Enchanting Hope

As I walked out of Hen House with my groceries, he was loading his trunk with food supplies. He smiled, then asked, “Are you from New Mexico? He pointed toward the tag on my car: “New Mexico — Land of Enchantment.”

“No,” I said, “but I’d like to be. It’s on my bucket list to go there at least twice each year.”

He told me how he grew up in Ruidoso, moving to Kansas to help his elderly parents. But he missed the rich verdure of the New Mexican mountains, the vast expanses of desert and the spiritual history of a land with his Native American roots.

“I long to go for an extended stay,” I said, “maybe a writing retreat in Santa Fe.” 

“You’ll get there,” he said with a confident nod. “People who love New Mexico end up living their dreams.”

As I opened my car door, he tipped his hat and said, “Stay enchanting.”

Throughout the long COVID winter, I thought often of this man and his kind prophecy. Was he an angel in disguise, sent to encourage me on a gloomy day? Or was he merely a nice person, taking care of his parents and trying to share hope with a fellow pilgrim?

Memories of my last two trips to Santa Fe brought tears. The 2012 research trip for my third novel, “Final Grace for Reverend G.”

My bestie, Deb, and I, strolling through art galleries, eating multiple recipes dunked in roasted green chiles, each of us finding handcrafted jewelry and colorful broom skirts.

The trip of a lifetime, I thought. Deb’s lifetime. She passed in 2017 and was not able to return to the Land of Enchantment with me.

My next trip was September, 2018. I attended the Creatives Conference with Julia Cameron as the keynoter. Another trip of a lifetime. But this time, I was alone. Still, it was a beautiful experience.

My quiet time to work through the grief of losing Deb. Although I missed her presence yet felt her spirit, I discovered being by myself was indeed a great way to fashion a writing retreat.

And so much more:

  • Multiple people became new friends as Santa Fe has a tendency to pull people together.
  • A touristy walk provided new insights about the history of this town I love.
  • The discovery of a free trade store where I bought some jewelry — of course — and met other travelers.
  • A kind sales rep in another jewelry store who revealed his lifetime of FBI service in Albuquerque and why he changed careers mid-life.
  • My favorite waitress at the Santa Fe Bite who jangled her bracelets as we shared our love for bling.
  • A surprise wedding as the happy couple and their mariachi band circled around the Plaza.
  • More delicious recipes with roasted green chiles.
  • Soaking my feet in the hotel’s pool after a day of walking.
  • Watching the shadows peek around the Sangre de Cristo mountains, then merge into fabulous sunsets.

Creativity seems to spurt from every pore of Santa Fe. In the evenings, I wrote pages of a new novel. The Year of my Redemption was birthed at the Sage Hotel in Santa Fe. It will always be one of my favorites.

My plan was to return to Santa Fe in 2020 with a new traveling partner. But alas — COVID. Then I hoped 2021 might be the year. Another alas — physical obstacles and chronic pain.

Have I experienced my last trip to Santa Fe? Please, God, no. Can I not hope for another week or two in the Land of Enchantment?

A Pueblo Indian blessing foreshadowed the loss of Deb, now even richer with meaning:

“Hold on to what is good even if it is a handful of earth.

Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands alone.

Hold on to what you must do even if it’s a long way from here.

Hold on to life even when it’s easier letting go.

Hold on to my hand even when I have gone away from you.”

My enchanting hope is to return to the land of clay and pottery, brilliant sunsets and artisans camped around every corner. To live where the everydayness of what we must do thrives with a positive outlook and gratitude for life itself.

Hope breathes through the improbabilities of reaching the desire of the heart, somehow managing to make it happen. A prayer — a wish — a dream all wrapped in the hope of seeing it come to pass.

Even now, mid 2021, the hope survives. A quote from Georgia O’Keefe, resident artist of Santa Fe, ties my hope in a package of possibility, “Once you’ve been to New Mexico, the itch never leaves you.”

I am itching to return.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Watch for the novel that was birthed in Santa Fe. The Year of my Redemption will soon be available on Amazon.

Hope Finds an Unusual Holy Place

During a trip to Fort Scott, Kansas, my friend Deb and I discovered a wonderful coffee shop. Our chai lattes tasted spicy yet mellow, while the missional atmosphere of the shop impressed us.

woman prayingBookshelves were filled with classics and some religious fiction. I added my Reverend G books to their collection and promised to bring my next book after its release.

