Hope Inches Toward Acceptance

acceptanceA copy of the Serenity Prayer is posted on my refrigerator. Such a beautiful reminder of the seasons of life.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can,  and wisdom to know the difference.”

Wisdom was a frequent prayer as I worked in various ministries, raised my son, made life-changing decisions.

But change happened with or without courage. The seasons of life determined new directions, transitions and different pathways. Change has never been my problem.

But acceptance—now that is a different story.

Growing up on the farm, we made do with what we had but if we needed something, we actually made it. Created it from the bits and pieces around us. We changed the situation to make it better.

That work ethic has followed me through life and added to the quality of my life. I have no regrets for changes made, for improvements accomplished, even for risks taken.

But acceptance is not easy for a change-maker. To sit around and just let life happen is not in my DNA. I am always ready to do what is necessary to make a situation better or to at least make it tolerable.

I revise manuscripts until they feel completely right. I add another exercise to my routine to strengthen aging knees and a threatening muffin-top waist. I delete from my diet the chemicals that are harmful. Make the necessary changes.

Even as a coach, my questions to clients include, “What are the action points we can work on this week? How can we move forward and make the changes that will improve your book, help you find a publisher, complete the process?”

Change is easier, because it allows me to do something—anything—to make improvements. But what if the situation cannot be changed? Ever.

I am frustrated and trying to learn how to work through this whole acceptance thing. How can I find the hope needed in doing nothing?

With the help of a gifted therapist and friends who care, I am inching toward the acceptance of Deb’s death. My life has changed and will never be exactly the same. She is gone.

Somehow, I must make peace with how her absence has affected my calendar days and the future we planned together.

As we age, some things must clearly become an accepted piece of life. In her book, “Present Over Perfect,” Shauna Niequist writes, “It’s okay to be medium.”

She’s referring to the size of clothing she now wears. After years of being petite, she now must wear the medium sizes.

My mother has accepted her life in assisted living. She is content living day by day in her safe and beautiful environment. No stresses. No bills to pay. No worrying about the car and the next oil change. Just get up every morning, eat when they tell you to eat and play Bingo.

Done. Accepted.

To stay in hope and live in peace, we have to sometimes let go of the need to change. We have to accept what cannot be changed and know that even within the acceptance—we will be okay.

So change what you can but accept what cannot be tampered with. Then pray for the peace to live within that acceptance and find joy in each day.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved.

If you’d like to read about a woman who was able to change her life, check out “No Visible Scars.

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How to Find a Legacy Within Alzheimer’s

Because October is my birthday month, my thoughts often center around the woman who birthed and raised me. Although Dad was a prominent faith figure in my growing up years, it was Mom who pushed me out of the birth canal and then pushed me to become who I am.Arlene Renken - nurse

She was a fighter and an extrovert, unlike the rest of us who liked to disappear within our private worlds to write, listen to music or find our energy in the beautiful solitude of the Oklahoma landscape.

Odd that I speak of Mom in the past tense, even though her brave heart still beats as she stares at the wall opposite her chair. That’s what Alzheimer’s does to a family. We say goodbye, one stage at a time, one regression after another so that when death finally releases our loved one – much of the grieving has already been done. “The Long Goodbye” is aptly titled.

Mom grew up poor, walked to high school (yes, miles away, even in the snow and rain) and wore the same two dresses until her Sunday dress became too worn for church. It was then relegated for school wear as her mother sewed a better one for the Sabbath or one of the cousins passed down a Sunday outfit that wasn’t yet worn out.

As part of her legacy, Mom was determined none of her children would ever be ashamed of their clothes or feel embarrassed because they didn’t fit in. So she learned how to sew, spread out the material on the farmhouse floor, cut, pinned and put together whatever clothes we needed to look like we had some cash in the bank.

Then she made certain that each of us understood the importance of a quality education so that we would never feel the sting of poverty. We grew up with a solid work ethic, attended college, saved our pennies and never bought anything we didn’t really need.


It was a simpler time – a beautiful segment of history, without traffic snarls, school shootings or adultery in every family tree. I miss it every day.


Mom was willing to live in an old farmhouse and fix it up gradually, learning how to wallpaper and restore old pieces of furniture. Much of our house looked like the early-attic variety, but none of us minded. It was a safe place to grow up although cold in the winter and hot in the summer. But who minded when the kitchen smelled like fresh-baked bread, the fields sprouted a golden harvest that supported us all year and the animals taught us about life and death.

As a registered nurse, Mom followed the habits of “old school” nursing. Always dressed in white, her uniform and hat starched and gleaming, her white shoes and hose the perfect accessory. In those days, no jewelry was allowed except a simple wedding band.

But Mom, always a bit of a radical, wore a cross necklace under her slip. “To remind me I’m working as a Christian,” she said. “To keep me focused on what matters when I have to clean someone’s bottom or tell a family their child just died.”

Strength of character. Rock solid faith. Those qualities are hard to imagine in the woman who now rocks back and forth and accuses strangers of stealing her digital clock.

