Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014: The Rusk Newsletter

2014 Has been a year of many struggles.. at several points I found myself questioning God's plan and praying for strength. As always, I made it through (by God's grace, of course) but that's not to say that it was easy.

While I'm making it sound all bad, it wasn't. My life was drastically changed in the best way on January 21st when I found out I was pregnant. Something I had wanted to be my whole life (a mom) became very real all at once.

We finally met our sweet girl on after what seemed like forever on September 25th- She arrived at 6:30 P.M. Weighing 6lbs 9.8oz. She has been a very healthy and sweet baby. I couldn't ask for better. I've already lost more sleep than I ever thought possible and haven't minded it as much as you would think. I've been put in a position of not only making decisions for myself but for my child as well- and it's a big responsibility. I pray for God's guidance that I will do His will for myself and my family.

While she is mine and Dylan's whole world things have happened between January and September.
I've lost my closest friend this May to cancer and then another in August to cancer as well. Seeing them both in their last days/hours was both a blessing and tragedy. It isn't until you spend the last moments you can with someone that you are truly grateful for every one you are given and every one you've spent together.
We moved back to the mountain the 1st of December temporarily after a few months of living in town. We are a house-divided on where we want to live. We are at least in a safer and cleaner apartment here!

 This November was another year older for me and one year of marriage for Dylan and myself. We're proud to have celebrated one year of marriage and almost three years of being together. We aren't the perfect couple but we have the willingness it takes to improve. We seek guidance from God and other couples.. and have a love for who each other is that gets us through. Being parents has made us more of a team as we share responsibilities and hold each other accountable.

Speaking of marriage, it was a joy to be a part of my sisters wedding in December. She and her groom said "I do" on 12-13-14 at 15:00. It was a beautiful ceremony of red and black in Claremore, OK. They are currently living in Oark as Mason works construction. Brenda has a ship-out date in January and will be in training until march of 2015. We are sad to see her go but are excited to see the things in store for her through the military. After she completes her training she will be using the GI Bill to attend UAFS.

We had a wonderful Baby's First Christmas. We were blessed with quality family-time and were able to make a trip to Watson, OK in our wonderful, new reliable car.

I plan to start school this upcoming fall if everything can be worked out at Arkansas Tech University in Ozark for Cosemetology or Business. Once again, I'm back-and-forth about my calling as far as education goes and hoping to get financial aid. College is expensive, but worth it. I am excited to have a career someday and ditch the minimum-wage lifestyle.

Dylan and I hope to start saving and setting up for a home. Now that we are a family of more than two a studio apartment isn't the most practical thing. We are looking into American or Amish Homes (select from multiple styles/sizes pay for shipping and set it up) and property in Clarksville.

In other exciting news, then I will let you go- I've made the prayerful decision to join East MT. Zion Trinity Baptist Church after almost three years of making it my home. I will be baptized the first Sunday of January and looking for ministry opportunities. I'm grateful that God has healed the brokenness in my heart after the hole that was left years ago and given me a home-church that loves me and my little family.

Here's to hoping for a wonderful 2015 to you and yours! Thanks for reading!
with love,
Dylan, Tamara and Phoenix Rusk

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Warnings in love from one mom to the next

You worry for nights and days before you become a mom.. about what your child will look like, act like, their health, habits and the list goes on and on. But in my experience, the baby is the BEST part about being a mom.
Many times what gets you down or makes you want to scream is the other moms (or even worse) the people who aren't moms and still think they know everything.
Phoenix is only three months old and I've already had my fair share of people making negative comments or doubting me. I expected to have a lot of "advice" since I'm only 20 and many seem to doubt young moms. But sometimes it goes too far. If your baby is wearing socks someone is bound to say they don't match the outfit or it's too warm for socks. However; if they're not, someone is bound to say they need socks.. Likewise, if you have a carseat cover someone will say they want to see the baby and if you don't, it's far too cold to be without one.
And the examples could go on and on. Bottom line and the point of this article is IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN. No matter the efforts you make to be prepared or the articles you read, questions you ask the doctor- someone will always be there to say you're doing it wrong or give you advice that really isn't always wanted. Here is what I have learned to do

First- with a smile on your face (no matter how fake it may feel) say "Thank you, that's a good idea"/ "I'll have to try that" whoever is giving you this advice more than likely won't be there to watch your every move at home and unless you tell them so won't know whether or not you're following their advice.
OR Second- if the fake "smile and wave" isn't quite your thing you can politely say "This is what the doctor told me to do" or explain you've researched it/tried it and found it to be a good idea.

