Hope Seeks Wonder

dandelions - womanIn her best-selling book, Moving On, Sarah Ban Breathnach lists the seven senses. The usual five we know: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. But then she adds knowledge and wonder.

A working definition of “wonder” is “Surprise mingled with admiration caused by something beautiful, unexpected or inexplicable.”

As we age, I think we can lose our sense of wonder. Children can spend hours just looking at a dandelion, caught in the wonder of such a cheery yellow flower.

Many of us cherish the memory of a little boy’s grubby hands, bringing his mommy a stone he dug from the riverbank, a bunch of early spring flowers or a wriggling worm – his wonder of something surprising shared with his precious mom.

In the hubbub of life, we can lose that admiration for the things we cannot explain. Instead, we tend to just move on – to stay busy and do our thing, oblivious of life’s pulsing around us. Avoiding the presence of God in the ordinary.

To restore some hope, I’ve decided to list some of the things that feed my sense of wonder. To force myself to stop and listen, to revel in the world around me and rediscover my intuitive soul.

In my gratitude journal, I’ll include these items that fill me with a surprising beauty, a restored wonder:

  • The sudden silence of my universe as a midnight snow begins to blanket the ground
  • The tiny fingernails of newborns, a reminder of how fragile is the miracle of life
  • The detailed featherings of blue jays – gray, white, black and royal blue – no two the same
  • The consistent hammering of the red-headed woodpecker in my elm tree. How does he not have a migraine after all that pounding on the bark?
  • The way memory blips make life disappear or bring to mind a special moment from decades ago
  • The careful pulsing of my heart, steady and regular – a miracle in itself
  • The moment a soul steps out of its earthly body and transfers to eternity
  • A crackling fire that exudes warmth, aesthetic pleasure and security all at the same time
  • When the souls of two people connect and blossom into love
  • The way God whispers answers to prayer before we utter the request
  • How pets know the exact time we are coming home and run to the door before we turn into the drive
  • The vastness of space and the amazing synchronicity of God’s creation
  • How Patrick Mahomes can turn his body northeast and throw southwest
  • How ideas spark from deep creativity and give writers a place to begin
  • How children give love so easily, not yet marred by the ugliness of self-sufficiency

I need to spend more time experiencing wonder – to nurture this sense and appreciate all the things in my world that are admirable and beautiful.

A focus on wonder helps reboot the hope muscle and reminds me that life is better than it sometimes appears.

As Frederick Buechner wrote, “Never question the truth of what you fail to understand, for the world is filled with wonders.”

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For a book that expresses the wonder of hope, check out Hope Shines.

Hope for a Book

Uploading FaithIn the middle of supper, my son turned toward me and asked, “What do you think of my generation?” An honest question, laced with hope that my answer might satisfy or invite open debate.

What do I think of his millennial generation, these precious ones born to Baby Boomers during the years of 1981-1996?

“I think your generation includes the smartest, most talented group I have ever known. Yours is the first generation whose native language is computer.”

He seemed pleased. A tiny grin settled in his right dimple.

Then I continued, “But I also think millennials feel sad.”

He nodded, and I saw in his eyes a hint of his own emotional angst. We talked about the traumatic issues that have affected his generation:

  • The heart-stopping moment of 9-11 which defines the millennial generation
  • The numbers of his friends who have overdosed or chosen suicide as a way out of their struggles
  • The side effects of wars, how security seems unattainable
  • The massive college debts and the impossibility of owning a home — financial despair
  • The hypocrisy of those they trusted, leaving them floundering for faith, love and peace

Yet as sad as these bullets, a pathway back to hope is possible.

Barely a year ago, my son and I began a project — a book to present to millennials and those who love them. Our goal was to write an easy-to-understand manual about faith.

We included the basics: Who is God? How can we understand the Trinity? Why does God allow bad things to happen?

Yeah, not easy stuff. But these are some of the questions millennials ask and should ask as they seek honest answers.

