Hope Finds a Treasure

During the last two weeks, three people at separate times have told me, “You are a treasure.”

I know this is a compliment and I truly appreciate the sentiment. At the same time, I am a bit nonplussed to be described as such.

National+TreasureWhen I think of treasure, my first impression is an antiquity. The movie “National Treasure” comes to mind as Nicholas Gage spends 90 minutes trying to find the lost treasures his Masonic ancestors hid in various places.

Gage, of course, succeeds and manages to fall in love at the same time, which spawns the second movie in the series and pleas from his fans for a third.

Although my joints sometimes cry a different melody, I don’t feel like an antiquity. I have, however, traveled around the block a few times and know a few things about life.

So I have thought about what I treasure and how I might practice more gratitude within my soul for those treasures I hold dear.

My treasures do not represent stuff, because I am antiquated enough to know that eventually – most of our stuff ends up at Goodwill and if I had all the money back that I have spent on stuff throughout the years – I could buy a car.

No, the true treasures for me involve people and memories – those happenings and experiences involving flesh and blood folks that cannot be replaced.

My relationship with my son is a treasure. There’s something especially sweet when our children mature and we move into an easy friendship instead of strictly a parent / child relationship.

We have great discussions about life, politics and important things like which laptop to buy and how to set up the wi-fi.

We express our opinions about  world systems and how we fit into them, the goals each of us hold for 2015 and how we are moving toward our dreams. I so desperately want my son to see his dreams become reality.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I treasure sitting with my child – https://rjthesman.net/2015/03/10/hope-sits-with-my-child/

Another treasure involves growing up on the farm. Although my world now exists in the city, nothing can take from me the joy of climbing a tree, perching in its generous limbs and scribbling my first stories in my Red Chief Tablet.

Watching the massive Oklahoma sunsets change colors, celebrating the waving wheat (“that smells so sweet”) and digging my hands into fresh garden earth to plant seeds that would later produce our supper – these are treasures that make me long for those hard-working blessed days without the stress of internet surfing and bungled emails.

Even writing about the country fills my heart with longing for my dream – a log home tucked safely between old trees that hold their own secrets – one room of that home surrounded by windows with my writing desk perched smack in the middle of all that light and creativity.

Because I am a writer, I observe people so one of my favorite treasures involves the many human beings I have known.

Students from various countries around the world, women who have enriched my life and saved it many times with their nurturing hearts, ministers of both genders and every race who have spoken into my life and the myriads of writers who bless me just by being their weird and wonderful selves.

People are a treasure, walking and talking receptacles of divine cells that God has pronounced, “Very good.”

My life has been enriched by meeting these folks, spending time with them, developing relationships with them, disagreeing with them and praying with them.

So I gladly accept the moniker of “treasure,” because I hope I have somehow spoken into the lives of others the encouragement that keeps me going, the perseverance that keeps me writing and the joy that keeps me breathing.

I would be interested to know what you consider a treasure. How about sharing with all of us your thoughts on the subject?

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

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

Hope Lives in Forgiveness

Thanks to the insights of some prayer warriors, I was recently confronted with an ugliness in my soul. A spirit of unforgiveness had settled within and kept me from living in joyful peace.

After a time of confession and intense prayer, by God’s grace, I was able to release the pain that led to the unforgiveness. Peace came as a blessed byproduct.forgiveness clouds pic

The experience reminded me once again of the importance of forgiveness, and of how difficult it is to actually step through that door.

In order to forgive, we first have to be willing to feel our pain and grieve it in a healthy way. We also have to realize that the problem isn’t just about our suffering but it’s also how we perceive what has been done to us – and who did it.

Sometimes we have to forgive ourselves. Sometimes we even have to forgive God for allowing such pain into our lives.

But as long as we live in the bitterness of refusing to forgive, hope stalls and with it, the energy to move forward. We become stuck in whatever action caused the pain. We relive it and each time we pick up that grudge, we carry a heavier burden.

We become victims rather than victors and the ugliness inside will eventually seep into our souls and even our bodies. We can, literally, kill ourselves with bitterness and hate.

The news reports lately have reminded us how far we still have to go to find true acceptance of each other. America suffers from the grief of lost lives, damaged reputations and questions about injustice.

