Hope Celebrates Freedom

Amer flagJuly Fourth is such a fun holiday. Whether it’s family picnics, iced tea with lemon, a favorite swimming hole or watching fireworks – everything about July Fourth seems fun.

But a serious side of the topic also presents itself. In our family, this date is a reminder of how fragile life can become. My son, diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, hooked up to tubes in the hospital bed. The fireworks exploding on the TV screen, trying to entertain us in the middle of a crisis.

Nothing colorful, exciting or fun about that time. But later – after a miraculous recovery – we did celebrate. And every year since, the Fourth of July represents extra hugs, a big meal and two scoops of ice cream – just because.

As a writer, freedom is precious because I type out my thoughts, my emotions and my opinions without fear of retribution or arrest. Our freedom of speech is such a precious commodity, never to be taken for granted. May we never lose it.

In the last few years, I have also watched another type of freedom manifested. Women I worked with who finally realized their abusers were not going to respect healthy boundaries. Brave women who said, “Enough!” and found the courage to pack up and leave. The freedom these women now experience is like coming up for air after drowning for years.

The freedom I now feel to explore my writing gift and to schedule my writing clients. No longer chained to the 8 to 8 job or the “available 24-7” mantra. This type of freedom allows me to read a book, take a nap or stir up some brownie batter when I feel like it.

Freedom also comes with a price. Saying “no” to compulsive buying because freelance work means balancing a precarious budget. Facing condemnation when the freedom to leave becomes a reason for judgment in the church pew. Making sure our constitutional laws are followed no matter how far up the ladder one has climbed.

Freedom costs, but it’s worth it.

The ultimate freedom for me is to know who I am and to embrace my authenticity by setting boundaries around anything that might try to take my freedoms from me.

On this Fourth of July – I will speak a prayer of gratitude for all the freedoms I enjoy. I will hug my son again and have another scoop of ice cream. And I will embrace the joy of living in this land of the free, begging God to keep us so.

How do hope and freedom coincide? Easy. Without freedom, we have no hope for a happy future. Without hope, we feel trapped within emotional prisons.

I am grateful for the hope freedom brings and the freedom hope clings to.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author ofSometimes They Forget and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

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What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do – Part 4

Alzheimer’s cannot change lifelong habits.lifestyle image

Although some routines will change as the disease progresses, many of the lifelong habits remain ingrained in the behavior of Alzheimer’s patients.

Mom has always loved to read. She goes to the Hospice sales and buys a stack of books. Then she reads the book on the top of the stack. She no longer comprehends what she reads, and she forgets that she read the top book on the stack – so she reads it again. And again. Then she takes the entire stack to another Hospice sale and buys another bunch of books so she can read the top book on the stack.

She is content as she reads because that has always been one of her habits.

She also reads her Bible every day and a page from her “Our Daily Bread” devotional book. This has always been her morning exercise, so even though comprehension is gone, she continues her devotional practice.

On Sundays, Mom dresses up for church and carries her Bible with her. She can no longer find the passages in the Bible as the order of the books is gone. But every Sunday, no matter what, she has her Bible with her and if the weather is good – she goes to church. Because that is what she has always done.

She begins every morning with coffee, a little cream, no sugar. Morning coffee begins her day. Never tea. Never hot chocolate. Always coffee. Alzheimer’s has not yet destroyed her taste buds.


Even though osteoporosis has shorted her 5’8” frame, Mom continues to demonstrate careful posture. She walks tall, her congestive heart failure causing a bit of breathlessness – but still – her shoulders back, her head erect, her poise intact.

A cartoon bubble over her head might say, “Don’t mess with me. I know who I am.”


Like many in her generation, desserts were always part of the meal, so Mom continues to love her sweets. She plays Bingo every week and often wins. With choices of candy, peanuts or trail mix – she always chooses a Snickers bar.

She cannot understand when I turn down cookies or a piece of cake on the menu at the assisted living dining hall. Sometimes, to treat Mom, I drive her to Braums for an ice cream cone.

Maybe because she has been a lifelong reader, Mom hates the television. She calls it, “The Idiot Box” and only watches the news or turns it on for some noise to break the loneliness.

These habits of life define my mother. They make her real and vulnerable and show her personality. They cement our memories of Mom and remind us that Alzheimer’s cannot steal all of who she is.

The reader, the tall woman, the lover of sweets and hater of TV – these traits characterize my mother. Alzheimer’s cannot take that away from her.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Creates Lifetime Goals

Because I recently achieved one of those milestone birthdays, I meditated and prayed about God’s will for me in this new season of life.Hope word

The answer came as a whisper to “Check out Psalm 92.” Within the Psalmist’s words, I found a description of what I want to be and do in the years to come.

Of course, only God knows the extent of my timeline and the eventual plan he has for me.

But the Psalmist recorded some practical and wise advice that I plan to journal through and cache within my goal-setting process.

  • Flourish in the courts of our God

Whatever I do and wherever I am, I hope to flourish – to do my work with simple trust and hearty obedience, to finish well and make a difference in the Kingdom.

  • Grow in grace and bear fruit in old age

Jesus didn’t face old age, so we don’t have a divine model. But we can look at examples from Scripture to find out how to grow old with grace.

Noah accepted new assignments even when they seemed improbable and a bit crazy; i.e. building a boat while rain was just a weird unknown.

Elizabeth trusted God for the impossible and discerned how he was working in the world she inhabited; i.e. she mentored the mother of Jesus and trusted that her own womb bore God’s messenger.

John wrote the words that would encourage and inspire believers for centuries. Did he realize that one of the greatest hooks of all time would come from his pen? “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was from God and the Word was God.”

  • Be full of spiritual vitality

I want to be so filled with the Spirit and emptied of myself that the love and compassion of Christ precedes me into each room. I want my eyes to portray love and my voice to echo with the truth in a way that draws people to its life-giving source.

  • Rich in trust, love and contentment

I don’t want to be a saint who spends time griping about my aches and pains or the state of the country or the problems of younger generations. I want to be an example of what life-long trust in the God of the universe means – sharing his love while grateful for the breath of each day.

  • A living memorial to show that he is upright and faithful

The memorials of Lincoln and Jefferson focus on the words and grand living of these statesmen. How much greater and a broader goal to be a living memorial of who God is and how he is faithful to every promise.

Psalm 92:13-15 contains the rich truth and goal-setting ideas I can hang my hat on. As I march into this next season of life, even as the birthday ice cream slowly crystallizes in the freezer, I want this to be a fulfilling time of joy – while processing through whatever God desires for me.

He knew me before he made the world, what he planned for me, the good works he prepared for me to do. May that plan be exactly what happens and may it result in hope.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Hope Thrives at 88

When I first met Donna, stepmother of my friend, I thought she might be in her 70’s. She invited us to spend several days in her lovely apartment in Denver.Denver

During that time, Donna cooked healthy and colorful meals, she instructed us in the best ways to avoid traffic snarls and she led us in lively discussions about baseball – particularly her beloved Colorado Rockies.

Our time with her included hours of experiencing her hospitality and nurturing gifts. When we left, her hugs were genuine and warm.

So I was amazed to discover that she is 88 years old, just one year older than my mother yet in activity and stimulating conversations – decades younger.

Spending time with this wonderful woman reminded me of what no longer exists when I visit Mom.

When Mom lived independently, my visits were always a source of joy. She served my favorite foods, asked me about my work, rejoiced in my latest books or articles. She drove me to Braums – the Oklahoma version of the best-ever ice cream, hamburgers and fries.

Mom and I worshipped together, discussed politics and the importance of women staying strong and setting boundaries.

When the end of the weekend inevitably came, Mom pressed a twenty dollar bill into my hand and said, “It costs money for gas. This should help.”

Those were times of nurturing, of refreshing sleep and practical love. I always left renewed and encouraged.

Since the memory thief called Alzheimers invaded our family, Mom has not been able to nurture, to provide care or to express love as she did before.

Perhaps it is a selfish desire, but I miss those weekends with Mom and the reminder that I am still a daughter, still respected for my individual gifts yet bonded within our family’s traditions.

Alzheimer’s has ripped that nurturing experience into shreds and left me with only faded memories of shopping trips, phone calls and the desire: “I need to discuss this with Mom.”

So when Donna reintroduced that motherly hospitality into my life on one weekend in Denver, it was a bittersweet reminder of what once was possible with my mother.


If the gift of hospitality and the joy of practical love can still thrive at the age of 88, then hope continues into my own advancing years. I am encouraged that Alzheimer’s does not steal from every family.


If the kindness of a nurturing heart can extend toward a friend of a step-daughter and produce gratitude in the fresh mountain air, then the threat of old age and memory loss need not expand into fear.

Once again, I am filled with the hope that maybe when I reach my 80’s – I can still nurture my son and his family, still use my gifts of teaching, writing and service, still find joy in the beginning of every day.

Thank you, Donna, for grafting that hope back into my soul and giving me fresh impetus to march into my tomorrows with a giving mentality.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of “Final Grace for Reverend G” – http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Stage 3 of Alzheimer’s – Fear

As told by Reverend G …

Please God, help me! I can’t stand it!

More and more things are disappearing and this week, I lost an entire carton of Chunky Monkey ice cream. It’s my favorite you know – with that creamy texture, bits of chocolate and that slight banana flavor.

How could that happen? How could we find my ice cream in the pantry, slowly dribbling next to the hot tea boxes?

That doesn’t even make sense, God. Nothing makes sense.Stage 3 - Alz

I’m losing more and more concentration. I can’t work well anymore – can’t serve you as I did in the past – can’t put together a decent sermon and preach it.

I forget names and conversations. Words jumble together.

I’m afraid…so afraid.

Why can’t I experience the same trust I once taught to my congregation?

Even now, I read Psalm 34:4 and try to make it mine, “For I cried to him and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.”

Please free me, God, from this terror that follows me every day, then escalates whenever I forget something.


Please help me to somehow find a direction that points toward you in all of this. Let me not lose my faith in the process of losing my sanity.


Help me, God! I can’t stand it!

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books – http://bit.ly/1RH27AT

Hope Lives in Small Towns

After a recent trip to my hometown, I was struck again with the functional differences between the KC Metro and Enid, Oklahoma.enid

In my hometown, most businesses close for Easter to allow families time together. The majority of signs and billboards carry the graphic of either a cross or an empty tomb while the local newspaper prints the Easter story in the King James Version.

Folks in my hometown understand the symbolism of the season and aren’t shy about declaring their belief in God.

On Good Friday, our family moseys over to the Western Sizzlin’ for a huge salad buffet, well-done steaks and the ice cream machine.

Mosey is a word we don’t use in KC because nobody moseys in the city. Yet in small towns, folks mosey across the intersections, mosey into the stores and lollygag at anyone who doesn’t know how to mosey.

In my hometown, you will likely run into relatives, a colleague or someone from your church. And even if you make a new acquaintance at the ice cream machine, it will be a friendly conversation.

“Weather treatin’ ya’ okay?”

“Yep. You?”

“Can’t complain.”

“You from here or just visitin’?”

Someone who knows my family will inevitably challenge me with the question, “When you movin’ back here to help take care of your mama?”

Folks in small towns grow loyal families to populate the town, support the schools and run the businesses. If you leave, you’d better have a good reason and if you’re a really decent person, you’ll move back and make your family happy.

That’s why hope grows in small towns. Because everyone hopes you will move back, help with mama and increase the population by at least one.

When I visit my hometown and mosey into the stores, I pick up the Okie accent that never really leaves my tongue. I drive more slowly and don’t take chances at the yellow lights because I’m not in a hurry.

At Braums – where everybody goes for an ice cream fix in the afternoon – I wave at strangers and talk about the wheat crop.

Although the world is rapidly changing, folks in small towns still trust each other and somehow mosey their way into each other’s hearts.

Obviously, I miss small towns and the heritage they provide. I miss the folks I know and those I don’t know, because their lives are simpler, purer and steeped in the values of country traditions.

These precious folks live somewhat sheltered lives, safe within their bungalows and the farm lanes they drive in their pickup trucks. They treasure family and work ethics while hanging on to the faith of their ancestors.

Although I know my work is here in the KC Metro, a weekend visit is all it takes to transport me back to the security of my foundation and the people who keep hope alive.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

A Valentine for Reverend G

“Wear your walkin’ shoes,” Chris spoke over the phone line. “I’ll be there in about 15.”

How was I so lucky to have a friend like Chris who recently graduated into a boyfriend? Was it appropriate to valentine heartcall a man in his early sixties a “boy”friend? I suppose I wasn’t a “girl”friend either, with my long white braid that hung over my shoulder and my early-onset Alzheimer’s that hung over what was left of my mind.

