Once You Were Strong


During the last few months life for my in-laws has changed radically.  They can no longer drive, both use walkers, both have mild dementia, and recently were moved into an assisted living community.  The poem below is inspired by their struggles with aging to the point of regression.

Once you were strong


 In control

 Doing things by yourself

Once you were king of your castle




Once you were busy




Once you were involved

With friends



Once you were independent


Paying bills

Planning activities

Taking care of others


Memories are sweet and seem more relevant than today

You are confused by the world

You wonder how you got so old

You long to drive again and mow the lawn

Yet enjoyment is found

Taking care of your dog

Visiting with anyone who will listen


You still care for others

By praying, you are always talking to God

I know God is listening

Thank you for taking care of us in your prayers.

Debora Shelford Hobbs



After years of a deeply troubled marriage, I began planning a divorce.  It was no longer a question of whether it was “better for the child” to stay in the marriage the sad truth was that it had progressed to a place where it was better for all to end it.  But God had different plans and through a crazy set of events, I unexpectedly became pregnant.  Needless to say I was devastated and spent hours crying, anguished because I now felt stuck in my unhappy marriage.  It broke my heart that I was bringing a second child into my dysfunctional home and wondered how my kids would be affected in the long run.  In that helpless state, I committed and submitted my life to Christ.  The changes in me were dramatic and I began praying for my family in a deep and determined way.  Our home and marriage began to heal and it seemed like God and I were on a constant honeymoon.  I experienced the love of God all around me every day and my marriage improved so much that we even had one more child.

Four years of constant improvement passed and I thought that we were headed toward a functional, happy marriage.  Unfortunately, a death in the family triggered old patterns and trouble began to resurface and threaten our marriage once again.  I constantly cried out to God to stop the trouble and to bring healing back into my home, but things only grew worse.  My faith was shaken and the close, childlike trust I had in the Lord began to cool.  To be honest, I felt that if God wasn’t constantly making things better in my life, that something was wrong and that He wasn’t there.  My prayers felt heavy and dead and my passion to serve Christ wavered.

At that time my oldest son was in 7th grade and was on the junior high basketball team.  During games his playing time averaged only 1-2 minutes.  Even though he scored each time he took the court, his coach frequently told him that “he really wasn’t a basketball player.” Every game, I sat there watching his confidence slip away a little more. Early in the season he tried hard and always made baskets during his short stint on the court. But as time went by he started avoiding the ball as though he didn’t know how to handle it anymore and didn’t even try to shoot.  My heart broke for him and I wondered what would come from the shaking of his confidence at 12 years.  He had already gone through so much with all of the marriage problems.  At that time, I was the President of the PTA and on great terms with the Principal. I knew it was possible to pull strings to get him more playing time but I resisted, knowing that would be an abuse of power, and fixing things for my son wasn’t a real healthy pattern to embark upon.  Instead, after each game we would talk through it and I did my best to encourage him to keep fighting and not give up.
I wish I could say that he came back the next year and eventually became a basketball star but that’s not the case. He never tried out for a basketball team again.   Not all lessons have the “perfect” ending.
Instead, we worked through the disappointment and insecurity of that season and he excelled in other sports. He learned the lifelong lesson to hold his head up when things don’t go the way he expects and if one door shuts, to look for another and go through it with all his might.

Soon after the basketball season, I was sitting at a stop light reflecting on how things had taken such a terrible turn in our home.  Audibly, I said to God “I feel like you have abandoned me and that you really do not love me or my family, if you did, why would you allow my marriage to slip back into these devastating, old patterns? It hurts my children and my marriage and certainly doesn’t glorify You and who You are.  I need You to show me that You do love me and my children, Otherwise I know my faith will not be sustained.”

In a flash God spoke to me, not audibly but so clear that it felt audible.  It was a question and answer session that ended with me knowing that God did love me in a far deeper way than I had previously understood.


He said:

“When you watched your beloved son running up and down the basketball court, watching his confidence slip away, and decided to let him walk through it, was it out of love or because you didn’t love him?
” I answered; “it was because I loved him and knew it was best for him to struggle through the situation even though my heart broke for him.”

“You had the power to fix it didn’t you, but you didn’t.  Is that because you didn’t love him?”
“No Lord, it’s because I loved him and didn’t want to demonstrate an abuse of power or that I would fix his tough times. I knew that wouldn’t be good for him in the long run.”

The Lord said to me “And I am sitting in the stands, watching you struggle on the basketball court of life, running up and down, sometimes losing confidence to the point that you don’t even want the ball, and my heart breaks for you.
Watching you every minute, I know I could jump in and fix this problem for you, but you will be a far greater person by struggling through, if you will only listen and heed My words of hope…you will grow out of this difficulty.
I am there to encourage you and show the way to become stronger because of what you have gone through if you will only seek me and ask.”

“Do you know now, that I love you and have not abandoned you?”

I said “Yes Lord” as tears streamed down my face.

By Rhonda Shelford Jansen

A Humble Heart


Blinders tight around my eyes fell softly to the ground
Misguided heart, embraced in truth, now soft with chains unwound
God’s patient love and tender word revealed to me this day
That unbeknownst to this poor soul; Pride took humbles’ place
I thought it my commission to bring justice, truth, and light
To strive for plans and goals, until they were in sight
 I had no ear to hear or see, that maybe it was I
That needed to lay down my way, for it had changed to pride
It’s not that knowledge, plans, and goals, in themselves are wrong
And sharing truth with love and grace brings honor to our God
The key’s to go about it with humility and love
Releasing all the outcomes to our One and only God
For even when our plans are right… we can still be wrong
When we force and use control, to ensure OUR will is done
For He controls the outcomes of all we say and do
And if Things go not as we plan, then humility will do
A humble heart that’s full of grace will wash away the pride
And keep a heart at rest, even when there’s strife
God wants to know that we hold loose to things that we desire
And trust Him without waver, if our plans go awry.

By Rhonda Shelford Jansen