Hope Flows Through Nature

How is it that an ethereal quality can somehow find its energy through a concrete object?

Either the process has emerged through my own visual creativity or it exists within the spiritual realm I cannot see.

For whatever reason it begins, hope is empowered within the realm of nature.Martha Washington geranium

When I cannot stand to watch one more news show or read one more Twitter rant, my deck becomes a haven.

When the question of my heart, “How long oh Lord?” is answered only with silence, I retreat to the outdoor sanctuary.

A cardinal cheers me as he calls for his mate from a nearby tree. The squirrel who thinks my deck is his dining room scampers to retrieve another sunflower seed. Sunset brushes turquoise and coral strokes across the evening canvas.

And my flowers – the Martha Washington geranium I found dying at a nursery in late June now thrives. A reminder that what may appear to be faltering can be revived.  

That deep burgundy petal bordered by a creamy outline urges me to cry out in gratitude. God will indeed revive. He will restore.

This bloom, this geranium teaches that hope is not lost even if appearance underscores it to be so. At the core of despair, we can still find life and once nurtured, once tended, life can thrive again.

A lesson for all who are recovering from too much caring of others and not enough nurture of self.

Coral and TurquoiseAnother flagon of hope waits on my front porch – a treasure found at the end of the plant sales. A turquoise pot filled with coral buds and peachy blooms – the colors of the Southwest I so love.

Each time I turn into my driveway and see this hope-filled pot, I remember the promise I made to myself. “Find a way to visit Santa Fe and Taos.”

To revel in the colors of a land replete with artisans of the earth’s clay. To enjoy the diversity of a demographic where every skin color is not only accepted – but also celebrated.

Hope flows through my plantings and the sounds of nature. No need for prayer when surrounded by God’s art. The Artist himself is here.

And as Abba frames his creative genius with another cinematic sunset, no words describe his color choice, his texture and contrast.

Forget the rest of the world. Let me revel in the hope that flows from the natural world of divine design.

©2017 RJ Thesman

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How to Find Hope in a Puzzle

puzzle piecesThe puzzle I’m currently working on reflects the colors and the design of the Southwest – a region of our nation I love. Turquoise moccasins, Native American pottery and a sunset of desert textures.

Yet beyond the stress-relieving act of fitting my puzzle pieces together, God is teaching me precious lessons of faith.

Think About the Big Picture

Once I found the borders of the puzzle, everything should have begun to snugly fit together. But something didn’t look right.

My son found the answer because he’s a forest guy while I look at the trees. “This piece right here doesn’t fit,” he said. “It skews the big picture.”

He was right and once I found the correct piece, suddenly the picture made more sense.

Sometimes we think a certain direction is best for our lives. But something about the final decision doesn’t seem right. Something doesn’t fit. Red flags stop us or circumstances change.

We can’t see the big picture, but God can. He exists beyond the past, present and future. He knows how to work out our lives and fit each day into the next so our destinies become clear.

Don’t Try to Force an Answer

A puzzle piece may look right and seem to fit, but one side seems to snag or won’t quite align. Forcing the piece into that particular hole can bend it or even break it. Then the puzzle is flawed.

If we try to force something to work or move forward on our own, we can damage ourselves or someone else.

If the circumstances aren’t working out and our pathways seem skewed, trying to force a decision, a relationship or a direction messes with our destinies.

How many of us have forged ahead and forced something to happen, then later regretted our actions?

When God manages the puzzles of our lives, all the pieces end up fitting together – perfectly – without adverse circumstances.

Give It Time

A 300-piece puzzle cannot be completed in one hour. My puzzle has been on the table for several weeks. I work on it now and then, usually a few minutes at a time.

As we face decisions or transitions in life, they take time to percolate and work out all the details.


Patience is learned through the long passage of time. Hurry is the antagonist of patience.


The Alzheimer’s journey is a test of endurance – one 36-hour day after another.

Starting a new job involves a learning curve and perseverance.

Writing a book may involve late nights, early mornings or weekend discipline. One word, one sentence, one character sketch at a time until the final period is typed. Sometimes the process takes years.

The best answers are revealed as a result of a waiting period. The strongest faith is birthed through years of experience, long periods of waiting and the courage to ask questions that may even increase our struggle.

We often don’t see a purpose in the details until patience has completed its perfect work.

The Apostle James underscored this truth. “When the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” (James 1:3-4 TLB).

God rarely answers our “Why” questions but instead, he urges us to trust – even when we’re so weary we can only continue the journey with an extra measure of God’s grace.

My puzzle gives me joy because I love the colors and the promise of what the final product will be.

Surely God also feels joy when he moves the pieces of our lives together so the final result reflects his love.

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

Hope Bleeds at Sundown

sunsetWe first noticed this phenomenon with Dad. During the final stages of his dementia, dusk triggered an inward call. He rose from his chair and began pacing up and down the living room, going nowhere yet constantly moving.

His eyes shone with an almost maniacal light, as if he obeyed a substance or a creature we could not see. By that time, he no longer spoke, so we couldn’t ask him what he was looking for or where he wanted to go. It became his nightly ritual until he could no longer walk.

I fully expected him to pass away during the dusky hours, when the Oklahoma sun begins its descent into the horizon. But no, he graduated to heaven in the middle of a spring day – simply by ceasing to breathe and walking away with Jesus.

Years ago, when my mother worked as a nurse in the hospital, she told me how important it was to work the night shift and watch out for her patients. “If they’re going to die,” she said, “they’ll die at night.”

