Finding Hope When the Dream Dies

country-cabinEvery year since – forever – seed catalogs have arrived in my mailbox during the last of the winter weeks. They are a harbinger of hope because nothing spells faith like planting seeds and believing perennials, green beans and marigolds will indeed sprout and come to life.

But this year, I am throwing the catalogs into the recycling bin. I cannot even bear to look at pictures of purple lobelia or happy-faced pansies.

This year, I have finally realized I can no longer maintain my gardens.

Reality began to set in during last year’s season when I tried to dig weeds and spread mulch. Within minutes, grass allergies kicked in, and I ran to the house for my meds. Even so, the next day – dark circles rimmed my eyes and the fatigue of immune system warfare affected my energy levels.

I ignored the symptoms because gardening has been so important to me. Just the therapy of digging in fresh soil, following my farming ancestors’ passion to coax the sprouting of life has brought me annual joy.

Gardening has nurtured my dream – to own a cottage in the country surrounded by flowers and produce where bees drink nectar and butterflies land for a respite during their annual migration.

But reality clarifies the cost of mulch and new plants, plus the hours required to make such gardens appear. Reality also underscores that my body and its accompanying allergens now betray me.

I can no longer hang on to a dream I cannot produce.

My dilemma reminds me of my mother’s situation – the woman who worked hard to pay off her house only to be forced to leave it. The realities of Alzheimer’s care betrayed her. Staying in her home mirrors my dream of a garden home.

Now both of us must delete what we wished for.

This year, I will woefully allow the native grasses to engulf my garden spaces. I may move the blueberries and golden raspberries to pots that require little care. I may plant a small row of green beans, enough for a skillet full of nutritious flavor.

But I will no longer drool over the pictures in seed catalogs or plan new plots for hybrid clematis.

This year I will step back and let nature rule. Perhaps my garden dream will morph into an eternal garden where the price my physical body pays no longer affects me.

Instead of  working on my dream, I will stroll through local nurseries to touch leaves, stroke petals and remember the gardens I once nurtured.

To reach toward hope, I will remind myself that the giving up of the dream still yields results albeit a different type of fruit:

  • Saving money
  • Giving away tools to someone who needs them
  • Finding more time to write and read
  • Preserving my health

And when the twinges of grief remind me what is lost, I can always counter with the truth of what will someday be.

Reality forces us to change, but hope answers that the changes may point toward something better.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy 

 

 

Hope Wins

Oh, God – I’m so afraid.monarch butterfly

During the sixth month of pregnancy, I finally ventured out of the bed where I spent the first five months – hoping, begging God to let me keep my baby. With years of infertility and two miscarriages in my medical chart – the chances for a normal birth were slim.

In June of that year, I waddled out to the back yard’s sunshine and stretched out in the chaise lounge. With my hand over my extended belly, I prayed again for the child within.

Protect him, please. Keep him healthy. I want to hold him. I need you to encourage me, God. Help me. I’m afraid.

When I opened my eyes, a large monarch butterfly floated out of the clouds and landed on my belly. Hardly daring to breathe, I watched as his wings opened and closed in a foreshadow of blessing.

As the baby moved, I wondered if the monarch might be disturbed and fly away. But he rode the wave, stayed in position and kept his gaze on my face.

For over an hour, we baked in the sun, ingested the natural vitamin D and shared in worship moments.

Then the monarch carefully lifted off, floated around me a couple of times, drank deeply from my colorful zinnia garden and disappeared into the clouds.

When I returned to the house and journaled about my experience, I felt encouraged, renewed and ready to face whatever happened in the next few months.

God often uses his creation to encourage, uplift and remind me that he is indeed greater than my problem. Since he is the one who manipulates cellular metabolism, hangs the stars in his front yard and whispers, “Peace be still” in the middle of storms – then he can certainly deal with my everyday stresses.

I wonder how many scenarios he manages and shows up to help us when we aren’t alert enough to look for him. Perhaps in heaven, we’ll watch a giant video screen and see his image beside our sick child, walking down the aisle with us as we graduate or smiling as we choose our first car.

Like the monarch’s appearance, he is with us – longing to soothe our fears and direct us toward the best path for our lives.

Because of my experience with the monarch, I nurture my butterfly bush and let the red clover grow around the perimeter of my yard. These plants attract monarchs every year and continue to remind me God is near.

And what of the precious child I carried that summer day? He is now 30 years old, a healthy and sensitive man who makes me proud every day to be called his mom.Caleb and Mom at reception

Hope wins. We just have to keep watching for the finish line.

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

Hope in the Preservation

canned-tomatoes-1172877After watching the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, I decided to spend some time with my journal. It’s always been a good practice for me to evaluate the past year and think about what I want to do with my life in the next 12 months.

Along with my journal, I grabbed my Bible and flipped to a Psalm I’ve been studying. Within that sacred text, I found a verse to meditate on – which also gave me some ideas for 2016.

Psalm 31:23 “Oh love the Lord, all you His saints! The Lord preserves the faithful….”

When I focused on the word “preserves” I thought about sand plum jelly we made on the farm and the hours we spent canning tomatoes and green beans. Those wonderful Mason jars provided us with fresh food throughout the winter months and also preserved memories of cooking with Mom in the farm kitchen.

But some of the ideas for my new year came directly from the word “preserve.” How might God preserve me in 2016? What does it mean to be “preserved?”

  • Fresh. Being fresh and refreshed so that I can feel energized for the writing and ministries I do. As preserved foods always taste fresh, I need to make sure I rest well, take care of myself holistically and exercise to preserve my strength.
  • Useable. One reason we canned vegetables was so we could eat them during the months when the garden was frozen. I want to be useable during this new year, available to serve God and help others, writing my best words ever, speaking and coaching and being.
  • Available at any time. All it took was a trip to the cellar to bring up the Mason jars. When God speaks to me or when people need me to help them, when words well up within my spirit and need to be written down – right then – I want to be available. No questions. No doubts. No hesitation.
  • Safe. Our foods were preserved so well, we never suffered from botulism, e coli or any type of toxins. I want the people I serve to feel safe around me. I want my readers to know that when they pick up my books, they won’t have to wonder what type of topics I’ll write about. Even if I have to stretch some comfort zones, I want readers to know that I strive for truth – which creates a type of safety.
  • No Expiration Date. Our sand plum jellies lasted for years and were always edible. All we had to do was skim off the wax on top, then spread that golden orange lusciousness on top of warm bread, fresh from the oven. Although I reached one of those “special” age limits this year, I haven’t reached my expiration yet. I’m still working, serving and praying. I’m still writing and hope to continue – with no retirement in sight and no expiration date warning me to slow down.

So I’m grateful God promises to preserve me, because I want to remain faithful to his calling for me. And I want 2016 to be my best year ever, writing the words he speaks to me – then sharing them with you.

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

Image Attribution: SXC – Freepik.com

Hope Rises During Sabbatical

During this week, I am on Sabbatical – taking a rest from ministry as a home stay-cation. Relaxing_Time_by_YuzuruKuN

When I looked at my calendar for April – May and the soon-to-be-released third book of the Reverend G series – I knew I needed to do some proactive regeneration.

A Sabbatical is essential for renewing creativity. Usually scheduled every seventh year, its intent is to build restoration, to fulfill a goal or to complete research for a project.

The goal of my Sabbatical is an emotional reboot, to refresh my senses and inhale more of the divine than I exhale in service.

Fortunately, I work in a ministry that allows me the flexibility to use vacation pay for Sabbatical rest. In fact, at GateWay of Hope, we remind women to take care of themselves, to rest, to have some fun, to just “be.”

So I am trying to be a good example and walk the talk.

It is fairly impossible to be completely absent from work as I wake up at night to pray for those I serve and coach. In those early dawn hours, I will listen intently for clues about my characters and how to best format my current novel.

My one supreme goal is to listen hard – to focus on my Heavenly Husband, scribble His words in my journal and take long walks with Him.

I may cut back some of the death of winter and release spring’s life to my gardens. The spiritual analogy comes easy as I consider any dead spirituality the Master Gardener needs to prune.

I will not wear my watch. I will not place any expectations on myself other than finishing the library book I checked out.

Instead, I wish to wear my celebration of the Sabbath as a break from the common cares.

Some time during my Sabbatical, I will pull out my colors and play with a Mandela. Maybe the weather will be warm enough to do this on my deck.

Jeff Goins writes that “We often listen to the adult in our heads instead of the child in our hearts.”

During this week of restoration, I want to connect with my inner child and crawl into my Father’s lap.

Then hopefully, at the end of the week, as the Creator modeled at the end of his busy week, I can declare my Sabbatical good.

©2015 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Relaxation Image by YuzuruKuN

Hope in Autumn Blooms

mumsIt is the season of mums – that glorious coloring of perennial happiness that I plant and nurture each year. These are the plants I prune in the spring when everything else yearns to bloom. Because I know that when late September and early October creep onto my calendar, these will be the plants that greet me with tiny buds and then full blooms.

Rust, purple, red, yellow – I love to fill my garden with these spots of color. Yet even within the enjoyment, I feel a chill of remembrance. Mums were the plants that loving friends brought to me when my babies died – Ryan in 1981 and Rachel in 1983.

Such promise those pregnancies brought. After years of infertility, sharing the joys of friends and family who so easily bore children while I waited with empty arms. It was finally my turn.

Waiting, hoping, praying for the lives of my little ones. Yet both of them – each life ending at 12 weeks.

How does a mother reconcile the image of her own womb becoming a coffin? She cannot. I could not.

Numb, then raw, then screaming out my grief to the God who watched my babies die and did nothing to save them. Was he not supposed to be a Savior?

Why? No answer. It is in the silence of our griefs that faith best grows. Faith – the evidence of things not seen. The babies never held yet somehow carried to heaven where I believed with certainty they were safe and loved.

Friends who provided no answers brought mums to plant, to nurture, to prune back and wait until autumn brought them to life. The hope of this mother that another autumn might bring another child – a living babe I could hold and kiss and sing to.

Again with divine silence came only the belief that somehow God knew a time and way to bring life to my womb just as mums somehow know when it is their time to bloom.

My Caleb – third born yet my only living child – delivered in 1985. Did ever the screams of a newborn sound so sweet?

Still, each year in late September and early October, I seek out another mum plant and gingerly plant it. Some unresolved grief so deep I can no longer weep cries out for a tangible reminder of the babes that were taken. Miscarried babies receive no funeral, no cemetery plot where mothers go to grieve. So I honor my children by planting mums as my personal cemetery token.

I wait for spring to cut them back, then marvel at the first blooms of autumn. And in those orbs of color, I see hope that somewhere in heaven wait two children who want to meet me, throw their arms around me and whisper love words we have longed to share all these years.

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