Neighborly Love

I enjoy yard work but loathe it when using cheap equipment and unfortunately that describes our lawn mower. It’s an old electric one with a dying battery that struggles to cut our tiny front yard before petering out.

A couple of weeks ago, Mark was out of town and I was trying to knock out cutting the grass before heading to a cookout. I tried a new technique of cutting the thicker, shaded areas first in hopes of having enough battery power to get me through the thinner, sun-scorched grass.

It didn’t work.

In fact, it left a horrible design on the yard that looked as if I had consumed a full bottle of wine on an empty stomach and then proceeded to cut it blindfolded.

Frustrated, I pushed and kicked at the motor, “You stupid piece of equipment!” (Okay, it was actually more colorful but I don’t want to pull you down with me here.)

The kids were sweeping as I was worked and Anastasia asked me, “Are you going to leave the grass like that?”

I had no power and no choice. “Yep. Let your father deal with it when he gets back.”

Yep, I was modeling mature behavior to the kids.

We headed in to shower and get ready for the party. A while later, as I pulled out of our garage, I see my next-door neighbor, Neil, cutting my front yard! He smiled and waved.

I jumped out of the car, “You’re the best neighbor ever!”

He laughed, “I figured you ran out of battery. I was on my way to cut Brenda’s. I just finish this up for you.” (Brenda is a widow, who lost her college age son in a car crash this year.)

This past weekend we had some water issues. I heard a strange noise out front and what do you know, it was Neil with a water vac, helping Mark and a friend clean it up.

Later that day I was working in a flowerbed and overheard him talking on the phone. He was helping someone figure out a computer problem.

As I continued working I began thinking about the many ways Neil has made our lives better. He’s always working on a project but he’ll drop it in a second to help out one of his neighbors.

Jesus summed up the God’s law telling us to love God and love our neighbor.

My days may be consumed serving at home and work but God reminded me this weekend to look outside with my serving –  to look around and cross the street.

Do you have any neighbor stories?

Is it harder for you to reach out to your neighbors than a stranger?



I Didn’t Know It Was Possible Until I Became a Parent

Today is Noah’s 11th birthday. He’s our oldest, the guinea pig, the child we’ve made most of our mistakes on (and I’m sure we’ll have to relive all of them one day in therapy sessions.)

He is also our first love. The one we cried over as we held, unable to believe we’d get to take him home with us.

Growing up my father often described me as the daughter who marches to a beat of a different drum. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to marry or have kids. But that all changed with Mark.

Parenthood has taught me that many things are possible and in honor of my most favorite boy’s 11th birthday, I’ll share a few with you.

I never knew it was…

–       Possible to eat breakfast, breast feed and put on make-up at the same time (Please kids – do not try this at home.)

–       Possible to clean up puke without puking myself (I never thought that would be possible – I have a strong gag reflex.)

–       Possible to lose hours of sleep worrying about a 3yr old playdate that “went wrong” (Yep, I’m embarrassed to admit this one. Can we say “helicopter psycho mom”?! 😉

–       Possible to change a diaper in a 2×2 airplane bathroom in midst of sudden turbulence and without losing any of the “product” (I knew I had arrived as a mom that day.)

–       Possible to sleep with 4 people in our bed (I don’t recommend this if you want a large family…it’ll never happen if you know what I mean. Hee, hee)

–       Possible to live a week in only 1 pair of underwear (Noah did this – NOT me!)

–       Possible to fall in love before meeting someone (I loved them before I knew them.)

–       Possible to for my heart to expand every day.

–       Possible to intercede for someone without growing weary.

–       Possible for someone as selfish as me to completely rearrange and change her life for the two little ones.

–       Possible to love someone unconditionally with my whole being!

Happy Birthday Noah!!! I love you to the moon and back!!!

Thanks for letting me gush over my kiddos with you.

If you have any to add to this list funny or serious – I’d love to see them.




Sometimes a Sick Day is the Therapy We Need

It’s been a rough week, health-wise, in the Russell household. Anastasia’s been dealing with the coughing funk the past two weeks and I finally had to take her in (to the doctor, not the house, even though at times I was tempted to leave her outside at night, but I fear I’m sharing too much right now) last Thursday.

Noah’s cough started up this past week and today it was his turn to head to the doctor. When I walked up to sign him in at the doctor’s office, I swear the nurse looked at me funny, as if I were using my kids to get drugs or something.

Maybe I’m just being sensitive. Either way, I’m sick of the sickness and long for life to be back to normal.

However, I’ve noticed something different in Noah today…he’s talking with me more and even cuddling! He’ll turn eleven next week and each day he seems to pull more away from me and more towards his friends and his room.

Not today…he seems to want just me.

He smiled and perked up when I offered him tea. When I brought him his pillow and fixed a place for him to lie down, he didn’t protest. He even snuggled in to me at the doctor’s office as we played a game together. In a way, it was like old times when he was a toddler. (Can you say “old times” when you’re talking about a ten-year-old?)

It made me wonder, I’ve been working hard to urge Noah to develop more responsibility – clean his own bathroom, fold and put way his own clothes, etc. – have I’ve neglected serving him in love for fear that he’ll depend on me to do these chores forever?

