When Guilt Interrupts Hope

As difficult as it is to admit, the Alzheimer’s journey often involves a measure of guilt. Friends might try to soothe with platitudes, reminders that false guilt is not real. Nonetheless, the inner critic continues to scream, “You should have done more!”

During the years when Mom was in assisted living, it was easy to drive the 250 miles to her town and sit with her for a while.

At first, we took walks around the lake or up and down the halls. We sometimes shared a cup of coffee, talked about the grandkids or focused on happier memories.

Sometimes I watched the clock, waiting anxiously for the time I could escape — leave the facility and meet up with family for a nice dinner or browse through the mall and try to forget my mother sat alone in her room. Comforted myself with an empty purchase.

On some level, I knew those years and those visiting opportunities would someday end. But I never could have predicted the trauma of 2020, and what COVID-19 has stolen from us.

Visits in person are no longer possible. In fact, Mom has recently weathered a positive test for the virus. No symptoms. Her isolation now in the past.

This time.

But even window visits are few, only allowed when the authorities can set them up. And my travel for 250 miles is no longer easy or even possible as I’m dealing with my own health issues. A sprained hamstring that prevents travel for longer than an hour.

Now I remember back to those days that seemed so cavalier, sitting in the room with my mother, answering her repeated questions, giving her a hug and a quick “I love you” when I escaped.

I, blessed with the freedom to leave.

COVID has stolen the opportunity to keep the relationship alive even though Mom no longer knows who I am. I still know her, so I feel the guilt of leaving to continue my easy life — while she remained behind.

I have no idea when or if I will see my mother again. I can only hope that on some level she knows her family still cares for her.

So I pray for grace and transfer my need for hope to this woman who sits alone, unaware of COVID-19 or of another year that will soon end.

Then I remind myself not to give a pandemic too much power and instead — try to let go of the guilt.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

If your family is dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease, check out Holiday Tips for Caregivers.

Hope Watches the Autumn Dance

As I stood on my deck, a tree unloaded its entire leaf burden. It was as if God said, “It is now 3:24 on this date I created before the foundation of the world. Disengage.”

Photo by Hans Braxmeier – Pixabay

Within seconds, every leaf had let loose from its moorings. The tree stood naked in the autumn wind.

Since then, I have made more of an effort to watch how the autumn leaves fall. Some of them let loose to plummet quickly — as if they have given up on ever becoming anything more than a falling leaf.

Done. Hit the ground. Boom.

Other leaves are more graceful in their descent, twisting and turning as they spiral downward, then find a spot of still-green grass to slide to a landing.

But my favorites are the leaves that dance as if floating toward a purpose: the mulching of the ground, the photosynthesis of time.

These are the leaves that catch a final wisp of Kansas wind and turn upward for a moment, then pirouette in different directions, exposing their golden undersides to the rhythms of autumn.

These are the leaves that take my breath away as they meander across space and take their time letting gravity win.

The analogy of the autumn dance signals that even when nature introduces another winter, the rhythms of life continue.

Day and night. Seasons of life. Turn. Turn. Turn. Winter follows autumn but also promises spring.

I want to be most like the meandering leaves — to take my time enjoying the process of aging, the transitions of life that come to all of us.

Somehow I want to find the cadence of trust that allows my soul to float without worry, to sing in harmony with a greater purpose.

Maybe I can best mimic these graceful leaves by paying more attention to the way nature forms them — like veined boats that gather morning dew and shadow us during summer’s heat.

The reds, golds and oranges of the autumn dance remind me how God colors our world with various shades of skin. He reminds us all are beautiful — different yes, but glorious in our uniqueness.

Then just as God programs each tree in its autumn leaving, he also engages within the seasons of our lives.

He knows that exact moment when we will let go and dance toward a greater purpose, when the questions will be answered and the direction clear.

Gratefully, in his arms we will segue from dance to eternity. From hanging on to hope.

But unlike the leaves, we will fall upward.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

The above post has been a fan favorite, so I include it each year. For more of my writing and books, check out my Amazon Author page.

When Hope Finds Its True Color

My cyclamen bloomed a lovely fuchsia pink. But I bought it with the understanding that it would produce the dark eggplant purple color I love. What a disappointing surprise as the blossoms opened and showed off a deep pink.

Photo by Peter Kok – Pixabay

But a few days later, the blooms started changing. With time, the cyclamen blooms sported the purple I wanted. I just had to wait for the desired result while the plant morphed through its photosynthetic process.

The correct color was there all along, hidden behind the curtains of time. Only the passage of days would bring out the true richness I longed to see.

