Hope Uses Her Voice

One of the best tools to build relationships is the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman.

When we know our love language and the love languages of our friends and family, we can feed care into each others’ souls.voices-invisible

Recently, I discussed love languages with my son and reminded him about my primary language. “Acts of service,” I said. “I feel most loved when someone does something for me.”

Conversely, I often show love to others by helping them and doing kind things for them.

After a long month of illness, my love tank was pointed to empty. So I decided to tell my son exactly what I needed.

If we do not use our voices, we become invisible and our needs are not heard.

“Son, my love tank is empty.”

“Huh?”

“You know, acts of service and all that love language discussion we had. I need my love tank filled.”

“What does that even mean, Mom?”

“It means…after being sick for so long and eating nothing but chicken soup, grapefruit and cough drops, I think my body needs some iron. That means I need a really good hamburger – not the cheap drive-through kind of burger. My body needs a buffalo burger with parmesan garlic sauce and potato wedges on the side. Lots of wedges.”

“So…you need me to go to Buffalo Wild Wings and get you a burger?”

“Now you’re catching on. Don’t forget the extra wedges.”

An hour later, completely satisfied after a whopping burger and salty wedges, I realized how good food affects our moods. Not only did my body respond to the burger with additional energy, I felt as if I might be moving toward healing. Hope returned.

But to make that leap, I needed to use my voice.

If I had continued to fill the house with my pitiful moaning, slurping leftover chicken soup and begging God to take me to heaven – nothing would have improved. My iron content would have plummeted and my love tank remained empty.

But because I spoke my need and used my voice, my son had the opportunity to do a kind deed. He knew exactly what I needed.

Isn’t life easier when we know what people need? Yet we often sulk in our self-sufficiency, thus depriving ourselves and others of finding the resolution to our problems.

Hope responds to authenticity and when we speak our truth – we all benefit.

Let’s make 2017 a better year by exercising authenticity, using our voices and speaking our truth. Then we can help each other move toward more compassion, kindness and hope.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

Hope Believes at Christmas

With a mug of steaming hot chocolate, I sit in my recliner and turn on the television. A Christmas movie allows two hours of escape from reality – a momentary dream of how Christmas hope might appear.victorian-scene

The Christmas movies are one reason why I continue to budget for cable TV – holiday movies plus Jayhawk ballgames.

Somehow my holiday season needs the extra joy of watching these movies and looking forward to them each year.

Sure, I know they’re fantasy and often end with sappy plot lines and poor writing. In fact, I prefer the Lifetime movies to the Hallmark channel, because the Lifetime versions seem more like the truth.

Plot lines include more single moms or widows who face real life issues when everything doesn’t always work out happily ever after in just two hours.

Still, my favorites are the movies that take me back to another era, to Victorian homes with handmade stairs, cornice boards, lace curtains and gingerbread cookies baking in the oven.

I remember days such as those and exact houses like the ones where actors flow from parlor to bedroom to the sunroom. For a while, I return to the beauty and simple days of Christmas past.

I choose to forget they had no indoor plumbing and parlors were often shut off to conserve heat. Somehow in the movies, the scenario of running outside to the outhouse in subzero temps rarely happens.

Instead, I want to believe in the happily ever after endings of lifetime loves, merry families and warm homes. I long to escape from a Christmas that includes the refugees of Aleppo, the stress of counting pennies and the questions about what our nation may face in 2017.

For two hours, I forget my reality and slip into the possibility of finding hope within memories. I wish my son could have known one house that always represented home, and I still long for that country lane lined with snow-tipped trees and the jingly bells of a carriage arriving at my large manor filled with the smells and sounds of the season. My pretend place where family and friends gather to sing carols, touch the Nativity scene with wonder and tip their glasses of eggnog toward the star at the top of a sparkly Christmas tree.

Christmases past still lie cached in my soul as the sappy movies stir emotions, sounds and textures that momentarily bring comfort. For a few extra dollars each year, I return to those memories and revel in the coziness of how they make me feel.

And somewhere in the land of hope, I find restored belief that Christmas joy will return for another year.

It’s only 365 days away.

©2016 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy  and a contributor to Abba’s Promise 

7 Holiday Tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Alz awarenessHow should we deal with our Alzheimer’s loved one during the holidays?

The calendar reminds us that we are deep into the holiday season. Our waistlines are expanding and the stresses of family dynamics emotionally stretch us.

As much as we enjoy the family time, the abundance of good food and the reminders to be grateful for another year – we also have to remember how stressful this time can be – especially for someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

So here are seven tips to remember as we move into the holidays:

Don’t expect a dementia or Alzheimer’s loved one to make any food.

