Hope Rebounds with “Little Women”

Little Women coverOn Valentine’s Day, I treated myself to the movie, “Little Women.” It was a fabulous version of the classic story, told with back story and references to the Civil War time period. The movie was true to form, credible in its costuming, setting and historical accuracy.

The theater was filled with mostly women, probably like me — those of us who grew up reading all of Louisa Mae Alcott’s books and loving the March family.

Halfway through the opening credits, I found myself smiling with anticipation, remembering my younger self climbing my tree with a book tucked in my sweatshirt. Then reading in my branchy nook as Jo and Meg, Amy and Beth galloped through my imagination.

Leaving my own words behind in my office, I reveled in the words of this talented author whose journey came alive on the big screen.

But what struck me the most was my own history and how it ended up intertwining with the life of Jo March.

Louisa Mae Alcott and her writings inspired me to become a writer, around the same age as Jo March discovered her passion for words.

I understood how as a tomboy, she liked to climb trees. My private space was nearly twenty feet up, within yelling distance of the house in case Mom called.

Several years ago, an Oklahoma spring storm destroyed my tree. I still grieve when I visit the farm and see its empty space, remember the naïve girl who disappeared in its limbs.

Jo March wore her “one beauty” with pride. Her long hair became a key scene when her mother needed money to tend her father’s wounds. Jo and I liked to braid our hair or wear it in a long ponytail, playing with it as we tried to find that perfect word for the next sentence.

How crushed Jo was when her words were rejected by editors. As my files of rejections grew, I empathized with her yet never lost my hope that someday, I would see my books in print. Both of us accomplished that dream.

When little sister Amy burned Jo’s manuscript, I also swore with my heroine that I would “Never ever forgive her.”

The ultimate insult is not the rejection of our words, but the destruction of them.

Jo and Louisa cared more for their principles and their freedom than they did for romance. Unlike her fictional character, Louisa never married either Teddy or Fritz. But to sell her manuscript, Louisa had to either marry off her main character or sentence her to the grave.

Even today, publishers still insist that characters act a certain way, find a certain pathway to their dreams. This is one reason why I primarily write independently. I like the freedom of letting my characters be who they are without preconceived ideas that might sell more books but will damage my creative soul.

The Alcotts were progressive thinkers. They believed women’s rights should be fought for, championed in spite of society’s morays. If Louisa had lived longer, she would have been a central figure in the battle for women’s voting rights. And I would have joined her in the protest line.

How difficult it was to be poor! It still is. Louisa and her family struggled financially, and it was always her intention to help support the family with her words. Wisely, she fought to keep her copyright and the highest royalties possible on her Little Women contract. Ultimately, her writings did help keep food on the table.

Louisa and Jo loved the family and hated the idea of growing up. So totally my story. Wearing a bra seemed like torture and becoming a “woman” with the curse of Eve wrecked my chances of being drafted into professional sports. My teenage years occurred before Title IX, but fortunately, I attended a high school that included girls’ competitive athletics.

Hormones still destroyed many of my athletic dreams until I learned to accept who I was. I learned how to exercise for my health rather than competition. Even today, the channel I watch the most does not include soap operas or Hallmark movies. My remote most often clicks on ESPN.

In spite of perilous times, poverty, tragedy and the uncertainty of her future, Louisa and her Jo continued to write. The passion for words was her driving force, her reason for existence and her burning desire.

In spite of my travels, life changes and various ministry assignments, I have always returned to writing. Journals, articles, stories, blog posts and books make up my resumé, and I don’t regret a moment of the time used to create sentences and paragraphs, to shape characters and envision plots.

Louisa was lucky enough to discover a story that resonated with a publisher and continues to delight to this day. Her words are evergreen, precious to those of us who grew up with them.

Some of my older books continue to sell, surprising me at the end of the month when I check my reports. Even after I step into eternity, I hope they will continue to provide an income supplement for my beloved son.

I understand Jo March and her creator, Louisa Mae Alcott. As one of my life-long she-roes, Louisa still inspires me to use a pen and write my first drafts long hand. Pentel pens don’t stain my fingers like ink and quill, but I love the scritch of the nib across paper, the allowance of time and thoughts to discover how deeply the words are buried — how they erupt once found.

