Hope in the Favorite

book with heartWe barely knew each other, the guy in the adjoining cubicle and I. As a mere temp worker, I did what I was told, edited the website, made few friends. Tried to survive as a single mom in the corporate jungle.

Doug was a full-time guy with plenty of responsibilities, a loving wife and four children. His cubicle plastered with photos of his happy life.

An occasional “good morning” greeting. A nod at the coffee bar. The extent of our communication as quick as the creamer melting in my coffee mug.

Yet Doug was going to change my perspective and boost my self-confidence.

This particular company made a big deal about birthdays: balloons, cakes, cards from everyone on staff and a whopping Starbucks gift from management.

I participated in plenty of birthdays for the others, signed my name on their cards. Still, I was surprised when they included me — the temp. On my birthday, purple balloons surrounded my cubicle. Someone remembered my favorite color. A giant cake in the break room, gluten free lemon – another fave.

Someone remembered, cared. As the last echoes of the Happy Birthday song faded, I began to open my cards. A small mountain of beautiful sentiments.

But it was Doug’s card that made me gasp. Tears quickly released. His scrawling signature with a simple phrase, “You are my favorite.”

I grew up in a time period where families made no secret of the favorite child. One of my great grandmothers often labeled a son as her favorite. Another grandchild was “Grandpa’s girl.”

The favorite child was rarely punished. It was always someone else’s fault. The favorite opened the most gifts at Christmas. The last will and testament clearly stated the favorite would receive the major portion of the inheritance.

Maybe the favoritism came from the Bible Belt mentality. David was a man after God’s heart. John the Apostle was the disciple Jesus loved.

But as I grew up, I remember feeling the emotional gap. Clearly, I was nobody’s favorite. Firstborns rarely held that position. We were too bossy, such over-achievers.

I didn’t know how deeply that rejection scar dug, how it was still embedded in my soul. Until I opened Doug’s card.

“You are my favorite.”

He had no idea how that simple phrase encouraged me, how I stood a little taller that day and couldn’t stop smiling. I whispered a “Thank you” but it didn’t seem enough.

What I have learned since then is that I am and always have been — a favorite. God Himself smiled when I was born, rejoiced over me with singing. In the years past, he has caressed my hair at night when I cried, provided for my needs, healed my son.

Because he is so present in every way, every place — God is able to spread his expansive love to every human being on earth. Without holding back from any of us. Open arms to match his open heart.

So if you find yourself needing a smidgen of hope, remember this tiny yet truthful phrase. Wrap your heart around it. Let it make you stand tall and feel loved.

“You are God’s favorite.”

©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

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Hanging On To Hope

As the Kansas winter blustered through my yard, I noticed a unique snapshot of the season.leaf - hanging on

Although all the other leaves had already let loose and dropped to the ground, one leaf still hung on.

In spite of the wind, the calendar day and its length of life – a lone leaf clung tightly to the branch that had given it life.

It didn’t take long to wrap my heart around the analogy and honor thousands of saints who continue to cling tightly to their true source of life.

They persevere in spite of the calendar days that scream, “You should have given up already.”

They hang on in spite of the circumstances of life or the opinions of others or even of well-meaning friends who speak cruelty.

These are people who inspire me to persevere as well:

  • The single mom who drives her children to church even though she has been shunned because she’s divorced
  • The writer who revises the same manuscript seven times until every word is as good as it can possibly be – then ignores another rejection to revise it again
  • The cancer patient who refuses to be a victim but spends her time during brutal radiation treatments, praying through her list of friends and family
  • The nonprofit organizations who operate on a financial shoestring and trust God to provide resources each and every day
  • The missionaries who continue to serve even when their prayers don’t merge with the answers they long to see

Persevering folks who keep hanging on to hope even when everything in life attacks them.


Brave and vulnerable caregivers who keep serving even when the days are 36 hours long.

Mothers who keep praying for their prodigals. Fathers who work jobs they hate so their children won’t go hungry. Christians who refuse to deny Christ even though faced with the wrath of a radical Muslim sect.

The power of those who persevere is modeled at the end of Hebrews 11 – saints who refused to be released from torturous prisons, faced rejection and persecution, were destitute and mistreated. They did not receive what they were promised but they hung on anyway. They persevered and “the world was not worthy of them.”

What is required to continue in hope when everyone else has let loose and fallen around us?

Courage and the grace to keep hanging on to the One who empowers us with resurrection life.

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

 

3 Inevitable Emotions of Caregiving

It happens every time.

 

As soon as I turn away from my mother’s door in assisted living and walk down the hallway – away from her, the emotions hit me. You’d think I would be used to them by now. For ten years my family struggled with Dad’s dementia and all the accompanying emotions. Now that Mom has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I should expect the same feelings.

 

But still – the emotions grip my soul and I cry all the way to the car – then sit in the driver’s seat until my vision is no longer blurry.

 

When we become caregivers, certain emotions come to live with us. One of these emotions is sadness. The long goodbye, aka Alzheimer’s, triggers a sadness unlike any other grief I have suffered. It is not the unexpected grief of a sudden loss – a miscarriage, unemployment or illness – but rather the day-by-day grief steps caused by the regressive nature of the disease.

 

Even though Mom remembers me today, she will someday forget how to introduce me to her friends in assisted living. Sad, but true.

 

Another sadness lies ahead. If Mom does not graduate to heaven within the next few years, we will have to relocate her to the nursing home section of the facility.

 

“Never put me in a nursing home.” I can still hear the echo of her plea.

 

Sadness reinforces the truth that at the end of this particular journey, my siblings and I will be orphans.  Grief will multiply.

 

3 emotions caregivingAnother emotion, rejection, surfaces every time Mom forgets a memory that is important to me. “Remember when?” is no longer a game we play. And when Mom does hesitate with my name, rejection swallows logic.

 

I know she doesn’t mean to reject me. Somewhere, cached in her soul is my baby face, her firstborn. But I miss our shopping trips and the way we used to talk about the books we were reading. I no longer hear her laughter, because she can’t comprehend jokes anymore. When I send her cards and she shows them to me, clearly imprinted with my signature, then tells me they are from someone else – I feel rejected.

 

Although sadness and rejection bring pain, guilt is the emotion that tortures me.

 

No, Mom, we never wanted to put you into assisted living, but you couldn’t live alone anymore, and all of us work long hours. No one else can take care of you. I’m sorry and I hate it. I feel guilty.

 

When I hug her goodbye and tell her I have to go back to Kansas, she can’t understand why I’m leaving. Reality screams that my work is a state away, and my life cannot make room for my mother. I am the long-distance caregiver in the family, demoted by miles and the work I cannot do anywhere else. Guilty again.

 

Even while writing this post, I feel guilty that my emotions are front and center when Mom deals bravely with her own fear, rejection and sadness.

 

It helps to journal about these caregiving emotions, include them in my next book, or vent with a friend. The emotions of caregiving are now my reality, and I know they affect me deeply because they are foreshadowed by love. If I didn’t love my mother so much, I wouldn’t care.

 

And because I love her, I’m sad that she can’t be who she used to be.

 

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

 

Why?

God has never answered my question, and I seriously doubt that he will. However, he is kind enough to let me rage against him, scribble in my journal and cry out my frustrations.

“Why have you let Alzheimer’s take over my mother’s brain? I still need her.”

I want her to tell me how to live with vitality and fun in my sixties like she did.

I want her in my life, not just physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. I want her to tell me how she dealt with the circumstances of her life and how she remained strong as Dad’s caregiver through ten long and bitter years.

I miss how she used to sing “I Wonder as I Wander” at Christmas while she rolled out spicy peppernuts on the kitchen counter. That was the only phrase she knew of that song, so I laughed as she repeated it over and over.

Every Christmas, I hear that echo as I roll out my own peppernuts and miss her all over again. In this Alzheimer’s state of physical health and mental decline, she no longer sings – unless someone starts one of the old hymns that triggers a memory.

I want to know how we are supposed to accept age with joy when we have no divine models for it.

Jesus, after all, died young. He was only in his thirties and he stayed dead only three days. How would he have aged if he lived into his eighties? How would he have dealt with his mother Mary if she forgot how to tie her shoes, how to cook his favorite meals or even – heaven forbid – forgot his name?

Was that even possible?

We are supposed to exercise, read, play board games and work in order to stay mentally alert. My mother did all of those things with regularity and discipline, so why didn’t that formula work for her?

Will it work for me?

In my novel, Reverend G often repeats the phrase, “The question may be ‘Why,’ but the answer is ‘Who.’”Why-Who quote

Even though I wrote those words and believed them when Reverend G said them, today and in this particular stage of my mother’s Alzheimer’s journey – I want to know more.

I believe God knows and he doesn’t have to tell me, but somehow I need to keep asking the question.

I know I’m supposed to trust him. Even while my soul is torn by the rejection every time Mom forgets what my son and I do, even when I feel guilty as I drive away from the assisted living – somehow I’m supposed to trust that God knows why and it’s going to be okay.

Maybe I believe that someday – he’ll answer.

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