New Mexico Calls with Hope

What is it about New Mexico that calls to me?  flag-of-new-mexico-l

Surely it is more than the memories of 22 family vacations in the historic mining town of Red River.

Could it be the combination of sights and sounds that provide a sensory experience each day?

  • The pine scent of tall trees, dressed in breath-taking greens
  • A chipmunk daring me to hold out another handful of peanuts so he can stuff his cheeks
  • Hummingbirds dive bombing for a bit of sweet nectar
  • Aspens clapping their leaves in fluttering applause
  • The babbling river that cleanses both the stream and the sediment of my soul

Although my family vacations in Red River, Santa Fe and Taos are my favorite Southwest cities with their terracotta textures, the diversity of their people and the history of fine art.

It is no wonder Georgia O’Keefe chose this land to live in, to find solace in painting its various colors and tones.

Yet this year, I needed the mountains in a new way. Before we climbed into the van for the eight-hour trip, God instructed me that the object of my vacation was to follow the words of Psalm 46:10.

“Be still. Rest quietly. Wait patiently for God.” 

As we drove over the last summit and looked below at the town’s quiet repose, I knew it would be a special vacation – a gifting of rest.

Although seven of our family members bunked together in a condo, I purposely made time for solitude. Every morning, I carried my mug of hot tea and feasted for precious minutes with the divine One.

In the wonder of worship, I sat beside the river and entreated God to replace the murkiness of my soul with clarity and fresh intimacy with him. red-river-stream

I looked upward at the mountain crest – my mountain – at the crevasse carved there, as if God had dipped his hand in it during the second day of creation.

His signature of intense power. A reminder for generations of pilgrims that only God could create such grandeur yet dare to be personally involved in our lives.

God rarely spoke during these morning vistas as we quietly sat together and enjoyed the cool air. As we communed in silence, I embraced the beauty of solitude and the intimacy of being in his presence without speech.

Once again, I breathed deeply of the spiritual fervor of New Mexico, forgot the trials and burdens I left behind and gratefully received the solace God offered.

New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment, but for me – it is the healing irony of mountains and desert, Native Americans and Hispanics, turquoise and coral – somehow blended into a symphony of texture and diversity that rises in a spiritual explosion of praise.

How sweet to experience how it also became a quiet haven for individual retreat where I once again learned to be still and acknowledged that He is God.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G trilogy 

This post first appeared on “Travel Light,” by SuZan Klaasen.

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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

How Do Writers Research?

One year ago, my friend and I drove to Santa Fe, NM. We planned it as a research / vacation trip in the wonderful Southwest, with side trips to Taos and Red River.santa fe

Why Santa Fe? Because I knew that my main character, Reverend G, loved the Southwest and particularly Santa Fe. I also knew that I wanted to include something about that region in the third Reverend G book – which is still in its first draft stage.

So we drove to Santa Fe, enjoying the mountain scenery and the warmer weather. After a hard Kansas winter, we needed to soak up the sun as well as to soak in the culture.

Writers can, of course, do research on the internet. In fact, that’s where I started – looking up the main sites of Santa Fe. But the internet can only provide facts and stats for a region.

If you want to write credibly and make your stories real – you have to actually experience a region.

The writer needs to know how people communicate in a particular area, how characters dress and talk, what it feels like to stand in line at the Georgia O’Keefe museum and then spend several hours drinking in the colors and textures of her paintings.

The writer needs to discover new artists who craft incredible sculptures out of metal, pictures of women on horses that seem to fly through the studio, textiles that flap their colors in the wind.

The writer keeps a journal of the trip and gathers brochures, maps, postcards, photos wherever she goes. But the writer also records the emotions she feels, touring a particular city.

I wrote about our tour of the Plaza: “Native Americans spread out their creativity: jewelry on black mats, shining silver and bountiful turquoise, coral, copper bracelets, earrings, necklaces – nothing that Reverend G would buy but all of it – she would enjoy. The pottery – some with colors of the earth, some with the brightness of primary colors.”

We talked with tourists, but also with the locals – interesting blends of Hispanic, Caucasian, Native American and some Asians. Reverend G and I both loved the diversity of the Southwest.

These friendly people, women in broomstick skirts of various colors. Men with tanned and wrinkled faces. They seem to live an idyllic life where they have the freedom to leave workplaces and spend time with a writer from Kansas, to tell her how long they’ve lived in Santa Fe and why they moved out of corporate America to operate a coffee shop in New Mexico.

We ate at a little café with different colors painted on each wall – purple blended into orange, yellow beside red. Small salads with walnuts, salmon and bleu cheese with a vinaigrette dressing. Iced chai tea in tall glasses – spicy yet sweet and so refreshing.

