Marriage and Relationships: A Second Chance by Jo Russell

Marriage and Relationships: a Second Chance

“It’s pretty sad,” the clergyman shared with his congregation, “That one out of every two couples that I marry split up.  “The reason is usually summed up in these words by one or both of the newlyweds, ‘Marriage isn’t what I thought it would be!’”

From the audience, one bride of less than a year must have agreed. She laughed so loud and long that he stopped, stared, and addressed her, “Carol, you haven’t been married that long. What are you laughing about?”

Even though it has often been said, “The couple that prays together, stays together,” Paul and Carol had done that. They planned a budget together. The couple counseled with the pastor. At one long-time spouse’s suggestion, they remembered he advised, “The couple that paints the garage together is the real test. Can you still love your partner after a 15-hour day of agreeing on a color from thousands of shades? Then can you forgive the spills and spots of the one who isn’t that good of a painter or who stepped in the paint tray?”

Following that advice during their courtship, the two had painted a garage together. After that shared experience, they still planned to marry because compatibility seemed to be a sure thing.

Still, there were surprises. Some were great. Some weren’t. All the pets barfed on the rug at some point. Paul cleaned it up.

When Carol cooked, Paul always thanked her for the meal and added, “Kick back, Sweetie. Do anything you want. I’ll do the dishes.”

Maybe because of all the romance writers out there, new brides may expect something different. Somebody taller than her with a six-pack that didn’t come from the fridge.  In looks, the love interest guy is so strikingly handsome that he could be on the cover of G.Q. [Gentlemen’s’ Quarterly.] Kisses that are more of a dream come true than winning the Power Ball Jackpot. The fictional romantic man never makes any rude bodily noises, whether accidentally or on purpose.  Real life. That’s different.

Carol knew those attributes of romance heroes are no more real than the size 3 models representing the average woman in clothing catalogs – or the chisel-jawed men, slender, six feet or so in men’s clothing catalogs.

Mutual respect. It’s the foundation of Ephesians 5.

“Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless….However, each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” [Ephesians 5: 25-27; 5:33].

Jesus taught and valued people of all levels of life, all races and denominations. He still does. Jesus may have healed their bodies as well as souls with forgiveness. He has modeled how to handle relationships.

Jesus also models tolerance and flexibility. Relationships require forgiveness at times.

When five adult siblings gathered after their mother’s death, four got in a fight over a teakettle each wanted. In the decades that followed, none of the four spoke to each other. One by one, they slipped into Alzheimer’s or death.

As each of the four would come before Jesus, what would he say about their relationship skills? Where had they failed each other? In failing to work on relationships and giving another chance.

The real man in her life, Carol decided, is the one who prays with her each morning, cleans up the messes on the rug and generally makes work and play more fun. He is worthy of respect, forgiveness, and a second chance. So are you.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

Surviving Motherhood with a Smile by Jo Russell

“God gives us teenagers so we have the courage to cut the umbilical cord. In fact, after a few years in the double digits, we don’t have a scalpel, but a bayonet ready and a calendar with big X’s,” Jolene, the mother of teen sons, concluded.

It had been a hard Saturday of chore supervision. Her offspring decided that oppression was in the air and the rake head ended up in the tree, without a handle.

What she’d asked was for one to mow the lawn and the other to rake it. “How to do you explain the rake?”

“Oppression. Mom! We work hard at school all week and on Saturdays, you give us so much work to do that we would have it easier in a chain gang! I dunno what happened to the rake. It looks good up there, though.”

She thought back to her days as a new mother when Jolene had been charmed with her twins, remembering all the sweet experiences of those little feet. Christmas was special. So were lost teeth, homemade Mother’s Day gifts, their hope, and happiness. She glowed when they said, “Mom, I love you berry mucsh!” She still does.

But now as teens, her sons’ sentiments in words and actions evaporated. Love was reserved for girls and French fries, not moms.

Jolene heard this often enough, “Moms never buy us anything we want,” and she might catch them saying,“Just drop me off here,” but adding in a whisper, “ It’s embarrassing to be in the company of a senior citizen like you.”  Both announced that Mom was interfering. They rolled their eyes often. It wasn’t because the eye doctor prescribed the exercise.

When Jolene paid their woodshop class bill and asked her sons to make a mudroom bench, the two came home with dogsleds. The third sled was a masterpiece in oak. You couldn’t sit on it while taking off muddy shoes or park it in the hallway. “Oh, well.”

