THE GARDEN

IMG_0255

A broken heart is like a garden
Blossom gone and soil, hardened
Summer, overcome by winter
Cold and windy; wet and empty
Gloom hides all that once was beauty.

In perfect time God breathes new life
In winters’ dark; in broken heart
Dark and blight scattered by light
Coming from the hand of Might
A seed of life, in love immersed
From broken soul a new sprout bursts
Beauty growing; hope now flowing
Giving life and a new story.
From the withered, new sprout grows
Crushing lies of loss that’s known
Restoring faith that summers’ come
And new life grows as death succumbs.

When winter tests the broken soul
When death and blight are all you know
Wait and hope in God alone
For you will see His mercy flow
From chaff and ashes springs new life
Birthing hope from pain and blight.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

 

 

 

 

Questioning God About Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Helping Grandmother Walk

A few days ago I took my mother in-law to an appointment with her doctor and found the trip to be more disheartening than I expected. Sporadically, as we drove her fragile and confused voice would break the silence in my car by asking, “Is it morning or night?” I answered, “It’s four in the afternoon, Barb.” During our twenty-minute drive she asked me this same question many times.   Trying to distract her I commented on what a beautiful summer afternoon it was.  She agreed it was beautiful, but wanted to know if we were going home. “No, we’re going to the doctor” I answer, again. “Ok” she says as if hearing this for the first time. My heart breaks.

Glancing over at her I observe a small and fragile figure that is as brittle as her voice. She is just a fragment of the robust women I once knew.  The years have been unkind leaving her shrunken and hunched, a miniature of her old self. She is so small you can barely see her white head over the dashboard. Her skin is parchment paper-thin and covered with bruises from falling or running into walls with her walker. When reminded that she needs to ask for assistance she replies, “I’m so disgusted at myself for falling.” I employ our standard reply, “You need to wait for the helpers to come get you out of bed, or help you to the bathroom.” To this logic she says, “I’m so disgusted with myself.” And the circular conversation continues but we can’t step off because, “what if she remembers, just once.” The merry-go-round keeps spinning and we’re holding on to the rail for all we’re worth.

I know the above snippet of a story is common to my generation. Many of us are dealing with the joys and pains of assisting elderly parents. It’s painful to see their once creative and sharp minds unable to recognize if it’s morning or night. And the sorrow increases when they say things like “my brain in all jumbled up.” They know something is wrong; they know they’re missing a beat. Watching my in-laws progress from being self-sufficient and elderly to having seriously diminished capacity has me questioning God and His designing of the aging process. Why did He design humanity so that at the end of life, no matter how you’ve lived, your last years may be spent digressing from who you were to a shrunken familiar shell housing a fragment of that person.

I wonder if the soul of those suffering with Dementia or Alzheimer’s remains unaltered by these cruel diseases. Is their soul still able to commune with God even though their mind is stuck on memories from a life long ago? Is their soul at peace even though they fearfully ask the same questions over and over again; trying desperately to make sense out of the fog and confusion that now rules their brains?  Or is their soul also in a state of confusion? I find myself frequently wondering, “God, what is the purpose of all this regression and loss?”  I’ve asked God where in the progression of Dementia or Alzheimer’s can His love, kindness, and mercy be found.

Looking for answers I’ve google-searched and found some interesting ideas on the topic. Pastor Bruce Epperly wrote “still God has power in every situation.  God’s intimate love sustains caregivers and loving friends for the long companionship with persons with Alzheimer’s.  God’s inspiration awakens communities of care and invites us to see the divine in ourselves and others even when it is disguised by forgetfulness and incapacity.”  And Billy Graham wrote, “The real issue, you see, isn’t why bad things happen, but how we should react to them. Will we react in anger and bitterness or will we respond in faith and trust? Anger is a dead-end road–it only hurts us and those around us, and doesn’t solve anything. But faith gives us hope–hope for the present and hope for the future.”

It is the writings of these great men that I’m holding on to because they help keep my focus on what is truly helpful for my loved ones.  I can give them grace filled care while guarding my own spirit against bitterness.  I can remain hopeful that God will not leave them even though their minds have left us.

It’s true,  my questions haven’t been answered; they may not be answered until I’m in heaven. However, I’m willing to set them aside so I can use my energy on blessing my loved ones who are suffering.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Matthew 28:20 Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Romans 8: 39 Not even the highest places or the lowest, or anything else in all creation can do that. Nothing at all can ever separate us from God’s love because of what Christ Jesus our Lord has done.

Isaiah 46:4 Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

REDEEMED

 Mary Redemption

Her room was still like time had stopped, Her eyes at nothing, stared                             Until a beep from the machine, brought her back crystal clear.                                       She looked down at her arm and saw the IV in its place                                                      Just for a moment, she had gone back, to another time in space. 

Tears trickled down that old drawn face, her lips began to quiver                                     As she recalled the years gone by and pain that she’d delivered.                                        It all seemed clear, as she looked back; it wasn’t clear back then.                                   She wished to have a second chance, some way to make amends. 

The angry names her mother hurled still made her cringe in pain                                  And knowing that she did the same brought grief, regret, and shame.                            She didn’t end dysfunction, as she was sure she would                                                        And life went by, so very fast; it was too hard to change. 

She looked up at the ceiling, and yelled out “Are You there?                                              Do You care about me? Can You remove despair?                                                                 Does hope exist? Can change be known? If so, then show the way!                                  Hear my prayer, see my heart; I’m buried in mistakes!” 

Questions filled her weary mind as she lay there exhausted                                                 Is it true that God restores the hurt and broken hearted?                                                   She shut her eyes; her shoulders shook, as tears continued falling                                With humbled heart, and contrite spirit; she longed for a new calling. 

The hours trickled slowly by with no response from heaven.                                                But a strange rest had filled her heart and peace was like a fragrance.                           That restful state was broken with a stroke upon her hair                                                      A voice that she had longed to hear said “Mom, I’ve news to share.” 

“A year ago, at my ropes end, I gave my heart to Jesus                                                               Since that day I’ve changed and grown, more than I can measure.                                        I’m learning to submit my will and die to my own way                                                                   The chains that tightly bound us, He’s breaking more each day.” 

“I love you Mom, and know your plan was never one to hurt us                                     You too were hurt, and it’s been said; hurt people… will hurt people.                            But hope has come into my heart, revealing a new path.                                                      We cannot change the hurt-filled past, but hopes with us at last!”  

“For I can see a future paved, with a new legacy                                                                         It’s there for us if we will grow and seek God on our  knees.                                                     In God’s all knowing timing, He’ll heal each hurt and scar                                                          Submitting all and letting go; our lives will be restored.                 

“The devil brought destruction, to our heart and soul                                                              But God is here to lift us up and take back all control.                                                             We can forgive each other, as Christ’s forgiven us                                                                     He’ll wash us clean and make us new as we give Him our trust.”  

“Dear Mother, I invite you, to join us in this path.                                                                       To know that you’re forgiven and all that’s past… is passed.”                                          That withered hand reached out to hers, as tears rolled down their faces.            With breaking voice the elder said, “OH…the years I wasted.”  

“I’m sorry for the things I’ve done, and for the words of pain                                                   I wish that I could turn back time and wash it all away.                                                              But know dear, that I love you, and I’m sorry for the hurt                                                           I need the hope that you have found to mend my broken heart.” 

Just before the morning broke with no bells or alarms                                                        With peaceful heart, she breathed her last, and went to Jesus’ arms.                             Her children knew that she was free from bitterness and shame                                  And they rejoiced, with hands upraised, to hope in Jesus’ name. 

God used her children’s hurt-filled past; took beauty from the ashes                                 As they reached out to hurting souls and others who had suffered.                               No troubled path, no chains that bind, no mountain sized life problems,                   Are greater than the power of God who brings good from our losses.                         But stubborn hearts we must lay down; to change, we must be willing                       And as we do, we shall fulfill, God’s awesome, glorious, calling.                           

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Contemplating the Declaration of Independence

Declaration-of-Independence_full_600

I’m taking a side trip this post into some patriotic history, I hope you don’t mind. I’ve made it deliberately brief but hope my encouragement for you to read the Declaration of Independence is heeded. I know you won’t regret it.

 This morning I read The Declaration of Independence in honor of The Fourth of July (America’s Independence Day) and once again I was overcome by the wisdom and courage it possesses. I’m also made aware of the determination and strength of character the 56 original signers possessed. Each one put their lives at risk when they publically signed and formally declared the United States of America a sovereign nation. Their convictions that the USA needed to be free from Great Brittan’s rule were so strong the risk of death was a small price to pay.

The signers were a diverse group of men, many had the privilege of a formal education and were lawyers, doctors, professors, and politicians. However, others had an informal education and were craftsmen, farmers, printers, and politicians. Though their walks in life were varied they shared a deep conviction that the United States of America should be autonomous, self-directed, and unencumbered by the dictates of England’s King George III. This conviction kept them discussing and fighting with each other from June 7th 1776 until July 4th, 1776 when the finished document was agreed upon by all and signed.  After a month of discussion and several revisions this group of men managed to agree upon and create one of the most significant documents in the history of man.

The last paragraph of the Declaration of Independence is not quoted as frequently as the second paragraph, but I find it empowering. It couldn’t be more straight-forward. “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.” What strong and clear words these are, King George III had no choice but to take them seriously.

I encourage you to read the Declaration of Independence in full this Fourth of July to gain insight and knowledge into our Country’s independence and the start of the Revolutionary War. The USA’s freedom from tyranny came at a high cost then, and continues to require sacrifice today; a price paid over and over again by men and women whose convictions and courage lead them to fight for their beliefs, much like our Founding Fathers.

This Fourth of July I feel a particularly deep gratitude to our Founding Fathers and their courage to argue with each other but not give up on their goal. Their courage to fight against a tyrant and their wisdom to agree that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

May you know  you are blessed to live in these United States of America.

 Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

Hidden Within

I struggled whether or not I should post this poem as it deals with ugly things hidden within the heart and that makes it hard to read.  These hidden things hold names such as discontent, self pity, jealousy, pride, self-righteousness, selfishness, and greedy grasping. Though we may conceal these things to observers and even ourselves, they are never hidden from God, He knows our heart even better than we do. 

Hidden Within
I listened to her stories, of traveling here and there
Of seeing many wonders and having not a care.
I longed to see such awesome things and wished I knew those blessings
And as I sat there listening, self pity washed upon me.
But as I walked away from her, God opened up my eyes
He showed me my ungrateful heart and in disgust I sighed.

Oh God why do I struggle with discontent and greed?
I’ll never comprehend the grace that You extend to me. 

He sat there all in smiles, excited with success.
A new promotion, a big ole raise, his life is now the best!
I thought that he was bragging to tell us all like that.
I sat there with the fakest smile; distain was in my breast.
I walked away and asked myself…why do I act that way?
Am I that mean and petty? My heart sunk in dismay.

Oh God why do I cringe at… success for someone else? 
Forgive me Lord, please change me! This icy heart, please melt.

I listened to the story… knew it was barely true
Each so called fact that was described was exaggerated and skewed.
I wondered why he worked in lies; my heart filled with disgust
I sat there wrapped in righteous pride, my patience huffed and puffed.
But when I walked away from him, the veil fell from my eyes
I felt ashamed how I had judged and I broke down and cried. 

Oh God my God why do you care for one as frail as me?
I’m overwhelmed, can’t comprehend, Your love that sets me free.     

Just hearing her go on and on about her kid’s success
Set my skin to prickling, my heart had some contempt.
I walked away and asked myself just why I felt that way?
Was I that small and jealous? My heart sunk in dismay.
What’s wrong with me, why do I act so selfish and with pride?
I hung my head and felt ashamed; I wished that I could hide.

Its times like these my feeble heart will never understand
The mercy and the grace God gives, in spite of all my sin.
 
The project was my baby, I was so proud of it
And when she took the credit, rage filled within my chest.
Speaking up before I thought, I set the record straight
And in a flash, I looked so bad; I’d taken Satan’s bait.
I slunked away angry and hurt; I hated her that day.
But as I stewed God gently came and washed the pride away.

Oh Lord why do I strive for, importance be-fore man?
I don’t know why You love me, when I fight against Your plans.

Lord, open up my eyes to see what’s hidden in my heart
Help me to change and grow in grace; please give me a new start.
Help me to stop comparing… my life compared to others
To be content with what I have, know-ing that others suffer.
Help me to grasp the reasons  why You’ve put me in this world
Its to exalt Your name alone… not to exalt myself.
Help me to lay down all my pride and with You, humbly walk
To know You’ll raise up who You want, and in that I must trust.
May I help someone succeed… even if I don’t.
May I rejoice in wondrous news that’s good for someone else.
Fill my heart with thankfulness so I might not forget
The blessings that you’ve given me and in those, be content.
Help me stop the judging of, somebody else’s heart
And may I live each day, O God, displaying Your pure heart.
May Your spirit fall on me and color all I do.
Help my eyes to see the truth; bid hidden sin, adieu.

 

 Rhonda Shelford Jansen

The Interesting Thing About Grace

 

 Grace: Unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.  A virtue coming from God.  A state of  sanctification enjoyed through divine grace.  Approval, favor, mercy, pardon, disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.

I love God’s grace.  I like cuddling up to the knowledge that He loves me, accepts me sins and all, and gives me undeserved forgiveness, unconditionally.  In God’s grace I find stability and security because there isn’t anything I can do that will separate me from the love of God.  If I disappoint Him, He will not leave me, or hate me, or ignore me for a period of time.  God’s grace and love are merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

By God’s design, humans are grace seekers.  We spend tremendous energy looking for love and in that love we desire grace.  Grace that allows us to be ourselves quirks and all, and that will forgive us when we make a mistake.  How many songs have been written about searching for unconditional love, a love that will accept us for who we are, and forgive our faults, a love undeserved? 

Of course, there are many people who believe they have found true love and are overcome by the knowledge that someone accepts them completely.  However, the honeymoon always ends and our unconditional lover becomes annoyed with our quirks and finds it hard to forgive our misdoings.  Quickly, the notion of unconditional love fades away.  But God’s grace and love do not fade away; they are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

 When we accept God’s grace and start to comprehend the spiritual depth of it, we become grateful and grateful people are happier people.   As we grow in God’s grace we realize that it isn’t a one way street; those who receive God’s grace are compelled to humbly give grace to others.  Sometimes this means we must lay down our righteous judgment or individual rights.  This can be tough, but the reward is great.

 Grace and Forgiveness are separate entities but it’s almost impossible to give one without the other.  To me grace and forgiveness are related to each other like inhaling and exhaling are.  They are separate acts but one can’t be done without the other.  If you inhale without exhaling you will faint and the same is true if you try to exhale without inhaling.  And this is where God’s Grace gets interesting.  Because God gives his grace freely to each one of us and we benefit greatly from the knowledge that we are set free from our sin, it becomes incumbent on us to give grace freely to others. 

 This is the part of God’s grace that doesn’t feel so cuddly.  My giving grace to others requires me to lay down my pride.  It requires that I not hold my family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors under the harsh umbrella of my self-righteous judgment.  I must give grace to others because I’ve received unmerited grace from God.

 In his book Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller addresses God’s grace by writing, “All humans beings are equally unworthy of God’s love and that therefore all humans beings have equal access to God’s grace.”  He also addresses what happens when we lay down our pride and choose to forgive others. “But if you let it humble you rather than embitter you, and turn to God instead of living for your own glory, then the death of your pride can lead to a resurrection.  You can emerge with a tender heart instead of a hard heart.”

 I hope that you will embrace God’s grace.  That you cuddle up to it finding acceptance, stability, and security there.  Then with a new understanding of the spiritual depth of God’s grace extend it to others, whether you think they deserve it or not. 

 Psalm 86:15    But, you Oh Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Romans 8:37-39  In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor  height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 4:7   but to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

James 4:6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Titus 2:11 for the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

Beauty Is

Staring long into the mirror
A face unknown seemed to be there
It’s not the face that I remember
But one that’s lost its youthful splendor.
I squeezed my eyes, then looked again
But that old face stared back again.
Sitting there so mesmerized
It came to me…where beauty lies.

Beauty lives within the heart
It shines with glory…like heavens’ art.
Beauty reaches out and heeds
It recognizes others’ needs.
Beauty seeks to understand
The thoughts of an opposing man.
Beauty is a word that flows
From humble lips, with love that shows.
Focused on what’s good and right
It thinks on pure and lovely sights.
Beauty’s found in hope renewed
In sweet forgiveness, grace and truth.
It brightens up this darkened world
Its value is like jewels and pearls.

Beauty’s not a perfect face
Beauty’s not a tiny waist
Nor is it a twenty-something
Nor words that please… but stand for nothing.
Beauty’s not the youngest skin
Nor a body that’s pencil thin.
No… Beauty isn’t our appearance
Nor gaining the whole worlds acceptance.
It isn’t found in self-absorption
In gossip, lies, or vain distortions.
It doesn’t live in brands and labels
Or fancy food upon the table.
Its not the home that fills our dreams
Its not attaining financial means.

O Lord, my Lord help us to see
What lasting beauty really means.
That when we look into the mirror
Our vision might become so clear.
To see ourselves, as You see us
To focus not on earthly stuff.
That from our heart true beauty pours
And radiates like sun and stars.
May our words restore and heal
May we shine with hope and zeal.
Make us glow with Your great love
With grace displayed from heaven above.
So when the darkness closes in
Light from our heart will leap and sing.
Then all will see what beauty is…
It’s You O God… living within.

 
Rhonda Shelford Jansen

 

 

The Gift of Creativity

 

This story was written with the hope of encouraging you to be victorious over the negative voices from the past that hinder your creativity.  Whether your talents are in business, painting, writing, sculpting, building relationships, teaching, giving grace, or encouraging others, don’t believe for a minute they are unimportant.  If God has given you a talent he expects you to use it for His glory. 

Roberta sat before a blank canvas ready to paint but some invisible force was stopping her.  Her heart wanted to paint but her mind was blank, frozen with doubt and insecurity.  Voices from the past kept whispering to her that she lacked talent, that her hope of becoming a professional artist was a pipe-dream.  The voices came from teachers, family, or friends who over the years had suggested in one way or another that she lacked talent.  There was the instructor who said with great concern, “That piece needs serious help.” Or the aunt who was surprised at her choice of colleges, “so you’re going to art school, didn’t know you had any talent.”  Or the utterly shaming, “maybe you could try painting like Donna, she does such nice work.”

Stepping away from her easel Roberta began to pace around the house deep in thought.  Why did the negative voices from the past stay with her?  Why did they come back at unexpected times to haunt her?  Why did they have the power to shut down her creativity?  Ah, that was the question; why did the negative statements of others from years past still have power over her today?  After all, there had been hundreds of positive and encouraging words spoken to her, also.

Her creative mind began to form a mental picture of the power negative words had in her life.  She saw a beautiful box with its lid off filled to overflowing with talent, potential and beautiful art.  Each time she created a work of art the box became larger and more beautiful.  People who saw the box were inspired and uplifted by its beauty and God was blessed.

However, when she allowed negative words from the past to inhibit her creativity two black bands labeled insecurity and doubt appeared.  Slowly creeping their way up the sides of the beautiful box squeezing it and making it disfigured and small.  When this happened people who saw the box felt sad and disappointed.

Frequently the black bands would lose strength, shrinking back to the bottom of the box allowing it to grow in beauty once more.  This happened when she shutout the negative voices, choosing instead to believe in God and the talent He’d gave her.   In her mind’s eye she saw the box cycle several times between growing in beauty and shrinking from insecurity and doubt.  There was a continual struggle going on between the beautiful box and the black bands.

A struggle for my creativity; why?  Pondered Roberta.  The answer came from within the beautiful box picture.  Using her creativity inspired, encouraged and brought joy to others.  But most of all it honored God when she used the talents He’d blessed her with.

Conversely, when the black bands of insecurity and doubt squeezed hard they prevented her from honoring God with her talents. “That’s the reason the negative voices can be so strong at times,” thought Roberta.  “They are used to prevent me from honoring God with my talents.  I must stand strong against them.  I must shut down the negative memories before they hinder my progress.  I must believe in the talent God has given me and use it to bless His name.

With her new found insight Roberta felt a freedom in her spirit and a burst of creative energy.  She sat before the canvas and began to create a new painting.  Carefully, she penciled out a beautiful box filled with art work.  And at the base of the box she drew two small black bands lying next to it, not wrapped around it, representing her victory over the negative voices from the past. If God has given you a talent he expects you to use it for His glory.  Go, be creative and honor God.

1 Peter 4:10  As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. Romans 12: 6-8  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

Bloom Where You’re Planted

                                         

Here in America, as in other western countries, we  expect life to be relatively easy and when things don’t go our way it feels like something’s wrong or like we’re not blessed.     That feeling can cast us into defeat and fear; it can disable our gifts and talents, and can keep us from fulfilling our purpose in life.  Instead of growing in the midst of trouble, we dry up and wither.

A long time ago, I heard a missionary talk about his prison experience in China.  His daily job for years, was to stand deep in human waste and shovel it out of a pit.  You would think the missionary would have died from infection or some horrible disease but guess again…he thrived in the stinking, putrid, filth and lived to tell the story.  At first he wondered why God would allow such a terrible situation; after all, wasn’t it sacrifice enough that he was in prison for his faith?  The answer to that question came  when it occurred to him that God was  blessing him in that putrid job and that comprehension  birthed a huge attitude change.  In that prison no one was allowed to worship or spend time in prayer and if a guard caught you praying or singing, a beating was certain. In the missionary’s cesspool job,  guards stayed far away because of the terrible smell.  The missionary was free to sing and pray all he wanted and the time he spent with God restored his soul.  He referred to his unimaginable job as working in his “garden” and said that he looked forward to it each day.  The song he sang most often while shoveling in the pit was the old hymn, “The Garden.”  He stood at the podium and sang from the depths of his soul… “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear falling on my ear, His voice to me discloses. And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own and the joy we share while we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

When trials seem like a prison, when our plans and hopes are dashed, when we feel like we’re standing in a cesspool, is it possible for us to see it as a garden?   Can we bloom and grow rather than wither and die when life turns upside down?  Can we open our hearts and minds enough to see our garbage  as a hiding place where we worship the Lord from the depths of our soul; a place where we cry out to Him and pray without ceasing; a place where we trust God completely.
With total confidence I can say that when we reach that place of rest and faith and when we truly die to ourselves, God ALWAYS shows up in a miraculous way and the very things that should have crushed us will actually cause us to grow and make us better than ever before.


God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts so I am reminding myself today that life doesn’t need to be my way, that life doesn’t have to be perfect, and that God’s path is rarely the shortest distance between two points.  It usually meanders and hits all sorts of pitfalls and even cesspools but, if we allow Him, He will use every step of the way for great good and for His glory and we will bloom wherever we are planted.

Blessings to you!

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

THE GARDEN BY CHARLES A MILES

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear
Falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share while we tarry there
None other has ever known.

He speaks and the sound of his voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing
And the melody that he gave to me
Within my heart is ringing

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Tho the night around me be falling
But He bids me go thru the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share while we tarry there
None other has ever known.

Acceptance With Joy

Recently I read the wonderful Christian book, Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard, and found it very insightful.  The book is about a disfigured and lame woman named Much-Afraid who chooses to trust in the promises of the Shepherd (God) even when they seem unattainable.  The Shepherd promises Much-Afraid that one day she will no longer be crippled but will have Hind’s Feet and live on The High Places with him.  Much-Afraid desperately wants a new life and is overcome with joy and anticipation for that day.  However, the journey to The High Places requires Much-Afraid to travel through terrifying and desolate lands while battling her old enemies Resentment, Pride, Bitterness, and Self-Pity.

One of the terrifying and desolate lands Much-Afraid journeys through is a desert that is not only unpleasant but in the opposite direction of The High Places promised to her.  She is filled with discouragement and fears she will never reach the promised High Places.  Taking the situation into her own hands Much-Afraid says to her companions, “The Shepherd has called me to High Places.  We must find some path which goes up, but certainly not down there.  This is an absolute contradiction of all that he promised.”

Have you ever been there at the edge of a desert saying “Lord this is all wrong, I’m your child and you promised to take care of me?  This isn’t what you promised; my life is supposed to be different.”  I have,
and like Much-Afraid I was sure the path I was on was wrong.  But it wasn’t the path that was wrong; it was my attitude and perception of the situation.

Much-Afraid was overcome with discouragement and felt being in the desert was a sign that the Shepherd would not keep his promises.  In desperation she calls out to the Shepherd to come and help her, and he does.  The Shepherd comforts her with his presence and teaches her about the necessary work accomplished in all his followers while they cross the desert.  It is significant that the Shepherd didn’t remove her from the desert but comforted her during her journey.  With His loving guidance Much-Afraid learns to accept the desert and finds beauty in the dry and desolate land.

One unexpected item of beauty Much-Afraid found in the desert is a solitary flower growing up from a crack in the rocks where a trickle of water dripped down from above.  Upon seeing the flower she asked if it had a name; the flower answers, “Acceptance with Joy”.   That is the lesson we need to learn.  How to accept with joy the path God has placed before us even when it appears to be heading in the wrong direction.  How wonderful it would be to grow like the little flower, even when we are in a desert, finding our sustenance in the Shepherd’s living water and accepting our situations with joy. 

God allows us to go through deserts so we can grow spiritually.  Deserts give us an opportunity to battle with our pride, self-pity, resentment, and bitterness, along with our self-created images of what our life should be like and lay them down at God’s feet.  Yes, it is painful but the outcome is beautiful.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Stories from Life and Words of Encouragement