Finding Hope When Stress Unravels

I know better.

I even teach how to do it better – how to live a creative life that feeds on play.

Yet recently, the stresses of life gained the advantage and play disappeared. It was all I could do to get up in the morning and look at my longer-than-ever list of tasks that “must” be completed.

But even though I knew better, I continued to live in the pattern of extreme hurry-ness, checking off each task as if its completion kept my world rotating in the proper direction.

Then, just as I began to wonder how long I could keep up the pace, I crashed. I sat on my deck during a beautiful autumn afternoon and instead of enjoying the colors and feeling gratitude for the moment, I wept.

Stress tears finally broke and leaked from my soul. In that moment, I knew something had to change.

As if to confirm my self-diagnosis, that evening I tried to write.

For me, writing is the same as breathing. Words go in through the books I read and on any given day at any given moment, words expel in creative bangles that treat my soul to its beauty sound.

I write when I’m happy and I write when I’m sad. I write books and articles and character sketches and sometimes – a type of poetry that somehow morphs into prose.

But when I am too stressed, my soul replies with a sort of dis-ease and the words become blocked and lost behind a stiff wall of pain.

When I am stressed, writing becomes a chore and everything else revolves around its unhappiness and the unsettling of soul regret.

Worse, when I cannot write because of stress, I feel bereft of the gift God gave me for creativity and connection with Him. Typing the words He whispers brings a sort of completion of the gift – His breath in me, His words coming from me, then His words back within me.

When I write, I feel Him smile. The joy of the Creator resides in my soul, cached in that holy of holies within.

When I cannot write from stress, that block keeps joy from bubbling to the surface and instead becomes a tentacle of aloofness. I cannot feel God. I cannot breathe.

So how do I fight against the stresses that tempt me to self-destruct?

First, I say, “No.” When someone asks me to do another task that steals my joy – I say, “No.” I set the boundaries that protect my soul and keep that God-given creativity fresh and alive.

Second, I find ways to play. The best remedy for stress is play. So I sit at the piano and make up a new tune. I pull out my wonderful box of 64 crayons and fill in the lines in my coloring book. Who cares if the frog is purple? No one grades my coloring.

I take long walks and this time of year, search for pretty leaves to take home and plant on my sink so that I can see them as I do the dishes and remember to keep a joyful heart.autumn-leaves.jpg

I browse through bookstores and search for other words that nurture my sentences. I read books from authors I admire and wish to emulate.

I stroll through a garden nursery and touch the flowers that God designed, marvel at all the intricate shapes and colors and remind Him how much I love Him.

Then I go home and defy the stress to leave me alone as I sit down once again and search for my creative source.

Once defeated, stress has a harder time finding me. I am camouflaged within hope and joy, able to find peace again and offer my treasure back to God.

Then my writing becomes worship, and my work reflects joy.

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

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” –