Hope Nurtures Gratitude

During this turbulent year of so many worldwide problems, I still do my usual thank you’s:

  • Thank you, God, for the food in my belly. So many people are hungry today.
  • Thank you for the roof over my head. Many are homeless or displaced.
  • Thank you for my son and daughter-in-love … always.

Yet now, I long to dig deeper and find gratitude within the sacred corners of my soul. Those places I hide from others. To be more vulnerable and embrace the gratitude that is more than words. The heart condition worthy of reflection.

This week, I am thankful for my new awareness of the fragility of life. Every day, the reports of shootings and killings in the Kansas City metro. School shootings that destroy another generation. The community saying good-bye to a beloved policeman.

One night, a bullet screamed through my bedroom, tore through my headboard and out the opposite wall. One inch closer, and I would be writing from heaven instead of Kansas. A wake-up call and a frantic 9-1-1.

My gratitude extends statewide this week as we exercise our civic duty to vote. The freedom our votes represent. The choices we make as we consider who will serve us best and in what capacity.

I pray for the Ukrainians who have no such freedom. No decision to make as to whether to accept Putin’s despotism or unearth their nation from the ashes. Just trying to survive one day to the next.

Back from a writer’s conference, I am awed, humbled, and cheered by the talents displayed by novelists, poets, bloggers. Any and all who take up the pen. Move their fingers across the keyboard. Create imaginary characters and a variety of world views. Share the message of hope.

I am so grateful for words and for the freedom to make them dance across the page as I wish.

Some days I fail to thank God often enough for grace. All those years ago when my childish heart opened to the Savior of Nazareth and I ran—yes, ran down the aisle toward salvation. May I never forget the wonder of that moment. Expressly thank God for the healing of my soul.

A brief foray into my journals finds entries where I asked God questions. Sometimes railed against the answers. I am grateful God allows and invites honesty. He knows I am mortal and “Why?” is often on my tongue.

When God reveals verses which provide answers and confirm hope, I am forever aware that I am gracefully loved.

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

Although I rejoice that Mom is finished with her Alzheimer’s journey, that ending means my mother is dead. After nine months, I am still trying to process that fact. The orphan I have become feels alone.

Yet surviving the grief of loss is itself a gift.

Because God has enabled me to survive, my faith has grown. Perseverance has deepened. With these experiences in my mental backpack, I write about realistic topics and coach others in the birthing of their grateful words.

My core value of life-long learning grasps toward more lessons the Spirit and life teach me. Together we work out the kinks in my spiritual armor. Find the sacred place God has purified. Just because he is good.

Then my reasons for gratitude engulf the empty spaces. I listen hard for the sacred whisper and respond with the words the Divine Three long to hear.

“Thank you.”

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more essays about hope, check out Hope Shines. Available on Amazon in print, e-book, and large print.

Hope Streams Through Promises

In our crazy world of broken promises, it is soothing to know we can depend on one source of truth. God has never broken any of his covenant promises.

Some of his hope-filled words are recorded within the general principles of the Bible. “I will never leave you or forsake you. I will be your Comforter. I will show you the path to take. I will be your guide.”

Although the timing for these promises varies, and even the seasons of life sometimes interrupt their forward movement—when God says something and underscores it with a repeat—it will eventually happen.

But the promises that mean the most to me are the certainties that create the a-ha moments of spiritual awakening. They are not recorded in the holy scriptures.

Instead, they are the divine whispers during discouraging nights and dry spiritual deserts. The words that keep me living in hope even when tentacles of fear tighten.

When I walked through the pain of divorce, God spoke his personal promise for my son and me, “There will be hard times ahead, but I will meet every need.”

Even through extended months of unemployment, the scary moves away from comfort zones, the horror of watching my son suffer with cancer—through it all—the reminder of God’s whisper kept me breathing.

“I will meet every need.”

In miraculously beautiful moments recorded in my journals and kept ensconced in my heart, God’s sacred promises proved true.

