Hope Finds a Relationship

This series about the Saturday Sisters cannot end without a post that features Deb. Although I have written about her numerous times since that horrible day she died – she is still included when the Saturday Sisters meet.Debby

Susan makes the guacamole Deb loved. Janet often dresses the table with the quilt Deb made for her.

Although we have reassigned seats, the place where Deb sat still holds her presence. We still consider her one of the Sisters, mainly because of her gift to us – relationship.

Judging from the number of people who attended her funeral, Deb’s gift for relationship flowed beyond our circle.

Simply put, she knew how to relate to others. It wasn’t always an easy relationship, but even then – Deb knew how to work through the differences.

None of us were ready for her death. None of us ever imagined it might happen and that she would be taken from us so quickly. We all experienced those first days / weeks / months of blessed shock that protected us for a while from intense pain.

And on the one year anniversary of her death, we met again to toast her life and remember what she meant to us.

My therapist tells me the end of relationships is the reason so many elderly people are depressed. Because when they lose someone they have loved for a lifetime, they know time will not allow them to ever replace that friendship. They simply don’t have enough years left.

As if Deb could ever be replaced. Not happening.

Deb and I often took trips together – to test the relationship, to see if we could at some point live together and share expenses.

We had our moments. I am a morning person. Deb was awake long after I was in bed. I am a scheduler, a planner. Deb was spontaneous.

We added flavor to each other even as we learned to compensate for our differences.

The strangest confrontation we ever had was during our trip to New Mexico. We were in Red River, that lovely mountain town where Deb played her Native American flute from our balcony. People gathered to ooh and ah at the sound as it echoed off the mountains.

In the grocery store that night, we each bought snacks. Then Deb said, “Put them in the same sack. We’ll save a bit of plastic to protect the environment.”

For some reason, it bothered me not to have my own sack. I have been independent for years, so to have someone else tell me what to do with my stuff – well – that just wouldn’t fly.

I know. It sounds so stupid now.

But we left the store with only one sack between us. Deb immediately sensed something wrong, and we worked through it. We talked it out of our systems. I admitted to being foolish and selfish. She confessed to assuming I would agree with her.

The main issue was to keep our relationship trustworthy and intact. Which we did.

She always found a way to reach my soft spot, buried beneath the scars of years without trust.

And that’s what I miss the most. The action of relationship. Her voice on the phone. Her face at my door. Her cats on my lap and her smile when she knew we were on the same telepathic wavelength.

Someone I could trust with my inner self.

The Saturday Sisters have added so much richness to my life, I cannot fathom being without them. Could never imagine the group without Deb.

But life does not flow within the barriers we desire. It surprises us with illness and death, but also with treasured friendships that build with each meeting.

It has been said that we meet people for a reason, for a season or for a lifetime.

Twenty plus years with this amazing group of women is a small lifetime and each of us has brought a gift to the group.

Whether it’s Encouragement, Wisdom, Service, Perseverance or Relationship, I feel truly blessed to be part of the Saturday Sisters of Lawrence, Kansas.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

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Hope Stands With Perseverance

As we continue to discover the qualities of each Saturday Sister, Hope shows itself in the persevering life of Sharon.flower cactus

For over twenty years, my Saturday Sisters have met together – usually monthly – to eat lunch, talk about our families and prayer requests, to do life together.

Sister Sharon and I have shared fun times together. We were both moms of band students, so we traveled to every band competition, ballgame and even band practice we could manage. In fact, one year we met at the grassy field where the band practiced and prayed for their season.

Football fans may not realize how hard the band works. With two-a-day practices that begin with the earliest crow of the rooster, the band is on the practice field. Sharon and I know because we vicariously lived it with our children.

It was Sharon who realized I would someday move from the cozy town of Lawrence to the Kansas City Metro. She was the sister who encouraged me to attempt the 435 loop and the Grandview Triangle, which felt like a near-death experience. She directed me through neighborhoods and helped me imagine that life could indeed be okay in the big city.

We both love flowers, so Sharon and I have found joy in visiting numerous lawn and nurseries. We revel in the colors and textures of God’s creations, even the birds we feed each day and the animals each of us have loved.

