Sheer Determination – Or Be Still? By Jo Russell

Could Arthur Itis stop me? NEVER! Not with my determination and vision!

When a winter, indoor tri-athalon was advertised at the local gym, the event advertised such short distances, I signed on the line. It would be easier than sprinting across the local Wal-Mart.  Once again, to enjoy the camaraderie of amateur athletes! The cheering! The fun! The challenge! New friends!
Though my last race had been a century ago or so, I remembered how much I had loved participating in amateur athletic events. Around middle age when many other women stopped competing, I had started racing. More than anything, I had always raced to prove arthritis could not stop me.

Doctors disagree. Over time, the disease causes a gradual thinning of the cartilage or padding in the joints.

“I will set a new record in the knee replacement class! People will have hope again!” I had not known at the time I would be setting a record, all right. But the speed of sea turtles is not legendary in athletic competitions.

While I tore it up during the swim, I earned a smile from the trainer. While I cranked and spun the pedals of the ancient recumbent bike, I realized at 68 rpms, I had only gone one-and-a-half miles in twenty minutes. Obviously, the machine needed repair. On the road or on any other machines, I was four times faster.

Sheer determination kicked in. My knees, including the metal one, began to complain, burn, incinerate, and turn to baked, shapeless ABC gum. “Be still and know I am God,” I heard softly in my mind, but instead, the pain and the sweat staining my color-coordinated outfit had my full attention.

An hour later, I teetered off the bike with numb legs. Stumbling to the treadmill for the final event, I looked around for my fellow athletes. None. Only a forest of empty machines told the story. So much for camaraderie.    The cheering? The trainer muffled a yawn. She headed downstairs to catch a bite while I continued in “record-breaking” time—the speed of a sea turtle enjoying a leisurely trip around the Galapagos Islands. Bound by my own promise to finish, I stuck it out to the end.

Arthritis: I now admit it stands between me and sprint triathlons. I had been denying it as well as grieving over my limitations.

Apostle Paul describes “There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” and three times asked God to take it away from him. [2 Corinthians 12:7-10] NIV. God’s answer in verse 9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul concludes, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I had not considered what a gift is it than when lack of skills, failure, or any physical affliction takes over, God fills in the weak areas with his power and strength!. Instead of grieving over the lost cartilage, I had to move forward in a journey down an unfamiliar road. I will grow with God’s help. I may falter, but he is there with his power and strength.

“Be still and know that I am God” from Psalm 46:10 is timeless. What assurance! God had walked with us in the past. He accompanies us on the adventurous route ahead.

Have courage! For his presence, power and strength are with us.

[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, Intermedia Publishing, 2011. For more chuckles, keep checking  her weekly blog on Button-to-God.com.]

Anticipation or Procrastination? By Jo Russell

“Anticipation! An-ti-ci-pa-a-a-tion is making me wait!” The popular ad for catsup flaunted the idea of having to wait for the tomato finishing sauce to come out on the hamburger. And you could hardly wait for this delicious thing!

Procrastination has the same number of syllables and the same ending.
But instead of it being a delicious and positive thing, it ranks right up
there in business circles with insufficient funds, lawsuits and lice.

Fear gripped me so tightly I thought I would have to cut it off me like
clothes. The cause? A new assignment thickly frosted with new skills and
technology.

After all, I just learned how to burn a disc (Throw it in the fireplace?),
enter more than 420 characters on Face Book (It’s called a “note.”
How old-fashioned!) and followed the iPod road to the Emerald City for
the first time.

Before I faced my impossible giants, I thought of all the signs of
procrastinating:
– You’re ironing the creases in pants that you have already ironed.
– You’re cleaning the shed when you just organized it on Monday.
– You’re peeling the caulk off a caulk gun that has been stuck
to it like glue for five years.
– You’ve done everything on the “Honey Do” list except top billing.
– You’ve started the great American novel and can’t stop
until you finish (either writing or reading it)

Before I dived head first into the fearfully unfamiliar territory of
the Black Hole, I reminded myself that God promises, “I am with you always
even to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:20 NIV]. We know that with Him,
we can do anything. Sure enough, we did. I finished the task and did it
well in thirty minutes.

What task with week will you tackle with God as your partner?

[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, Intermedia Publishing, 2011. For more chuckles, keep checking  her weekly blog on Button-to-God.com.]

The Envy of the Neighborhood by Jo Russell

What does it take to be the envy of the neighborhood? A dazzling remodel? A new car? A second home? A whirlpool tub? A two-story glassed-in sunroom? A cabin cruiser?

Not in my kid-friendly neighborhood. Fisher-Price constructs most second homes here, and they live in a toy box. Boats? Why, they are floating in the bathtub along with rubber duckies!

While waiting for routine maintenance at a shop, I saw the uniformed mechanic coming out with something from under the hood that was so furry, it belonged on a mammal. “And what is this?” I asked him.

“Your air filter. It needs replacing. Danny also recommends that for a mere $$$ and one hour, you could be the envy of the neighborhood with three new belts. The old ones are beginning to look cracked and wrinkled.
“Whoa! Just like me at 5:00 a.m.” I thought.

That was the first time I ever considered automotive belts making my truck the envy of the neighborhood. It was more meaningful to me to have the truck in top shape for an upcoming road trip. By the time they finished the work, I had eaten all their bananas, drank hot cocoa until I knew I would be buzzed for twenty-four hours, and read everything on the magazine rack three times, knitted a scarf, planned a party, and balanced my checkbook. While I waited, I wondered. What is so important about being the envy of the neighborhood? Keeping up with the Jones’s? Where does this fit in with God’s ways?