But here he was, dressed in bright blue sweats that contrasted nicely with his own white hair and the blue specks in his eyes. My guy friend, holding open the door for me, his Valentine date.

We drove in his Caddie to downtown Lawton Springs and parked in one of the special lots that gave us at least two hours to roam. Downtown attracted tourists as well as the college students and locals, even on a warmer-than-average day in February.

Funky boutiques blended in with the national franchises. Starbucks next to Fannie Mae’s Linens, Minsky’s Pizza right across from the sparkly Gallery on the Glow. Even as close as Lawton Springs sat in latitude and longitude to Kansas City Metro, hundreds of people shopped in our city. It was, as the newspaper often quoted, “America’s Greatest Little Town.”

As we walked hand-in-hand along the sidewalk, we saw young people from the college and heard the dialects of international tourists with their Samsung cameras slung over their shoulders.

“Hi, Doctor Jacobs,” called one kid as he passed us on the street. Chris waved his hello, then told me, “One of my students from Theology 101.”

Then a former parishioner whose name I forgot, because my Sometimer’s took over. Fortunately, he remembered my name as he tipped his KC Royals baseball cap and said, “Afternoon, Reverend G. God is good all the time.”

“Indeed,” I answered. Good all the time. God was good to give me this sunshiny and slightly brisk day with Chris, as we strolled along like two kids in their first waves of puppy love, knowing all the while that my days of any type of remembrance were numbered.

But hey – live each moment and in each moment. Wasn’t that what I always told my congregation? I think that’s what I said. How long had it been since I stood in front of them and preached something practical yet biblical? Months…days…years…I don’t know.

Oh God, my God – I can’t stand this infernal Alzheimer’s. Rescue me , please.

Chris steered me into the Brownie Bomb, another local franchise that served absolutely scrumptious ice cream with all natural ingredients. Little red tables and chairs invited us to sit while Chris gave our orders to the lady behind the counter.

I knew they didn’t stock my usual Chunky Monkey, but Chris ordered my second favorite: the actual Brownie Bomb – bits of brownie batter with extra chocolate chips and a dollop of marshmallow crème on the top. Chris was more of a cherry and nuts man, so he ordered the Cherry Whiz with pecans all over it. Then he filled little Dixie cups with water and brought them to our table. In a few minutes, the lady brought us our ice cream, spoons and napkins.

We dug in, each of us doing our “Yum” sounds as we enjoyed the sugary treats. Then Chris reached into his back pocket and pulled out a red envelope.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Tru,” he said, pushing the envelope toward me.

“Well, thanks, Big Guy. I forgot to get you one, but you know…Sometimer’s and all.”

Chris nodded, and his eyes sparkled as I focused on his face. I slowly opened the envelope, then laughed as several of those candy hearts dropped out. “U R my Sugar” was stamped on one of them. Another one said, “Honey Bun.”

Chris and I took turns eating them, then he said, “Aren’t you going to open the card and read it?”

“Oh, sure.”

Inside, the pretty scroll writing said, “Be mine,” and beside it, in the block letters of Chris’s handwriting, “Please.” Below was a bigger candy heart taped to the card with the letters, “Marry Me” stamped on it.

I pulled the tape off and dunked the heart into my ice cream, then plopped it into my mouth. Chris waited while I chewed, then he took my hand and kissed my fingers, one by one.

“So what do you say, Tru?” he finally asked. “Will you be mine? Won’t you say ‘yes’ and marry me?”

Everything in me wanted to jump across the table and into his arms, repeating “Yes, yes, yes” a thousand times. But one wall still remained before I could make that leap. My fear of marrying a man I might soon forget. My knowledge that the dementia and Alzheimer’s that even now crackled inside my brain might one day change my personality to the point that this incredible guy sitting across from me would actually grow to hate the wife I would become.

I swallowed the last crumbles of the heart, then reached for a drink from my Dixie cup. “Chris, you know I love you. I just can’t marry you yet, not until I have absolute peace about it and my fear is gone. Can you give me just a little more time?”

Chris stood up and leaned over the table. He kissed me on the forehead, then cradled my face in his hands. “My darling Tru, I want you to be certain about this decision. And I’ll wait until you are absolutely sure, but in the meantime….” This time, a kiss right on the mouth. “In the meantime, you’re my Valentine, forever and ever.”

Then we both giggled and said, “Amen.”