Later, after another heated argument about slavery and oppression, one said,

“I just bet you can hardly wait for us to move out!”

She bit her lip to keep from agreeing. “Help me, Lord!” she prayed.

Jolene thought maybe God takes parents through the teen years on purpose because letting go also means that the rules change. The kids do leave home, and then the mom rules change.

Jolene’s sons got married. She figured the family just got bigger. She was wrong.

God had made two into one, as in “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Ephesians 5:31

Parents take a different role. It’s best to

– hold back on tips and advice unless asked.

-respect the couple their children have become.

-ask permission instead of taking over.

-give the new family space.

-let them create their own traditions.

It’s God’s way, and the right way.

With the teen years now bygones, Jolene still smiled as she spotted the rake in the tree. It had grown into the branch. The tool was a reminder that in all things–even the difficult teen years– the hardship will pass, and God is with us. One can survive motherhood with a smile!

[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.]

 

If You Love Someone, Belt it Out! by Jo Russell

The jazz concert for Miss Martin’s elementary students was a welcome change from practicing spelling, math and reading. As she and her students were seated, the teacher felt a surprise coming on at her right elbow. Adam cupped his hands around his mouth. She reached out to stop whatever might be coming. With a smile that could light up a stadium, eight-year-old Adam stood and shouted, “I LOVE YOU!!” at the band. All five hundred sets of eyes turned to see where all that love was coming from. The other kids weren’t surprised.

Flushed with embarrassment, Miss Martin wondered what the right teacher thing might be to say. She whispered to Adam, “Saying ‘I love you’ is good, Adam, but it’s better if you say it to one person and mean it.” Then she remembered all of Adam’s notes. He often told his family and friends he loved them.

I tend to hold back, she realized, and began to see Adam was not in the “wait and see” school of love. Nor is God.

“Shouting in a crowd really takes a lot out of love, Adam,” Miss Martin lectured him. “Why don’t you save it for a one-on-one with your friends?”

“I was saying it to just one person,” he explained, still beaming. “Look there next to the big drum! That’s my cousin!”

How lucky are Adam’s family members! They know he loves them, will stand by them, be proud of them, and listen to them with all his heart.

Imagine someone loving, protecting and promising to take care of you like Adam does with his friends and family. There is.

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.” [Psalm 91:14-16]

Claim that someone like that for you—God. Accept his son, Jesus, and you’ll find you’re already in the family of God.

That’s a power higher than all of us, someone who never fails us, who provides for us and protects us. You are the picture-magnet on his refrigerator. You are in his brag-book. He knows your whole life ahead of time and cares about you anyway. God loves you!

Who in your life needs to hear that you love them? Belt out those powerful words!

[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.]

 

 

 

 

Love for All God’s Critters and You! By Jo Russell

When Grandma came for her half-year stay with her son and family, Fletcher, the Bassett hound groaned. All the family dog wanted was love, compassion, appreciation, treats, and a comfortable place to sleep. “Even Baby Jesus had a crib for a bed,” the dog reasoned.

The floppy-eared Bassett grieved, “No more sofa-sitting until summer. How could such a thing happen to such an important family member?”

“Why, I put in an 18-hour day keeping everyone on schedule! They get up on time without an alarm clock! I make sure the kitchen floor is cleaned up when someone drops something! I even tell the family when the mailman comes!”

Grandma voiced her disapproval to the family around the dinner table, “Dogs shouldn’t be sleeping on the furniture, either,” she announced, “Or begging for food while we’re eating.” She looked accusingly at Fletcher. He stopped his whining as suddenly as if his throat had been cut.

“Cats need to stay in the barn and kill the mice,” the elderly farm woman proclaimed. The cat yawned, stretched, and sashayed past the family at dinner. Princess’ idea of hunting was navigating trips to the food bowl 36 times a day.

“Grandma,” granddaughter Mandy countered, “We don’t have a barn and we don’t have mice. We live in a city. The exterminator takes care of them.”

Fletcher knew things would only get worse after dinner. Grandma would begin, “Dog! Get down!” and she ordered the dog off the sofa with a flyswatter in her hand.

Fletcher knew his sentence was to be called “Dog” for the next six months and curl up on the cold floor. No sofa for a bed. No treats from the kitchen floor. No conversations with family. His life was miserable with oppression. He was in trouble with Grandma most of the time.

Even from another room, when Fletcher tried to sneak on the sofa without the springs squeaking, Grandma seemed to have x-ray vision and sprinted to his side with a flyswatter.

When Grandma’s visit was finally up, Fletcher gingerly eased himself on the sofa, looking around for the tall, gaunt woman with the flyswatter. When he realized she was gone for some months ahead, he let out a long sigh and breathed, “At long last! Freedom!”

Some imagine God’s management of their lives would include Grandma’s iron-fisted techniques. God’s home in us and in heaven is not the same as a loveless existence with unbearable rules.

Just as Fletcher is loved and important enough for his family and God to remember his name, so are you.

“But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” Isaiah 43:1-2]

God helps you when you ask. Fletcher couldn’t swim. Heavy-bodied and short-legged Fletcher would make his legs go through all the motions in the water, but he sank like sandstone. Just as his owners cupped him around the chest and got him to shore, God lifts and rescues us.

God cares about your problems.  “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” [1 Peter 5:7].

When God comes to visit in your life, don’t groan and expect a flyswatter. Invite him in and let his love and care shine on you – 24-7.

[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.]

 

 

 

Is There Any Place Like Grandma’s? By Jo Russell

“Gramma!” the toddler cried with glee and took unsteady steps into the everlasting arms of the smiling lady who loved him and saw Robert often.

Later, as the Robert began the uncertainties of the unknown as he entered school, his mother, Jolene, walked him there and stopped – right at Grandma’s house.

Robert followed the scent to her kitchen – to find it full of cinnamon rolls and encouragement.

Somehow, Grandma made everything look as if it were possible. On the way home, he stopped to show her his schoolwork and pictures.

“I’m so proud of you! Look at your neat handwriting! Look at this math! You are so smart!” Her encouragement helped him to grow strong and confident.

And that helped him through difficult times for a long time. But by the time he became a teen, his family had moved far from Grandma. Where was his refuge now? Fifteen for him was a tough age, full of uncertainty and unfolding wings for flight. At least, Grandma had a summer home in their community and lived there six months of the year. But right in the middle of his current crisis, she was gone for another five months.

Did it matter that his mom told him often, “Robert, you’re our free bonus gift! I love you so much!” Somehow, it didn’t mean as much as when the words came from Grandma.

Robert had his doubts. But he knew Grandma loved him from the moment he was born. He needed a refuge. He needed to be at a place where he knew he was valued. So Robert announced he was running away to Grandma’s summer home for Christmas break. It was the coldest month of the year and the heat was off. But Robert determined that with electricity, phone and water, it wouldn’t be bad. With Grandma’s stash of canned goods, he had enough food for months.

Packing up his largest pack, outdoor magazines, and a compacted case of dehydrated food, Robert headed out, not looking back. It was a short hike to Grandma’s, and he wore new boots he had worked for and had bought himself.

Robert didn’t answer the phone when he saw his home phone number on caller ID. His mother, Jolene, then showed up at the door. The first day she checked on him, she found Robert comfortable on the sofa bed in the living room. It was all of 50 degrees inside as the heater and gas were off. Robert was stretched out on it wearing sweaters, a jacket, plus two pairs of thick wool socks. Rob was reading his outdoor magazines: each grouped by title. His large pack was leaning against the bed. He showed no signs of moving back home.

“Hi, Robert!” Jolene greeted her son cheerfully.

“Hi,” he said glumly, not looking up from his magazine.

His conversation consisted of one-syllable answers, “I guess” and “Who cares?”

“Are you ready to come home? Your brother and I miss you!”

“So?”

You can guess he wasn’t ready.

Each day Jolene stopped by to check on him. Then one day, Jolene came over and mentioned, “Grandma wants to talk with you. You know the phone is working.”

She dialed the number and handed him the phone. Robert listened to Grandma and her sage advice, though this end of the conversation sounded like “I guess,” grunts, and “Okay.” After he hung up, Robert packed up his things to come home, ready to rejoin his family. Grandma’s words were magic. It was as if they encircled him again with the scent of cinnamon rolls, encouragement and hugs. And he could go on.

Robert came home a man with a purpose, with honor and self-respect. He went on that year to win a school-wide short story writing contest. His essay on honoring parents was published in the newspaper. He earned a letter in track and won “Who’s Who in American High Schools.”

