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

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Hope Reaffirms

When I drove by the church building, I was certain this was the place for me. With a Southwestern façade and landscaping of wildflowers and hummingbird feeders in a setting of quiet woods – this was surely the place I could worship and feel a sense of belonging.

Picture of a wooden Christian cross on Saint Cuthbert’s Isle, Holy Island, Northumberland. St Cuthbert’s Isle was a small island used as a retreat by both Aidan and Cuthbert.

I wanted to rush home, grab my journal and find a cozy place near the church’s spring robins – to record my thoughts next to this lovely building.

Instead, I clicked onto their website for meeting times and drove back to the beautiful location the next Sunday.

It was the friendliest church I have ever attended in my entire life. Everyone welcomed me, asked my name and grasped my outstretched hand.

One elderly saint took me on a tour where a I fell in love with the inner décor – the sanctuary painted in a coral background, chairs placed in a welcoming semi-circle, three separate libraries – count ‘em – three! I imagined holding reign over a diverse book club and talking about the Reverend G trilogy.

Hallways with archways reminiscent of Santa Fe’s culture, stenciling at the top of the arches, an eclectic blend of flute, bongos and guitar for the worship segment.

Surely I belonged in this aesthetic setting where no one condemned my single mom status or wondered why I worshiped alone. I noticed several mothers without spouses, hugging their children close as they swayed to the sound of mellow chord progressions.

I wanted to sign up immediately and become a member in this love-infested organism.


Except for one major flaw: Jesus was missing.


No mention of Jesus in their bulletin, no singing about his love in any of the worship songs. Not once was his sweet name spoken during the sermon or the prayers. The homily seemed more like a delicate social treatise on the topic of acceptance.

I liked the idea of acceptance but missed underscoring the Lord who accepted me.

Social justice seemed to be their Savior rather than the man on the cross. And while I applauded their openness and willingness to love everyone, I wondered how that could be accomplished without the Son of Love.

As I left that day and walked sadly down the moss-covered stone steps, I grieved for my journey and another disappointment.

I would not – could not return nor could I accept the open arms of this sweet congregation when the foundation of my faith was so obviously missing.

Hope reaffirms my core value that without Jesus I am lost. And where he is not welcome, I cannot go.

So I drove home, processed the experience in my journal, then played some hymns on the piano that reaffirmed the meaning of the cross.

Although I fought the sadness for several days, I felt grateful that God would surely direct me to the place I need to be.

Even a “no” answer is an arrow that points away from error and toward the truth.

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

Finding Hope at Christmas

Especially at Christmas, caregivers and families feel the sting of Alzheimer’s and dementia. We hang ornaments and remember past Decembers when our loved ones decorated the tree, sang Christmas carols and laughed while opening presents.christmas_baubles_and_candles

Smells from the kitchen spike memories of Christmas cookies, cinnamon and nutmeg, that special family recipe for peppernuts.

Yet now – everything has changed. Our loved one sits quietly in a chair, unaware of smells and colorful lights, breathing in and out, communicating with no one.

It is the passage of time and the ache of what this disease can do.

Somehow, we must look for joy by searching for its source.

Think back on Christmases past and be grateful for the memories and the legacy preserved within family.

Treasure the presence of your loved one, even though he or she seems mentally far away.

Remember that Christmas is about a baby in a manger who became the Savior on the cross. Someday, in eternity, all Alzheimer’s genes will be nonexistent. No disease there. No memory loss. No sadness.

Be grateful for these moments together, because you, too, are creating a legacy for the generations to come.

Sing a Christmas carol together. Music connections are the last part of the brain to die. You can still communicate with your loved one through music.

With all the excitement and chaos of opening presents, be alert for anxiety in your loved one. He or she may need to return to assisted living long before all the Christmas activities are finished.

Find your own joy in being with family. Each day is a gift. Each time we get together, we make memories. Even if the day is difficult for you, treasure it.

Several years ago, my sister Kris – who is a talented poet – wrote these words:


            “While striding on life’s pathway, fill up your days with cheer

Just laugh at rainbows, small or great, to banish every fear.

Hold tight to what life offers, content with all you do

For all adventures help create the treasure that is you.”


Remember that seasons end, and the season of Alzheimer’s will also end with the death of your loved one. So try to enjoy your time together and know that somewhere deep inside, Mom or Dad, Sister or Brother dearly loves you and wishes you a Merry Christmas.

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

 

 

 

Hope Finds a Purpose for Christmas Cards

Throughout the years, I have received many beautiful Christmas cards. So…what to do with them after Christmas? Just pitch them while cleaning up all the decorations and torn wrappings? No way.christmas_cards_stilllife

Sometimes I frame cards. One framed card hangs in my office – a reminder to stay in JOY all through the year.

But my favorite way to use Christmas cards begins after December 25th. I set the basket of cards on my kitchen table, next to my Bible.

Every morning when I meet with God, I choose one of the cards and read again the message written inside. Then I pray for the person who sent the card.

I ask God to bless that person and his/her family during the coming new year – to fill them with hope and joy – to draw them closer to His loving heart.

If I know of some particular need, I pray for that. Keep them safe. Provide for them what they need – a warm home, food every day, enough love to keep them in abundant joy.

Praying through the cards helps Christmas last a little longer and reminds me of all the friends and loved ones that sent a holiday message.

It reminds me how we are connected – through the DNA of family members, through experiences we have shared or through the blood line of that baby in the manger who became the Savior on the cross.

Christmas is about more than decorations and presents. And the weeks after Christmas are about more than cleaning up, starting a diet, cashing in gift cards and going back to work.

Hope travels from one season to the next, especially when it is tethered by prayer.

©2014 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh