New Mexico Calls with Hope

What is it about New Mexico that calls to me?  flag-of-new-mexico-l

Surely it is more than the memories of 22 family vacations in the historic mining town of Red River.

Could it be the combination of sights and sounds that provide a sensory experience each day?

  • The pine scent of tall trees, dressed in breath-taking greens
  • A chipmunk daring me to hold out another handful of peanuts so he can stuff his cheeks
  • Hummingbirds dive bombing for a bit of sweet nectar
  • Aspens clapping their leaves in fluttering applause
  • The babbling river that cleanses both the stream and the sediment of my soul

Although my family vacations in Red River, Santa Fe and Taos are my favorite Southwest cities with their terracotta textures, the diversity of their people and the history of fine art.

It is no wonder Georgia O’Keefe chose this land to live in, to find solace in painting its various colors and tones.

Yet this year, I needed the mountains in a new way. Before we climbed into the van for the eight-hour trip, God instructed me that the object of my vacation was to follow the words of Psalm 46:10.

“Be still. Rest quietly. Wait patiently for God.” 

As we drove over the last summit and looked below at the town’s quiet repose, I knew it would be a special vacation – a gifting of rest.

Although seven of our family members bunked together in a condo, I purposely made time for solitude. Every morning, I carried my mug of hot tea and feasted for precious minutes with the divine One.

In the wonder of worship, I sat beside the river and entreated God to replace the murkiness of my soul with clarity and fresh intimacy with him. red-river-stream

I looked upward at the mountain crest – my mountain – at the crevasse carved there, as if God had dipped his hand in it during the second day of creation.

His signature of intense power. A reminder for generations of pilgrims that only God could create such grandeur yet dare to be personally involved in our lives.

God rarely spoke during these morning vistas as we quietly sat together and enjoyed the cool air. As we communed in silence, I embraced the beauty of solitude and the intimacy of being in his presence without speech.

Once again, I breathed deeply of the spiritual fervor of New Mexico, forgot the trials and burdens I left behind and gratefully received the solace God offered.

New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment, but for me – it is the healing irony of mountains and desert, Native Americans and Hispanics, turquoise and coral – somehow blended into a symphony of texture and diversity that rises in a spiritual explosion of praise.

How sweet to experience how it also became a quiet haven for individual retreat where I once again learned to be still and acknowledged that He is God.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G trilogy 

This post first appeared on “Travel Light,” by SuZan Klaasen.

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How Do Writers Research?

One year ago, my friend and I drove to Santa Fe, NM. We planned it as a research / vacation trip in the wonderful Southwest, with side trips to Taos and Red River.santa fe

Why Santa Fe? Because I knew that my main character, Reverend G, loved the Southwest and particularly Santa Fe. I also knew that I wanted to include something about that region in the third Reverend G book – which is still in its first draft stage.

So we drove to Santa Fe, enjoying the mountain scenery and the warmer weather. After a hard Kansas winter, we needed to soak up the sun as well as to soak in the culture.

Writers can, of course, do research on the internet. In fact, that’s where I started – looking up the main sites of Santa Fe. But the internet can only provide facts and stats for a region.

If you want to write credibly and make your stories real – you have to actually experience a region.

The writer needs to know how people communicate in a particular area, how characters dress and talk, what it feels like to stand in line at the Georgia O’Keefe museum and then spend several hours drinking in the colors and textures of her paintings.

The writer needs to discover new artists who craft incredible sculptures out of metal, pictures of women on horses that seem to fly through the studio, textiles that flap their colors in the wind.

The writer keeps a journal of the trip and gathers brochures, maps, postcards, photos wherever she goes. But the writer also records the emotions she feels, touring a particular city.

I wrote about our tour of the Plaza: “Native Americans spread out their creativity: jewelry on black mats, shining silver and bountiful turquoise, coral, copper bracelets, earrings, necklaces – nothing that Reverend G would buy but all of it – she would enjoy. The pottery – some with colors of the earth, some with the brightness of primary colors.”

We talked with tourists, but also with the locals – interesting blends of Hispanic, Caucasian, Native American and some Asians. Reverend G and I both loved the diversity of the Southwest.

These friendly people, women in broomstick skirts of various colors. Men with tanned and wrinkled faces. They seem to live an idyllic life where they have the freedom to leave workplaces and spend time with a writer from Kansas, to tell her how long they’ve lived in Santa Fe and why they moved out of corporate America to operate a coffee shop in New Mexico.

We ate at a little café with different colors painted on each wall – purple blended into orange, yellow beside red. Small salads with walnuts, salmon and bleu cheese with a vinaigrette dressing. Iced chai tea in tall glasses – spicy yet sweet and so refreshing.

So many variations of wildflowers, splayed in gardens along with buckets of pansies and Indian blanket daisies. A momentary wrong turn and we were lost, but then found in a rose garden at the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Bathing our hot faces in the fountain that promised health. Snapping my promo picture while surrounded by lavender roses.

Statues of Mary everywhere and the creativity of God surrounding us. Worship all around us and in us as my friend played a Native American flute, and I wrote in my journal and savored the day.

The Loretto Chapel, famous for its spiral staircase. You can’t imagine what happens to Reverend G in the chapel, but you’ll have to wait for the third book to find out.

Although we smelled smoke from mountain wildfires, the resulting atmospheric change brought us colorful sunsets – a sacred end to a busy day.

We left a few sites for the next trip – whenever that will be. But I found enough material and soaked in enough of the Southwest to add to my book and make it credible.

How do writers research? They live in the area for a while. They let every one of their senses open fully to the people and the places where they exist. They look for the inner soul and the textures and colors around them. They listen for dialects and observe relationships. They take time to literally smell roses and meld new friendships. Then they come home, organize their notes and write about it.

And a year later – they wish they could return.

©2013 RJ Thesman – Author of “The Unraveling of Reverend G”

Divine Appointments in New Mexico

During a recent vacation, my traveling companion and I toured the towns of Santa Fe, Taos and Red River. New Mexico – the land of enchantment – contains plenty of enchanted places and wonderful people just in these three cities.

Although the vacation had a dual purpose – to rest and reflect, but also to do research for another book in my Reverend G series – a higher purpose soon surfaced. Each morning, we asked God to point us toward someone who might need encouragement, hope or a sense of His presence.

Without fail, each day revealed a divine appointment. A beautiful couple traveling through the area without a schedule: we discussed various places we had seen and encouraged each other to visit the Loretto Chapel and the Taos galleries. A young woman in need of surgery: I prayed God’s healing for her. A young man who was stressed out in his job needed a smile and a “I think you’re doing great!” comment. An incredible young woman on her way to a law degree blessed us with her strength even as we prayed God would work out His plan for her life.

Each day, someone crossed our path and at the end of each day, I recorded the divine appointments in my journal. But when I returned home, I thought Why should the divine appointments only happen in New Mexico? Can’t they also happen in the summer heat of Kansas?

So I am trying to be more proactive – to look for those people who might need a word of encouragement, a measure of hope or a simple prayer. All of us know how it feels to be blessed by a smile, a kind word or a pat on the back. I want to be on the alert for ways that I can bless others and find those divine appointments every day.

If I do that, then the blessing of the vacation continues and the hope of God travels from one heart to the next. Just imagine if all of God’s children kept their divine appointments.