Hope Steps Beyond the Ordinary

How sad when our faith becomes glib—as ordinary as a slice of wheat toast.

Then something happens that jerks us back into life and reminds us how much we need each other.

weeping woman sculptureSometimes when people ask for prayer on social media, I scroll quickly through the problem. Busy with my own challenges. Figuring others will step up and say a quickie prayer.

But when it’s me and more importantly—when it’s my son standin’ in the need of prayer, I am quick to plead for help.

And so grateful for those who respond.

Our latest challenge has jerked me back to reality and to the importance of stepping out of the ordinary request into the place of true caring.

With my son hooked up to hospital tubes and filled with pain-killing drugs, I cried out for prayers. Loving those who responded, for those who kept asking, “How’s Caleb?”

Reminders that others cared. Saints who pounded the doors of heaven on behalf of my boy.

And for those who also prayed for me, when I didn’t even ask. Mothers who knew I suffered with my son, failed to sleep, cried when I saw him in that sterile bed.

Folks who turned their prayers into action and brought us food. Took the time to visit. Hands-on prayers. Love in action.

My faith challenged and convicted to no longer scroll quickly through social media prayer requests. To remember on the other end of that post is a suffering person, a crying Mama, a struggling child.

My gratitude to those who prayed for us. Please continue. Healing is a process.

Hope underscores the need for honest petitions in the heavenlies and for warriors who embrace the battle.

We need each other. Our prayers matter.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

If you’re struggling to find hope within your own challenges, check out Hope Shines – nuggets of encouragement for weary souls.

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Finding Hope at Christmas

Especially at Christmas, caregivers and families feel the sting of Alzheimer’s and dementia. We hang ornaments and remember past Decembers when our loved ones decorated the tree, sang Christmas carols and laughed while opening presents.christmas_baubles_and_candles

Smells from the kitchen spike memories of Christmas cookies, cinnamon and nutmeg, that special family recipe for peppernuts.

Yet now – everything has changed. Our loved one sits quietly in a chair, unaware of smells and colorful lights, breathing in and out, communicating with no one.

It is the passage of time and the ache of what this disease can do.

Somehow, we must look for joy by searching for its source.

Think back on Christmases past and be grateful for the memories and the legacy preserved within family.

Treasure the presence of your loved one, even though he or she seems mentally far away.

Remember that Christmas is about a baby in a manger who became the Savior on the cross. Someday, in eternity, all Alzheimer’s genes will be nonexistent. No disease there. No memory loss. No sadness.

Be grateful for these moments together, because you, too, are creating a legacy for the generations to come.

Sing a Christmas carol together. Music connections are the last part of the brain to die. You can still communicate with your loved one through music.

With all the excitement and chaos of opening presents, be alert for anxiety in your loved one. He or she may need to return to assisted living long before all the Christmas activities are finished.

Find your own joy in being with family. Each day is a gift. Each time we get together, we make memories. Even if the day is difficult for you, treasure it.

Several years ago, my sister Kris – who is a talented poet – wrote these words:


            “While striding on life’s pathway, fill up your days with cheer

Just laugh at rainbows, small or great, to banish every fear.

Hold tight to what life offers, content with all you do

For all adventures help create the treasure that is you.”


Remember that seasons end, and the season of Alzheimer’s will also end with the death of your loved one. So try to enjoy your time together and know that somewhere deep inside, Mom or Dad, Sister or Brother dearly loves you and wishes you a Merry Christmas.

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

 

 

 

Hope Within Relationship

Sitcoms and movies often vilify the role of the mother-in-law as in “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Monster-In-Law.”

LeoraBut in my situation, that stereotype never materialized. I was not at odds with my mother-in-law. Although we disagreed on politics and how to raise children; we found common ground in our respect for small towns, the Oklahoma Sooners football program and the joy of music.

We shared a love for flowers and jewelry. She was the one who taught me how to care for mums, how to prune them in the spring, then rejoice with the harvest of autumn blooms.

We both enjoyed bling and the challenge of finding perfect accessories for every outfit. I own several pieces of jewelry she gave me and wear them often with her in mind.

She was also the one who tried to show me how to make the perfect pecan pie. But no matter how many times I tried – with her exact recipe – I could never master it. Instead, I saved my calories for the annual Thanksgiving feast and relished every bite of her buttery, rich version.

I sent her cards on her birthday and holidays. She did the same for me, always writing in tiny script at the bottom, “I still love you.” I saved all those cards.

A few months ago, while visiting my own mother, I felt that inner nudge to go see my mother-in-law. I have learned to obey that divine whisper, knowing that God sees the future and asks us to respond in the present.

So I spent several hours with her, saddened by her increasing fragility and the slight aphasia that often interrupted her speech.

Yet we were content to merely sit together, to just be as two women who shared the same last name and the faith that bound us in eternal relationship.

She ate lunch, and I helped cut her meat, arranging the various bowls on her tray to make it easier for her to reach them. She told me she wanted dessert, so I searched for a piece of – you guessed it – pecan pie. I joyed in watching her devour it.

She told me she wanted to live to be 90. “Why 90?” I asked?

“It’s a good number,” she said.

When I left, I kissed her goodbye and said, “I love you.”

She responded, “I love you, too.”

God knew the expanse of her timeline and at 87 years, this past week, she stepped out of her shell and scurried into eternity.

I felt grateful during her memorial service, knowing she would have loved the flowers that surrounded her casket and the way her jewelry accessorized her beautiful red dress.

Even though my heart already missed her, my soul rejoiced that she no longer needed a walker or a cane, no longer wanted for anything.

In spite of the sitcoms and the movies, I know I was lucky to have such a relationship with my mother-in-law. I cherish the memories of strolls through her garden, preparing meals together in her kitchen and one last goodbye.

I love you, Leora. See you on the other side.

©2014 RJ Thesman – “Intermission for Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo

The Power of the Music

As the trauma-induced dementia stole my father away, one joy remained – the memories of music. He lost his ability to speak and to sing. He no longer strummed the old Martin guitar or plunked chords on the piano. But the memory of the music remained.

I know this because I saw it in his eyes. Although Dad gradually lost the ability to respond by voice or even touch, the lyrics and the sounds of music cached in his memory. Eighth notes and rests, fermatas and repeat signs retained their sacred hold on Dad’s soul. Although he loved many types of music – country western, classical and the harmonies of chorales – it was the hymns that evoked life to the very end.

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh what a foretaste of glory divine. Heir of salvation, purchase of God. Born of his spirit, washed in his blood. This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long. This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long.”

Whenever I visited Dad and entered his bedroom at the end of the hallway, I started singing this old hymn – Dad’s favorite. Since the day he gave his heart to Jesus, during halftime of a college basketball game, the blessed assurance of his salvation wrapped his heart in security. Dad chose this hymn during sing-alongs. He and I sang it together when we ministered together at nursing homes. He carried that blessed assurance with him even during the tragic fire that started the long road toward dementia. His soul wrapped itself around the meaning of those words and blessed him during the darkest times.

I stroked Dad’s hair and patted his hand as I continued to sing through all the verses of his hymn. Each time I sang to Dad, a spark lit up his eyes. Somewhere inside that ravaged brain, the music stirred a memory. Although he could not verbally share it with me, his eyes spoke the truth. The blessed assurance of his eternal security in Christ still existed. His soul echoed the joy of those words.

During Easter weekend of 2008, I once again entered Dad’s bedroom and sang his hymn. I patted his hand and looked into his eyes for the familiar spark of remembrance. But this time, it was gone. Only a blank stare greeted me. The dementia had finally stolen from him the last vestige of memory. I knew Dad was on his way to heaven where the music would never end.

One month later, my sister called me and said. “Dad’s finally Home. It’s over.”

At his funeral, we sang the words once again. The music reverberated throughout the sanctuary, surrounded the dear body lying in the coffin and echoed through the hallways of the church. As Dad’s earthly story ended, that blessed assurance became his epilogue. His song carried him into the arms of Jesus and once again, I marveled at the power of the music.

As caregivers, we must find out the special songs that comfort our loved ones. As we sing those melodies or play an instrument at the bedside, we connect once again. And in that connection, we find joy even in the waning moments of life. The power of the music transcends our one-dimensional lives and transports us to those spiritual havens we long for.

Happy Easter, Dad. I love you, and I miss you. In your memory, I will sing your song.