Hope Sets Healthy Boundaries

Isn’t it interesting how we can tell others what to do but not apply that same wisdom to ourselves?

In my life coaching ministry at GateWay of Hope, I often ask women, “What are you doing for fun?” We track their progress and talk about the importance of setting healthy boundaries.

cottage-picket-fenceSometimes we refer to an emotional boundary as setting a fence around the heart.

Likewise with my writing clients. I may ask, “What are you doing for an artist date?”

They tell me about roaming through bookstores, writing morning pages at a quirky and fun coffee shop or choosing a new journal.

Terrific success for my coaching clients. Not such a good job by their coach. I find it increasingly difficult to schedule artist dates and/or find some time for fun in my busy schedule. Am I too busy? Yes. How can I remedy that? Hmm.

One of my friends recently asked me, “What are you doing for Rebecca?”

I had to stop and think about that question, because we often define fun as something we do that costs money.

But I need to consider other things that are just as relaxing and important for me – activities that cost little or nothing. Fun might include playing the piano, banging out chords that help release some of the pressures of a stressful day.

Walking through crunchy leaves or strolling through colorful chrysanthemums at a garden store. These joys remind me of the creator and how he blesses us with an autumn Kansas.

Other possibilities:

  • An occasional movie
  • Watching the baseball playoffs with my son
  • Looking forward to Jayhawk basketball and OU football
  • Pulling out my coloring book and finding a quiet moment on the deck
  • Singing
  • A new color of fingernail polish
  • The turquoise and corals of a Kansas sunset
  • A haircut
  • A new journal or reading through the old one with an attitude of praise

These are some of the things that bring me joy, however I need to work harder at getting away and forcing myself to relax. Is that an oxymoron? Forced relaxation?

Even now, I feel the need for some time away to reboot my soul and refresh that creative spirit in me.

I write better after a break when I feel more energized to connect sentences that form paragraphs, outline chapters and introduce new characters to the world.

So I need to be more proactive about using my time off. I need to actually schedule a writing retreat and a personal sabbatical – wherever and whenever I can – soon.

As 2017 approaches, I need to discipline myself to do the same thing I ask of my clients – to find that special place of inner rest, to plan an artist date, to find my own creative boundaries.

Hope asks accountability of others but also demands spiritual nourishment of the self. Even as I help others, I need to do a better job finding myself and define that fence around my heart.

Anyone else want to join me in the search?

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

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Hope Reproduces

From the final months of 2014 to the first calendar pages of 2015, I have seen how hope reproduces.

Five of my coaching clients have leapt toward their writing dreams. My role as their writing coach has been to encourage them, help them find resources and ask the hard questions that stretch wordsmiths, resulting in stronger creativity and exciting results.Coaching laptop

I have asked their permission to share these results. Normally, my coaching clients receive the highest level of confidentiality but really – I must brag on them and to do that – I must use their names.

Amy Bovaird writes from the beautiful state of Pennsylvania where she encourages her readers and me. She suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa which I knew nothing about until I met Amy. She constantly inspires me and when her book, “Mobility Matters”  was published, I imagine everyone in Pennsylvania heard me cheer. Amy is working on a second book while speaking about hope and encouragement even while she gradually loses her sight. But she writes from that inner sanctum where quality vision exists, using her other senses to find the most effective words and ministry. Check out Amy’s work at AmyBovaird.com.

When Jerry Lout signed up for his very first writers conference, he also decided to enter one of the contests. First conference. First contest. And he won first place in the Adult Nonfiction category. I nearly busted my buttons with pride. He also writes from a place of difficult experience, from the story of a young boy diagnosed with polio. The tagline of Jerry’s blog, “Running Life’s Race with a Limp” chronicles his life and the generations before him. Jerry never writes from the viewpoint of a victim but rather from a victorious heart that knows how to search for and find hope. Jerry’s excellent blog is found at JerryLout.com and next year, I’m confident – he’ll be holding his book.

I met Molly Totoro at a writers conference where she expressed interest in coaching. We’ve been working together over a year now and I am constantly enriched by the words that come from Molly’s posts. We share many of the same creative juices, but Molly’s writing far exceeds mine. She has the most amazing vision for marrying her love of scrapbooking with the need for story. She’s developing a business called Milestone Memoirs while she posts at http://mycozybooknook.blogspot.com/. She is also a contributing writer for a ministry that serves hurting women, GateWay of Hope. You can learn more about Molly through her website at http://steppingstonespublications.com/.

Nancy Kay Grace and I connected at another writers conference. Nancy Kay impressed me with her depth of faith but also with her ability to share that faith with her readers. She posted wonderful devotions and wanted those devotions merged into a publishable book. So we worked together and every time we met, more amazing depth came from Nancy’s soul. Just this last month, that book became a reality. “The Grace Impact” is a beautiful and touching answer to a prayer that Nancy Kay and I shared. You can learn more about Nancy Kay and her speaking ministry at NancyKayGrace.com.

Sometimes hope is wrapped in a nice little package and other times, it requires fortitude to search it out. Author Jane Tucker knows about that type of courage. She wanted to write the book she longed to read, and as an avid reader – she knew what she was looking for. So she began the writing journey, finished her book and then realized it needed a change. So she rewrote the entire book from a more concentrated angle, revised it, let other writers critique it, reworked it and finally submitted it for publication. Just a few weeks ago, Jane received the wonderful and exciting news. “Lottie’s Gift” will be released in 2016, and I can hardly wait. When a writer works that hard on a dream, the final result is sure to be joyful. Jane also writes wonderful stories called “Postcards from the Heartland” on her website at JaneMTucker.com.