But we were most interested in the church service advertised for Sunday morning. So we punched it into our phone calendars and showed up along with 30 other folks of all ages and demographics.

It seemed a great way to attract people to spirituality within an unusual holy place.

I was disappointed when we were handed bulletins — not so outside the religious box. Churchy habits are hard to break.

We watched a video sermon taken from the book of Romans. Seriously? Romans? Why use one of Paul’s most verbose books, a treatise even seasoned Jesus followers find difficult to understand?

We discussed righteousness, legalism and how to determine God’s will, heady topics for a coffee shop.

A lovely young woman sang and accompanied herself on an acoustic guitar. We relaxed and enjoyed her melodies, interspersed with whooshes from the espresso machine.

Then a wonderful surprise greeted us as we left the shop. Across the street was a colorful wall with a unique wooden door, Tuscan colors and rough textures. The combination of beautiful weather, the Sabbath atmosphere and the companionship of a friend reminded me God is everywhere.

Deb and I took pictures while my creative mind immediately jumped to questions: What’s on the other side of that door? What kind of novel can I plot with this door as the main focus? Is this another unusual holy place? The Creator God showed up again with the gift of creativity inside me.

Hope often places us in surprising places. We may root ourselves in comfortable church pews where it’s easy to snooze through our spirituality.

But when we move outside the normalcy of walls and experience church in different settings, we breathe a fresh invite into the family of God.

The joy of finding pockets of believers in various places, those who worship in unique ways and spread the love of God without the confines of traditional walls. The textures and colors of different congregants, a quality setting for the stories written within our spiritual selves.

The ever-present God at home in a coffee shop and in the rich surface of a wooden door. Surely God is thrilled by creative venues. He relishes new plans even as his divine attributes remain the same.

By reaching out to others in unusual holy places, we instill more joy into our world and ultimately within Abba Father’s heart.

Hope shines when we yearn for spiritual experiences outside the norm.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more essays about hope, check out Hope Shines — available in print, Kindle and Large Print.

Hope Unplugs in Santa Fe

For one glorious week, I lived the unplugged life in Santa Fe, NM. No social media. Even turned off my phone. Wrote long hand on a legal pad. Sage Inn

My purpose for going to Santa Fe was to attend the Creative Reboot Conference – an amazing weekend of workshops for the sole purpose of tapping into our creativity as writers.

The highlight was two workshops with Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way and many other books.

Fresh from several of life’s messes, including my son’s five-month illness, I desperately needed some down time.

But this week also offered growth in my craft and immersion in one of the most creative places on earth.

So I tacked an extra two days onto the weekend – time for just me – for that self-care my therapist says I need.

Words fail to express how glorious that week became and what a milestone it was both personally and professionally. I have so many great ideas to share with my coaching clients. I also have several great ideas for blog posts and even for a future creativity retreat. And I am rejuvenated, refreshed, rebooted.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some writing tips I learned at the conference. You can follow these tips on my newsletter.

What is it about Santa Fe that evokes such a strong sense of belonging?

The Environment. At 7200+ feet, Santa Fe rests between the Sandia and the Sangre de Cristo mountains. It lies at a higher elevation than Denver, the mile-high city, yet doesn’t feel like you have to climb enormous hills to get there. Some people do suffer from altitude sickness.

I only suffered regret when I had to leave. The city is nestled like a bird resting in God’s hands, so you feel safe within those mountains, secure within its borders.

The Climate. With little or no humidity, a bad hair day does not exist in Santa Fe. Compare that to Kansas where I might as well throw away my curling iron and forget the entire process. The week I spent in Santa Fe, daytime temps were in the 80’s and nighttime in the 50’s.

Layered clothing required. My definition of perfect.  

The Diversity. Tourists from all over the US and the world visit Santa Fe. I met people from France, California, Minnesota, Germany, Chicago, Australia, Japan, Columbia (the country, not Missouri) and Colorado. Those who choose to live in Santa Fe may be Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians or Anglos – an amazing mix of God’s creatives.

We easily mingled, shared tips about the best historical tours or joked with each other on the shuttles.

Doorway - Santa FeThe Architecture. Those curved, soft walls – no angles anywhere with the terracotta covering the adobe. The colorful doorways and window frames, usually a turquoise blue.

