Hope Falters

She was a lovely woman and an expert in her field – the stager sent by the realtor to prepare my house for sale. At the outset, she warned me, “I’m not here to offend anyone. I just want you to get the most money for your house.”

I was prepared for her to move things around and give me some decorating ideas, but I was emotionally blindsided by the number of my treasures she declared, “This has to go.” Basically, she dismantled my house and my personal stuff.Debris of move

She left piles of things in every room to get rid of in order to most effectively sell the house. She was very good at her job, and I learned so many things about spacing, color, lighting, even the size of pictures as they become a statement beside a bed or on a wall.

Buyers will be looking for the feeling of space and for a neutral territory where they can set up their home. Anything personal of mine will interrupt that neutral feeling, so it cannot be in sight.

The stager showed me how to hide certain things, such as the litter box, so buyers are unaware the house once was ruled by a cat. Betsey, aka Gabriel, would disagree, but she will find her box and discreetly do her business – a bit perturbed that her abode has been disturbed.

I learned how important my stuff is to me. Most of my things are the early attic variety, garage sale finds or something I have restored that another person threw away. Nothing has great intrinsic value – except in my soul.

While I know we are not defined by our stuff, in a way – yes, we are.

Quilts, a cradle, an antique telephone – all carry sentimental value for me. The quilt my grandmother and her sisters made for my wedding – a creamy yellow, with butterflies made from the scraps of their lives, babies’ bonnets, a favorite shirt.

The cradle, fashioned by my dad, held my newborn son as we rocked him to sleep that first Christmas. The fire blazed and kept my baby warm. Dad woke up every thirty minutes to check on the heat emanating off the logs. A sweet memory, a grief rekindled.

The old telephone my parents pieced together by visiting scores of flea markets and antique shops, then proudly gave to me one Christmas – long before Alzheimers invaded our lives and stole that precious memory.

Yet none of these treasures made the cut. “Get rid of them or find a place to store them – out of the way,” the stager instructed.

How can I shove my lifetime out of the way?

As she finished her work, the stager and I learned a bit more about each other. Both of us write. Both of us have journeyed through divorce and experienced pre-judgement by the established church. Both of us love cats.

When she left, we hugged and I was glad for a new friend, for her many suggestions which I know on some level are right and will help me sell the house.

But somehow, I also felt violated and discouraged, certain my life was going to change, wondering how I could decide what to let go.

The piles of my life’s debris reminded me how mortal we are and how fleeting is life – a mere breath – a candle that should be given away to bring another person joy, a sofa table so out of date no one would want it even if it was free.

My son was shocked and upset by the suggestions made for how we needed to purge more and more and more. As we talked through our emotions, he finally said, “Change is hard for me, Mom. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s bad.” 

A wise young man. I admire his honesty.

Although the purging pains my soul, my journal entries speak the truth. This duplex has never been home for me; it was only a place to settle while I worked in this town.

Now that all my pictures have been stripped off the walls, my mantel decoration has been condemned and the detritus of my life lies in piles on the floor – it feels even less like the place where I can freely write, create stories and be my authentic self.

So my son and I are trusting God to provide something wonderful for us again, just as he has done through every step of the post-divorce journey. If we have to stay in this duplex, then we’ll be grateful for a roof over our heads. And it will be cleaner, sans the stuff we no longer need.

In “Jesus Calling” Sarah Young writes, “Anticipate coming face-to-face with impossibilities: situations totally beyond your ability to handle…When you see armies of problems marching toward you, cry out to God! Allow him to fight for you. Watch him working on your behalf.”

So that’s where I am this day – purging, mourning the loss of stuff, and waiting for next steps – clinging to God and trying to find hope.

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

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Hope Sings

Woman-celebratingMy deck umbrella waves in the slight August wind as I sit in its shade. God has granted a beautiful summer morning and time for reflection.

So beautiful outside yet not so lovely within.

Still struggling with an illness and wondering why healing waits. Disgusted with myself that I cannot find joy when I face uncomfortable circumstances.

Count it all joy,” James demands.

I am not in a joyful place. My faith is too weak.

Let endurance, steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work.” Waiting is so hard for me.

Come to me,” Jesus said, “all you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.

