Transitions that Lead to Hope

Several people I know, including myself, are muddling through transitions. Some of these uncomfortable places feel like restlessness or that awkward limbo when we try to figure out God’s will for a new season.1 peter 2-23

Some transitions happen automatically because of the seasons of life: the empty nest, a new job or a special calling from the divine. Although natural transitions make us queasy, they’re a bit easier to accept than those places of questioning and identity search.

When restlessness signals a transition yet gives no apparent ending, it adds emotional stress and sometimes a period of spiritual pondering.

Who am I now and what does God require of me? Am I really hearing from God or am I just hormonal?

In these difficult open-ended posturings, it’s important to remember one thing: God can be trusted.

When we can’t see the end of the journey, God has already flipped to the last page. The Alpha and Omega has it covered.

When others try to advise us with their perceptions yet don’t really hear us, God listens fully, knowing the desires of our hearts.

When one step forward leads to a brick wall, God comforts with meanderings that lead us through the maze.

And when we languish in that most difficult of places – the agony of waiting – God provides sustaining power to help us persevere.

1 Peter 2:23 reminds us to “Entrust ourselves to the God who judges justly.”

And that’s where hope wraps us in its warmth.

When we turn over our transitions and our desire for answers to the One who is trust-worthy, he fills in the blanks.

Eventually, transitions move us into new seasons. As Anne Lamott writes, “When God is about to do something exquisite, it starts with something impossible.”

If we learn to entrust each period of change to God, then we can adjust well and in the process – find ourselves smack in the middle of God’s will.

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

 

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Long Distance Caregiving – Observe the Changes

Because I am the Long Distance Caregiver in our family, I see Mom only on major holidays or when I manage a few days of extra vacation.

The hard part is that I rarely see my family and miss them all the time. Yet the positive aspect is that I easily observe the changes in our mother’s Alzheimer’s journey.hands heart

As Mom slips away with each visit, I notice her drawn face, added confusion and the fear that has always plagued her—now increasing. Because my siblings see Mom all the time, I am often more aware of the subtle changes.

I share these observations with my siblings so that we can make the important decisions that will help Mom through each stage.

The delicate balance is that I can’t just breeze into town, tell everybody what I’ve observed and expect them to listen to my incredible advice.

Just because I’m the oldest doesn’t mean I’m the smartest or the most discerning. It just means I’m the oldest. Darn it!

But even one of my relatives once told me, “I’ll be you can see the changes easier than we can.”

Yes, that’s true. During the Easter holiday, I noticed how withdrawn Mom had become. Was it because her hearing aid needed adjusting or had she lost more comprehension? Was she not able to understand conversation as easily as she did at Christmas? A few months makes a world of difference to an Alzheimer’s victim.

Mom and I share some of the some personality traits. We’re both choleric, Type A’s—those get- busy-and-get-it-done women who organize the world while telling everyone what to do and how to do it.

My life experiences and my training as a life coach and a Stephen minister have taught me to temper my choleric self, to listen carefully and help people see the solutions themselves.

So even though I might see the changes, I can’t march in and suggest a solution. No solution exists for Alzheimer’s. All we can do is persevere through each 36-hour day, hang on to our faith and pray for everyone involved.

Together, my siblings and I make an awesome team. My sister is smart, and my brother is wise. I add the fresh eyes to observe Mom’s changes.

As a family, we blend our love for Mom and our life experiences into the best caregiving unit we can possibly be.

Still, observing the changes in Mom also helps me see the changes in all of us as we age, deal with the stress and search every resource for the best way to make it through this journey.

May God help us that even as we observe the changes, we may also have the grace to accept them.

2013 RJ Thesman

Journey of a Novel – Step 5

The publishing process for a book involves many different people with various gifts. From the graphic artists who design the cover, to the copy editor to the publisher – all these people have a hand in printing the final product. As a self-publisher, I learned about each of these processes myself and worked hard to complete a credible product. Now, with my book at CrossRiver Media, I needed to do one other thing: let it go.

