Hope Wins

Oh, God! I was so afraid!

During the sixth month of pregnancy, thirty plus years ago, 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 backyard’s sunshine and stretched out on 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 startle and fly away. But he rode the wave, stayed in position and kept his gaze on my face.

For over an hour, the three of us — butterfly, unborn child and scared Mama — baked in the sun, ingested the natural vitamin D and shared in worship.

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.

Encouraged, I returned to the house and journaled about my experience. Renewed and ready to face whatever was destined to happen during the next few months.

God often uses his creation to encourage, uplift and remind us he is indeed greater than our problems.

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 — he can certainly deal with our everyday stresses.

How many scenarios does he manage, helping us when we aren’t alert enough to look for him?

How many traffic accidents are stopped, cancer cells deleted or guns silenced because God showed up?

Perhaps in heaven, we’ll watch a giant video screen and see the divine image beside our sick child, walking down the aisle with us as we graduate or smiling as we choose our first car.

Like the butterfly’s appearance, God 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 planted and nurtured a butterfly bush in my back yard. Red clover now grows around the perimeter while a giant sedum waits in one corner for October offerings of sweet nectar.

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 33 years old, a healthy and sensitive man who makes me proud every day to be called his mom.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more Godwinks about hope, check out Hope Shines, available in print, e-book and large print.

 

 

Is Hope Really Possible?

An encouragement often shared on my blog is the phrase, “Stay in hope.” No matter how life unravels, stay in hope.

What does that statement really mean? Is hope possible in today’s messy world? What does it look like, feel like? Or is it something so ethereal, we cannot find it — fail to grasp hold of it.

To stay in hope requires a conscience effort to move beyond whatever reality presses on us and instead — find a way to focus on a future of gladness.

Staying in hope means we begin with an action which follows with a joyful emotional reaction. So what are some practical action points we can take to find hope?

Focus on the Positive. When life unravels, it is easier to focus on what has gone wrong. The tornado touched down on top of the house. The person we loved is no longer here. The identity thief wiped us out.

None of us can avoid the uncomfortable circumstances of life. But if we constantly think about the struggles, we miss the pathway to hope.

As we focus on the positives of life, those negative tapes begin to fade. If we concentrate on what is good, renewed hope seems possible.

In spite of natural disasters, we are still alive. The grief process can leave us wiser and more centered. When our security is threatened, we can rebuild, restore, redo what we did before — even better this time.

List all the blessings, even those small ones you take for granted: hot water in the shower, a fridge with food in it, a hug from a child.

Stay in that hopeful place of warm and fuzzy vibes.

Surround Yourself with Hopeful People. Our network of people affects everything we do and how we react to life. Being around encouraging people helps us grow hope muscles. When we spend time with people who are positive, we feel better about life.

We may even learn how to fully love ourselves and become an encourager to someone else.

When our friendships revolve around the people who encourage us, we feel more hope surrounding our souls. We look forward to each day and enjoy being with these people. They help us smile and feel positive. They keep us from wallowing in the muck of daily living.

They give us the impetus to stay in hope.

Collect Affirmations. Positive sayings, posters and memes with hope-filled quotes may show up on social media or in home décor departments. My writing study is decorated with several positive affirmations.

Print out and post these messages. A plaque, a swirly design on a piece of barn wood or industrial metal, even a Post-it note with a positive statement — anything to remind you to stay in hope.

On my bathroom mirror, I have three notes I see every day:

  • Let my heart revive and live.
  • May the God of truth and faithfulness to his promises, bless me.
  • “After the grief fades, after the suffering dwindles away, God Himself will complete me, establish and ground me securely, strengthen and settle me” (First Peter 5:10).

To stay in hope, we need to work at it. As we focus on the positive, surround ourselves with healthy people and remind ourselves of affirmations — we can maintain and grow a more positive attitude.

Then hope becomes more of a reality as we acknowledge its existence and proactively seek to own it.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Ever heard of “booking a blog?” That’s what I’m doing with this post. Check out the entire book, Hope Shines.

Hope and the Feral Cats

It was a gift — an unexpected pleasure on a discouraging day.

I had just pulled up my Amazon book sales report. Not enough sales for the month, not even close to my goal.

Then I looked outside and laughed in delight.black and white kitten

My neighborhood is blessed with several feral cats. One big guy — all black — I call Onyx. A smaller black and white female I have dubbed Mama.

Several of us feed them. During the winter they shelter under porches, pad across the snow-covered cul-de-sac to the next bowl of food.

But this spring, I noticed Mama growing fatter with pregnancy. She lumbered around the neighborhood, searching for more and more goodies. Then suddenly, she appeared thin and tired. Obviously, she had given birth. Onyx strutted as if proud of his accomplishment.

I did not know where Mama nested, how many babies she had or even if any of them lived. Feral cats don’t always have successful births.

Then, on the exact day I needed a boost, I looked out my front window and laughed. Four kittens crawled out from under the neighbor’s porch. Black and white, some more spotted, a couple more solid black with white booties.

They were at the stage of perfect fluff and fun, jumping on each other and practicing their cat-skills of pounce and conquer. Mama stood to the side, looking exasperated but also maternal.

The neighbor — a big tough guy who hides his soft heart, sneaked bowls onto the porch, then hid behind a bush. The kittens cavorted toward the bowls, joined by Mama as the entire brood ate lustily.

I stayed by my front window for a while, refused to answer a text message or to return to my computer. Knowing I needed the joy of those kittens fed hope and insulated me from further discouragement.

Just a few moments to watch joy in action, the frolicking movements of kittens and the satisfied face-washing after a bowl of milk.

Sometimes all we need is a nugget of hope to remind us life is good, that the creatures God has blessed us with bring a freedom from stress and worry. To be grateful for small blessings and leave the uncertainties for another day.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For some extra nuggets of hope, check out Hope Shines – also available in Large Print.

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 Comes Full Circle

My mother taught me to love reading. After the farm chores were completed, the supper dishes washed and the homework finished — everyone in our family sat down to read. This discipline meant we drove to the library every week and checked out stacks of books.

Then an important milestone changed my reading habits.library

When I was twelve, Mom gathered my siblings and I for our weekly library run. I searched through each of the young adult books, but couldn’t find one I hadn’t already read or one that truly interested me. And I was NOT going to check out the children’s section. That was for little kids like my brother and sister.

So I wandered into the adult section and found a couple of books I wanted to read. But when I took them to the librarian for her dated stamp, she peered at me over her glasses and said, “These are adult books, young lady.”

“I know, ma’am. But I’ve read all the young adult books. I want to read these.”

“You are not allowed to read any of the books in the adult section. Take them back.”

Five minutes later, Mom found me in the adult section, cradling the books I could not read and crying over my bad luck. I wasn’t old enough yet.

“What’s the matter with you?” Mom demanded. She never wasted time with emotions. Not a nurturer, but a great defender.

When I told her what had happened, she grabbed my hand and those two books. Together, we marched toward the librarian’s towering desk.

Mom’s voice was harsh. “I understand you won’t let my daughter check out these books.”

“That’s right, ma’am. These books are from the adult section and….”

“I know where they’re from. May I remind you this library exists because taxpayers like me pay for it?”

“But ma’am…sh-h-h…we have a policy….”

The volume of Mom’s voice rose. “And may I also remind you that I pay your salary and the electric bill for this place.”

“But ma’am, an adolescent such as your daughter can’t possibly understand these books.”

“My daughter — in fact, all my children read well above their grade levels. If she has any questions about the words, she can ask me. Now…we ARE checking out these books for my daughter. Today.”

During the stare-down of these two powerful women, I felt the electricity of the emotional standoff. But I knew who would win.

Nobody ever beat down my mother, especially when it came to defending her children.

That day, I walked out of the library with The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt and The Grapes of Wrath. I read both books and never had to ask Mom for help with the words.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to participate in that same library’s Author Fest. It was a coming full circle from the adolescent to the adult author.

Unfortunately, the weather from this winter-that-won’t-quit stopped me from attending. I simply could not travel through six inches of snow to that cherished Oklahoma library.

But they promised to keep me on the list for next year. And one of my books is now shelved in the library that wouldn’t allow a young girl to read an adult book.

Life comes full circle and hope travels with it. What we learn as children overshadows how we act as adults. That’s why childhood is so important.

And that’s why words give me hope.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

The book now shelved in that library is titled Hope Shines. Check it out.

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 in the SAD

I come alive in March.

In fact, I count off the weeks during January and February, looking forward to the day I can flip the calendar to March.

Why March? Because it signals the beginning of spring. The days are longer. The sunshine is brighter.

sad emojiFor years, I didn’t know how to define my problem with the first two months of the year. Then I read an article about Seasonal Affective Disorder and recognized my symptoms:

  • Feeling sad – duh!
  • Losing interest in normal activities
  • Low energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Wanting to escape, move, go somewhere warm – I added this one.

Check, check and double check.

Every January and February I wish I could become a snowbird – flee to Arizona and bask in the warmth. But instead, the cold gray days of the Midwest seem to multiply as 31 days in January plus 28 in February equal 500 million.

But hope lies in the knowledge that seasons DO change. March DOES come in like a lion, and I will once again roar.

So I focus on hope and do what works for me:

  • As much light as possible
  • When the sun DOES shine, I stand in it
  • Extra portions of the supplement Saint John’s Wort
  • Extra exercise, especially walking which releases endorphins. On cold days, you can find me walking around the perimeter of Target or Wal-Mart.
  • Plenty of self-care, homemade soups and comfort food like blueberry muffins
  • Coffee chats with friends
  • Reminding myself creative energy WILL return – in March
  • Staying in gratitude. Every day, finding some reason to say, “Thank you, God.”

And if the SAD gloomies persist, curl up with a good book and a heavy blanket.

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

If you also suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder, curl up with Hope Shines until March.