Hope Embraces Gratitude

We know the health benefits of gratitude, and we focus on giving thanks—particularly during this week of the year. But every year, it’s a good spiritual practice to redefine and choose again those special things we are grateful for. This is my current list:

Hot Water. As I have watched the horrors of the war in Ukraine, I feel a special affinity for the brave women. Every night, I revel in my hot shower or bath. Hot water soothes my bones. Reminds me that winter will pass. Helps me sleep.

I cannot imagine how awful it is to have a baby when there is no hot water. To try and keep your children clean when the infrastructure has been destroyed. To soothe yourself with a cup of hot tea or coffee. To let the water warm your bones and help you forget about what Russia is doing to your country.

Each night, I thank God for hot water and try to do my part to conserve this precious resource. Each night, my prayers are for the brave hearts of Ukraine and a return to some type of normalcy.

Answered Dreams. What does it take to run down a dream? Several lifetimes of perseverance, some luck, and a whole lot of Godwinks. After my best year of book sales and after watching my coaching clients succeed, I am grateful for the answered dream of becoming a writer.

What does it take to run down a dream?

  • A young girl perched inside the barky womb of her favorite elm tree. Adolescent limbs swinging from an upper branch. Book opened. Devouring words and dreaming of becoming an author.
  • Parents who turned off the TV and encouraged more reading.
  • A high school counselor who confirmed, “You’re certainly good at English. Writing is easy for you.”
  • Straight A’s in every language arts class. Math? Not so much.
  • Notebooks and diaries filled with the detailed debris of my life.
  • Multiple rejections that strengthened my soul muscles and forced me to try again.
  • Seeing my books on a library shelf.

Spices. The sense of taste allows me to enjoy the wonder of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and of course—pumpkin pie spice.

Part of the joy of spices is how they smell up the entire house while they’re cooking. My mind easily roams back to the farm kitchen as Mom baked peppernuts. That smell evokes care, holiday fun, and love—all at the same time.

Add to those culinary smells, the herbs I grow and throw in recipes: basil, rosemary, and my goodness…Are you hungry yet?

Because the calendar reminds us Thanksgiving is coming, I share with gratitude my Famous Pumpkin Pie Recipe as a special gift for you:

Rebecca’s Famous Pumpkin Pie 

One day previous to Turkey day, mix ½ cup whole milk with 1 package vanilla instant pudding mix. Whisk together and let the pudding set overnight in the fridge.

The next morning: Mix the set pudding with 1 TB pumpkin pie spice, 1 cup canned pumpkin, ½ cup slivered almonds, and 1 cup mini-chocolate chips. Add ¼ tsp of ground ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

Fold in 1 – 8 oz. tub of whipped topping. With spatula, carefully pour the pie mixture into a graham cracker crust. For chocoholics, use a chocolate crust. For extra spice, crush up some ginger snaps with melted butter to make your own pie crust.

On top, sprinkle more mini-chocolate chips. Refrigerate at least 3 hours. Cut and serve. Eat with gratitude.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Let’s celebrate Thanksgiving by remembering single moms. Order a book and gift it. Just for Today: Hope for Single Moms.

Hope Finds Resolution

church doorsThroughout my search for a church, I have gleaned important lessons. Because life-long learning is one of my core values, it gives me joy to learn something new or to confirm principles I’ve known for decades.

So what have I learned?

The Community of Believers Thrives

Throughout this year, I have met so many wonderful believers. Pastors have rearranged their schedules to talk with me. Gracious and vulnerable, they let me pray for them and asked how they could serve me. I have been humbled, awed and thankful for these men and women who love the same Lord I love.

Within these communities, I have snacked on a variety of goodies, experienced a women’s Christmas tea and tried numerous versions of the same coffee brand. Eleos seems to be the favorite. However, I believe my choice of a church is solid even if they have no snacks and no coffee bar.

The variety of music has provided a soothing balm for my pilgrim soul. Although I love the old hymns and enjoy a rousing classical version of the “Hallelujah Chorus” – I have found so many wonderful worship teams, praising God with joy. Do they know how important they are, lifting the spirits of saints who need the comfort of lyrics and chord progressions?

We Share Common Struggles

Churches are living organisms, peopled by fallible human beings. The world we live in makes it easy to ignore God and focus on ourselves. Yet so many believers are trying mightily to be the persons God created them to be.

And in every church where I have talked with the leaders, they’re not quite sure what to do with me. My particular demographic is a puzzle. Most churches aren’t set up to serve single moms or know how to deal with the growing numbers of divorced people and their children. This is one reason why 67 percent of single moms leave the church and never return.

But I am encouraged that leaders are willing to at least open the conversation. They’re hoping to try new programs, discuss new resources and consider how to be vulnerable even within traditional guidelines.

