic, and I have no idea who deserves the attribution. But it pummeled into my soul like a snare drum in the early morning fog.

Chaos in the Journey

How appropriate for this journey I have traveled the last two years! The chaos of searching for a church forced me to consider the depths of my spiritual hunger and what my faith has taught me – either wrongly or with stunning accuracy.

The journey and the change – the processing of who I am at the core flattened me so that I often landed on my knees – an appropriate stance for any soul-seeker living in chaos.

Then gradually, as my choice settled into a murky concrete, the chaos eased.

Replaced by the peace that passes all understanding, my decision radiated with joy – maybe not so much because of where I chose to fellowship but more because the search had finally ended.

Even now, I find myself restless, seeking change yet dreading the chaos. I feel the rumbles of change in our nation and no – I am not going to talk politics. Whoever wins will face a changing nation because we are not what we were even two years ago.

Chaos again threatens.

Perhaps the power of observation has settled more deeply in my soul for a reason. Aging seems to magnify change.

With my mom, who lives within the shadowy world of Alzheimers, any change in routine creates anxiety. So we carefully monitor her visits to the farm, even her attendance at the church she loves.

I do not believe Alzheimers now whispers within my brain, but there is a definite disturbance in the force. The chaos of change creeps ever closer.

Even the divine warns, “Everything will change. The foundations are shaken.”


Perhaps the chaos that threatens will result in a national revival that will change how we perceive each other’s worlds. Would it not be wonderful if skin color no longer divided us into urban and rural, poor and rich, dead and alive.


I so wish change would eliminate broken children, abused women and toxic relationships. Please, God – let it be.

Yet experience teaches that these changes cannot and never will occur without some sort of chaos.

Sometimes I curse the tool of observation because it hurts so much. Yet change implies growth and as we stretch – albeit with pain – we eventually grow stronger.

God bless America and God help us all as we face whatever chaos is ahead. May each of us find our own destiny within this changing world and make it a better place to call home.

And may we all stay in hope that after the chaos fades, peace will dawn.

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

Hope Offers Support

A fist of fear pummeled my soul. I was startled by its intensity and for several moments – forgot to breathe. It was only when I started to feel dizzy that I reminded myself to gulp in draughts of oxygen.Yes - we trust God

Why the fear? I needed to go to the doctor – one of those visits that might be serious or only slightly serious – depending on the results.

And I knew I could not do this alone. So I called my son. “I need a favor, honey.”

“Sure.”

Even the sound of his bass voice reassured me, and I breathed deeply. “Would you go with me to the doctor? I don’t know why. I just need someone with  me today.”

Again, “Sure. Glad to.”

My heart stopped its thumping romp as fear eased.

He stood with me as I checked in, followed me into the sterile room and provided another pair of ears to listen carefully to the doctor’s orders. Then he helped me gather my purse, all the paperwork, even my water bottle.

The prognosis, “Nothing serious yet. We’ll try the pills first and then go from there.”

Did he hear the same words I heard, the ones I was hoping for? Yes, but it was good to have another voice to confirm the answer.

At the pharmacy, he helped me pick up the meds, then we shared supper and watched the Royals together back in my living room.

Somehow, just having another human being beside me in the journey, to share in the fearful possibilities, to lighten the load – felt like healing itself.

“It will be okay, Mom.” The same words he spoke when I held his hand before brain surgery, when they cut open his precious head and removed that nasty tumor.

When life hands us its unraveling, we tend to suck it up and march forward – finding power in our own strength and the fortitude it takes to just keep living.


But sometimes – when the possibilities of a painful test loom big, when the trial unravels into fragments of unknowns and sucker punches us into silence – we need someone beside us.


Yes, we trust God, but we also need living, breathing human beings to encourage us, to hold our hands, to tell us it will be okay.

I was so grateful that day for my boy – this now grown man whose presence exuded strength and calm – this tower of humanity who has himself survived cancer and experienced his own miracle.

He did not laugh at my need or seem distressed when I swallowed tears and hung on to his arm. He simply let me ride through the storm with his presence beside me.

Every day since then, he checks on me, wondering if I feel better. Are the meds working? Am I being careful to monitor reactions?

This reversal of roles seems too soon in my journey. I do not yet feel old. I only feel older.

Every day I give thanks, treasure the gift that is my son and remind myself again – I am not really alone.

Hope breathes again because of connection.

For those who live in concrete relationship, be grateful. For those like me who soldier on in solitude, find a connecting place.

And if you know a single mom or another soul who marches with an individual beat, offer to be there if needed – to provide the reassurance that someone cares.

We need each other, even when we feel strong and healthy. Vulnerability will inevitably intrude. That is when we find out who really cares.

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

The House of Sickness Waiting

Something about houses attracts me. I notice Tudors with their brick facings, happy bungalows – especially the ones with porch swings – cottages framed by specialty gardens.ranch house

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

The house Mom bought, then had to leave behind, is a typical Oklahoma ranch style. When dementia first began to squeeze its nasty tentacles around Dad, Mom felt as if she needed to get Dad off the farm and into the safety of town. Neither of them could fully operate the farm anymore and when dementia stole Dad’s vocation from him, Mom made the final decision.

They settled into the brick ranch and lived there as Mom nursed him and my sister Kris helped her for 10 shadowy years. Then on a gentle spring day in May, the angel of death took Dad away.

Mom stayed, unwilling to move anywhere else. In fact, she announced one day, “My next move will be to the cemetery.”

Ah – if only it had been that simple.

The ranch home evolved into a pain-enshrouded house as my sister’s beloved cat, Champ, sickened and Kris had to put him down. What an oxymoron of love and pain when we have to call the vet and schedule a death – yet in the doing of it – we exhibit the release of love for our furry babes.

The ranch then became the forecaster of Mom’s next move as she began forgetting the location of pots and pans, the important bills she threw away, the pills she counted numerous times before swallowing.

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

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


Meanwhile, the house of sickness waiting remained. Mom never had a chance to tell it good-bye.


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

I like the house, usually finding a slice of serenity inside when I visit family. Although it is a bit weird to sleep in the bed in which I was conceived, I gaze at pictures on the walls and remember when we gave them to Mom and Dad. I hang my clothes in the closet and touch hangers that hold Mom’s winter coat, a suit she no longer wears, a knit shirt with embroidered daisies – some of the threads barely hanging on to their frayed outlines.

Mom’s brush and comb still wait for her on the dresser, flanked by doilies her mother crocheted, their white loops now fading into the yellows of the past. Mom’s massive mahogany furniture which none of us will want –  a sturdy pronunciation of her style.

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

This place – this emotional shelter, safe within its strength yet even now scented with illness and Mom’s shadowed existence foreboding.

My sister is now the keeper of the ranch house. It serves its purpose of shelter for her, of last memories where our parents aged out in its rooms. Yet it also continues to play out its description as the house of sickness waiting.

Kris struggles with arthritic pain and several types of joint diseases which emit a pain I cannot imagine. She limps through the house, taking care of her cats and the neighbor’s pets, then ambles outside to feed the birds and pull  weeds from the gardens her green thumb has created.

The flag she painted on barn tin bears the symbol and colors of the University of Oklahoma. Inside the house, the walls record screams of pleasure whenever the Sooners do their thing and score multiple touchdowns per game.

The personality of this house follows me whenever I drive away. I am left with a sense of gratitude that my sister is safe within its walls – at least for now – until as she says, “The body gives out.”

Then we will know that somehow – in that house – our family made an imprint on the earth.

Houses become the measurements of years as each place serves a purpose. And within each place, we wait for that final call home that contains no walls, needs no paint and provides the freedom where our spirits roam.

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

Hope Digs Deeper

shovel and stonesWhile meeting with my spiritual director, she suggested I consider the question, “What if?”

In January, I taught a writers workshop and included the question “What if?” as a fear tactic artists sometimes use to procrastinate.

But in this instance, I was to think about the “What If?” question as a possible direction – even a vision-making steppingstone. So I drove home, pulled out my journal and starting listing the possibilities of some What If answers.

What if my newest novel makes the New York Times bestseller list? What difference will that make in my life and will I be able to handle the extra book tours, publicity requirements and the pressure to write another bestseller and then another?

What if I could sell my house for a profit? What kind of home do I want to replace it? Where?

What if I could become a full-time writer and writing coach? How would that change my life?

