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

5 Ways to Stay Creative

In the last post, we investigated five ways to stall creativity. Those included: lack of sleep, stress, wrong direction, fear and guilt. If you’d like to read my ideas about stalled creativity, check out the post at: www.rjthesman.net.

So what do writers do if creativity stalls?writing pencil

  • Don’t Panic. Keep breathing and keep your writing schedule. You have no schedule and no writing plan? Hmm. Perhaps you could use the services of a writing coach. I happen to know one. Check out my coaching services at: www.rjthesman.net

Keep breathing. Keep typing something, even if it makes no sense to you. Free writing is one of the best ways to rev up your creative motor.

Watch the movie “Finding Forrester.” Sean Connery stars as a writer who mentors a young boy and shows him how to do free writing. If you feel stalled, watching Sean Connery is good medicine. Even if you don’t feel stalled, watching Sean Connery is a good plan.

  • Go back to the beginning. Read the first chapter of your book or the previous chapter you just wrote. Sometimes you can get back in the action by just visiting your character’s lives.

Look around your office at all the books you’ve already written and all the articles and stories that you’ve published. You can do this. You’ve done it before. I believe in you.

  • Do something else that involves creativity. Get out of the office and go for a walk. Look for colorful leaves, because when you get back home you’re going to sit down and describe those leaves.

Go to an art gallery and look at the creativity of other artists. Feel the fabric in a clothing store. Buy something in a bakery, unless you’re on a diet. If you are, then go home and write about how horrible it is to be on a diet when all you really want in life is a decadent brownie.

  • Take your journal somewhere quiet and write praises to God. Thank Him for allowing you to be a writer and to transcribe the words he has given you.

Even if your tank feels empty at the moment, fill it up with thanksgiving to the one who gave you the gift in the first place.

  • Take a nap. Really. Just curl up with a warm cat or dog or both and snooze for a while. Your brain cells will rejuvenate and you might even dream about the next chapter you need to write. Naps are highly under-rated.

After trying some or all of these steps, read through your “Encouragements” file.

What? You don’t have an Encouragements file? Start one today by printing off this post and highlighting the following:

I am a writer. God has called me to write, and because He is the Creator and I am made in His image – then I, too, am creative.

Words are my tools. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.”

The Word is also with me.

©2013 RJ Thesman

5 Ways to Stall Creativity

When the words flow, our creative juices whet the appetite for more. Writing becomes enjoyable work. But when we have to fight ourselves to keep in the chair and force our fingers to keep typing – then we wonder why in the world we ever chose to do this mammoth task.writers block

Most of the time, when I sit in front of the computer – my fingers just take off. But occasionally, I have to force feed the sentences and that’s when I try to discover what has stalled my creativity.

Perhaps it is one of the following:

  • Lack of sleep. I know some writers crawl out of bed hours before they need to be at the “other” job or they stay awake long after Letterman says, “Goodnight.”

But I can’t do that. If I don’t get my regular eight and sometimes nine hours of rest, I invite sickness, crankiness and all sorts of nasty attitudes. Nay, nay. To be creative, I must sleep.

  • Stress. Neck muscles tighten. Blood pressure soars, and a headache begins to throb. Stress visits through unpaid bills, too many night-time activities when I don’t get the afore-mentioned shut eye or when anything at all happens to affect the car.

In my opinion, any type of car problem equals stress which results in stalled creativity. I find nothing at all creative about oil changes that turn into leaky hoses, bald tires or anything at all that is goofy in the transmission. I might have less stress if I just bought a horse.

  • Wrong Direction. Sometimes we have to write a while to find out which direction the characters want to go, but if we come to a block where nothing is happening and we’re bored with our own words, creativity stalls.

That’s when the writer reverses gears, discovers a new character or resorts to binging on chocolate.

  • Fear. What if no one wants to read my incredible manuscript? What if I write and write and no one ever nominates me for the Pulitzer Prize? What if an asteroid hits the warehouse where all my books are located and obliterates every word that I have so carefully crafted?

The what-ifs with their roots in fear equal stalled creativity.

  • Guilt. So you decided to spend several of your precious hours working on your novel, but life interrupted and you didn’t get it done. Now you feel guilty because you’re supposed to write every day (that’s what they tell you in the conferences) and you haven’t done it.

That monstrous guilt voice overpowers you and stalls your creativity. You decide God probably didn’t call you to write after all, which adds to the guilt because real Christians are supposed to know what God wants them to do.

So how do writers unstall and move forward?

I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out in the next post. Right now, I’m feeling stressed and I need to sleep.

©2013 RJ Thesman