Saturday, December 27, 2008

Letter To 2008

Dear 2008,
You have just a few days of life left in you and I thought that before you go, I might pause and reflect on your impact on me. Time has a way of marching on with or without our permission, and I've been making an attempt to try to make the most of my days and hours and minutes. Well,.. I try.
Most of the time.
Some of the time.
I try.

The things that this year has brought into my life have not been as earth-shattering as other events I've experienced in other years. Death, divorce and disease has kept it's distance from those that I am most tightly bound to. Praise be to God.

In fact, if I had to characterize this year, it would be one of healing. For me anyway. As a nurse, I know that healthy healing occurs from the inside out. I know that the deepest wounds take longer to heal and will often leave a lifetime of pain, handicap, scars or a combination of all three. I suppose that's where I find myself.
Pain of Jae's absence will haunt me until I breathe may last breath here. Missing daddy is mixed with the joy of knowing he is healthy again.
Am I? Yes. In my head. People just really can not fathom where my thoughts go. Sometimes I can't either.
Yet,...I am confident that I am healing.

My mother and father-in-laws home burned in August. The tragedy became a crisis of belief which created no real options other than for them to move here with us. In retrospect,. the story has God's redemption all over it. He gave beauty for ashes. Literally.
I love it when He does that.

My study of the Scripture took a new path this year. I should say, it took me to a new and unexpected level. Studying a book a month,...with just me, the Bible and my gargantuan brown Matthew Henry commentary has provided me with just the right mix of structure and flexibility.

This year was not as painful as it has been in the past. I think one reason was because we decided to include Jae Lynn in the gift exchange. Whoever drew her name would give something in her honor or memory. Whichever name we drew for her would receive something in her honor. Aundra made several newborn baby hats which will be given to Bethany Christian Services in Jae's memory. Aundra also bought some "chicks" from Heifer International. Jae Lynn would have chosen chicks over every other animal!
The gift which we gave in Jae's name was a scrapbook which attempted to describe Jae to Emma, her 2 yr old cousin. This scrapbook covered everything from Jae's music, to her quirky personality traits, her love of animals, to her toenail collection and ended with a message to Emma that Jae and her will one day meet "in person" in Heaven.
On that day, they will need no introductions.
The only thing I would change about all of this, is that next year, I will do something similar for daddy.

2008, your imprint on all inhabitants of this earth will live on for eternity.
Some moments were forgettable and I certainly made my share of those during this year.
And some moments were of eternal consequence.
I find myself wishing I'd made more.

So 2008,...I will not miss you. Instead, I will anticipate 2009 with the good feeling of starting over.
New Beginnings are biblical.
Fresh starts.
Blank pages.
New resolutions.
New mercies for me as well as every other person alive.
A New Year filled with choices for each moment.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas To Me

One of the best gifts I am receiving this Christmas is a new look to my blog! Ralph does not understand my desire to blog,..but as usual, he throws his support behind everything I do! He encouraged me to shop around online, find a designer and he would pay!

I've been wanting (for a long time) some ways to communicate Jae's story as well as the information about the "3 Cheerleaders" projects and events. All of my pages/links will be "under construction" for awhile.

A big Arkansas THANK-YOU to Becky at "The Cutest Blog on the Block!" Girl, You rock!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Inventory

Christmas shopping:
I am hopelessly behind.

Decorating? Me? Our fake pre-lit tree has one strand at the bottom that blinks furiously. None of us can make it stop.

Christmas Baking:
I'm all out of Marshmallows and Rice Krispies. Therefore, I can not bake.

Christmas song that has captured my attention:
The ditty that Shannon has on her blog.

The coolest Christmas tradition I've ever heard about:
My co-worker Daniel says that all the women in his family make these tightly sewn/woven cloth balls that are about the size of a softball. They soak them in kerosene for about 2 months. Right before opening presents, all members of the family go outside, fish these cloth balls out of the kerosene, set them on fire and throw them across the yard to each other. They play catch with these fire balls until the balls burn completely up. Daniel says that no one has ever gotten burned and even the young children play.
Daniel often lies to me, however, this is so bizarre that I don't think he could make it up.

I'm currently studying:
The 7 letters to the 7 churches in the 2nd-3rd chapters of Revelation. I've been reminded that God designed His church (our churches!) for our present day culture. He has no intention of abandoning us because we don't do all things right. He can do great things through us if our hearts are right. Although He sees the church as a corporate body, He also sees each individuals heart.
What an encouragement! God's fairness and righteousness is such a comfort.
By the way, I received several interesting emails (and a few blog comments! ) about the commentator who thought the Apostle John did not write Revelation. Just so you know,...I put him back on the shelf for a while. He was wearing me out.

I am stressed about:
not much. Maybe the mass mail out for "The 3 Cheerleaders" end of the year letter.
4000 letters is a lot of letters to stuff, stamp, lick and label. It takes a lot of people's effort to get it out of my head and into the post office, but by gum, it's almost a done deal.
(Are you on our mailing list?)

I'm pondering:
My resolutions for next year.

I am looking forward to:
Christmas. For the first time in 5 years. The feeling is tenuous, but it's there.
Today, as I wrote the angels' words from Luke 2 on our bulletin board at work, I nearly wept at the "...good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you (to me!) this day, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord..."

A Savior for me.
That's good tidings indeed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Here's the video shown at the 2008 National Youth Workers Convention at Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Nashville.
May God continue to use Jae's story to bring Glory to Him and encourage others.

A Messy Christmas

Saturday, December 13, 2008


As I have said before,..I try to do an in-depth study of one book each month. Maybe not the best way to go through the Bible,..some people go thru it in one year. But this book-a-month way has been wonderful for me. In fact,..I'm going to do it again next year.
Hey,.. I have an idea:
I'll post the books for each month,..and your New Year's resolution can be to do it with me!


(Why, thank-you Becky for planning everybody's life)

This month's study is supposed to be Acts. Not very Christmasy, but I did Luke last month so I am all saturated in the story of the season.
Abby, for some reason, has become interested in Revelation. She has always enjoyed scary stories and someone mentioned to her that there were monsters (i.e. creatures) in the book of Revelation.
So, curious of interesting biblical wonders, she has looked up all the passages of monsters/creatures.
Her next step of biblical study has been to interrogate me about the purpose and meaning of them all.

Now, do I know the purpose and meaning of the symbolism of a single one of them?
I do not.

So this month, I am scrapping Acts (sorry Dr. Luke) to delve headfirst into Revelation.
How exciting.

I went out and bought a commentary of Revelation to assist me in learning about this fantastic, apocalyptic book.
The first thing it said was that John was not the author.
This guy takes issue with The Revelation of John on the Isle of Patmos.
Good grief.
Haven't even began the book and I'm in the middle of doctrinal controversy.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Exposed Wires

My friend Kay (who is now a griever herself after losing her mom unexpectedly) read my last post and told me "Man Becky! You showed everybody all your wires with that post".
I quickly reminded her that she was the one who told me to make this writing real or shut the blog down.
I didn't mean to show my wires.
I don't want this to be a place where you are watching (reading) a train wreck, know,..where it's so ugly but you just can't look away? There are lots of times when I write something and then wish I had not been so transparent.

Here's where I am today:
My life is full to the brim with God's blessings. On my worst day,..whether I say so or not,....I am confident that God is charge of everything and any pain we experience here will be forgotten in the glory of God's presence and His dwelling place.
In fact,..anyone who knows me knows that most of my healing has come through that very idea.

Christmas is such a gift to those of us who love and follow Christ.

3rd verse of
Hark, The Herald Angels Sing

Hail the Heaven born Prince of Peace
Hail the Son of Righteousness
Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings
(now here's my favorite part)
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!"

3rd verses are scarce in a Baptist church. Somehow,..they always get skipped. However,..I'm going to protest (protest I tell ya!) if our church skips that verse this Christmas.
It's pivotal to the entire song. The song writers, ole Charles and Felix, would be outraged to see how we lop off the main point of their message.

By the way,...when the piano player protests a song, can be noticeable!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Something Is Missing

Last night was the Bereaved Parents annual candlelight remembrance of our children. A mom (or dad) can not come out of a gathering like that with her emotions intact. Mine were pretty much in tatters.
I tend to look all fine on the outside,...but my insides are not always in such good shape. It's not that I always try to hide things. I have no intention to masquerade, it's just the way I am.

I worked today, chatted with patients, answered phone calls, did my usual job.
But something was very different today.
Something is wrong.
Something is missing.

