Cheering for the Young

VF01Last weekend, I attended graduation receptions for two young women. I have followed these girls through the lives and prayers of their mothers – two of my friends. And when I see these girls on Facebook or at my church, I smile – even though I know they probably don’t realize who I am or that I have an interest in their lives.

But now they are embarking into the future, armed with one of the greatest treasures we all hope to possess: passion.

Each of these young women are passionate about who they are and what they want to accomplish. Each of them is unique with giftings that show how incredibly smart they are and how much potential they possess.

On one hand, I want to protect them from what is out there. I know they will experience losses and resulting griefs. That is just life. They will also be tempted to abandon their passions for lesser goals. I hope and pray that does not happen.

Generations of women have abandoned their passions for lesser goals. That is a travesty. Many women have even forgotten what it felt like to have a dream and feel energized to make that dream happen. So many women believe they are not enough and try to find artificial ways to make themselves measure up.

And so…within this blog platform…I wish to give you female graduates some advice. As an older woman, I’ve earned the right to do that and as a woman who has prayed for you, I believe it is my duty to share insights learned from long years on my knees and long hours trying to find the restorative keys to my own passion.

Dear Ones, please listen and heed this advice:

Always keep your passion alive. Whether you long to become an editor of an international publication or you yearn to join the Philharmonic Orchestra or you hope to run the Boston Marathon and beat the guys – keep your passion secure and alive. Without your passion, your soul will become stale and you will lose the energy and zest for life that is so necessary to not only survive, but also to thrive.

Never settle for what is merely good – whether in jobs, possessions or love. Instead, wait for and strive for what is best. Fifty years from now, you will look back and be glad that you waited for the best because that gives your life significance without regret. God created you as unique, and he wants the best for you. So never settle for only the good.

Be authentic. If you don’t want to join the crowd, if you don’t want to be part of the sorority, if you hate broccoli – just be yourself and stay authentic. Wearing a mask is more tiring than being yourself. And trust me on this – you are already incredible. You are beautiful and you are a treasure. You are already enough.

When life gets hard, remember that your parents raised you to embrace your passion. They have sacrificed much so that you could run toward your goals and every day, they think of you and pray for you.

Then also know this…if you listen very carefully, somewhere in the atmosphere you will hear the rest of us women who have gone before you. We are cheering for you and hoping that you will be the ones to break the barriers of gender abuse, so that all women everywhere will be embraced as the incredible creatures we are.

I love you both. I continue to pray for you. I believe in you.

©2014 RJ Thesman – “Intermission for Reverend G” –

Mom’s Unchanging Smile

One of her long-time friends visited Mom in the assisted living facility. This was a friend who attended church with us and served with Mom on several committees.

When her friend entered the room, Mom looked up and smiled – as if she remembered the years of service together, the sharing of Mennonite foods and the fellowship in a crowded sanctuary.

The smile remained fixed even as Mom’s eyes registered surprise.old woman

The three of us chatted about the weather. Mom repeated the same phrase several times, “So cold now. The ice…that’s what you have to be careful of.”

The friend and I reminisced about another friend who had recently graduated to heaven. We talked about family and generations of connections, the folks who traveled a distance for the funeral, the nice service, the beautiful music.

Mom’s smile remained in the same upturned pose. She seemed a world away.

The friend asked about Mom’s activities. “Do you like the food here?”

“Oh, yes. Wonderful food. I think I’m getting fat.”

We all laughed. My slender mother has never struggled with her weight. Her only weight gains over the years were the pregnancies of her three children and even then, she gained a mere eight pounds.

Mom’s smile widened. She seemed to enjoy the echoes of our laughter even though she may not have comprehended the humor. It’s odd how a smile conveys a compliant spirit even as memory hides behind walls of dementia-covered plaque.

Then a break in the conversation – one of those lulls where no one knows what to say because every appropriate subject has been covered.

Mom filled in the gaps with the same statement as before. “The ice…you have to be careful of ice.”

The friend reached for her coat and found her gloves tucked into her pockets. She hugged Mom good-bye, then hugged me. Her whisper touched my cheek with the slight smell of peppermint gum. “I’ll pray for your mother, for all of you. Alzheimer’s is a such a terrible disease.”

“Thank you. We appreciate that.”

As she left, Mom’s smile began to fade as her eyes widened. “Who was that?” she asked.

“Your friend from church. You used to be in the same Sunday School class. You met every week and served in the women’s ministry. She was a good friend.”

“I see,” said Mom, but her eyes registered no remembrance.

Then she turned toward the winter-frosted window and smiled.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” –

Saturday Sisters

SAMSUNGWe’ve done life together, these five women and I. Once part of the same church fellowship, we became a team. They interceded for me and supported me when I served as  international minister at KU. They continue to intercede and support me in my ministries as writer and life coach.

We’ve laughed together and cried together as women do so well. All it takes is a phone call or an email to bring us together either physically or in prayer.

They are warriors, each and every one, ready to fight for each other, provide intervention when needed and encouragement when we don’t even know that’s what we need.

With this group of women, I can be real. I talk about my fears and my troubles without having to wrap them around Bible verses or a mask of faith.

My Saturday sisters understand. We share some of the same aches and pains yet we explore hope together, knowing we are headed for a better life in eternity.

Once a month we meet, on a Saturday. We put together a spontaneous pot luck, reconnect, hug and record prayer requests. We nurture each other as we check up on our needs and our joys. We bring special recipes and understand when one or more of us just can’t think of a single thing to cook. We keep each other accountable in faith and in the realities of life.

These Saturday sisters live out authenticity and know how to be real.

Two of us struggled through mid life divorce while the other four have lived many years with the same husband. We’ve prayed each other through those situations, too – through perseverance and heartache, joy and frustration.

Three of us know the pain of dealing with a parent who has Alzheimer’s. They tell me their stories so I can learn and include new passages in my books. We hope and pray that we won’t have to face the same battle ourselves.

We have prayed for each others’ children and grandchildren for they, too, have been underlined on our prayer lists. It feels as if we have raised six families together and indeed, we have needed each others’ village.

Some day I may write a book about my Saturday sisters and honor each of them in chapters that speak of their gifts and our bond of friendship.

I love them each, and I love them all together. Every time we meet, I consider it a blessing to peer into their pure hearts. And I respect how they love me back, just for who I am.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” –

Being with Sabbatical Friends

Within the respite of our sabbatical visit, we eat well, laugh and tell stories. My friends and I, on this girlfriend weekend in Yoder, Kansas – we catch up on twenty years of lifetimes with each other and without.

Once we lived in the same town, worshipped together, hurt each other unintentionally and built a relationship that still lives today. We have grown older, forgiven each other and ourselves, learned to be women of God.

2 Carols and meI wonder if my friends realize all they mean to me. Have I told them so? Do these friends of sabbatical know how much I need their hugs and laughter, their friendship and joy as we walk among the Amish shops and eat in quaint restaurants – the harvest of natural products and the joy of companionship?

We browse through a hardware store that is equipped with Radio Flyer wagons, butter crocks and filaments for kerosene lanterns – all the things an Amish family might need. A man stands at the counter, his long white beard and black hat pegging him as unique to the world and special to God. An Amish farmer. He leaves the store and walks toward his tractor.

This particular brand of Amish drive tractors, but not cars. They ride in buggies behind horses. Their women wear no makeup yet I would love to have their fresh, clear skin. Their children dress alike in the colors of nature: blue, pale green and brown. No accessories. Their quiet life and the peace on their faces the only accessory needed.

I envy their lives in this tiny village. No one here seems to struggle with Alzheimer’s, yet I have not seen an older person. Perhaps back home, in the white farmhouses that hide behind cedar brush, a woman like my mother struggles to remember her children. Maybe even here, families grieve through 36-hour days as they care for loved ones who sometimes forget.

A horse and buggy parks downtown next to a tractor, driven by a bearded father. The mother and children bundle into the cubby van, a small horse trailer in back. A traffic caution sign is pasted in full view, warning those of us who are the “English” and drive fast cars.

Slow down. Breathe. Take time to enjoy the living.

Sheep and cows stand like furry dots against the growing green of wheat fields. Fresh butter and hormone-free milk leads us in a discussion with a local businessman about the importance of what we eat – what we force into our bodies.

Is our food from a plant created by God? This is good. Eat it with joy. Is it manufactured in a processing plant? Danger. Avoid it.

Fresh applesauce and fruity preserves. A young mother with three little girls – all dressed alike in grey coats, blue dresses and white scarves. Worry-free faces – all of them – no worldly masks. Surely they also bear pure hearts.

And I wonder – what have we missed in the busy city with all its traffic and noisy consumption? If the city is so wonderful, then why does my soul long for another sabbatical even as I finish this one?

Surely there is purpose in both lives and both places of living.

In the city with its opportunities to serve God by helping others – so many nonprofits and churches reaching out to the teeming thousands and their hungry hearts.

In the country with its beauty and sincerity, preserving a way of life so many of us have forgotten, harvesting from the land to share its goodness with others.

Somewhere in the middle of both lives, a balance cries out and refuses to be ignored.

Learn to be still and know that He is God. Learn to serve and reach out to the harried and hurting.

But most of all, learn the difference and when the pendulum swings to the extreme, gently nudge it back toward the center.

For only when we are centered in Christ are we most effective and most content.

Only when we are “being” with Him can we share and maintain hope.