One year into her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Mom tried to figure out a recipe so she would feel like she was part of the festivities.

But as we watched her struggle to find pots and pans, worry about the cost of groceries and wonder if she had made her salad – hundreds of times over – we realized it was time to stop expecting Mom to cook.

Even if she has a favorite recipe and everyone still enjoys her marshmallow salad or her french silk pie, relieving her of the stress can be a gift.

If your loved one wants to shop for gifts, plan ahead for this adventure.

Be prepared with a list and know the easiest way to get in and out of the stores. Forget about Black Friday shopping – too many people, too much noise and parking places are limited.

Be patient, take plenty of time and be prepared to answer lots of questions. If possible, buy everything in one store. Then go home.

Better yet, sit down with a laptop and show your loved one the pictures. Then order everything online.

Include some of your loved ones’ favorite foods.

Even though her appetite is changing, Mom will want her annual piece of pecan pie. So one of my holiday duties is to buy a premade pecan pie and through the years, I have found the best ones in the frozen section at Target.

When we first walk into the farm kitchen, Mom’s eyes always go to the dessert table. She may not say anything, but I know what she’s looking for.

I brought your pecan pie, Mom, and the first piece goes to you.” Then I dress it with a generous dollop of Cool Whip.

Every year, Mom says, “I DO love pecan pie.” I dread the day when she forgets how to say this one, grateful sentence.

Do an activity together, such as looking through the Christmas cards.

Although sending Christmas cards is becoming one of those traditions celebrated in the past, my mother’s demographic still considers it a holiday courtesy. She loves receiving her cards.

Remind your loved one who the senders are or tell a favorite story about the person behind the return address.

Be prepared to look at the cards several times during the holidays and tell the same stories. That’s okay. It’s part of the Alzheimer’s process, and someday – you’ll be glad you took the time to do this.

If you check your loved one out of assisted living for the day, be sure to check back in before dark.

Driving through some beautifully-lit neighborhoods was once a favorite activity. But this idea depends on the level of Alzheimer’s where your loved one exists.

Mom feels uncomfortable outside of assisted living in the dark. Looking at the lights is no longer one of our seasonal pleasures.

As the sun sets, Alzheimer’s patients often experience Sundowner’s Syndrome. They may pace, say the same words over and over and exhibit anxiety.

They feel safer in their rooms before dark, so make sure you time your meals and your activities accordingly.

If you are traveling for the holidays, it is usually not a good idea to include your Alzheimer’s loved one.

Although we all want to be together during the holidays, that pleasure becomes less and less tangible. Traveling out of their comfort zone is difficult for Alzheimer’s patients: several hours cramped in a car or a plane, strangers, noise, unfamiliar surroundings, different types of foods and smells.

It makes more sense to hire a caregiver and let your loved one stay home while you join the rest of the family.

Fight against the false guilt that says you can’t leave for a day or two. Yes, you can. Taking care of yourself is one of the best ways to make it through the marathon of caregiving. So take a break and drive away to be with your family.

What should you buy for the Alzheimer’s patient?

None of us needs more junk, least of all an Alzheimer’s patient who is living in a studio apartment at assisted living. Keep it simple.

A stuffed animal, a baby doll (especially for the women), a pretty picture for the room, a picture of family members with their childhood photos inserted next to the adult photos, a favorite piece of candy, a comfortable sweater.

One Christmas, I gave Mom a wooden cross, made in New Mexico and a bag of her favorite Lifesaver™ mints. She seemed most excited about the mints although the cross was a nice adornment on her wall.

This year I’m giving Mom a hug and a kiss, knowing that next Christmas may be completely different. This year – she still knows who I am, and I am grateful.

Next year – maybe not.

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

 

 

Hope Watches the Autumn Dance

A year ago, I happened to be on the deck as a tree unloaded its entire leaf burden. It was as if God said, “It’s 3:24 on November 2. Disengage.leaves-falling-autumn

Within seconds, every leaf had let loose from its moorings and the tree stood naked in the autumn wind.

Since then, I have made more of an effort to watch the leaves fall.

Some of them let loose to fall quickly and suddenly – as if they have given up on ever becoming anything more than a falling leaf. Done. Hit the ground. Boom.

Other leaves are more graceful in their descent, twisting and turning as they spiral downward, then find a spot of yet-green grass to slide to a landing.

But my favorites are the leaves that dance as if floating toward a purpose, the mulching of the ground, the photosynthesis of time.

These are the leaves that catch a final wisp of Kansas wind and turn upward for a moment, then pirouette in different directions, exposing their golden undersides to the rhythms of autumn.