As you check out these writers, I think you’ll see why I’m so proud of them, how they encourage me with their perseverance and why I enjoy coaching writers. Hope reproduces as writers continue to move toward their dreams.

And as the Word of God lives in us, then the words he gives us find a home in our readers’ hearts. I hope you’ll follow these creative spirits and help them increase with even more hope.

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

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 Within Calendar Pages

As we approach the holidays, this year draws to a close. What happened to move us so quickly through 2014?

This week, I drove to an office supply store to buy a refill for my planner – new calendar pages for 2015. As I sorted and refilled my planner, I glanced back at the activities of 2014:book w- confetti

  • Speaking events
  • Visits to Mom in assisted living, trying to endure the Alzheimer’s journey
  • Writing ideas
  • Meetings at work – GateWay of Hope
  • Grocery lists
  • Meetings with Coaching Clients
  • Birthdays, anniversaries and special dates for family and friends
  • More prayer requests

With all the lists and all the activities, I wondered – did I faithfully follow God this year or was I just busy? Did I make the most of every opportunity to show the love of God to others? Did my work make a difference in the lives of the people I met? How did God answer my prayers?

Then I noticed a gap in my list of activities. Except for a few meetings with friends and the week of family vacation, what did I do for fun? Plenty of activities involved work, but precious few included days of joy.

How can I change that pattern in 2015?

I’m always telling my clients to not put undo pressure on themselves but to relax and find some time for fun.

Author and Coach RJ Thesman, heal thyself.

Fun activities make us better writers, more able to deal with the stresses of life when we encounter and nurture creative joy. We all need a few moments to decompress and just be.

My old calendar pages disappeared in the trash while the new pages took their place. Yes, I already have events scheduled for 2015, so I carefully penciled them in along with birthdays, anniversaries and important dates for family and friends.

I also vowed to make each calendar day something for good, but for Pete’s sake – to have more fun!

What are you doing for fun?

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

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

 

Why Book Signings are So Important

Many authors, especially the more famous ones, avoid book signings. They feel that the amount of work required to put into a book signing doesn’t equal the sales returned. The ROI doesn’t calculate in favor of the author.

But I disagree. Book signings are some of my favorite events.book sign - 2nd book

With my most recent book signing, I was billed as a native of Enid, Oklahoma. The Hastings store in my home town hosted the signing and helped me advertise it.

What makes a successful book signing? Some authors believe selling 10-50 copies constitutes a success. But for me, the success of the event centers around the people who attend.

For example, in Enid, the following people visited my table:

• A prayer partner – a woman who faithfully prays for my ministry as writer, life coach and program director at GateWay of Hope. She also prays for my personal concerns and the cares of my family.

• My former piano teacher – the woman who taught me how to follow the notes but also how to play with my soul. She is still teaching me because every time we visit, I am awed and inspired by her gracious personality and her godly character.

• A high school and college friend – this woman has taught me about the importance of faith, especially when life unravels in different directions. She encourages me through social media and by attending the events that are important to me. She is an example of the believers in the Hebrews’ Hall of Faith.

• The sister of another high school friend – she came to buy each of the books so that she could read them and then send them on to her sister. Every time I see her at church, I am struck by the peace of God that rests on her, and I feel blessed.

• A friend of our family who continues to meet weekly with my mother, walks around the mall with her and drives her to Braum’s so they can have biscuits and gravy together. I have known her all my life and appreciated her kindness to our family.

• My own sister who buys books for six of her friends, filling her Christmas list early and encouraging me in the process. She interrupts her own schedule to fill my needs.

• A pastor and his wife who show loyalty to the family of their parishioners and continue to encourage me in my writing journey.

All these people uplifted me because they took the time on a busy Saturday to drive across town and buy one or more of my books. I know they will read the books and probably tell someone else about them. They will pray for me and that will build up my coverage in heaven for this wordsmithing I do.

But then – just as I began to pack my remaining books away – another person approached the table, picked up a book and asked, “What’s it about?”

“A woman minister,” I said, “who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She lives in assisted living and meets a whole group of interesting characters.”

“Perfect,” she said. “My mother’s best friend just went to live in assisted living. Mom doesn’t know what to do to help her, and she misses her so much – the things they used to do together.”

We talked for a while about how life changes so rapidly and how difficult Alzheimer’s and dementia can be for the caregivers. She bought the first book, “The Unraveling of Reverend G” and slipped a bookmark for the second book, “Intermission for Reverend G” into her purse. She picked up a business card, “So I can follow you online,” she said, “and buy the second book on Amazon.”

Then she moved toward the register, and I continued to pack up my books, grateful that I waited a few more minutes so that I could share hope with this lovely woman.

All my book signings have been successful – that is – I’ve sold more than 10 books. But the best part of the entire process is that I get to meet face to face the people who read the words God has given me. I get to thank them for coming and hopefully bless them with a hug or a handshake.

I meet people who will be encouraged by the story of this brave little minister with Alzheimer’s Disease, people who are caregivers, who experience the 36-hour day and know firsthand how it feels to live with a loved one who sometimes forgets.

Book signings are another way to share the message that no matter how dire life gets – God is still good and he never stops loving us.

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