Every. Single. Need. Was. Met.

Jobs suddenly appeared from unusual sources. Cars were given through the generosity of good people. The healing of my son—thank you, Jesus! My own emotional, spiritual, and physical healings. Money that somehow appeared. God’s math proving different from mine as he made money poof into existence from a negative balance.

Friendships were spawned in the cusp of brokenness. Housing was provided—one of my constant prayers, “Please God, don’t let us be homeless.” A beautiful townhome where we healed for four years. Gardens where God and I created beautiful color and bountiful food—together.

Much, much more. Every. Single. Need. Always and Forever. Met.

But as sweet as the confirmation of God’s words streamed the credibility of the One who made the promise. His whisper foreshadowed holiness because it originated from the source of love. Our covenant made stronger because of the strength of the Speaker.

During a recent spiritual desert as I awaited the resolution of another promise, I listened again for the One who has seared my heart with his grace.

“I will meet every need.” No quantity of time assigned to his statement. Just an eternal assurance that the One who spoke the words would never violate his covenant.

He would meet current needs as he has in the past, because he cannot and will not change. His promise is forever sealed within the identity of Who he is.

And in the identity of this divine three-in-One lies the source of hope. Meeting my needs—and yours— for another stream of hope.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Look for those promises in Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom.

Hope Digs Deeper

While meeting with my spiritual director, she suggested I consider the questions, “What if?” In one of the workshops I teach, the “What if?” question is presented as a fear tactic artists sometimes use to procrastinate.

But in this instance, I was to think about the “What if?” as a possible direction, even a vision-making steppingstone. So I drove home, pulled out my journal and started listing the possibilities of “What if?” questions and answers.

  • What if my current novel makes the New York Times bestseller list? What difference would that award make in my life? Could I handle the extra book tours, publicity requirements and the pressure to write another bestseller? Would I use it for good?

  • What if I could visit Santa Fe at least once each year? What if I could own a vacation home there so I would always have a place to stay for a personal retreat?

  • What if I could learn to live in the present every day so that everyone I meet feels the love and light of the Divine Three in me? What if I could become a better listener?

If I thought long enough on the subject, I could easily entangle myself in all the possibilities the “What if?” question might involve.

When we dig deep, some of our visions and dreams carry their own baggage. Change is not easy, and the transitions of life require us to change along with them.

Another point my spiritual director made was that I should “Listen to my heart.”

I just finished reading Julia Cameron’s latest book, The Listening Path. She describes how we can learn to listen to our hearts, but also to the sounds around us—even to the silence within us.

To dig deep requires that we listen carefully and consider what our souls are saying. One reason why I journal is to process my way through life, to tap into my inner conflicts for clues about how to clearly understand divine guidance.

Digging deep means we listen for that still, small voice that ushers us into the divine space. When we tiptoe into that soul sanctuary, we learn more about ourselves and become more teachable.

What does my heart tell me?

It reminds me of the many ideas I have for more books, so many stories swirling in my soul. The artist in me yearns to bring them to life.

Even for my writing clients, my heart breaks for the unwritten books, the stories waiting to connect with their characters and the voices longing to be heard. That urgency to write while we can, to share the wisdom and experiences God has gifted us with through the many years.

My soul beats with a restless tone, eager to authenticate itself and complete the mission God birthed in me before the foundation of the world.

As I dig deeper, another question surfaces. I stop breathing as I consider the implications of what its answers might entail. Almost afraid to add it to my journal page, I force the pen to scratch the question across the page: What am I avoiding?

We may avoid doing something that requires a major change, because we’re afraid of what that transition might ask of us. A move, a new job, the addressing of a spiritual weakness, the uprooting of our comfort zones.

Yet in the avoidance, we remain in the zone of discomfort. We stress our souls to the point of losing our true core. We avoid what our hearts long for, because we are so blasted practical and cannot imagine any other type of experience.

