Hope Wins

Oh, God – I’m so afraid.monarch butterfly

During the sixth month of pregnancy, I finally ventured out of the bed where I spent the first five months – hoping, begging God to let me keep my baby. With years of infertility and two miscarriages in my medical chart – the chances for a normal birth were slim.

In June of that year, I waddled out to the back yard’s sunshine and stretched out in the chaise lounge. With my hand over my extended belly, I prayed again for the child within.

Protect him, please. Keep him healthy. I want to hold him. I need you to encourage me, God. Help me. I’m afraid.

When I opened my eyes, a large monarch butterfly floated out of the clouds and landed on my belly. Hardly daring to breathe, I watched as his wings opened and closed in a foreshadow of blessing.

As the baby moved, I wondered if the monarch might be disturbed and fly away. But he rode the wave, stayed in position and kept his gaze on my face.

For over an hour, we baked in the sun, ingested the natural vitamin D and shared in worship moments.

Then the monarch carefully lifted off, floated around me a couple of times, drank deeply from my colorful zinnia garden and disappeared into the clouds.

When I returned to the house and journaled about my experience, I felt encouraged, renewed and ready to face whatever happened in the next few months.

God often uses his creation to encourage, uplift and remind me that he is indeed greater than my problem. Since he is the one who manipulates cellular metabolism, hangs the stars in his front yard and whispers, “Peace be still” in the middle of storms – then he can certainly deal with my everyday stresses.

I wonder how many scenarios he manages and shows up to help us when we aren’t alert enough to look for him. Perhaps in heaven, we’ll watch a giant video screen and see his image beside our sick child, walking down the aisle with us as we graduate or smiling as we choose our first car.

Like the monarch’s appearance, he is with us – longing to soothe our fears and direct us toward the best path for our lives.

Because of my experience with the monarch, I nurture my butterfly bush and let the red clover grow around the perimeter of my yard. These plants attract monarchs every year and continue to remind me God is near.

And what of the precious child I carried that summer day? He is now 30 years old, a healthy and sensitive man who makes me proud every day to be called his mom.Caleb and Mom at reception

Hope wins. We just have to keep watching for the finish line.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

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Hope Hides in the Pages of a New Book

Something special happens when I begin to birth a book. I’m not sure if I am unique in this. Perhaps other writers will comment and let me know if I’m weird or somewhat normal.writing pencil

Because one of my core values is life-long learning, I love to initiate research. So with the new idea, I start to look for credits that may prove my point if it’s a nonfiction book.

For novels, I start to pay attention to settings, cultures, recipes, clothing – anything that will make my characters believable.

Then I go nuts with ideas and start free writing. For nonfiction, I play with an outline.

For novels, I write letters to the characters and let them write me back (I know – weird!).

This is the most exciting part for me – similar to when the doctor said, “Guess what? You’re pregnant!”

I begin to imagine all kinds of scenarios. What will the cover of this book look like? What if this book becomes a best-seller? What if the words I write impact somebody’s life?


The beginning germ of my idea mushrooms and ripples into a story line. Even in nonfiction, it’s important to tell the story.


 

So I feel excited, fulfilled, working away at this idea and waiting to see how it will manifest itself in chapter headings, quotes, character quirks and the resolution of conflict.

As I work on the idea, I imagine my readers – feet propped up in front of a cozy fire, turning the pages inscribed with my words, wiping a tear or tilting back their heads in laughter.

Then I take the idea and play with it from the marketing standpoint. After I find my focus, how many articles can I write from this one idea? Will it be only a novel or can I also write a nonfiction book, using my research as a starting point?

That’s what I’m doing now with all my research about Alzheimer’s and dementia. The Reverend G trilogy is finished, so now I’m putting together a nonfiction book of essays and meditations to help caregivers.

For me, the best part of writing is letting my creativity loose without any roadblocks or fears stopping me. I envision the massive impact this idea will have and the huge numbers of people who will either learn from my topic or change their lives because of it.

Ultimately, I thank God for the idea because he is the one who creates life – in the womb and in my writing soul.

Then I ask him to bless the project and hope again – that it will be very good.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope in Autumn Blooms

mumsIt is the season of mums – that glorious coloring of perennial happiness that I plant and nurture each year. These are the plants I prune in the spring when everything else yearns to bloom. Because I know that when late September and early October creep onto my calendar, these will be the plants that greet me with tiny buds and then full blooms.

Rust, purple, red, yellow – I love to fill my garden with these spots of color. Yet even within the enjoyment, I feel a chill of remembrance. Mums were the plants that loving friends brought to me when my babies died – Ryan in 1981 and Rachel in 1983.

Such promise those pregnancies brought. After years of infertility, sharing the joys of friends and family who so easily bore children while I waited with empty arms. It was finally my turn.

Waiting, hoping, praying for the lives of my little ones. Yet both of them – each life ending at 12 weeks.

How does a mother reconcile the image of her own womb becoming a coffin? She cannot. I could not.

Numb, then raw, then screaming out my grief to the God who watched my babies die and did nothing to save them. Was he not supposed to be a Savior?

Why? No answer. It is in the silence of our griefs that faith best grows. Faith – the evidence of things not seen. The babies never held yet somehow carried to heaven where I believed with certainty they were safe and loved.

Friends who provided no answers brought mums to plant, to nurture, to prune back and wait until autumn brought them to life. The hope of this mother that another autumn might bring another child – a living babe I could hold and kiss and sing to.

