Hope in the Gratitudes – Post 1

During the month of November, I want to focus on special gratitudes. Makes sense, right? During Thanksgiving month we should be grateful.November country

But this year, I want to dig a bit deeper than the usual, “Thank you for health, for food, for the roof over my head.

This year, the focus is a series of gratitudes on my current life or the people in my life.

Post One underscores gratitude for the beautiful life my mother lives.

Mom is currently in Stage Six of the Alzheimer’s journey. She can still dress herself, although I’ve noticed her hairdo needs a bit of tweaking. She can still feed herself and she eats well — gaining weight this year.

But confusion still reigns, and we never know which day may be more lucid than the other. She no longer knows her family members as the connections of relationships remain a puzzle. She often exists in the past, waiting for her parents or her husband to come pick her up and take her to town.

Last year, Mom recognized me by the connection with my son. If I said, “Caleb is working at Amazon,” she would nod and call me by name.

But that has changed. She remembers she has a grandson named Caleb, and she has a daughter who lives in the Kansas City area. But connecting us together and recognizing either of us is now gone.

We are in the stage of Alzheimers where it is comfortable and easy for the patient yet harder for the family and caregivers.

Mom is basically happier now that ever before. The Type A personality, busy all the time, is gone. She sits contentedly in her chair and reads her Bible or the same mystery novel over and over.

She sleeps, then rises for breakfast. She eats all her meals when they call her to the dining room. She attends activities, rides the shuttle to see the Christmas lights and plays Bingo several times / week.

No bills to pay. All that was settled long ago when papers were signed with the facility.

No chores to do. Even her laundry is washed, dried and sorted by others.

No stresses from life or job. She has no idea of current events. Rarely watches the news. Reads the paper but who cares about what’s happening when you have no desire to do anything about it?

Her life is filled with adjectives such as peaceful, safe, content.

Sometimes I envy her.

But mostly, I am grateful Mom has these days of quiet rest with nothing to look forward to but the next meal, the Bingo gathering or lights out.

And the only thing that’s better will be her next move – to heaven.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more essays about the Alzheimers journey, check out Sometimes They Forget.

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Hope Encounters the Truth

DA picAs I started my research for No Visible Scars, I had plenty of material to draw from. One out of four women live in destructive relationships. This includes women whose husbands are corporate executives, church leaders and elected officials.

Abused women live within every possible demographic.

Yet we don’t always connect abuse with violence.

Everyone will admit it is wrong to hit a woman. We recoil from the bruises and the broken jaws depicted on television. We may weep when a gurney silently leaves a house, the sheet covering a dead body.

But we forget how violence often begins with a subtle type of abuse:

  • Shame / blame
  • Making fun of her beliefs
  • Calling her names
  • Put downs about her appearance, her clothing, her cooking, her politics, her hobbies
  • Controlling her finances
  • Demanding submission
  • Forceful sexual advances
  • Withholding affection
  • Snooping in her mail or purse

These were some of the early symptoms Abigail experienced in No Visible Scars. Yet she didn’t realize and didn’t want to admit she was living in a destructive relationship.

She finally learned the truth when a group of women gathered around her and helped her learn about setting healthy boundaries. Even then, she had to continue to find her courage and boldly step into a new life.

Here’s how Abigail describes it: “I was afraid of him, but I was more afraid of the unknown, of what I would do without him, of who I could become. Afraid to be without the security of his money. Afraid because I didn’t know how my life might change.”

Fear is one of the big factors why women don’t leave. And their abusers know how to feed that fear with manipulation, threats, even guilty gifts to convince her to stay.

Check out this video to learn more.

Sometimes we don’t pay that much attention to the needs of these victims. We become desensitized by all the violence and pain we see on television. Or we think it will never happen to anyone we know.

But these women are sitting next to us at church and working in the next cubicle. They are standing in line at the grocery store, gritting their teeth because he only gave them a small amount of cash for food and they know their children will be hungry.

They are women in our families although we may not want to admit it. And if we continue to ignore the problem, they will become the next generation of victims – our daughters and granddaughters.

How can we share hope with victims of domestic abuse? Believe them. Support them. Help them find a way of escape. Stop denying the problem or keeping the dirty secret.

And we can teach our sons to respect women, vote for leaders who stand up for women, train our daughters how to set healthy boundaries.

October is the month for Domestic Violence Awareness. How are you going to share hope with a woman you know is being abused?

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

No Visible Scars is now discounted on Amazon and Kindle. Order it today, then share a copy with a woman you know who is living in danger.

When Acceptance and Hope Meet

In a previous post, I wrote about the racial diversity of Santa Fe.

But a different type of diversity encouraged me, humbled me and taught me to be more open to those around me.

Sculpture - Santa Fe children

A Sculpture of Reading Children             in Santa Fe, NM

During my week in Santa Fe, I met writers who were Jews, Buddhists, atheists, Shamans, Christians and a mixture of faiths including one presenter who labeled herself a Bu-Jew.

We laughed together, learned together and connected over bowls of green chile stew, creamy guacamole and quinoa power bowls.

Nobody pulled out a copy of the Four Spiritual Laws, tips from the Torah or quotations from Buddha.

We simply found common ground as writers, accepting each other’s differences while building relationships.

Since then, several of my new friends have followed me on Facebook, added their email addies to my newsletter and committed to my blog. I feel honored to have such a rich diversity of new friends.