Isn’t that so like life?

We start a project, write a story or journal about a dream. Then the project becomes a tree house. The story evolves into a novel. The dream wraps around a destiny.

We share coffee with a friend which eventually grows a relationship that adds color and joy to our lives.

We say, “Yes” to Jesus and end up living a life abundant with more grace giftings than we ever thought possible.

One circumstance morphs into another, delighting us with the spontaneity of change and surprising us with the richness of the final result. Living within the surprises of life adds more fun than carefully structured days that grow old and boring in their regularity.

Perhaps we could also give permission for change to others — the opportunity to morph into a richer version of themselves — in time.

Wouldn’t that attitude change how we relate to our children when they seem stuck in the teen years? “Grow up!” we want to scream. But that is exactly what they are doing.

What if we give permission for change to those in authority over us — to the systems of our society stuck in transitional puzzles. It takes time for people and systems to learn how to change. As we morph into the people we long to be, we need to give daily grace.

What if we live in the joy of the surprise and truly learn that expectations do not always bring the best results.

As we gradually grow into hope and faith, we learn how to apply patience. We move into the next seasons of life and accept the things we cannot change.

If we could practice patience and apply grace to ourselves and others, within our world and its destinies — perhaps we could live better lives and embrace the hidden hope of each day.

The blatant ugliness recorded on social media proves nothing except that we all need to grow up. Our freedom to express opinions is a gift.

But why use that freedom to destroy another soul?

How can we grow to become our true color and exhibit the creative beauty God gave us if we don’t give each other the necessary time to morph into our best selves?

No matter how much unraveling we experience, no matter how COVID-19 changes us, we do possess the integrity and the wisdom to grow internally. We can grow our inner texture and let it brighten our souls.

We CAN change into who we should really be.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my newest book, The Invisible Women of Genesis. Their stories underscore the need for hope, change and grace.

When Hope Encounters a Rollercoaster

Memories of fun in the past included rollercoaster rides. Those giant metal or wooden edifices roared as the track connected with the train.

Hands held high. An unplanned scream. Stomach muscles clenched in a clash between fear and excitement.

But today’s rollercoaster comes not from a machine or long lines of customers anticipating the ride of their lives.

No, we are all on a rollercoaster together — the emotional ride of 2020.

Just as we begin to feel a bit more secure, another jerk takes us to a scary elevation of fear or a sudden downturn of despair.

Back and forth. Up and down. The spiral cycles and the stomach clenches once again.

What does this rollercoaster look like in the waning months of 2020?

The Ever-Present Track of Covid-19. Our family had escaped Covid. Everyone was healthy. Then the phone call. The one person most susceptible – the elderly matriarch.

Mom is 92 and confused within the shadows of Alzheimer’s. She does not understand why she has been taken out of her room and placed in isolation. She does not recognize the staff people who now wear full PPE garb and speak to her behind shields.

The cruel rollercoaster of 2020.

Unexpected Circumstances. A simple step down into the garden, expecting to water flowers. Then joy at the colorful blooms became pain as my hamstring pulled, leg and hip out of whack. Doctor visits, chiropractic treatments, a cane to maneuver through my uneven yard. Three months out, and it still hurts to sit or stand.

The uncertain rollercoaster of 2020.

Cancelled Plans. A special birthday trip to my beloved Santa Fe and the wonders of the Southwest. Planned with a friend for months. Excitement flushes out as reality slides around the next turn. Travel is impossible with a hip injury. Wait another year. Forget this anticipation and push back the joy.

The disappointing rollercoaster of 2020.

The Search for Truth. One news channel reports their facts, complete with videos, fact-checking and credible sources. Another channel reports their facts, also complete with videos, fact-checking and credible sources. Yet they totally disagree.

The confusing rollercoaster of 2020.

Science versus Reality. Government agencies we should be able to trust release statements about vaccines, treatments, forecasted dates. Then the next day, they reverse their information. What?! Science changes overnight? How much is politics affecting information — on both sides of the aisle?

The puzzling rollercoaster of 2020.

Relationships Suffering. Families and friends who once worked together, worshipped the same God and rejoiced in spending time together. Now they are jerked apart by opposing views — both sides claiming divine inspiration. Both sides able to quote Bible verses and pound pulpits with their opinions.

The polarizing rollercoaster of 2020.

How can we find hope when our emotions are jerked up and down, around and around, spiraling out of control?

A carnival ride expert once said to focus on what is not moving, something that will not change no matter which direction the rollercoaster heads.

