Coming to Peace with God and Dementia

                      the peace of god

Over the last few years I’ve written occasionally about the struggles my husband and I have encountered caring for his aging parents afflicted with dementia. We’ve gone through times of great heart-ach and unintended moments of comedy. Together we’ve cried and laughed to ease the stress. And spent hours contemplating the best care for their ever changing needs. We’ve questions what good could possibly be achieved when someone is suffering from dementia. Our conclusion has been humbling; the good has been a growth in compassion and grace in us both.

We also had to come to a place of humble acceptance of God’s design for the aging process. Honestly, at times this was very hard. We asked many times, “God, why do some adult minds slowly decay, reducing strong capable adults to vegetables?” It’s so unfair. Understanding the science of dementia helped us, some. However, the question still burned, “God, how could Dementia or Alzheimer’s be part of your perfect plan?”

Searching for answers in the Bible I found one verse that addresses the decline of the human body as it ages; Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 talks about the deterioration of our vision, hearing, thinking and physical strength. However, it doesn’t address Dementia or Alzheimer’s like conditions. My husband and I, independent from each other, came to a place of peace where we humbly accepted God’s design and tried to lay our questions down before Him; we chose to have faith. Honestly, there were days when we’d start questioning God again making our selves miserable. But we’d always came back to a mindset of faith instead of disillusionment, finding comfort in God’s presence.

The absence of verses concerning Alzheimer’s or Dementia doesn’t mean God has nothing to say about the struggles and pain families and their loved ones go through when a parent’s mind deteriorates. The Bible promises that in the midst of our pain God offers us hope, comfort, and guidance. He hears our cries and understands our broken hearts. I also believe He is with our loved ones as they lose their ability to reason because His Word says He will never leave us nor forsake us; Deuteronomy 31:6. This has to mean He is with our loved ones all the way through the progression of these terrible diseases

Over the years we’ve seen God keep His promises too many times to list; He answered our prayers and comforted our battered hearts. A little over a year ago we needed to find a home that offered full care: bathing, dressing, toileting, etc. The home also needed to have a room large enough for both my in-laws, their two lift chairs, and their beds. Several homes suggested they separate and have their own rooms. My mother in-law would not hear of this, being separated from her husband of over 65 years was not an option; this was sweet and understandable. The new home also needed to be affordable. We found the perfect home where loving care was provided, my in-laws were happy, and it was affordable. God answers prayers!

This is my favorite answered prayer. Over the last year my father in-law slowly lost his ability to communicate. On occasions he’d say random words but mostly he lay quietly in bed. One day my husband was praying on his way to visit and asked God if he could hear his dad’s voice once more. During the visit my husband chatted with his mom then went over to his dad’s bed and spoke to him for a few minutes. Just before leaving my husband said, “I love you dad” his dad responded clear as a bell, “I love you too son.” God is good and faithful!

My father in-law passed away this week. He is at peace. His mind has been restored. We are grateful his struggle is over and thankful for God’s comfort during these long and difficult years.

Here are two verses I especially like.

Isaiah 46:4And I will still be carrying you when you are old. Your hair will turn gray, and I will still carry you. I made you, and I will carry you to safety.” I love the image of God carrying my father in-law to safety in heaven; what a comfort!

Isaiah 49:13Shout for joy you heavens; rejoice you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.”

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Well Done My Faithful Servant!

purpose

This is it. We have one life to be our very best.
To make the most of every day; to live our lives with zest,
To value most the things that last; to not be easily daunted,
To focus hard on good and right and blessings God has granted.
Though life is sometimes filled with trials; still what a gift it is!
There’s always good, if we’ll just look, for God is in our midst!

Each day live life like there’s no more, with purpose and intent,
With focus on relationships and in them, always give.
For when we reach our final hour, that’s all we’ll care about,
Not all the things that we acquired or a big bank account.
Did we love with all our heart? …Did we pour out kindness?
Did we forgive when we were wronged, like God’s forgiven us?

God has a special purpose, that He designed you for,
And you have gifts and talents, that should not be ignored.
For you can make a difference in this lost and lonely world,
And you are valued by our God, like gems and precious pearls.
We weren’t created to exist in passive isolation,
But we were made to grow and share Almighty God’s salvation.

When morning breaks take time to pause; commit the day to God,
Decide to bloom where you are planted and on each problem, trod.
Don’t be defined by past mistakes, but rather learn from them,
And you will blossom in your life and truly overcome!
Pride will never bring true gain… but it will bring a fall,
For there is nothing we can do, that God does not control.

Oh Father help us see in life, the things that really matter.
Help us fulfill Your glorious call and raise a victor’s banner!
Help us know our purpose, and help us see our gifts,
Help us rise when we could fall; pour courage into us.
Then on that day, when we stand before our God and Maker,
We’ll hear the words come from our God “Well done my faithful servant!”

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

O Holy Night and the meaning of Christmas

 

birth-of-jesus

Merry Christmas friends. May God’s blessings be on you and your family; may God’s peace fill your soul.

O Holy Night is one of my favorite Christmas carols because of the deep truths within its lyrics. Every time I hear them my spirit is reminded of the magnificence of God’s love for humanity. The lyrics are poetic yet clearly convey the message of Jesus’s birth; “when He appeared the soul felt its worth.” I stand in awe at the beauty of this truth; only God’s love reveals to us our souls worth, this is amazing.