From the St. Francis cathedral to the Loretto Chapel to the Georgia O’Keefe museum, Santa Fe knows how to display its unique beauty.

The Atmosphere. The people of Santa Fe relish in the joy of relaxation and play. A wedding party marched around the town plaza, complete with Mariachi band, dancing bridesmaids and the newlyweds with happy glows on their faces.

People stroll through the streets. No hurry to make appointments. Waiters and waitresses take time to stop and talk to their customers. Business owners do not pressure for sales. Everyone seems eager to meet you and take the time to learn more about you.

The History. Each year, I read through my copy of Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. Though written in novel form, it details much of the history of the region. The faith walk of Saint Francis and Father Lamy, how the famous cathedral was built and how the sisters of Loretto served the people of the community.

I participated in one of the historical walking tours with an amazing guide who was born in Germany, raised in Chicago, then made Santa Fe her home. During that hour, I learned more about the region than previous years and reveled in the rich faith that built the city.

Loretto StaircaseThe Arts. From Canyon Road to the winding Loretto staircase to the handmade jewelry of the Native Americans – the arts thrive in Santa Fe. In fact, people come from all over the world to attend the Festival of the Arts or buy season tickets to the famous Opera House.

For a creative like me, it is like being drenched in the fiery juices of God’s artistic design. The colors and textures, the fine craftsmanship, the pride of each artist as s/he describes their process. Heaven on earth.

Six years ago, my precious friend Deb and I made a research trip to Santa Fe. I was working on the last book of the Reverend G trilogy and needed to know first hand the feel of Santa Fe. I already loved the area. That trip cemented my craving for New Mexico’s finest.

This time, without Deb, I determined to make my own memories although I still grieved her absence. But I felt her there with me, in the coral sunsets and the mournful tone of a wooden flute.

Most of all, I felt a sense of homecoming – as if Santa Fe had chosen me for a week of rest and a reminder that life was about to turn around. That my son would indeed be well. That my words would impact readers and my soul would find its refuge.

Hope strolls through the quiet lanes of Santa Fe and promises to call me back again. I plan to someday answer.

George O’Keefe was right when she said, “Once you’ve been to New Mexico, the itch never leaves you.”

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Learn about Reverend G and her trip to Santa Fe in the trilogy: The Unraveling of Reverend G, Intermission for Reverend G, Final Grace for Reverend G. 

 

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 Finds 3 Stories

My mother wanted to be a writer, but the circumstances of life did not allow that dream to come true. She would have been a great wordsmith.

foggy road - treesNow that she lives in the confusing fog of Alzheimer’s, her creative juices no longer peek behind the boundaries of reality. She creates amazing stories that alternately amuse and frighten us.

During this past Easter weekend, I walked with Mom down the hallways of assisted living. Each door we passed led to the final home of a resident. It would have been a morbid trip except for the decorations outside each door – colorful symbols of something special to that resident.

One door displayed a basket full of wooden apples, painted so realistically I could almost taste the juice. However, Mom’s appetite focused more on the story she imagined.

“Those apples remind me of one day when I knocked on that guy’s door.”

Did she really do that? Probably not, but her story depended on the plausibility that she did indeed knock on that door.

“So this guy opened the door and offered me an apple, but I didn’t take one because I knew he was probably pedaling liquor in his room and maybe put some in one of the apples. I didn’t want to take that chance. It’s against the law to have liquor in your room.”

A pretty good story, filled with conflict and imagination. I tried not to laugh as we walked back to her room where Mom had another story waiting.

She told me someone had stolen her scarf. I knew this wasn’t true, because her scarf was hanging out of her coat pocket. I had helped her find it that morning before we left for church.

I could have pointed to the scarf and reminded her it was hanging in full view, but she was already half a sentence into her story.

“So this guy stole my scarf, and I ran after him and chased him outside. Then I took ice picks out of my pockets and started toward him. I stabbed him all over with my picks until he hollered. I almost stabbed his eye out but then he gave me the scarf.”

Some of the macabre stories Mom tells probably evolve from years of reading mysteries and watching “The Twilight Zone.”

The final story of the weekend was one Mom knows well and even within the shadows of confusion, she was able to share in it last Sunday.

