Hope Fills in the Gaps

Stuck. Between the third and fourth chapter of the gazillionth revision of my novel. Somewhere a segue exists but currently – I can’t find it.

I know it will come – somewhere over the rainbow. But the frustration of the moment calls for a break from writing and a massive piece of comfort chocolate.

AsMind the gap I reflect on life in general and writing in particular, I realize life is filled with gaps. Those years between holding a newborn and watching him walk across the stage to grasp his diploma. A quickly-passing gap. Overwhelming emotion at both ends of said gap.

The gap between the germ of an idea and holding the published book in hand. Multiple revisions and gnashing of teeth. Still stuck between chapters three and four.

But the most telling gap underscores the fragility of life – imaged perfectly in cemeteries. A name engraved on the headstone. A birth date.  A death date.

But it is the gap between those two dates that determines the legacy of that life. What occurred to that person and because of that person during that gap? How many people did she influence? How many friends did he make? Who will mourn the presence of the owner of that gap?

I bring out my journal to analyze my thoughts. Think of the people whose gap moments affected my life: parents, siblings, perhaps even ancestors who prayed for me – folks I have never met. I know them only through faded black and white photos and those headstones in the cemetery.

Teachers. Writers – oh yes – the numbers of writers who have influenced my life and also my calling to write. Innumerable.

Pilgrims within and beyond my family. My  students through the years. My clients now – how much I learn about writing from the actual process of coaching writers!

My son. The brave one who beat cancer. We celebrate every July 4th and believe the fireworks are for him.

The people I know who live with chronic pain and complain far less than I about their daily struggles. These warriors encourage my own gap-living and remind me to endure, to persevere, to grit my teeth and keep trying.

Although we celebrate births and mourn deaths, we don’t pay as much attention to the gap in between. Yet that gap is where hope exists, where it is nurtured and grows, where it expands to affect other gappers.

Perhaps we need to do more of this – to celebrate each other while we have life. To invite another gap-traveler for coffee, to toast each other and determine we will pray for each other. Maybe we need to underscore reasons for more parties, for cake and ice cream just because we love the taste of life.

Should we not celebrate with writers, artists and every day workers who persevere and heroically make it through another day?

And there it is – suddenly the segue I wanted, hiding within the paragraphs of journaling. A nugget of hope within my own gap.

This moment will not be engraved on my tombstone, “On this day in the 2017th year of our Lord, RJ Thesman figured out a way to move from chapter three to chapter four.”

But in the totality of my gap life, I believe the divine One will cheer for me. He will understand the joy I feel in moving forward with my words.

And when he reviews this life with me, he will remind me how important it was to find that segue. His whisper of “Well done” will be my trophy.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of  Sometimes They Forget and the Reverend G Trilogy

Hope Celebrates the Younger

One of the joys of coaching writers happens when I watch clients succeed.

We brainstorm a title idea together and the a-ha lights our faces. The perfect cover dresses the front of the book while a teasing blurb fills the back.

But oh the best – is the content that soars from an initial idea while a synopsis in black and white merges into sentences, paragraphs and chapters.

We talk about it as a birthing – a coming to life of a project. And truly it feels like the stretching of flesh, the contractions of laboring for that perfect word, the expulsion of life on the page.

A recent birth occurred as Sara Brunsvold launched her book, “Uncage My Brave.”Uncage my brave

It is a relatively small tome with only 51 pages. No “War and Peace” masterpiece needed. Yet within Sara’s work lies her experience with courage, her exhortations to find her source of bravery and uncage the dreams God placed in her heart.

What I like about Sara’s writing is how it has expanded. Not with longer sentences or flowery distractions. Rather, Sara’s gift has deepened. Her communication now draws from a divine well.

I sense in her the role of prophet although I don’t believe she would label herself such. Yet a prophet speaks truth and often expounds with a poetic rhythm that catches the breath and cries for more.

A highlight phrase from Sara: “Carry me, Abba. Hold me still in Your strength. Press my ear to your heart.”

Words such as these cannot emerge from a fanciful wish to communicate. They are conceived in the valleys of grief and the plateaus of doubt. They are wrung out by stepping forward to believe in what cannot be seen, to taste what is not plausible.

When I hold my copy of “Uncage My Brave,” I rejoice that I have had the honor to watch Sara’s dream become reality.

The joy of writers helping writers underscores our purpose in Psalm 45:17, “I will perpetuate your memory through all generations.”

This writer, this Sara Brunsvold, is a younger wordsmith who now surpasses my generation. I rejoice in her accomplishment.