As we move on the journey of our lives, there could never be a more steadfast refuge than God.

He is as loving and encouraging as Grandma, but his care spans all the days we have.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…The Lord Almighty is with us’ the God of Jacob is our fortress.” [Psalm 46:1-3; 7] NIV

There is always a refuge for us in God. The Almighty God will be there for us with a safe place. It’s even better than Grandma’s!

[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.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honor Your Father and His Biorhythms By Jo Russell

While mothers have their maxims of wisdom, fathers leave behind memorable tidbits that span the generations.

Some are downright impressive.

“Anyplace worth going on vacation is worth leaving at 4:00 in the morning,” Jan’s dad, Leo, announced to the family before their two-week camping trip to Yosemite. “We’ll be leaving at exactly 4:00 a.m..” He hoped his wife, Jeane, and their three children were listening closely. “Be sure you have your gear packed and you’re in the car by then.”

Twelve-year-old Jan packed right away and laid out her clothes. So did Mom. Both remembered Dad’s power word was “early.” Perhaps coming to life early was in his biorhythms. He was a morning person. Scientists theorize such tendencies begin at birth.

Did Leo ever mean that the family should rise when the rosy sky heralded the sunrise? Nope.

In the pre-dawn’s darkness of vacation day one, Bobby, the six-year-old, couldn’t find two socks that matched and had packed his duffle himself – full of toys and stuffed animals. Without Mom’s help, he quickly buttoned his green shirt in the wrong holes, pulled on purple plaid pants and sat shivering in the back seat. Next to him was his fully dressed and alert 12-year-old sister, Jan. She had been waiting for ten minutes. Dad had the car’s engine warming up for the trip.

Jan’s older brother, Tony, didn’t wake up well or quickly even when roused by Mom. With slept-on hair sticking up like a whisk broom, he sprinted barefoot through the gravel toward the moving sedan pulling out of the driveway at exactly 4:00 a.m. He dived into the back seat in his pajamas and forgot his suitcase entirely. Fortunately, wearing pajamas at the mall had become the benchmark of fashion.

Dad’s power word “EARLY” dominated the weekday routine as well.

While it was hours before dawn, and because he had to be at work early, Jan’s dad prepared sizzling sausages to go with fried eggs, stacks of pancakes, and hot cereal for the whole family.

His love glowed through his time listening and teaching. As the children became teens, Jan’s father mentored them through the important phases of moving into adulthood – including getting up before sunup to make the best of one’s day – or anyplace worth going on vacation is worth leaving at 4:00 in the morning.

As we celebrate Father’s Day today, remember God’s take on parents in Exodus 20:

“Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12.

And whether the father in your life is a morning person or doesn’t come to life until evening,

honor him and his biorhythms. His life woven with yours is a great gift.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

Changing the World One Child At a Time – Thank You, Mothers! By Jo Russell

Motherhood: America’s humorist Erma Bombeck claimed it was the second oldest profession.

In the world’s oldest profession, the women’s dressier wardrobes were free of baby urp on the shoulders–a deposit that comes with motherhood.

If the Marines will only take and make the few, the proud, and the Marines, motherhood requires even more: 360 degree vision, a warm and welcoming lap, strength enough to leap tall buildings in a single bound with a child under each arm while answering the phone, fixing dinner, and keeping the cat from coughing up a fur ball on the rug. Plus during the teen years, a mother must continue to enforce and teach children who are hacking away at the umbilical cord with a machete. She finds the strength to hold tougher boundaries than a drill sergeant.

But the rewards come. In a job cut out for the proud, the few, the strong, a mother rises above all. God smiles at mothers. For their job is to change the world one person and one child at a time.

They do.

When Thomas Edison’s elementary teacher told his parents he was not able to learn and wouldn’t contribute anything to society, his mother took over with encouragement as well as teaching. She found he was drawn to read reference books. He loved those on science. When grown, the inventor/businessman contributed over 1500 inventions, including the famous light bulb, phonograph, and motion picture camera. His company supplied the concrete for the Yankee Stadium, built in 1922. He continued to dream, create and invent all of his life. Where a teacher had not seen his potential and believed, his mother did. And God never stopped believing in Edison’s ability and talent.

Thousands of years ago, a king advised his son to look closely for the sterling qualities of a good wife and mother. “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’” [Proverbs 31:27-29 NIV]

Along with the hard work of multitasking, mothers and grandmothers everywhere touch the world with influence and training about values. What character rises above and spans the generations?

What Mom and Grandma teach, plus the solid ideas and teaching of Christ from the Bible, help shape character, not just when children are young, but all through the years.

For example, Gina’s family and children grew together with daily Bible studies at the breakfast table.

When the teen years came, ATTITUDE stepped up to home plate. Gina had enlisted the help of many stable couples at church to continue her sons’ ongoing moral and spiritual growth. It had been a team effort. While she saw other parents let their growing children decide if they wanted to go to church, pray, or study the Bible, Gina didn’t.

Gina, who taught elementary school, thought that giving them a choice seemed to be something like the mom whose daughter flunked first grade reading and stood at the summer reading class door saying, “Honey, would you like to go to summer school with Mrs. MacArthur or go with us to Disneyland next week?” Gina MacArthur never saw the wee girl again.

Gina opened a small devotional with Bible studies at the breakfast table with her sons.

“Don’t give me that eye-rolling!” She warned them.

Instead, they sighed noisily. “Anything more to eat? Can we have seconds?” one asked.

It was Gina’s turn to sigh. At times, she felt there seemed to be so little feedback, Gina thought she was talking to the napkins. In spite of that, she persisted.

Her young men both left home, announcing they were glad to be out from under the rules of the roost!

Only months later, she got a package from her son, George, who had finished Army boot camp. Inside was a devotional inscribed with these words penned by my son: “Merry Christmas, Mom. God gave the greatest gift of all, but I thought this book would help in using that gift….Though there is such a distance between us, we can look to the Lord and know we are united in Christ. Merry Christmas and God bless you now and forever.”

The next year, her second son, Norman wrote her, too. “Things are awesome since I rededicated my life. People get along with me better. I smile more. I went grocery shopping, and for the first time in two months, I wasn’t in the ten items or less line!

Gina found herself wiping her eyes with a rag and saw that it was one of her son’s tattered cross country tee shirts. The caring parent cried even more as she realized that God had continued the work in her young adult offspring.

Moms, parents, and grandparents everywhere, persist as you raise your children. Teach them how to find the laundry hamper, but also how to find and seek out God. Your job is to plant the seeds. Count on God for the rest!

A big thank you for all you do! Happy Mother’s Day!

[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.]

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing Your Cheerios with God by Jo Russell

When Gramps and Gran drove their pre-school granddaughter, Rachel, to the diner for a breakfast out, the girl clapped with delight! She grasped her container of Cheerios and worn blanket as she followed them inside.

After Gramps ordered his food, he smiled and turned to Rachel. In her pudgy fingers, the girl sampled the cereal.  Clutching the bowl close to her chest, she grinned at him, her mouth circled with crumbs.

“Gramps is so hungry,” he told her. “So hungry! I ordered my food, but it won’t come for a long while. So hungry!” he repeated.  “Could you let Grandpa have some of your Cheerios?”

Without dropping her gaze, Rachel snapped the lid on the Cheerios and pulled the bowl down into her lap.

She didn’t have to say, “Mine.” Without words, Gramps knew the answer.  The cereal was off-limits — period.

Gramps being separated from his granddaughter’s Cheerios is like our being separated from God. But this isn’t about what He considers His and what He will not share.

We are his creations. He loves us. He wants a relationship with us. He wants us to share our Cheerios with Him. But God cannot look on sin.

Many ordinary things that we do are offensive to God. Thinking and telling little white lies. Envying others. Bad-mouthing others.  Taking office supplies from work. None of us are free from wrongdoing.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a chance for a new start?

We do!

Christ Jesus gave his life to make us clean and bridge the gap between us and God. He forgives and pardons us. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” [Romans 6:22-23 NIV]

Once forgiven and clean, we begin a day as a new person eligible for a place as one of God’s children. “The old life is gone; a new life has begun.” [2 Corinthians 5:17]

And accepting Jesus as the son of God, asking forgiveness, and walking a new path is the key to eternal life. And who knows. Maybe Heaven’s streets of gold lead to even more Cheerios!

[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.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Valentine’s Day Hype By Jo Russell

When Valentine’s Day comes, Roberta often feels a pang of longing to be kissed by someone, to feel a warm body curled around her legs, and to be showered with dark chocolates from Brussels.

But she once said, “Who doesn’t when you’re over twenty-nine and still good looking?”

It did happen, but not in the form she was expecting. Her poodle, Lady Star, puckered up and showered her with kisses and enthusiasm. One cat curled her luxurious fur coat around Roberta’s feet. The chocolates? Roberta would say this is a do-it-yourself project with cream, butter, cocoa, sugar, and time.

One time, Roberta remembered feeling relieved when a truck pulling in the driveway wasn’t an electrician, plumber, or carpenter. It was a florist’s delivery van.  “Must be in the wrong driveway,” she thought and waved him away. But he didn’t go. Instead, he came to the door carrying a vase of flowers exploding in her favorite color: purple. The one-time gift surprised the single lady. Roberta’s grown children had ordered them for her for this special day of love.

Paul mentioned that single people are valuable in the ministry when he wrote “An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs:  Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in body and spirit.”  [1 Corinthians 7:34]

Singles can often be the odd one out during events geared for couples.

At Roberta’s Sunday class, someone popped their head in to ask the widows, divorcees, and singles, “Anyone want to go to the Valentine’s Banquet put on by the men this year?” With a vengeance that would go with a question like, “Does anyone want to go sky-diving?” three responded, “NO!” But after the door closed, Vera had an idea. It only took a few minutes for the Faithful Friends Class to plan a Valentine’s activity that included everyone, and which allowed someone who needed a visit to have the party brought to her. It was a win-win situation!

What can you do to remember a single woman on Happy Hearts Day?

[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.]

 

 

The Secret of Spring by Jo Russell

As the two volunteers showed up at the busy youth camp to help, the mother and her teen hoped to quickly get over their status as “the new kids on the block.” With long days filled with serving and working with hundreds of guests each week, the Liz and Robert had seen little of the 82 acres of the camp set like a jewel in the forest.

At one early morning staff meeting, one of the counselors piped up, “Hey, Liz and her boy haven’t been to Iron Springs! They’ve got to see it!”

Camp Director Bill agreed, “Absolutely! It’s a site they’ll never forget!”

“Amazing!” another counselor commented.

“Awesome! It’s great! Unforgettable!”

And there were smiles all around.

“And it’s such a short hike! We can do it after we serve breakfast!” offered another youth leader.

“Done!” Camp Director Bill agreed. “Brady, you and Marcus take them up the hill,” he directed two of the counselors.

“You don’t need much water,” Marcus told them.

So with one nearly-empty canteen slung over her teen’s shoulder, Liz and Robert began the zig-zag climb on the dusty trail up the mountain, their bare legs scratched by undergrowth.

“How much farther?” panted middle-aged Liz, contemplating her cellulite earned by years invested in parenting instead of work-outs.

“Just a few more bends in trail,” grinned Counselor Brady as he led them upward.

But the path turned into more bends in the trail than in a card of bobby pins.

“I can see it!” Marcus shouted. “Just ahead! We’re here! Come see Iron Springs!”

As Liz and Robert rounded the turn in the path, they spotted the springs, which made them thirstier than ever: A pile waist-high of bed springs, screen door springs, car springs, and all other sizes and functions of springs known to man. All rusty and dry sitting on a leveled out piece of dusty grounds. No water anywhere.

“I told you. You just had to see this!” Marcus cried. He and red-faced Brady laughed until they were bent over, coughing with glee.

Liz wasn’t so amused, especially as she and her son hiked the two-miles down. It felt like twenty, they’d drained the canteen and were still thirsting for water.

Liz remembered that researchers discovered that by the time a person feels thirsty, he or she is already dehydrated. She was parched.

Water means life – for all. But Jesus offered another type of water which never leads to thirst or dehydration.

To the woman at the well in Samaria, he said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” [John 4:13-14]

The spring water offered by Jesus brings life forever.

As spring approaches with the promise of new life, consider these words of prophesy written nearly 700 years before the birth of the Messiah:

“For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.” [Isaiah 61:11.]

In addition to feeling satisfied with the living water he offers, the Messiah brings righteousness– a bonded relationship between him, us, and all our relationships.

Leave the rusty springs and empty water bottles behind. The path to the Messiah bubbles with hope and life-giving water.  Those are the springs worth the entire journey.

[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.]