Rest. Not the rest that revives during a vacation to the mountains of New Mexico, but the emotional and lovely rest of a contented soul.

I think of the brave women I know who live with chronic pain. Somehow, they find their joy even in the midst of the struggle. They live with gratitude and accomplish what they can while setting healthy boundaries. My she-roes, every one of them.

But I cannot reproduce what they own.


My joy button needs to be re-set, and I cannot find the mechanism.


Although I DO know joy resides within me, somehow I cannot feel it on this beauteous August morning. I attempt joyful activities, because I know I should and must. I journal through the struggle, work on my Southwest puzzle, bang on the piano.

But the feeling of joy – that inner light sparkling in the eyes of my friend who has multiple sclerosis, laughter bubblings from infants, the glow shining from weathered saints’ faces – somehow that brand of joy eludes me.

Can I only be joyful when every circumstance feels perfect and in sync? How shallow is my faith!

Yet hope peeks from behind the curtain of Psalm 68 as the divine calls me to find the page. “God is beginning to rise….”

Somehow just knowing there will indeed be a beginning brings hope and the knowing that God is present. A sudden blip of peace.

The Psalm urges me onward to nuggets of hope:

  • Let the uncompromisingly righteous be glad. Have I somehow compromised my joy?
  • Let them be in high spirits. I cannot remember the last time I was in high spirits.
  • Let them glory before God, to rejoice in him.

How can this “letting” happen? How can I manufacture this feeling of joy once again?

The solution whispers in Psalm 68:4:

  • Sing to God.
  • Sing praises to his name.
  • His name is the Lord. Jehovah, my eternal Husband and Maker, Friend, Lover of my soul.
  • Be in high spirits and glory before him.

So I obey, moving to my back yard to dance near the strawberry patch. I lift my hands upward. The song comes timidly at first, a familiar melody yet different words.

No soul response yet, so I dig deeper and sing louder – uncaring if the neighbors look out and see me cavorting with God in my back yard.

The hallelujahs of melody begin to ring true. I sing the words of Psalm 68:4 and forget the rules of musical theory. The important focus is on the spirit of the words.

I ignore the enemy’s taunts, the memories of the past week, the frailties of my humanity. Instead, I lift my praises to the only one who truly knows the condition of my soul.

And glory – there it comes – a bubble of joy resurfacing and lighting my inner self with its purity.

God sends a dragonfly to cheer me, to flap his lacey wings in response to the beat of creative worship. He flicks his beady eyes in my direction and dares me to imagine a creator who fashioned his spindly body one day and a sturdy oak the next.

God is beginning to rise. I praise him for the beginnings and glorify him for the rising of his presence once again.

Hope sings and joy responds.

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

Stage 4 of Alzheimer’s – Diagnosis

As told by Reverend G …

So Doc Sanders tells me I have dementia and early-onset Alzheimer’s. The prognosis includes a gradual regression into childhood and someday, somebody will have to take care of my basic needs because I won’t be able to.Psalm 43-5

Well, God … this is not a happy thought. I’m just being honest and telling you that I can’t stand this.

How in the world can I continue to serve you and be your light that shines in dark places, that helps people see the love of God – if I can’t even take care of myself.

This is really a terrible situation. I can’t stand it.

My son doesn’t understand and he’s angry about it. I have to resign from my pastorate, sell all my earthly goods and go live in assisted living.

Again … I don’t understand why this has happened. None of my ancestors suffered from Alzheimer’s – at least I can’t remember if they did. Oh, I made a joke. Ha!

I can still remember my mother’s face and the little house where I grew up, but I can’t remember what I had for lunch today or yesterday or the day before.

That is common, Doc says. I will forget today and remember far into yesterday – for a while. Someday I will forget even the most basic of survival skills such as: how to eat, how to swallow, how to tie my shoes.


Somewhere in all of this, God, there must be a lesson. Somewhere in all of your plan, I know there is a spectrum of light, a chrysalis that will someday burst into goodness.


I cannot see it, but you can. Oh, God, my God, help me.

Another of your servants, King David, felt discouraged as well. He fashioned a formula for himself and the rest of us when he wrote, “Hope in God for I will yet praise him” (Psalm 43:5).

The Yet Factor. I will yet find something to praise you about in all of this mess. I will yet find a way to seek hope and reach for the light when I don’t understand. I will live in the yet because that is where faith resides.

