Hope Completes the Journey

Dear Deb,

The book is finished.

You would be so glad. If you were here, we would celebrate at a Mexican restaurant with fabulous guacamole. Plenty of chips. Constant refills.DM at country store

You would give me hugs and “I knew you could do it” words.

Throughout our meal, I would be thanking you for pushing me, for encouraging me to keep going.

Twelve years, my friend. During a dozen teeth-gnashing years, this book has been through multiple drafts, revisions, even a couple of genre changes.

But finally, it is the book I was supposed to write—the book you knew I COULD write.

It was important because of the women we both knew, those incredibly brave women who faced their hardest truths and stepped into an unknown world.

These women we taught, led in groups, cried with reminded us of the women we once were. How we needed our cadre of women warriors to help us fight our way to freedom.

This book underscores our experiences and the life journeys of these like-minded women.

I am sad you never saw the completed manuscript, never had the chance to hold the book in your hands. I know you would be proud. “Love it,” you would say.

Before you left us, you heard about the title my son created: “No Visible Scars.

“I love it,” you said. “It’s perfect,” you added.

You would have adored the cover your Sarah designed.

I am asking God to let you peek through the heavenlies and see it. I know it will bring you extra joy.

Thank you, precious friend, for being my cheerleader for this project.

Thank you for boosting me over the mountain of self-doubt, for reminding me to keep going, to finish the course, to see it through.

It is finished.

I miss you.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Domestic abuse happens even in the best of homes. Read about Abigail’s story in “No Visible Scars.”

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Hope in Being

Wasn’t it a wonderful experience to watch the documentaries and funeral service of Billy Graham? What an amazing spiritual leader!

Several memes, posts and commentators spoke the words from Scripture, “Well done. Good and faithful servant.”

Although I agree with that sentiment, especially for Billy, I struggle with the root of what that subject means.heart and book string

“You’ve done well. You’ve worked hard in ministry and you’ve impacted others. You have completed your tasks.”

Again, all positive statements – until we get out of balance.

In the early years of my ministry life, I was big into the “doings” of service. My motivation came from a legalistic background. Work hard to keep God happy.

In the doing of my faith, I soon lost myself in the needs of others. While the work was good and the results bore fruit, a cry from my barren soul remained untended.

Although helping others was a daily goal, somewhere along the line I needed people to love me for WHO I was rather than for WHAT I could give them.

Years later as I learned more about setting boundaries and intimacy with God, my good works were motivated out of love for God. This passion morphed into a love for people and the desire to watch them grow in their maturity.

Still, I longed to hear “Well done,” believing somehow that God’s acceptance and the approval of people would somehow fill that empty and exhausted place within me.

Now that I have resigned from the ministry, the doing has become secondary to the being. My hope rests in the truth of respecting who God created me to be and realizing that’s okay.

I can still live from the principle of the two greatest commandments: love God and love others.

But now I embrace the truth that one of those “others” is me.

The ministerial tasks that once consumed my life are now deleted from task charts. I continue to help others, but through the more subjective tools of writing and coaching writers.

Because I have learned to let go of the works mentality, I believe the impact of what I do is greater. Now it comes authentically from the heart, not from the ethic of works.

No more “doing” for the sake of approval or acceptance. Lots more “being” and finding joy in the every day.

Waiting to hear “Well done” is not as important as it once was. And I have learned that saying “No” can be just as blessed as a half-hearted “Yes.”

When I get to heaven, I don’t care if crowns are presented to me or accolades for what I have done.

Instead, I just want an eternity-long hug from God and his voice in my ear, “I. Love. You.”

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

During spring break, check out Hope Shines.” Nuggets of encouragement for weary souls.

Hope Finds Gratitude

gratefulDuring this season, it is expected that we give thanks. Most of the time, I do the required thank you’s:

  • Food – especially the whole berry cranberry sauce
  • A roof over my head – even if it feels weird from all the decluttering I’ve done. 
  • My son and my family – of course, always

Yet this year, I want to dig deeper and find my place of gratitude within the corners of my soul – those places I hide from others.

This year, I want to be more vulnerable with my blog followers and maybe in turn – remind all of us that gratitude is more than words.