I woke up feeling that way.
Clocked in, wondering if today was the day. (for what?)
All day I checked my cell for missed calls and I anticipated every phone call at work was for me.
Wished I was home.

Lots of ideas about lots of things, but no energy to do more than "think" of them.
I am feeling powerless and and disconnected from my responsibilities.

Today I spoke with the kind woman who "cared" for Jae at the funeral home. This sweet lady cried today as she recalled crying over her small body that day.

My boss asked me today to apply for a job which would increase my work load by about 1100%. The absurdity of the request was only exceeded by my consideration of doing what he asked. Apply for a job which I don't give a hoot about?
Who does things like that?

Sunday, Ralph was up in the attic looking for something and decided to bring down all our Christmas decorations. He knows I've not been into those since before losing Jae, but men don't always think of those things. Had myself a quiet little freak out moment when they slid down the attic ladder, but I tried not to show it. (Casey was holding her breath, I could tell)
The decorations have sat in the hallway ever since. Unopened. We are walking all around them.
He has offered to put them back up. But I'm not sure,....
Why do I make this a big deal?
What's the rules for something like this?

I know there are families of four all over the place. It's good for them. But it just isn't satisfactory for us. Ralph, Casey, Abby and I enjoy each other immensely, but the Ralph Russell family is a family of 5.
We will always wonder "What if Jae were here,.."
Always wishing things were different.

Tonight I drove home slow. In the rain. Radio silent. Brow all furrowed up.
Thinking of Jae.
Her presence.
Her absence.
Our life as it used to be and as it is now.
Her life as it used to be and wondering what it is now.

Something is missing all right.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advice and Thanksgiving

So what did I tell Eddie was the single most important piece of advice in raising girls?

Without thinking,... I told him "Grace".
Not just talking about it, but applying it daily to the kids we often get tired of applying it to.

Grace for the ones who stay on the path we have dreamed for them.
Grace for the ones who take a different one which we had hoped for them.
Grace for the ones who create their own path.
Grace for the ones who aren't even looking for a path.

It doesn't matter the age,....the 2 year old needs it just as much as the 20 year old, and come to think of it, brothers and I have continued to receive it from our parents,..even at our age!

Speaking this one tiny piece of advice to Eddie last week, reminded me to tell my girls this past week, that I do not expect perfection. It is a challenge for us moms and dads to make sure we deal with our kids based on what we know in our hearts,..and not respond to them because their behavior may hurt our pride. (Our child can not do that,..why,...what would others think?)

I'm pretty much past worrying what others think of my parenting skills of my two daughters. To be honest,..I've already been there, and it was awful.

I still worry about Casey and Abby.
I still nag.
I still get frustrated sometimes.
Some behaviors will require justice,..not mercy.
But I pray that I live out a walking talking example of unconditional love and support. It's not that hard, 'cause they are both incredible girls. I also know that they could be living in someone else's home right now instead of ours.

Holiday's are an excellent time to review the priorities.
A family which loves deeply is a treasure and I am grateful for mine.

Friday, November 28, 2008

That's Embarressing

Mercy sakes alive!

Well friends,..for the YouTube video of the highlights from the Nashville conference,......I noticed that there were some ,...ahem,....not-so-nice videos in the sidelines of the YouTube screen. Therefore, I removed the post.

There are obviously other interesting videos with the words "Nashville" in the title, which then creates an entire list of "related"videos.
So sorry.
I will try to be more careful!

Monday, November 24, 2008


Have a bunch of pictures, but can I upload or download anything?
(that's Jeffers slang for bad words)
Even Abby is unable to get the pictures off of my camera. They'll just have to come onto here later.

Anyway,'s some thoughts from the wonderfully exhausting Youth Specialities Youth Workers Convention that I was involved in this past weekend:

It was much bigger than I had imagined. There were approximately 5000 attendees (give or take a few).
I am now a David Crowder band fan.
I am now a Lincoln Brewster fan.
But I really a Shane and Shane fan. One of the Shane's is an incredible guitarist. The other Shane performed the entire concert in a carhart cap, tee-shirt and his hands in his jean pockets.

I know that most of you haven't seen the video that Ian (Youth Specialties Producer) created about Jae and the timing of a particular lesson I taught to the youth of Bayou Meto. Ian is supposed to post our video on YouTube as soon as he could get a few moments. I'll try to get it onto here.

I was thrilled that Tic (one of the YS leaders) asked Ian in their morning meeting if I was going to be present for the scheduled Sunday night showing of our video. When he was told I was leaving early, he instructed the production team to switch things around so that it would be shown Saturday night. Tic wanted me present as it played. (Thanks Tic)
It ended up being one of the first things of the evening program and get this,..he then called me to the stage! Ya know what? I wasn't really nervous at all! Tic asked a few questions about my work with the youth, he invited me back to next year's confernce (their expense!), and then he gave us a $200 gift certificate from their resource store!

When I got back to my seat, I asked Levi if I made any sense while up on the stage,..he just smiled and patted my shoulder.
(I'm afraid to consider what he meant by that).

Several people found me after the video. In fact, a couple of them approached me during the remainder of the session. Most had experienced loss,..a few were mom's like me,..some had heard of Jae and her death.
Another exciting thing happened when two couples approached me in the hotel lobby to comment on the video. They introduced themselves and I discovered that they were the lead singer and the agent of the band Everthird. Somehow, story was very personal to the lead singer, Shannon and his beautiful wife. They all had been moved by the story and felt compelled to find me and offer a free concert to our youth group at our church! WOO HOO! I can't wait to tell our kids! Almost every single teen in our group is a musician of some kind.
God is so good to me.

and then,......

On Sunday afternoon, as I stood in line to get a Quiznos sandwich, I happen to let The Skit Guys cut in front of me. Of course, they made it a hilarious big deal by screaming to the 75 people behind me that "they just couldn't cut in front of all those people!" (right before they jumped in). Long story,..but they needed to eat and I knew they had only a few minutes before they were to lead one of the break-out sessions on drama.
They were wonderful and as we waited on our order and spoke of my daughters as well as their own. Eddie pulled me aside and quietly asked me:
"Becky, have three daughters. If you could give me one piece of advice about raising my little girls,..what would it be?"

My answer?

Tell ya later. This post is too long! :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

November Inventory

Some things that are on my mind
are packing for the Youth Specialties conference.
My mother-in-law,...she's not feeling well.
Abby's grades.

Something that has made me laugh recently
was my co-workers at lunch. We were discussing something and we all began building on one stupid thing after another. Julie is usually so quiet, so when she is overcome with laughter, I can enjoy the memory for a week. Daniel's laugh is loud, Glen's is fun, Levi laughs like a mischievous little boy and Deonna's infectious laugh will make even the biggest grump smile.

The scripture that I'm currently studying is
Luke 3.
I'm supposed to be way deeper into the book by now, but just haven't made it. The Christmas story just never gets old, does it?

A song that recently captured my attention is
"Because" (you have to snap your finger with this)
Just because you think you're so pretty
Just because you think you're so hot.
Just because you think you've sompthin
that nobody else has got.
Though you made me spend all my money
you laughed and called me ole' Santa Clause
Well I'm tellin you honey I'm though with you!
Because! Just because!

(I sometimes have no idea why I sing these songs. My patients however,...quickly go down memory lane with them)

Something which scared me recently
was sending my in-laws into the VA Hospital. Mr. Russell needed to get set-up into that system. I let them out at the door and I wondered if I would ever see them again. It was comparable to letting them out at the entrance of the state fair. I circled the parking lot (I mean,..the city) for 45 minutes looking for a place to park the truck so I could go in with them. However,...there was no place to put a truck. People told me,.."there is a little shuttle to pick you up if you have to park a long way off!" But shuttles aren't helpful if you can't park the vehicle!
No median, no curb, no spot, no nothin.
I had to keep driving.

The thing that is stressing me is
getting the 3Cheerleaders end-of-the-year letter finalized, addressed and mailed.
I'm also wanting a comprehensive web-site. I can't believe we've gone this long without one.

I'm confused by
why I can not keep a vacuum cleaner working. I just don't understand. All my floors are hardwood. I only have one itty bitty rug and somehow I have to buy a new vacuum cleaner every year.
It's a mystery.

I'm pumped about
going to Nashville this weekend for the Youth Specialties Youth Worker Convention. I have wanted to go to a Youth Worker's convention for 25 years. (It's too bad that I'll be the oldest one there!) I'll be seeing The skit guys, the David Crowder band will be there, Tony Compolo, and others. Can't wait.
(The schedule goes until midnight for Pete's sake.)