But the main reason I love Sharon is because of her perseverance. For many years, she has lived with the debilitating disease of muscular dystrophy. She endures the pain, the stares of rude people and even cruel comments that come her way.

Each moment of each day brings the need to persevere, to make it through another hour and try to find some joy in it.

She manages to persevere, because her faith is stronger than her pain.

She plans her days around how many steps it takes to launder the clothes, how long she can manage to move around her kitchen to fix a meal and how to stay awake when pain kept her from sleep the night before. Even her diet is now affected as so many things upset her delicate system.

The living of life itself is a challenge. Yet this sister has prayed me through various difficulties. She has shown me how to endure when life throws a stink ball and she has enabled me to persevere because of her example.

Sharon has no idea how beautiful she is, but the rest of us consistently see God’s beauty in her.

When I think of Sharon and her gift of perseverance, a quote from the best-selling “The Art of Racing in the Rain” underscores what I want to say: “The physicality of our world is a boundary to us only if our will is weak. A true champion can accomplish things that a normal person would think impossible.”  

Sharon is a true champion.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my books on my Amazon Author page.

Hope Believes in Service

Continuing with this mini-series within the Hope series. As part of my legacy and just because I want to, I am blogging about each of my Saturday Sisters.

For over twenty years, we have met together – usually monthly – to eat lunch, talk about our families and prayer requests, to do life together. Today I focus on the Servant Sister, Susan.serving - Jesus love

Her demeanor is that of the humble Servant as she believes strongly yet expresses herself softly. She is a constant reminder to me of the way we should love others by being Love.

Susan is an amazing cook, a faithful wife, mother and grandmother.  Each time we meet, she brings a bowl of guacamole – to honor Deb. And she is the sister who provides the main dish, a quiche filled with goodness sans the gluten. Two of us are gluten free.

In the various experiences of my life, Susan has been there to serve. She is a talented garage sale shopper and finds the best bargains that are beautiful and functional.

During the dark beginnings of my post-divorce days, Susan brought me gifts that accessorized my new décor. She helped me imagine how life would again someday be worthwhile.

Sometimes, I would hear the doorbell ring and hurry to open it. But no one stood there, only a bag of groceries, a pile of coupons or an envelope of cash. I have no proof, but I imagined these gifts were probably from Susan.

When I moved to Olathe, it was Susan and her husband, Steve, who stayed the longest to help me arrange everything. When they left, I almost called Susan and said, “Come back. I need another hug.” She gives great hugs that infuse me with the best of grace-filled love.

She is a faith heroine, a supporter of the Navigators and a woman who cares deeply about the lost and hurting. She prays with a fervency that teaches me how to focus on the heart of God rather than on my own needs.

Always, always Susan serves with little thought for herself.

Yet, she is strong enough to defend herself and those she loves. In spite of cultural changes, she stands for truth and continues to learn more about serving God. She uses her spare time to help others, to give of herself and to share whatever she has.

Nowhere have I found a more gracious Servant than Susan.

We share a birthday month, just two days apart, so we often send cards and sometimes a little gift. I always feel closer to her in October.

Susan adds to our Sister meetings with a soft voice, sharing her latest news with a positive spin. She knows how to stay in Hope and how to praise God for the blessings of life. She reminds me to do the same, especially when I veer off into negativity.

Although she never boasts about her gifts or pushes herself into first place, I know she has a tender heart.

I saw her grief-stricken face at Deb’s funeral, and I wanted to help her feel better. But I couldn’t. She has always been the one to help others.

When we get to heaven, Susan will have a special place – probably near the heart of God. Her life and her Servant ways have earned her a “Well done,” and I love who she is with a passion I cannot express.

This Sister shows us what it means to love every day, in ways we cannot fathom. Somehow, she finds a way to do her Serving with grace and for that – I honor her.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my book on my Amazon Author page.

 

Hope Thrives in Wisdom

If you are just now joining me, let me introduce this mini-series within the Hope series. As part of my legacy and just because I want to, I am blogging about each of the Saturday Sisters.poster from Ginger

For over twenty years, we have met together – usually monthly – to eat lunch, talk about our families and prayer requests, to do life together.