It is a blight on our land and an attack against the very soul of a country that was founded on colorful demographics. Although I don’t understand all the nuances of what has happened, I do feel the grief of families who have lost children, store owners who have watched their businesses burn and stereotypes profiled unfairly on both sides.

I know how easy it is to allow our pain to gnaw through the goodness God has granted us and to refuse to show grace to each other. One side of my family tree is decorated with Cherokees who were forced to march from North Carolina to Oklahoma. Thousands of men, women and children died along the Trail of Tears. The tragedy was so intense, even the soldiers who were ordered to carry out this debauchery wept.

Yet the Native Americans still thrive as a people, proud of their heritage, artistic in their pursuits and determined to seek a better livelihood for their children. It has taken several generations of honest confrontation, better laws and yes – even some national apologies to make peace happen.

I personally know some of these beautiful people from the Sooner State who learned how to forgive the past and moved into a place of mutual respect with those who stole their land.

We all make mistakes. We stumble and fail. We disappoint God and ourselves and yes – sometimes we make life-changing errors. But somewhere in the road back to sanity, we have to find a way to learn from the experience and not do it again.

I believe one of the stepping stones in that road is labeled forgiveness. I wish we would give it a try.

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

 

Paper, Please

As a writer, I know better. But it happened anyway.writing4502.jpg

As we prepared for our recent family vacation, I packed all my paper goods – legal pads, journals, notepads in a special bag. Then helped my sister pack up her Subaru Forrester and carefully secured my “writing” bag in her trunk. Other luggage piled on top, including my brother’s tackle box and fishing pole.

About two hours into the trip, I decided to write some notes about the scenery – something I might blog about later or use in research. But as I searched through my purse, I realized none of my usual notepads were inside the car. They were all packed in the back of the Subaru and there was no way we were going to unpack everything just so I could write down a few notes.

My creative juices seemed to be on overdrive and along with them, the fear that I might forget the words and phrases that peppered my mind. I noticed the Oklahoma red dirt, stained as legend tells it by the blood and tears of the Cherokees who were forced to travel from Mississippi to Indian Territory. Their broken hearts and wounded spirits forever colored the soil of the new land where they were enslaved on reservations.

As we drove into the Oklahoma panhandle, I saw corn growing tall (“as high as an elephant’s eye”), combed straight by the row crop planter that sows the corn seed. Each row was impressive as the corn plants reached their blades up to heaven for nourishing sunshine.

The horizon in the panhandle seemed to blend right into the soil so that I could not discern where it divided until we drove farther down the road. The turquoise sky shook hands with the red soil, accessorized by the green corn and the occasional brown coyote. A colorful land indeed.

All these sights I wanted to record while they were fresh, along with any ideas that surfaced about the novel I am currently writing. But alas – no notebook in my purse. What to do? How to record my thoughts before they disappeared as readily as the flatland when we approached the foothills of New Mexico?

We stopped for a snack at a Love’s store. With words swirling in my subconscious, I quickly ran to the ladies room, finished my business, then grabbed extra toilet paper which I folded into a pallet of paper. Then I grabbed extra napkins by the checkout and hurried to the car. A receipt from a previous gas purchase also fell out of my purse when I searched for a pen. Thank goodness I had packed my pens in my purse.

Armed with TP, napkins and the back of a receipt – I quickly scribbled phrases and sentences onto my makeshift notepads, then sighed with contentment that I had finally captured my thoughts before they disappeared into word netherland.

One week later, when we returned home, I gathered all my little notes together to file where I could best use them. Then I vowed to never be caught without paper again.

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

 

Why Book Signings are So Important

Many authors, especially the more famous ones, avoid book signings. They feel that the amount of work required to put into a book signing doesn’t equal the sales returned. The ROI doesn’t calculate in favor of the author.

But I disagree. Book signings are some of my favorite events.book sign - 2nd book

With my most recent book signing, I was billed as a native of Enid, Oklahoma. The Hastings store in my home town hosted the signing and helped me advertise it.

What makes a successful book signing? Some authors believe selling 10-50 copies constitutes a success. But for me, the success of the event centers around the people who attend.

For example, in Enid, the following people visited my table:

• A prayer partner – a woman who faithfully prays for my ministry as writer, life coach and program director at GateWay of Hope. She also prays for my personal concerns and the cares of my family.