These are the leaves that take my breath away as they meander across space and take their time letting gravity win.

The analogy of the autumn dance signals that even when nature introduces another winter – the rhythms of life will continue.

Day and night. Seasons of life. Winter will follow autumn but also promise spring.

I want to be most like the meandering leaves and take my time enjoying the process of aging, the transitions of life that come to all of us.

Somehow, I want to find the cadence of trust that allows my soul to float without worry, to sing in harmony with a greater purpose.

Maybe I can best mimic these graceful leaves by paying more attention to the way nature forms them – like veined boats that gather morning dew and shadow us during summer’s heat.

The reds and golds and oranges of the autumn dance remind me how God colors our world with various shades of skin to remind us all are beautiful – different yes – but glorious in our uniqueness.

And just as God programs each tree in its autumn leaving, he also engages within the seasons of my life.

He knows that exact moment when I will let go and dance toward a greater purpose – when the questions will be answered and the direction clear.

Gratefully, in his arms – I will segue from dance to eternity. But unlike the leaves, I will fall upward.

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

 

Hope Finds Gratitude

gratefulDuring this season, it is expected that we give thanks. Most of the time, I do the required thank you’s:

  • Food – especially the whole berry cranberry sauce
  • A roof over my head – even if it feels weird from all the decluttering I’ve done. 
  • My son and my family – of course, always

Yet this year, I want to dig deeper and find my place of gratitude within the corners of my soul – those places I hide from others.

This year, I want to be more vulnerable with my blog followers and maybe in turn – remind all of us that gratitude is more than words.

Perhaps we should consider gratitude a heart condition and thus worthy of even more reflection.

This year, I am thankful because the fragility of life on this earth became graphically personal. One night, a bullet screamed through my bedroom. One inch closer and I would be writing this from heaven instead of Kansas.

Throughout the decluttering exercise and the staging of the house, I have grown more grateful for baring the walls and clearing the floors. Some of my stuff was comfort junk, bought to fill the hole left over from a damaging relationship.

Now I am more determined to surround myself with the essentials, yet achieve balance. My writing office still needs some creative, funky stuff and I am still determined to keep my piano.

As a believer of many years, sometimes I fail to thank God for redemption. All those years ago, my childhood heart opened to the Savior of Nazareth as I ran – yes, ran – down the aisle toward salvation.

May I never forget the wonder of that moment and expressly thank God for the healing of my soul.

Even as I wait for the agent’s response, I am grateful for the opportunity to fly to Denver, stay in a beautiful hotel and pitch the book I hope will be published soon. Thank you, God, for the creativity you have gifted me with and the words that morph from heart to fingers to computer screen to the printed page.

A brief foray into my journals finds entries where I asked God questions and sometimes railed against the answers. I am grateful God lets me be honest with him and I love it when he gives me verses of scripture which may not provide the answer I want but confirms I am forever and gracefully loved.

More than ever before, I am grateful for how God has brought me through the struggles:

  • The loss of two babies
  • Abuse and assault
  • Divorce and all its protracted consequences
  • Watching my son suffer from cancer
  • Dad’s dementia and Mom’s Alzheimer’s journey

While I am not grateful FOR these particular obstacles, I am so thankful that during the struggles and in the aftermath, God has been present. Because he helped me survive, my faith has grown and perseverance has deepened.

And with these experiences in my mental backpack, I have written about realistic topics and helped coach women past the crises.

May we never take for granted how God continues to save us every day.

Because I am a life-long learner, I am still trying to grasp more of the lessons which life and God are teaching me. Thank you, blog followers, for giving me this forum to work out the kinks in my spiritual armor and find the sacred place God longs to purify.

So as we sit around the tables this Thanksgiving and dip into that whole berry cranberry sauce, let’s go deep into the reasons for gratitude.

Forever and always, let us listen hard for the divine One who longs to hear us say, “Thank you, dear Father.”

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

Hope Streams Through the Promises

In our crazy world of broken promises, it soothes me to know I can depend on one source.

i-promiseThe divine One, God Himself, has never broken any of his covenant promises to me.

Some of his words of hope are recorded within the general principles of the Bible:

  • I will never leave you or forsake you
  • I will be your Comforter
  • I will show you the path to take
  • I will be your Guide
  • I will be your eternal Husband

Although timing for these promises varies, and sometimes the seasons of life interrupt, when God says something and underscores it in print – I am certain it will eventually happen.

But the promises that mean the most to me – those certainties that create the a-ha moments of spiritual awakening – those promises are not recorded in the holy scriptures.

