Hope in Finding the Story

saleAs I drove up to the multi-storied house, the “Estate Sale” sign reminded me of my mission. Look for something I could use at work – some objects that would bring encouragement to the women I coach: maybe a pot of flowers, some beautiful cards, a trinket I could give away.

What I didn’t expect to find was a story.

I joined the crowd of people poking through bedrooms, closets and kitchen – each of us searching for treasures at a reduced price.

Empathy set in as I realized this was a family who had just buried their matriarch. Now they had sold her house and were sorting through what she left behind, offering pieces of her life to strangers.

What sort of life did she live? The question hounded me even as I began to discover clues to her story.

In the garage, colorful pots for planting the cuttings of a new flower or plant. The texture of the pots described a women who was attracted to pottery rather than spray-painted plastic. A woman who appreciated the genuine.

A stack of books pulled me like a magnet into the intrigue of a life past. Most of us can tell our stories by the choices of books we keep on our shelves.

This woman read financial summaries and economic treatises. A mathematical mind, detailed, and carefully constructed to pay attention to pi, cosign and greater than.

A pile of books about alternative health. Was she sickened by a disease no one could treat, so she tried to find help beyond the traditional medical community? Did any of the vitamins, acupuncture or colloidal treatments give her a few more years of quality life?

Sadly – no books on religion. No Bibles. No creative poetry or coffee table books – unless her family already sequestered those to keep alive the memories of mom and grandmother.

The basement, filled with Christmas decorations. Obviously a woman who loved the holidays and filled her lavish home with pine wreaths, Scandinavian villages that lit up and over-sized ornaments, sparkling in the dim basement light.

The story of her life became even more clear as I combed through bedding, crept into closets and fingered vintage textures. This woman knew her own style and didn’t care for polyester cutouts that looked like everyone else.

In the kitchen, more health-conscious books about nutrition, cooking without cholesterol-building substances, how to incorporate chicken instead of beef into favorite recipes.

Suddenly a wave of grief as I chose a casserole pan I needed, wondering how many chicken meals she fixed in that particular pan before she finally succumbed to the frailty of her last days.

Before payment at the front parlor check-out, I walked through the house once more, prayed for the grieving family, found a few more treasures and considered how story follows us throughout life.

What kind of story did my life tell and how was it accented by my stuff? If someone looked through my bookshelves, could they determine I am a student of theology, a creative writer and and a woman who loves color and texture?

If a stranger looked under my deck, would they determine how I garden with old yet favorite tools, that the farmer gene in me has never exited, even after years in the city?

Would my costume jewelry, my terracotta pottery and my wooden rocking chair whisper that I am a simple country girl who finds solace in the beauty of handmade afghans, multiple stacks of books and the comforting jangle of a flowery mobile from New Mexico?

I came away from that estate sale hugging a garden birdhouse with its trailing ivy, a package of Christmas bulbs in my favorite dark purple, the casserole pan I needed to replace its long-ago-broken twin and a sense of story that emanated from the treasures I held.

We are each living the story of our lives. How much of our stuff reflects our authenticity and moves others to consider hope?

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

Hope Finds a Treasure

During the last two weeks, three people at separate times have told me, “You are a treasure.”

I know this is a compliment and I truly appreciate the sentiment. At the same time, I am a bit nonplussed to be described as such.

National+TreasureWhen I think of treasure, my first impression is an antiquity. The movie “National Treasure” comes to mind as Nicholas Gage spends 90 minutes trying to find the lost treasures his Masonic ancestors hid in various places.

Gage, of course, succeeds and manages to fall in love at the same time, which spawns the second movie in the series and pleas from his fans for a third.

Although my joints sometimes cry a different melody, I don’t feel like an antiquity. I have, however, traveled around the block a few times and know a few things about life.

So I have thought about what I treasure and how I might practice more gratitude within my soul for those treasures I hold dear.

My treasures do not represent stuff, because I am antiquated enough to know that eventually – most of our stuff ends up at Goodwill and if I had all the money back that I have spent on stuff throughout the years – I could buy a car.

No, the true treasures for me involve people and memories – those happenings and experiences involving flesh and blood folks that cannot be replaced.

My relationship with my son is a treasure. There’s something especially sweet when our children mature and we move into an easy friendship instead of strictly a parent / child relationship.

