Moms Don’t Cry: Comfort Through Everyday Battles

Sadie and her brother, Dan, moped alone in each of their rooms, patting those things into place that looked untidy. Both had been sentenced to their rooms until Mom said they could come out.  Worst of all, they were missing out on their favorite activity with mom—making cookies together.

“Stop that squabbling, hitting and crying!” Mom had told them all morning. They didn’t.

Too much fun!

Finally, Mom’s patience disappeared with a summer dust devil. “Go to your rooms, clean them up, and,” she stopped for a breath, “Stay there until I say so!”

Sadie looked at her closet door. “Uh-oh. There’s stuff sticking out.” The school-aged girl’s idea had been to take all the messy stuff, jam it in the closet and yank the door shut. Now Sadie opened the door and gave the stuff another little push with her foot. No one’ll see it now.    

The cookie making was going well. The treats were nearly ready to bake. But Mom was going it alone. From their rooms, the two siblings heard the beater going. They listened for the sound of the cellophane crinkling as she opened the chocolate chips. Their mouths watered as they heard the mixer begin again, stirring the sweet chips into the thick oatmeal batter.

“Mom, can we come out now? Our rooms are clean. You can come see.”

Instead, they heard a cry, “Help me! Help me!”

When Sadie and Dan rushed to the kitchen, they found their mother’s fingers of tangled in the beater blades. Tears were running down her face.

“Mom! Mom! What do I do?” Dan cried.

“Pull the plug!”  Unlike today’s models, this old-fashioned type mixer had beaters that whirled in place while the bowl turned. Could it be an accident waiting to happen with fingers?

Still Mom’s tears fell into the cookie dough as she wiggled her fingers until they were free. No blood, though. The cookies were safe!

It had been a long, long time since either had seen their mother cry.

“Sorry, Mom!” Then Sadie offered, “We can lick the bowl for you. We won’t fight any more.”

“Yeah,” Dan, offered. “We know how to put the cookies on the sheet and in the oven. We’ll even wash the dishes.”

Still, Mom’s tears wet her face and she sobbed. It wasn’t just her throbbing fingers. It was everything. Too much to do. Few breaks from the kids. Not enough money. Not enough time. No help. Her Marine husband overseas.

“Does it hurt? Do you want me to kiss it and make it better?”

Funny how the small gestures of comfort to children are sometimes just what grown-ups need, too.  Kissing to make it better.

A daily balancing act with responsibilities for any mom, fortified with the superwoman syndrome, makes it quite a battle both physically and emotionally.

Kids think that moms don’t cry. Children perceive their moms never get tired, hurt or feel like giving up.

Maybe moms don’t cry on the outside, but sometimes on the inside.

God sees and knows.

Be encouraged!

“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” [Isaiah 40:28-31]

God does know how to renew energy, kiss and make one better and still leave the greatest pleasures—hope that in him as a guide, things will be okay. He always meets our needs. God may even leave a bowl to lick!

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of scores of articles, a half dozen anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and website, www.button-to-god.com. She lives in northeast Arizona with her husband, Ed. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]

Come Anytime, Come As You Are, But Come! By Jo Russell

“Where are you going dressed like that?” the school principal quizzed his newest teacher, Roberta, as she crossed the school ground from the teacherage to the school gate.

The last few months, the single teacher thought the whole settlement seemed like one that time left behind. With ten buildings and a handful of mobile homes, the tiny community housed and served the entire population as well as travelers along the highway who stopped out of desperation for repairs or cold drinks.

“The country store, of course” the teacher told her boss. She thought to herself, “Where else is there to go around here without driving fifty miles?”

“You can’t leave the school grounds dressed like that!”

“What?! But I’m off duty.”

“Not around here. You’re a teacher. People here expect that teachers are a cut above the rest. You’ll have to wear something else.”

She looked down at the orange and black tropical design that was perfect for a patio party. In this remote area where casual was the buzz word, Roberta saw many who showed up for church in worn Levis or cut-off jeans. Still, the halter-topped casual attire had passed muster by everyone else – but they lived in town a hundred miles away.

“What about yoga pants?” she offered. Remembering the continent-wide enthusiasm for the snug, comfortable pants, Roberta noted yoga pants became the just-right attire for any event just short of black tie.

The principal shook his head.

“A long dress, bonnet, and a hoop skirt?” she ventured with a grin.

“Not necessary,” was his terse reply.

Roberta’s last choice for the trek across the schoolyard was a new tee shirt and slacks, ironed nicely. This time, she was able to pass the principal’s office without his sending her back home to change.

Clothes: Do they make a man or a woman?  For until Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the forbidden Tree of Life, they didn’t have to worry about clothes, closets, hangers, chests of drawers, boots, fashion trends, or color draping. Life was simple au naturale.

But when it comes to a relationship with God, one doesn’t have to wear clothes that are just right. Those in the tiny settlement who came to church in cut-off jeans – the best that they had – knew that. It’s attitude that counts – one of humility and acceptance of the most high God, Creator, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Jesus himself said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” [Matthew. 11:28.] Can you imagine the hug that is infused in those words of love and comfort?

Have you ever thought it was too late for you to know God or Jesus? Recall the picture of the three crosses on the hill where Christ was crucified. One of two convicted criminals said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” [Luke23:42-43]

And Jesus’ reply was, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Even though the convicted man’s life showed him as a hardened criminal, Jesus knew the man’s honesty and humility at that moment. At last, Jesus was to him the Savior who had been promised.

It’s never too late. Come to Jesus. Come as you are, but come.

You won’t even need to change your clothes.

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and website, www.button-to-god.com. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]

 

 

 

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Round and Round We Go: Where No GPS Has Ever Gone By Jo Russell

Paula initiated a one-woman campaign against roundabouts.  She failed dismally.

Around the state, she learned, small communities considered them arty and practical. Town councils – even her own – voted traffic signals out as completely obsolete. Even kindergarten teachers didn’t use the signal’s red, green, and yellow to teach colors anymore. Now the streets spouted landscaped gardens thriving in the circular median. Tree huggers everywhere celebrated the greening of the asphalt.

Not Paula. With a roundabout, Paula needed four tries to find the correct outlet.  But to their credit, everyone on the four corners was friendly.

The first try, Paula ended up at the high school.

The school secretary greeted her, “Welcome to Pine Valley High School. Are you enrolling a student today or would you rather help with the Open House this evening?”

“No, I’m lost in the Black Hole Roundabout and just trying to get to – Highway 260. Thanks to that roundabout, I’m way off course. It’s worse than a black hole in space! ”

The school secretary clicked her tongue in sympathy. After the Grand Opening of the roundabout, she confided, they completely lost track of six punctual teachers and hadn’t seen them since. Classes started without them. Other staff members, unable to figure out the maze, had parked across the street and walked to school.  The crossing guard doubled as a trail guide through the roundabout.

When Paula tried the roundabout on a second try, she was headed for the mini mall and ended up at the Humane Society.

“We’re having a special on cats,” smiled a young woman cuddling a kitten. How about adopting one?”

Paula never made it to Highway 260. Coming home from a simple trek, she held a kitten, cat carrier, food, and a pledge to bake four dozen cookies for Open House. Paula blamed it on the roundabout.

The next week, she took her complaint to the town hall and picked up a petition to bring back traffic lights. “It’s the American way!” she argued with the council member manning the counter.

“No, I voted for this. Roundabouts are the latest in traffic engineering! They save lives, money, and provide a great garden area for anyone who is hopelessly lost! It’s a giant step forward for the environment!”

Next, Paula approached Denise and her husband Robert for a signature. “Sorry, I can’t,” Denise explained. I’m President of the Garden Club. We get to design and plant the beautiful roundabout in front of the turnoff for Sonic. With an arbor and bench, the garden will be a great place to meditate and find serenity while contemplating how to cross the street. But most people aren’t having any trouble with the roundabouts. You are?”

Paula pondered, “A path to serenity? It’s nearly impossible with a roundabout.” She’s right about our needing a quiet place to think. But what about another path and another trail guide?

All of our lives, we choose paths leading to adventure, opportunity, and relationships. Garden Club President Denise is right that we also need to find a path to serenity. But finding true calm against the storm isn’t generated in navigating roundabouts–no matter how beautifully they are landscaped.  Serenity is not built into a 60-minute lunch hour, time at the gym, a relaxing massage or even a vacation.

In the search for serenity, try trail guide God. Old Testament King David shares these views: “He [God] lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised.” [Psalm 23:2-3 Good News Bible].

Choosing paths and trails can be difficult all by yourself. With God, who knows the entire trail to the end, it’s easier.

He’ll even help you find your way through the roundabouts. You’ll never be lost again.

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and  website, www.button-to-god.com. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom Isn’t Free By Jo Russell

People say it so often and without expecting a response, they could be saying, “Have a good day” or “Thanks for shopping at Wal Mart.”

The phrase, “Freedom isn’t free” shouldn’t have the ho-hum meaning and flavor of already been chewed gum. Such a mindset has to change. Apathy destroys all relationships, including one with God. Let’s also remember and honor our Armed Forces.   

With a war currently in progress and my being in Washington, D.C. for Independence Day, I decided to trade that worn-out sentiment for the power of proof.

Every generation since the Revolutionary War has been touched by the commitment it takes to buy freedom. Just establishing the United States as a separate country cost over 25,000 lives. But think beyond statistics. They had been husbands, fathers, farmers, ancestors, business owners, entrepreneurs, craftsmen, builders, and men with a dream. Other wars have followed, touching every generation

How many of the 58,000 names listed on The Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall were men of dreams under 30?  Check the numbers yourself. [http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL32492.pdf]  No monuments, medals, plaques or awards will ever bring back to life those who died or those, like my father, who returned from serving in war and was never the same again.

On a memorial in a small Arizona town is the name of a woman who died in the Persian Gulf War. With less than 400 dead, and just a few names on that marble slab, one might speculate, “Big deal.” But the reality struck me in my classroom where I taught the two motherless girls.  

Another for-instance. No post-war picture of my father ever reflected the same spark in his eye or smile as in the pre-war photographs taken before he left his fiancé for a battlefield an ocean away. Sacrificing the precious time when his children were young, my father experienced the consequence – not knowing his children.

When a tall, gaunt man in a pressed green uniform had stepped in the door of our house, my mom exclaimed, “Your dad is home from the war, at last!”  I was about five. When he had held out his arms to me, I did not run into them. Instead, I held tightly to my mother’s legs and wondered who the stranger was – and why he was moving in with us.

As a military professional, Dad’s being home for a long period of time only happened toward the end of his career. He balanced two demanding worlds: a commitment to defend the United States and a desire to protect, guide, and provide for his family – often long distance. My father had proved his bravery in two wars and a full military career, receiving Silver and Bronze Star as well as many other campaign medals. 

Many have made the same promises to the Armed Forces as well as to their families. Consider that freedom isn’t free and think of the other effects for service men and women away from safety, a familiar culture, old friends, home, families, spouses, and children.

All serving or at home can invest and believe this promise: “I call on you, God, for you will answer me…Show me the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.” Psalm 17:6-7.

Truly freedom isn’t free. God bless our Armed Forces. Pray for them. God guide them safe and bring them home — forever and always.   

 [Jo Russell is a Christian author, speaker, contributor to antholgies, articles, and author of award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. Available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and website, www.button-to-god.com, check her website options to enjoy chuckles, tips, excerpts and speeches.]   

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Advocate Evens Up the Odds By Jo Russell

Though he was smiling when Kevin realized his Sunday teacher was absent and he would be joining the older church class, the second grader’s grin disappeared when he opened the door and realized his guy friends were absent, too.  As Kevin’s eyes scanned the room entirely full of females, all who were taller than he was, he thought, “No fair!” Outnumbered, outwitted, and out-voted! From a seven-year-old boy’s perspective, there was no chance for him.

“I need someone else on my side,” he protested when the teacher paired him up with a girl for the bean-bag team game. His idea of an ally wasn’t someone who was wearing jeweled sandals, toenail polish, and pierced earrings. Kevin felt all alone. The girls knew all the answers.  He didn’t. Kevin felt like crawling under the table. Instead he leaned back in his chair so far, it fell over with him in it.  

Things got worse as the group shared a table making bookmarks and cards for the church project for Father’s Day.

“You can’t use that kind of paint on the bookmarks!” scolded one girl.

“I like it,” countered Kevin.

Teacher Jenny Brown added, “So do I! It’s creative!”   

Then Kevin’s paint pencil ran out of ink and there wasn’t another good color to choose from.

When it was cookie time, Kevin was sniffing a homemade cookie and accidentally dropped one of his on the floor and it broke into pieces.  None of the girls lost their cookies. The second-grader’s cloud of doom grew like a summer thunderstorm.

Finally after the girls left, Kevin’s tears mixed with his wailing to the teacher, “I just don’t like it when the class is all girls!”

Teacher Jenny Brown pulled him close and ruffled his hair. “God loves boys. I raised a couple of them myself, and I love them too.”

Kevin needed not to feel alone, nor should we when the odds seem impossible. For in the New Testament, God adds a fuller job description to the powerful promise that he is with us in the Holy Spirit. He sends a comforter as well as a counselor to his support us. The counselor’s job is not only advice, but as a Paraclete, a representative in a court of law. Just as Jesus promised a comforter in the Holy Spirit, knowing his disciples faced a hostile world, the Holy Spirit is also referenced as an advocate speaking for and to us.

Kevin and we need to remember John 14:16 when Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.”  [NIV]. More than a title, it’s a forever promise that even when the odds are against you, you have a friend who will always be there ~.even when it looks like you’re completely outnumbered.

[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, available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and  website, www.button-to-god.com. For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog.]   

 

 

 

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Real Need and True Friends by Jo Russell

At the site declared a disaster because of a wildfire, the news cameras focused on the visiting U.S. President at the time. The media expected the Chief Executive to be the center of attention as he addressed the crowd of thousands of rural residents.

A safe distance away from the flames and major highways, the evacuees had endured more than a week of hardships. Each quickly distinguished between real needs and wants. No one knew when they’d be going home – if they even had one left.

Real needs won out when the cameras scanned the crowd during the President’s speech. One evacuee held a sign high, “Kathy, bring clean underwear!”

When it comes to real needs, we can count on God. When it comes to true friends, we can count on God as well.

But what of the needs that are above and beyond the basics? What if you need just the special words to mend a relationship? A raise? More time with your family? The sale of your home as you relocate? Decisions for assisted care for older family members? Do you dare ask? Yes. God is not surprised with life and deals with it.

Think back to Jesus’ ministry. Jesus and Peter came to Capernaum when a collector asked them for the temple tax. As the son of a king, Jesus owed no tax. But to keep from offending, he decided he would pay the tax for both of them-–in a most unusual way. [Matthew 17:24-26]

“Doesn’t Jesus have a pouch or any money?” Peter might have wondered when Jesus told him to go fishing. Jesus told Peter the first fish would have a four-drachma coin in its mouth. That was the full amount for the tax for both of them. It was just enough–not too much or too little. They also got a meal out of it, too, because the tilapia, a mild fish, is good eating – even in restaurants today.

So don’t be afraid to ask for needs–above and beyond–or just the basics, like clean underwear.

[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, available from her website, www.button-to-god.com. For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog.]

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Away from the Chaos, Clatter, and Confusion By Jo Russell

Never had sleeping arrangements been more comical. Only no one was laughing – yet.

“We’ll provide you and your group a comfortable place to sleep,” the church youth event director had promised over the phone.

Chaperone Cindy and Susan plus the nine girls looked around the classroom that would be lodging for the night. Cindy could predict neither the sleeping bags nor the concrete floor would be soft enough.

“How do we turn off these bright lights?” Chaperone Cindy asked a committee member after she flipped a switch and nothing happened. The fluorescent fixtures flooded every nook and cranny with light.

“You can’t. All the classroom lights stay on at the same time.”

“So when God said, ‘Let there be light,’ on the first day of creation, He was thinking of your church!”

“I never thought about it that way.”

“What about the bathrooms?” Cindy wanted to know. The girls clutched their backpacks, sodas, and lip gloss. They needed facilities right away.
“We unlocked them just for you – they’re one floor down across from the elevator.”

While Chaperone Cindy took half of the girls to the bathroom, Chaperone Susan helped the girls set up their sleeping bags. Another group from parts unknown bedded down on the other side of the plastic divider walls. The rising volume of talk, music and laughter set the stage for a great building-wide slumber party. It was exciting news for the girls, but bad news for the chaperones.

Soon after she rolled out her own bag, Susan pulled the top flap over her face. More than sixteen hours earlier, she had dressed, headed to a full day of work, and then traveled with the vanload to its destination.

The full quota of their girls settled in for an all-night party helped along by M & M’s, chaos, clatter, noise, and laughter. At least they were all happy sounds. Susan sleepily wondered if it was the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air that flew overhead – or was it popcorn, candy, and game pieces?

In the morning, Susan awoke refreshed under the bright lights. But Cindy and the girls seemed limp with fatigue. The chaperone roused herself onto an elbow to ask, “How ever did you sleep with the lights and the noise?”

Susan just smiled.

Chaos, clutter and noise seem to dominate minutes of our multi-tasking lives.
But when it comes to building our relationship with God, it’s not about multi-tasking. Prayer is one-on-one communication. Paul advises, “Pray continually” [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. Best case scenario is illustrated in Jesus’ own life.

Just as we do ourselves, the Savior himself needed time alone for rest and refreshment. He chose places where he was alone and could pray. Often, this came before or after major events.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. “[Mark 1:35 NIV] This happened after he healed Simon’s mother-in-law of a feverish illness. News spread quickly. By evening, the residents of the entire town crowded to her door to be well again.

He went off by himself after healing a paralytic lowered through the roof where he was preaching. [Mark 2]. Jesus took to the hills after feeding the large crowd with two fish and five rolls. He needed time alone with God to regroup and to deal with John the Baptist being murdered. [Mark 6] Much art commemorates Jesus’ time to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest and crucifixion. [Mark 14].

In our busy lives, popcorn, candy, and flying M&M’s may be the benchmark–or bane–of our existence. But in seeking God, we must leave chaos and confusion behind. In our private time with God, we get the rest we need – even where the accommodations are comical and the lights are on all night.

[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, available from her website, www.button-to-god.com. For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog.]