Hope Finds Reality in a Verse

Many of my friends choose a special word for the year. It helps them focus on annual goals and gives them the motivation they need every day.

For some reason, the word of the year has not worked for me. Instead, I hang on to a verse for the year.

During the last weeks of December, I begin to proactively pray about my verse for the next year. Always, God answers. When we seek him, we find.

This year, I looked back through my Bible and journal to discover the amazing verses of the past and how they played out.

2016: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news…to bind up the brokenhearted…to proclaim freedom for the captives… (Isaiah 61:1 TNIV).

During 2016, I served as a life coach in a nonprofit that helped women. Several of my clients were working through the trauma of spiritual abuse, physical and emotional abuse. Some of them had been abused by their husbands, then betrayed by the church and so-called Christians who were supposed to support them.

It was a time of helping my clients acknowledge the deep darkness, then work toward a place of light and freedom. So much pain, yet God was there to offer hope. Not only to my clients, but also to me.

2017: “God is my helper and ally. The Lord upholds me” (Psalm 54:4 AMP).

When I first read this verse, my heart lurched. What would happen in 2017 that would cause me to be upheld, to be helped by God himself?

It soon became apparent in the month of March when I resigned from my position and began therapy for ministry exhaustion. I needed God to help me financially, emotionally and spiritually as I rested. He was indeed my helper and ally.

Then he upheld me when a terrible loss defined my days. The unexpected death of my best friend, Deb, sent me into the darkness of grief. Without God holding me and literally being with me each day, I do not know how I would have survived the loss with any semblance of hope. Psalm 54:4 became my reality.

2018: “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed, happy, fortunate are those who trust in him” (Psalm 34:8 AMP).

My healing came gradually, and God grew my writing clients. Finances increased, so some of the anxiety eased. My therapist released me, and friends surrounded me. While the grief continued, it lost some of its severity.

Then God made it possible for me to spend a week in Santa Fe. I attended the Creatives Conference where I met Julia Cameron in person and several other artists who continue as friends today. As I strolled through the plaza, ate wonderful dishes topped with green chiles and shopped the stores filled with southwest designs, hope began to return.

I caught myself smiling, even on the return trip back to Kansas. To this day, 2018 is colored with that beautiful experience and the goodness of the God who made it happen.

2019: “Feast on the abundance of God’s house and drink from the river of his delights” (Psalm 36:8 AMP).  

During 2019, my client base increased. I taught workshops at writers conferences and published three books. Words poured out of me, healing those taut places, releasing like salve out of a wound.

My CPA surprised me when he finished my taxes. “You’re still doing ministry, Rebecca. You’re helping others with their words.”

It felt like I had purpose again, and I could breathe. Thankfully. Because 2020 was about to spring itself on us.

2020: “God marked out appointed times in history and the boundaries of lands…so that they [the nations] would seek him and reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:26-27 TNIV).

As we know, 2020 was the year COVID invaded and changed so much of our lives. People died by the hundreds. Family dynamics changed. Political turmoil and arguments about vaccines. Chaos everywhere.

Yet these verses kept me anchored as I prayed every day for the nations — for this global pandemic to blow itself out. My hope centered around the desire of God to have people reach out for him and find him, to realize he was not far away.

2021: The Lord gives the word of power; the women who bear and publish the news are a great host” (Psalm 68:11 AMP).

As the effects of COVID tromped all over my life, I hung on to the directive God gave me along with this verse, “Keep writing.”

Even as the workshops and conferences disappeared. Even as some of my clients needed to take a break. Even as I isolated myself during lockdown and set up a Zoom account, I kept writing. Even as so much of life changed, the words continued.

In August, I helped my son and his bride write their wedding vows. A sweet time. In December, I wrote my mother’s obituary. A bittersweet task.

So what is my verse for this year, for this 2022 when COVID continues to hover and life feels so fragile?

God sent me back to the prophet Isaiah, for a tiny phrase in 48:2, “Depend on God. The Lord Almighty is his name.”

El Shaddai is the Hebrew for the Lord Almighty. It means he is the God who satisfies our every need. He is the God of sufficiency and great power. He is the one who loves us so deeply, he works all the puzzle pieces together.

This God, this Almighty Abba, is the one I am depending on as 2022 begins. I have no clue what will happen this year. I hope I can report good news on December 31st.

But whatever occurs in the next months, I will find my hope in the verses God has given me and the ways he has been faithful throughout my life.

So happy new year to all my followers. I hope it’s a good one.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

If you need some ideas for setting your goals this year, check out Setting & Reaching Your Writing Goals. Even if you’re not a writer, you can benefit from these principles.