So we can focus on one thing — hang on to the thread of faith, that whisper of constancy that assures us, “For I, the Lord, do not change. Therefore, you are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6).

Eventually, we will step off and away from the rollercoaster of 2020. It will take a while to regain our equilibrium, and we will most certainly face a changed world.

But even as we focus on what steadies us, we can be certain hope will survive. It looks beyond the present tense, reaches toward the future perfect.

To be settled and steady. To feel secure. To know we have survived this year and hope for what promises to be better.

That is the goal of hope, an emotional place that may be shaken but still endures.

In spite of the rollercoaster of 2020, we can end our days with this Kenyan prayer: “From the cowardice that dare not face new truth, from the laziness that is contented with half-truth, from the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth — Good Lord, deliver us.”

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my newest book, just released during this crazy year of 2020. The Invisible Women of Genesis uncovers some of the hidden stories from the women who were present, yet invisible, at the beginning.

 

Hope Travels to a Cemetery

She knelt beside the gravestone, surrounded by other markers unknown to us. Yet even with the multiple spirits in attendance and angels on guard, she was alone.

A young woman seeking closure from the death of her beloved nanny. Decades after the event, yet the pain still as fresh as the day she breathed her last.

When I step onto a cemetery’s soil, I always think of the show Our Town. That scene when major characters sit in their places beside their gravestones and observe family and friends in grief.

No expression on the faces of the dead characters – just an acknowledgement of life lived to its fullest, a few regrets and the somber reality of how quickly our timelines are fulfilled.

For this young woman who lost a lifetime friend, it was a sacred moment. The death of her nanny interrupted her middle-school years and created a searing hole of loss.

We don’t always pay attention to the grief of children: the loss of a pet, a grandparent or even an unexpected move.

As adults, we do what we have to do: arrange the cremation, pack up the belongings, schedule a garage sale to get rid of the detritus of another’s life.

So when children’s needs are passed over, it creates a gap in their growth, a scar that keeps bleeding at the reminders of every holiday, each birthday approached or a surprise smell that brings the loss back into clear focus.

For this woman, even the location of the grave was hidden – a great unknown affecting multiple families who knew this nanny.

Yet the cemetery held the secret, ready to reveal it at the proper time, eager to speed healing and salve a soul.

With the help of an internet site, findagrave.com, we found the general direction of where the grave might be. In the heat of early September we traipsed from row to row.

Thoughts of my own beloveds buried in cemeteries of the Midwest. Grateful for the belief we shared that we would meet again in an eternal state. No deaths there. No Covid-19. No sickness of any kind.

The writer in me paused to reflect on the myriad of stories reflected by dates: a grandfather who passed in 1889, a soldier from WWII, an eight year-old child. I could imagine the sobs of parents and wondered if the cause was the flu epidemic, a dreadful accident, maybe the scourge of smallpox?

Cemeteries provide a sense of history, a reminder of our mortality and a concrete symbol of the toll loss takes. Yet within the provision of closure, these sacred spaces also reflect Bible verses, pictures surrounded by stone, carefully manicured grass that protects vases of artificial or real blooms.

And cemeteries remind us to live life as fully as we can – while we can. Before our chairs are set beside the grave and we observe those who come to mourn.

Finally . . . a cry from my son. He used the background of an online photo to locate the grave. I watched the young woman slowly approach, knew she was glad to find it yet dreading the sight of that precious name and the death date inscribed below.

I carried the crimson mums we found at Wal-Mart, handed them to her, then stepped back to allow her space and time.

The day before our cemetery trip, my son and I prayed for this young woman. We wanted to support her quest and longed to see peace reflected on her lovely face.

After she spent several moments in reflection, she left a letter fastened with a blue posy. Then my son watered the mums and we left, slowly walking toward the car and away from those who could not follow.

Why was this moment so encased with emotion yet filled with hope? Because that young woman will soon become my daughter-in-love. She needed that healing day, and we needed to support her in it.

Hope finds its way into unusual places, but often peeks from an extraordinary moment. Then it reminds us how hope can heal – even decades later – and offers a promise of future joy.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more posts about hope, check out Hope Shines, available on Amazon and also in Large Print.

 

 

When Hope Needs a Greater Miracle

the-thinker-489753_1280Writers are thinkers.

We spend a great deal of time reflecting on plots, characterizations and the best topics for an online post.

So last week, I spent some time thinking about miracles.

We’ve all heard about miracles of healing — maybe even personally experienced one or two. And various publications focus on miraculous stories.

These stories encourage us, especially when life is hard — like it is now — during Covid-19 and its dastardly side effects.

But even as I pray for a global miracle, I reflect on the possibility of leveled miracles.

Some supernatural happenings always occur: the beauty of birth for any species, that phone call about a new job, a card that arrives at just the right time.

Daily miracles that turn the ordinary into something inexplicably extraordinary.

The Israelites watched God perform several miracles that underscored he was on their side (Exodus 7-12).

  • The Nile River turned to blood
  • Swarms of gnats, flies and grasshoppers
  • The deaths of the firstborns

But as amazing as these events were, the hapless and sometimes unbelieving Israelites needed a greater miracle.

Just as they escaped from Egypt, they faced the Red Sea. Behind them galloped the Egyptian army, ready to capture them and force them back into slavery.

So God showed up with a greater miracle.

He sent a strong east wind that divided the water and turned the pathway into dry land. Think Charleston Heston, Cecille B. DeMille and the Ten Commandments 1956 movie.

Can you imagine how frightening it must have been to step between those walls of water? Did they see fish swimming and bumping their snouts against an invisible wall? Did they wonder, what happens if the water suddenly gives way?

But they crossed safely on the other side while Pharaoh and his army perished as God released the torrent.

Today, we need a greater miracle. We’ve faced epidemics before, and scientists have created miraculous vaccines.

But we need more than the right dosage of the correct DNA that destroys Covid-19. We need:

  • Jobs created and/or restored for the thousands of unemployed
  • Comfort for those who have lost loved ones, now approaching 200,000 families
  • Justice for those who died because their skin wasn’t paisley white
  • Strong leadership and courage to do the right thing, no matter which aisle they sit on
  • Women and children rescued and cared for as domestic violence has exponentially increased in 2020

We need solutions to so many problems, no one person can solve them. And this is definitely NOT a political post.

We need a greater miracle.

In times of crisis, our leaders have called for a national fasting and prayer day. Our current time period begs for a mindset of humility, for all of us to cry out, fall to our knees and ask God to perform a greater miracle.

Without divine intervention and global change of heart, we may be facing a social Armageddon with lasting consequences. How many of us are willing to walk through those waters?

God, please, heal our land. Move back the waters once more and let us travel peacefully to the Promised Land.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more essays about hope, check out Uploading Faith.

Hope Shows Up in School Supplies

How wonderful that in the middle of August’s dog days we find a spark of fun! School supplies are on sale.

As a child, I shopped at TG&Y with Mom, imagining what the new school year might bring. Would this be the year Mom would buy me the coveted box of 64 crayons with the sharpener on the back? Alas! It never happened during elementary school.

Many years later, one of my friends treated me to the box of 64, still replete with the sharpener on the back. Even as an adult, it was a wonderful gift.

Every year, shopping for school supplies represented a new take on hope. It was akin to the cleaning of the chalkboard — the chance to start over, to learn more facts and read more books.

The energy of a new year felt as fresh as the package of #2 yellow pencils. Would my teacher like me? Would I be chosen to pass out the “Weekly Readerson Fridays?

Even into high school and college years, the hunt for the perfect pens, the best paper and the sturdiest notebooks required research. We clipped coupons and drove all over town for the best bargains.

Then as a single mom, it was more difficult to save the money required for my son’s list. The year he needed an electronic calculator completely tanked my budget.

But even then, we shared the excitement of the new year and the possibility of setting fresh goals, making new friends, celebrating successes.

We made a day of it: shopping at K-Mart (the modern version of TG&Y), opened boxes of hand-me-down clothes from the cousin just a bit older, played with the new compass and protractor, bought a pizza and a liter of Pepsi for supper.

Now as a writer, school supplies birth colorful paper goods, my favorite Pentel gel pens, journals with moleskin covers designed by George Stanley and legal pads for first drafts.

I wait until late August when the kids have already chosen their supplies. Then I dig through the discarded piles to find my treasures. Write down the cost in my list of office deductions.

Throughout the year, these supplies bring excitement — waiting in my stash for the day I need a new journal, a fresh pen for a booksigning, some colorful 3×5 cards to help structure my novel.  And every time I open a new package, I revisit the years when school supplies meant a new start.

Hope implies a beginning again, fresh grace, the forgetting of what has been and the reaching toward new growth.

Whether it’s in a physical classroom, virtual online Zoom lectures or the quiet office of an introverted writer, we all need the promise of hope.

Here’s to those pens and papers that invite us to believe again. Hope shines when we dare to embrace a fresh start.

 

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

The above post is an excerpt from Hope Shines, a book of essays about fresh starts. Check it out on Amazon, then leave a review. Thanks !