From the beginning of the creative process, only two individuals worked on my novel – the Holy Spirit and me. Together we wrote the words, revised the copy, then revised it again. Most of the time, I just listened and marveled at the words that erupted from my soul, traveled to my fingers and became visible on the computer screen. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit woke me in the middle of the night to add another phrase or correct something I had misinterpreted the day before. The notepad beside my bed became a constant reminder that we were partners in this endeavor.

The editor and former English teacher in me always wants to make it better – to correct syntax or find a more efficient way to express the rhythm of my sentences. The creative mind in me always wants to find that magic word that will produce an a-ha moment for the reader. While the Holy Spirit in me is also concerned about syntax, rhythm and a-ha moments – he basically has one goal – to save another soul. So we work together, but at some point – I have to let it go.

During the journey of this novel, I wrote the rough draft in about six months. Then I corrected that draft until I felt it was publisher-ready. Now, I have revised a few places and tried to find better action verbs to move the story along. Throughout each of these steps, the Holy Spirit has also been at work – inserting another piece of the Gospel, reminding me of another Bible verse or an ancient prayer I can add to the manuscript and praying through me for those who will read this book.

This weekend, we finished that process. My characters are now part of my family, as real to me as the flesh and blood people I see each day. The story continues within my plans for a second and third book, but this particular manuscript seems ready to move on. The Holy Spirit waits silently beside me as I save it one last time, burn it to a CD, then send it through cyberspace to the experts who will complete the finished product.

As I let it go, the miracle of the creative process expands. When the book is read by others, the Holy Spirit will once again speak His words of everlasting hope. He will use the sentences, the rhythm and those precious a-ha moments to touch a heart, bring a new thought to someone’s mind or comfort those who provide care for their loved ones.

As much as I enjoyed the process, I look forward to hearing from some of you out there when you read the finished product. Let’s rejoice together in the creative process and praise God for the determined way He continues to save us.

The Journey of a Novel – Step 2

In many ways, 2010 proved to be a difficult year for me. I was unemployed, downsized out of my job right in the middle of the recession. In fact, this blog began as a plea for all of us to stay in hope – no matter what the circumstances. My unemployment taught me several things about trusting in God’s provision, about the miracles that still happen in the 21st century, about giving when there’s nothing available to give. But right smack in the middle of that scary time, God interrupted my life with Step 2 of the novel journey.

For 40+ years, I wrote and published in the nonfiction genre. Tell the facts. Teach the reader. And even though God had whispered a different direction in my ear and provided me with a textbook (see the blog post about Step 1), I was not ready to change my entire focus for a mere fiction mindset.

But one morning, still without a job and wondering how in the world to buy groceries that week, I woke up with an idea. Floating in the middle of my forehead was a character, then several ideas about that character, then more ideas and a setting, then some conversation and a story line.

Not quite sure what to do, I sat down and started writing. This action, in itself, was completely out of character for me. As an organized, Type A personality, I never start writing without an outline or research or some idea of the topic I wanted to pursue. But I could not escape from this fascinating character in my head. It was almost as if I needed to move my fingers over the keyboard in order to discover more about her – like reading a book via my hands.

After a few hours, I stood up and stretched. “What am I supposed to do with this, God?”

“Save it,” he said. “Keep going.”

So I did. The next day I woke up with more ideas, more conversation and more of a story line. I kept going, sometimes laughing at my character and what she did – sometimes grabbing a Kleenex because I was so moved by what had just happened on the computer screen. The next day and the next and the next. No outlines. No research. No idea about what was going to happen until I woke up, turned on the laptop and started moving my fingers.

When an interview or a job fair interrupted the writing, I missed my characters. I wondered what they were doing that day and longed to get back to them, to peek into their lives, to hear their conversations. Definitely hooked by the process, writing fiction totally surprised me yet delighted the heck out of me.

I had no idea fiction could be so much fun. Writing fiction just wasn’t me. Yet, it seemed that writing fiction indeed was me. I was so engrossed in the story, I couldn’t imagine going back to the same old nonfiction facts. I wanted to find out more about Reverend G and Chris, about Jacob and Jessie, about life at Cove Creek.

After six months, I read my 53,000 words with no idea what to do next. Was this just something that God gave me to do, to survive the emotional trauma of long-term unemployment? Or did God have a more expansive plan? What did he want me to do with this novel idea?

The answer began to take shape in Step 3.