My journal now contains several pages of personal reflection around these three questions. And I offer them to you as a spiritual writing prompt:

  • What if?
  • What is your heart telling you?
  • What are you avoiding?

I look forward to the time when these questions find their connecting answers in my life. What about you? Are you ready to dig deeper?

Hope shines when we find the courage to ask the hard questions.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Digging deeper is a daily exercise as we find strength Day by Day.

Hope Reveals Timing

Since God is timeless, it is always a sweet surprise when I discover him working—right on time.

A year ago, I bought a lovely journal to add to my stash. Never enough journals for a writer, you know. This particular journal caught my eye because the cover was a quiet country scene with wildflowers and the verse from Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”

In one version, the imperative of “Be still” is to “Cease striving.” Still another version underscores the words, “Let be and be still.”

But my favorite is the Amplified version of a parallel verse in Psalm 37:7, “Be still and quietly rest in the Lord, wait for him and patiently lean yourself upon him.”

As my vacation began in the mountains of New Mexico, God pointed me toward this verse. So I started to meditate on its meaning.

Be Still. I sat on the condo’s porch in the early morning, sipping my tea and listening to the birds. Practiced being still. I allowed the sounds and textures of my favorite place (Santa Fe) to speak to me and bring solace to my soul.

No audible prayers were necessary. I just sat there and enjoyed God’s presence, highlighted by his creation.

Rest Quietly. In our electronically designed world, we have lost the ability to truly rest. Not nap time or early bedtime, but the peaceful resting in God’s presence. A place of total trust.

During my time in the mountains, I forced myself to rediscover rest. Seems like an oxymoron, but it worked. My laptop remained at home, and I refused to deal with social media. No Facebook posts, tweets or unnecessary Google searches.

I survived, even thrived in the solitude. The absence of my usual bustling world became a gift.

The monastics called this type of rest, “The Grand Silence.” Every evening, they disciplined themselves to cease speaking and curtailed activity so they might clearly discern the divine whisper.

Saint Benedict, the father of the monastic way wrote, “Therefore, because of the importance of silence, let permission to speak be seldom given to perfect disciples even for good and holy and edifying discourse.”

Wait for God. As I rested quietly and waited for God to share whatever secrets he wanted, the discipline of patience asserted itself.

We so often want God to be on our timeline. But as we wait, our souls anticipate the time when God WILL speak, WILL instruct us, and WILL show us the way that is best. As the Alpha and the Omega, he determines the end from the beginning, then fills in everything in between.

After a week of being still, resting quietly and waiting patiently, God DID show up. My journal entries included some of his yearnings for me. I received his words and am committed to patiently lean on God for next steps.

Back home, I pulled my journal out of the suitcase and glanced once again at the cover. The country scene with wildflowers in the foreground. A quiet setting, serenely focused on the surrounding land, far from the noise of the city and its fast-paced intensity.

And the verse, engraved boldly on the grey background, “Be still and know that I am God.”

God showed up with his hope—right on time.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Spend some quiet time resting in God’s love for you. Check out Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom.

Finding Hope in the Nest

On my daily walk, I discovered this nest lying beside the sidewalk. Empty of eggs. Not even an errant feather left behind. Had it blown out of the tree or was Mama bird simply done with it?

I gingerly picked it up and placed it back in a crook of the tree. Hoping it might be used again or at least appreciated as a piece of nature. Then continued my walk, thinking more about nests and the art of nesting.

Back in the 80s, a dear soul approached me at church and said, “I heard you were pregnant, but didn’t know for sure until I saw you wearing a nesting jacket.”

The nesting jacket used to be the maternity symbol as women wrapped their torso in clothing. Like a material womb protecting the life within. In today’s world, women more openly convey the gift of pregnancy. They take pictures wearing tight knits which show the shape and even the protruding belly button. Some images even show the bare skin, stretched to grow the life of the baby.

My dear friend from the 80s would roll over in her grave if she saw a naked pregnant belly.

But nesting involves more than preparing for a new life. It is also a symbol of how we live in our space. How we preserve areas for reading, contemplation, writing, journaling, solitude.

London-based designer Caz Knight puts together design packages, particular for winter nesting. To help people feel more comfortable during the cold months. She writes, “A hub nest is a place where you do not feel anxious, and where everything is fit for purpose.”

Many women particularly love nesting. World-wide travel and the hubbub of business outside the home makes them feel anxious. They would rather stay home, be in their nest where they feel safe. They revel in the memories of how they raised children in their particular nest. Special meals and celebrations. Colors, textures and tastes.

Since I work from home, my office needs to feel like a nest. I often remind clients to nurture the space where they write. Use décor that never distracts. Pay attention to clutter and get rid of it. Surround themselves with the coziness of productivity in a relaxed setting. Hang pictures, cards and mementoes that celebrate wordsmithing.

Other than my office and the clients who meet me there, my nest is rather empty these days. The TV is on because it offers noise. Or the radio with its praise music and the reminder I am not alone. The Divine Three are with me as well as the witnesses from Hebrews 12.

But the rowdier nesting of soccer games, band practice and teenaged boys raiding my pantry no longer exists. Those were the long days and short years of young ones in my nest.

Still, hope circles around my nest because it represents an optimistic look into the future. Visits from friends. My children occasionally around the table. Future groups who want to learn more about writing or study a book.

The value of nesting is to know we belong somewhere. And the place where we continue to nurture the gifts within and the outreach without. By reflective thought, journaling, then sharing with others through books or blog posts.

Nesting offers hope when everything fits for a purpose. To generate the spiritual and creative life. To nurture the spirit. To nest with joy.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out a meditation about nesting in heaven. Page 11 of Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom.

Hope Finds the Garden

Working in the garden always seems to trigger a sense of spirituality. An idea for a devotion, a poem, a story or as in this case — a blog post.

Perhaps it is my connection with nature as a form of worshipping God. Or maybe it is the opportunity to reflect when doing nothing more than pulling weeds.

The first idea came as I prepped for some gardening time: the mud-packed shoes, the protective gloves, the spade — all packed into my gardening tote.

Then I noticed on the kitchen table how many dried petals had fallen from my garden roses. Dried, wrinkled, seemingly useless petals no longer clinging to their source.

At first, fresh from releasing my newest devotions for senior adults, I thought of how we often describe ourselves in the final act of life. No longer useful. No longer vital. Dried up and wrinkled.

Yet even when the petals have fallen, they still maintain a presence. Retain their color and end up splayed across my table in a natural design.

Never worthless or useless. All of nature, even in the driest periods, displays the creative energy of its Source, the beauty of eternal life infused within cells and texture.

I breathed deeply, grateful God can still use me in this final act, no matter where or how I might land.

So out I plodded to the garden to discover an error in my planting plan. One entire plot needed to be emptied, its contents pulled to create life for its main purpose.

A year ago, I transplanted a vinca vine into my cemetery plot — the area where beloved cats are buried. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. A rim of tulips and hyacinths that signal spring, then a planting of the vinca as a ground cover to provide a protective cap over the graves.

In early spring, the vinca presented a lovely lavender flower. Contrasted with its dark green leafage, it seemed the perfect backdrop for my garden cemetery.

But soon, the rains of spring and the hope-filled sunshine nurtured the vinca toward massive growth. Its invasive nature spread it over the entire plot, choking out the tulips, the hyacinths and the lone Hosta.

It took over an hour of multiple sore muscles for me to pull out that stubborn vine. And I will have to continue watching it or it will invade again.

How like so many tempters we face! The fancy house we would love to own until we open the mortgage summary. The giant dessert that looks so good, yet with too much encouragement, can become an artery-clogging sweet. The porn picture that is really a trafficked child made to look older soon wraps its addictive evil through the brain, choking the soul.

