Hope Digs Deeper

shovel and stonesWhile meeting with my spiritual director, she suggested I consider the question, “What if?”

In January, I taught a writers workshop and included the question “What if?” as a fear tactic artists sometimes use to procrastinate.

But in this instance, I was to think about the “What If?” question as a possible direction – even a vision-making steppingstone. So I drove home, pulled out my journal and starting listing the possibilities of some What If answers.

What if my newest novel makes the New York Times bestseller list? What difference will that make in my life and will I be able to handle the extra book tours, publicity requirements and the pressure to write another bestseller and then another?

What if I could sell my house for a profit? What kind of home do I want to replace it? Where?

What if I could become a full-time writer and writing coach? How would that change my life?

If I think long enough on the subject, I can entangle myself in all the possibilities and questions my “What Ifs” might involve.

When we dig deep, some of our visions and dreams may carry their own baggage. Change is not easy, and the transitions of life require us to change along with them.

Another point my spiritual director made was that I should “listen to my heart.”

We are often so busy and so overwhelmed by the stresses of life, we don’t stop to listen within – to dig deep and consider what our souls are saying to us.

This is one reason why I journal almost every day. I need to process what I am thinking about and tap into my inner conflict for clues about how to address life.

I also need to listen for that still, small voice that ushers me into the divine space. When I tiptoe into that soul sanctuary, I learn more about myself but also become more teachable for eternal guidance. God wants me to make wise choices and since he is my husband and maker, then I need to listen to what he is telling me.

What does my heart tell me?

My heart longs to return to the Southwest – to find a writers retreat in the Santa Fe or Taos area where I can spend long hours inventing sentences and paragraphs. So many ideas for new books swirl in my soul. The artist in me yearns to bring them to life.

My heart breaks for the unwritten books, the stories waiting to connect with their characters and the voices longing to be heard. I feel an urgency to write while I can, to share the wisdom and experience God has gifted me with through the years.

What if that could happen? What if I could find that place to write until the well is dry and everything has been completed? Is that possible?

My heart also whispers warnings of the aging process and urges me to do what I can while I can – that life is fragile and someone is waiting in the great meandering cyberspace to read the words God wants me to scribe.

My heart beats with a restless tone, eager to authenticate itself and complete the mission God birthed in me before the foundation of the world.

As I dig deeper, another question surfaces. I stop breathing as I consider the implications of what its answers might entail.

Almost afraid to add it to my journal page, I force the pen to scratch the question across the page.

What am I avoiding?

We often avoid doing something that might require change, because we’re afraid of what that transition might ask of us. We may avoid a major decision, because it includes a move, a new job, the uprooting of our comfort zones.

Yet in the avoidance, we are living in the “discomfort” zone. We are stressing our souls to the point of losing ourselves.

We are avoiding what our hearts may truly long for, because we are so blasted practical and cannot imagine any other type of experience.

My journal now has several pages of personal reflection around these three questions:

  • What if?
  • What is my heart telling me?
  • What am I avoiding?

And I do not believe I am finished yet.

As I continue to dig deeper, to search for the root of my hope, I look forward to the time when these questions will find their connecting answers.

I hang on to the promise in Psalm 34:4, “I sought the Lord and He answered me. He delivered me from all my fears.”

Still searching. Still waiting. Still digging.

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

When Humor Eases the Alzheimer’s Journey

When our children are little, we keep a journal of their cute sayings, their trials with language and their funny mistakes. We laugh and share these moments with grandparents and any friends who will listen.smiley faces

When our parents become children because of plaque-laden Alzheimer’s, we still laugh at their funny stories. These moments aren’t as cute at age 80+, but laughter provides the necessary impetus to make it through another care-giving day.

So when I share the funny things Mom has done, I’m not mocking her or making fun of her. I hope to encourage other caregivers, to share a common bond and to keep humor as one of our coping mechanisms.

Last week, Mom lost her bobby pins. Although she is scheduled for the salon each week, she still fixes her hair every night with tiny curls held in place with bobby pins.

But now, her bobby pins are gone and Mom is convinced they were stolen. “People come into my room at night. And while I’m sleeping, they steal my bobby pins off my head.”

I don’t know why Mom thinks bobby-pin fairies need her particular bobby pins, but when things mysteriously disappear – she always believes someone has stolen them.

The issue of losing possessions and accusing others of theft appears in the Reverend G books. Follow the story and find out how Reverend G’s son deals with the disappearing / stolen angels. http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

The bobby pin story kept us laughing for a while, until Mom lost her bridge and the teeth attached to it. In spite of an application of extra cement by the dentist, Mom managed to loosen her bridge, yank it out of her mouth and then lose it.