We have great discussions about life, politics and important things like which laptop to buy and how to set up the wi-fi.

We express our opinions about  world systems and how we fit into them, the goals each of us hold for 2015 and how we are moving toward our dreams. I so desperately want my son to see his dreams become reality.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I treasure sitting with my child – https://rjthesman.net/2015/03/10/hope-sits-with-my-child/

Another treasure involves growing up on the farm. Although my world now exists in the city, nothing can take from me the joy of climbing a tree, perching in its generous limbs and scribbling my first stories in my Red Chief Tablet.

Watching the massive Oklahoma sunsets change colors, celebrating the waving wheat (“that smells so sweet”) and digging my hands into fresh garden earth to plant seeds that would later produce our supper – these are treasures that make me long for those hard-working blessed days without the stress of internet surfing and bungled emails.

Even writing about the country fills my heart with longing for my dream – a log home tucked safely between old trees that hold their own secrets – one room of that home surrounded by windows with my writing desk perched smack in the middle of all that light and creativity.

Because I am a writer, I observe people so one of my favorite treasures involves the many human beings I have known.

Students from various countries around the world, women who have enriched my life and saved it many times with their nurturing hearts, ministers of both genders and every race who have spoken into my life and the myriads of writers who bless me just by being their weird and wonderful selves.

People are a treasure, walking and talking receptacles of divine cells that God has pronounced, “Very good.”

My life has been enriched by meeting these folks, spending time with them, developing relationships with them, disagreeing with them and praying with them.

So I gladly accept the moniker of “treasure,” because I hope I have somehow spoken into the lives of others the encouragement that keeps me going, the perseverance that keeps me writing and the joy that keeps me breathing.

I would be interested to know what you consider a treasure. How about sharing with all of us your thoughts on the subject?

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

Learning Treasures of Hope

Because one of my core values is life-long learning, I am always reading and scouting out new resources. As a writer, I yearn to pen unique words or phrases that leave my readers with their own a-ha moments, something to think about all day, some treasure that leaves a taste of hope in their lives.

Recently, I added three new treasures to my learning bank, so I wanted to share them with you.Grace quote

Treasure 1: In her new book, “Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace” Anne Lamott writes, “They say we are punished not for the sin but by the sin.”

Even when we know we are forgiven, natural consequences still attach like magnets to iron.

If you hammer a nail into wood and then take the nail out, a hole marks the spot where the nail was hammered. It doesn’t matter how many times you are forgiven for hammering that nail, it will still leave a mark.

I think we need to worry less about how God will punish us and more about how we can cause our own defeat by the wrong choices we make.

Treasure 2: Gerald May wrote, “Grace threatens all our normalities.”

Now isn’t that the grandest truth?

Just when we feel the most soul-grunge because we’ve committed one of the seven deadly sins and actually enjoyed it, God comes along and says, “Oh by the way, you’re forgiven.”

When we sin again because we’re stupid and can’t seem to learn from our mistakes, we go to God in penitence and cry, “I did it again. I’m so sorry.”

And God says, “You did what again?”

His grace breaks down all the normal ways we deal with repentance and retribution. Grace transcends omniscience, so God chooses to forget and says, “It’s okay, kiddo. I love you. My Son already took care of this.”

I don’t think I’ll truly understand grace until I graduate to heaven.

Treasure 3: Recently, the Samaritan Woman taught me an important truth. Even though I’ve read her story hundreds of times in John chapter four and loved how Jesus went out of his way to dialog with her, something really struck me this time.

Jesus treated her with respect in spite of the fact that she lived a rather nontraditional life. Her past included a handful of men that she married or lived with, probably because she had to survive.

But Jesus did not judge her. He appreciated her authenticity and answered her challenging questions. He revealed his true mission as the Messiah to this woman who wasn’t even allowed to draw water with the other “good” people in town.

Then what did she do? She ran back into the village and evangelized the same people who had rejected her. She brought them to the source of grace and showed everyone that she had more character than those who followed the laws of culture and religion.

Through her courageous behavior, the Samaritan Woman showed transparent forgiveness.

You see, when we meet Jesus and talk face to face with the man who saves us from our grungey selves, it doesn’t really matter how others treat us.

We just want them to meet him, too.

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