Again with divine silence came only the belief that somehow God knew a time and way to bring life to my womb just as mums somehow know when it is their time to bloom.

My Caleb – third born yet my only living child – delivered in 1985. Did ever the screams of a newborn sound so sweet?

Still, each year in late September and early October, I seek out another mum plant and gingerly plant it. Some unresolved grief so deep I can no longer weep cries out for a tangible reminder of the babes that were taken. Miscarried babies receive no funeral, no cemetery plot where mothers go to grieve. So I honor my children by planting mums as my personal cemetery token.

I wait for spring to cut them back, then marvel at the first blooms of autumn. And in those orbs of color, I see hope that somewhere in heaven wait two children who want to meet me, throw their arms around me and whisper love words we have longed to share all these years.

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

Christmas with the Red Booties

“Why do you have those red shoes on your tree?” a little friend asked me. She pointed to the felt shoes that hang at the front of my tree.

“Ah…that is a wonderful story,” I said, “and it began many years ago. Would you like to hear it?”

Her dark brown eyes twinkled as she squealed. “Tell it! Tell it, please!”

red bootiesSo I sat down with her and began to explain why the little red booties hang on my tree. “Many years ago, a young lady and a man were married. They worked hard and saved their money and then wanted to start a family. But even though they tried and tried and tried, no baby came to live in their house.

“One year, at Christmas time, the lady thought she was going to have a baby. So she planned how she would tell her parents at Christmas with a pretty package and a note inside. She could barely contain her excitement.

“But then the doctor said she would not have a baby, so her Christmas that year was very sad.”

“Years and years passed by with no baby and many sad Christmases. But six years later, the lady was finally pregnant and was so excited. All the friends and family of the couple were excited to celebrate this coming child, but the baby died before it could grow to full size inside the lady. Everybody cried for a long time.

“Two years later, the lady again was pregnant and the same people celebrated with the lady and her husband. But again, the baby died before it could grow. Again, everybody cried – especially the lady. She decided she would probably never hold her own baby but she would teach everybody’s else’s children how to play the piano and try to be happy for all the people who had the blessing of babies.

“Then two years later, a miracle happened. The lady and the man welcomed their baby, a fully-developed and beautiful boy who was born on the coldest day of that November during a sleet storm. The tiny baby was such a wonderful present for Christmas that the lady bought special red booties for him to wear to church.”

“I like that story,” my little friend said, “and you were the lady in the story, weren’t you?”

“Yes, and the baby is my son, Caleb.”

My little friend pondered a while and then asked, “So you put the little booties on the tree every year, to remind you of that baby — your Caleb?”

“Yes, and those booties also remind me of another baby. He probably didn’t have any booties to wear, but his mother and father dearly loved him. He arrived as a special miracle, too, and that’s the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Baby Jesus came to remind us that God loves us and wants to give us eternal life.

“So that’s the story of the red booties, but the real story goes on. For each person who believes in baby Jesus and accepts the love of God, new stories begin. Stories of love and purpose as people realize Christmas is all about the wonderful gift of life and the miracles that God does inside our hearts.”

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

5 Ways to Approach Mother’s Day – Part 2

The Woman who has Lost a Child

After those six infertile years, I suddenly found myself gloriously, miraculously pregnant. I bought tiny baby clothes at garage sales and fixed up the nursery. My husband wallpapered some Disney characters on a yellow background. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs danced around the border of the room. We bought a crib and my brother repaired it to make sure the individual slats were close enough to prevent injury. An antique walnut rocker waited in the middle of the nursery, ready to rock my precious child.

Every night I prayed for my baby. So it seemed the utmost cruelty after three months when that tiny life slithered out of my womb. The spirit of my baby boy, Ryan, floated immediately to heaven. My empty arms ached. The crib stood empty. My heart broke into a million pieces.

Two years later, another pregnancy surprised everyone. I fought the morning sickness but also welcomed it. This child represented God’s makeup plan for the first loss. Again I prayed and thanked God every day. Then my little girl, Rachel, joined her brother in heaven. Again, empty arms reminded me that Mother’s Day represented a cruel joke.

How should we approach this holiday with mothers who have lost a child? Whether through miscarriage, SIDS or some other tragedy – mothers’ hearts bleed each time a child’s voice is silenced.

  • Think before you speak. The mother who has lost a child is going through the grief process. She wants to hear about your growing family, but not yet. Do not, under any circumstances, repeat a Bible verse you think this woman needs to hear. Let sympathy be your first response and silence be your watchword.
  • Wrap this woman in your arms and weep with her. A comforting hug is a thousand times better than empty words.
  • Send a sympathy card on the due date or the birthday of that child. Even now, decades later, I remember the dates when my babies traveled to heaven.
  • Send flowers. Especially with a miscarriage, no funeral and no cemetery plot offers closure. After we lost Ryan, someone gave me potted mums and again, another mum plant after Rachel died. I planted those flowers in the yard. Every year when the mums bloomed, I thought about my children. Even now, whenever I move to a new house, I buy mums and plant them as a living memorial. Whenever I prune them back or cut blooms to take inside, I ask God to take special care of my babies until I join them in heaven.
  • Bake a nice casserole and wrap it with prayer. Especially with a miscarriage, nobody offers a funeral dinner. That mother still needs to eat, and no woman wants to cook while she grieves.

After you’ve done all or any of the above, go home and hug your children.