• My former piano teacher – the woman who taught me how to follow the notes but also how to play with my soul. She is still teaching me because every time we visit, I am awed and inspired by her gracious personality and her godly character.

• A high school and college friend – this woman has taught me about the importance of faith, especially when life unravels in different directions. She encourages me through social media and by attending the events that are important to me. She is an example of the believers in the Hebrews’ Hall of Faith.

• The sister of another high school friend – she came to buy each of the books so that she could read them and then send them on to her sister. Every time I see her at church, I am struck by the peace of God that rests on her, and I feel blessed.

• A friend of our family who continues to meet weekly with my mother, walks around the mall with her and drives her to Braum’s so they can have biscuits and gravy together. I have known her all my life and appreciated her kindness to our family.

• My own sister who buys books for six of her friends, filling her Christmas list early and encouraging me in the process. She interrupts her own schedule to fill my needs.

• A pastor and his wife who show loyalty to the family of their parishioners and continue to encourage me in my writing journey.

All these people uplifted me because they took the time on a busy Saturday to drive across town and buy one or more of my books. I know they will read the books and probably tell someone else about them. They will pray for me and that will build up my coverage in heaven for this wordsmithing I do.

But then – just as I began to pack my remaining books away – another person approached the table, picked up a book and asked, “What’s it about?”

“A woman minister,” I said, “who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She lives in assisted living and meets a whole group of interesting characters.”

“Perfect,” she said. “My mother’s best friend just went to live in assisted living. Mom doesn’t know what to do to help her, and she misses her so much – the things they used to do together.”

We talked for a while about how life changes so rapidly and how difficult Alzheimer’s and dementia can be for the caregivers. She bought the first book, “The Unraveling of Reverend G” and slipped a bookmark for the second book, “Intermission for Reverend G” into her purse. She picked up a business card, “So I can follow you online,” she said, “and buy the second book on Amazon.”

Then she moved toward the register, and I continued to pack up my books, grateful that I waited a few more minutes so that I could share hope with this lovely woman.

All my book signings have been successful – that is – I’ve sold more than 10 books. But the best part of the entire process is that I get to meet face to face the people who read the words God has given me. I get to thank them for coming and hopefully bless them with a hug or a handshake.

I meet people who will be encouraged by the story of this brave little minister with Alzheimer’s Disease, people who are caregivers, who experience the 36-hour day and know firsthand how it feels to live with a loved one who sometimes forgets.

Book signings are another way to share the message that no matter how dire life gets – God is still good and he never stops loving us.

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

How Do Authors Work a Blog Chain?

I’ve been asked to participate in the Author’s Blog Chain. Sally Jadlow tagged me. Visit her blog at  www.sallyjadlow.com.

Sally writes poetry and devotions. Her book “The Late Sooner” chronicles the land run in Oklahoma while her “God’s Little Miracle Books I and II” describe the many miracles Sally has observed as a corporate chaplain. Her latest book, “Family Favorites from the Heartland” shares recipes and stories from Sally’s family gatherings. 

The Author’s Blog Chain asks four questions. Here are my answers:

What are you currently working on?writing4502.jpg

I just finished the first draft of my memoir, so in a couple of months I’ll go back and start those edits. I’m also doing the final edits on the third book in the Reverend G series. The first book, “The Unraveling of Reverend G” was released by CrossRiver Media in 2012. The second book, “Intermission for Reverend G” will be released in April, 2014. This series follows the fictional story of a woman minister who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Then I’m beginning to do some character sketches and plots for the next novel that I have in my heart. No name for that one yet, so I’m keeping it a secret.

How does your work differ from others’ in the same genre?

Because my family is dealing with Alzheimer’s personally, through my mother’s struggle with the disease, I wanted to explore what the Alzheimer’s patient might be thinking and experiencing inside her soul. So I wrote the Reverend G series from the deep viewpoint. I wanted my readers to feel what Reverend G feels and think as she thinks, to understand how devastating this disease is but at the same time, find some nuggets of hope.

I’ve also included lots of funny stories with the other characters Reverend G meets. Because laughter is healing, I wanted my readers to understand that even in the midst of Alzheimer’s, it’s important to look for the humor.

Most books about Alzheimer’s are nonfiction, telling about the latest research. Rarely do any of them deal with the disease from the spiritual viewpoint.

Why do you write what you write?

Sometimes I write because the words just come pouring out of me, but other times – I have a definite purpose.

I wrote my memoir because I wanted my son to understand his roots and why his family does what they do. I wanted him to experience the security of our cozy Oklahoma roots in the 1950’s, the turbulence of the 1960’s and the insecurities of my world in the early 21st century. Although he can study these decades in history books, I wanted him to see them through my eyes.

I wrote the Reverend G series because of my mother’s Alzheimer’s and my father’s dementia. Whenever I visited them, I tried to communicate and wondered what they were thinking about, what they were trying to communicate to me yet couldn’t make any sense of the words. I also wanted to encourage caregivers who work so hard during those 36-hour days to take care of their loved ones.

I write mostly about hope, on my blog and in my books, because we all need to experience hope – especially when times are tough.

How does your writing process work?

As a bivocational writer, I work another job. So my writing begins after I come home. Although I feel as if I’m always writing, getting new ideas, forming characters in my mind, jotting down notes – the real grist of the work comes when I sit down and type out the words.

I follow a weekly writing plan of working on shorter pieces and my blog during the week. Then on the weekends, I work on the books because I have a longer period of time to devote to them. Each weekend, I try to finish a chapter and then go back the next day and work on some edits.

I write a bimonthly column for the Johnson County Gazette, and a monthly blog post for Trochia online. My own blog posts are scheduled for Tuesdays of every week and then I answer all the comments that come from those posts.

My editorial calendar keeps me on track, and that’s the first document I open every night. Once I get in the zone of writing, it’s difficult to stop and that’s when it’s really fun – until the next day when I realize I’ve missed several hours of sleep because I was spending time with my characters.

I’m tagging Author Nancy Kay Grace who has been published in four anthologies and speaks on the topics of grace and faith. She also writes regular devotions on line and in print, titled “Grace Notes.” Nancy Kay’s book, “Grace Notes: 30 Days of Grace” is scheduled for publication in September, 2014 by CrossRiver Media.

Her contact info follows:

Website http://www.nancykaygrace.com/

Facebook Author Page: Nancy Kay Grace/ GraceNotes
Twitter:  @nancykaygrace
LinkedIn: Nancy Kay Grace profile on Linked In

 

 

Finding a Worship Surprise

On a deserted Oklahoma road, I traveled alone.

Then I saw them coming from a distance – the slight movement in my peripheral vision to the right, so I slowed down to 20 miles per hour. Since no cars approached on either side of the highway, I stopped my vehicle, held my breath and watched.

A majestic five-point buck looked briefly toward my car, then scampered across the road. Only when he reached the other side did he look back. The doe watched him, depending on her mate for safety and as he looked back at her, some secret signal passed between them.deer

She then hurried across the highway. Together, they loped into a shaded area on that side of the highway, hopefully – to live happily ever after.

I moved the car’s gear into “Drive” and slowly moved forward, one hand on the steering wheel – the other on my heart. Then I worshipped God.

He allowed me to see that beautiful moment. If I had left Mom in assisted living even five minutes earlier, I might have missed that moment or I might have hit the buck as he bravely stepped onto the highway.

God often sends worship nudges to me through nature. But I rarely see a deer couple, the buck and the doe, traveling together. Never have I observed such a connection, such an obvious signal, between the two.

Fresh from visiting Mom and thinking about her and my dad, God allowed me to see an animal relationship in the beauty of a winter morning. He encouraged me and reminded me that the husband rightly protects his mate.

God – my heavenly husband – takes care of me. He goes before me, preparing the way and making sure no danger exists. Then he gently calls and waits for me to follow him. As long as I keep my eyes on him and wait for his signal – then I cross safely into the next area of life.

These majestic yet graceful creatures reminded me that no matter how confused Mom grows in her Alzheimer’s journey, no matter what kind of circumstances I face, no matter what the journey of life holds – there is a greater power that goes before me and prepares the way. I can trust my heavenly mate to watch out for me.

In our chaotic world, that sacred moment with the deer encouraged me. Order does still exist within the circle of life and God still sends his messages amid the confusion.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/11QATC1