Again, she was convinced, “Someone stole my teeth.”

My sister asked, “Why would someone steal your teeth? What would they do with them?”

Always ready with an answer, Mom said, “They could take them to the dentist and trade my bridge for their new teeth.”

The visual flashed through my mind of an older woman carrying a plastic sack filled with stolen teeth. She walks into the dentist’s office and asks, “How much will you give me for these? I need dentures and I’m trying to save money.”

It sort of gives a new significance to the tooth fairy.

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

Writing Insecure

What is it with us writers? We have such a hard time admitting to our vocation, our “calling” to write.

Several of my coaching clients struggle with this topic – and truthfully, sometimes, so do I. We are challenged to call ourselves writers because we haven’t won the Pulitzer or landed our books on the New York Times bestseller’s list. Can we truly be writers if we haven’t experienced such lofty goals?

Yet everyday, we put butt in chair, fingers on keyboard and invent stories. We create practical articles and send them to magazines. We reap from our souls the phrases that become poetry. And we wonder … are we really writers?

Recently, I’ve been reading “The Eternal Wonder” by Pearl S. Buck, a wonderfully-crafted novel about a genius boy who grows up with an intense sense of wonder. The first chapter includes the most beautiful expression of the birth process I’ve ever read.eternal wonder

In the forward section, Pearl’s son wrote that his mother struggled to admit she was a writer. Really? It was only after she won the Nobel Prize in 1938 for “The Good Earth” did she feel validated as a writer. She then became “serious” about penning her stories – completing 43 novels, 28 nonfiction books, 242 short stories, 37 children’s books, 18 scripts for film and television and 580 articles and essays. But only after she won the Nobel.

So what is it with us writers? Why do we have such a hard time admitting who we are?

Part of the reason may be that we observe19 year-old boys who sweat for one year, then become instant millionaires as a result of the one-and-done NBA draft. Yet we work for years before we sell that first article for two cents a word, just enough money to buy a Snickers ice cream bar.

Another reason may be that our culture defines success as graduate degrees and titles rather than the toil of trial and error. The successful person is the one who wins on American Idol, not the one who attempts the audition, fails and drives home alone.

A third reason might be that many writers are wired with melancholy – the common temperament for artists. We feel insecure because we are insecure. We struggle with our calling because we live in our introverted worlds and nobody tells us how wonderful we are for making the attempt, for trying to write, for sending out that blasted article one more time.

The only solution is to keep writing, to hand out our business cards and carry our laptops into Starbucks – to dare the world to ask us what we do so that we can stand up straight and answer with confidence, “I’m a writer.” So there !

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

Pursuing the Dream

Last weekend, I cleaned out a file cabinet that contained almost 40 years of articles and story files. These were the manuscripts I sent to magazines, some that aren’t even in business anymore.

As I sorted through the files, I tossed old drafts and reams of research that is no longer current or credible. I filled two large trash bags with my old work and made room for fresh ideas, new submissions and another book file.

But as I sorted through, I found piles of rejections – 20 for just one article, all kept neatly filed like a forever reminder of those who did not want my words.rejected

What kind of person keeps trying month after month and rejection upon rejection, only to be turned down again? Was I living in some kind of victim mentality? Did I really enjoy reading that phrase, “Sorry, this doesn’t fit our current needs.”

Within some of the files, I read my notes – how to improve, how to sell my words to another market. Sometimes, on the 12th or the 15th attempt – I did sell it.

Either I was amazingly persistent or somewhat crazy.

One surprising find was that even 20 years ago, I was saving research about dementia, taking notes about helping women and using “hope” as a main theme. Somewhere in my psyche, I was already laying the foundation for books about Reverend G – this character who struggles with her Alzheimer’s journey and tries to pass on hope to others.

As I read my files, I again felt the jab of pain those early rejections brought. Somehow, the dream God had placed in my heart as a child would notcould not die – even when so many editors and publishers said, “No.”

And now, forty years later, I tossed those rejections in the trash, grateful for the patience God taught me and the lessons learned.

Because I did learn, and I have improved. I’m always striving to find a better word, a more succinct phrase and a tantalizing cliff hanger.

Two hours later, I closed the now clean file cabinet and looked at my boxes of books that prove my words are now publishable.

What kind of person lives with 40 years of rejections and still keeps the dream alive?

A writer – that’s who.

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

Why Write About Alzheimer’s

Someone recently asked me, “Why write about Alzheimer’s? Isn’t that depressing? What caused you to choose that kind of story?”