Something about the night conjures up the dark fear of death – all those spooky movies with a full moon shadowing gargantuan monsters. I find that strange, because I love sunsets and when I finally lay me down to sleep, I say, “Ah! Yes!”


But then, the scenario is different when Alzheimer’s and/or dementia capture the brain.


 

We have noticed the sundown change in Mom as well. She eats supper early, around 4:30 at the assisted living facility. Perhaps they schedule it early for a purpose, because they know what is coming for many of their residents. Shortly after supper, Mom moves into her most confused state of the day.

We know better than to visit her in the evening, because she will be concerned about the farm and what is happening there, even though she hasn’t lived in the country for many years. In the evenings, she will forget Dad has passed. She will talk about him as if he is coming into the room and she must prepare his clothes for the next day.

At dusk, Mom will argue about nonsensical things – what day it is, what year it is, whether we have already celebrated Christmas and whose name she drew and what present she bought. It doesn’t matter what we say or how we try to explain, the shutters of understanding have closed for the day. She is lost within the sunset hours.

An old hymn reminds me of the timelessness of heaven and how we will someday no longer fear any type of sundowner symptoms.

“Beyond the sunset, oh blissful morning

When with our savior, heaven is begun.

Earth’s toiling ended, oh glorious dawning

Beyond the sunset, when day is done.”

 

You can listen to the entire hymn here: Beyond the Sunset

I guess there’s a good reason hope bleeds at sundown. Maybe that’s the time believers are most restless for heaven, searching for the Savior and for their loved ones who graduated before them.

Next time I see Mom at dusk, I’ll take her hand to calm her down and say, “It’s okay, Mom. Only a few more sunsets until your journey is over. Be still. The best is yet to be.”

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

Oklahoma Dance

Since Mom moved to the assisted living facility, I travel to Oklahoma more often than before. Each time, it’s oklahomaan adventure in praying for the car to make it, treating myself to a hot chai and hoping that gas prices don’t go up again.

But each time, it’s also an opportunity to worship God for the things I experience.

I love living in Kansas and rooting for the Jayhawks, but my blood line includes Oklahoma Cherokees and strong Mennonite pioneers. So when I cross the border, I turn down the radio and treat myself to a loud rendition of the state song, “O….k-la-ho-ma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plains.”

It is that same wind that carries the starlings as they dance across the sky. These are the birds I chase off my deck, because they raucously steal feed from my cardinals and bluejays. Starlings are not my favorite of the species, but something happens when they join together and synchronize a wind dance.

From miles away, it looks like a dust storm. But when I drive closer, I watch them dip and whirl through space, making beautiful designs that remind me of the creative God who taught them this whirlwind ballet.

The flat horizon of my Oklahoma drive reminds me how much I love the trees and hills of northeastern Kansas. But it is that same flatland that spreads a glorious sunset as “fer as the eye kin see.”

The brilliant oranges and bright turquoises of an expansive Oklahoma sunset draw me to worship the God who made color in the first place – this divine Artist who paints a different scene every night.

Oklahoma drivers welcome me to their state. As I travel off the interstate and enter the country, I meet farmers in pickups who give the one finger wave (the nice finger) or tip their John Deere hats at me. I know that if my car ever gives out on one of those country roads, some wonderful farmer will stop and help me figure it out.

These are the same people who become instant friends at the Quik Trip. They smile and tell me about their grandkids while we wait in line to pay for our gas. Like verbal hugs, the folks of Oklahoma share their friendlies with me and by the time I leave, I know about their bursitis, their worries about the drought on this year’s crop and where and when they “gradj-e-ated” from high school.

In my book, “The Unraveling of Reverend G,” I included a character from Oklahoma. Bert, the retired farmer, uses the wonderful colloquialisms of Oklahoma. He reminds Reverend G that when times are hard, “that there problem puts a clod in your churn.” These endearing phrases are the ones I grew up with and still hear in my heart when I cross that borderline into the Sooner State.

The Oklahoma dance reminds me of my heritage and grounds me in the knowledge that even when I land in Kansas, there’s no place like home.

©2013 RJ Thesman

Tip # 5 for Caregivers

Healthcare professionals emphasize the importance of caregivers taking care of themselves.

Reverend G would agree.

We can’t sit beside the bed day after day without a respite. We’ll go crazy. We need to take a break.

We need to utilize the daycare centers for Alzheimer’s patients and share our struggles with support groups. We may need to spend time with a therapist to deal with our own emotions and the beginning stages of grief.

We need short vacations and long vacations.

Remember how our parents left us with babysitters so they could have a night free? The roles are now reversed, and we need to do the same. Take a break. Schedule a free night.

Some ways to take of ourselves include:

  • Walk through a rose garden and thank God for all the varieties He created.
  • Browse through a quaint little bookstore, pet the store cat and buy a book—then take the time to sit down and read it.
  • Observe the Sabbath and share a meal with friends.
  • Spend time alone and do nothing.
  • Go to a movie and munch on the popcorn that isn’t good for us.
  • Watch a funny video.
  • Take time to enjoy a sunset and thank God for the golden sky.

And if your loved one is in such need of care that you can no longer do it, find the right facility and arrange for the best of care. Then don’t feel guilty.

My friend, Esther Kreek, cared for her husband for 16 years. She is now 81 years old with a speaking itinerary about historical topics. Esther says, “I don’t do windows or guilt.”

None of us want our children to feel burdened or to grow sick because of the stress of our care.

So… take care of yourselves.