I'm bummed
that I won't be there to see the short (really short!) video that they have created about Jae and me. It will be on the screen on Sunday night, but unfortunately,..I have to leave Sunday afternoon. I've seen the final version and it's great at discussing the wonderfully amazing Grace of God. I'll try to post it on here someday soon.

I'm praying
that Levi (who is going with me) will be inspired to lead our teenagers for the next 25 years.
You pray for that too,...'cause Becky's getting kinda old tired.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mass Emails and Old Friends

Recently, I sent a mass email out to inform all of my contacts, most of whom are friends, that I was changing email addresses.
(didn't mean to imply that some were NOT friends. It's just that some contacts were businesses or no longer working)
One of the unexpected things that resulted in that email was that it struck up new conversations with many people that I haven't heard from in a while. It has been wonderful to communicate with them again!

One was Rick who now lives in Texas. I saw Rick for the first time when we began 7th grade. He wore beads. A short chain of little blue beads. Suddenly, beads became the most absolute cool thing I had ever seen a guy wear.
One of my first serious crushes.

One of the addresses on my list was Anne's. This beloved friend of mine entered into Heaven about this time last year, but I went ahead and sent her the email anyway. I imagine she's way too busy to respond, but it felt good to send her something.

Another was Randall who still lives here and in fact, I was able to lunch with him today at my work.
His name has changed a bit (he used to be Randy) but he is still the same humble gracious guy that he was in high school. Being used for God in exciting ways.

Here's a snapshot of his work.
(He says it's really not work)

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I taught "Stress Management" all day long to my Cardiac Rehab patients.
All day.
Long long day.
It stressed me. (hee hee)

There's a part of my class where I talk about how stressful it is when you are unable to give attention to the things that are most important to you.
When I get to that part of the Stress Management class, I always tell this story:

In the Spring of 2006, Bro. Jim Edwards was preaching at our church and announced his text for the Sunday morning service.
It was Haggai 1:1-9.

Now, to my recollection, it was the first time I've ever heard a sermon from Haggai.
(I had to discreetly turn to my index: Where in the world is Haggai?)

Anyway,...the story is centered around God chastising the Jews for all enjoying their individual fine houses while the His temple lay in ruins.
They had their priorities all wrong and they were paying for it!

Bro. Jim, then had us all get out a piece of paper:
"Write out the top three priorities in your life" he said.
He told us to assume that God would always be at the top of our list, but to pick three others. (Bless him. He knew we would all be in an emotional quandary,...we would all secretly think,...."God is supposed to be at the top,..but is He? Should I lie? Is that a sin? What will others think if I tell the truth?..)

I listed my top priorities.
1. Ralph, Casey, Abby
2. Mom and daddy (who needed home care)
3. Jae's memorial scholarship

Then Bro. Jim had us make a second list:
"Now list the things which keep you from giving time to your priorities".

Mine was simple.
It was my job. My job kept me busy every day,..all day.

Bro. Jim told us
"Deal with the second list!"
"Get your priorities right!"

I was incredibly convicted.
My job was keeping me from the most important things of my life. How in the world did I let that happen?
I went in that very week and requested a transfer.
At that moment,..I think I would have gone somewhere and flipped burgers to attend my priorities.

I still do that whole exercise every once in awhile. I list my priorities and then evaluate anything which may keep me from giving them my attention.

Hopefully, I will not find myself in that kind of situation again, 'cause I think I would be a terrible burger-flipper.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dream Job

I found a neat quote from this guy named Perry.

He said:
"If you aren't working your dream job, resign today!"

I'm not sure I would always agree,..but it's still good to think about!
(Guys like Perry wear me out)

Impressing God

I read this afternoon that God is not impressed by our achievements.
Nope. Not at all.
I was reminded that He's not overly taken with our knowledge.
He surely doesn't give any attention to our possessions. (they are really His anyway)
Our regular church attendance, committee work or special music is simply not that big a deal to Him.

What impresses God,..the Creator of this vast universe?
What makes the King of Kings pause and look upon us with great affection and pride?

A humble and grateful heart.

In John 21:17, Jesus is asking Peter for the 3rd time,.."Peter? Do you love me?
Peter, probably recalling his betrayal, has a heavy heart as he replies to Jesus,..."Lord, You know all things. You know I love You."

It's a scary thing for God to know our hearts when we are hypocritical or out of His will.
Woo boy. I've been there.
But it's comforting when we are truly trying to follow Him.

I am grateful that God is impressed each day with a heart that seeks to follow Him.
Thankfully for me, God looks less at my actions, and more at my heart.

What a relief 'cause I'm passionate every morning and a prodigal by sunset.

But like Peter,.. I can say,.."Lord You know all things. You know I love you!"

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dummy Blogger

I bought a new book this weekend. My plan was to take a picture of it so I could show you .
However, camera is nowhere to be found.

You've probably seen similar ones. My new book is entitled "Blogging for Dummies".
Some of it is way too complicated (hee hee).

It has shown me new ways to do things:
**how to link to other posts of mine (like you just did in the first paragraph!)

**How to strike through words.

**underline? I can now do it by editing my html! (whatever that stands for)

**create bullets lists:

  • I hate cats
  • Cats irritate me
  • I especially don't like house cats.

  • Of course, you already know that I can add a video link:

    However,...the main thing that this book tells me,...THE MAIN THING, they yell say over and over, to write things that people want to read.

    I think that one reason people enjoy blogs is because they connect us to one another. We don't always slow down enough to really communicate, fellowship and enjoy one another.

    Get this,...Abby calls blogging a "myspace for old people".
    I answered by wagging my head, rolling my eyes and saying valleygirl style,...What-everrrr"!

    Tuesday, November 4, 2008

    Bereaved Parents, North Little Rock

    Tonight was the Monthly Bereaved Parents Meeting in North Little Rock.

    Until the Spring of 2004, I don't think I even knew such a group existed. Then one horrible day, their monthly newsletter arrived in my mailbox. How did they know I needed a life preserver thrown to me that day? How did they get my name?
    I still don't know. I guess somewhere in Little Rock, there is another sad mom who is assigned the job of reading local obituaries and putting freshly broken-hearted parents on the mailing list.
    But I recall reading that newsletter and being so encouraged that "I'm not alone!"

    I did not got to any meetings because they were way on the other side of Little Rock. Miles and miles and miles. Too hard. Way too hard.

    Then some of my friends decided that we needed to get a chapter on the North side of the river. We had talked about it for a long time. We needed a Bereaved Parents group for all of us in North Little Rock, Jacksonville, Cabot, and everywhere else "out here".
    There's just too many of us.
    It seems we're everywhere.
    I hate it.

    Jim and Cindy Stricklin took on the job. They had survived the loss of their son in 2000, and they felt strongly like they could begin the group.

    One year later,..we have 20 or so people attending. An unbelievable amount of pain all contained in one room, but oh my goodness, should feel the love!
    My friends that I have met in the pit of grief are cherished like no other.
    They are strong, affectionate, transparent and all bound and determined to get past this hurt.
    I barely know most of them, but feel as if I truly love them.

    Believe it or not,'s a great place to be.

    Thursday, October 30, 2008

    Eternity Houses and Text Messages

    Our church took 35 people to Conway last night to tour the "Eternity House". Our reservations were for 8:30 PM which would have put us home about 10:00. Unfortunately, the tour was running late, and we arrived home at 11:30 pm.
    Late hours for a school night.
    Parents were not happy I'm sure.

    I've been to these Heaven/Hell houses where the tourists entered directly into Hellish scenes and then toured Heaven and Heavenly scenes. But this one was slightly different.
    This tour took us physically from one room to another, each time building the characters and their relationships with one another. Some of the actors, of course, were portraying Christians, some were not. Some were searching for meaning in their lives,..some were hardened.

    The disturbing scene for Ralph, Abby and I was when they drew us into a huge car wreck scene. We entered into a room, complete with crashed and upside down cars, police lights and sirens, bodies on the pavement covered with white sheets and screaming (I mean screaming) survivors and family members.

    In my life:
    I try to be (and appear) well-adjusted.
    I try to be in control.
    I try to not dwell on details that torment.
    I laugh, therefore it's easy for people assume the pain is gone. The truth would strike them dumb.
    I ask God nearly every day to keep my mind safe from thoughts that easily get out of control.
    But scenes like the one we walked into at the Eternity House can easily and rapidly bring me to my emotional limits.
    Blessedly,..recovery comes quicker these days than they used to.

