By Donna Shelton
As my 70th birthday approached in February, I took a look at my life.
I contemplated the decisions I’ve made, good and bad, and their consequences.
Overall, I felt very blessed by God.
I was blessed to be raised by a pastor who was also a chaplain in the Air Force. Daddy was stationed at Orly Field just outside of Paris from April, 1952 until December, 1954, and that is where I started school. Later, I attended schools in Louisiana and Arkansas; in Montgomery, Alabama and in Memphis, Tennessee. Then on through Verona, New Jersey to Montclair, New Jersey, where our family finally settled down.
Since our extended family all lived in the Pacific Northwest, my little nuclear family was my world, and what I was taught there was my stability.
In the summer of 1969, I returned from four months on World Campus Afloat (one of my better decisions, even though it left me in debt with school loans for several years) to find my parents separated.
Even at age 21, this rocked my world and left me in a tailspin, and that summer I lost my virginity. Fathers, you may not realize your impact. You are a spiritual covering for your family. If there is anything you can do to save your marriage, please make the utmost effort for your children’s sake – no matter how old they are.
I transferred to the University of Arizona to be near my sister, who was teaching in Sells. There, I took a class called Education for Marriage, taught by a Presbyterian pastor. I went to counsel with him at his church and confessed my sin. That was another good decision that I believe made a great difference to my future.
Proverbs 28:13 says: “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” I remained backslidden for several more years, but God was at work to bring me back to Himself.
Despite my dad’s bad decision in walking out on his family, and my mom’s bad decision in not allowing him to come back, Daddy prayed for me that God would give me a good man.
Enter Richard Shelton into my life in September 1973. Our marriage April 6th, 1974, was a very good decision!
Dads, don’t leave your wife to do all the praying for your children. Pray for them and for their future spouses. It could make all the difference in their lives.
That first year of marriage, I had a hard time believing I was going to be happy. I was constantly afraid that something would happen to take happiness away from me. I had watched my parents fight since I was 12 years old, and that made me an insecure young woman. I was happy, but I wasn’t fulfilled. I knew what that emptiness I felt was, and what the answer was, so I started looking for churches.
When I got a job at House of Fabrics, I met Beverly Lippert. She took me to a Saturday music night at The Door in Tucson on April 5th, 1975, where I got saved.
Very, very good decision. The best decision anyone can make!
I realized that many decisions would be required of me to reach my ultimate goal, Heaven, so the question by which I judged everything in those early years was: Will this help me get to Heaven or make it easier to backslide? That question proved to be a very good standard.
I made the decision to be in church – especially when I didn’t feel like going or when I didn’t feel saved. I figured if I’m in church, maybe God can do something with me. So even though Rich wouldn’t come with me, I just kept coming.
In those early years of my salvation, as an immature Christian, I started throwing around the word divorce. Not a good decision at all! I thank God that one morning as I was reading and praying, God was able to speak to me through Proverbs 14:1: “Every wise woman builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.”
God showed me that I was tearing down my own house. I was focused on all the things that irritated me about Rich and not the reasons why I’d married him in the first place. Ladies, build your house with prayer about the things that bother you and praise your husband for all the things he does right.
When Katie was born in 1981, I first noticed the beginning symptoms of fibromyalgia. By the time she was in 3rd grade, I was very discouraged because I couldn’t walk my children the half mile to school and the half mile back without a lot of pain in my hips.
I had a crisis of faith. I was tempted to be angry with God. I knew He could heal me and I didn’t understand why He wasn’t doing it.
I was deep in these thoughts in the dining room one evening, when I thought: No, this is stupid. In Romans 8:28 God said He would work all thing together for my good. I don’t understand how this is for my good, but God is good, and He is not a liar (Hebrews 6:18; Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2). The devil wants me to get mad at God, backslide, and go to hell. He’s the liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). I’m just going to trust God even though I don’t understand.
Sometimes you just have to make a decision to believe God’s Word against what seems like all reason. And that is always an excellent decision.
When Katie and Eric were in high school, I considered going back to work like some of my friends, to make money for the kids to go to college. I was teaching a teenage bible study at the time, and I knew I didn’t have the energy to both work and teach.
I believed God wanted me to continue teaching and to trust Him for my kids’ education. As I followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, God not only provided for my children’s education (Katie got a full scholarship and Eric joined the U.S. Air Force and they paid for his education), but He also allowed me to have some small influence on the lives of a few teenagers, some of whom are now preaching the Gospel.
When we wanted to start a family, we decided that I would be a stay-at-home mom.
Rich said there are two ways to be rich: make more money or require less. We have spent most of our lives requiring less. We still live in the same house we bought as newlyweds. It has been added onto and it is now paid off, which makes retirement a lot easier.
When our children were in their early twenties, we went through some things that put a terrible strain on our marriage and nearly broke it. But Jesus and our commitment to each other kept us together.
Now, almost twenty years later, we both feel very blessed.
Things are not perfect. Eric isn’t serving God right now; his son George has a very rare disease which has created an emotional roller coaster for the family. One of Katie’s children has some health problems that took a long time for the doctors to figure out and which still causes her some problems.
I still have limitations because of my health issues, and now Rich has health issues of his own.
Life is never perfect, and we will all face challenges along the way. But serving God and being an example to your family by making godly decisions will always pay off in the end.
What has helped me stay saved for forty-plus years? So many things.
First and foremost, the help of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of others. Being in church faithfully to hear the Word of God (even when I wasn’t reading it all the time). Being in the ladies’ bible study has also been life changing in my walk of faith.
Early in my salvation I decided that no matter what, I wasn’t turning back. Like Peter in John 6:68, I decided there was no place to go back to. No good place, anyway.
I’d grown up knowing of Jesus and being taught the truth. I knew what devastation it caused in my life when my parents turned away from what they had taught me.
I made up my mind that I would never compromise the Word of God and my beliefs.
It started as an example to my children and has just become a pattern of life.
All our little decisions along the way make us who we are. The wonderful thing about our Lord and Savior is that He can forgive our bad decisions and will always help us start anew.
Decide what is most important to you: your will or being accountable to God with your life by keeping your testimony as one that will glorify Him.
I can guarantee you that, if you choose a life of purpose in Christ, when you reach the ripe old age of 70 you will also feel very blessed.
How can I guarantee that? Because the God we serve is good and His promises are true.