Hope Fills the White Stocking

Have you heard the legend of the White Stocking?white stocking

This tradition was begun by a mother who realized her family was so consumed by the trappings and gifts of Christmas, they had forgotten the true meaning of the celebration. She wrote a poem, outlining her plans for Christmas morning.

The white stocking hung throughout the season, empty, yet in a special place on the mantel. Then on Christmas morning, everyone in the family received a piece of paper.

On the paper, they wrote a gift they wanted to give Jesus. Then they placed their papers in the stocking. It was a practical and visual way to remember the meaning of the season.

What can I give the King of kings this Christmas season?

It would be easy to list the usual Sunday School answers:

  • I’ll give him my heart
  • my ten per cent tithe
  • make him the Lord of my life
  • give him all my worship

While these answers may come from a pure heart, they lose their credibility in the repetition. I want to be more specific – to make myself accountable to this idea and perhaps check myself throughout 2018.

To be entirely credible, I decided to ask the Lord what he wanted from me. He has everything he needs, and he knows me better than anyone else – this One who fashioned me in my mother’s womb, then held me in his arms after I slithered from her body.

This One who has held me through this difficult year, over mountains of joy and within deepest pits of emotional valleys. What does he want from me?

As I reflected on 2017, one common attitude presented itself in a taupe ugliness: I have spent a great deal of this year wishing life could be different. Like a wimp, I have whined in my journals and on this blog.

When I asked Jesus what he wanted for Christmas, he nudged me toward my complaints and gently reminded me of all the things I should be grateful for.

I enjoy my work – writing and coaching writers – watching my clients reach their goals and celebrating with them.

Although I am tired of maintaining a house and the gardens have nearly done me in this year, I CAN still work in the gardens, planting and harvesting – eating from the produce God blesses.

In my house, I CAN still bend over carpet stains and rub them into oblivion, climb steps up and down – four levels – and climb on top of my car to change the bulb in the garage light.

Although I no longer play competitive softball or run up and down a basketball court, I CAN stretch in yoga poses and pump away calories on my exercise bike.

Although I tire of counting pennies and searching for coupons, trying to find the best deals – I CAN pay the bills. So far, my son and I have not starved.

We cannot expect life to be easy here on earth. The only way we reach the goal of the heavenly prize is to go through the hard stuff, to endure and persevere.

This year my white stocking will hold only three words – a gift I am going to be more intentional to give the baby in the manger who became the savior on the cross.

I hold out this gift to him because he deserves it. This gift also represents my hope that he will receive it with joy, understanding I am still flawed but trying, love me for my attempts to please him and to live my life with honor.

What gift will I give Jesus this Christmas? What shall I place in the white stocking?

“Thank you, Jesus.”

©2017 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved




Hope Sets Healthy Boundaries

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

In my life coaching ministry at GateWay of Hope, I often ask women, “What are you doing for fun?” We track their progress and talk about the importance of setting healthy boundaries.

cottage-picket-fenceSometimes we refer to an emotional boundary as setting a fence around the heart.

Likewise with my writing clients. I may ask, “What are you doing for an artist date?”

They tell me about roaming through bookstores, writing morning pages at a quirky and fun coffee shop or choosing a new journal.

Terrific success for my coaching clients. Not such a good job by their coach. I find it increasingly difficult to schedule artist dates and/or find some time for fun in my busy schedule. Am I too busy? Yes. How can I remedy that? Hmm.

One of my friends recently asked me, “What are you doing for Rebecca?”

I had to stop and think about that question, because we often define fun as something we do that costs money.

But I need to consider other things that are just as relaxing and important for me – activities that cost little or nothing. Fun might include playing the piano, banging out chords that help release some of the pressures of a stressful day.

Walking through crunchy leaves or strolling through colorful chrysanthemums at a garden store. These joys remind me of the creator and how he blesses us with an autumn Kansas.

Other possibilities:

  • An occasional movie
  • Watching the baseball playoffs with my son
  • Looking forward to Jayhawk basketball and OU football
  • Pulling out my coloring book and finding a quiet moment on the deck
  • Singing
  • A new color of fingernail polish
  • The turquoise and corals of a Kansas sunset
  • A haircut
  • A new journal or reading through the old one with an attitude of praise

These are some of the things that bring me joy, however I need to work harder at getting away and forcing myself to relax. Is that an oxymoron? Forced relaxation?