It doesn’t.

Instead, ask yourself, “What am I doing to touch others as Jesus did with kindness, compassion, generosity, and my encouragement?”

[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, Intermedia Publishing, 2011. For more chuckles, keep checking  her weekly blog on Button-to-God.com.]

You’re Not Average! You’re Amazing! By Jo Russell

A lump had formed in my throat as I looked at the shiny, bright-colored winter boots that my high-school classmates wore. As they moved into adulthood with “average” sizes, I could imagine the fun they had going shopping for cute shoes, having the time of their lives! That could never happen to me. Only combat boots or men’s high-top tennies (not fashionable at the time) had been in stock in my size. Nothing else.

Fortunately, when my big-footed growing spree came to a halt, it reined in at “baby battleship.” In conversion charts, my shoe size translates to size 44 or 273. But I haven’t needed those numbers as I haven’t yet visited those countries.

“Don’t feel bad, Jo!” my good friends had assured me, “John Wayne was taller than you, but had small feet. You might trip more often if you had cheerleader-sized feet.”

But I still pined for having “average” sized feet, hoping I’d get them in Heaven, along with cute shoes. Lately, I have reconsidered, realizing that God does not want us to be average.

What is average anyway? How does the average American family give birth to one and a half children? What about “average intelligence?” Aren’t we glad that standardized test scores are no longer printed in the newspaper along with I.Q.s? For parents wishing for their children to gain entry to fine colleges, “average” is a label that ranks right down there with fungus and black mold.

I considered my sons. Born with complications common in three of every ten sets of identical twins, the “average” outcome would be death of one or both babies. Both thrived and grew to over six feet. They are above-average in sensitivity and thoughtfulness, persistence, love, and achievement of goals.

God did not create us to be average, but amazing! With that in mind, I can now celebrate my big feet and anything else that makes me stand out in a crowd.

So can you! God creates each of us as a truly unique combination of all of our features, talents, abilities, skills, and experiences. Think of a few of the Bible characters that the world might consider average, but how God nudged them into becoming amazing people: (Old Testament) Moses, Esther, Ruth; (New Testament) John the Baptist, and Peter and the apostles.

For none of us is average, but gifted! Have you accepted God’s plans for your extraordinary life?

[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, Intermedia Publishing, 2011. For more chuckles, keep checking her weekly blog on Button-to-God.com.]

The State of the Union – Who Wrote the Script? Single Parenting Ain’t for Sissies! By Jo Russell

At the grocery store, I recognized an energetic young woman – the grown daughter of one of my friends. The beautiful woman had been raised with siblings in a loving, two-parent, moral environment with firm boundaries. She was excited to share her latest news.
“Wow!” she said. “I’m pregnant! She looked as pregnant as a tongue depressor. “Here’s a picture of my baby!” and she showed a fuzzy sonogram picture on her telephone.
A few words later and I realized that, like many, she had been duped by a common Hollywood script summary that reads like this:
The relationship had been written in the stars!
First, the man and woman had hated each other.
Then they had sex.
Third, they had fallen in love and they had lived together.
Now one baby was in the hopper.
Live happily ever after? Absolutely!
Married? Whatever for?

The only detail in her life that didn’t fit was that the father of the baby had left– forever.

I sighed. Back in the “olden days” before the media dynamited marriage as “too old fashioned,” and the common opinion about marriage was different, I had found I, too, was bulging around the waist. I thought I was sentenced to watching what I ate. Weeks later, nearly comatose for lack of ice cream and brownies, I had been getting no slimmer. Then I found out that pregnancy was the issue. In a marriage as rocky as a shipwreck, I trembled. Just weeks later, I began the long journey of raising the twins by myself. I learned that despite Hollywood’s glowing cinematography, single parenting is not for sissies.

It adds up to:
 Being head of household on one woman’s income, often without any additional financial help. Anything can push a single mom into an O.D. (overdraft): the rising cost of brown bags, kids’ shoes, peanut butter, field trips, haircuts, thrift store purchases or luxuries–such as gasoline.
 No relief from the continuing needs of the children 24/7. An unsupervised fistfight between my siblings broke out in the hall; or after work, somebody’s kids (not mine!) were building a cardboard fort in the living room from appliance boxes. I had been planning a menu from existing cans and frozen ingredients, while wondering how many I would be feeding, who there were, and when I could type the term paper due in the morning.
 No immediate emotional support. No one is there to cuddle you in the middle of the night and tell you everything is going to be okay. The dog just snorts and rolls over. He’s not talking or listening.
 No one to share responsibilities or life decisions. It’s always up to you to choose and to act.

I know that my friend’s daughter faces a really difficult future, and I hope that she will rely on God’s guidance for the road ahead. However, it will not be easy. Perhaps you know a single parent whose children you could watch for an afternoon for some “Me Time.” Watch for ways to encourage a single mom or dad today.

P.S. Single parents are more than one in four of the U.S. population. Please look out for their needs, support your local pregnancy centers and domestic violence centers for the sake of all the precious children. [Much thanks to Linda G. and M.M. for help with this piece.]

[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, Intermedia Publishing, 2011. For more chuckles, keep checking her weekly blog on Button-to-God.com.]