Yet it was those very qualities that taught me how to work well even when no one is watching, how to pray my guts out, how to deal with life when it hurts by working hard and moving forward, how to fight against traditions that are based only on men’s interpretations rather than the powerful voice of God.

Even now, as I have journeyed through a faith crisis and wondered how to find a church that will accept my calling – I know Mom would understand. If I could just communicate with her, she would get that steely gleam in her eye and tell me to “Stop whining. Just get busy and do it.”

She was probably one of the first parents who envisioned the concept of giving your children roots and wings. She taught us well, then let us go and cheered us whether we succeeded or learned hard life lessons through failure.

Never demonstrative with her love, if anyone attacked her kids – they would face the wrath of a woman who knew how to struggle through the worst of life’s catastrophes and conquer them through sheer determination and grit.

No one dare beat up her kids, either emotionally or physically. She would stand tall in her 5’8” frame and declare, “One more word, and I’ll jerk a knot in you.”

So I am proud of the legacy Mom has shared with me, a strength of character that dares to question the establishment yet humbly accepts God’s will.

Even in the shadows of Alzheimer’s, I see Mom’s resolve to finish her course well, to find contentment in the every dayness of Bingo, planned meals and assigned seats during movie night.

The strong woman who raised me still exists somewhere deep within, even though the outer shell gains fragility, age spots and graying hairs.

The legacy continues. Thanks, Mom.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

3 Levels of Alzheimer’s

Until I started researching and living Alzheimer’s with my mom – nobody told me about the three levels of this disease. But I’ve seen them again and again as I’ve talked with other caregivers and observed my mom.Alz awareness

Level One: Your loved one begins to realize something isn’t quite right. He forgets where he parked the car. She forgets how to brush her teeth. They can’t count or say the alphabet. This is the level where Reverend G forgot part of the Lord’s Prayer. http://amzn.to/11QATC1

They begin to use coping mechanisms to help themselves remember. My mother parked in the exact same parking space every time she went to the grocery store. That’s how she remembered where her car was. She pinned her house keys to the inside of her slacks so that she was never locked out of her house because she couldn’t find her keys.

In Level One, the Alzheimer’s patient is afraid and usually keeps this fear a secret. During this time, the rest of the family needs to begin making some difficult decisions.

Level Two: I call Level Two, the intermission. This is the level where the Alzheimer’s medicines begin to work, where the loved one is more content, where everything seems to be okay – for a little while. None of the levels have a time frame because every patient reacts differently. Your loved one still remembers you and may be able to take care of herself, especially within the protective confines of assisted living.

During “Intermission for Reverend G” http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo, we see a love story, the residents play Bingo and converse fairly easily with each other although confusion still reigns.

Level Three: The Alzheimer’s patient begins to move into the final stages. He will probably forget his family members; she may forget how to speak and how to eat. For the patients, this is not nearly as stressful as Level One, because they don’t care anymore and don’t even know what they’re doing.

This is the most difficult level for the caregiver. Mom or Dad have now become infants, wearing diapers, needing to be fed and dressed. We grieve every day and beg God to take them home.

No matter what level your loved one is in right now, the important point is to take care of yourself, love them however you can and know that someday – no one knows when – someday this Alzheimer’s journey will end.

©2014 RJ Thesman – “Intermission for Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo

Keeping Mom Busy

One of the rites of passage as teenagers was to choose activities that we enjoyed and find the ones that strengthened our natural giftings. Some of these activities led us to pursue life-long interests and even helped us choose college majors and careers.

What I didn’t realize until I became a parent was the importance of activities to keep kids involved and out of trouble. It’s important to keep our children busy while still allowing them some time to rest and play.Bingo

Now, I see the importance of activities for my elderly mother. The activities’ director (Terry) at Mom’s assisted living facility is always busy coordinating fun things for the residents. Most of these activities are not only enjoyable but also a bit mentally challenging – which is a good thing when you’re trying to stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s.

During the Christmas season, Mom and her friends ride the shuttle to see the lights and watch the local pageant. In the summer, they board the shuttle to attend Cowboy Church where they sing Country Western hymns and listen to the pastor talk about freedom in Jesus – with his appropriate Wrangler jeans and silver belt buckle.

Back at the facility, Mom plays cards every day, sometimes three times a day. Usually Uno or Skipbo. I don’t think they keep score, because who cares?

Once a week, they gather for Bingo which reminds me of Roxie, the activities director for Reverend G, who calls out the numbers so that Chris, Bert or Reverend G can win. You can read about Reverend G in the latest book of the Life at Cove Creek Series. http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo

Mom often wins a Snickers bar or sometimes a little posey for her apartment. Then she gives it away and forgets that she won a prize. But she’s happy giving something, so that’s what counts.

Other activities include a Bible study called Devotions with Doughnuts, weekly salon appointments and there’s always the walk around the pond or watching the fish swim in the aquarium.

We’re glad Mom is so busy enjoying these activities, but it’s becoming more difficult for my siblings and I to visit her. We have to schedule our visits between Bingo, doughnuts and the ever-present Uno game.

I’m glad Mom is busy. It keeps her out of trouble.

©2014 RJ Thesman – “Intermission for Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo