Tuesday, March 31, 2009

David And The Little Rock Marathon

The following is a post from my very first ever "Guest Blogger"!

My brother David participated in the Little Rock Marathon. This has been, by far, one of the biggest accomplishments he has ever done in his life.

I asked him to share with you, my readers, and he sent this to me telling me it wasn't very "bloggable".......That I needed to shorten, edit or cut it up.

I think not.

The official finish line crossing photo at the end of his post is priceless to me. (I ordered it off of the official marathon web site.)

Here's David's post,...just like he wrote it:


Sunday March 15th 2009, I ran in my first marathon. I ran it in memory of my niece Jae Lynn Russell, who tragically died on March 18th 2004.

As recent as 9 months ago, running a marathon was inconceivable to me.
3 years ago, my wife and I decided that we needed to get in shape and so we joined a local gym.
We both started walking on treadmills a few times a week.

After about 6 months, a friend (Jack Long) who attends church with me, and who was a member of the same gym, approached me and asked if I would be interested in running on a relay team over a ½ marathon, in the upcoming Little Rock Marathon. His daughter was a runner from high school, and was going to run the half marathon, and Jack felt we were both needing a challenge, and proposed that we compete against his daughter (with us running the ½ relay).
I agreed, and neither Jack nor I have looked back.

We competed in that race (2007), ran the ½ marathon ourselves (13.1 miles) in 2008 and this year, joined a Little Rock Marathon training group in July 2008, with the intent of a possible marathon run, but still not committing. We actually didn’t commit until January 2009, still thinking that it was not possible for us to do this.
As the date approached, Jack would not get to compete in the 2009 Little Rock marathon, (instead he is doing the Nashville marathon in April 2009).

The training has been very thorough and tough, but I felt I was as prepared as I could be.
Somewhere in the fall of 2008, we discovered that the 2009 Little Rock Marathon, would be on the same date as the 3 Cheerleaders annual fundraising banquet.
The dates were set for March 15.

At that time, I still had not actually registered for the marathon, wanting to wait, to see if I could actually complete the training, and really run that distance. Anyway, I decided that if I did run, I would run in memory of my niece Jae Lynn Russell, one of the 3 Cheerleaders and that I would try to raise some monies for the scholarship goals, that have been set in memory of Jae.
Jae would have been 21 this year and probably still in college.

The more I considered this, the more I was motivated to run the event—but still hesitant, and afraid of the unknown.

The race was Sunday (3-15-09) and I have completed the marathon.
It was definitely harder than I expected.
My race time was not exceptional—rather it was fairly slow.
However, I am proud that I did run and proud of the opportunity to run for Jae.

There were several significant moments, when I look back at the event.

1) Showing Becky the race shirt that was monogrammed on the back "In Memory of Jae Lynn Russell" and on the pocket "Gone Fishing Jae Lynn Russell".

2) The bible verses in Hebrews Chpt. 12: v1-2, that my oldest daughter left me in a note that morning, referencing the fact that we are "surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses" and that we run the race of life not for ourselves, but for the glory of the Lord. (Jeffers paraphrase)

3) Starting the race with my daughter Amanda and her husband-Ryan (who were running the ½ marathon)

4) Around mile 14--Listening on my ipod to the David Crowder Band singing the song "Indescribable (Oh Praise Him)", and thinking about Heaven and Jae, and my dad, who have both gone on to Heaven, and listening to the words of the song, about the sounds of Heaven, and just as I am nearing the Pulaski Heights Baptist church, --suddenly hearing the church bells start ringing—
It was a praise the Lord moment.

5) Around mile 17, another runner running alongside me, asked me who Jae Lynn Russell, was.
After I told him about Jae, he told me that he understood the grief of losing someone as he had lost his wife, 4 years ago.
As he passed me, I yelled out to him, "What was her name?"(remembering the significance of a name) and he turned and yelled back "Nancy". I repeated her name out loud, thinking how significant a name was, and that he probably needed to hear her name again.

6) Nearing mile 21, my thoughts drifted to considering what I would do, when I crossed the finish line. Should I just raise my arms,… just smile, …do nothing or what?
I decided that I would raise one arm up to Jae, and to look up at the heavens, and also raise 1 finger –showing Christ is the only 1 way.

7) Realizing around mile 19 that I was going to have to go to work to complete the race in under 6 hours.
I did lots of mental calculations in my head, and when I crossed the last relay point 20.1 miles at 4 hrs 27 minutes, I knew I was behind.
I was exhausted, and had horrible running form then, hearing the scraping sounds of my shoes, as they barely lifted off the pavement.
I challenged my self to fix my running form and at the same time, mentally committed to run a long run again (during the past 3 miles, I had been running and walking).
I started at mile 21 and ran to mile 22.
Then I walked mile 23, then started running again, setting goals as to where I would give in to fatigue.
I got to the point of the race called Dillard’s Hill—a large bridge and hill. I walked the uphill portion of this section and ran the downhill portion, still mentally checking my time and whether I would finish under 6 hrs.

8) As I neared the finish line, I really wanted to be below 6 hours, and didn’t have a lot of time (or energy), as it was close to the 6 hr mark.
My son, Nathan, had ran out about ½ mile from the finish and met me, and urged me to finish strong. I jogged in (exhausted at this point) and with his help, was able to keep it up for the entire ½ mile, making my goal of finishing under 6 hours.
Without his help, I would not have been able to do this.

9) As I approached the finish line, a group of friends and my family were there to cheer me on, and the encouragement it gave me was immeasurable. I looked at each of them intently as I passed them, and waved to my granddaughter Emma, as I passed her.
Nathan and Aundra yelled for me to "dig" and I sprinted the 200 yards of the chute towards and across the finish line.
As I raised my arm and looked up, and raised my one finger pointing to Christ, I became very emotional.
I had not expected this from myself, but did not hide it as I wept and as I praised God for finishing.

10) The prayers offered up for me, as I ran the event. Some of them are; My Sunday school class participants, the people at the 3 Cheerleaders fund raiser, my friend Jack who was visiting his father’s SS class in North Carolina and many of those who I had informed that I would be running the race.

11) This feeble comparison of what happens after you finish a race like this-to what happens when you enter Heaven—they call you by name as you finish, you don’t have to do anything, it is done for you by others in the finish area, you receive new clothes, you receive nourishment, you receive accolades for finishing, you get to finally see your loved ones, you receive a medal (crown), there are special areas for the finishers.

It was harder than I expected.
The joy of running for my niece was more than I expected.
The training periods and runs were longer and more than I expected.
The mental challenge of running a marathon was greater than I expected
The monies raised on behalf of Jae’s scholarship were greater than I expected.
The achievement was greater than I ever imagined possible, even now, I do not really believe I am a marathoner or actually ran that far. Will I run again?---Yes
Will I run a marathon again?---maybe.
I am not scared of it, but the commitment to do it was and is significant.
I am most thankful for the significant moments that I encountered and glad that I did it.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Eternity In My Heart

Ecclesiastes 7
I've named this passage "The wise man's school".
But no one wants to go to class.
The Teacher is famous for being loving , but the lessons are ridiculously hard.
The students are usually confused.

Here's the lesson plans for Ecclesiastes 7:

Lesson #1 Quit throwing parties for birthday's and start looking forward to funerals.
Lesson#2. More life lessons are taught at funerals than parties.
Lesson#3. The heart of the wise is (can be) improved when we are distressed.
Lesson#4. It's better to be rebuked by a wise man than be praised by lots of nonbelievers.
Lesson#5. The strong hearted will often lose control during pain.
Lesson#6. (Hardest of all?) God causes pain as well as the joy.

But in Chapter 3, the scripture says (my paraphrase)
He has made everything beautiful in it's time, and He has put eternity in their hearts....

I'm at a place tonight where I'm feeling a little empty.
Not distant from God, but not passionate either.
I've sat in the classroom described above and am frustrated that I have to wait to see the beauty of the circumstances.
I can not help but look backwards, but I long to move faster forward.
I know from experience that the remedy for "emptiness" is to start serving others. I must make time to do more for others.

A few months before Jae's wreck, the 5 of us had planned a trip to Williamsburg, VA. Just somewhere different, history, fun stuff, etc. After her death, we scrapped the idea of travel all together. We couldn't dream of vacationing with out Jae. We were too heartbroken.
The Sanden family (I love you Susan, Gary and kids) found out about our cancelled plans and GAVE us a week in Williamsburg, Virginia, at their beautiful condo.
Three months after the funeral, we piled into our van for the two day drive, and sobbed for the first 500 miles.
The trip, however, turned out better than we thought it would, and we even found ourselves laughing for the first time as a family. We made some good memories in the middle of the agony.

Towards the end of the week, on the drive home, our plans were to spend the night in a hotel still several hours away from our house. We pulled into the hotel parking lot about dusk,....tired, sad, missing her, on each others nerves and dreading the last long night ahead of us. We were withdrawn,....barely speaking to each other.
I'll always remember what happened next:

Ralph turned around and said to us:
"Why don't we just stay in the car, drive on through and go home?"

I can not tell you how the atmosphere of our van changed in that moment.
We turned on the music,.....we began to communicate,....we no longer felt tired,...our spirits soared,......we were going home!


I firmly believe that all things will be beautiful when we get to see God's work from beginning to end.
I'm thankful that He's given me "eternity in my heart".
Oh how I look forward to Heaven!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring Inventory

Right now I am:
Listening to 7 teenage girls giggle and scream in my living room. There is a short list of things which make teenage girls giggle and scream:
(Bless Abby's heart,..her birthday is the day before the anniversary of Jae's death. We try hard to not the two get mixed up. This year, Abby chose to celebrate it last night with a sleepover.)

I also am:
nursing a BIG abrasion on my nose and forehead. As I climbed a fence and tried to jump off, my big foot hung on the top strand of barb wire and I fell and scooted for about 18 inches on my face. I was very glad there were no witnesses.

I have my mom's knack for spectacular falls.

A song which has captured my attention is:
I Bowed On My Knees And Cried Holy sung by Michael English and the Gaither Vocal Band. It is always a great thing to imagine the happenings of Heaven and that song gives a lot of details for the imagination.

A Great Story:
is the life-testimony of Michael English. He was artist of the year a few years ago and made some terrible choices which cost him his family, his awards, his career and his testimony. In the years that followed, the Christian world pretty much forsook him. His next music CD gives credit to Bill Gaither for sticking with him through the dark days.
I wanna be like Bill.

The Passage of Scripture Which Has Caught My Attention Is:
Genesis 32. The "Angels of God" came out to meet Jacob.
I don't know. It doesn't say.
Then, a few verses later, God decides to wrestle with Jacob in the middle of the night.
To be blessed?
To make him admit he was a trickster?

God wrestles?

That'll make a lot of rednecks happy.

I'm confused
The Russell's dogs never want to stay home.
Everyone else has a dog which loves to lay on their porch. Not us. Our dogs are bound and determined to escape us.
Sophie has been hit by a car again as she ran at breakneck speed out our front door. I'm hoping she lives.

I'm relieved
Casey's home safe and sound. She is still exhausted but had a fantastic time. She is hopeful that she gets the job (white water river guide).

I'm procrastinating:
Cleaning our "office". You know how it is when a room is completely overrun by papers, books, music, supplies, and whatever else can be thrown in there. I have to tackle it soon because all of our tax stuff is buried in there!

I am looking forward to:
This weekend at Branson/Silver Dollar City. It's "Young Christian's Weekend" and I, of course, am very young.

I'm excited about:
Entering a writing contest. My niece Aundra, (also a writer) gave me a gift subscription to Writer's Digest and the first issue was all about a writing contest!
I think I will re-work some of the posts I have done on this blog......
Got any suggestions as to which one I should submit?

I'm discouraged about:
Hhmmmm,..not much at all.
Sophie I guess.

You may want to know
that I am going to burn our front field Tuesday. I've been greatly amused by the number of people who laugh at my burning desires (hee hee).
However,..everyone agrees that it is/would be fun,...so,......
Anyone who wants to burn with me can just show up at my house mid-morning.
Hopefully the wind won't be too stiff,..but if it is,...it'll just be that much more exciting!
BYOR (bring your own rake)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Same Day, Different Year

I have had many of you call or text me today and I am grateful for the remembrances. I received several cards and letters in my mailbox and that too, is an uplifting thing.

5 years ago today, my oldest daughter was introduced face-to-face to the Lord who loves her more that I do.
She walked (I guess she walked) through the gates of Heaven which instantly became real to me.

Today has been peaceful.
I did some burning. (hee hee)
I watched some of our homes movies so I could see her and hear her voice.
I picked Abby up and we went and spent time at the grave.

I missed her today, but that is no different than any other day.
The difference is that today, I am 5 years closer to seeing her again.

I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Extravangant Love

Extravagant: /adj/ 1. exceeding the limits of reason, 2. lacking in moderation, balance or restraint 3. excessively elaborate, 4. paying an unreasonably high price.

1. Central Arkansas's support for the memory and legacy of three young teenagers who most of them did not know. The lunch was such a success!

2. My brother David, running the Little Rock Marathon in memory of his niece. His first marathon ever. He will be a "guest blogger' on here soon.

3. Our friend Reg Hamman. He was a stranger 5 years ago. He gets invited into our lives/drama and inspires a vision we were unable to see. He would state it differently, but I see the reason he does stuff like that because a) he loves God with all of his heart, soul and mind, and b) he loves his neighbor as himself.

4. Close friends who get in the trenches with us and help as we literally wander through our fund-raising events. Some come and go as different needs arise and some are there year after year and see all of our weaknesses clearly exposed. All of these volunteers bless us more than words could express.

5. My sister-in-law Susan. With each season change, she decorates and bring beauty to the sacred places of our family. Unless you go to the cemetery to see the graves, you will never see her artistry.

6. My family in general. How great is God's love for me that He would place me in this circle of people. Far from perfect, we love each other deeply and tenderly. (Bobby is better by the way. Home yesterday.) We celebrate the living, worry ourselves crazy about each other and mourn but speak often of our loved ones gone. Some more than others, we all long for Heaven.

6. My daughter's birth mothers. 15 years ago today, a young lady from not too far away labored to bring Abby life. I bless her this morning and the other two which have so richly blessed me. There are those who "can not understand how a woman could give up her child", and then there are a few of us who have wept with wonder and joy at the unexplainable sheer extravagance of their choice.

7. Jesus. Sitting in Heaven with His Father, looking at the world and discussing the plan to bring us all up to them. They could have created one which is logical and makes sense. Instead they created one which defies reason. A sinless King for a weak sinner like Becky.

8. Heaven. After the incomprehensible trade-off of Jesus, God's son, for the sinner,... the plan continues so that the sinner gets rewarded for choosing the death of Jesus.

I am the recipient of extravagant love this morning from all different directions.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Standing In The Need Of Prayer

I may not post on here for a few days.
My brother Bob is terribly ill and in the hospital.
(Please pray!)
Lunch fundraiser coming this Sunday.
(please RSVP!)
Casey heading out this Friday for 4 days on some whitewater trip in Arizona.
(Pray again!)
David is running the LR marathon.
26 miles.
(pray some more)
The girl on the right was me this morning.
Love you all.
Thanks for being my friend.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Until I have My Own

Most of you have seen part of this video, but there are more reunions than the one we're familiar with.
Until I have my own,... i'll just have watch others...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

New Battles, Old Tactics

I have always wondered why soldiers in the old days walked out into battle, shoulder to shoulder in a line heading straight toward their enemy, knowing they would be shot.

“DO NOT BREAK THE LINE!” their commanders would shout at them!

In fact, those that went against common sense and “broke the line” were branded as cowards and weak. Didn’t they know they were supposed to stand up and fight like a man?
When I see it portrayed in movies, or I read about it,..I always shake my head in disbelief.
The tactic makes no sense.
Walk out into the line of enemy fire without protection and “hope“ nothing happens?
Why train? Why drill?
I’m no soldier, but it looks to me like a senseless slaughter is the only thing that could happen.
What a waste.

Many old timey photos are of an aftermath of battles fought that way. When we gaze on those dead bodies, do we consider that those young men were someone's beloved sons?
Someone's husband?
Their daddy?

War is often fought for noble purposes, and it is an fair assumption that the commanding leaders will make intelligent decisions about the safety of those under their care.
Surely there was a time when the commanders of the old fashioned armies thought:
This is not the best way to win the war.
I certainly would imagine that the soldiers sat around their campfires at night quietly doubting themselves:
"Surely, we can be better soldiers and a more effective army if we did things differently."

The price was too high to do things the way they have always been done, especially when so many are paying such a high price.
What took them so long to figure it out?

Is that what we do today as Christians? We go to church on Sundays and other days we read our prepackaged, preprinted morning devotionals and step out our front door and face the world.
We are sitting ducks.
We are falling by the hundreds and wondering why.
We march through our lives thoughtlessly, being careful to “not break the rules".
We line ourselves up in the world, doing church as we have done for the past 100 years, directly in front of the enemy,..with zero cover.

We are fighting new battles with old tactics.
Wishing things were different, but not knowing exactly how to turn the war around.

Meanwhile, the enemy has all Christ-followers in his cross hairs.
At times, he seems to have outwitted us.
It's a bad time to be foolish.

As God’s beloved children, we all are in such incredible danger.
He is aimed at our heads, our hearts, our homes and our children.

Ephesians 6:12- (The Message)
This is no afternoon athletic contest the we'll walk away from in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the devil and all his angels.
Be prepared! You are up against far more than you can handle on your own.

Dear Lord,...
Help us all to listen for Your commandments and directions.
Your voice only.
Only Yours.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Loneliness Of Grief

Not the typical word people think of when discussing life after loss.
But it's huge.

Most of you know, that in the first year after Jae's death, we produced a video entitled "The 10 things I learned about Grief". However,...I think now,..5 long years later,...I could create another one entitled "1,000 things I learned about Grief".
Things that I simply never imagined.

We all have lost loved ones. I too, have friends and family which have left a hole in my life. But most of us have only a few people who "complete" our personality. We are literally defined by the presence of certain people in our lives, aren't we?
I am a wife.
I am a daughter.
I am a sister.
I am a mother.
I am an aunt and cousin.
To the ones who are in the family circles, the loss completely rearranges the survivors lives, in an awful painful way.
For example,...I miss my dad, but no one misses him like my mom. After 60 years of togetherness, daddy's home going has, at times, left mama wondering who she is. Her life now does not even resemble her life with him. She misses him way beyond what David, Bob and I can comprehend. We see her loneliness at family gatherings, church and on trips, but I'm sure that she sits alone in her chair in the living room and recalls a million personal moments that we were never a part of.
That's what I mean by my statement that "Grief is lonely".

Ralph and I were driving home today from seeing Casey in Fayetteville. We began to talk about Jae and wondered what our life would be like if she had not been killed. We both spoke of how we longed for her daily, and how odd it is that the world has continued as if she had never been here.
"Who misses her like we do?" we wondered.
No one.
No one can mourn a child as a parent.

I'm rambling.
I am not hysterical.
I am not depressed.
I am not searching for sympathy.
Nor am I saying that other people do not hurt.

Tonight, I am just missing Jae Lynn Russell and grappling with the knowledge that I may not see her for another 30 years or so.

These verses are from the 33rd and 34th chapter of Psalms in The Message:

I live and breathe God; if things aren't going well, hear this and be happy:
Join me in spreading the news;
Together, let's get the word out:
God met me more than halfway.
He freed me from my anxious fears.

and one of my favorites,..

** Love us God, with all You've got,....that's what we're depending on.