Sunday is the loneliest day of the week, and in my visits I have seen many women who worship alone – sitting by themselves, their heads bowed even as I peek at their solitude. I imagine they pray the same words I pray, “Will someone, anyone, Lord, talk to me or come and sit with me or invite me to lunch or even acknowledge I am here?” Can we do better? I believe so.

Church is Important to Me

Although I took a sabbatical from church to soothe some of the hurts, I always knew I would return. I just didn’t know where. It is important to belong within a body of believers, to find how my little digit somehow fits into the kingdom work of a particular group where my gifts are respected and utilized.

In searching for church, I have been encouraged by my own faith and by the principles my soul believes so strongly that I will hunt for them week by week. I stepped forward, fell back and began again.

Because belonging to a church body is part of who I am. Because church sanctifies my core beliefs and helps me grow. Because the people in my church become family. Because I am a believer, and church is what we do.

God Cares About Where I Go

Throughout this journey, I have prayed every Saturday night, “Show me, please, Abba Father. Make it clear. I want to be where you lead me.”

And God came through. When I visited the church where Jesus was absent, the Spirit in me cried out in melancholy loss. When I attended a church with my son and his girlfriend, God told me it would be only “for a while.” The following would result in leaving.

And when I came to a crossroads which almost exhausted my list of possibilities, it was within that scary moment the divine whisper directed me to the final answer.

As God so often does with me, he confirmed it in a unique way – this time in a dream. I was at an amusement park, already buckled into the metal car of the roller coaster. Just as it was about to begin its cranking ascent, the divine voice urged, “Get off the roller coaster.” So I unbuckled and left the amusement park.

When I woke up and journaled through the dream, I saw the confirmation. My search had led me to highs and lows, to spiritual discovery through the valley of grief, to stops and starts. The roller coaster search needed to come to an end, and I had to make the decision to unbuckle and walk confidently in a new direction.

So I learned a great deal, and I am grateful for the learning which involved more than a year of prayer, visits, leavings and yearnings.

I am finally off the roller coaster, stepping carefully because belonging precipitates the possibility of another hurt and my heart does not want to risk it. But for now, I have found a home and I believe God is smiling as together, we walk through the door.

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



Hope Releases

Woman-celebratingWe learn to release in tiny increments, although those steps represent monumental heart blips in life.

When we help our five year-olds zip up their new backpacks, then watch them walk away from us toward the kindergarten room. They feel excitement as they begin the educational journey. With tears, we pray for strength to let them go. We release them to the system, to the process of learning, to embracing social skills and finding their direction in life.

Release continues: the first time they drive alone, first dates, first college visit. Then 18 short years after we push them through the birth canal, we release them as they launch toward college or the workplace.

Release carries with it the stretching grief of necessary growth.

During this season, I work on releasing Mom into the final stages of Alzheimers, knowing what the end result will be – what it must be.

Release for her will result in a glorious heavenly welcome while it spontaneously leaves us missing her and longing for our own release. The hope of a future release and the relief of eternity with God.

Last week, I posted about the prayers I have whispered and my place in God’s waiting room.

For a life-long planner like me, it is difficult to make the plan a reality when I cannot hear the answer and do not know the direction. Waiting requires a type of release – letting God work his miracle timing and trust that he knows – always – the best ending for my questionings.

The prophet Isaiah foreshadowed our need for release. “These things you carry about are loaded as burdens on the weary beasts” (Isaiah 46:1).

We can choose to carry the burdens – to sacrifice peace by loading our hearts with worry and fear.

Or we can release our prayers, visions and dreams into the capable hands of a wise God who knows the end from the beginning.

My task is to speak God’s truth, write his words, then release everything to his care.

His role is to work it all out so that others will be drawn to his love and ultimately find their final release in his home.

Still waiting and staying in hope, but trusting that release will usher in the answers.

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

Pursuing the Dream

Last weekend, I cleaned out a file cabinet that contained almost 40 years of articles and story files. These were the manuscripts I sent to magazines, some that aren’t even in business anymore.

As I sorted through the files, I tossed old drafts and reams of research that is no longer current or credible. I filled two large trash bags with my old work and made room for fresh ideas, new submissions and another book file.

But as I sorted through, I found piles of rejections – 20 for just one article, all kept neatly filed like a forever reminder of those who did not want my words.rejected

What kind of person keeps trying month after month and rejection upon rejection, only to be turned down again? Was I living in some kind of victim mentality? Did I really enjoy reading that phrase, “Sorry, this doesn’t fit our current needs.”

Within some of the files, I read my notes – how to improve, how to sell my words to another market. Sometimes, on the 12th or the 15th attempt – I did sell it.