Check out Sara’s blog and order “Uncage My Brave.”

You will no doubt discover hope in her pages and celebration in the unfolding of Sara’s dream.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

Hope Repurposes a Life

I love to find something that has been discarded and repurpose it. Sometimes it’s a piece of furniture from a dumpster find, a pot made from an old bowl or a scarf that becomes a wall hanging.vintage door

My repurposing gift probably stems from growing up on a farm and “making do” with whatever we had. DIY projects began on the family farm.

Need to make a straight row for the garden? Use sticks and baling twine. Create a toy out of a piece of cardboard and/or leftover wood from another project.

The farm rules stated, “If you don’t have it, make it with whatever you already have.”

Creativity thrived but we didn’t think of our projects as displayed creativity. More like survival. Repurposing became our way of life.

The process of repurposing has now expanded beyond furniture, wall hangings or garden projects.

I find myself taking the pieces of a former life and remaking them into something new.

After a lifetime of ministry with people, I am now focused on the ministry of words – a solitude of sentences and intentional rest.

Still in transition, I wonder how to stop being who I was? How can I best become the “me” for this season of life?

Henri Nouwen writes, “The task is to persevere within the solitude.”

It is not a struggle to write, edit and create in the quiet of my home. This is the creative side of me that has always existed.

It is just different, a new normal and I have to discover the best way to function within my changing role.

When I repurpose an object, I sit awhile and look at it from all angles. How shall I paint it or redesign it? How can it be used most effectively?

Think Tom Hanks in “Castaway as he sat on the beach staring at a piece of metal until he imagined it as a sail.

To repurpose a life requires even more thinking. How can I use my gifts to bless others when my audience lives in cyberspace? Is this moment best used writing a blog post, editing a book, taking a creative walk or reading a novel?

Which choice will strengthen me in this new role and allow me to end the day with a sense of productivity?

Can I be content to just “be?”

Madeleine L’Engle wrote, “We need to take time away from busy-ness, time to be. Taking ‘being’ time is something we all need for our spiritual health.”

To repurpose my life, I often just sit and “be.” This is hard for me – the natural “doer,” the “planner,” the “initiator.”

But as I am learning the principle of quiet reflection, I find a stronger creativity emerges when I return to the words.

Projects are completed. New ideas nurtured.

The beauty of this personal repurposing project is the assurance that God loves me no matter what I do. He saved me to “be.”

Perhaps this transition will change me into a different person. That’s okay, too.

Because hope thrives when we can be ourselves, embrace life and move forward with joy.

Who knows? I may find a new purpose for myself and be more authentic than ever before.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

 

 

 

Hope Observes

coffee and bagelMost of my reflecting time is spent in the solitude of my home study. But occasionally, I venture into the world of people for a cuppa Joe. I often bring a journal, a book to read, paper and pen to write ideas or work on a blog post – such as this one.

As I reflected in a local Panera, I wished I owned stock in the company. Throughout the years, I have ingested gallons of their teas and lately – experienced the scrumptious delight of their gluten free chocolate cookies. Better than a brownie, I promise!

Whenever I join the human race in a public place, I observe the people. Some of them may become characters in a future novel. Yes – writers do insert real people in their books. Live your life with caution.

An older couple sits quietly at a round table, slowly chewing croissants without talking or even looking at one another. Years of marriage enrich the silence of the moment. What is there to talk about after so many years together? Maybe these fluffy croissants are their one treat for the week or the month – until the next Social Security check revives their bank balance.

A woman after my own heart reads alone, occasionally sipping her coffee. Obviously engrossed in her book, she seems lost in the words. Is she learning something new, researching for a college class or trying to escape some chaos in her present life by entering into the fictional world of the book’s protagonist?

Two women chat near me, slathering butter on their bagels. One talks with a shrill timber. The other is the listener. If I eavesdrop carefully, I learn about the toddler’s attempts at potty training, how the hubby works hard but does not care about the fatigue of this young mommy.

Do they suspect I intrude on their privacy? Do they care? Probably not, as their goal is to share their hearts with each other, to find another soul who empathizes.

Another table filled with businessmen, their Mac books opened to spread sheets and planners – terse statements about sales and marketing.

And the workers who assemble salads, soups and steel cut oats to fulfill requests. Working hard yet often rendered invisible because each customer is captured by his own story with his own reason for spending the morning at Panera.

I am grateful for this place and for the freedom to sit and observe. I am also aware of the God who cares for each person’s story – the Divine One who designed destinies before the foundation of the world and wants desperately for each person in this place to know how much he loves each soul.

Then the writer in me kicks in and I play the What If game:

  • What if the older gentleman is hiding a fortune in stolen coins?
  • What if his wife is really his pastor and has no idea about his hidden sin?
  • What if the pastor is hiding the fortune in stolen coins?

And away I go into the world of creative thought, fashioning a new story for each character I observe.

Don’t you think God the Creator had fun designing our lives before we were born?

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

Hope Sets Healthy Boundaries

Isn’t it interesting how we can tell others what to do but not apply that same wisdom to ourselves?

In my life coaching ministry at GateWay of Hope, I often ask women, “What are you doing for fun?” We track their progress and talk about the importance of setting healthy boundaries.

cottage-picket-fenceSometimes we refer to an emotional boundary as setting a fence around the heart.

Likewise with my writing clients. I may ask, “What are you doing for an artist date?”

They tell me about roaming through bookstores, writing morning pages at a quirky and fun coffee shop or choosing a new journal.

Terrific success for my coaching clients. Not such a good job by their coach. I find it increasingly difficult to schedule artist dates and/or find some time for fun in my busy schedule. Am I too busy? Yes. How can I remedy that? Hmm.

One of my friends recently asked me, “What are you doing for Rebecca?”

I had to stop and think about that question, because we often define fun as something we do that costs money.

But I need to consider other things that are just as relaxing and important for me – activities that cost little or nothing. Fun might include playing the piano, banging out chords that help release some of the pressures of a stressful day.

Walking through crunchy leaves or strolling through colorful chrysanthemums at a garden store. These joys remind me of the creator and how he blesses us with an autumn Kansas.

Other possibilities:

  • An occasional movie
  • Watching the baseball playoffs with my son
  • Looking forward to Jayhawk basketball and OU football
  • Pulling out my coloring book and finding a quiet moment on the deck
  • Singing
  • A new color of fingernail polish
  • The turquoise and corals of a Kansas sunset
  • A haircut
  • A new journal or reading through the old one with an attitude of praise

These are some of the things that bring me joy, however I need to work harder at getting away and forcing myself to relax. Is that an oxymoron? Forced relaxation?

Even now, I feel the need for some time away to reboot my soul and refresh that creative spirit in me.

I write better after a break when I feel more energized to connect sentences that form paragraphs, outline chapters and introduce new characters to the world.

So I need to be more proactive about using my time off. I need to actually schedule a writing retreat and a personal sabbatical – wherever and whenever I can – soon.

As 2017 approaches, I need to discipline myself to do the same thing I ask of my clients – to find that special place of inner rest, to plan an artist date, to find my own creative boundaries.

Hope asks accountability of others but also demands spiritual nourishment of the self. Even as I help others, I need to do a better job finding myself and define that fence around my heart.

Anyone else want to join me in the search?

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

Hope Mourns the Sparrow

One of the joys of my life arrives every morning when I feed the birds.

I am praying my new place will include a small back yard where I can pour out the seed, call to the birds and watch these amazing creatures float toward me.Jesus Calling - Sept 1

But last week, we had a surprise visitor. A huge hawk swooped down, rapidly chose his prey and killed one of my sparrows. With sharp talons, he easily lifted his breakfast from my deck, then disappeared in the early morning fog.

Most of the time, we don’t pay attention to sparrows. We are attracted to the flashy cardinals, the sweet chickadees and even the raucous blue jays with their blue and silver details.

Sparrows are just the extra birds that fly near us, their plain brown feathers almost an invisible blend on weathered decks. Perhaps an afterthought in the creator’s mind, the bird with which to compare all the others.

Sparrows don’t seem to matter much. Unless you’re one of them.

During this transition time, I empathize with the sparrow. I feel as if the flashy authors of the world have passed me by, and I am trying to catch up.

Other ministers and writers have spent years honing their careers while I stayed in the background, worked in administrative roles, quietly pointed the mouse and clicked on Excel charts.

Others developed speaking ministries, world-wide podcasts and reams of manuscripts while I worked three jobs to raise my son and try to survive.

“Bless me, too, my Father,” is often the cry of my heart.

Now…during this time of the unknowns, I feel even more sparrow-ish than before. My own drab browning pales in comparison with those who seem to have it so easy.

Yes, I know this sounds like whining. But I struggle between authenticity, the brutal honesty of the heart and a complaining spirit. I wish I knew the difference.

I want to see my own dreams come to pass even as I know the desires of my heart may not necessarily sync with the whispers of the divine.

Predators of discouragement and fear stalk me. So quickly, they sharpen their talons and wait for my most vulnerable moments to swoop in and destroy hope.

Yet some days – praise God – more days than not – I remember how God cares for even the sparrow.

Not one of us falls without his knowledge and empathic tears. Each of us, though feeling drab, are still painted with his art – each feather delicate in his design.

I replay a favorite hymn, grateful for the internet and the YouTube software that makes it easily accessible.

His eye indeed on this sparrow. My heart secure in the knowing that he cares for me.

Sparrows of the past are still mourned. Each one a creation missed, a relationship betrayed, an opportunity denied.

Yet the One who created them in the first place still exists and promises an even better life to come.

Here’s to all of us sparrows in the world. We occupy important spaces in the universe, each of us here for a purpose – for a time.

May we embrace our lives for what they represent, a glorious praise for the presence of each day and a supreme hope for a better tomorrow.

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

Hope Falters

She was a lovely woman and an expert in her field – the stager sent by the realtor to prepare my house for sale. At the outset, she warned me, “I’m not here to offend anyone. I just want you to get the most money for your house.”

I was prepared for her to move things around and give me some decorating ideas, but I was emotionally blindsided by the number of my treasures she declared, “This has to go.” Basically, she dismantled my house and my personal stuff.Debris of move

She left piles of things in every room to get rid of in order to most effectively sell the house. She was very good at her job, and I learned so many things about spacing, color, lighting, even the size of pictures as they become a statement beside a bed or on a wall.

Buyers will be looking for the feeling of space and for a neutral territory where they can set up their home. Anything personal of mine will interrupt that neutral feeling, so it cannot be in sight.

The stager showed me how to hide certain things, such as the litter box, so buyers are unaware the house once was ruled by a cat. Betsey, aka Gabriel, would disagree, but she will find her box and discreetly do her business – a bit perturbed that her abode has been disturbed.

I learned how important my stuff is to me. Most of my things are the early attic variety, garage sale finds or something I have restored that another person threw away. Nothing has great intrinsic value – except in my soul.

While I know we are not defined by our stuff, in a way – yes, we are.

Quilts, a cradle, an antique telephone – all carry sentimental value for me. The quilt my grandmother and her sisters made for my wedding – a creamy yellow, with butterflies made from the scraps of their lives, babies’ bonnets, a favorite shirt.

The cradle, fashioned by my dad, held my newborn son as we rocked him to sleep that first Christmas. The fire blazed and kept my baby warm. Dad woke up every thirty minutes to check on the heat emanating off the logs. A sweet memory, a grief rekindled.

The old telephone my parents pieced together by visiting scores of flea markets and antique shops, then proudly gave to me one Christmas – long before Alzheimers invaded our lives and stole that precious memory.

Yet none of these treasures made the cut. “Get rid of them or find a place to store them – out of the way,” the stager instructed.

How can I shove my lifetime out of the way?

As she finished her work, the stager and I learned a bit more about each other. Both of us write. Both of us have journeyed through divorce and experienced pre-judgement by the established church. Both of us love cats.

When she left, we hugged and I was glad for a new friend, for her many suggestions which I know on some level are right and will help me sell the house.

But somehow, I also felt violated and discouraged, certain my life was going to change, wondering how I could decide what to let go.

The piles of my life’s debris reminded me how mortal we are and how fleeting is life – a mere breath – a candle that should be given away to bring another person joy, a sofa table so out of date no one would want it even if it was free.

My son was shocked and upset by the suggestions made for how we needed to purge more and more and more. As we talked through our emotions, he finally said, “Change is hard for me, Mom. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s bad.” 

A wise young man. I admire his honesty.

Although the purging pains my soul, my journal entries speak the truth. This duplex has never been home for me; it was only a place to settle while I worked in this town.

Now that all my pictures have been stripped off the walls, my mantel decoration has been condemned and the detritus of my life lies in piles on the floor – it feels even less like the place where I can freely write, create stories and be my authentic self.

So my son and I are trusting God to provide something wonderful for us again, just as he has done through every step of the post-divorce journey. If we have to stay in this duplex, then we’ll be grateful for a roof over our heads. And it will be cleaner, sans the stuff we no longer need.

In “Jesus Calling” Sarah Young writes, “Anticipate coming face-to-face with impossibilities: situations totally beyond your ability to handle…When you see armies of problems marching toward you, cry out to God! Allow him to fight for you. Watch him working on your behalf.”

So that’s where I am this day – purging, mourning the loss of stuff, and waiting for next steps – clinging to God and trying to find hope.

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