These are the divine whispers during my discouraging nights and my driest spiritual deserts. These are the words that keep me living in hope even when tentacles of fear and uncertainty tighten.

When I walked through the pain of divorce, God spoke his personal promise for my son and me, “There will be hard times ahead, but I will meet every need.”

Even through extended months of unemployment, scary moves away from comfort zones, the horror of watching my son suffer with cancer – through it all – the reminder of God’s statement kept me breathing.

“I will meet every need.”

Indeed – in miraculously beautiful moments recorded in my journals and kept sacred – like the Virgin Mary – ensconced in my heart.

Every. Single. Need. Was. Met.

  • Jobs that suddenly appeared from unusual sources
  • Cars given through the generosity of a good man
  • The healing of my son and my own healings – emotional, spiritual and physical
  • Money that somehow appeared. I constantly affirm God’s math is different from ours. He can make money poof into existence from a negative balance.
  • Friendships spawned in the cusp of brokenness
  • Housing – one of my constant prayers, “Please God, don’t let us be homeless.” A beautiful townhome where we healed for four years then later a mortgage refinanced, gardens where God and I created beautiful color and bountiful food
  • Christmas gifts we received and those we gave – even when the budget no longer stretched far enough
  • A research trip to Santa Fe, featured in the last Reverend G book
  • And much, much more….

Every. Single. Need. Always and Forever. Met. The solo I often sang became reality.

But as sweet and as necessary as the confirmed promise streamed the credibility of the One who made the promise.

The words foreshadowed holiness because they originated from the source of love – the covenant made stronger because of the credibility of the Speaker.

So during this current desert, as I await the resolution for another promise, I continue to look for and listen to the One who has seared my heart with his grace.

“I will meet every need,” he said so clearly. No quantity of time assigned to his statement. Just an eternal assurance that the One who spoke the words will never violate his covenant.

He will meet the needs now as he has done in the past, because he cannot and will not change. His promise forever sealed within the identity of Who he is.

And in that assurance, hope streams.

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

Hope Embraces Holy Indifference

During a conference last spring, I won the opportunity to pick a book from the freebie table. But the conference administrator decided to run the contest again – something about the numbers not being equal and fair to everyone.

I didn’t really care but when they repeated the contest – once again – I won. It seemed like a divine coincidence I shouldn’t ignore.

So I approached the book table and prayed I would make the right decision. Only one book seemed interesting, so I grabbed it and put it in my bag to take home.

Then I forgot about it. Months later, I pulled it out of my bag and started thumbing through it – then reading more closely – then highlighting text and writing in the margins.

This book has become a necessary piece of my limbo land puzzle. “Living into the Answers – a Workbook for Personal Spiritual Discernment” is now my traveling companion with journal prompts and prayers for spiritual direction.

Authors Valerie Isenhower and Judith Todd devised an individualized plan for discerning God’s will. With questions such as:

  • What is God’s longing for you?
  • When do you most sense God’s presence?
  • How does God fit into your life story?

I was soon hooked into the value of this little workbook. After I finished, I put it aside for a while and last week – picked it up again.

One of the chapters held a keynote for me which became a prayer, a journal entry and now – this blog post. That keynote is the principle of Holy Indifference.

Ignatius of Loyola actually penned the term back in the sixteenth century – pretty smart for a dead saint. He described Holy Indifference as a state of inner freedom, openness and balance.

But Isenhower and Todd take the principle a bit deeper. Their idea involves a willingness to follow the longings of God for our lives so no matter what he designs for us, we are indifferent to our own versions.

To live within the balance of holy indifference, we determine that we don’t really care about the outcome of a decision. However it turns out – whenever and whatever God designs – is okay. We’ll take it – no matter what.

The point is not to worry about the results and not to lean on our own understanding or even our reasoning capabilities.

This practice of spiritual discernment shifts away from self and centers on God. When we come to a crossroads, we’re not afraid to follow him because we know he has the best in mind for us.

He has considered all our objections and all our feeble plans. He asks us to trust him with everything we are and all that we desire – to walk boldly into the future with him.

Every spiritual question seems to circle back to trust – at least in my life.

Can I trust God enough to move me to a place I will love – even if I can’t see it right now?

Will I trust that God has the best outcome already planned for me – even if it might include doing something I don’t like or giving up something I have treasured?

Am I willing to trust that God’s longing for me will eventually result in something good and beautiful?

Hmm. Holy Indifference replies, “I have considered all the options and God knows best. I will put myself and this decision into his capable hands and trust his heart.”

Sort of makes limbo land less threatening and the outcome more exciting.

©2016 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy