Category Archives: School Struggles

Help Me Lord!

Prayer is powerful.   I believe that not only should we pour our hearts out to God with our cares and concerns  but we can also use the bible to frame our prayer life for every situation we are going through.  Below is an example  of taking scripture and turning it into a personal prayer.

 Help Me Lord!  A Prayer taken from 2 Samuel 22

O Lord my God, by the blast of your breath, split the darkness that has covered me; rescue me from above; draw me out of the deep waters – out of the darkness. Save me from the stranglehold of the enemy and all his power and circumstances that are too strong for me to fight alone.  For the enemy came upon me with a fury in the day of my calamity, but, O Lord, be my salvation, be my light, be my hope, be my future.  Make my darkness bright and may others see Christ in me.  Help me to get out of Your way and to quit trying to control outcomes. Help me to allow your holy spirit to work in my life and to change and mold me.  Use me for Your glory and rescue me and set me free by the power of Your glorious might.  For You are my salvation. 

 May I become Your delight and walk with righteousness before Your throne.  Break the strongholds that bind me and my family and set us free from the hurts of the past.  May we do good before Your face and be a great blessing to You. Thank you that You bore my shame and my despair and please carry it all for me.  For I am weak and tired and have no strength left to hide it or “put on a good face” 

May I once again, become Your delight. Give me skill to know how to fight this battle, help me to destroy the army that has come against me.  Give me the strength of the young and the strong; be my fortress and keep my family and me safe.

I Praise and exalt the rock of my salvation, I will sing praises to your name. For you are a glorious and powerful God.

I ask all of this in the holy and mighty name of Jesus Christ the holy son of God.  In Jesus name Amen.

 

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

 

A Strong Woman

 
Lately I’ve been wondering how our society defines a Strong Woman.  It seems to me there are many conflicting ideas about the definition and each conflicting idea is defined by a strong political or societal influence.  How on earth is a young woman supposed to define her self-image, personal moral code, ethics, and goals for the future when the world around her is sending destructive and confusing messages about how a women behaves?


TV, reality shows, church, community groups, movies, video games, books, newspapers, magazines, You-tube, blogs, the internet, and political parties all play a role in defining what our society envisions a strong woman to be.  My question is; do you have a firm definition for yourself?  Does your daughter, niece, cousin, or young neighbor have a clear image of who a strong woman is?  Think about it, I mean really consider it, you may find that the answer is not as easy as you initially thought.


The internet is full of images showing young female celebrities walking around with their bare fanny’s hanging out below the hemline of their skirts.  In my mind’s eye this is akin to the old nightmare where someone is standing in front of the classroom naked, only this is real, and on purpose.  Daily there are sexually explicit photos and riotous drug induced behaviors of female celebrities receiving attention from the news media and blogs.  Are these women Strong Women because they are acting without regard for traditional norms?  I don’t believe so.  I believe they’re enticing and encouraging our young women to behave immaturely, selfishly, and destructively.  Whether we want to admit it or not their bad behavior is impacting our young women’s definition of a Strong Woman.


Facebook has become a true confessions magazine where young women think nothing of posting pictures kissing each other or squeezing a friends breasts while holding a drink or joint in the other hand.  Are they emulating the celebrities?  Why do they think nothing of behaving badly and then recording it for everyone to see?


TV shows are full of women behaving badly. There is a current trend on TV to emphasize women who are selfish, rude, overly driven, demeaning to man, controlling, and mean.  Is this how we want our young women to behave?  No, it’s not, but they are with stars in their eyes and last night House-wives from somewhere running through their heads.  I’m afraid our young women are being misguided by these type of shows.

Within the political arena there are mixed messages about what a strong woman is.  The Democratic Party sends a message to our young women that is more socially liberal while the Republican Party sends a more conservative message.  They disagree on the definition of marriage, abortion, interpretation of freedom of speech, and what it means to stand on your own.


Now consider what the Bible says; it says work hard for your family and church, dress moderately, be humble, patient, and kind, put other’s needs above your own, forgive others, love your neighbor as yourself, and submit to your husband. 

So my question is; how do we as women create a stable definition of strong women when our world and our belief system are at odds?   Some people say the media doesn’t have a strong effect on our psyche but we all know millions of dollars are spent on marketing and ad campaigns because the media does affect our decisions.  The media does affect how our young women see themselves and behave.  I hope that we woman will catch a glimpse of how important it is to be an example to younger woman because the definition of a strong woman is so conflicted.  Each day our young women are struggling to define who and what they want to be.  Every day there are hundreds of conflicting images that our young women need to be able to filter as relevant or not relevant. As Strong Woman it is our duty to have a firm definition within our own belief system so we can help our young women define themselves as Strong, God Honoring, Women.

Proverbs 11:16 A kindhearted woman gains respect, but a ruthless man gain only wealth.


Proverbs 11:22 Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.


Debora Shelford Hobbs

Everyday Courage




Courage can be very visible.  When someone climbs Mt. Everest or jumps in the ocean to save another‘s life, we admire their courage.  The news media shows pictures of these amazing people while interviewing their neighbors who attest to their super human qualities.  However, courage is not always overtly visible; in fact everyday courage is seldom noticed, but can take enormous strength of character. The story below is about everyday courage and how for children with learning disabilities doing the common everyday things can take a mountain of courage.


I pulled our faithful green minivan into the circular driveway of the local elementary school along with what appeared to be hundreds of other moms and dads. I could imagine all the parents nervously checking their dashboard clock while attempting telepathically to force the cars ahead of them to move faster so our children would not be late.  I glanced in the review mirror at Max who was distractedly watching all the morning activity outside the van window, he was quiet but thinking, that could be scary. 


At a little before 9:00 am the day had already been challenging.  My teenager would not open his eyes let alone get out of bed until the very last minute.  My younger two boys had spent a good portion of the morning fighting about everything from ownership of a prized orange Hot Wheel car to who brushed their teeth first.  Yep, one of those days!  However, all the struggles listed above were nothing compared to the look in Max’s eyes as he fought getting ready for school.  He resisted putting on his socks, shoes and coat then twisted and turned attempting to shrug off his backpack.  The truth is, he fought against anything that might move him closer to going to school. While he fought, a constant stream of reasons why he didn’t need to attend school flowed.  With each passionately given reason my heart would tighten and twist with understanding of his struggle, he has learning disabilities; school was difficult for him and stressed him out.  I often thought about how constant stress negatively effects adults, taking its toll on our emotional and physical health.  So, what does it do to a young child?


For a seven year old Max could come up with some pretty compelling reasons to stay home from school.  He would insists his teacher gave him permission to stay home.  His head or stomach would hurt.  He needed to stay home to keep me company or take care of the dog.  He needed to stay home to clean his room, such altruistic reasons.  Why was Max trying so hard to stay home when he was only in the first grade?  The reason is he has dyslexia and ADHD, the dynamic duo.  This made school difficult for him on good days and unbearable on bad ones. I knew he was not just being difficult, lazy or acting like a baby.  He was trying to avoid a very stressful situation, one that he had to face five days week.  I felt conflicted, he needed to go, but it was so difficult; would I, an adult, willing go into a stressful situation five days a week?  Not without throwing a good tantrum or at least wanting too!


The long line of mini vans, sedans, and SUVs packed with kids had stop moving so I turned around to meet Max’s eyes and encourage him one more time about attending school.  I dug deep in my already weary mind hoping to find a clever and enticing reason that would trigger a desire to go.  I fantasized that he would cling to this magic reason with joy and optimism and respond to it with a big, bright smile and say cheerfully “Ok mom, I want to go to school” and everything would be ok, forever. 


The line began to move again and we were finally at the official drop off point; I opened the van door but Max refused to get out of his seat.  I quietly tried to cajole him out of the van; to no avail, he started to cry.  I held his backpack outside of the van and listed the fun activities he could participate in, he cried louder.  The conga line of autos was at a standstill while I worked to extract Max from the van.  His voice was getting louder and his resistance stronger while the stalled line of autos was well, stalled. 


Finally the Vice Principle came over to assist in the extraction of Max.  It took several more minutes but between the two of us we dislodged him and got him pointed in the direction of his classroom.  The Vice Principle was kind enough to walk with Max all the way there. 


As I returned to the driver’s seat I watched my blond little boy struggle to regain his composure as he walked next to the vice principle.  My heart was overwhelmed with a powerful concoction of relief, sorrow, gratefulness, concern, guilt, and love as I pondered the amount of courage it would take for my son to enter the class room with a smile, to participate in reading, math, and spelling, simple activities for someone without dyslexia, but stressful for some with it.  I considered the depth of character it will take for my son to go to school five days a week for the next twelve years and face the tasks that are harder for him than most of his class mates.  It will take everyday courage; everyday.


Max’s school years were filled with days like the story above, but there were also days when he woke up with a smile and left the car without a fight, bravely entering a world where he had to work harder just to blend in, showing everyday courage.  To the children and parents with learning disabilities I recognize and honor the everyday courage it takes to participate, be successful, and enjoy the everyday adventure that is school.

Debora Shelford Hobbs


 


 

AWAITING INEVITABLE ACCOLADES

The Alphabet book

I sat on the hard, pint sized chair with my feet neatly positioned in front of me.  My knees poking above the table top like two faded-blue foreigners.  I sat attentively, eyes locked on the teacher who was sitting opposite me. Somehow her knees were not poking above the table top.  By all appearances she was at home in the munchkin chairs; I was not.  To the teacher’s right was a stack of construction paper creations, wavy and crunchy from the hardened Elmer’s glue, and The Alphabet Book that Sam and I had been working on at home. This was my first Kindergarten conference for Sam and I knew there would be much praise for my intelligent, creative, sensitive, and insightful son.  I eagerly awaited the inevitable accolades.



The teacher lifted one crispy construction paper creation from the stack and carefully sat it down in front of me; gently smoothing it with one delicate hand.  It was a large brown piece of construction paper with a photo copied outline of a simple tree on it.  On one of its barren, winter like branches sat a very large owl energetically colored purple.  The tree had been colored multiple colors using equal finesse.  I smiled at the creative genius and looked up at the teacher. 



I did not receive a smile in return.  Instead there was a look of concern knitted into the brows of the teacher.  “The instructions were to color the owl brown and the tree green, Sam did not follow instructions properly”.  “OH” I said rather unsure how to respond.  She continued on to the next crinkly creation which had a picture glued on in a peculiar, unnatural way: same comment.  Obviously, she did not appreciate my son’s creativity. She worked her way down the stack of art projects with an occasional compliment, but mostly I heard what sounded like a harsh critique of my five year olds creativity.  I was not feeling fond of this woman.



Finally she reached the Alphabet Book, the only item left unscathed.  She slid it across the smooth, cool Formica desk top until it stopped directly in front of me.  She opened it to the letter “A” pages pointing out how messy it looked.  Indeed, Items had the appearance of being scribbled rather than colored.  Stickers of apples, apes, aces, and angels were crooked and magazine pictures were cut out poorly and glued on sloppily. Quickly, she flipped through the pages not needing to say much. 
 
The teacher finally closed the Alphabet book, a smile crossing her face as she got up to retrieve something from her desk, I could tell by the red construction paper cover that it was another Alphabet Book. She sat down again and opened the book up with reverence.  “This is how the book should look” she said with the first look of admiration I had seen on her face.  Just look at how nicely it is colored.  Look at how neat the gluing is done and the stickers are straight.  I knew it was a girl’s book, most boys at five or six just can’t pull off that kind of detail work.  But what really bugged me was it looked just like her mother had done all the work.  It could have been signed by the Scrap Booking Queen-Mom.  I could envision it, the mother and daughter at the kitchen table all necessary craft tools placed neatly in an arch around the pair.  Mom would let the girl pick out a picture from one of the magazines then she would carefully cut it out and glue it down, the daughter watching with longing eyes. When it came time for the stickers the daughter would get to pick it out, mom would hold it while the little girl licked, then mom carefully placed it on correctly. 



With a tad bait of defensiveness in my voice I said to the teacher, “my son did all his own work”.   “He needs more direction and guidance with his work” was her response. I replied that I sat with him and talked about the letters and sound but felt having him cut, paste, lick, place, and color on his own was important to the learning process.  Even if the result was messy.  Her reply, “oh of course five and six year olds are messy, but with limits”. My conference time was up, in fact it had gone over the allotted time slot and a little girl and her mom were waiting by the door.  The conference was over.  We ended on a polite note with unresolved opinions about education, creativity, and my son.



Although I was disappointed at never hearing the accolades I anticipated about my son and I felt protective of his efforts that went unappreciated. I also felt a rock hard commitment within the depth of my soul to encourage and protect his wonderful and unique person intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.  I realized at this moment my commitment to my children may not always line up with the teachers or the education system; and that was ok.

Lesson learned:  Even the experts can be short sighted or simply wrong!  God gave us our children for a reason; we must be true to God, our children, and ourselves.

Proverbs 22:6  NIV
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

By Debora Kingston

ROUGH LIFE? BIGGER GOD

When my kids were in high school, there was constant pressure to have children that were the best in academics, sports, and clubs…in other words, the best at everything.  If you were lucky enough to have one of those multitasking, overachievers, it was definitely a status symbol.  As a parent, I found this status impossible to achieve, even though I sometimes wished I could.  Other than athletics, my kids simply didn’t care about the various types of school success and they were contented, underachievers.   It’s easy to assume that great success at school translates into great success later in life.  But more often than not, school success is an unreliable indicator of who will ultimately prosper and who will not. 

Not only do we doubt our children and wonder about their future success but we also doubt ourselves and our spouses.  Its common to feel like our lives haven’t quite panned out the way we planned – that we haven’t achieved as much as we had hoped and that life is passing us by.  Recently, while reading the story of Moses, I was filled with hope as the words from the book of Exodus reminded me of his mistakes and his less than ideal life.  In spite of being a messed up guy, Moses became what could easily be considered the greatest leader the Israelites ever knew.  If we stop and think about many of the bible greats, they weren’t the obvious picks. They weren’t the overachievers that won all the awards, nor did they come from the perfect life, but God looked down and saw something in their hearts; He saw something that was completely invisible to man.  That fact, that God looks deeper than the surface when choosing who He wants to use, should plant hope deep into the hearts of us all.

MOSES:
Moses was raised in less than ideal Christian circumstances to say the least.  He was born into a family of slaves at a time when Pharaoh was killing all Hebrew baby boys.  For this reason his mother hid him at home for three months until it was no longer possible to conceal him. She then constructed a waterproof basket and set it amongst the reeds in the Nile.  Pharaoh’s daughter found the basket and brought Moses to the palace to raise as her own.  God specializes in wonders, and through a series of events it worked out that in his early years, Moses’ own mother nursed him at the palace. 

Reviewing Moses’ early life, we find that God chose a slave that may have had attachment disorder or abandonment issues; that was raised in a home religiously and morally polar opposite to everything in God’s own principles… It’s hard to comprehend that this is the man that God smiled upon and chose to be his great messenger and leader.  

Moses’ first forty years were in Pharaoh’s household where he was constantly subjected to a life full of paganism and debauchery, as was common in Egyptian society.  As Moses approached forty, he began to look to his Hebrew roots and developed a heart for his people.  One day he saw an Egyptian master beating a Hebrew slave.  Moses was enraged and killed the Egyptian believing he was doing the Hebrew a favor.  Word spread that Moses was the murderer and rather than being praised by his fellow Hebrews, they rejected him because they believed that this murder, would make things even harder for them.  The Egyptians rejected him as well and sought his life since he had betrayed them.  Moses, abandoned once more, fled Egypt in shame with no one as his advocate and no one loving or caring about him.  But God loved and cared about Moses even though he was a slave, was neglected as a newborn, was raised and lived the life of a pagan, was a murderer, and was an aimless, lonely runaway that had been rejected by all. 

This is the man God chose to lead his people out of slavery; a man with a life far less than ideal in every way and certainly not the man we would expect God to choose.  It would be interesting to know how Moses viewed his own life as he fled Egypt.  He probably felt hopeless and alone and might have felt like a real loser. Did he have any idea that his future would be greater than he could ever begin to imagine?  Or did he doubt himself and his abilities and wonder why his life was upside down? 

Moses’ life had come full circle when he fled into the desert to escape certain death.  The first 40 years began with him fighting for his life as an infant then subsequently living the life of a prince and sitting under the tutelage of pharaoh.  The second 40 years started with him fighting for his life as a fugitive and living the simple life of a shepherd while sitting under the tutelage of the Priest of Midian.  When Moses was 80, God appeared to him and gave him his marching orders and suddenly the table was turned on his life of loss, mistakes, and pain.  Talk about God taking beauty from ashes.

Let’s take our eyes off all the failures and the painful things we and our loved ones have experienced. Let’s grasp onto the truth that the mistakes our kids, spouse, and we have made do not bind us to failure or mediocrity forever.  Forget the standards that the world pushes upon us and instead look to God to do something great in your family and in you.  You may see God’s greatness right away or it may be years as was the case with Moses.  But as with Moses, success will come and you never know just how big it might be. 

By Rhonda Shelford Jansen

The Pill

A villanelle

In your mouth I place the pill.
At school there is work to be done.
You must concentrate and sit still.

The teachers say they have had their fill.
He is a nice boy, not one to hold a gun.
In your mouth I place the pill.

To drug you was not my will.
you should sit at your desk, there’s much to be done.
You must concentrate and sit still.

Your body calms, your eyes grow still.
I enjoy you this way, sometimes, son.
You must concentrate and sit still.

In a world where imagination is stifled and killed.
In a school system where conforming is the prize to be won.
In your mouth I place the pill.
You must concentrate and sit still.

By Debora Shelford Hobbs 

PERSEVERE – Your Day Will Come

Brushing my teeth, I stared at the 8 year old face in the mirror and wondered Why do those guys constantly torture me?  The weekend went way too fast and now I have to head out to the bus stop and take it from them for the millionth time.  I wish it were summer.

“Mom, I don’t feel like going out to the bus stop.  I’m going to watch from the window and head out as soon as I see it.” 
“OK” said Mom, “But don’t miss the bus, I don’t have time to drive you to school.” 
Settling on the couch facing the window I lean back and close my eyes; the dream returns.  I’m a University of Washington football player.  The ball is pressed tightly against my side; running with all my might, I’m cutting, juking, and breaking tackles all the way to the end zone to thousands of cheers and screams from adoring fans… The bus pulls up.  With a sigh, I reluctantly pick up my back pack and head for the front door.  “Bye Mom, I love you” 
“I love you too Cody, have a wonderful day.” I waited just long enough to be certain the bullies were on the bus and then I ran.  Extending my hand into the closing door just in the nick of time I hopped up the steps.  Taking my seat in the front near the bus driver, we made eye contact and said,  “Good morning.”  She knew about the bullies and that it had been going on for many months. She looked at me with kindness and said for the umpteenth time,
“Don’t worry Cody, one day things will be different. Your day will come.” 


The boys that harassed me were two sets of brothers.  It was just them and me at the bus stop each day.  Why was I their target? Was it because I was alone and they had support or was it because they had more money than we did?  Whatever it was, they loved picking on me at the bus stop and on the bus.  It was the bus driver’s idea for me to sit near her to discourage their incessant poison.  Sometimes I felt like I was always in a battle and I had to always be on guard and it went on far too long.


Fast Forward 9 years:

Grabbing my gear bag, I headed for the front door.  “Bye Mom and Dad, I’m heading out.” 
“OK sweetheart, God Bless you tonight and good luck. We’ll be there cheering.”
Turning the key in the ignition, my old Junker starts to rumble and I head to school.  Focusing on the task at hand and visualizing success, I’m stunned that this will be my last high school football game.  All the years of hard work and sacrifice paid off.  I accomplished my goals and led the league in rushing, touchdowns, and have set the tackle record at my school. Next fall I will be wearing the Huskies purple and gold.  “Where did time go?  It just seems like yesterday that I was that little boy at the bus stop. 


In the locker room we gear up and are unusually quiet thinking about the series of “lasts” we are experiencing as high school seniors.  It’s a mixed bag of excitement about the future and nostalgia about the past.  I pull my number “48” jersey over my head for the last time…ever.  Looking around the locker room at the familiar faces, I think to myself These guys have been my teammates in countless games and comrades in pranks and parties. I love ‘em and am going to miss ‘em.


Last out of the locker room, with helmet in hand I dash to the bus. Flying up the steps I extend my hand in to the closing door just in the nick of time. I grab a seat toward the front and breathe a big sigh as I settle in… just then the bus driver turns around.  She looks straight into my eyes, smiles, and nods her head.  The knowing in her eyes brought the words rushing back into my heart….. “Don’t worry Cody, one day things will be different.  Your day will come.”




 


This is a true story. Even though it’s about a boy persevering and becoming a young man we can all learn from the message.   Many times life is frustrating and we don’t feel good about ourselves. Our dreams seem ridiculously far off, even dead. 
But …no matter what… “persevere and be patient”, DON’T GIVE UP, because “your day will come.”


 By Rhonda Shelford Jansen 


 

Dyslexic – My Son and I


A sonnet

When I was eight, like you are now, I cried
at the thought of capturing the letters,
numbers and words swirling inside
my head.  My desire was to do better.

To be like the girl who sat perfectly still.
Slender A shaped nose pointed straight ahead.
It all made sense inside her head.  My will
was not enough to sit still while she read.

When you practice your spelling words, you cry.
When it’s time to read, you throw a tantrum
because the words spin and jump, appearing to fly.
You try so hard for success; yet it does not come.

I know your struggle; I know you are very smart.
Never give up; it will take all your heart.

 By Debora Shelford Hobbs