    The results of the tour was that we all were reminded of the single most important question of our entire lives:
    "Where will I spend Eternity?"

    On the ride back home, I received a text message from one of my older kids in the group. It said simply,..."I am thinking I've lost my way. I need you to help me find my way back to God".

    I've never considered doing an entire counseling session via text message, but I'm telling ya, works! My little ol fingers kept my telephone keypad lit up with responses for his thoughts and searching questions. However,...I'm not a good "text-er". Really S L O W.
    Poor guy. He was a patient reader.

    Thoughtful night.
    Late night.
    Painful night.
    Technological nightmare (for me!)
    Redemptive night.
    Good night.

    Sunday, October 26, 2008

    Hoxie, Houston and Small Churches

    Dear readers,
    I have a theological question for you.
    I asked my Pastor and some friends this morning and the discussion got very lively.

    Is a small church doing something wrong if it is not growing in numbers?

    No matter the location.
    Here in the Southern U.S. or maybe in the jungles of the Congo.

    This all started yesterday when I went to another Band competition with Abby.
    The "Fabulous Falcon Marching Band" won FOURTEEN (14!) trophies.

    At this competition, there was a itty bitty school called " Hoxie" which had about 15-20 performers/musicians. I missed their performance but I heard that they were wonderful!

    Then there was a rich school from Germantown, TN called "Houston High School" with 224 performers/musicians. This band, you shoulda seen it! They had synthesisers, electric guitars, scaffolds, smoke machines and an adult "pit crew" who had to set up the field before their arrival. They put on a show which rivals the older university bands I've seen.
    (By the way,...the Fabulous Falcon Marching Band won more trophies that Houston)
    (stop it Becky. Stop. You're bragging)

    If I was a kid from Hoxie, it would be hard to not compare my band program to Houston High's.

    Back to the church question.
    Is a small church doing something wrong if it is not growing?

    (I don't know if my thinking wears other people out, but it sure does me.)

    Friday, October 24, 2008

    Matthew 25

    I've been sent to Matthew 25 during the last couple of days.
    Actually Beth Moore sent me to Luke in our Bible study, but as it often happens, set of passages sends me on a quest for others.

    Here's Matt 25 in a nutshell:

    **It starts with the story of 10 bridesmaids waiting for the groom. Some of them were ready and wise, some of them were fools and made no preparation for him. Of all things,...a bride who does not prepare for the biggest moment of her life.

    **Then,..immediately we are taken into the story of a master who takes a trip out of the country and leaves his servants in charge of his affairs while he is gone. He told them,
    "I'm coming back so I want you to take care of business until I return".
    When he returned, he demanded an account of the servants. Some were rewarded for being obedient and faithful, but the ones who were lazy and foolish got stripped of their possessions and,...oh no,...cursed by the Master.

    **Next is another story that I love. It's about judgement day when God separates the sheep from the goats.
    He rewards His "sheep" because they did all kinds of things for HIM while they were on Earth. They were surprised.
    They didn't recall the incidents at all.
    He then cursed the ones (goats) who withheld the basics of life's comforts from HIM. Food, shelter, companionship,..etc.
    Those people were aghast that He accused them of this! They were outraged.
    "When did we not do this!!" They couldn't recall the opportunities that they obviously had missed.
    I vividly remember once watching a movie which depicted Jesus speaking the very words of this sheep/goat story. As He discussed the sheep and their actions, His eyes were brimming full of joy and pride. But when Jesus began to discuss the goats,..His voice dropped to whisper.
    He was not angry,..He was heartbroken.
    The goats were doomed.
    Lost to Him forever.

    These are familiar parables and most of us know them by heart.
    However,..they remind me that of the severe consequences for being,...
    a felon?
    a pervert?
    not in these stories.
    The grave consequences are for the ones who are lazy and uninvolved.

    I am reminded that I don't have to be a missionary in a far away place.
    I have no commandments in scripture to organize new ministries.
    I have been commanded to carry on the work of Jesus in a hurting messed -up world.
    Not a suggestion, but a commandment.

    Is the commandment unreasonable? Is it too big of a task?
    No way.
    Hurting people are all around us.
    He did not say we had to heal people and solve all social problems,..He just expects us to Love Him by Loving others.
    Starting today.
    Gotta go.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    Email, PowerPoint and The Bible

    I can check my work email from home.
    No big deal really. A lot of people can do that.
    I've done it for years.
    A year or two ago, all Baptist employees were asked to stop using the old system of getting into their work email and use a new system which was more "secure".
    I resisted. (I know. You aren't surprised.)

    I've had computer trouble lately and had to finally do what our computer services has asked me to do for a long time.
    I was forced to go to our home site, download the correct software and for the first time, begin to use my new "secure" way to access my work email.

    Heavens to Betsy and glory be, would not believe the stuff they added to my computer! I now have access to the most recent and best PowerPoint software I have ever seen! It's the stuff that would have cost me a big wad of money had I tried to purchase (which I almost did just the other day).
    It's got dozens and dozens of bells and whistles and I can't wait to learn to use one or two of them!

    Here's something I want to know:
    Why didn't those teck-ey guys tell me that this was an added feature of my new "secure" email?
    Maybe they did and it was in "code", know,...phrases like 'added features' or 'bonus tools'.

    Makes me wonder how much I am missing in the scripture.
    I spent an hour tonight listening to Beth Moore and I am convinced there are about 79 trillion things that are waiting to be downloaded into my head and my heart.
    Great life-changing truths are between those leather covers, just waiting on my discovery.

    I've a renewed desire to learn.

    Monday, October 20, 2008

    Falcon Marching Band

    Blogger's block: When you can't bring your thoughts together where they make a bit of sense.

    Actually,..I have a lot of thoughts, but I'm seldom a deep thinker. Listen friend,..if I were to put my thoughts and ideas on here as they cross my mind, you would back away from your computer screen saying, "Yep. I knew it. Here's proof. She's nuts."

    This weekend was taken up, and I mean flat taken all up! with the NORTH PULASKI FALCONS HIGH SCHOOL MARCHING BAND. (That's how we like to hear it on the PA system. Loud and enthusiastic). Of course, our band achieved perfection in all of their scores. Their performances are beautiful and amazing to watch.

    I recall that special night of Abby's first band concert. I sat in the auditorium expecting to be emotionally moved as I was when I first heard Jae and Casey's first choir performances. (Those two concerts moved me to tears. Young voices singing: Pia Jesu'.....Pia Jesu'.....)

    Back to the band.
    When Abby's band director stepped onto the podium, the choir and audience alike became hushed and still.
    She lifted her baton and the students instantly and with precision lifted their instruments to the correct position.
    I, and the rest of the audience, seemed to hold our breath in anticipation.
    The director swept her hands up and the auditorium was filled with what sounded like a hundred and twenty car horns honking a familiar sounding rhythm.

    No kidding.
    But that was four years ago.
    Today, they are a lean mean competing machine which strikes fear in other high school bands on competition day.

    My admiration is deep for Karen Dismuke, the director. You ought to see this phenomenal woman with her students. She's the kind of teacher who we all love to hear about in stories and on TV. She's the whole package,..funny, talented, firm, inspirational, soft and so on.

    But hats off as well to Mrs. Koehler who led these students through their horn honking phase. It's no wonder she works along side of Mrs. D. at the competitions! It's the fruit of her hard work in that band room at middle school.

    I'm proud of the students too. They are now part of something which is much larger than themselves.
    They have students who are:
    "Load Masters"-tons of equipment, instruments and a huge trailer.
    "Bus Captains" - it takes 3 school buses to take them everywhere.
    "Section Leaders" - it's a big band. Small groups can provide motivation/communication.
    I've witnessed older students take care of the younger.
    Not a lot of popularity issues.
    I'm sure the high school "drama" is there,..but not on the level I've seen in other student groups.
    Spending the day at War Memorial stadium filled with 2000 musically talented teenagers, 100 or so of whom I love,.....
    now that's what I call a good day.
    I'll talk to you soon.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    Homecoming Queen and Her Subjects

    This story is about a beautiful girl, but also speaks to the beauty of her classmates!