Hope Thrives with Gratitude

It makes sense to post about gratitude during this Thanksgiving week. Each year’s Thanksgiving week brings a variety of experiences to draw on.

More wisdom learned (hopefully). More intuition about possible gratitudes.

Several years ago, I learned more about the power of gratitude when I followed the blog of Ann Voskamp. Her book, One Thousand Gifts, fostered a cult following and ushered Ann into the world of best-selling author. I applaud her fine work and still promote her book(s).

For a while, I followed Ann’s prescribed plan of writing several gratitudes each day in my journal – different ones for each day. It was a great practice and a way to remind myself daily of all the blessings around me.

Then I decided it was okay to develop my own plan. And it WAS okay to repeat the same gratitudes each day, whether in my journal or out loud.

So I present to you, my followers, my 2021 list. At least for today. It may change tomorrow. And I encourage you to share your list in the comments below. As the saying goes, we can always – always – find something to be grateful for.

  • Hot water. This is a daily “Thank you, God” while I’m standing in the shower, doing dishes or folding laundry.

There are people in the world who have never experienced the bone-warming joy of hot water. So I am grateful for this blessing. Every. Single. Day.

  • The roof over my head. Although I’m thinking about downsizing, wanting something smaller and easier to manage, I am grateful for my duplex. Although I would like to accomplish some DIY projects and change my place a bit, at least I am out of the cold and sheltered — with hot water.
  • Food in the fridge. I like to cook, and I find particular pleasure in making unusually creative meals out of leftover scraps. Rice bowls are my current favorites with a variety of colors, textures and nutrients.

Every day, I pray for those places in the world that struggle with famine. As a farmer’s daughter, I am keenly aware of the blessing of the harvest and the need for food. We are truly blessed not to live every day with hunger.

  • Jesus. What more can be said? I am grateful for this Savior, God-man, of the Divine Three. Always. Every. Single. Day.
  • Color. The variety of greens outside my window. The leftovers of autumn’s show. The choices I make to wear each day — the brighter the better.

How colors make me feel. How they add warmth and beauty to everything. How they have deeper meanings I can add to my books. How color changes the world of gray gloom to a warmer and more inviting visual.

  • Texture. The ability to feel different textures is a blessing that signifies feeling alive. Several years ago, a clinical depression stole this joy from me.

After my healing (thank you, Jesus!) I spent hours in a fabric store, just feeling the rough corduroy, the slick satin, the smooth cottons. Tears streamed as the numbness of the depression was replaced by the joy of touch.

It is with gratitude these days that I caress the texture of rocks, yarns, rough bark on trees, the smooth cheek of a child, the fuzz of my cat’s fur, even the slick peel of a carrot.

  • Words. These are the tools of my craft, the way I communicate with God and others, even with the cat in the previous bullet.

Words have the power to make me gasp with delight or surprise, to frown or to shed a tear. They make me laugh at jokes and sigh with the reading of a Psalm.

And each time I begin any type of writing, I start with the prayer of Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord.”

One of my clients uses Facebook as a type of journal in listing her gratitudes. Many of them hail back to her country life. All are examples of the beautiful world around us and the need to see it more clearly — with a full heart. Check out the beautiful blog posts of Elece Hollis.

So let’s all be more cognizant of the gratitudes of life. Each and every day.

Let’s strive for hope as we use our words to speak a Thanksgiving message.

And let us never forget there is always something to be grateful for.

©2021 RJ Thesman

In Just for Today: Hope for Single Moms, each day’s journaling practice contains the question: “What are you grateful for today?”

Hope in the Upgrades

As I was paying bills, it happened again. Another online company wanted me to upgrade my account. Translation: pay more money for a few more services.

Nay, nay.

Ah, upgrading. The DIY shows focus on upgrading the home, particularly the kitchen. Fun to watch and imagine how I might do the same. Some day.

As a writing coach, I constantly research new ways to help my clients with their projects.

The latest publishing tools, best practices for a book launch, effective marketing solutions.

Help them upgrade and update their quarterly goals.

But what are some of the deeper ways we can upgrade and find more hope?

Be willing to change. An upgrade in remodeling requires change. So does the upgrade in life.

We learn, grow and stretch in ways that force us to embrace more hope.

Especially when life is hard.

Stretching those faith muscles and believing for better days helps us feel more empowered. Faith feeds and nourishes hope. But sometimes, we first need to change.

Changes are often uncomfortable. For example: Jorge Soler recently changed from being a Kansas City Royal to playing for the Atlanta Braves. A move for his family. A change in different policies within club houses. New faces to learn.