Even now, I feel the need for some time away to reboot my soul and refresh that creative spirit in me.

I write better after a break when I feel more energized to connect sentences that form paragraphs, outline chapters and introduce new characters to the world.

So I need to be more proactive about using my time off. I need to actually schedule a writing retreat and a personal sabbatical – wherever and whenever I can – soon.

As 2017 approaches, I need to discipline myself to do the same thing I ask of my clients – to find that special place of inner rest, to plan an artist date, to find my own creative boundaries.

Hope asks accountability of others but also demands spiritual nourishment of the self. Even as I help others, I need to do a better job finding myself and define that fence around my heart.

Anyone else want to join me in the search?

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

Hope Reproduces

From the final months of 2014 to the first calendar pages of 2015, I have seen how hope reproduces.

Five of my coaching clients have leapt toward their writing dreams. My role as their writing coach has been to encourage them, help them find resources and ask the hard questions that stretch wordsmiths, resulting in stronger creativity and exciting results.Coaching laptop

I have asked their permission to share these results. Normally, my coaching clients receive the highest level of confidentiality but really – I must brag on them and to do that – I must use their names.

Amy Bovaird writes from the beautiful state of Pennsylvania where she encourages her readers and me. She suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa which I knew nothing about until I met Amy. She constantly inspires me and when her book, “Mobility Matters”  was published, I imagine everyone in Pennsylvania heard me cheer. Amy is working on a second book while speaking about hope and encouragement even while she gradually loses her sight. But she writes from that inner sanctum where quality vision exists, using her other senses to find the most effective words and ministry. Check out Amy’s work at AmyBovaird.com.

When Jerry Lout signed up for his very first writers conference, he also decided to enter one of the contests. First conference. First contest. And he won first place in the Adult Nonfiction category. I nearly busted my buttons with pride. He also writes from a place of difficult experience, from the story of a young boy diagnosed with polio. The tagline of Jerry’s blog, “Running Life’s Race with a Limp” chronicles his life and the generations before him. Jerry never writes from the viewpoint of a victim but rather from a victorious heart that knows how to search for and find hope. Jerry’s excellent blog is found at JerryLout.com and next year, I’m confident – he’ll be holding his book.

I met Molly Totoro at a writers conference where she expressed interest in coaching. We’ve been working together over a year now and I am constantly enriched by the words that come from Molly’s posts. We share many of the same creative juices, but Molly’s writing far exceeds mine. She has the most amazing vision for marrying her love of scrapbooking with the need for story. She’s developing a business called Milestone Memoirs while she posts at http://mycozybooknook.blogspot.com/. She is also a contributing writer for a ministry that serves hurting women, GateWay of Hope. You can learn more about Molly through her website at http://steppingstonespublications.com/.

Nancy Kay Grace and I connected at another writers conference. Nancy Kay impressed me with her depth of faith but also with her ability to share that faith with her readers. She posted wonderful devotions and wanted those devotions merged into a publishable book. So we worked together and every time we met, more amazing depth came from Nancy’s soul. Just this last month, that book became a reality. “The Grace Impact” is a beautiful and touching answer to a prayer that Nancy Kay and I shared. You can learn more about Nancy Kay and her speaking ministry at NancyKayGrace.com.

Sometimes hope is wrapped in a nice little package and other times, it requires fortitude to search it out. Author Jane Tucker knows about that type of courage. She wanted to write the book she longed to read, and as an avid reader – she knew what she was looking for. So she began the writing journey, finished her book and then realized it needed a change. So she rewrote the entire book from a more concentrated angle, revised it, let other writers critique it, reworked it and finally submitted it for publication. Just a few weeks ago, Jane received the wonderful and exciting news. “Lottie’s Gift” will be released in 2016, and I can hardly wait. When a writer works that hard on a dream, the final result is sure to be joyful. Jane also writes wonderful stories called “Postcards from the Heartland” on her website at JaneMTucker.com.

As you check out these writers, I think you’ll see why I’m so proud of them, how they encourage me with their perseverance and why I enjoy coaching writers. Hope reproduces as writers continue to move toward their dreams.

And as the Word of God lives in us, then the words he gives us find a home in our readers’ hearts. I hope you’ll follow these creative spirits and help them increase with even more hope.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh