Finding Hope When You’re Stuck

So many people I know are stuck — waiting for an answer to prayer. The answer that will help them move forward or make a life-changing decision. Even a little boost to nudge them out of the rut.

They have prayed, fasted, cried out to God and yet — nothing. The silence, the no-answer, seems laced in the question, “Where is God?”

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. Nor is he uncaring. He may be silent but still at work — behind the scenes. Moving puzzle pieces together, then declaring the perfect time for an amazing reveal.

So what do we do when the answers refuse to come? When we feel stuck in an eternal calendar where nothing flips us to the next section?

  • Keep believing God WILL answer — in his time. Patience, dear friend, patience.
  • Keep praying because God honors persevering prayer. Stay in hope.
  • Know God has a plan and he promises it will be a good one. Stay in trust and believe even in the unseen.
  • Understand that every season — even seasons of waiting — will eventually end. Keep hoping for your tomorrow.
  • 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. Mary and Martha did not understand why Jesus waited to heal their brother. A greater miracle was on the horizon.
  • Post this verse where you can see it every day: “There is a happy end for the man of peace” (Psalm 37:37 Amplified). This verse has seen me through various waiting periods.

Hope continues to believe, especially when we cannot see how our faith works. As we believe in what we cannot see, we can know a facet of eternal value exists. Even though none of the waiting makes sense.

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

©2022 RJ Thesman – For more encouragement, check out Uploading Faith: What It Means to Believe.

When Acceptance and Hope Collide

During the Creatives Conference in Santa Fe (circa 2018), I was struck with the beauty and acceptance of New Mexico’s racial diversity.

But a different type of diversity also encouraged me, humbled me and taught me to be more open to those around me.

During my week in Santa Fe, I met writers who were Jews, Buddhists, atheists, Shamans, Christians and a mixture of faiths including one presenter who labeled herself a Bu-Jew.

We laughed together, learned together and connected over bowls of green chile stew, creamy guacamole and quinoa power bowls.

Nobody pulled out a copy of the Four Spiritual Laws, tips from the Torah or quotations from Buddha. Nobody confronted others about being wrong or right. We simply found common ground as writers, accepting each other’s differences while building relationships.

Since then, several of these new friends have followed me on Facebook, added their email addies to my newsletter and committed to my blog. I feel honored to have such a rich diversity of new friends.

After one stimulating lunch where several of us shared our love of everything Santa Fe, I walked back to my hotel room. My experience told me the same lunch with a group of Baptists, Methodists and/or free-spirited anointed Charismatics would no doubt have resulted in arguments, confrontations and insistence on what the Apostle Paul meant in his numerous argumentative writings.

Yet that type of spiritual blasting did not happen with this diverse group. We simply began relationships built on our love of words.

Of course, I hoped the eternal Word was reflected in my speech, in my manner, in my acceptance of these dear creatives. And I believe that my future writings they read will make an impact, if for no other reason than curiosity to be explored.

But I understood more clearly than ever before the need to push away from our comfort zones, wooden pews and cushy sanctuary chairs. To be involved and engaged with people from every faith walk — or no faith at all.

The scriptures remind us Christians to be salt and light. But too much salt gathered in one place makes for a bitter pot of soup. Too much light blinds us to the realities of the needs around us. To those who believe differently yet are still vitally important to the God who reaches out to them.

I am more determined than ever before to use my words to embrace and engage rather than to confront. Although I love Jesus more than life itself, his example was to love as we love ourselves. Jesus drew people in by first listening to them and then meeting their needs.

How can we share hope with the world around us? By letting our hearts invite friendly debate. By refusing to consider ourselves as experts on every question. By building relationships just because we care for our fellow humans.

How can we best reflect the hope that drives us? By remembering the old campfire song and living it out: “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

A book that explains faith in a direct and simple way, Uploading Faith: What It Means to Believe. Written in collaboration with my gifted son and available on Amazon.

Hope Conquers the Unseen Hills

We planned it as a family weekend in Branson, and I looked forward to a leisurely drive through eastern Kansas and western Missouri.

What I did not realize – until it was too late – was the massive fear-mongering I would face at the end of the journey.

Although I grew up a tree climber, I have developed a fear of heights. I cannot and will not attempt stair climbing past two floors.

Forget the Eiffel Tower challenge or the Washington Monument steps or any of those glass elevators meant to remind me I am no longer on the ground floor.

I will not – cannot do it. No one can bully me into a roller coaster ride or coax me to look over the side of the Grand Canyon. What kind of masochist designs bridges with slots between the boards or glass walkways between tall buildings?

These are not my friends.

So I cheerfully drove to Branson, blissfully ignorant of what I would soon face. Before I hit the main drag, I suddenly faced massive hills. Heart-stopping obstacles.

The worst part was the ascent without being able to see what was on the other side. I knew the downside of the hill must present itself, but I could not see it until my car topped the ridge.

Then I had to drive down that slope while my heart hammered its kuh-thump kuh-thump as I tried not to look at the steep sides around me.

“Focus on the center line,” I told myself out loud, aware of how my voice shook.

Seven – count ‘em – seven dangerously steep hills. The only thing that kept me going was the promised treat of meeting my family. If I survived the drive.

I recited every Bible verse I knew about fear, called on angels to surround me, screamed my prayers out loud.

Sweaty palms. Thumping chest. Quick breaths.

Finally, the last hill was accomplished, and I rolled into level ground. I pulled over and closed my eyes. Survival tasted sweet.

The only cloud on a weekend of family fun was the certainty I would have to face those hills on the return trip. Or stay in Branson for the rest of my life.

Whether it’s the facing of a fear, pushing through an emotional obstacle or just trying to survive another day — we all meet our mountains of challenge.

And we’ll never know if we can conquer them until we actually go through the process. Finish the journey. No matter what it costs us.

Hope streams in as we discover another layer of perseverance we did not know we owned. And survival becomes the end result of a battle fought and won.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Discover the battle Abigail faced in No Visible Scars and how she learned to accept her pathway to freedom.

March Madness Scores Hope

The following post reappears in March, a favorite post of my followers.

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

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

By tipoff, the cat has left the room.

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

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

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

“Give him a T. FLAGRANT FOUL! COME ON!”

I do not yell without credible knowledge. My dad was a triathlete, including basketball top scorer at Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma. Our family was intensely interested in all the sports seasons.

And I played basketball in grade school and high school — until the unfortunate knee incident.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was right. No one is guarding you, so you have a clean shot. It’s only fifteen feet. NOT AN NBA THREE-POINTER!

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

If I was a coach, any player who missed free throws would be shooting them for an hour after the game. Yeah, I know — it’s a lot of pressure to make a basket all alone on the free throw line. HEIFER BISCUITS!

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

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

After March Madness, I always feel better. No matter who wins. Well, I will admit to being a sore loser when my team loses. I’m still not over the Chiefs loss in the AFC Championship game.

But the release valve of yelling works. I highly recommend it.

As we enter March this year, I have hope for my teams. Cheering for the Big XII against other schools. Always supporting the Jayhawks, proteges of James Naismith who invented basketball.

And reminding the players to make their free throws. FOR CRYIN’ OUT LOUD!

There WILL be yelling.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

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

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 speak and watch how their actions synch with emotions. This practice helps me develop realistic novels as I incorporate those rhythms into the characters who people my books.

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 the reality of lives around me.

Sometimes an image or a word surprises with its potential. I observe 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 quote that morphs into a blog post.

Every great change is preceded by chaos.” Deepak Chopra

This statement pummeled into my soul like a snare drum in the early morning fog.

How appropriate when thinking of the last two years of our history. The chaos COVID created as it marched around the globe. The way it changed how we lived, isolated, shopped, ate out, and sadly — how we treated one another.

This chaos has forced us to consider the depths of our value systems, what is truly important versus the urgency of the moment. With stunning accuracy, chaos created change.

Yet chaos in our journey does not have to define us. We can process the changes and land on our knees — an appropriate stance for any soul-seeker living in chaos.

Gradually, as the murky concrete of change became our new normal, we learned to replace the chaos with a peace that passes all understanding. We could still find hope and joy in the living of a different reality.

Life is still a beautiful place to be. Still surrounded by love, joy, peace and hope.

We may dread the next chaos yet be determined to address the coming changes as better people. To approach our modifications not as we once were, but better versions of ourselves.

I believe it is important to monitor how we have changed, how we reacted to the chaos. We cannot learn if we do not reflect and analyze. When there is a disturbance in the force, the chaos of change may creep ever closer.

We do not have to let chaos destroy us.

Even the Divine Three warn that everything will eventually change. Foundations will shake (Psalm 82:5). Earthquakes in various places. Wars and rumors of wars. Peril and danger on every street. The love people once had for God and others growing cold.

We have seen past chaos turn into positive change:

  • Civil rights legislation making us more aware of how skin color divides us
  • Revivals around the world that pointed societies back to the God who loves us
  • A national conversation about the abuses of children, i.e. the MeToo movement

Experience teaches us that some change will never happen unless we embrace the chaos. Acknowledge how it happened. Fix its source. Make the important changes.

Sometimes I hate the observation that pushes me toward reflective melancholy. Growth hurts. Too much stretching becomes a stress.

Yet by changing what is negative and moving toward what is better, we become stronger. More able to face the next chaos with realistic expectations underscored by hope.

As chaos fades, peace can replace it. New normals can surface. Empower us to love God and love others in deeper ways.

And eventually, if we let it — the chaos will fade and leave a halo of shining Hope.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

The book of the month is Just for Today: Hope for Single Moms. Help a single mom reach through her chaos to find hope.

Hope Sets Healthy Creative Boundaries

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

With my writing clients, I often ask, “What are you doing for an artist date?” The artist date comes from Julia Cameron and her best-selling book, The Artist’s Way. An artist date is an intentional setting of healthy boundaries, getting outside the writing space to discover something creative.

My clients tell me about roaming through bookstores, writing morning pages at a quirky coffee shop or choosing a new journal. Many of my clients take day trips to discover more about the area where they live.

Terrific successes for my coaching clients. Not such a good job by their coach. I find it difficult to schedule artist dates or find time for fun in my busy schedule.

Am I too busy? How can I remedy that? We all need time away to reboot the soul and refresh the creative spirit within.

So in 2022, I plan to take more artist dates, consider what is relaxing and creatively important for me. Play a new piece on the piano, banging out chords that help release pressures from a stress-filled day. Walk through crunchy leaves. Stroll through colorful chrysanthemums at a garden store.

Other possibilities might include:

  • Leaving the office for an afternoon movie matinee
  • Finding a quiet moment on the deck for my garden coloring book
  • Looking for a new color of nail polish
  • Stopping everything to watch the sun complete its dusky setting
  • Finding a new journal or reading through the old one with an attitude of praise

These ideas bring me joy, yet I can also work harder to relax. Isn’t that an oxymoron? Forced relaxation?

After an artist date, I feel more energized to connect sentences into paragraphs, outline chapters and introduce new characters to the world.

Recently, two other writers and I attended the funeral of our friend. It was a sad, beautiful service yet an honor to attend. To remember what a wonderful person she was and offer comfort to her family through our presence.

But after the service and a bountiful Mexican meal, we browsed through the town of Yates Center, KS. There we discovered an old Carnegie library. What a treasure to see the built-in bookcases from 1928, the unique hardware on the tall windows that invited beams of light, the children’s library with its colorful computer keyboard and painted murals. Each of us snapped pictures and snatched a free book to take home.

This day trip involved several hours where we chatted in the car, discovered a new town and fed our creative souls with a vintage library.

The next day, I found renewed vigor for my writing projects. Realized I need more day trips around the area, more opportunities to discover different places and feed my soul. To be more proactive about breaking away, setting boundaries around my creative self.

To discipline myself to do what I ask of my clients — find that special place of inner rest, plan an artist date, discover some place new.

Hope asks accountability of others, but also demands spiritual nourishment of the self. To define that fence around our hearts and find our true selves in the enjoyment of each day. To set healthy boundaries away from the work where we can engage more freely with our physical and emotional world.

When we protect that creative core by moving beyond the usual, we find hope in the processing of a fresh breath.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

The book I’m marketing during February will encourage your single mom friends. Check out Just for Today: Hope for Single Moms.

Finding Hope in Multiple Loss

As I’ve watched The Chosen TV series and thought more about the early disciples, I’ve wondered how they dealt with multiple griefs. During those early years of so many martyrs, persecutions, people being snatched out of their homes — how in the world did they emotionally survive?

The same question haunts me when I watch documentaries or read books about the Holocaust. With so much death, so much pain — how did they deal with it?

Then last week hit.

Just 10 weeks after my mother’s death, I experienced multiple losses. On Monday, a writer friend I have known for years died from COVID.

Connie and I met when I was teaching a workshop on prayer. She sat in the back row and wept throughout my presentation. At the break, I took a Kleenex box back to her. We talked for a while.

“I think God wants me to begin a prayer ministry,” she explained. We discussed what that calling might look like. Her tears were from acknowledgement that she had been called to do a special work and a willingness to relinquish her time.

Several times throughout the years, Connie and I met at writers conferences. Once during the Baldwin City Maple Leaf Festival. Always cheerful, yet she could be moved to tears so easily. Such a tender heart.

That was Monday. Connie’s tears are now wiped away.

On Tuesday, one of my clients died from COVID. Leann and I had worked for several years as she grew closer to gaining an agent and a publisher for her book about therapy dogs. As a woman dealing with chronic illnesses, Leann knew all about therapy dogs. Her beloved Zoey was well-known at many writers conferences.

In spite of constant pain, Leann somehow managed to smile every time we met. She lived day by day — literally, trusting God for her daily bread as well as the breath to keep living. Such a brave and beautiful soul.

When she died on Tuesday, I felt like a light had gone out in the universe. But Leann is now free of pain.

On Wednesday, one of my long-time friends died from a blood clot after surgery. Elsie and I played piano duets, and her sons were two of my students. She helped me learn the best methods for nursing my son after his birth, and she was also a gifted seamstress. Her quilts won awards all over the country.

Elsie so loved her boys and all children. She was a caring grandmother and so compassionate to everyone in her circle of friends and family. I imagine her now playing with the children in heaven.

By Thursday morning, I wasn’t sure I wanted to wake up and face another day. Would there be another death?

The early martyrs and the Holocaust victims — even the over 800,000 deaths from COVID — are far greater losses. But because I knew each of these women well, I felt gobsmacked. My heart hurt for their families.

So how could I deal with these multiple losses? How could I begin to understand others who have lost so many at the same time?

Honor the Grief. It does not help to just keep going in life and ignore how we feel. We need to work through the emotions and acknowledge how much it hurts to lose loved ones.

Wail. Lament. Cry. All are healthy ways to admit we loved and lost. Journaling helps me as well. Taking a long walk and talking through my feelings with only God and my angels listening.

Share the Loss. I texted my sister and several friends. Told them what had happened and asked them to pray for the families.

“I’m so sorry,” they said as they validated my grief.

A burden shared feels somewhat lighter, at least for that moment. It helps us begin to process what has happened.

Focus on Life After Death. Each of these women are now walking in heaven, free of stress and pain. No worries. No bills to pay. No more threat of COVID or any other illness.

So I imagine them there, hanging out with Jesus and their loved ones. I know they are happy, so I am happy for them.

Pray. Still, the loss lingers, especially for the families. So my prayers focus now on those left behind. Such a lonely time. So many decisions to make at a time when emotions are fragile.

Yet prayer reminds us again that we are not alone in our losses. Jesus himself understands grief. He was described as a man of sorrows. And he will eternally take care of my friends.

So I feel as if I know a bit more of how those early disciples might have felt. The courage it took to live each day, knowing they might lose another friend, another sibling, another child.

And I stay in hope, so that living becomes more of my focus rather than loss.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Help a single mom make it through February, with all its Valentine messages. Send her Just for Today: Hope for Single Moms.