    Friday, October 10, 2008

    God Doesn't Read My Blog

    Once a couple of years ago, Casey and Ralph were eating at a restaurant and three men sitting at a nearby table began to ogle her. She was very uncomfortable and Ralph was very irritated.
    They exited the resturant, returning to the truck for the trip back to school when Casey had to go back into the restaurant to retrieve something she had forgotten.

    She hurriedly returned to the truck flushed and alarmed because one of the men had said something very inappropriate to her in front of the rest of the customers.
    She told her daddy what the man had done.

    Ralph calmly exited the truck, entered the restaurant and approached the table where the three men sat. He loudly (but calmly. Really.) informed them all that his daughter had the right to be in this restaurant without being harassed.

    One of the men sheepishly said "I didn't say nuthin.", which Ralph yelled "Then I'm not talking to you!" as he turned his glare towards the one who had issued the verbal insult to Casey.

    He left after informing them a couple of more times that none of them had better ever speak a word to his daughter again.

    Casey recalls that very short moment in her life with clarity. She has always known her daddy would be there for her in times of danger, but as she watched him intercede in her behalf she "knew" a side of him that she had never seen before.

    The way I know God now is vastly (let me repeat,...vastly) different from the way I knew Him before my loss.
    Did He change?
    Of course not.

    But like Casey felt loved and protected by Ralph that day, I learned that hearing about God's protection and experiencing it are two different things.

    I have been the recipient of my Lord's indescribable comfort when I was in danger.
    I would have preferred to be shielded from pain,..but I guess that's not always an option for us.
    He makes the pain bearable and then promises us that He will also redeem it.
    I'm looking forward to the whole redemption thing.
    I guess that will have to all happen in Heaven, 'cause I'm worldly, selfish and carnal enough to prefer Jae's life to the things I've learned.

    Is that heresy?
    Do I really mean that?
    Maybe not.

    I love God with everything I am.
    In fact,..I think about Him so much that I sometimes feel like a Christian "fanatic".

    Thank goodness He knows my thoughts.
    Thank goodness He doesn't have to read about my thoughts here.
    He doesn't get offended when I can't explain His ways.
    He loves me.

    Psalm 34:18 says "If your heart is broken, you'll find God right there."
    (The Message)

    Tuesday, October 7, 2008

    God's Is Always For Me

    God is ALWAYS operating in my best interest?

    I've been studying this week about how He never (never ever never) puts us in a situation which we can not "win".

    So if I am defeated, did I choose it?

    I tend to gauge my success on the circumstances that I find myself in.
    Meaning,..when things are good, God is pleased with me and blessing me.
    If that's true, then the natural assumption is that when things are rough, I am being punished or disciplined.

    I've been reminded this week that God does not just tolerate me.
    He adores me as if I am His only beloved child.
    My affection for my girls is indescribable. I am always rooting for them. I would never on my worst day, wish pain or failure into their lives.

    How much more does God love me?

    OK I'll agree.
    He always operates for my best interest.
    It's settled then.

    But here's the rub:
    (not settled after all :)
    The methods He has used to bring me closer to Him are too painful.
    I may cry for a deeper walk with God, but I am terrified of the classroom.
    Save me from the lessons!

    How about Jae?
    Was He all out FOR her that afternoon?
    Was that His plan all along for the ending of her life?

    How long,O Lord, must I wrestle with my thoughts? (Psalms something)

    John 13:7 says "Some of the stuff that's happening in your life, you just can't know about. However, I'll show you all about it when you get to Heaven." (NBV New Becky version)

    God's always for me.
    wrestle wrestle
    God's always for me.
    wrestle wrestle
    God's always for me.
    wrestle wrestle

    Saturday, October 4, 2008

    October Inventory

    A song which recently captured my attention
    is Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir's rendition of "I will lift up my eyes to the hills". If I were ever given a wish from the "Make a wish" foundation, just might be to sing with that group of brothers and sisters.

    A thought for this day
    is from Beth Moore. She says:
    "I'd like to suggest that an entire chain reaction begins with our eyes and ultimately affects our heart, souls and minds. Where we look---where we genuinely fasten our gaze---amid continual life challenges has a tremendous impact on how we feel".
    (Now I know why I feel so good when I pass Shipley Donuts)

    My current project is
    Getting my in-laws house across the street ready to live in. These sweet family members of mine are way to old to have to "start over". Every project associated with the move completely overwhelms them. They have gone back to Mississippi for two weeks and I hope to have their house very livable by the time they get back here,..their new home.

    I am presently studying
    Beth Moore's "Stepping Up" bible study. There are approximately 18 ladies in my church group doing this with me and I have to tell ya,...this study is unbelievable. It is about the Psalms of Ascents" which covers chapters 120-135 of Psalms.

    I am frustrated with
    my lack of wheels. We're trying to keep our Mazda going in spite of it's mileage (165,000). It's in the shop with "issues".

    I am procrastinating
    cleaning my house.

    I am glad
    that Casey's home. She wanted to be with us for Jae's birthday.
    I'm also glad that Jae's birthday is over. It was a hard and heavy day for my little heart.

    I have been encouraged
    by having so many of my friends and family join me in this blog adventure. Never did I ever anticipate it being such a fun way to fellowship!

    Friday, October 3, 2008

    No Words Today

    Tuesday, September 30, 2008

    Laugh With Me

    This week,..Jae Lynn's 21st birthday week,...I am looking for good memories and things to make me laugh.

    Here is a man's voice mail message (audio only) that cracks me up every time time I listen to it. He evidently was on his way to work and was calling in to tell his boss he would be late.

    Laugh with me,....

    Monday, September 29, 2008

    Birthdays and Boxes

    About this time 11 years ago, we hosted a sleep-over for Jae Lynn's 10th birthday. As usual, we were planning a party while having almost zero money.
    Broke just did not do us justice.
    We were "pore".

    Jae and Casey were rich in friends however, so hosting their parties meant we had a minimum of 15 kids. Mostly girls, but cousins Nathan and Andrew, and friend Chase always had a standing invitation to all the parties,....including this sleepover. (Only one mama balked at the co-ed sleepover/sleeping arrangements but she finally relented).

    This particular year, Ralph and I went to an appliance store and found about 6-8 huge boxes which had held new stoves and refrigerators. We tied them into the truck and brought them home and placed them in the front yard.
    I really wasn't sure how the kids would respond to "boxes" being the extent of the party entertainment, however,... I can not describe how much fun these kids had playing in them!

    They crawled into the boxes, fell out of them, pushed each other around in them, painted them, cut windows into them, hooked them together, jumped out of trees into them, rolled down the hill in them, packed 8 kids into one of them, changed clothes in them and finally, around midnight, all 18 kids fell asleep in them.

    That very same weekend, there was a write-up in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about another 10 year old little girl who had very different birthday party than Jae Lynn. This little girl had a limousine pick up her and her friends, where they were all then taken for a manicure/pedicure, pizza and a movie.
    (Oh yeah,...they also had a photographer and a write-up in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. )

    I felt sorry for that little rich girl.
    She should have had refrigerator boxes.

    Thursday, September 25, 2008

    I Am....

    I am humbled.
    I've had an exciting week.
    I've not spoken much about it here, 'cause I was afraid it would all fall through.
    Youth Specialties is an organization has been instrumental in the formation of my spiritual worldview. No lie. I have been profoundly and deeply influenced by the late Mike Yaconelli and his staff at YS.
    A few weeks ago, they sent out a request on their blog (I have them linked to mine) for all youth ministers to send in their "most memorable youth ministry moments".
    It was an easy request for me.
    I sent them my post from this blog dated 6/14/08.
    Well lo and behold! They chose to profile that moment at their three national youth worker conventions this fall.
    Their Media Specialist, Ian Robertson, flew in from California Wednesday and spent the day with me, interviewing and shooting some video.
    Ian is an incredibly talented young man who just yesterday had his first short film screened at the "San Diego Film Festival".

    I am unworthy.
    There are thousands of youth workers out there who are better educated and more exciting than me. I feel like these men and women will watch the segment on me at the national conventions and yell,.."Impostor! She's not a real youth leader!"
    It seems like I have spent most of my adult life in youth ministry wishing for a bigger budget, a better program and a more exciting staff member than me.
    I seriously am no big deal.

    I am relieved.
    Youth Specialties has a motto which says:"You love kids. We love you." I have actually felt that love down through the years, even though I had never met any of the staff. After spending the day with Ian, I could tell he loved me and what I do.
    I would have been way disappointed if he had been all business-like and intimidating, but he was wonderful.
    Just like I imagined all the YS staff would be.