"The Unraveling of Reverend G"

“The Unraveling of Reverend G”

With the second novel in the Life of Cove Creek, “Intermission for Reverend G” soon to be released, I wanted to answer those questions.

Five million Americans live within the shadows of Alzheimer’s Disease. And with the progressive live-longer-and-fight-stronger attitude of the Baby Boomers, it is likely that many more BB’s will join that statistic.

Several nonfiction books deal with the subject, but why a novel and why write it in the first person, from the brain view and heart pulse of the main character?

Because it’s unique. My marketing research found one or two books about Alzheimer’s written from the third person – as outside observers of the destruction of a life.

But hopefully, my books are different. They invite my readers into the soul of this woman who struggles with the fear of losing memories and possibly losing contact with the God she loves more than anyone else.

This series reminds us that inside each person who sometimes forgets, there is still a soul and some type of thought process. Connections may be flawed, but communication is still possible.

These books needed to be written to remind caregivers to search for hope and believe that their incredibly difficult work has eternal significance.

Reverend G asked to have a voice so that all of us can look differently at Alzheimer’s victims, to appreciate the people they once were, to love the souls they still are.

Finally, these books are a legacy to all those people who so patiently care for those who forget. They are mirrors that reflect my family – my dad who died within the shadows of dementia, my mother who fades away daily within the plaque of Alzheimer’s.

But ultimately, I wrote this series because one day I woke up with a story in my head and characters who begged to escape.

I wrote these books for you, my readers – to enjoy, to learn from and to pass on so that the next generation never forgets.

©2014 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/11QATC1

Finding Mission in a Memoir

A few weeks ago, I finished the first draft of my memoir. While I know I will add more pages – when the future unfolds itself – I feel a sense of accomplishment.

I wrote it because I wanted to leave some type of legacy for my beloved son.memoir

I wanted him to know about a time in history when we weren’t afraid to leave our houses unlocked and our cars warming up without a driver – a time when life was rich and full even without the internet and all the gadgets that control our lives today.

I wanted my son to know why I do some things – what happened in my past and how that affects me today.

And I wanted a truth-telling of our personal history so that he can someday read it and understand more of his own past.

It’s important to pass on these types of books to our children and grandchildren. The history books will not tell them how their great-great grandmother’s house smelled of green beans cooked in homemade lard.

The experts of economy will not tell this generation how we lived with cash only and saved money by buying only what we needed.

Social media will not explain how we trusted in God through tornadoes, recessions and wars.

Our children can only hear these stories from those who lived them.

I want my son to know exactly how God has faithfully taken care of us throughout the years – the miracles that have happened to keep us fed and secure with a roof over our heads.

Through the pages of my memoir, I want him to walk with me through our personal history and discover more of the miraculous within the every day.

I encourage you, my readers, to transcribe your own memoirs – to write down the stories you want your children to know about, the tales that tell your history.

Savor them as you write them. They will remind you, too, of how God has blessed you and brought you through this earthly life.

Start writing your story and you’ll be amazed, as I was, at the richness of your own history.

Someday your children and grandchildren will be grateful that you presented them with the story of their lives.

And eternity will thank you for praising God through it all.

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

Speaking Through the Tears

This happens every time I do a speaking event.

Someone in the audience either reaches for a tissue or wipes their tears away. Sometimes, from the people in the front rows, I see tears puddle in their eyes.

Maybe it’s because my topic is usually centered around my mother’s Alzheimer’s or my father’s dementia.

Maybe it’s because I include poignant stories about life on the farm and the way our family dynamics have changed as our parents have aged.

Maybe it’s because so many of us have experienced a life that unravels and we need hope.

Someone once told me that I am touching hearts, so of course – they have to leak somehow and the result is tears.

Perhaps my audience feels sorry for me, although that is not my intent.

I want to share hope and encouragement with caregivers and their families. I want my audience to understand that as difficult as Alzheimer’s and dementia are, researchers are working on ways to detect it earlier and possibly ward off the long-term effects.

I want my audience to understand that the only way to cope with this horrid disease is to hang on so tightly to God that not even plaque on the brain can dislodge His grace.

Maybe people in my audience cry because they need a venue where they can grieve the unraveling of their lives. We all get so busy doing the urgent that we sometimes forget how important it is to grieve our losses – whether those losses come from death, from the destruction of a formerly-active brain or from a devastating diagnosis.

If that’s the case, then bring on the tears – my dear listeners. Let me help you be honest enough and vulnerable enough to grab a Kleenex and wipe those puddles from your eyes.crying angel

And let me pray with you so that you can keep being the incredible caregivers you are and find hope for another day.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/184haSS