How many pretties can easily turn invasive if we ignore them or remain deceived by their initial beauty? Then it takes a lifetime of jerking them out and away, freeing the more subtle beauties that we were originally made to be. In the places God has planted us.

Ah-h — the lessons of the garden. And the ways those lessons point us toward a more hope-filled existence.

May we all keep our eyes and our desires on the One Source who offers life. And may we know God has gifted us with the power to love, to be disciplined and to nurture a sound mind.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For daily meditations focused on the needs of senior adults, check out Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom.

Hope for the Long Way

It would be so much easier to travel the shorter journey. But what if God calls us to the long way?

In Exodus 13, God begins to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Freedom! And God encouraged the people with a cloud each day and a pillar of fire each night. Signals that he was indeed with them.

But in verse 17, God specifically states that he will not lead these people on a shorter route. He will take them to the Promised Land the longer way.

They will be learning more about trust and how to endure day by day.

Many people are facing their own ‘long way.’ One of my friends has a beloved daughter who is suffering through a cancer journey. We wanted it to be a fast surgery, one and done. We hoped and prayed for a quick healing. But she is enduring years of chemo, multiple surgeries, life-changing health issues.

Another friend inspires me with her motherly courage. She fostered and adopted some children. Prayed for them. Did all the right things. The short way would be deliverance from childhood trauma, acceptance into peer groups, wholesome attitudes.

Instead, it is a daily struggle dealing with attachment disorder and behavioral struggles at school. The long journey has affected the health of the entire family. Endurance is a daily need.

Didn’t we all want to see an end to the atrocities in Ukraine — sooner rather than later? Yet the war continues. More people suffer and die. The images continue to urge us to pray for those trapped in bunkers, for the pastors and missionaries trying to help their people day after bomb-shelled day.

Beginning writers want to finish their first book and watch it become a bestseller. More experienced authors know the writing journey is a marathon of work and marketing. It requires a long road to find our voice.

Caregivers face years of learning patience, searching for answers, becoming advocates for the Alzheimer’s patient. What is the purpose? Why does death wait to take those who can no longer function? The road is long.

So how do we find hope and live with a more encouraging attitude when our way is long? What can we learn from this Exodus story?

God took the Israelites the long way so they would not change their minds and want to return to the bondage of Egypt. The short way often seems more comfortable. But the long way tests our trust, our grit, our determination to keep believing. We can learn to accept the long road as a faith-building journey.

Although God chose the long way for his children, he did not leave them to face it alone. He was there every day and throughout each night. We can look for God’s presence even as we face another long day.

Athletes know it takes weeks and months to build muscle and stamina. Although their training may be painful, the dedicated athlete continues and learns to thank the coach and trainer.

The long road offers more hope when we face it with gratitude. God is designing something good within our souls. The end result will be a stronger spirit, more faith muscles for the next road.

The story in Exodus involves an entire nation of people. We find strength in being connected. Finding like souls who will lift us up gives us the stamina needed for another day, another week, possibly — another year of the journey.

God had already proven himself to the Israelites — through multiple miracles and a life-saving Passover tradition. We can look to the past and remember how God brought us through something even worse, a longer road, a deeper suffering. He did it before. He will help us again.

Ultimately, our journey contains signposts that offer strength for each day. The practice of journaling, the recitation of helpful verses and quotes, the songs we may have to force ourselves to sing — all these practices can boost our spirits for another day.

And some days, it just helps to take a nap. Zone out for a few minutes and rest.

Whatever road you’re on today, I pray it will be one that leads to the Promised Land. So I share with you one of my spiritual vitamins. This verse has carried me through many of my longer roads and offered hope:

“Surely God is my help. The Lord is the one who sustains me” (Psalm 54:4 TNIV). 

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Send Just for Today: Hope for Single Moms to a woman who needs hope for her long road.