But now he wears a World Series ring and he became the MVP with that amazing three-run homer in the sixth game.

Changes can sometimes produce lovely results.

Be open to other opinions. When we stay within our comfort zone of being with the same people and doing the same activities, we can begin to rust. It’s easy to hang around friends and family that never challenge us.

No upgrading happens when we stay in the same mental and emotional space.

But when we force ourselves out of that comfort zone, we learn to truly listen to others’ opinions. We consider how honest debate can teach us.

Stretch us toward a more hope-filled upgrade. Hold fast to our beliefs yet consider how they might broaden and expand to include greater values.

Being quick to listen, but slow to speak — controlling our anger (James 2:19).

Become a student again. Life-long learning keeps our brains active. We read a book that encourages us to research more about a topic. Watch a documentary about another part of the world and learn to be grateful for what we have.

Cross reference a Bible verse. Check it in different versions. Google it in the original Hebrew or Greek.

Sometimes our faith needs to be upgraded into a broader interpretation. Sometimes we need to seriously examine some of the false teachings we were once taught. Then let them go.

Upgrades can be a good thing. They can make life easier and add beauty to our lives. With caution, of course.

The physical upgrades need financial boundaries. Waiting to upgrade the kitchen until the bank account has sufficient funds.

The emotional, mental and spiritual upgrades also need healthy boundaries. Time to reflect on possible changes. An inward search of our raw places and why they need a re-do.

Confession. Forgiveness. Repentance.

But an upgrade in our souls to a more compassionate and helpful place is always a good practice. And when it strengthens our hope, then all of us can live in a better place.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

The latest upgrade to my writing craft is a book of encouragement, practical tips and devotions for single moms. Check out Just for Today: Hope for Single Moms.

Hope in Who We Are

The following post is an excerpt from the book Just for Today: Hope for Single Moms. I do believe, however, that it is appropriate for all my followers — no matter what your marital status.

God shows how much he cares for us when he declares himself as being both Creator and Husband.

The One who put every cell of our bodies together loves us perfectly. He promises to be a faithful husband, to never abandon us and to continue to meet every need.

Furthermore, God also promises to take away our shame. Any critical comments that have been spoken against us. The times we have felt invisible. The ways we may have been labeled throughout life.

All these shameful attitudes and behaviors are deleted by our divine Husband.

God promises to gather us into his arms with great compassion.

He empathizes for what we have been going through.

He feels it, because he, too, was abandoned and rejected by those who were supposed to love him.

God’s kindness is as constant as the mountains that reach their peaks to the sky. His promise of peace will never be broken.

In fact, God treats us like a precious gem — a sapphire, a shining agate.

He wipes every tear from our eyes and creates a soothing balm that covers the soul.

He takes our grief and turns it into compassion for others who suffer, so we learn how to recognize hurts and respond with practical help.

This Creator and Husband will love us forever.

So how can we find hope in knowing these truths? Look for how God shows up every day.

In the glowing eyes of your children as they anticipate Christmas. In the hugs you receive from others who have suffered as you have. In the beauty of autumn colors and the sunsets that signal the end of another long day.

God’s compassion for you never ceases. His mercies never end.

Find something to be grateful for. As we develop a heart filled with gratitude, we focus more on the positives of life. Gratitude gives us a reason to keep on breathing, to wonder which gratitudes we might add to our list tomorrow.

For a fuzzy feel-good read, check out my friend Bea and her BeasAttitudes: http://beasattitudes.net/beasattitudesfb/

Just for today, read Isaiah 54:4. Look in the mirror and declare, “I am loved by my eternal Husband.”

Then believe it and reach for hope.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For a hope nugget each day, check out, Just for Today: Hope for Single Moms.

Hope’s Intensity

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

“Your book is so intense.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intense? You bet it is.

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

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

Even in the church.

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved Read about Abigail in No Visible Scars, available in print, on Kindle, Goodreads and Kobo. 

Hope Magnified

One Sunday while I was getting ready for church, I clicked onto the worship service of Elevation Church. Pastor Steven Furtick often preaches with a focus on the practical and how our emotions (or baggage) affect our faith walk.

On this Sunday, he carried around a magnifying glass. Pastor Furtick reminded his audience, “What we magnify is what we live with.”

I took a deep breath, then wrote down the quote. It was perfect for my current transition and other reflections in my journal.

It is true that what we constantly think about affects our emotions, our goals — even our relationships. So if we magnify how someone has hurt us in the past, then we continue to live within that pain.

If we focus on a past trauma and let it seed itself into our psyche, then we continue to live in the past and within that horrible experience.

If we talk about a circumstance, ask people to “pray” about it over and over, “share” how we’re feeling with the purpose of justification or vindication — then we continue to live inside that baggage.

Magnifying the problem, whatever it is, forces us to live inside the victim camp.

One of the topics I have noticed on social media is the constant reminder that we are living in “evil days.” Of course we are. Read the books of Daniel and Revelation for a-ha moments.

But if we continue to magnify the evil, then we won’t see the amount of good that is still happening.

People are caring for others, sometimes to the point of sacrifice. Nonprofits still do good work. Hospitals and medical workers thrive on keeping folks alive. Schools teach kids, and not all government workers are zombies. Some politicians are called to serve God within our systems.

Yes, terrible things sometimes happen. But wonderful things also happen. Why can’t we magnify those?

One of my rituals is to watch the CBS Sunday Morning program, especially any reports by Steve Hartman.

The focus is always on the positive as Steve and the other reporters find those out-of-the-way places where people are doing something good for each other. Each segment is unique, interesting and I often learn something new I can share with others.

No grumblings about how terrible the world is. Even within the tragedies of earthquakes, hurricanes or warfare — this crew finds the light surrounded by darkness.

I wish we could do the same with our ordinary lives.

So I am trying to be more intentional about what I magnify. To focus on the positive. To look for the hope that is apparent when I forget myself and try to help others. To stop thinking and talking about the negatives and instead — look for those nuggets of positivity.

Scripture reminds us how to think and thus, how to act: “Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about” (Philippians 4:8 TLB).

So let’s look for the hope that is growing around us. Let’s magnify the good stuff and stop living in the gloomies.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Hope Shines with essays about positive attitudes. Check it out on Amazon, Kindle and in Large Print.

Finding Hope While Letting Go

To move forward with a mindset of hope, we may have to let something go.

As Ann Landers once wrote, “Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”

So what are circumstances where we may need to let go?

Dreams. Most of us hang on to dreams, because they represent something we dearly desire.

  • That amazing job or career
  • A certain kind of house in a special place
  • The destination wedding with all the trimmings
  • A particular way of doing life, preferably without too much struggle
  • For writers, making the bestseller status

Yet dreams sometimes manifest only as journal entries or the deepest desires of the heart. At some point, usually much later in life, we realize a particular dream is rimmed by fantasy.

We have learned how reality superimposes its will on our dreams. And we know the healthiest response is to embrace that reality and let the dream go.

Expectations. Closely related to dreams are the expectations we embrace. We figure a college degree will result in a great job. A marriage with the church’s blessing will last a lifetime. The new car we bought won’t break down in the first week.

But expectations can be shattered by unforeseen circumstances. Even with a college degree, teachers make less money than plumbers. Cars prove to be merely machines that break down, no matter what the warranty says. And marriages are defined as the union of two fallible people.

The struggle with letting go of expectations is that we often have to dig deep to find the core of the problem. Find out how the expectation went wrong. Forgive the unforgiveable.

False Beliefs. How many of us believe exactly as we did when we were children? More study into faith and revelations about legalism or hypocritical teachings have taught us to be wary. We determine to be more assured of what we believe and why.

Our beliefs are more personal now. Our faith is based on experiences and more time with God. We are stronger than before, more solid in wisdom’s language.

So we let go of rote learnings and legalism. We embrace a new truth.

Another letting go is the one that may surprise us with its side effect of grief. It involves our children. The first letting go is when we must leave our little one at the daycare, the preschool, the first grade. We know something precious has shifted, and the letting go feels like a wound.

Letting go of our children includes their foray into multiple experiences:

  • The solo drive with a new license
  • A study abroad
  • The college experience with a dorm or an apartment — far away from our control
  • When he walks down the aisle to pledge his love to that special girl

It is vital as we let go of children that we also protect our own hearts. We cheer their independence even while wiping our tears of loss. We learn how the letting go requires more strength than the hanging on.

This mental truth is oxymoronic with the emotion of severing. To watch them fly, we must be willing to push them out of the nest.

Yet by definition, transitions of life suggest movement.

One person letting go results in another’s freedom. Even for the mama left behind, the child’s leaving can morph into a greater experience of growth and faith.

Hope transcends our moments of letting go, because it remains a fluid concept. Then after we grieve, after some time to recover, we may discover the power of a new life. (Isaiah 58:8 Amplified).

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Read how Pastor Tanner had to let go, even though it almost cost him his ministry. The Year of my Redemption.