It’s the true story of a man who was willing to give his life so that we could live abundantly – the God-man who came to earth, loved us unconditionally, then died on a wooden cross.

That man – that Jesus – did not stay dead. He came back to life where over 500 people saw him alive and became credible witnesses of the greatest miracle ever performed.

Mom knows that story well and shared in the joy of Easter Sunday. Holding her Bible, even though she can no longer find passages, she nodded her head as the pastor spoke and helped us sing, “Low in the Grave He Lay…Up from the Grave He Arose.”

Her faith and her eternal future are based on the veracity of the Easter story. Someday she will experience new life in heaven, forever free of Alzheimer’s and its horrific side effects.

We’re hanging on to that story of hope and look forward to its final resolution – the eternal resurrection for all of us.

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

Hope Hides in the Pages of a New Book

Something special happens when I begin to birth a book. I’m not sure if I am unique in this. Perhaps other writers will comment and let me know if I’m weird or somewhat normal.writing pencil

Because one of my core values is life-long learning, I love to initiate research. So with the new idea, I start to look for credits that may prove my point if it’s a nonfiction book.

For novels, I start to pay attention to settings, cultures, recipes, clothing – anything that will make my characters believable.

Then I go nuts with ideas and start free writing. For nonfiction, I play with an outline.

For novels, I write letters to the characters and let them write me back (I know – weird!).

This is the most exciting part for me – similar to when the doctor said, “Guess what? You’re pregnant!”

I begin to imagine all kinds of scenarios. What will the cover of this book look like? What if this book becomes a best-seller? What if the words I write impact somebody’s life?


The beginning germ of my idea mushrooms and ripples into a story line. Even in nonfiction, it’s important to tell the story.


 

So I feel excited, fulfilled, working away at this idea and waiting to see how it will manifest itself in chapter headings, quotes, character quirks and the resolution of conflict.

As I work on the idea, I imagine my readers – feet propped up in front of a cozy fire, turning the pages inscribed with my words, wiping a tear or tilting back their heads in laughter.

Then I take the idea and play with it from the marketing standpoint. After I find my focus, how many articles can I write from this one idea? Will it be only a novel or can I also write a nonfiction book, using my research as a starting point?

That’s what I’m doing now with all my research about Alzheimer’s and dementia. The Reverend G trilogy is finished, so now I’m putting together a nonfiction book of essays and meditations to help caregivers.

For me, the best part of writing is letting my creativity loose without any roadblocks or fears stopping me. I envision the massive impact this idea will have and the huge numbers of people who will either learn from my topic or change their lives because of it.

Ultimately, I thank God for the idea because he is the one who creates life – in the womb and in my writing soul.

Then I ask him to bless the project and hope again – that it will be very good.

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

Hope Within Calendar Pages

As we approach the holidays, this year draws to a close. What happened to move us so quickly through 2014?

This week, I drove to an office supply store to buy a refill for my planner – new calendar pages for 2015. As I sorted and refilled my planner, I glanced back at the activities of 2014:book w- confetti

  • Speaking events
  • Visits to Mom in assisted living, trying to endure the Alzheimer’s journey
  • Writing ideas
  • Meetings at work – GateWay of Hope
  • Grocery lists
  • Meetings with Coaching Clients
  • Birthdays, anniversaries and special dates for family and friends
  • More prayer requests

With all the lists and all the activities, I wondered – did I faithfully follow God this year or was I just busy? Did I make the most of every opportunity to show the love of God to others? Did my work make a difference in the lives of the people I met? How did God answer my prayers?

Then I noticed a gap in my list of activities. Except for a few meetings with friends and the week of family vacation, what did I do for fun? Plenty of activities involved work, but precious few included days of joy.

How can I change that pattern in 2015?

I’m always telling my clients to not put undo pressure on themselves but to relax and find some time for fun.

Author and Coach RJ Thesman, heal thyself.

Fun activities make us better writers, more able to deal with the stresses of life when we encounter and nurture creative joy. We all need a few moments to decompress and just be.

My old calendar pages disappeared in the trash while the new pages took their place. Yes, I already have events scheduled for 2015, so I carefully penciled them in along with birthdays, anniversaries and important dates for family and friends.

I also vowed to make each calendar day something for good, but for Pete’s sake – to have more fun!

What are you doing for fun?

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