And even though this diagnosis is not what I wanted to hear, it is no surprise to you, God. You are faithful. You will be with me throughout this journey, and I will yet praise you.

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

When Doubt Swallows Faith

doubt vs faithA recent Bible study in my lifegroup discussed the issue of doubt versus faith. I decided not to bother with the homework. After all, faith is one of my core values and also one of my spiritual gifts. I really have no problems with doubt.

Then I attended a networking meeting where a financial planner spoke. She provided sobering facts about the economy and our need to be prepared. One of the most chilling stats she quoted was that 70% of Baby Boomers will live in poverty during their retirement years.

As I listened to this bad news, I felt doubt and discouragement creep into my soul. Yes, I’ve tried to be careful and save money. I have my eggs in several financial baskets. Unfortunately, I only have three eggs and they’re about the size of those jelly beans we eat at Easter.

So doubt crept in, replacing all my confident faith thoughts. What will I do if I face a major illness and can’t work? My plan is based on continuing to write and coach and work in ministry until God says, “You’re done. Come home.”

God has always provided for me. He often whispers, “I will take care of you.”

But do I really believe that? Where is my faith?

Every time I visit my mother in assisted living, I remind her how lucky she is. A woman who planned and saved throughout her lifetime, she also bought long-term care insurance when it was affordable. She now lives in a beautiful facility and all her needs are met. She never has to worry about bills again.

I look around her beautiful room with all her comforts and I envy – yes, envy her.

Even with the Alzheimer’s journey she is on, I envy my mother’s cozy existence and wish I could hope for the same.

But where is my faith? Yes, it is important to plan and save and hope for the best. But ultimately, none of us knows what life will hand us nor how long we will live.

Will life be short enough to utilize our careful plans or will it prove to be too long, leaving us in poverty when we cannot work our way out of it?

All I can do is be grateful that Mom is comfortable while I keep working and doing what God tells me to do – keep believing that God will indeed take care of me.

In the end, that’s the best long-term insurance available.

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

Who Are My Readers?

A royalty check arrives from my publisher at CrossRiver Media. My novel, “The Unraveling of Reverend G” has traveled to more homes and more hands. Someone is reading my words.3D Rev G cover

I look at the list and marvel at the numbers of people who read the story of Reverend G – these folks who follow her journey into Alzheimer’s and learn to love the characters: Gabriel, Chris, Roxie and all the others.

Who are these people who order my book and read it?

Some of them order directly from my publisher. That is good. I want my publisher to succeed and thrive.

Some use the popular Amazon site while others download my book onto Kindle with its electronic convenience. Are some of these people like my friend who has multiple sclerosis? Kindle makes it easy for her to turn pages.

Or are some of my readers like me who love to feel the texture of a book, to highlight favorite phrases, to read and reread the same page and experience the wonder of the words.

I stare at the list and pray.

Maybe some of these readers are like me, long distance caregivers who wonder how they can help their loved ones deal with Alzheimer’s when they live so far away.

Maybe some of them are the primary caregivers who live in constant stress within their 36-hour day. They need a respite, a place to laugh at the similes of Bert and the antics of Gabriel. I included funny stories in my book on purpose. We all need to laugh and seek joy.

Maybe some of my readers are ministers such as Reverend G, who know how it feels to have an Edna Simmons in the pew, an EGR – Extra Grace Required. Or maybe they are looking for ways to provide hope and encouragement to people in their congregations who struggle with Alzheimer’s and dementia, with death and discouragement.

For all of these, I pray.

Because this is why I write. This is why I come home from my ministry job and then work another couple of hours at my writing job. This is why I sit in my office and type on my laptop and let the words flow from my soul to yours.

I write to somehow share the hope that God is with us on this journey. We are not alone. That whether we are the readers or the writer, the words do have a purpose.

And although I may not know your name or where you live, I do know that God loves you and somehow he will use the words he has birthed in me to send you a message.

So I thank you, my readers. I thank you for the royalty check because life is reality and I need the money.

I thank you also for encouraging me to stay the course, to keep writing and telling the rest of Reverend G’s story.

I thank you for letting me enter your lives and share God’s hope.

©2013 RJ Thesman