Perhaps we should consider gratitude a heart condition and thus worthy of even more reflection.

This year, I am thankful because the fragility of life on this earth became graphically personal. One night, a bullet screamed through my bedroom. One inch closer and I would be writing this from heaven instead of Kansas.

Throughout the decluttering exercise and the staging of the house, I have grown more grateful for baring the walls and clearing the floors. Some of my stuff was comfort junk, bought to fill the hole left over from a damaging relationship.

Now I am more determined to surround myself with the essentials, yet achieve balance. My writing office still needs some creative, funky stuff and I am still determined to keep my piano.

As a believer of many years, sometimes I fail to thank God for redemption. All those years ago, my childhood heart opened to the Savior of Nazareth as I ran – yes, ran – down the aisle toward salvation.

May I never forget the wonder of that moment and expressly thank God for the healing of my soul.

Even as I wait for the agent’s response, I am grateful for the opportunity to fly to Denver, stay in a beautiful hotel and pitch the book I hope will be published soon. Thank you, God, for the creativity you have gifted me with and the words that morph from heart to fingers to computer screen to the printed page.

A brief foray into my journals finds entries where I asked God questions and sometimes railed against the answers. I am grateful God lets me be honest with him and I love it when he gives me verses of scripture which may not provide the answer I want but confirms I am forever and gracefully loved.

More than ever before, I am grateful for how God has brought me through the struggles:

  • The loss of two babies
  • Abuse and assault
  • Divorce and all its protracted consequences
  • Watching my son suffer from cancer
  • Dad’s dementia and Mom’s Alzheimer’s journey

While I am not grateful FOR these particular obstacles, I am so thankful that during the struggles and in the aftermath, God has been present. Because he helped me survive, my faith has grown and perseverance has deepened.

And with these experiences in my mental backpack, I have written about realistic topics and helped coach women past the crises.

May we never take for granted how God continues to save us every day.

Because I am a life-long learner, I am still trying to grasp more of the lessons which life and God are teaching me. Thank you, blog followers, for giving me this forum to work out the kinks in my spiritual armor and find the sacred place God longs to purify.

So as we sit around the tables this Thanksgiving and dip into that whole berry cranberry sauce, let’s go deep into the reasons for gratitude.

Forever and always, let us listen hard for the divine One who longs to hear us say, “Thank you, dear Father.”

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

The House of Sickness Waiting

Something about houses attracts me. I notice Tudors with their brick facings, happy bungalows – especially the ones with porch swings – cottages framed by specialty gardens.ranch house

And I am writing my memoir focused around the theme of various houses in which I have lived. Maybe I should have become a realtor.

The house Mom bought, then had to leave behind, is a typical Oklahoma ranch style. When dementia first began to squeeze its nasty tentacles around Dad, Mom felt as if she needed to get Dad off the farm and into the safety of town. Neither of them could fully operate the farm anymore and when dementia stole Dad’s vocation from him, Mom made the final decision.

They settled into the brick ranch and lived there as Mom nursed him and my sister Kris helped her for 10 shadowy years. Then on a gentle spring day in May, the angel of death took Dad away.

Mom stayed, unwilling to move anywhere else. In fact, she announced one day, “My next move will be to the cemetery.”

Ah – if only it had been that simple.

The ranch home evolved into a pain-enshrouded house as my sister’s beloved cat, Champ, sickened and Kris had to put him down. What an oxymoron of love and pain when we have to call the vet and schedule a death – yet in the doing of it – we exhibit the release of love for our furry babes.

The ranch then became the forecaster of Mom’s next move as she began forgetting the location of pots and pans, the important bills she threw away, the pills she counted numerous times before swallowing.

It was in the ranch house where Mom passed out, her brave heart needing the extra pulsing of a pacemaker, her head bleeding from where she banged it when she fell.

When she had to leave – a series of ambulance rides transported her from the hospital to the nursing home rehab and later to her studio apartment in assisted living.


Meanwhile, the house of sickness waiting remained. Mom never had a chance to tell it good-bye.


The yard is its best feature, a surrounding halo of plantings – zinnias, pansies and the four o’clocks that actually open at four o’clock each day.

I like the house, usually finding a slice of serenity inside when I visit family. Although it is a bit weird to sleep in the bed in which I was conceived, I gaze at pictures on the walls and remember when we gave them to Mom and Dad. I hang my clothes in the closet and touch hangers that hold Mom’s winter coat, a suit she no longer wears, a knit shirt with embroidered daisies – some of the threads barely hanging on to their frayed outlines.

Mom’s brush and comb still wait for her on the dresser, flanked by doilies her mother crocheted, their white loops now fading into the yellows of the past. Mom’s massive mahogany furniture which none of us will want –  a sturdy pronunciation of her style.

But Mom never seems to miss the ranch house. She only remembers the farm as her home where she raised three children, cooked harvest meals and hung clothes to flap on the line like fabric silhouettes of each family member.

This place – this emotional shelter, safe within its strength yet even now scented with illness and Mom’s shadowed existence foreboding.

My sister is now the keeper of the ranch house. It serves its purpose of shelter for her, of last memories where our parents aged out in its rooms. Yet it also continues to play out its description as the house of sickness waiting.

Kris struggles with arthritic pain and several types of joint diseases which emit a pain I cannot imagine. She limps through the house, taking care of her cats and the neighbor’s pets, then ambles outside to feed the birds and pull  weeds from the gardens her green thumb has created.

The flag she painted on barn tin bears the symbol and colors of the University of Oklahoma. Inside the house, the walls record screams of pleasure whenever the Sooners do their thing and score multiple touchdowns per game.

The personality of this house follows me whenever I drive away. I am left with a sense of gratitude that my sister is safe within its walls – at least for now – until as she says, “The body gives out.”

Then we will know that somehow – in that house – our family made an imprint on the earth.

Houses become the measurements of years as each place serves a purpose. And within each place, we wait for that final call home that contains no walls, needs no paint and provides the freedom where our spirits roam.

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

Time Passes With Hope

Have you noticed we’re almost halfway through 2016?clock

Molly Totoro, a writer who loves the sights, smells and joy of the holidays, recently posted, “Only seven months until Christmas.”

Time indeed passes quickly, especially as we age, but really – don’t the months seem to flip through the calendar faster than ever before?

I’ve pondered the passage of time recently and the possibility of something unique happening.

A verse in Matthew 24:22 reminds us how difficult the last days will be. “Unless those days are shortened, all mankind will perish. But they will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen people” (TLB).

Bible scholars usually preach these verses as God’s way of protecting his people during the tribulation, his way of shortening the time of suffering.

But I wonder if this unique method of protection is already occurring. Maybe we’re seeing the increased crescendo of time on earth that eventually shortens our days.

Sally Jadlow, author of the Late Sooner series, calls it, “God tweaking time.”

Is Time-Tweaking a Possibility?

Certainly the Creator God can determine how time will flip through our online calendars. This incredible God carefully plans each day of our lives. Can he not also decide how long each day will be?

This beyond-the-scope-of-science God hung Jupiter in its particular orbit and designed rings around Saturn. If he can work in the vastness of space, he can also tweak the hours of our work days.

This loving God touches a baby’s cheek in the womb and imprints a dimple. This artistic God paints the tail of a blue jay with onyx black, azure blue and pale gray contrasts, then changes his divine palette to include the crimson and taupe of cardinals.

Surely this amazing God can tweak the revolutions of the earth so that time speeds up.

But why would God project a new way to manage time?

For the sake of his children. To protect those he loves. To help us endure when we don’t think we can stand one more day in this evil world.


To offer us hope.


Admittedly, I am homesick for heaven. I miss my dad and other saints who have finished their timelines and flown home.

Often I am discouraged by the sadness of so many lives and the suffering of countless people. The nightly news can pierce my heart. I keep a Kleenex box beside the television.

But I try to be patient because I know God has a plan and he waits for those who currently ignore him. He wants them to share in heaven, too.

Occasionally I hear the whisper of angels’ wings or the hum of a worship song unique to the heavenlies and I wonder – how close are we?

Maybe tomorrow. Or maybe in the blink of an eye – now!

And maybe God really is tweaking time because he’s anxious to hold us in his arms and cry, “Oh my sweet child – welcome home!”

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

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 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