Hope. We all need hope. To me it feels like the world is in chaos, seldom does the nightly news leave me feeling hopeful for the future. In fact, it feels like the world is plunging into darkness. Even though the world appears to be heading in the wrong direction, there is hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise at the birth of Jesus. Rejoice in this truth and find hope in the fact that God does keep His promises. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.”

A good friend; we all need a good friend. Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you. He was born in a manger and lived as a man; he understands first hand our earthly struggles. “The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; In all our trials born to be our friend.” Jesus will stay by our side and walk with us through difficult times, offering hope and purpose through His Word.

We all desire to be accepted faults and all and to have our deepest needs understood by another. God knows our needs and our weaknesses, yet loves us; accepting us completely. “He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger” Isn’t it wonderful to be accepted and valued by God!

Christianity is a religion of love and forgiveness because of Jesus’s birth. His birth gave humanity a new and radicle code of conduct that said put other’s needs above your own; all of humanity are children of God; forgive as you have been forgiven, and love God with your whole heart. “Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.”

The beauty of these lyrics lies in how accurately they reflect God’s love through the birth of Jesus. We are blessed beyond measure to have such a loving God and savior. A savior who loves us even though we constantly mess up in our Christian walk. We are blessed to have a God who knows the value of our souls, even when we don’t. This Christmas, let’s stand in awe at the magnificence of God’s love.

A blessing for you this Christmas season and the new year.

May your soul know its worth through Jesus Christ. May you know hope. May you have a faithful friend that will never leave you nor forsake you. One who loves you even though they know your weaknesses. May you know peace, the peace that passes all understanding.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Here are the lyrics for O Holy Night.

O Holy Night The stars are brightly shining It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth Long lay the world in sin and e’er pining ‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees O hear the angels voices. O night divine O night when Christ was born O night divine, O night, O night divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming, With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand. So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming, Here came the wise men from Orient land. The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger, Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend! Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever, His power and glory evermore proclaim. O night divine, O night, O night divine.

Adolphe Charles Adam

THE FAVOR OF GOD

mary

Have you ever pondered the life that Mary, mother of Jesus must have experienced? This topic has been on my mind lately while considering how true it is, that God’s ways are not our ways.  The bible says that Mary was favored by God since she was chosen to give birth to the Messiah. Yet, if Mary had been born in modern times, in our age of quick fixes and instant gratification; I doubt many of us would see her as favored.

Consider some of the difficulties in Mary’s life and keep in mind that she was mother to the promised Messiah…The King. Mary an ordinary girl, found herself pregnant before marriage due to no action of her own; a socially devastating situation back then. She had to travel approximately 80 miles on a donkey during the last month of her pregnancy which was an undeniable hardship.  Mary gave birth in a sheep’s  stall rather than in a warm and comfortable room; not exactly what you’d expect for the son of God. When Jesus was a toddler, they fled to Egypt with little notice to hide from King Herod; doesn’t it seem strange that the Son of God would have to run from anyone? Mary and her family didn’t live a life of privilege but rather she was of ordinary income and was married to a simple carpenter. That too seems backward; after all shouldn’t the Son of God live a life of luxury? Think of a mother’s heart as Mary watched her son rise to amazing prominence and then with no notice, her boy became scorn and shame. This poor mom watched as her son was tortured, ridiculed, and killed as a common thief even though he was innocent and even though he was the Messiah.
Her life sounds much harder than most of us will ever know.
This life is the one that God called “favored.”

God could have easily shown her our type of favor every step of the way and made her life easy but He didn’t, he let her live life with all its imperfections and hardships. The reality is, looking BACK on her life as a whole… she WAS greatly blessed and favored.

If an angel stood before me today and said “Greetings woman, you are greatly favored by God.” I would probably think that from the moment the statement was uttered, all would be well in my life and everything I put my hand to would be quickly blessed. That even riches would be bestowed upon me and my family, and that my children would prosper and be blessed. BUT…that is an incredibly short sighted view and a byproduct of our culture of self-gratification.
Our God isn’t a product of any one generation and instead always sees the whole, complete picture and simply doesn’t measure blessings or success by day to day events.

Mary was blessed even though a lot of her life was hard. After all, she has a fantastic place in history that no other woman can ever share and her son still lives and is still performing miracles in people’s lives.
That my friend is being favored by God!

When life is hard and circumstances fall short of expections; when we feel rejected or struggle with a trial; if money is tight and needs aren’t being met, it doesn’t mean that God’s favor isn’t with us.
If our heart is right before God, we can be assured that we are exactly where our great God wants us and our outcomes (the end of the story) will be beautiful too.  Remember God’s ways are not our ways: they are far higher than anything we can comprehend.

This Christmas, when need and want are paramount and short term blessings weigh heavily upon our hearts; let’s ask the Lord for eyes to see life through His eyes and to not be discouraged by day to day hardship. Let’s walk on the lie of instant gratification and follow Mary’s example, of hiding the truth in her heart and waiting patiently on God to demonstrate His favor in her life.

May the true favor and blessings of Almighty God be upon you and yours this Christmas season.

By Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Thankful for the Bible

Bible

I love Thanksgiving. Could there be a more meaningful reason to share a meal than to purposefully remember our blessings collectively? Using our precious time to consider how blessed we are is inspiring.   This year while considering what I’m thankful for my thoughts went someplace they haven’t in the past. I realized how grateful I am for the Bible and what a gift God has given us in His word. He didn’t say, “Honor me” then leave us to figure out how to do that on our own. He gave us an instruction manual on how to navigate a growing relationship with The God of the universe. Through His Word we can gain understanding about the nature of God.

Personally, over the years I’ve had seasons of reading and studying the Bible and seasons where I’ve neglected it entirely. Usually, my seasons of neglect are triggered by disappointment in God. Oh, that sounds so arrogant, but it’s true, I’ve been disappointed and mad at God for not answering an important prayer or for letting a bad situation happen. And instead of drawing closer to Him and His Word I became self-protective and angry. My harsh judgments against God created a divide in our relationship that hindered my prayer life and my interest in reading the Bible. I moved away from God because of my lack of faith.

Over time, I became aware of how hard my heart was becoming. After asking God to forgive me, my heart softened and I was drawn back to prayer and reading the Bible and in reading the Bible I was reminded that God’s wisdom is not my own. That all things work out for the good for those who love the Lord. That He promises to never leave me nor forsake me; which is much more than I can say for myself. Then there is Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

I’m grateful for a God who actually listens to my prayers. I’m grateful for a God who always answers my prayers even if I don’t understand the answer. Psalm 66:19 says, “But certainly God has heard; He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.” And when I struggle with my faith because of my lack of understanding I can go to the Bible and find reassurance that He is still on His heavenly throne.

It is a daunting task for us humans to attempt to understand God and His precepts. However, it’s an impossible task if we don’t read the Bible. I’ve had conversations with really bright people who pontificate about who God is and what the true significance of the Bible is to modern man. They wax poetically about deep and spiritual thoughts that create a God who is little more significant than humans. They seem to have it all figured out.

I listen patiently, waiting for the right moment to interject a few questions I feel are important, “Have they read the Bible for themselves? Have they studied the Bible to see who it says God is?” The truth is, we can’t gain personal understanding of God without reading the Bible. If we neglect studying it there is no way we can make an informed decision about who God is and what His relevance is in the world today.

Many people ask how the Old Testament, which can seem brutal and ancient in customs, could be relevant in our lives today. The answer is found in the very imperfect nature of the Old Testament heroes. They are flawed, like you and me, but choose to continue to honor God through failure, difficult and bleak situations. Their stories encourage us to keep serving God even though we’ve failed miserably in our Christian walk.

The New Testament shows us how to live each day in the grace of Jesus’ forgiveness. How to put others needs before our own and how to forgive because we’re forgiven. The New Testament is filled with life giving wisdom if we’re willing to read it and put into practice what it teaches.

This Thanksgiving and Christmas season my heart is thankful for the Bible and the deep spiritual wisdom and understanding that it offers us, God’s children, if we make time in our busy lives to read and study the Word of God.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

 

In Stormy Gale, Our God Is There!

jesus wheel

The vessel shook as each wave hit, its bulwarks bowed and strained
The hull cried out in strong protest; the sounds were that of pain
The ship’s alarms rang out the news that they were in distress
The sky was lost to storm and waves and lighting flashed and hit
Ice clung in shapes that looked like creatures crawling from the deep
The deck was washed in white sea-foam; the wind hurled snow and sleet
The rigging cried in its abuse, the tie downs all were breaking
And chaos reigned, the darkness pressed, the crew felt small; like nothing
Some men stayed frightened in their bunks, while others worked and prayed
The Captain stood strong at the wheel, his focus true and brave
The storm kept beating at the ship and each blow took its toll
As it grew heavy from the ice, it struggled with each roll.

The vessel took on water, the pumps strained with the load
The walls of water hit so hard destruction was foretold
The crew prayed hard and stronger, as hopes light flickered dim
The Captain prayed from deep within and sang loud an old hymn
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul
But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait
The sky, not the grave, is our goal”
As he sang out louder, his heart grew full of faith
And hope lit up his fearful heart and joy took sorrows place.

He gripped the wheel and faced the storm, with a brand new strength
And prayed; O God please bring this boat, to a place that’s safe
Hold these men in Your great hands; part these thunderous waves
For if You save us from this storm, we’ll live to share Your praise
You are a God of miracles; The sea hears Your command
But ne’rtheless I trust You; we rest in Your great hands
I will not fear a hungry sea, for by Your hand I’m saved
And whether life or death prevails, my soul in You remains
For You alone are sovereign, You know what is in store
I humbly bow before Thee and trust, though this storm roars
A sweet rest filled his spirit; a peace from heaven fell
He let the Lord take all control; his soul before God knelt.

Jesus took the Captain’s hands and guided him that night
And as the crippled boat neared land a beam came into sight
The Captain wept and stared in awe; he knew that lighthouse well
The broken boat would make it home, though they had been through hell
The crew fell down onto their knees and worshiped God almighty
And vowed to tell all who had ears, about their wondrous story
They knew there was a reason, that God still gave them breath
The veil had fallen from their eyes because of this hard test
Almighty God’s our lighthouse, a beacon in the dark
For He alone commands our storms, and brings us safe to port.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

It is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford

Are You There God?

 

???????

Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

 

Are you there God, listening to my prayer?

Can you see my breaking heart?

Do you care God, that my strength is gone?

My body and mind are numb.

 

Are you there God, listening to my prayer?

Can you see my parents, ravaged with dementia?

Drooling and muttering, not knowing my name.

I no longer exist to them.

 

Are you there God, listening to my prayer?

Can you see my friend lost in mental illness?

Homeless, clueless, mad at the world

Unable to make decisions for his own best interest.

 

Are you there God, listening to my prayer?

Diligently I work, giving my all

While others refuse to contribute

Then take credit for the results as their own.

 

Are you there God, listening to my prayer?

My loved one is addicted and lives in denial

It’s always someone else’s fault

They’ve mastered the art of victimhood.

 

Are you there God, Listening to my prayer?

The world is crazy, out of control.

Good is called evil and evil good.

Those who speak truth are shunned.

Those who speak lies are called leaders.

 

I cry out to God, my heart is breaking.

God, do you hear my prayer?

Are you aware of my loved ones pain?

Please show me that you are there.

 

God answers in His word

Yes, I am here

I am near the brokenhearted and save the crushed in spirit.

I will wipe away every tear from your eye.

 

I am your fortress and high tower

I will wrap my wings for protection around you

My power is made perfect in weakness

I will never leave you nor forsake you

 

I will renew your strength.

You will soar on wings like eagles;

You will run and not grow weary,

You will walk and not be faint.

 

God is our refuge and strength,

An ever-present help in trouble.

Even in darkness my light shines.

Yes, I am with you.  I am Here.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Take Every Thought Captive

Take every thought captive and you will stand strong
Resist all temptation to fixate on wrongs.
Focus on things that are good, pure, and true,
With a heart that is thankful and mind that’s renewed.
We must stay alert to our thoughts and dark musings
Or they’ll take control and like mountains, stand looming.
They’ll shadow the light that God always shines
The light that brings hope into hearts and to minds.

Negative thoughts run us down rabbit holes
And Its hard to get out, for the thoughts take control.
They cover God’s truth and seep through the mind
And to everything lovely, the eyes become blind.
Allowing our thoughts to grow negative roots
Will taint every word and produce ugly fruit.
They will rob needed sleep and waste precious time
And Satan just smiles for we bought his lie.

Focus your mind on things worthy of praise
Renewing your mind in the Lord every day.
Be constantly thankful, let joy set the tone
For negative thoughts will dry up our bones.
If we will just trust Him and see through His eyes
With hearts full of worship to our God on high.
The peace that surpasses all man’s understanding
Will rule in our hearts over negative rantings.

Let your heart not be troubled, do not be afraid
For we are God’s children so don’t be dismayed.
Take every thought captive in line with God’s truth
Confess sin and failings and His peace will ensue.
Press on to the goal that we have through Christ
And bless Father God with our thoughts, words, and lives.
Help us oh Lord to recall Your commands
So we might obey and in holiness stand.

May we hear our own words; may we become wise
So we see ourselves through Your holy eyes.
We extol You our God; bless Your name forever
Array us in hope no matter the weather.
May the words of our heart and our meditations
Be acceptable to You our Savior; Redeemer.
We bow before You, the King of all Kings
May Your light fill our hearts and Your peace fill our dreams.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen
.

A Renewing

man grateful 

A Renewing

When waves of adversity crash down upon you.

When your heart is heavy with concern.

When the future is uncertain and your path unclear.

When relationships once full of joy are heavy with despair.

When your belief has waned and your mind is numb.

When your soul is overwhelmed.

 

Call out to God.

He will hear you.

 

Lay your head upon His shoulder.

He will wrap His arms around you.

Tell Him your courage is gone.

He will renew your strength.

 

Open your wounded heart to Him

He will heal it.

Give Him your despair.

He will give you peace.

Give Him praise.

He will give you joy.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Isaiah 40:31

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Arise and Shine!

lighthouse

Arise, shine for your light has come
The glory of the Lord has risen upon
The weary soul, the broken hearted
The overwhelmed and those in darkness.

The Lord your God is here with you
True Love and joy He offers you
A mighty warrior; our shield and sword
Lift His name high in one accord.

Almighty God; He is our strength
Our source of courage in times of pain
He gives us feet to scale the heights
He lights our path and gives us sight.

The Lord will hide you in His wings
An awesome fortress; our Mighty King
He is our shield; a towering wall
A loving God who hears our call.

The great Redeemer; He will come
To those who humbly trust His Son
He’ll level mountains in our way
He will bring justice on that day.

God will accomplish all He’s planned
No evil stands before His hand
Just stop and think that He’s YOUR God
To Him you’re precious though we are flawed.

Oh fear not in the darkest hour
Our mighty Savior will give you power
To walk on trouble, trials, and fear
For in His name Victory is here!

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

God’s Amazing Grace

cross in sunset

  Grace: Unmerited divine assistance given

Humans for their regeneration or sanctification.

 A virtue coming from God.

 

Grace from above pours over me.

Spilling freely from God’s never ending cup.

Washing clean my darkened mind, bringing rest to my soul.

 

His healing ointment of grace soothes away

My guilt and shame, restoring peace to my spirit

Setting me free from the bondage of sin.

 

My arms open wide to receive His grace.

It envelops me inside and out.

I kneel and weep at His feet for a forgiveness underserved.

 

God’s abundant grace releases me

From the stifling power of fear

Freeing me from the whispering lies of insecurity.

 

His grace filled Word offers hope and strength

Replacing all condemnation from the past

Freeing me to be creative, loving, forgiving.

 

I’m loved by God, with all my flaws.

He values me as a precious jewel.

He has plans to prosper me and give me hope.

 

God’s grace has the power to change my life,

Heal relationships and mend my broken heart.

God’s amazing grace sets me free from the past.

 

Amazing grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now I’m found

Was blind but now I see.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Don’t Wish Away Your Life

It’s easy to find ourselves at any age, in a state of discontent.  Most often, the grass really isn’t greener on the other side and the other side will bring its own set of problems.  The best way to prosper in this imperfect life is to be thankful for what we have and for each stage of life because it goes by far too quickly. This is my least spiritual poem, but its a message that applies to all. My own Dad, said to me many times, “Don’t wish away your life.” Those are true words of wisdom.

Her 18th birthday was getting close but not quite close enough
For she could hardly wait to be free of childish stuff
She couldn’t wait to leave for college, to head down her own path
To begin to live the future and be free of Mom and Dad
No parents breathing down her neck, no teachers keeping tabs
A truly independent girl, giving life a stab.

Her Daddy always told her, “Don’t wish your life away
But savor every moment for time quickly slips away”
She thought those words were silly for tomorrow’s always better
And on she marched at a fast pace, thinking she was clever
But then she realized the stress of keeping up her grades
Of barely having money and dealing with roommates
She focused on the stresses; blind to what was good
Getting out of school… was all she understood.

She dreamt of something different; she was tired of her life
She thought if she found something new, true happiness she’d find
Forgetting her Dad’s warning, she wished away her days
Before she knew what happened, graduation came
She thought “Life will be easy now and I’ll have lots of money
And married life will give me days that always will be sunny”
Her Daddy always told her, “Don’t wish away your life
But enjoy every moment for discontentment will bring strife.”

Her new job was a hassle her boss was less than nice
And marriage wasn’t all she dreamed; sometimes she felt like ice
She knew her hopes were failing; she didn’t know just why
But as she sat and pondered a little voice replied
“Be thankful for each moment, don’t wish away your life
For life is never perfect; discontentment will bring strife
Be thankful for each blessing and focus on what’s right
For bad things always live beside what’s good and what is bright
So rest when things aren’t what you thought, enjoy each stage of life
And you will shine in a dark world as a ray of light.”
Rhonda Shelford Jansen

The Healing of a Wounded Soul

                Healing the wounded soul          

Amy let out a guttural growl followed by a loud “darn it!” Protectively, she wrapped her wounded finger tightly with the other hand, applying pressure hoping to alleviate the pain. Her frustration level was already high today. The kids were ornery and her husband Chuck appeared to be deliberately employing every last irritating quality he had.   Accidentally smacking her already injured finger on the counter’s edge was the end of her rope. She could feel the irritation boiling up inside; a full hissy-fit was about to erupt. “Family hide”, she thought, “I’m one unpleasant women right now.”

While running cold water over the offended finger hoping to minimize the pain,  Amy realized the house had grown strangely quiet. “Odd” she thought “they were just here deliberately bugging me.”  Putting some crushed ice in a zip-lock bag she headed to the family room for a little rest; the house was still quiet. Her mommy instincts said it would be wise to see where everyone went, but she didn’t want to, she wanted peace and quiet.

Lying down on the couch she propped up her right hand on a pillow. The pain was subsiding a bit however, her irritation was not. Lately, Chuck had been difficult, prickly like a Sea anemone, reacting to everything negatively. At first Amy had given him grace, after all his career had hit a difficult patch. But instead of receiving her grace with the minutest amount of gratefulness, he’d became more difficult. Amy’s feelings were hurt. She believed her reaction to his prickly mood would be different, maybe her patience greater, if they hadn’t been through so many difficult years already. Amy felt used up and tired. Why couldn’t Chuck just grow-up, mature, evolve, become a better man; and stay that way instead of lapsing back into old negative patterns?

Her finger began to throb even with ice on it and she wondered if it was broken; the house was still quiet. Laying there absorbed in her pain a thought wiggled its way into her considerations. Her wounded finger was much like her relational wounds with Chuck. Both wounds were easily injured and each time it seemed to take longer for them to heal. Truth is, sometimes the reinjured wound hurt more than the original one. “How many times do I have to forgive the same old bad behavior” she stewed. “God, I don’t want to forgive him again, please help me, I know it’s the right thing to do.”

An uncomfortable thought floated across Amy’s mind. “How many times has God forgiven you for the same sin?” “Is your intolerant reaction to Chuck’s bad behavior equally bad behavior?” Amy didn’t like this thought, it put way too much responsibility on her; after all Chuck was the one with issues. This self-righteous attitude didn’t last long, she could feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Again, “Is your reaction to Chuck’s bad behavior also sinful behavior?” She thought about all the self-righteous thoughts she’d had and the disrespectful words uttered in response to his prickly behavior. Painfully, it dawned on her that her own destructive behavior could be hindering both of their emotional and spiritual healing.

“Oh God please forgive me; forgive me for not forgiving as you forgave me. Forgive me for being such a hypocrite. Please help me to see Chuck as you see him. Please help me treat him in a way that honors you. I’m sorry God, I didn’t realize how out of line I was.” Amy knew she needed to ask Chuck’s forgiveness and that was going to be tough.

“Why aren’t you holding Chuck accountable for his bad behavior?” she complained to God, even though she knew the answer. Everyone is responsible for their own behavior, it’s the only behavior we can control. “Ok God, I’ll humble myself and ask for forgiveness.”

Suddenly the kids and Chuck appeared with a bouquet of flowers freshly picked from the yard and some homemade cards. Stunned, she asked, “What’s this?” “We’re sorry for being ornery today, will you forgive us?” Yes, of course I will. Thank you kids.” Now it was Chucks turn.  He approached her with one beautiful red rose, got down on his knees and said, “Honey, I’m sorry for being such a negative guy lately, please forgive me.” Amy stared at him for a few moments then did what she knew she must. “I forgive you honey, but will you also forgive me; I’ve been harsh and disrespectful toward you.” Chuck looked at her and said, “I’ve waited years to hear you say that. Yes, I forgive you.”

An uncomfortable sensation enveloped Amy. “He’s been waiting years to hear me say that? He thinks I’m the one with issues!” She started to laugh and the kids and Chuck looked confused at her reaction. “We’re all such nuts,” she said “perfectly imperfect nuts and blessed beyond measure to have each other and God’s unmerited grace.”

May you be humbled with God’s gentle hand of correction and may you know you’re blessed to have an imperfect family that loves you.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

GOD IN THE WIND

The wind it thunders, roars, and sighs
Though unseen by the natural eye
It smashes waves upon the shore
And tosses ships like little toys
The wind it topples trees like straw
With howling noise and thunderous awe
It crushes houses and strips the land
Without permission from mortal man.

Radio Waves whirling by
Unseen by the natural eye
Carrying words, pictures, and cries
To our homes and in our lives
Dancing in the air around us
Ever present; walking by us
Though man can’t touch them with his hands
They swallow up our air and land.

So why is it hard to believe
That God is real though eyes can’t see
For He surrounds us every day
In all we do, in all we say
Transforming lives in you and me
He mends our hearts and sets us free
From the Earth, he designed man
He reads our hearts; knows hidden plans.

God alone commands the wind
Then calms a storm with the lift of His hand
He orders planets in their place                                                                             He rules the world with wisdom and grace                                                     He sets up Kings to rise or fall
He renders justice great and small
Know He is real; He is Alive
And know this day, He changes lives.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Quiet Before the Lord

           Quiet beford the lord

Over the last six months my emotional strength has been withered down to a nub. During this time most of my significant relationships have been challenged in ways I could have never imagined and I’m tired.  Blindsided would best describe the way I’m feeling right now or maybe like a deer caught in the headlights; one of my husband’s favorite analogies. If someone had asked me to list the ten most likely things to happen in the next six month my list wouldn’t have included any of the current situations.

Just a few days ago I was talking with my sister and she gave me some really good advice, she said; “be quiet before the Lord, you don’t have to carry the burden or be strong all on your own.” Her statement made me question why it’s so hard for me to be quiet before the Lord; it’s such a simple thing to do, right?

She said, be quiet before the Lord … mmm. Attempting to follow her suggestion I sat down to pray and within a few minutes the phone rang. After the call ended I return to praying; then out of the corner of my eye I notice a dust bunny and it starts to nag at me. I get up, quickly take care of the offending object. Quiet before the Lord. I will my mind to be still and then I remember I had forgotten to feed the dogs and I rush into the garage to feed the poor dears.

Quiet before the Lord.

Why is it so hard to be quiet before the Lord? I’ve been searching my heart and mind to answer this question and I believe the reason is I’m in a state of questioning God. I’m questioning why bad things happen to the innocent and whether God actually answers my prayers. I’m wondering if He has abandoned my family and these questions are keeping me from entering into a state of calm or quiet before the Lord.

Quiet before the Lord.

Realizing that to be quiet before the Lord I needed to be honest with myself and God, I told Him I was questioning some difficult issues, but quickly asked him to listen to my prayer even though I was in a terrible state. My spirit calmed when I admitted my struggles to Him. God seemed to be saying “its ok daughter, I understand your questions, life is tough, but I’m God and not hurt by your questions. Tell me your troubles and I will listen. Tell me your struggles and I will comfort you. Tell me about your pain and I will heal you.”

So I told God my troubles. I shared with Him in excruciating detail my troubles and questions. I said, “I’m questioning if you’re there listening to me. I’m wondering why bad things happen to little children. And why good people have terrible things happen to them. And why good families fall apart, or nice kids become drug addicts.”

Continuing, I added, “I find the concept that You created humans deliberately with all of our emotional weaknesses and quirkiness hard to fathom. However, if You created us, You must understand our weaknesses and appreciates our quirkiness.” During this honest prayer I remembered that He gave us the Bible loaded with answers if we take the time to read and contemplate it. And for the hard questions the Bible is silent on, faith and prayer are required. The Bible says if we diligently seek Him we will find Him. Am I diligently seeking Him or am I too consumed with my pain and questions to seek?

After laying all these issues before God I became quiet before the Lord. It wasn’t even hard. My mind slowed down and my thoughts focused on God. I was quiet before the Lord, freed by an honest prayer and sincere seeking. He didn’t send lightning bolts to strike me or give me a heart attack. He eased my pain, answered my questions, and hug me with deep spiritual peace.

Quiet before the Lord.

Yes, I can do that if first I’m willing to approach God with an honest heart that’s seeking truth.

May you rest quiet before the Lord.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

 

STAND UP

fear1

Stand up  stand up, don’t be afraid for God is with you now
The times are dark but you will shine as at His feet you bow
You may feel weak and timid; you may seem tired and lost
But know that you are strong through Him; the one who paid our cost
Do not shrink back from holiness; the future, do not fear
For as you stand, He’ll cover you; your chains will disappear.

Trust God inside life’s battles; Fix all your hope on Him
Don’t run ahead and fix things, wait on Him instead
He lets His children struggle, to change our stubborn hearts
He stretches us and molds us, to Godly works of art
Be not conformed unto this world, don’t seek the easy way
For if our savior did that, we’d still be lost today.

Stand strong and courageous; obey God’s holy word
For when the way is darkened then you will stand assured
For we’re His mighty army, we’re here to take the land
We’re salt unto a dying earth; an extension of God’s hand
So fear not in the battle; our fight is not with man
For satan is the liar that seeks to crush God’s plan.