God has allowed me these years to follow the same passion, to be a writer, to hold my published books, and I am grateful. From my current office, far from the nook of my tree, I whisper, “Thank you, Louisa. You and your Jo were my favorites of the little women.”

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my books on this Amazon Author Page. Louisa would have never imagined the internet.

 

 

Hope Waits

Hope WaitsWaiting is not easy for me, but I seem to often reside in God’s waiting room. Throughout the years, my spiritual muscles have been stretched and strengthened by the exercise of waiting. So I try to be grateful for the experience.

Still, it’s no fun.

In this season, I am trying to be patient as I wait for several prayers to be answered. I am waiting to hear about a book decision. When writers spend months and sometimes years emptying their souls onto  computer screens, then revising and deleting, adding and groaning about more words – they want their work to be acknowledged.

I know the drill. It takes a while to hear back from editors and publishers because they are busy people just like me. Still – this section of the waiting room is surrounded by uncertainty. Fear screams, “What if they don’t want my book? What do I do then?”


Although I have a Plan B, I’m impatient enough to want Plan A to happen right now, thank you very much.


 

For several months, I have been searching for Sunday. I borrowed that phrase from the book title by Rachel Held Evans. Hers was the book I opened, read the Introduction and immediately burst into tears. When you cry at the beginning pages, you know the book was meant for you.

During this season of life and in my particular demographic of older single woman, I find it hard to find a place to belong. With my ministry background and years of serving with wonderful saints, I struggle to find a fellowship that will honor my giftings and accept me for who I am yet continue to nurture and teach me. It would be easier to stay in my jammies on Sunday mornings, click on the remote and forget my aloneness within the plots of various Hallmark movies.

But I believe in the corporate body, the fellowship of the saints and the role we each play. I like to sing with other people, sway to the music, pass the offering plate and share the communion dish, hug others and rehearse my prayer requests. Plus, some of those Hallmark movies are so easy to figure out, they bore me.

I visit churches, discover other saints also searching for Sunday and ask God to remove me from this waiting room and plop me into the pew where I belong.

Another area of waiting involves Mom’s Alzheimer’s journey. I wait for the phone call, “You’d better get down here in a hurry.” I wonder how many more years she has to endure this infernal Long Goodbye. When will she get to graduate to heaven? What is God waiting on for her release?

I don’t want her to die, sort of, but I also don’t want her to live in la-la land, unaware of those who love her and of the way she now responds like a child. Where is the abundant life we are promised that accompanies our faith? When is the release?

As I struggle in prayer for Mom, I also pray for the rest of us. I am so tired of bad news, of hearing about people who chose to use their freedom to bear arms by taking the lives of others. I am sick of the condemnation and stereotyping of people of color, single moms and all the inequities we carry around and somehow call justice. Politicians who can’t work together. Rape and the molestation of little girls. Celebrities who get away with sin just because of who they are and the amount of money represented in their checking accounts.

I am homesick for heaven, and I am tired of waiting. I want Jesus to come back right now so that we can live in the purity of his home and never have to watch another stupid Viagra commercial.

So what can we do when hope waits and frustration mounts day after day?

We can stay busy helping others. I’ll keep writing and working and praying and hoping. When I’m busy, I focus on the task at hand. It’s only when I sit quietly that I grind my teeth and wonder how much longer, Lord? Hurry up and get us out of here before everything really falls apart.

We can keep our focus on God. I know he is being patient with us, and he understands how frustrating it is to wait. He also grieves at the state of our world, at fresh coffins planted in the soil, hungry and homeless people lying on sidewalks just outside affluent businesses, bombs that blow children to bits.

Somehow in the waiting, we have to recognize his sovereignty – his eternal knowledge of the whole picture. Sure, he wants us to do our best to remedy some of these problems, but he also knows what is coming and why he waits. Someday, perhaps he will share that answer with us.

We can learn patience within each season. The stretching of spiritual muscles is never enjoyable, but afterwards – isn’t it always afterwards – the effort yields a better result. We gain strength, we learn endurance and we find extra measures of grace.

This morning, I watched this video and found new strength to wait a bit longer. http://www.maryloucaskey.com/when-your-answer-seems-so-far-away.html

So in my current waiting rooms, I am determined to sooth my restlessness with the truth of Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Be still. Know who he is. Know he is sovereign God. Know his timing is always important and know that someday, the waiting will end.

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