So many variations of wildflowers, splayed in gardens along with buckets of pansies and Indian blanket daisies. A momentary wrong turn and we were lost, but then found in a rose garden at the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Bathing our hot faces in the fountain that promised health. Snapping my promo picture while surrounded by lavender roses.

Statues of Mary everywhere and the creativity of God surrounding us. Worship all around us and in us as my friend played a Native American flute, and I wrote in my journal and savored the day.

The Loretto Chapel, famous for its spiral staircase. You can’t imagine what happens to Reverend G in the chapel, but you’ll have to wait for the third book to find out.

Although we smelled smoke from mountain wildfires, the resulting atmospheric change brought us colorful sunsets – a sacred end to a busy day.

We left a few sites for the next trip – whenever that will be. But I found enough material and soaked in enough of the Southwest to add to my book and make it credible.

How do writers research? They live in the area for a while. They let every one of their senses open fully to the people and the places where they exist. They look for the inner soul and the textures and colors around them. They listen for dialects and observe relationships. They take time to literally smell roses and meld new friendships. Then they come home, organize their notes and write about it.

And a year later – they wish they could return.

©2013 RJ Thesman – Author of “The Unraveling of Reverend G”

The QLB in Taos

As a writer, I am always on the lookout for the QLB (Quaint Little Bookstore). Sure, the big box stores with lots of books and mocha lattes are fun, but I really like the cozy atmosphere of the QLB as I look for that special book or discover another incredible writer.

Many of the most unique QLB’s have a store cat who roams around searching for Lillian Jackson Braun books – mysteries where cats solve the Who Done It. In Lawrence, Kansas, I often sit on the floor of a QLB and read with the cat who owns The Dusty Bookshelf. Anyone who has a cat knows that they really own wherever they live.

But the most surprising QLB of my travels happened this summer in Taos. Right in the middle of a shopping excursion when we planned to stop for a refreshing glass of iced tea, we noticed this QLB. It looked like a small cottage, so I was certain it would have the cozy atmosphere of the usual QLB and stacks of books from floor to ceiling. What a surprise!

Unique nonfiction books such as the origin of Native American flutes or regional books about New Mexico filled the front room. Then around the corner, a table of bargain books sat against the wall.

Bargains – one of my basic food groups.

The bargain table merged into another long room filled with fiction, biographies and mysteries. Then up the stairs for more nonfiction, more bargains and more incredible words by authors I have never met and some authors whom I consider good friends.

Throughout this QLB, I found books I have read and re-read, authors I have spent lazy afternoons with and pictures from photo shoots advertising the latest edition of a classic.

Like a kid with her mouth full of S’mores, I strolled among the shelves and chatted with the friendly staff. The texture and smell of a “real” book is so much more fulfilling to me than an electronic version with a fake page turn. My soul was literally in literature heaven, and I wondered what could top this experience.

Then I knew. As soon as my book, “The Unraveling of Reverend G” comes out, I plan to contact the staff of this wonderful QLB and ask about a book signing. Maybe they will schedule me soon or wait until the entire series launches when I can do a reading and a triple book signing. Any excuse to visit this QLB will be welcomed.

But the best part of this particular Taos QLB was its name. Are you ready for it? Are you sure? You’re gonna’ love it!

This unique and wonderful QLB is called, “Moby Dickens.”

Doesn’t that just make you smile?

Divine Appointments in New Mexico

During a recent vacation, my traveling companion and I toured the towns of Santa Fe, Taos and Red River. New Mexico – the land of enchantment – contains plenty of enchanted places and wonderful people just in these three cities.

Although the vacation had a dual purpose – to rest and reflect, but also to do research for another book in my Reverend G series – a higher purpose soon surfaced. Each morning, we asked God to point us toward someone who might need encouragement, hope or a sense of His presence.

Without fail, each day revealed a divine appointment. A beautiful couple traveling through the area without a schedule: we discussed various places we had seen and encouraged each other to visit the Loretto Chapel and the Taos galleries. A young woman in need of surgery: I prayed God’s healing for her. A young man who was stressed out in his job needed a smile and a “I think you’re doing great!” comment. An incredible young woman on her way to a law degree blessed us with her strength even as we prayed God would work out His plan for her life.

Each day, someone crossed our path and at the end of each day, I recorded the divine appointments in my journal. But when I returned home, I thought Why should the divine appointments only happen in New Mexico? Can’t they also happen in the summer heat of Kansas?

So I am trying to be more proactive – to look for those people who might need a word of encouragement, a measure of hope or a simple prayer. All of us know how it feels to be blessed by a smile, a kind word or a pat on the back. I want to be on the alert for ways that I can bless others and find those divine appointments every day.

If I do that, then the blessing of the vacation continues and the hope of God travels from one heart to the next. Just imagine if all of God’s children kept their divine appointments.