I wrote each chapter, then my resident millennial son edited. He took out my Baby Boomer language and prodded me to consider the why of each topic.

Millennials want to know why. They demand authenticity. They will not, cannot accept a fact just because someone says so.

Each chapter was fact-checked for theological accuracy from a trusted pastor. Each word poured over, revised, prayed for.

Even the cover was chosen by my millennial — an abstract photo, the darker colors, block lettering.

This book is our attempt to reach out to those whose hearts are sad. We hope readers will feel less isolated, less confused about this divine One who loves them.

So UPLOADING FAITH: What It Means to Believe is now complete and available for sale. It may be the most important work I have done, certainly a project my son and I accomplished together.

That alone makes it precious.

If you know a millennial, if you are a millennial, consider reading this book. We wrote it because we care about you.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

UPLOADING FAITH: What It Means to Believe is available on Amazon and Kindle.

 

Hope in the Favorite

book with heartWe barely knew each other, the guy in the adjoining cubicle and I. As a mere temp worker, I did what I was told, edited the website, made few friends. Tried to survive as a single mom in the corporate jungle.

Doug was a full-time guy with plenty of responsibilities, a loving wife and four children. His cubicle plastered with photos of his happy life.

An occasional “good morning” greeting. A nod at the coffee bar. The extent of our communication as quick as the creamer melting in my coffee mug.

Yet Doug was going to change my perspective and boost my self-confidence.

This particular company made a big deal about birthdays: balloons, cakes, cards from everyone on staff and a whopping Starbucks gift from management.

I participated in plenty of birthdays for the others, signed my name on their cards. Still, I was surprised when they included me — the temp. On my birthday, purple balloons surrounded my cubicle. Someone remembered my favorite color. A giant cake in the break room, gluten free lemon – another fave.

Someone remembered, cared. As the last echoes of the Happy Birthday song faded, I began to open my cards. A small mountain of beautiful sentiments.

But it was Doug’s card that made me gasp. Tears quickly released. His scrawling signature with a simple phrase, “You are my favorite.”

I grew up in a time period where families made no secret of the favorite child. One of my great grandmothers often labeled a son as her favorite. Another grandchild was “Grandpa’s girl.”

The favorite child was rarely punished. It was always someone else’s fault. The favorite opened the most gifts at Christmas. The last will and testament clearly stated the favorite would receive the major portion of the inheritance.

Maybe the favoritism came from the Bible Belt mentality. David was a man after God’s heart. John the Apostle was the disciple Jesus loved.

But as I grew up, I remember feeling the emotional gap. Clearly, I was nobody’s favorite. Firstborns rarely held that position. We were too bossy, such over-achievers.

I didn’t know how deeply that rejection scar dug, how it was still embedded in my soul. Until I opened Doug’s card.

“You are my favorite.”

He had no idea how that simple phrase encouraged me, how I stood a little taller that day and couldn’t stop smiling. I whispered a “Thank you” but it didn’t seem enough.

What I have learned since then is that I am and always have been — a favorite. God Himself smiled when I was born, rejoiced over me with singing. In the years past, he has caressed my hair at night when I cried, provided for my needs, healed my son.

Because he is so present in every way, every place — God is able to spread his expansive love to every human being on earth. Without holding back from any of us. Open arms to match his open heart.

So if you find yourself needing a smidgen of hope, remember this tiny yet truthful phrase. Wrap your heart around it. Let it make you stand tall and feel loved.

“You are God’s favorite.”

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out Hope Shines on Amazon, Kindle and in Large Print.

Hope for Happy Children

Caleb - RJT (2)He’s in a sweet spot – finally – this child of mine who has conquered so many battles: a malignant brain tumor, chemo, radiation, a disastrous hernia surgery, the death of his best friend and other challenging losses.

But now – thank you, God – he is happy. The IT training he’s enrolled in is a perfect fit. He’s already an expert in mobile technology. Now he’s moving toward a systems administrator certification. For the first time in his life, he’s excited about going to class.

He has a part-time job with perfect hours. A convenience store where he helps people pump gas and keeps the coffee brewing. Only a six-minute drive from home. Easy peasey.

He and his girlfriend are cute together. Both love dogs and Mexican food. They’re active in a small group at church. They have friends and family who support their relationship.

Sure, he still has challenges: the ever-present medical bills, car issues, icy roads. But he’s happier than I’ve seen him in a long time.

And this cheerfulness makes his mama happy as well. A boulder-sized burden has lifted from my heart.

So if I, as a human mother, feel such joy over the happiness of my child – doesn’t God feel the same when his children experience abundance?

For too long, we have been taught about a judgmental, condemning God. A divine One who delights only in the suffering of his creation. The falsity that we can only grow and thrive when we struggle.

Yes, challenges do force us to take a deep breath and pray for strength. We learn about hope and God’s faithfulness when our journey includes rocks and valleys. We discover our own power when we are forced to live from our guts.

But when things go well, we can also learn about the joy of abundance, the peace of prosperity – also topics in scripture. God blessed the last part of Job’s life.

Surely our loving Father feels a sense of relief for us when life is good. His child is following his heart. His beloved is finding her niche. I believe God finds delight in our victories and joys, just as we do when our children live in emotional prosperity.

Our hope is multiplied with God’s smile.

For now, my son and I enjoy this plateau of happiness. I am proud of my boy for staying the course, for reaching this pinnacle. I am also proud of the way he humbly lives each day, rejoicing in goodness.

Although I will continue to trust God when life unravels, now I choose to celebrate and hope these good times will be extended.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Soon I will participate in an Author Fest in my home town. My Hope Shines book will be featured. Have you read it yet?

Hope in the Gratitudes – Post 2

touch grass - sunsetDuring this Thanksgiving season, I am grateful for sensory perceptions.

Writers are encouraged to include the five senses in our manuscripts, and most of us do a good job with sight and hearing.

But it’s a little harder to add touch, taste and smell without sounding contrived. Even so, this year I am most grateful for the sense of touch.

We can think on a meditative level about how we are touched by the presence of a close friend, a poignant story we read or a movie we watch.

But the sense of touch I want to focus on is the actual practice of feeling the world around me.

Several years ago, I struggled through a clinical depression. Every day felt gray with absolutely no feelings. I was completely numb, walking through life like an emotional zombie.

Nothing. Even pain would have been more welcome than the drab nothingness of living without any shred of hope.

During that time, I completely lost the sense of touch.

Months later, after an amazing moment of healing deliverance, I began to feel again. I drove to Hancock’s Fabric Store. For hours I strolled through the store, stroking the nubby rows of corduroy, the shiny ribbons of satin, the rich texture of tapestries.

I bought nothing but left the store richer and more content. And I still love to feel my way through fabric stores.

Even now, I relish the sense of touch. As I walk outside, I will often pick up a stick and rub my fingers over the fractured wood. Or I’ll grab some leaves and count the distended veins with my fingers.

My jewelry is chosen for its color but also for its feel. Next to my skin, I fine joy in the spherical turn of beads, the chunkiness of stones and the svelte whisper of pearls. I often play with my earrings because the feel of them reminds me of being alive.

When I hug my son, I stroke his stubbly beard. As I pet the cat, I play with her fluffy tail and sing with the vibrations of her purr. The blanket on my bed is velvety soft. As I arrange the covers, I smile and pat the blanket in place.

Even the pens I write with must have a rubber grip, a smooth cartridge and a careful mark on the page.

The joy of touch is a blessing we can easily take for granted. This Thanksgiving season, let’s be even more aware of how objects, clothing, dishes, furniture and life itself feels.

Even as we touch our way through each day, let’s be more cognizant of new textures not previously experienced. Then let hope expand in the treasure of all the senses God has given.

What about you? Which sense are you most grateful for?

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Depression and its loss of touch can affect the lives of caregivers. Check out Sometimes They Forget for essays from the viewpoint of a family dealing with Alzheimers.