    I am thankful.
    God continues to let me talk about Jae Lynn. He allows me to introduce her to the world. I sure 'nuff would have chosen a different way to involve her in ministry, but I am trying to be content with her story as it is now.
    She always was one to do things different.
    I miss her.
    (That's a colossal understatement.)

    I am amazed.
    At the grace which God bestows on me. Why does He love it when I love Him? I'll never understand.

    I am afraid.
    That I will stop seeing God work.
    I am in the middle of about five different ways where He is working in big and obvious ways. I've been praying for Him to do BIG things and I know "He's way too big for me to mess Him up" (Beth Moore's words), but if anyone could get in His way, I'm sure it would be me.
    I just don't want Him to stop the fun.
    It's been exhilarating to watch Him work in some of the private and public areas of my life.

    In spite of the fact that I frequently camp there, I can't stand the idea of living in mediocrity.

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    James 4

    I Love Casey's church in Fayetteville. It's called the Christian Life Cathedral and it's where I'm sure I would worship if I lived in that town.

    This past Sunday, the preacher, Bro. Steve Dixon had us listen to the bible passage he preached on but he insisted that we keep out Bibles closed. Then he read the first verses of James 4.
    This is what he had on the PowerPoint screen:
    James 4:1-4

    "Where do wars and fights come from among you!? Do they not come from your desires for pleasures that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and can not obtain. You fight and war. Yet, you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on pleasures.
    You _____________!
    Bro. Steve then wanted us to fill in the blank.
    He asked "What does James call us?"
    Fool? (my guess)
    Numb skull?
    If you're like me,...the answer will create quite a stir in your mind and heart.
    James calls us,.....adulterers.
    Bro. Steve explained that our relationship to God is often likened to a marriage. Our connection to God is a covenant union and He has no tolerance for things which come between us and Him.
    The passage in James talks about lust and jealousy.
    Those are relationship words.
    We say we are joined to God, but then we try to stay immersed in activities that can only be described as worldly.
    Being married to Christ,..but loving the world.
    How many things in my daily walk are not Holy?
    What are the motives for my prayers?
    When I'm stressed and squeezed,..what comes out of me? God things or.....other stuff?
    Preach on!
    (to me!)

    Friday, September 19, 2008

    God Wants Me To Sleep

    The other night, I was tossing and turning, as I often do in the first couple of hours after turning out the bedroom lights. Sometimes Ralph notices that I'm not sleeping,..sometimes he snores.

    This particular night, after an hour or so,..he asked me "What's on your mind?"

    Sometimes I tell him "nothing much" because I know he may think my worries are foolish. They often are.
    But this time I listed the things which were racing through my sleepy head.

    As I listed a random bizarre list of,....foolishness.....I finished by telling him that I was amazed at the way God has worked in my life.
    I said "God takes our lives, complete with the details, joys and pains and makes this fascinating story which could only be credited to Him".

    I was sure that Ralph would become fully awake and marvel with me about great spiritual things.
    There was a long pause.
    It was 1 o'clock in the morning.

    He replied: "I think God wants you to go to sleep".

    I laughed out loud!

    Oh it's good to have someone around you who make sense.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    I Wish I could Dance

    If I were a dancer, I'm sure I would dance like this:

    Monday, September 15, 2008

    Our Camera, Our Routine

    There is a need for a camera.
    The camera is lost.
    The search begins.
    The opportunity and need for a photograph is over.
    Days pass.
    The house gets cleaned and the camera is found.
    The battery is dead.
    The charger cord is lost.
    The search begins.
    Days go by.
    Finally the camera and the cord are brought together.
    The camera is now ready to be used.
    Abby sees a newly charged camera.
    Abby holds the camera above her head at arms length and takes approximately 350 photos of herself.
    The camera loses it's charge and so she puts it down.
    Days go by.
    There is a need for a camera.
    The camera is lost.
    The search begins.

    Tuesday, September 9, 2008

    Neti Pot

    I have found some good news for anyone suffering with sinus problems!
    This video is not for the faint of heart.
    In fact,..I just may lose a few readers after this.
    But I have to tell ya,....the nurse in me is fascinated!
    (You know,..kinda like a train wreck fascinates people,...)

    Thursday, September 4, 2008

    September Inventory

    I am currently reading
    "The Last Jihad" by Joel Rosenberg. It's actually a big deal to me that I am reading anything OTHER than some sort of "self-help" book.

    My plans for the week
    include working at Cardiac Rehab (of course) and speaking at our State conference on Friday.
    I also get to assist my in-laws close on a piece of property directly across the road from us. This is God's provisional gift to us all. It became available approx 1 week before my in-laws home burned.
    In their price range.
    Not hardly.

    My latest frustration
    was definitely this blog. Did you notice the template change? I messed the other one up with one simple click of my mouse. Last night around 11:00 pm, I lost everything I had done for almost 8 months. I'm tellin' ya,..I almost heaved this 'puter right out the front door! Instead, I put myself into a coma with two Benadryl. This afternoon, as I sat down to begin re-creating some of my additions,...I decided to play around with various templates.
    TA-DAAA!! All of what I had lost just re-appeared in my preview of this template.
    I kept it.
    I'm scared to try anything new.
    You may see this layout for the rest of my life.

    My prayer concerns for the week
    are my children. Trying to encourage a young person's spiritual life in this culture is full-time and exasperating. I am oft tempted to nag which is discouraging for all of us.
    I also am praying for my life to be useful in God's Kingdom. To desire excellence in all I do. To see His big picture and not get bogged down in the details of my schedule.
    I also am praying for my church to do the same thing.

    I am procrastinating
    writing for publication. My friend Wayne encouraged me last night to write. I need to get that off the back burner. I have no illusions about this,..I am well aware that I possess no formal writing education OR experience. I still want to try it.
    If Christie Brinkley can write a best seller about the serious meaning of her dreams, surely there's a chance for me.

    I am eagerly anticipating
    watching Abby in a play tonight.
    I'm also looking forward to breakfast Tuesday with some friends.

    I am stressed about
    very little at the moment.
    All of my stress and worries descend on me around 10:00 or 11:00 pm.

    The last song that captured my thoughts is
    the old hymn, "Face to Face"
    The 3rd and 4th verse go like this:
    What rejoicing in His presence, when are banished grief and pain;
    When the crooked way is straightened, and the dark things shall be plain.

    Face to face! O blissful moment! Face to face to see and know;
    Face to face with my Redeemer, Jesus Christ who loves me so!

    The last scripture that captured my thoughts is
    the end of Psalms 147. It used a list of various weather patterns as symbols of Praise. In these days of hurricanes and storms, I always think of them in a negative sense rather than as an outlet for His glory. (Bangladesh, for instance, gets wiped off the face of the Earth by a cyclone every other year.)
    I am going to try to think of "big" weather events as a form of God expressing His power,..but I still doubt that I'll be praising Him the next time I am hunkered down in my closet trying to outlive a tornado.

    A thought for the day
    is from the late Mike Yaconelli:
    Mike wrote in his book Messy Spirituality
    "I want desperately to know God better. I want to be consistent. Right now the only consistent thing in my life is inconsistency.....But Spirituality is not about being fixed. It's about God being present in the mess of our inconsistent life."

    Tuesday, September 2, 2008

    Soldier/Son Reunion

    Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE reunions.
    Until I experience the reunions I long for, observing others will just have to do:

    Friday, August 29, 2008

    A Real Prayer Meeting

    I have spent the past three days in Duck Hill, Mississippi. Home of my God-fearing in-laws Bobby and Leona Russell. I count myself blessed indeed to be their daughter-in-law. They have taught me much.
    Unfortunately, lightning hit their home a couple of weeks ago and the resulting fire left their home in ruins. The charred upstairs, the water damage from the fire hoses and the stench of lingering smoke has turned the happy humble home into an unimaginable mess.
    It was sad indeed to see an entire lifetime picked through and eventually thrown into garbage bags. As I worked side by side with Leona in the mess,.... she was a living demonstration in peace and good nature. I've tried to imagine how I would be in similar circumstances. My "possessions" are very dear to me. In fact,..I have a list of things I would grab in case a quick evacuation was necessary.
    Most have to do with Jae.
    My tangible links to her.

    On Wednesday evening,..we went to the Grenada Church of the Nazarene where the Russell's have invested most of their serving adult years. The tiny membership is deeply saddened because of the fire. For the pain my in-laws are enduring,....but for their church as well. That body of believers knows that Bobby and Leona will now move to Arkansas.

