Hope Finds Abigail Within Domestic Abuse

Have you ever wondered what a Bible story might look like in a contemporary setting? Yeah, me too.NVS Cover

Almost 12 years ago, I wrote a nonfiction book about Abigail, one of the characters in First Samuel 25. But I couldn’t sell it, and no one seemed interested in the background story of this incredible woman.

So the unpublished pages sat in a box, waiting. About that time, the divine whisper reminded me how much people love stories. Fiction. Novels.

“I don’t do fiction,” I said.

Note to self: Never argue with God.

Then came a period of intense challenge as I was unemployed for 14 months. One day, I sat down to write and discovered Reverend G. Throughout the next four years, CrossRiver Media published my trilogy about a fictional woman minister diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Reverend G books were therapy while dealing with my mother’s failing memory. I discovered I could indeed DO fiction. I just needed to be passionate about the subject matter.

So I went back to my research about Abigail. Here was a woman living in an abusive marriage. But in her culture and time period, she had no options for escape.

What would Abigail’s story look like in a contemporary setting? What if she was a woman who felt trapped within the culture represented by the church?

In my role as a biblical counselor and life coach, I had met scores of women dealing with domestic abuse. These women approached me in lines at the grocery store, at writers conferences, through email and blog comments, in ministerial retreats.

Not only were they trapped within the church culture, but no one believed their stories. Their husbands were smart enough not to hit them, so the abuse was not labeled violence.

Instead, it was the soul-sucking damage of mental, emotional, verbal and spiritual abuse.

The most heart-breaking symptom these women carried was the shame of feeling they had somehow failed God. They no longer knew how to live as godly wives, because church leaders told them they had to submit and respect these men who screamed at them, called them names and consistently raped them. Yes, rape can happen within marital bonds.

As I cried with these women, I also examined the culture of shame. These women were told they weren’t thin enough, smart enough, pretty enough. Never enough. And the women believed their abusers because they loved them, hoped they would change.

Resources included the Holy Bible and how God promises to be husband and maker to his precious daughters (Isaiah 54), Doctor Brene Brown who researches the effects of shame, Leslie Vernick whose blog posts often list the symptoms of domestic abuse and various internet sites where women typed out their vulnerability into cyberspace.

I outlined plots, moved scenes around and let my imagination soar with the heart of so many Abigail’s. The first draft was followed by a second, third…and finally 12th.

Perseverance is at the core of a writer’s soul.

Then I tried to sell the story, pitched it in the Christian marketplace that wanted nothing to do with this particular truth-telling. So I approached secular agents and publishers who could not understand why a woman would stay in such an abusive situation.

I found myself educating agents and publishers about PTSD, the numbing down after years of emotional scars, the fear of leaving, the lack of financial resources.

Each time I described another Abigail, my passion for these courageous women flared. Many of them DID leave the security of their homes in spite of threats from their abusers who felt themselves losing control.

And so many of these precious women also had to leave their churches. They no longer fit in with the traditional model. Friends rejected them. Leaders refused to believe them.

Yet some pastors listened and helped, encouraged their freedom and even provided financial assistance. But rarely.

One out of three women live in destructive relationships. These are women from every segment of society, every demographic, including those who sit in church pews.

Finally, the book is completed and published. “No Visible Scars” is available on Amazon. In a few weeks, it will be available on Kindle.

My hope is that you will read it with an open mind, then share it with the women in your life. Share this blog post as a reminder.

Then fall to your knees and ask God what else you can do to help these brave women. How can each of us move from bystander to a caring community?

Consider how we might educate our children so this tragic pattern ends here: to teach boys how to treat girls, to remind girls how to look for red flags, to train church leaders to see what they don’t want to admit.

Let’s spread the word so the Abigail’s we know and those who hide will know they aren’t alone. Let’s help them find hope as we band together to end domestic abuse.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Order your copy of No Visible Scars” today.

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CrossRiver Media Author Hunt – Stop # 1

Welcome to Stop # 1 on the CrossRiver Author HuntCR Author Hunt Pic

After you read my blog post I wrote just for you today, feel free to peruse my site and get to know me a bit, then enter the giveaway at the bottom of the blog post. Join my email list at www.RJThesman.net  and answer the question I’ll give you below and you will receive a PDF of the “7 Tips for Caregivers.”

Before you head over to the next stop, collect the clue at the bottom of the post. You’ll need it to enter the drawing for CrossRiver Media’s giveaway.

Grand Prize:

One winner will receive a Kindle, loaded with CrossRiver books! The winner will be chosen randomly from among those who enter the correct phrase.

Other Prizes:

Four winners will receive hard copies of 3 different CrossRiver books, signed by the author !


My blog started several years ago as a way to encourage people who were going through a tough time. Then my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the life of our family changed.

As I blogged through my feelings, my blog became a bit more focused on providing encouragement to caregivers. But all of my original readers weren’t dealing with Alzheimer’s, so I decided to focus on the topic of “Finding Hope When Life Unravels.”

You’ll find posts about Alzheimer’s here as well as other encouragements and some of my own personal journey.

During November, which is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, I’m posting about the topic: “What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do.”

I hope you’ll join me here and sign up for my monthly newsletter which features my writing life and my speaking events centered around the Reverend G trilogy. These novels are published by CrossRiver Media and include:

For my part in this Scavenger Hunt, I would love to send you a PDF version of the “7 Tips for Caregivers.” This is one of my speaking topics and an example of something you could share with a caregiver.

So how do you get this informative PDF? Sign up for my newsletter at www.RJThesman.net.

Then…in the comments section of this post, answer this question: How do you encourage caregivers, especially those who deal with an Alzheimer’s patient?

If you already subscribe to my newsletter, make a note in your comment. After the CrossRiver Author Hunt, I will be sending out a special edition of my newsletter, containing the  free PDF for all those who leave a comment.


 Thank you for stopping by during the CrossRiver Author Hunt!

Before you go to the next stop, collect your clue below. You’ll need this to enter the giveaway on the CrossRiver website.

“God”

Next stop on the CrossRiver Author Hunt: MelodyBalthaser.com

Have you stumbled onto the Author Hunt or forgotten what you’re supposed to do next?

  • Visit every author’s site that is part of the hunt
  • Collect the clue provided at each author blog
  • Sign up for each author’s email list / newsletter for extra chances at fun giveaways
  • Stop back at the CrossRiver Media’s website after you visit the last blog in the hunt and enter your clues for a chance to win the grand prize
  • Click here for a complete list of the rules

Happy Hunting!

Hope Respects the Alzheimer’s Patient

The blog post for this week was already written, edited and almost scheduled.Alz lady - nurse

Then I had second thoughts.

It was a post about my mother and shared one of the family secrets she told me years ago. I felt it was a great post, and I hoped it would interest my followers as well as give them insights into the life of my mother.

But somehow – I couldn’t post it.

Mom is an extrovert but she has also been a rather private person, hiding her secrets in a sacred soul place. That’s what women in her demographic learned to do.

Never would she have shared her life via social media nor would she want me to do that by proxy for her. I understand. Further, I respect that piece of her personality and choose to keep aspects of her life – and ultimately my family’s life – private.

I know some of the secrets because I snooped in her hope chest years ago and read the beautiful love letters my parents wrote to each other.

Other secrets were told to me by caring and not-so-caring relatives while my instincts picked up on some of the more private stories. When I asked Mom to explain these missing pieces of history, she pursed her lips and changed the subject.

Off limits – even though I am family.


So just because I am a writer, that does not give me license to share with the world all about my mother’s life.


I will say simply that she lived life well. She raised three children and loved her husband with all her heart. She served as a nurse, made sure each of us checked out books from the library each week and inspected our ears after bath time.

And because I respect her and the life she lived, I will keep her secrets in that sacred place of my own soul – a pact between us that no one else needs to know.

I love you, Mom.

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

How to Celebrate a Character’s Life

Because characters are so essential to novels, writers spend hours developing character sketches, running personality assessments on pretend people and recording the information in a workbook or on a vision board.

Since 2010, I have developed the character of Reverend G. I have lived with the voice of this gutsy little minister inside my head and written from her viewpoint what it feels like to experience dementia and early-onset Alzheimer’s. Now that the final book is scheduled for release on August 21, I feel a sense of loss. Rev G 3 Cover

Reverend G fought Alzheimer’s with faith and hope, but she no longer wakes me up at four o’clock in the morning or reminds me that she wants to wear her long white braid draped over her left shoulder. She no longer scolds me when I am too tired to write down a piece of dialogue on the notepad beside my bed. She no longer challenges me to find just the right word that will describe how Zim – her word for Alzheimer’s – is stealing her away piece by piece.

Reverend G’s voice has gone silent.

So to acknowledge the loss and help me move on, my Saturday Sisters decided to initiate a memorial service.

Sat sisters - mem serviceThese sisters and I have done life together for over 20 years. We have prayed together, shared parenting tips and cheered for our Jayhawks. Except for me, they all live in Lawrence, Kansas.

A few weeks ago, I drove to meet them at our usual gathering place, to celebrate together the life and legacy of Reverend G. We began with an introduction and the Lord’s Prayer because this prayer provided an important plot twist at the beginning of Reverend G’s dementia symptoms.

Then I gave a summary of the character sketch, recalling how Reverend G has grown and changed since the first book and how readers told me they appreciated her strength, her faith and the way she honestly cries out to God with, “I can’t stand it!”

Each of the Saturday Sisters shared their favorite stories from the two previous books, then we read Reverend G’s favorite verses: Psalm 46:10, Psalm 43:5 and Psalm 91:1-2.

A sweet warmth permeated the room as we sang two of Reverend G’s favorite songs: “Let It Be” by the Beatles and the wonderful old hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” To round out the musical selections, we harmonized through a few verses of “It Is Well With My Soul.”

Then we prayed for those who suffer with Alzheimer’s and dementia as well as the caregivers who patiently listen to the same stories repeated over and over and watch their loved ones regress into childhood.

We prayed for my mom and for the other moms represented around the table, sad that we can no longer “just call Mom” when we have a problem, grateful for the years we shared yet grieving for the fading away of relationships as our mothers now sometimes forget us.

After our prayer, it was time for the luncheon. Don’t we always follow the sorrow of memorial services with the sustenance and fellowship of food?

The menu included tuna balls (in honor of Gabriel, Reverend G’s cat), cowboy caviar, gluten free blueberry muffins, Reverend G’s blueberry salad, the choice of raspberry or plain lemonade and for dessert – of course – Chunky Monkey ice cream.rev g memorial lunch

My precious Saturday Sisters spent a day encouraging me, believing that the character God and I created had made an impact on the lives of my readers.

When we hugged goodbye – it was with joy and hope that someday Alzheimer’s will be defeated and no one will ever forget their loved ones again.

Although Alzheimer’s still destroys pieces of my mother’s brain and my family still walks through this journey of forgetting – I can now – as a writer – move on.

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

Hope Thrives at 88

When I first met Donna, stepmother of my friend, I thought she might be in her 70’s. She invited us to spend several days in her lovely apartment in Denver.Denver

During that time, Donna cooked healthy and colorful meals, she instructed us in the best ways to avoid traffic snarls and she led us in lively discussions about baseball – particularly her beloved Colorado Rockies.

Our time with her included hours of experiencing her hospitality and nurturing gifts. When we left, her hugs were genuine and warm.

So I was amazed to discover that she is 88 years old, just one year older than my mother yet in activity and stimulating conversations – decades younger.

Spending time with this wonderful woman reminded me of what no longer exists when I visit Mom.

When Mom lived independently, my visits were always a source of joy. She served my favorite foods, asked me about my work, rejoiced in my latest books or articles. She drove me to Braums – the Oklahoma version of the best-ever ice cream, hamburgers and fries.

Mom and I worshipped together, discussed politics and the importance of women staying strong and setting boundaries.

When the end of the weekend inevitably came, Mom pressed a twenty dollar bill into my hand and said, “It costs money for gas. This should help.”

Those were times of nurturing, of refreshing sleep and practical love. I always left renewed and encouraged.

Since the memory thief called Alzheimers invaded our family, Mom has not been able to nurture, to provide care or to express love as she did before.

Perhaps it is a selfish desire, but I miss those weekends with Mom and the reminder that I am still a daughter, still respected for my individual gifts yet bonded within our family’s traditions.

Alzheimer’s has ripped that nurturing experience into shreds and left me with only faded memories of shopping trips, phone calls and the desire: “I need to discuss this with Mom.”

So when Donna reintroduced that motherly hospitality into my life on one weekend in Denver, it was a bittersweet reminder of what once was possible with my mother.


If the gift of hospitality and the joy of practical love can still thrive at the age of 88, then hope continues into my own advancing years. I am encouraged that Alzheimer’s does not steal from every family.


If the kindness of a nurturing heart can extend toward a friend of a step-daughter and produce gratitude in the fresh mountain air, then the threat of old age and memory loss need not expand into fear.

Once again, I am filled with the hope that maybe when I reach my 80’s – I can still nurture my son and his family, still use my gifts of teaching, writing and service, still find joy in the beginning of every day.

Thank you, Donna, for grafting that hope back into my soul and giving me fresh impetus to march into my tomorrows with a giving mentality.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of “Final Grace for Reverend G” – http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Stage 6 of Alzheimer’s – Back to Childhood

As told by Reverend G …

My mother came to visit me last night, and we made sugar cookies together. Then this morning, she was gone and Chris told me it was a dream.

I think he is wrong. It was too real to be a dream.

Psalm 56-3-4When I was a child, I thought like a child. Now that I am an adult with Alzheimer’s, I still think like a child. I would give anything to start my life over and be a child again – a real child – not this fake, pretend sometimes-adult-sometimes-child personhood.

Chris brushes my hair and tries to braid it, because I have forgotten how to weave the strands in and out, up and under.

My mother does the best job with my hair and tonight, I will ask her to fix it for me.

When I was a child, just yesterday I think, I wanted to stand in front of people and tell them about God. I’m not sure if I ever did that, but that boy, my son – he said I used to preach.

I hope I did it well as I cannot remember any subjects I might have preached about.

The only thing I do remember is what I am reading now in my Bible. It is from a book with a funny name, Psalms. The numbers are 56:3 and 4, “When I am afraid, I will put my confidence in you. Yes, I will trust the promises of God. And since I am trusting him, what can mere man do to me?”

The nurses do funny things to me as they bathe me and try to coax me to eat. I don’t like those little brown cookies with vanilla pudding on top. Too mushy. I like little blue rocks…some kind of berries…on top of Chunky Monkey ice cream.

But no matter what they feed me, somewhere inside me is the God I trust. And since the Bible says I don’t have to be afraid … then that’s what I will hang on to.

Even when I cannot brush my own hair, I will keep my confidence in the God I can trust. He will not let me down.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books – http://bit.ly/1RH27AT