Hope Searches for Rest

Someone recently asked me, “What do you do to find rest?”

My oxymoron reply, “I have to intentionally work to find rest.” Except for the times when life throws me in bed with an illness or unresolved grief, I have to plan for rest.tea cup - flower - journal

My strong work ethic was forged on the family farm where every day’s chores began at sunrise. The frenetic pace of milking cows, putting up hay and bringing in the harvest continued throughout each season.

Although I still have calluses and sun-ripened freckles to prove how many hours we toiled, I wouldn’t give anything for those years.

The joy of being outside and the lessons I learned about hard work were  priceless.

Still, rest is something I know is important. So I am determined to learn how to proactively invite rest into my life.

On Sundays, I take a break from the digital, refusing to click online to check emails or tweet a response. Sundays are usually the days I lie down for a nap – another leftover routine from my childhood. An unconscious stopping of work to intentionally rest.

But what are ways to embrace rest while awake? Doesn’t the proactive invite for rest also include an invitation for peace?

A break in the routine underscores rest which is part of the reason for Julia Cameron’s suggestion to take an artist date once / week. A date without the goal of productivity but simply the enjoyment of art, to browse through a bookstore or re-discover the magical smell of crayons.

Even a break from the carefully designed life. Perhaps a day for a chocolate treat, a ceasing of counting calories for the enjoyment of flavors and textures. No worries about carbs or fat grams.

One of the least used yet most beneficial ways to rest is to merely sit and do nothing. To enjoy the fading light of a colorful sunset, listen to a classical aria, meditate on a Psalm or pet a cat, revel in the warmth of a contented purr.

The tagline of Choosing Rest by Sally Breedlove reads “Cultivating a Sunday heart in a Monday world.”

Breedlove writes, “Finding rest requires quiet undeviating focus where we give ourselves time for holy spaces of contemplation.”

As I search for more opportunities to find rest, I want to reboot my creative and spiritual self.

Rest births a chance for finding ourselves without the definition of productive effectiveness. Within moments of rest, we discover our true selves as God created us to be – trusting, content and whole.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Find out more about the topic of Hope in Hope Shines – now available also in Large Print.

Hope Fights Against Nature

Most of the time, I love nature. Flowers – certainly. The vibrant colors of autumn, the birds who gather on my deck, begging for another helping of seed.

But this summer, my son and I encountered the villains of nature – vicious beasts who brought stress and despair as we battled against them.woman warrior - cartoon

Wasps. The ugly brown ones that chase you when you dare to invade their space, which is actually my space – proven by the mortgage bill that comes every month.

We first noticed a nest or two, sprayed them, knocked them down, figured the beasties would get the idea and go bother another neighborhood.

Not so! Perseverant rascals. They set up camp under my deck, built condominiums for their queen who obviously kept fertilizing eggs to produce more of her species.

The soldiers guarded well, swarming around me when I tried to water the flowers on my deck. Stinging when I grew too close to their nest which was under my feet and impossible to see through the slats.

So we took down a couple of boards and discovered the condo, brown warriors guarding it, always in attack mode.

I spent a small fortune in traps and sprays, then wasted hours on the internet searching for ways to finally eradicate these ugly squatters.

Nothing worked. I refused to try the most ridiculous suggestion: “Paint your deck blue. The wasps will think it’s the sky and get confused.” Seriously?

Finally, I gave up trying to fix the problem myself. Another Google search revealed that few pest control services deal with wasps. Smart people! They don’t like them either.

But we found a company who sent a brave guy to spray all the nests – a total of 8 – knock them down and treat the deck against future intruders.

So far – no wasps. At least for a month, we are free. The cooler weather will send them to another climate.

I’m not sure why God created wasps or what purpose they may serve in the order of nature. But I don’t want them on my property. I want to enjoy my deck, my flowers and my sanctuary until winter chases me inside.

Hope fights and wins.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

How does an abused woman learn to fight against her manipulative husband? Check out her story in No Visible Scars.