Today I focus on the tallest Sister, Ginger.

None of us call her Virginia, because the moniker of Ginger sounds more friendly. She once served as a gifted lawyer, but now revels in the roles of wife, grandmother, friend and sister.

Her gift to me is Wisdom.

From the time we first met, in the welcome line for new members at First Christian Church in Lawrence, Kansas, Ginger has impressed me as the most authentic woman I have ever known.

In spite of chronic illness, Ginger wears her authenticity with the wisdom of years. She and I share a common background. As recovering Mennonites we both love music, missions and carbohydrates.

I covet her white hair because my gray is not attractive. But I really loved how she once added a streak of dark purple, an impulsive move that delighted us and underscored her creativity.

Ginger and her husband, Ken, have supported me in various ministries through the years, but it was her kind generosity and wisdom that helped me through the dark beginnings of divorce. She was practical yet soft, wise yet gentle. I will always love her for being there when the need was so great.

Her Wisdom also manifests in story as Ginger is one of the best story-tellers I know. She served on my team as an international minister, telling the stories of the Bible to children and their mothers from all over the world. She brought Moses, Noah, Adam and Eve alive to beginners in faith and seasoned saints.

I am quite certain some young adults in China or the Ukraine now believe in the amazing Yahweh God, because they saw him live through Ginger.

When we meet as Saturday Sisters, it is Ginger’s stories that enthrall us, that lead to laughter or a general sigh of agreement. While we grieve for the illnesses she bears, for the pain that often keeps her away from our meetings – we treasure our times together.

I love how Ginger speaks her truth and how she often shares on my blog comments. It makes me feel closer to her through the miles, to send a hug through cyberspace and thank her for taking the time to read and respond.

Although we are not far apart in age, Ginger seems so much stronger than I, wiser for her years of experience, grace-filled in spite of sorrows. She reminds me to persevere, to find the stories in the every dayness of living and to keep on writing, even through rejection.

A creative poster Ginger designed hangs in my office and is represented in the image above. With her usual flair for color and texture, it is the wisdom of Ginger’s words that I appreciate most: “I have always known that I would take this path, but yesterday I did not know that it would be today.”

The Wisdom of my Sister Ginger challenges me to seek my own wisdom in the things that count, in the words I write and in the Hope I strive for.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my books on my Amazon Author page.

Hope and the Saturday Sisters

For over twenty years, we have met together – usually monthly – to eat lunch, talk about our families and prayer requests, to do life together.SAMSUNG

We have watched our children grow up, shared the joys of weddings and the sorrow of funerals. Phone calls, emails and texts help us stay connected, but it is our monthly meetings that feed my soul.

As I have considered my next book, I wondered if it was time to write about the Saturday Sisters. Somehow, that book isn’t coming together – yet – so I asked each of these precious ones if I could describe them in a blog post.

With their permission, I decided to go deep and talk about how each of these Sisters has added to my life.

During the aging process, we begin to think about legacies and what we will leave behind. We de-clutter the stuff, knowing it is no longer  important. But it is the people we cannot forget, cannot shove into the Goodwill bin. These are the treasured ones who have added to our living and shown us how to be.

This blog post begins my thank you to the Saturday Sisters for how they have enriched my life.

Janet: The Encourager. She has a special way of turning a dark day into a beam of light. With her witty humor and her pithy statements, she has often given me hope when everything seemed desperate.

She calls once / week to check up on me from her sunroom office where her title is inscribed near her chair: CEO – Chief Encouragement Officer.

Her voice holds warmth and often – a suppressed giggle – reminding me how joy lies just below the surface. We just have to shove away the despair to find it.

Janet encourages me in my writing and in my living. She and her husband, Steve, have supported my various ministries and they are patrons for my writing life.

She is also a prolific reader. She finds the most amazing books I have never heard of. Then she shares them with the group and often sends each of us a copy.

One of those books provides morning and evening meditations for me. “A Diary of Private Prayer” by John Baillee has challenged me while reminding me once again how Janet encourages me to grow.

It is Janet’s lovely house where we meet, because it is totally accessible for her wheelchair. This Encourager lives with MS and its side effects, facing her own dark days yet somehow never letting them destroy her faith.

I am consistently amazed by Janet’s courage, and I love her intensely for who she is.

Janet’s husband, Steve, is our associate member. He helps Janet get the house ready, picks treasures from his garden to share with us and gives amazingly strong, beautiful hugs. Steve is one of those rare men who is trustworthy, kind and smart.

He and Janet have merged their personalities into a grace-filled pairing of what marriage should be.

It is Janet who organizes our monthly meetings, who leads us in our discussions and keeps us on track. She is the energizing force behind the Saturday Sisters, and I truly don’t know how she does it so well.

Except that she is gifted as an Encourager.

She knows who she is and how to set healthy boundaries. As a former lawyer, a devoted wife, mother and grandmother – Janet is the Sister who keeps me steadfastly searching for Hope.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more information about my books, check out my Amazon Author Page.

Hope Depends on Divine Accompaniment

For many years, I accompanied soloists and choral groups with piano, organ or keyboard. It was a fun time and a growing experience in my musical journey.piano keys

The art of accompaniment includes several techniques:

  • The accompanist follows rather than leads.
  • A good accompanist adds to the performance and does not overshadow the soloist.
  • To accompany means to help, but it can also include a few embellishments, chord segues or arpeggios that add richness to the performance.
  • Good accompanists are a treasure. Soloists and choir directors seek out only the best.

In her best-selling book, “The Prosperous Heart: Creating a Life of Enough” Julia Cameron introduces the concept of divine accompaniment where God is so close, He goes with us on each journey and throughout our daily tasks.

I love this idea, because I spend so much time in the necessary aloneness of creativity. Sometimes I forget my Husband and Maker is right beside me.

But how does that divine accompaniment work, especially when the “star” of the show is not me but rather – the Divine One?

I like to think of God as walking beside me hand in hand. Together we combine our forces and gifts, the desires of the heart completely intertwined so that it is impossible to tell one from the other.

God adds a score, a lovely embellishment that completes the thought or action I have taken. I use the gifts he has given me to add richness and texture to our journey together.

Although the composition may sometimes feel or sound discordant — in the end, it resolves into a lovely sound that resembles a final Amen.

The Divine One accompanies my writing projects, the relationships I build with clients and friends, the very texture of my life.

And always the reminder within the music of each day: I am never alone. I am accompanied by the Creator of beauty who reverberates his sound within me.

The Divine Accompanist underscores hope and completes his theme with graceful beauty.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

The Divine Accompanist shows up in my book Hope Shines – now available in regular and large print.

Hope is Present

When I worked for a national organization of chaplains, we often talked about the ministry of presence. As people struggle with grief and face challenges, they need someone to show up and be with them. To be present.hugs at beach

Henri Nouwen eloquently explained this ministry of presence, “I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”   

Somehow we think we must always come up with a perfect quote or a special Bible verse to help another person over the hump.

But my quote is not your quote. Your Bible verse may not help me at all.

So feeling the need to impart great wisdom rarely shares hope, especially for those who are suffering.

During this year of grief, my son’s illness and unanswered questions, hope has shown itself in the ministry of presence.

I have been blessed by special friends who were determined to just be present: An invite for morning coffee or a spontaneous offer of iced tea which then morphed into supper at Red Robin. Hugs. A plate of gluten free treats. A listening ear. An “I’m thinking about you” card or an “I’m praying for you” text.

No wise quotes. No Bible verses. No “You should do this” statements.

These “present” friends granted me space and allowed me the time to heal in my own way. No expectations. No judgment.

Plenty of hope.

Now I am determined to pay it forward – to just be present when I meet another struggling pilgrim.

When others are suffering, to offer that cup of coffee or the iced tea that sweats all over the table or the meal at Red Robin with bottomless fries which I don’t need but sometimes taste really good.

To be the one who shares hope without words of wisdom, sans my ideas of what might help. To just be there as a person who cares.

Hopefully, I can do for others what others have done for me.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For nuggets of hope, check out Hope Shines – now available in regular or large print.