If I think long enough on the subject, I can entangle myself in all the possibilities and questions my “What Ifs” might involve.


When we dig deep, some of our visions and dreams may carry their own baggage. Change is not easy, and the transitions of life require us to change along with them.


Another point my spiritual director made was that I should “listen to my heart.”

We are often so busy and so overwhelmed by the stresses of life, we don’t stop to listen within – to dig deep and consider what our souls are saying to us.

This is one reason why I journal almost every day. I need to process what I am thinking about and tap into my inner conflict for clues about how to address life.

I also need to listen for that still, small voice that ushers me into the divine space. When I tiptoe into that soul sanctuary, I learn more about myself but also become more teachable for eternal guidance. God wants me to make wise choices and since he is my husband and maker, then I need to listen to what he is telling me.

What does my heart tell me?

My heart longs to return to the Southwest – to find a writers retreat in the Santa Fe or Taos area where I can spend long hours inventing sentences and paragraphs. So many ideas for new books swirl in my soul. The artist in me yearns to bring them to life.

My heart breaks for the unwritten books, the stories waiting to connect with their characters and the voices longing to be heard. I feel an urgency to write while I can, to share the wisdom and experience God has gifted me with through the years.

What if that could happen? What if I could find that place to write until the well is dry and everything has been completed? Is that possible?

My heart also whispers warnings of the aging process and urges me to do what I can while I can – that life is fragile and someone is waiting in the great meandering cyberspace to read the words God wants me to scribe.

My heart beats with a restless tone, eager to authenticate itself and complete the mission God birthed in me before the foundation of the world.

As I dig deeper, another question surfaces. I stop breathing as I consider the implications of what its answers might entail.

Almost afraid to add it to my journal page, I force the pen to scratch the question across the page.

What am I avoiding?

We often avoid doing something that might require change, because we’re afraid of what that transition might ask of us. We may avoid a major decision, because it includes a move, a new job, the uprooting of our comfort zones.

Yet in the avoidance, we are living in the “discomfort” zone. We are stressing our souls to the point of losing ourselves.

We are avoiding what our hearts may truly long for, because we are so blasted practical and cannot imagine any other type of experience.

My journal now has several pages of personal reflection around these three questions:

  • What if?
  • What is my heart telling me?
  • What am I avoiding?

And I do not believe I am finished yet.

As I continue to dig deeper, to search for the root of my hope, I look forward to the time when these questions will find their connecting answers.

I hang on to the promise in Psalm 34:4, “I sought the Lord and He answered me. He delivered me from all my fears.”

Still searching. Still waiting. Still digging.

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

Hope Builds on the Truth

toe ringTen minutes into my home Bible study, Judith gasped.

I stopped reading Romans 12 and asked, “Any questions or concerns?”

To her credit, Judith must have decided not to confront me in front of the entire group. “No,” she said. “Nothing right now.”

After I finished teaching, Judith hung back so I said goodnight to the rest of the group and sat down with Judith.

“What’s the problem?” I asked. “You seemed concerned about something.”

“I’m just wondering,” she said, “I don’t understand…but…you’re teaching this Bible study and you’re wearing a toe ring.”

I peeked down at my right foot where the second toe did indeed sport a silver toe ring. “Yep,” I said. “I really like my toe ring. I bought it at that eclectic boutique downtown.”

“But a toe ring…isn’t that…sinful? My church says women should only wear wedding rings and nothing else. Our beauty is supposed to come from a pure heart – not from a bunch of jewelry – an outward show…especially something as liberal as a toe ring. It’s almost like something hippies wear.”

I knew Judith attended a church where Legalism 101 was the consistent textbook, but I didn’t realize how deeply spiritual abuse had affected her life.

She shared with me how afraid she was that someone would discover she colored her hair. Her entire spiritual focus was based on how “good” she had to be and how many rules she had to obey.


I reminded her of Jeremiah 31:3. “God says he loves us with an everlasting love. He doesn’t mention any rules we have to obey to earn his love. It’s just there, available for us because of who he is.


“God loves you, Judith, no matter what you do and no matter what you wear. He wants you to love him back – not live in fear that you might make a terrible mistake someday and ruin everything. His love for you is eternal – forever and ever.”

Over the next few weeks, I helped Judith find Bible verses about the love of God. The Bible became more of a romance anthology rather than a judgmental tome. We looked at the life of Mary Magdalene, a leading disciple of Jesus. Nowhere did scripture condemn her or even mention anything she wore.

Even though she had been a prostitute, Mary was the one who first saw the living Christ after his resurrection. She was given the task of telling the rest of the disciples that Jesus was alive. And she didn’t have to dress a certain way to spread the good news.

Throughout the next months, Judith and I met often to talk about God’s love. She began to smile more freely and even giggled a few times. The burden of carrying all that legalism in her heart lifted, and she shared her freedom with the other ladies in the group.

Then one night, she came to Bible study with a radiant grin. “Guess what I did,” she said.

She held out her right foot, and I started laughing. Shining on the middle digit was a gold toe ring. We danced together in a happy hug.

Two years later, I received the news that Judith’s son had committed suicide. When I called her, she was, of course, heartbroken. But in between sobs she said, “I still believe God loves me and somehow – he’ll help me make it through this grief.”

I was so grateful Judith had made it past the obstacles of spiritual abuse via legalism. Without her new freedom, she would have blamed herself for her son’s death and lived with the lie that God had punished her for something she had done wrong.

Judith and her husband moved away, but we occasionally called or wrote letters. When I saw her again – years later – she wore the prominent wrinkles of a woman who has been through the worst grief yet the glow of freedom was still obvious. She had survived to find acceptance and joy on the other side of the pain.

“I’m okay,” she said, as I stroked her cheek. “It’s been hard, but I’m okay.”

Then she lifted her leg so I could see her foot. The gold toe ring still shone from the middle digit, a visual reminder that hope conquers even the most stubborn of lies.

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

Growing Hope in the Pain

What is the difference between the pain of growing and the pain of suffering?Pain proves alive

Neither type of pain is comfortable and most of us try to avoid any type of pain. We want life to be struggle-free even if we have to ask the doctor for a prescription to ease our sufferings.

But is there a value to pain? How do we tell the difference between suffering pain and growing pain?

Suffering Pain

Suffering pain is often physical and/or emotional: a sudden illness, the grief of watching a loved one struggle through Alzheimer’s, a broken relationship.

We deal with suffering pain by learning how to persevere, praying for extra grace each day, contacting professionals and trusting God to help us survive one day after the other.

Suffering pain often manifests in our bodies. We see the woman bent over with osteoporosis and we empathize even as we cringe at the deterioration of her spine.

We watch the tears river down a friend’s face and we hear screams of terror when bombs explode. We feel their sufferings and wish we could alleviate them.

Suffering pain is a side effect of living in this world, of aging and being exposed to various strains of germs.

Yet we endure. We persevere. We treat the symptoms and hope for a cure. We try to find hope in the midst of our sufferings.

Growing Pain

Growing pain presses more deeply into our spiritual and emotional selves. We ask the inner questions of faith and rebel when we hear pat answers from those who obviously have not addressed a similar pain or refused to acknowledge it.

Jesus chided the scribes and Pharisees for their simplistic answers based on rules and tradition. He invited questions and never ran away from vulnerability.

Legalism looks at growing pain and condemns it. Jesus invites it because within the questions and the searchings, we discover more about God.

We listen for the divine whisper even as the pain sears our souls and we feel the emptiness of the despairing pit.

Einstein wrote, “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.”

In my year-long search for a church, I experienced both types of pain. The emotional digs of condemnation and hurts inflicted by people I thought knew better. But also the deep questions of my soul in asking what I really wanted to find in a church and how I could become a better member of my new church family.

Growing. Stretching. Grieving. Within the parameters of pain, we discover how important our faith is and how much we truly care about our soul health.


If we don’t care, then we don’t suffer. Pain proves we are alive and something important has been taken from us.


The grief accompanying pain teaches us about the intensity of love.

Where Hope Dwells

But if we shy away from the pain of growing, then we never come to the place where hope dwells.

In her book, “Rising Strong,” Brene Brown writes, “Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty. But curiosity can lead to hurt. As a result, we turn to self-protecting – choosing certainty over curiosity, armor over vulnerability and knowing over learning. But shutting down comes with a price.”

So what is the difference between the pain of growing and the pain of suffering? Not much, really, because they feel the same.

The difference lies in how we react to them and which choices we make for dealing with any type of struggle.

We can run from it, refuse to acknowledge it, try to find something to mask it, drown it with a gallon of raspberry fudge ice cream.

But the pain returns because it is often more persistent than we are. Some pain we can never escape.

Ultimately, all pain can cause growth if we open our hearts to the possibilities. We can choose to learn patience through the Long Goodbye or years of rehabilitation that stretch muscles atrophied by disease.

We become stronger by embracing the pain of growing, by asking those deep questions which lead us to learn more about ourselves and God.

The saints who grow through pain are the ones who reflect wisdom and hope into old age. Even when their bodies betray them, they hang on to the hope that pain will eventually ease and the heavenly result will be a crown of gold.

Am I still in growing pain? Somewhat. Not all my questions have been answered and that’s okay. I will continue to ask, to seek, to find.

But now I refuse to listen to legalistic quotes that once soothed me.

I would rather insert question marks into my life than live under the concrete umbrella of condemnation and easy acceptance.

Pain is inevitable on this earth, but an attitude seasoned with grace will offer us the hope we need to keep going, to continue questioning and to march toward the Light.

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

How to Hope for God’s Will

Where shall I go, God? Where do you want me to live, work, be? How can I find your plan for me?

These types of questions often plague us, because we focus so strongly on what we should do – how productive we should be – rather than what God truly desires for us.Discover the vulnerable

During my college years, the quest to find God’s will for my life was right up there with “Which guy should I marry?” and “What should I choose for my major?”

Legalism 101 taught me that finding God’s will for my life was the number one focus for believers. It also taught me how to fear God because if I messed up and made the wrong choice, God would make sure I turned out like the bad guy in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” who chose poorly.

Tiny Steps

But what I have discovered throughout my life is that God’s will is more of a series of tiny steps rather than a giant quest.

And when we look back on the years, we can indeed see the direction we were to take as the steps moved forward, stopped, backtracked, changed direction, then moved forward again.

Now as I ponder and journal my way through daily decisions, I begin to catch a different idea coming from the heart of God.

It’s not so much finding the answer to the question, “What is God’s will for me?” but more of a whispered “What does God long for me?”

Longings of the Heart

What are the desires of his heart and how can I see him at work in me, loving me, guiding me, scootching me a bit closer to my ultimate destination?

When I ask what God longs for me, it seems a bit softer – more filled with love rather than divine directive that I’d better figure it out or else.

Becoming a mother and raising my son has taught me so much about the heart of God and how he parents us.

When I consider what I long for in Caleb’s life, it helps me understand a different focus God might have for me.

Certainly I want my son to be healthy in body, soul and spirit. I want him to have a wife who adores him, children who respect him and love to spend time with him, a job that pays the bills, saves for retirement and occasionally takes his mother to the Cheesecake Factory.

But what do I long for him? The question digs deeper.

I so desperately long for him to find that place of wholeness where he becomes the man God created him to be.

I long for him to use his gifts and talents in ways that bring joy to him forever and ever, Amen.

I beseechingly long that he will never make choices leading to life-long addictions.

My mother heart longs that he will forgive me for parenting mistakes I made and understand I did the best I could at the time with the information I had been given.

I long for him to someday look back on his life and say, “Well, that was a good ride. I have more joys than regrets.”

I long for him to attain his dreams, reach his goals and grow strong in the journey. Nothing hurts a soul so much as shattered dreams. Please, God, do not let that happen to my son.

Soul Travels

So when I soul-travel to this deeper place of finding God’s longing for me, I find he is just as eager as I am to reach the beauty of a life given to the process.

It is not so much the goal or the answer to the question that satisfies us. It is rather to discover the vulnerable places of honesty within us so we can identify the desires of the heart.

I believe God wants us to pray, “Please. I want this. May I have it, Father God?”

“Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause” (Psalm 43 NIV). He IS the vindicator of the broken heart and pleads our cause as a just and compassionate God.

He understands our longings because he planted them in us and he sees the celebration at the finish line.

The next time I am tempted to pray, “What is your will in this situation?” – I will instead plead, “What is your longing for me at this moment, God?”

And in seeking the depths of his giant heart for us, we then find hope to continue the journey with joy.

So….what do you think God is longing for you?

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