Hope Proposes One Change

Sometimes it takes only one change to find hope.hope endures

One of my friends made one change in her diet. She stopped drinking soda and lost ten pounds. One change gave her a healthier body.

For writers, if we change one thing in the narrative, we can affect the entire story. For example, if the Wizard of Oz took place in New Orleans instead of Kansas, L. Frank Baum would have written about a hurricane instead of a tornado.

Hope sometimes hides under one possibility of change. And that one change may alter everything else.

Ann Voskamp lived with chronic depression. When an older woman challenged her to make a list of gratitudes, Ann balked. “Change can’t be that easy,” she said.

But it was. As she began to list her gratitudes—even noting something as simple as the translucent rainbow in her dishwater—the clouds of gloom lifted. Ann continued looking for gratitudes and finally, her depression left.

Last spring, my kitchen was driving me nuts. I knew I couldn’t tear down walls or rearrange the main floor, so I made the one change that was possible. I ripped off the old outdated border and painted the walls a healthy green.

Just that one change seemed to lift my spirits. Working in my updated kitchen offered new hope.

So what about you? What one change can you make in your own narrative that might change everything?

Sometimes hope is one tiny step away.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

To read more about hope and how it can change our lives, check out Hope Shines – now available in Large Print.

 

 

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Hope Struggles with a Birthday

Exfoliates quoteAll day I thought about her, my mother who lives within the shadows of Alzheimer’s Disease. Celebrating her 88th birthday without me and without any knowledge that she had survived another year.

By mid-afternoon, I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I called assisted living and asked if they could bring Mom to the desk for a phone call.

“It will be just a minute,” the nurse said. “She had such a good day.”

“Really? You helped her celebrate?”

“We partied for all the February birthdays, and your mother had such a good time with our Hawaiian theme. She wore a grass skirt.”

“What?” My mother, the dignified woman with perfect posture, who always carried herself with self-respect. Dressed in a grass skirt?

The nurse continued, “Our activities director decided on the theme. Everyone wore a lei and we had a pretend luau with island music. It was such a great idea.”

I know about activities directors and the impact of their work. Roxie, in the Reverend G books, helps each resident find some type of interest that will increase their sense of significance.

These directors walk a fine line. How do you approach these seasoned seniors who deserve honor even while they have mentally become children? How do you celebrate birthdays for the generation that survived World War 2 and the depression, then rebuilt America and sent their kids to college for the education they always wanted but couldn’t afford?

Now they fidget away their days, shuffling with a variety of walkers, forgetting their names and the children they birthed, aware only of the dinner bell when they file obediently into the dining room and eat silently, then retire to their rooms to turn up the volume on the TV and hope sleep will come soon.

“We had pineapple upside down cake,” the nurse said.

“My mother likes pecan pie. I’ve never seen her eating pineapple anything.” I could not erase the vision of my mother in a grass skirt – this woman who raised me with a no-nonsense approach and a duty-bound responsibility to always do my best and use my gifts to the utmost for God’s glory.

“Oh, here she is!” cried the nurse.

“Hello?” answered a shaky voice.

Too fragile. Not the strong tone I remembered from my visit at Christmas. “Hi, Mom. It’s me, and Caleb is here, too.” I was certain the name of her grandson would trigger a memory.

“Hello?”

“Happy birthday, Mom.”

“Thank you. Hello?”

I ground my teeth and prayed for wisdom. “Did you have a party today?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

She was probably refusing to remember being dressed up like a perky five year-old and forced to wear a stupid grass skirt. I could do nothing to help her. I wanted to scream, but tried a different thought. “Did you have a piece of cake?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

My mother, who used to call me with hour-long conversations, asking about my writing and my work, interested in everything her grandson accomplished – now responding only in mono-syllabic words, phrases she somehow chose from the fog of a plaque-infested brain.

Surely, she would talk to her grandson. “Here’s Caleb.” I handed him the phone.

“Hi, Grandma. Happy birthday.”

“Thank you. Hello?”

“Grandma, it’s me, Caleb. How are you?”

“Hello? What?”

He looked at me, helpless. “Talk louder,” I whispered. “Maybe she can’t hear you.”

“Grandma, we love you.”

“Hello?”

Finally, I took the phone again. “Mom, we’ll see you soon. We just wanted to tell you happy birthday and we love you.”

“Thank you. Hello.” I wondered if all the hello’s really meant good-bye.

Then she was gone, and I imagined her shuffling back to her room, not caring that she is now 88, unaware of 2016, a presidential election coming soon and spring flowers eager to burst through the crust of winter soil.

For a minute, I felt the guilt of being the long-distance caregiver assuaged. We tried to help her celebrate the day, tried to let her know we love her and miss her, wished we could be there.

But it wasn’t enough. The echoes of her voice followed me up the stairs as I hurried to my bedroom to cry.

I hate Alzheimer’s.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyhwedding - rj, ct, mom

Living Out Hope

Hope in winter pictureBecause the tagline for my blog is “Finding hope when life unravels,” lately I’ve pondered a bit about how to find hope.

Perhaps it is a response to the death of Robin Williams and how fragile life can be. Why couldn’t Robin find hope? How do any of us define and pursue hope?

Besides writing and coaching, I also work at a nonprofit for women, GateWay of Hope, where we help to transform the lives of hurting women. We counsel them and provide support groups. We coach them forward in life and pray with them. In the process, they find hope.

It has been said that we cannot live without hope. I have seen hopelessness in the eyes of Alzheimer’s patients as they stare forward into some invisible memory, lost within the befuddled plaque of their diseased state. They are still breathing, but they are not alive.

None of us wants to get to that point and none of us wants our ending legacy to be a dangling rope, alone, in a closet.

So how do we stay in hope? How do we find hope when it hides behind the darkness? Is there a formula for finding hope?

Because I struggle with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), the winter months are difficult for me. I’m okay during November and December because I’m looking forward to the holidays, family time and lots of chocolate.

But January and February wear me out. The temperature is cold and the sky is ugly gray. I’m tired of shoveling snow and dodging ice and wish I could be one of those snow birds that rides out the winter in Arizona.

It is vital then, to find my hope, so every year I focus on three activities:

Exercise. I absolutely must find a way to walk during the winter months. Whether it’s inside a mall or a trip to Wal-Mart where I walk the perimeter of the store and tell myself over and over, “You cannot buy anything to try to make yourself feel better. Keep walking.” Exercise releases the endorphins and helps me rediscover hope

Read. Finding hope, for me, means escaping into other worlds through the pages of books. I keep a stack of books in my bedroom, another one in my office and a stack on my desk at work. I am constantly reading two or three books each week – nonfiction, self-help, fiction, memoir, the Psalms – anything to keep the cells of my brain alive and thinking about something other than the gray sky outside.

Pray. When I wake up in the morning, as I drive to work, in between appointments at work, before meals, at night, for extended periods on the Sabbath – prayer is my connection to the Author of Hope, the only answer I have to the desperate plea of my soul for Light and Love.

During the darker days of despair, the enemy of our souls comes, splattering his drivel that neither God nor anyone else cares.

I believe this must be the final cry of those who end their own lives. They believe no one cares.

It is the exercise and discipline of fervent prayer that keeps me centered on the truth so that I can scream back, “OH. YES. GOD. DOES. CARE.”

Although this tiny formula, Exercise + Reading + Prayer = Hope provides the morsel I need – ultimately, hope is one of those nebulous qualities that ends up as a gracious gift from the Giver.

For those who live in the deep hell of depression, for those who struggle with SAD and for those who just feel desperate at the end of a long day – we can only cry out and ask God to gift us with a nugget of hope.

Then sometimes, we just need to find another human being and ask for a hug. “Please remind me that I matter. Please touch me and help me feel alive.”

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

 

Life on Fragile

What a sad week!

First came the news reports about Christians in Iraq suffering intense persecution. Then followed the national gasp as we learned of the tragic deaths of Robin Williams and Michael Brown. By the end of the week, I vacillated between hating to watch the news yet knowing I should find out the most current of events.

In my gratitude journal, I struggled to find something positive to record and finally settled on “Freedom.”Amer flag

I watched the internet video of Iraqi parents throwing their children into the arms of special forces inside a helicopter. What a crushing sorrow yet a final desperate act to ensure freedom for your child! What a fragile distance between dying on the mountain or flying off toward freedom!

As I watched clips of Robin Williams and his brilliant career, I shuddered at the loss of this incredible talent. But I also understood his last desperate act. In the darkest moments of my own depression, I also faced that moment when I attempted to escape via suicide. It was a divine scream that distracted me and gave me the opportunity to breathe another day.

Depression becomes a prison that steals our freedom to live abundantly.

The events regarding Michael Brown occurred not far from where I live, a mere four hours away on the turnpike. Yet this week, I felt a kinship to that mother who lost her son. My skin is the palest of white, and I felt ashamed whenever I saw African American citizens in my town, wishing I could change the past and the present for them, hating that once again – we were forced to dialogue about the same dreaded subject.

Once again, freedom was at risk as racist remarks and protests made me wonder – do we still not get it? Have we not learned that the soul is transparent no matter what color of skin covers it?

In each of these cases, freedom was the topic, hidden in that fragile place between desire and acceptance. In each case, my own freedoms seemed underscored.

  • I cherish my freedom to worship God when and where I choose.
  • I respect my freedom to live and honor my soul’s cry for mental and physical health.
  • I vote for and fight for the freedoms of all Americans to be their authentic selves, no matter what race or gender.

Every day last week, I wrote “freedom” in my gratitude journal. Throughout each day, I prayed for the Christians in Iraq and for the families of Robin Williams and Michael Brown.

And every morning, as consciousness invaded my dreams, I whispered, “God – thank you for my life of freedom. But please, oh please – help us to respect the fragility of life. And oh God, please – keep us free.”

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

7 Tips for Caregivers Reviewed

When life unravels into Alzheimer’s or dementia, it’s important for caregivers to carry survival tools. As I speak in various venues throughout the metro and beyond, I share these survival tools.This week, I had the opportunity of sharing these tips with professionals at the Chem Council in Kansas City.

With 43 million caregivers in the U.S., I hope these tips – from the viewpoint of Reverend G – will offer hope and sanity to caregivers who choose to implement them.

Tip # 1      Talk to Me – it’s easy to ignore someone who has Alzheimer’s. Since they can’t always      respond, we sometimes forget they’re even in the room. We need to look at our loved ones, smile, communicate and talk to them

Tip # 2      Don’t Argue with Me – when memory loss or paranoia sets in, it’s easy to get into a debate. But arguing with an Alzheimer’s victim is pointless. Reverend G would remind us to ask questions instead. Questions help our loved ones figure out a solution or completely drop the subject.

Tip # 3      Keep Laughing –laughter helps keep us healthy. Many funny stories are included in “The Unraveling of Reverend G.” I included them on purpose, because we need to somehow find the humor in the situation and keep laughing.

Tip # 4      Remember the Life Story – knowing the life story of the Alzheimer’s patient helps caregivers utilize pet therapy, music and various other ways to connect. One patient used to watch the sun set with his wife, so the caregivers made sure to sit with him each evening and watch the sunset together.

Tip # 5      Take Care of Yourself – 70% of caregivers struggle with clinical depression. 20% will develop a chronic illness and may even die before the Alzheimer’s patient. Stress is a killer. It is vitally important that caregivers take vacations, utilize daycare centers, join support groups or go somewhere and have fun.

Tip # 6      Forgive Me – none of our loved ones planned to get dementia or Alzheimer’s. They hate what the disease does to us, and they never wanted to be a burden to us. Reverend G often tells her son, Jacob, “Please forgive me.”

Tip # 7      Pray – when the 36-hour day blends into the next, pray. When you need extra patience, pray. When you can’t bear watching the symptoms of this horrid disease, pray. Ask God to help your loved one through this disease and to give you the endurance you need. Pray for a cure for Alzheimer’s and medicines to reverse it.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia websites have a plethora of resources, but these seven tips come from the heart of Reverend G and are addressed within the book. In my presentations, I address each of these tips and give personal examples.

Chem Council  RJTPerhaps you’d like to hear me speak about the “7 Tips for Caregivers.” If so, let me know at rjthesman@yahoo.com.

In the meantime, keep praying.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” http://amzn.to/11QATC1