Perhaps I’ve swung too far in the other direction. Who knows?

Well, as I try to figure this out, I think I’ll take advantage of having my favorite boy home with me and go fix him some lunch and eat together with him.

Either way, it’s been therapeutic to our relationship.

What do you think?

How do we balance teaching our kids to become independent without pushing them away prematurely?

Any parenting advice out there?



Words Can Give or Steal Joy

Words have a lot of power. They can be a source of encouragement or hurt and it all depends on how they are used.

This past weekend Mark and I participated in our first triathlon. It was a great event for beginners as the swim on Friday in a pool and the bike/run portion on Saturday morning. It was a good race to practice doing a multi-event race before committing to a longer one.

However, a big part of me was still nervous about the swim. I knew that I could finish the 750-yard distance but feared that it would take me so long that the guy timing me may fall asleep and then I’d have to start all over.

My time to swim arrived and when I jumped into the water arms felt paralyzed as nervous energy darted from my heart to my limbs. I had set a goal to beat 20 minutes but the lead in my arms made it feel unrealistic.

I began swimming and at the end of my first lap I was ready to take a break but as I turned to begin my second lap, I heard a familiar voice behind me. It was a friend from the tri-club. She had just finished her swim and had stayed to cheer me on.

Each mid-point I was tempted to stop and rest, but my friend remained at the end of my lane, cheering for me. In my vanity, I was too embarrassed to stop with her watching me and her words kept me going.

She was contagious. By my final lap, she had the guy timing me cheering for me too and I finished with a time of 14:28!

I was giddy. A goal had been accomplished and my friend’s words helped get me there.

The next morning, friends and family cheered me through the bike and run portion. At the end of the run one of my coaches met me at the finish line and greeted me with a hug and words of encouragement.

It was a great morning.

We went to a pre-Easter service that afternoon. A friend asked about the race and when I told him about the divided events he replied, “Oh, that’s not a real triathlon.”


Now I know my friend didn’t mean any harm with his words. They didn’t hurt my feelings – but the did steal my joy. A healthy joy that I was, well…enjoying. I have been sidelined for the past few years due to three knee surgeries and I was excited to participate in a race again.

It made me wonder how many times that I may have spoken without thinking and may have robbed someone else of his or her joy.

Words have the power to both give and steal joy. I’m going to work harder to speak words that give instead of taking away.

Has their been a time when words of others gave or stole you joy?


Do You Flee From Pain or Face It?

Pain is something I work hard to avoid. It hurts and seem only a negative. A pain in my legs after exercise means an injury. A scratchy throat is the beginning of an illness. A broken heart represents losing at love.

Even though pain is not fun, there’s positive that can come out of it. The pain in my leg is my body adjusting to a new workout that’s making me stronger. The scratchy throat is due to long phone conversation with my loving mother. And the broken heart was God’s separating me from a bad choice until the right one came along.

My survival instinct many times causes me to flee pain.

Growing up adults repeatedly shared the famous quote, “When the going get tough, the tough get going.” However, the only “get going” I wanted to do was away from the pain.

We live in a hurting world and the pain many of us face can be overwhelming.

Not long ago I saw an interview with J.K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter. She talked about her mother’s death and the pain involved. She was extremely close to her mother. However, the pain she felt from losing her mother helped her fully capture Harry’s character. She was able grasp the pain he felt of not having a family.

Many charities were founded out of pain. Great works or art were created from pain. Scientific discoveries were motivated out of pain.

If we consistently flee pain instead of facing it, we miss out on a lot.


Facing pain – Awakens our souls to a deeper part of our being that has been touched by God. If we don’t go there, we miss God’s touch and seeing more of Him.

Fleeing pain– Closes up a wound faster but it leaves a scar on our heart that is numb. It prevents us from fully feeling love and life.

Facing pain – Initially breaks us down but after rest and healing we come back stronger, filled with wisdom.

Fleeing pain – Wears us down. When we flee, we are alone. When we are alone, there is no one around to help hold our arms up.

Facing pain – In time we become a source of healing for others. We can use our strength and pass it forward to others.

Fleeing pain – Stunts our growth and we become a burden. Insecurities develop and if we’re not careful, we pass it on to the next generation.

There are levels of pain that make it easier to face some over others. There is no formula to ease the process but there is a loving God who has experienced pain.

He was a refugee, poor. Maybe He carried the burdened of knowing thousands of babies were murdered because of his birth. He was betrayed. Single. Falsely accused. Spat upon. Beaten and treated like a thief.

Jesus lived in constant tension while here on earth. But, He didn’t flee. He was tempted to but instead of running He went to a garden, got on His knees and went face to face with God. And when He was done, He had the strength to not only face it pain that was ahead but to endure it.

He paid it forward to us. Because He faced His pain we can rest assured that one day our pain will be removed.

When we face God on our knees, He will carry our burdens and we can face anything.

How are you doing?

Are you fleeing your pain for facing it?

Maybe it’s time to go face to face with God in the midst of your pain.