But our God reigns eternal; the battle He has won
And one day soon all knees will bow as darkness becomes dawn
Shout out to Him your worship; exalt Him in the land
Lets open wide our hardened hearts and be clay in His hands
All glory, praise, and honor, belongs to Him alone
The holy one who conquered sin, let’s bow before His throne!

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

The Comfort of God

 ocean path

I know God is real. I know God is ever present. I know God loves and cares about me and yet, when I see his hand undeniably present in my life I’m humbled beyond measure. Last weekend my husband and I had the privilege of seeing God directly comfort us in a time of trouble and I want to share our story with you so you can be blessed by it too and be reminded that God’s ever present hand of comfort is always on His children.

Like many families, we have a relative who struggles with mental illness. In our family it’s my husband’s oldest brother. He has struggled with the demons of that terrible disease most of his adult life. The difficult job of helping him navigate the world was filled by his parents and different government services. That is until their bodies gave way to old age and their minds crumbled under the curse of dementia.

For the last four years my husband and I have stepped in and taken over for his parents attempting to keep his brother safe, housed, and following the rules of different social services. As many of you know, some mentally ill people aren’t big on following rules and in fact can view them as an enemy. So when my husband would encourage his brother to clean his apartment so he wouldn’t be kicked out he was met with verbal abuse. Caring for an adult mentally ill sibling is not of easy. Caring for elderly parents with dementia is heart wrenching and stressful. Caring for both at the same time requires help from God!

Eventually he was kicked out of his apartment and spent a few months living in the local Gospel Mission until finally an agency found him a small apartment in a seedy part of town. We moved him in, warned him to follow the rules or he would lose this apartment, too. Within a year he was kicked out and once again living in the Gospel Mission.

The thing about staying at the mission is there is a limit to the length of time one is allowed to stay and my brother in-law’s time was up yesterday. I’ve spent hours calling different agencies seeking shelter for him; but the truth is he’s burned every bridge within these organizations. One lady who has dealt with him for years said the most loving thing we can do is let him fall; let him live on streets. It’s the best way to help him understand that he needs help from others and he must comply with the rules.

As you can imagine, my husband was consumed with guilt and grief about his brother, we talked frequently about what we should/could do? We wondered what our responsibility before God was. My husband was weighed down by the responsibility of both his brother and his parents.

Seeking a little relief from the stress we went to the ocean for the weekend. Sunday morning while walking down a trail high above the beach we happened upon a group of women singing “How Great Is Our God” our hearts were touched and we continued walking, quietly singing the song to ourselves. A sense of worshipfulness filled us both. Once we descended the stairs to the beach, we headed to the hard packed sand, and there written in large letters was ‘Psalm 46:1’. Curious, my husband looked up the verse on his phone and read out loud, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” We both cried. God was wrapping us in a big God hug through His word.

But wait, there’s more. Monday morning before work my husband was reading the Bible and randomly decided to read from a book he’s never read before. Looking at the list of minor profits he decided to read from Nahum, possibly the most obscure book of the Old Testament. Turning to Nahum his eyes landed on Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.” Tears welled up in his eyes, yes, God was hugging him.

What a personal God we have! God knew my husband and I needed extra comfort and strength; that we were at the end of our own and in love God wrapped His strong arms around us through His word. God is good even when life is tough. As Christians we aren’t promised a trouble free life; we suffer like all other humans. What we are promised is God’s comfort and wisdom while going through our very human existence. My brother in-law is out on the streets and my in-laws won’t find healing until they’re in heaven. Even though this is true, a greater truth is God is with us, comforting us, hugging us.

Debora Shelford-Hobbs

 

Our God: The Great I AM

mountain

A wind so warm and balmy blew my cares away
The sunlight shining on my face filled me with hope today
The rhythm of the rolling waves was music to my soul
And made me stop and marvel… that God is in control.

I sat and watched the sunlight sparkle on the dancing leaves
I watched the wind invite the trees to sway with grace and ease
I saw majestic mountains, standing strong and sure
And knew our God is great indeed and we can feel secure.

Standing in a field of snow, sparkling like fine jewels
Moonlight on a silent bay brought reverence to my soul
Surrounded by earth’s fragrance, while walking through the woods
Reminded me that God loves us and created all for good.

The thunder roared the lightning flashed in God’s display of might
The rain it washed a dirty land and brought forth brand new life
The clouds in all their glory swept soft across the sky
And sunrise bright with pink and orange cut through the darkest night.

Our God is great and mighty, creator of all things
And one day soon all Earth will sing its praises to our King.
For every knee will bow down on Earth and in the heavens
Singing praises to the King, as He breaks all oppression.

Our world may shake and tremble and darkness may abound
But know that our Creator is still upon His throne
He does not sleep nor slumber, He does not turn away
This mighty awesome savior is with us in the fray
So do not fear the darkest night nor trouble in the land
Our God is still the great I Am and holds us in His hands.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

A Letter of Joy

                    Letter of Joy

Tears slid down Leanna’s face while she read the ESPN article about her brother’s life. She knew the story was coming out, they’d interviewed her for it, but somehow it still hurt. Ben had been brilliant, charming, a gifted strategist, and a hard worker; a coaching superstar. The talking heads proclaimed him virtually unstoppable, at the top of his game and predicted he’d move on to the NFL soon. With remarkable speed Ben had scaled the equivalent of Mount Everest in the coaching world; coaching football at a Top 10 University. Leanna’s mind drifted back in time reliving the excitement of watching him coach; he’d been so passionate and animated, a sideshow worth watching. Rubbing her weeping eyes she squinted once again at the computer screen.

Eventually all coaches hit a losing streak that shakes their confidence and leaves them questioning their sanity. Ben’s losing streak found him unprepared and ill-equipped to handle the stress. Many coaches seek counseling or religion to deal with it, but Ben chose to find solace in booze. The truth is, he’d been using alcohol as a coping tool for years; a life pattern had been set. Unfortunately after the losing streak ended, his drinking didn’t.   The respect he once held with other coaches on his team began to diminish and before long he was on probation. For a while Ben was able to hang onto his pinnacle position with the help of well-meaning coworkers, friends, and family who made excuses for his erratic behavior. Ultimately, he was fired and soon after that his wife filed for divorce. The golden boy was losing his sheen. A smaller university hired then fired him; a pattern that repeated itself many times over the next ten years.

Eventually, Ben found himself coaching a small, unknown team in Italy. It’s a long, lonely road from the top of the coaching world to the bottom and Ben’s decent had been a slow, painful, journey marked by failed coaching positions and relationships. He was self-destructive and it appeared to all his decent was unstoppable, and there it was written on the internet for all the world to read. She felt Ben’s life was being invaded and violated.

Leanna pressed back in her chair then stretched out like a starfish. It was so devastating having her brother’s life spread over the internet, waiting for judgment from all who read it. She could hear them saying, “what a loser, a mess, and a failure.” The article focused almost entirely on his faults as if there was nothing good left inside him. Over his ten year decent he’d gone to rehab twice and stayed sober for almost a year each time, but then something would trigger his addiction and he’d lose another job.

Ben and Leanna had had a tough childhood that left deep emotional scars on both. Leanna turned to Christianity to help heal those scares while Ben chose alcohol. He had been accepting of her faith and attended church with her when he visited. Thoughtful by nature, he sent her and the kids little trinkets from wherever he’d found work. He called regularly to see how she and the kids were doing, usually his words were slurred and his voice altered by the alcohol, but she was always grateful to hear his voice. Each phone call ended with her praying for him and the few times she’d forgotten to pray he’d say, “Aren’t you going to pray?” This warmed her heart and gave her hope. For Leanna’s part she’d send him Christian books about athletes who had turned their lives around by trusting God or music with a Christ centered message with hopes of softening his heart toward God. He read the books and would ask questions about the content, but never took the initial step toward belief in God.

The call notifying her of Ben’s death had come in the middle of the night. She would never forget the shock, disbelief, and bone crushing grief she felt at that moment. Leanna had laid in bed sobbing for hours mourning his life and his lost chance for redemption. The first week after Ben’s death she cried out God in frustration and disappointment, how could He let Ben die without saving him first. After a week of being mad at God and questioning His love she made an appointment to talk with her pastor. She needed answers.

How could she trust a God who didn’t answer the one prayer that lay deepest in her heart? Heading to the car for her appointment with the pastor she walked across the street to collect the mail. Absentmindedly thumbing through it she suddenly stopped. There tucked between the electric bill and junk mail was a letter from Ben. At first she just held it, as if holding her brother. Carefully she opened it not wanting to damage anything he’d touched. The letter started off newsy, his job was fine although the players were dumb as logs and slow as slugs. The food was good but his apartment was small and moldy. The second paragraph started with, “I’ve something to tell you that will make you happy, very happy. I’ve been rereading all those books you sent and started watching some preachers online and well, I’m saved now. For the first time in years my spirit feels light. Did you know that God loves you even when you’ve been a complete screw up? I have a father now, it’s God; couldn’t ask for a better father. We, you and I, couldn’t have a more faithful father, God is good. Thank you for praying for me all those years. I get it now.”

Leanna reached over and picked up Ben’s letter. “Let them talk, I know who you were. You were brilliant, thoughtful, sincere, and charming, a gifted strategist, a hard worker, and an amazing coach. But most of all you are my brother and a son of God, forgiven and renewed in Christ.” She turned off the computer realizing the letter in her hand, a gift from God, held all the info she needed to know about her brother. “Thank you God, you are faithful all the time.”

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Victory is Our Call!

victory

God has not abandoned you though you may feel He has
He sees a bigger picture that we can’t comprehend
So rest inside your trials, take a cleansing breath
Know that God is there with you, when life’s a swirling mess.

Sometimes the trials come in waves; they slap us to and fro
We pray with all our heart for change and cry out from our soul
We want the pain to stop right now and wonder why it’s there
It seems like prayers aren’t answered and feels like Gods not there.

But God is up to something, far greater than we know
He sees things through eternity; we see our weary souls
He uses the hot fire to cleanse and change our hearts
To make us more like Jesus so strongholds will depart.

We say we can’t take anymore; our strength is at its end
But that’s when God’s great power, will fill you from within
Let His strength wash over you; Let His courage fill your heart
And deeper faith will shine so bright into a world that’s dark.

Instead of closing off your heart and fainting with despair
Open wide your heart to God and tell him every fear
Ask for grace to face each day with fearless hearts that trust
Ask God to use the trials, for something pure and good.

So fear not in the trials; know God has a plan
Allow His strength to bear your yoke; unclench your weary hands
He loves you without waver and wants to see you whole
So trust Him in the fire and yield your heart and soul.

Good shall come if you will wait and walk in childlike faith
Surrendering your will and wants to God’s eternal ways
So face the storms with courage; stand up straight and tall
You are a child of the King and victory is your call!

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Stories from life, Words of encouragement, and Poetry to lift your soul.

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