After one stimulating lunch where several of us shared our love of everything Santa Fe, I walked back to my hotel room. My experience told me the same lunch with a group of Baptists, Methodists and/or free-spirited anointed charismatics would no doubt have resulted in arguments, confrontations and insistence on what the Apostle Paul meant in his numerous argumentative writings.

Yet that type of spiritual blasting did not happen with this diverse group. We simply began relationships built on our love of words.

Of course, I hoped the eternal Word was reflected in my speech, in my manner, in my acceptance of these dear creatives. And I believe that my future writings will make an impact, if for no other reason than curiosity to be explored.

But I understood more clearly than ever before the need to push away from our comfortable zones and wooden pews, to be involved and engaged with people from every faith walk – or no faith at all.

The scriptures call Christians to be salt and light. But too much salt gathered in one place makes for a bitter pot of soup.

Too much light blinds us to the realities of the needs around us – to those who believe differently yet are still vitally important to the God who reaches out to them.

I am more determined than ever before to use my words to embrace and engage rather than to confront. Although I love Jesus more than life itself, his example was to love all and remind the religious leaders how hypocrisy destroys.

How can we share hope with the world around us? By letting our hearts invite friendly debate, by refusing to consider ourselves as experts on every question, by building relationships just because we care for our fellow humans.

How can we best reflect the hope that drives us? By remembering the old campfire song and living it out: “They will know we are Christians by our love.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

If you are a caregiver already dreading the holidays, check out Holiday Tips for Caregivers – a practical guide for self-care during the stressful season.

Hope Searches for Rest

Someone recently asked me, “What do you do to find rest?”

My oxymoron reply, “I have to intentionally work to find rest.” Except for the times when life throws me in bed with an illness or unresolved grief, I have to plan for rest.tea cup - flower - journal

My strong work ethic was forged on the family farm where every day’s chores began at sunrise. The frenetic pace of milking cows, putting up hay and bringing in the harvest continued throughout each season.

Although I still have calluses and sun-ripened freckles to prove how many hours we toiled, I wouldn’t give anything for those years.

The joy of being outside and the lessons I learned about hard work were  priceless.

Still, rest is something I know is important. So I am determined to learn how to proactively invite rest into my life.

On Sundays, I take a break from the digital, refusing to click online to check emails or tweet a response. Sundays are usually the days I lie down for a nap – another leftover routine from my childhood. An unconscious stopping of work to intentionally rest.

But what are ways to embrace rest while awake? Doesn’t the proactive invite for rest also include an invitation for peace?

A break in the routine underscores rest which is part of the reason for Julia Cameron’s suggestion to take an artist date once / week. A date without the goal of productivity but simply the enjoyment of art, to browse through a bookstore or re-discover the magical smell of crayons.

Even a break from the carefully designed life. Perhaps a day for a chocolate treat, a ceasing of counting calories for the enjoyment of flavors and textures. No worries about carbs or fat grams.

One of the least used yet most beneficial ways to rest is to merely sit and do nothing. To enjoy the fading light of a colorful sunset, listen to a classical aria, meditate on a Psalm or pet a cat, revel in the warmth of a contented purr.

The tagline of Choosing Rest by Sally Breedlove reads “Cultivating a Sunday heart in a Monday world.”

Breedlove writes, “Finding rest requires quiet undeviating focus where we give ourselves time for holy spaces of contemplation.”

As I search for more opportunities to find rest, I want to reboot my creative and spiritual self.

Rest births a chance for finding ourselves without the definition of productive effectiveness. Within moments of rest, we discover our true selves as God created us to be – trusting, content and whole.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Find out more about the topic of Hope in Hope Shines – now available also in Large Print.

Hope Fights Against Nature

Most of the time, I love nature. Flowers – certainly. The vibrant colors of autumn, the birds who gather on my deck, begging for another helping of seed.

But this summer, my son and I encountered the villains of nature – vicious beasts who brought stress and despair as we battled against them.woman warrior - cartoon

Wasps. The ugly brown ones that chase you when you dare to invade their space, which is actually my space – proven by the mortgage bill that comes every month.

We first noticed a nest or two, sprayed them, knocked them down, figured the beasties would get the idea and go bother another neighborhood.

Not so! Perseverant rascals. They set up camp under my deck, built condominiums for their queen who obviously kept fertilizing eggs to produce more of her species.

The soldiers guarded well, swarming around me when I tried to water the flowers on my deck. Stinging when I grew too close to their nest which was under my feet and impossible to see through the slats.

So we took down a couple of boards and discovered the condo, brown warriors guarding it, always in attack mode.

I spent a small fortune in traps and sprays, then wasted hours on the internet searching for ways to finally eradicate these ugly squatters.

Nothing worked. I refused to try the most ridiculous suggestion: “Paint your deck blue. The wasps will think it’s the sky and get confused.” Seriously?

Finally, I gave up trying to fix the problem myself. Another Google search revealed that few pest control services deal with wasps. Smart people! They don’t like them either.

But we found a company who sent a brave guy to spray all the nests – a total of 8 – knock them down and treat the deck against future intruders.

So far – no wasps. At least for a month, we are free. The cooler weather will send them to another climate.

I’m not sure why God created wasps or what purpose they may serve in the order of nature. But I don’t want them on my property. I want to enjoy my deck, my flowers and my sanctuary until winter chases me inside.

Hope fights and wins.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

How does an abused woman learn to fight against her manipulative husband? Check out her story in No Visible Scars.  

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

Check out my Amazon Author page.

 

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.