    Wednesday night prayer meeting.....
    I don't know about you, but my church has that scheduled every Wednesday night according to our bulletin, however,... last time I went, I don't recall spending a great deal of time in prayer.
    I have had to miss it lately because of work or responsibilities in the Youth department.

    Wednesday night "prayer meeting" at the Grenada Church of the Nazarene does the real deal. The few of us there this past Wednesday night gathered around the alter on our knees and prayed for a solid hour.
    A solid hour!

    One white-haired older man probably spent 5 full minutes on Praise and adoration of the God who saved him and loves him. In fact,...I think I now know how King David would have sounded if he had a deep Mississippi drawl.
    Another pray-er was a handsome tattooed young man who had just moments before, witnessed his second child be born into this world. His prayer was so heartfelt and touching that I raised me head to watch him speak to our God.
    Bobby and Leona Russell's prayers never mentioned the hardship they are in the midst of.

    The entire prayer time was one of the best sermons I've heard.
    I am convicted.

    Saturday, August 23, 2008

    Becky's List

    Coming home.
    The smell of gardenia.
    Driving in my car alone.
    Listening to Abby play "Somewhere over the rainbow" on her guitar.
    Hearing Casey laugh.
    My videos of Jae Lynn.
    My jacuzzi tub in the winter.
    Ralph Russell foot rubs.
    Kentucky Fried Chicken.
    Barry Manilow, The Carpenters, John Denver and Neil Diamond.
    Cookie dough.
    Jae's bedroom.
    Making other people feel better.
    A good book.
    A good haircut.
    Full moon.
    Dark starry nights.
    Talking life and theology with Kay.
    Starting fires (real ones)

    Being cold.
    Discord among family and friends.
    The emptiness of Jae's bedroom.
    Wool blankets.
    Casey's longing for her older sister.
    Fish fat.
    Leaks under the sink.
    Walking in socks and stepping in something wet.

    Mean people.
    Military levels of seniority.
    Why I can't grow plants.
    People who won't communicate.
    The minor prophet books of the Bible.
    Where my ink pens go.
    Gas prices.
    Computer language (which is why you seldom see bells and whistles on this blog)
    God's ways

    Talking in front of 1500 people.
    Being nerdy (good thing!)
    Graveyards at night.

    Working in the church nursery.
    Getting poked unexpectedly in the side. (stop it Bobby!)
    Having bad breath.
    Concession stand cash registers.
    Burying another child.
    Burying anyone I love.
    Disappointing God.
    Late night phone calls.
    Demonic dreams.
    Getting burned.
    Having the "3 Cheerleaders" scholarship project fail.
    Being broke.
    June bugs.
    That everyone who reads my blog will think it's stupid, boring and never return.

    ******(end of list!)******

    So there you have about 30 things about me that you could have gone all day without knowing! Actually, I made this list a month or so ago and put it in my "draft" folder. Dusted it off this morning and gave it to you.

    Friday, August 22, 2008

    Go Down Death!

    Man! I love this guy's voice.

    When he was younger,..he appeared often on "Soul Train".

    (Is that cool or what?)

    I have spent hours listening to Whintley performing this song about death and Heaven.

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    Ageless Children

    First day of school.
    Lots of fun for most people, clothes, with backpacks, sharpened pencils,..etc.

    Agonizing for others.
    Yellow school buses pass the driveway and do not stop.
    Classmates move on.
    Most children get older.
    But death keeps some children forever young.

    These ageless children have moms and dads who are heart-sick on the first day of school.
    I am so sorry.
    I know.

    Saturday, August 16, 2008

    Happy 28th anniversary

    Ralph and I just returned home from a 2-night stay in Branson MO for our 28th wedding anniversary. I wished a thousand times I had brought my camera to spice up my post here, but then again, would have been my 29th wedding anniversary before I loaded them all onto the post.
    Here are a few of my thoughts from the absolutely beautiful relaxing weekend I shared with my tee-rific husband.

    **Branson is full of places to stay. However,..the best accommodations have finally been discovered! It's cabin #2 in the Westgate Resort. (Ralph found it on some "Branson log cabin rental web site). I will stay there from now on if it's possible. You should too.

    **There is motel in Branson named: "Hi Ho". (Hee hee)

    **Of course,..Branson is known for it's entertainment. The show for us this weekend was "NOAH: The Musical". The stage was phenomenal,..the singing was good,...the actors also good, the ticket prices horrible,...but the Faith lessons,....Oh the Faith lessons! Ralph and I have talked about them all day. VERY encouraging. I think I may start praying like Noah and his sons did,...looking up to God, praying out loud while holding my hands in the air.

    **Ralph and I discussed all the important things. I think it is a good thing to take "inventory" of relationships, finances, spiritual walks, church work, children issues and every other important thing in our life. It's been too busy to have conversations like that in every day life.

    **Ralph is a good shopper. What a guy. Comes from living with 4 females for all these years.

    **There is a deep thinker in a teeny town called "Pindall, AR". Some of the street names are:

    and then,.....
    Fillmore (Oh well)

    **In Pindall,..there is also some sort of dragon sculpture which belongs in China. It's right there right beside somebodies ditch. It's probably 25 feet long. You pass something like that in a place like Pindall and wonder,.."did I just see a dragon?"

    **Right past Pindall is a eatin place called "Roscoe's cafe". It must be good cause it was packed. It's near Pindall too.

    **Ralph and I decided to meander home and stop whenever we had a fancy. We passed this auction place near Damascus and parked to look around. While shopping inside one of the junk stores,..a group of about 250 people gathered around the junk piles outside. I thought at first they were auctioning off our car, but ran outside and to my great relief saw they were only in a screaming bidding war for boxes of dirty broken toys, puzzles and kitchen gadgets. I heard somewhere that I would enjoy auctions. I see now that I would not. It's been a long time since I seen so much junk in one place. (My daddy's barnyard excluded).

    **The same flea market/auction has a honest to goodness gallows. Trap door, long stairway and place to hang the rope. It's right there beside the rusty, portable metal jail cage. Except for the junk being auctioned off, we saw real treasures scattered around that place. Much of it was in a massive rusty junk pile which has been there as long as I can remember. However,..when I asked the price of one of the rusty pieces, guessed it,...the price was absurdly expensive. It's right beside the highway. I could go steal it tonight and no one would ever miss it.

    **There's a church in Marshall, AR who said on their church sign that they were "Roundin up Souls for Jesus!". I wanna be in that posse.

    **I signed up at the BumbleBee gas station to win a Harley-Davidson bike. Woo! That'd be fun.

    Eating at the Cracker Barrel in Conway is always the sure sign that home is the next stop. In spite of the good times away, I could hardly wait to get there.
    Home is where I belong.
    Home is where my loved ones are.
    Even though I was miles away, my loved ones were never out of my love or my thoughts.
    The distance apart does not lessen the love.
    The love is not lessened by the distance.
    Whether my loved ones are on Centennial road or in Heaven, doesn't matter.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008

    49 things

    Each Sunday morning, I have the radio on in my bedroom as I get ready for church. I love the 8:00am "Call to Worship" music program put on by somebody somewhere. It has become an excellent way to focus my mind on where it needs to be early on the Lord's day. The music is not exciting, but is extremely "reflective".
    (Casey and Abby say boring.)

    This morning, right after my Call to Worship music, the next program came on and a preacher announced his 49th lesson in the series.
    There is a series with 49 lessons and (evidently) more?
    I immediately felt sorry for the regular listeners.

    I laughed out loud and wondered if I know 49 things about any one subject.

    My knowledge about God and His things can be summed up like this:

    The more I learn,...the less I know.
    God loves me.
    I love God.
    He wants me to love others.
    I used to think I knew more. Who knows, maybe in my other life I could have written a series with 49 points.
    But surviving the scary shadows of death has, in a way, set me free. After being raised in the church (every time the doors were open!), you'd think I'd have some kind of idea of how big God is. A lifetime of sermons can obviously provide some prep for a Christ-follower to deal with adversity,..but the lessons won't stick until the student is given the test.
    The test becomes the real lesson. Or it did for me anyway.
    Last night, I was treated to my first Stephen Curtis Chapman concert. (In the rain!) I enjoy several of his songs and actually, one of them even made it to the list of songs I had compiled for my "music to heal by" (or as Ralph said,.."music to sob by") as I traveled to and from work in 2004 and 2005.

    I have no idea how Stephen's concerts were before he experienced the home going of his 5 y/o Maria, but I am absolutely positive that his ministry will forever be changed.
    He says the things I feel about death, life and God.
    New passion from wonderful horrible new insights.
    I also heard Stephen make no attempt to explain God's ways.

    Psalm 139: 6 and 17-18.
    This is too much,..too wonderful--I can't take it all in! Your thoughts (of me)--how rare, how beautiful! God, I'll never comprehend them! I couldn't even begin to count your thoughts of me--any more than I can count the sand of the sea.
    (the Message)
    I don't need to know 49 things,..I just need to know He loves me in more ways than the sand of the sea.
    He loves Jae Lynn that way too.
    It's good for this mama's heart to know that she's more in the middle of God's love than I am.

    Wednesday, August 6, 2008

    Acting Like Sophie

    At our monthly Bereaved Parents meeting last night, we had a special speaker. Sam Adkins (Ph.d) has never lost a child, but somehow has become fairly adept at counseling parents who have.

    He reminded us moms and dads that it was normal to wonder about the purpose of our pain. You and I are rational creatures with an inborn and natural need to make sense of our lives. I may not question everything in my life, but I crave understanding about other things.

    My dog does not have this need.
    If she pees on the rug, I swat her in the butt and she stops.
    She does not run to a corner and wonder if I love her.
    She does not become depressed over the fact that I took a swat at her.
    As far as I can tell,..she makes no attempt to understand me.
    Her desire seems to be to sit in our lap, eat and sleep with us and try not to get a butt-whuppin.
    At any and every given time, she leaps into my lap and cuddles with me.
    It's how she was made.

    I, on the other hand,..was created with an intense need for purpose and rationales. I search for purpose to the suffering I see around me. It's how God made me.

    Then,...He tells us in Proverbs to "...lean not on our own understanding,.."

    It's not fair to make me one way and then require something different of me.
    (Oh poor poor whiney me)

    Sam said that a huge Faith step was learning to "let go" of our need for understanding and trust God with the purpose of this life.
    Do tell.
    I'd say that's an understatement.

    Well ,..OK.
    I can let go.
    For tonight anyway.
    Tonight I think I'll just act like Sophie and enjoy God's love for me.
    I'm too tired to figure Him out tonight. :)

    Friday, August 1, 2008

    You, Me and the Apostle Paul

    I and a friend are trying to study a different book of the Bible each month.
    This month is Philippians.
    Yippee!! I am done studying Isaiah!!

    Usually, as I begin each book, I spend time "setting the stage" for what I am reading. You know,..who's the author,.... what's he doing,...who's he talking to,..who are the intended readers,..etc.

    I wonder if the Apostle Paul knew that his letters written to his friends at the church at Phillipi would ever be used as they were. Do you think he knew he was writing a portion of the Bible? It doesn't sound like it. His words to them from the prison cell are very personal.
    I just bet he had no idea that millions would read, quote, memorize and apply his thoughts as actual words from God.
    If he had known, do you think he would have written the letters differently?

    Only God knows how our daily actions will impact the world.
    We tend to think very small.

    One of things the apostle Paul did for his friends, the Philippians, was to tell them the things he prayed about.
    I think it's good to let people know how they are prayed for.
    Therefore: Consider yourself told.
    I prayed for you this morning around 9:30am.
    Each reader of this post.
    I prayed for you to not underestimate your impact on the world around you.
    Think big.
    Humility is good, but so is Faith.

    God specializes in using broken-up people living life in a wonderful, crazy, messed-up world.
    We won't know until eternity how important our obedience is.

    I bet Paul is still shaking his head in amazement.

    Tuesday, July 29, 2008

    Jae's Hurts, My hurts

    Where do feelings like this come from?
    Emotionally slammed.

    Like July 4th, I was just sitting there, enjoying a patriotic parade in Texas, and a sweet high school cheerleader team from Arlington performed a stunt directly in front of where we sat. They were wonderful and beautiful and had no idea how much pain their impromptu performance brought my way.
    Then there's the time a few days ago when I had a rough day at work and decided to run by the cemetery on the way home. By the time I reached Jae's grave, I was sobbing and crawling on my hands and knees,..looking quite insane, I'm sure.
    (Note to self: sometimes stress is still handled poorly)

    An hour or so ago, Ralph and I raked out a small mountain of leaves from inside our barn. The pile was much too big to move so I decided to burn them right there near the edge of the barn. Just as the fire reached about 120 feet high, I asked him if there was anything priceless inside the barn.

    "Nope" he calmly said from the tailgate of our truck.
    "All the priceless things to me are not in the barn. You, Casey and Abby are here and Jae's in Heaven. Nothing in the barn matters."

    My heart is heavy tonight. I am doing my best to hold back a hissy-fit. I have no idea why and don't really care to figure it out. It just is.

    I made up Jae's bed 'cause Abby slept in it last night. Put blankey and mousey on the pillow and looked around at all her stuff. The "gone fishin" picture she drew for us before she walked out the door the last time. Her bulletin board still covered with Christmas decorations and Lauren's, Sam's and Kyle's funeral programs. I have put up some pictures of her around the walls.

    Another thing that hangs on her wall is a list of "hurts". It was created by her just a few weeks before her accident.

    You see, once Jae became a cheerleader, it seemed that she was forever pulling this tendon, or spraining that joint. There was a constant ache in her back and pain in her head. Tumbling and flying left her bruised and sore almost every single day.

    One day, exasperated with the whining, I made her do what my nursing students were required to do for their patients.
    "Jae Lynn! Make a list of your problems!
    Label them acute or chronic!
    And then prioritize them in order of severity!"

    Oh man! You should have seen her light up as the idea of expressing herself in such a creative way.
    Here is her list exactly as she wrote it:

    My Hurts
    1-My thumb (acute
    2-My lower back (but only in the morning) (chronic)
    7-My knee
    4-My shoulder muscles between my shoulders
    3-My hips (they constantly pop in & out & sometimes get stuck in between & get bruised)
    9-Occasionally I get HORRIBLE headaches!
    8-my ankle will never lock out. It rolls & hurts (chronic)
    5-my wrists pop alot (chronic)

    The list is now history.
    There are no more hurts for Jae Lynn tonight.
    I, however, will never recover from having part of my soul torn away.
    The joy in my life is mixed with discontent.
    My trust in God is stronger than ever, but,....
    Every single day contains the wish that things were different.

    To all my fellow pyro-maniacs our there,..I know you are ashamed of me. I burned the leaves with a water hose nearby.
    What a weenie.

    Sunday, July 27, 2008


    In my opinion, one of the most intimate passages in the entire Bible is the story of the last supper.

    Matthew, Mark and Luke each devote less than half of a chapter to that one moment in time. John, however, screeches the entire Bible to a halt and takes us through the scene word by word,..moment by moment. His portrayal lasts for an amazing four entire chapters!

    In John 13-16, Jesus emotions and deep affection for these men is evident. Jesus slows His World-sized ministry down to a slow crawl because He knows His chosen men, His beloved friends need comfort, reassurance and information.
    The situation is urgent.
    Tension surrounding Jesus ministry is at an all-time high.
    Everyone is on edge.
    Even Jesus.
    Especially Jesus.

    Jesus knows that these 12 men He has lived with for three years are mere hours away from being faced with the fight of their lives.
    And He won't physically be with them.

    There are one hundred things I love about this section of John, but this afternoon, I am thinking of His command in John 13:17 to "Do".

    Like many of you reading this,..I am faced with many opportunities to "Do".
    Do this. Do that. Here's a good cause. That's a noble endeavor.
    Should I "do" this? or should I "do" that?

    I am at a place where I, once again, must re-evaluate my priorities. There is simply no time to waste at "doing" good things, while the ones which matter for eternity go undone.

    Just because something is important to us,..does that make it important? (no)
    How do we get into places in our lives where we can't "do" anything? (I don't know)
    Does loving our family and working in the church count as "Do"ing? (maybe-maybe no)

    Here's the new "To-Do" list mapped out 'specially for me by Becky Russell:
    1. Evaluate my life for ruts. They cause spiritual slumber and/or disaster.
    2. Follow my passions and gifts.
    3. Pray,,... Beg for discernment.
    4. Read the Bible. For me,..that means study it with my commentary nearby.
    5. Anticipate the outrageous. (i.e. Faith baby!)
    6. Do.

    Jesus was not known as a predictable rule-follower, yet His life was characterized by all of His "do"ing.

    I wanna be like that.