Either I was amazingly persistent or somewhat crazy.

One surprising find was that even 20 years ago, I was saving research about dementia, taking notes about helping women and using “hope” as a main theme. Somewhere in my psyche, I was already laying the foundation for books about Reverend G – this character who struggles with her Alzheimer’s journey and tries to pass on hope to others.

As I read my files, I again felt the jab of pain those early rejections brought. Somehow, the dream God had placed in my heart as a child would notcould not die – even when so many editors and publishers said, “No.”

And now, forty years later, I tossed those rejections in the trash, grateful for the patience God taught me and the lessons learned.

Because I did learn, and I have improved. I’m always striving to find a better word, a more succinct phrase and a tantalizing cliff hanger.

Two hours later, I closed the now clean file cabinet and looked at my boxes of books that prove my words are now publishable.

What kind of person lives with 40 years of rejections and still keeps the dream alive?

A writer – that’s who.

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

Finding Hope on the Dream Shelf

When I first started freelancing, I wanted to set an attainable goal – something I could work for beyond the publishing credits and the paychecks.

So I cleared off the top shelf of one of my bookcases and created a dream shelf. It was my goal – my dream to fill that shelf with my books and have a tangible reminder of encouragement.Dream Shelf

Freelancers must possess persistence because success comes slowly and is papered with many rejections. We hone our craft, learn and grow while working several jobs to survive and trying to find as many writing gigs as possible.

Gradually, I began to fill a notebook with copies of my printed articles. Then – one by one – my words were accepted in anthologies: Chicken Soup books, Cup of Comfort books, Guideposts prayer books and others.

After several years, I also became an editor so I included those books next to mine. They represented a collaboration with writers – a joint effort to birth a finished product we could both be proud of.

Now, after 40+ years of freelancing, my dream shelf is full, and I am expanding to a new dream shelf.

The new one does not stand in my office, but it represents the hard work, persistence and many prayers that brought about the filling of my first dream shelf.

3D Rev G coverThis new shelf stands in a library, within the Johnson County Library System. One of my readers recommended, “The Unraveling of Reverend G”, and the librarian agreed to put it into their system. Hopefully, people will regularly check out my book and find encouragement within the story of a woman who bravely faces her Alzheimer’s struggle.

Do I have a new dream, another goal? You bet I do. I want the second Reverend G book and then the third to also grace library shelves. I want my books in the hands of as many folks as possible so that they find encouragement within the words that God and I wrote.

And someday, I want even more books on my dream shelf, because I’m not finished with ideas and I’m not ready to give up on my dreams.

Words still stir within my soul and more empty shelves beg to be filled. I need another bookcase.

©2013 RJ Thesman, Author of “The Unraveling of Reverend G” http://amzn.to/12NUghB

Long Distance Caregiving – Research Builds Hope

Since I am an author, I’m constantly looking into how research builds hope. Plus, “The Unraveling of Reverend G” and the rest of the books in my series deal with Alzheimers and dementia. So research is a must.3D Rev G cover

 I find it easy and enjoyable to do research. I study everything I can find about caregiving, the latest meds and the possible causes for Alzheimers. Sometimes I come up with a new coping strategy.

Sometimes, my siblings already know more than I do and we chat back and forth about how the research might help Mom.

Recently, I discovered information about urinary tract infections. Apparently, older women can easily contract UTIs, yet don’t always feel the pain.

They can’t tell us how or where it hurts. Yet one of the symptoms of UTIs is frightening and realistic nightmares.

My mother has nightmares that seem so real to her, she reports them to the staff at the assisted living facility. She is certain that various family members are stealing her car, stealing her money, stealing her house, etc.

She concocts the most amazing stories, based on her dreams. My mother could have been an incredible novelist. Her stories are fascinating and believable.

More than once, the staff has called my sister to check up on one of Mom’s stories. When I told my sister about the research on UTIs, she scheduled a doctor appointment to have Mom checked.

So far, no UTIs. So Mom’s stories are probably one of the side effects of Alzheimers or maybe even some of the meds she has to take. But now we are on the alert for a possible cause for Mom’s dreams and stories.

hands heartEven though I can’t always find the answers to the questions we have, doing the research helps me feel as if I share an active part in Mom’s care. As the LDC and the researcher, I’m doing something beneficial and helping the family take care of Mom.

I’m also learning more about this disease and trying to prevent it from happening to me. I eat a Mediterranean diet, try to avoid anything cooked or stored in aluminum and I’ve completely eliminated high fructose corn syrup from my diet.

Beyond that, I plead with God every day to help my siblings as they care for Mom and keep us all from getting this horrid disease.

Then every time I forget something, I pray all over again and do more research.