Though you may be hurt by people's comments or doubting you (Believe me, I've been there) responding with your best manners will often get you further than a snide remark or rolling your eyes/huffing off.
Most people really don't realize what they're doing is hurtful or wrong (especially those who don't have children yet.. until you have children you think you know everything.. it's not until you have one that you're humbled) they probably think they're helping or giving sound advice and often don't realize just HOW MUCH advice you've been given that contradicts each other.

Stick to what you know
Seek help for what you don't
Be humbled when you find it
Don't be offended when someone tries to help
Help those you can
Remember what you've found
Use it where it's applicable

and most importantly- remember that moms are really all in it together. No matter how old their babies are.

Friday, November 21, 2014

What happened to Jesus?

I work at a daycare in a preschool room.. I've heard almost anything you could possibly imagine! Children have very vivid imaginations; however, it isn't entirely on their own. We as adults can dramatically shape their thoughts and ideas on the world around them.
Lately, with Christmas approaching I've heard many interesting theories that have left me wondering WHAT HAPPENED TO JESUS? one little boy explained to me that he had to make good choices because Jesus would tell Santa I he was naughty.. Another little girl told me her grandma died.. BUT it was okay because she was watching her from heaven and would tell Santa she was good so she could get presents.
Of course I only nodded and smiled at them.. But in my head I was thinkin to myself "seriously!?" I don't understand why you would go as far as explaining there is a heaven.. If you're going to place Santa there rather than Jesus? Why would you place your child in the hands of a day man in red who appears once a year when there's a lovin God who holds the universe ALL year!
Why would you give Jesus the lowly title of one who only reports to Santa? And even still.. Why would you include a deceased family member in this jumbled mess?

We need to teach our children about the loving God who cares for them every day.. Even when they faulter.. One who gives them gifts such as eternal life and peace which surpasses all. We need to teach our children about the absoluteness of Jesus rather than the lies that are Santa. It won't take a child long to find the truth about Santa.. They'll soon learn he is a myth and possibly wonder if Jesus isn't as well. Why would we seek to further confuse our children? Why not tell them Jesus is the ONLY way. The TRUTH the LIGHT! That's what the Bible teaches.. So should we! The Bible isn't solely for adults.. The truths written in it are for everyone's benefit.. Not only adults who have come to the understanding that Santa isn't real and have therefore replaced him with Jesus.
Jesus is the reason for this season. So why make him second fiddle to a fictional character??

Monday, November 17, 2014

20 thing I've learned in my 20 years

Sometimes it's better to say nothing at all

Giving can teach you how to be grateful

If you really look, there's always something to be positive about.. Often times, more than not!

You are a walking witness. Everyday! To someone older, younger, equal in age or even a stranger! Watch how you carry yourself.

Pay attention the first time. You may not always get a second chance- and often when you do it's too late.

Everyone is a child of God.. Worthy of your time, love and respect.

Listening is often more essential than talking.

Prayer is talking to your closest friend.. Treat it as such. It isn't meant to be a gripe session or a wish list. You don't say your part and walk away. Listen for a response and learn to accept whatever it is.

Life is not, has never been and will never be about you. When it doesn't go your way, choose to see it as a lesson or opportunity.. Don't feel attacked and abandoned

You don't need material things, you want them. List is the root of unhappiness.

One day your parents aren't the mean, stupid people you've thought them to be. They're kind and wise. You will one day open your mouth and hear your mother/father

In turn, your siblings are no longer the worlds greatest nuisance. Rather, a friend that looks like you.

Work. If you're tired. Work. If you're sad. Work. If you're wealthy. Work. It does the soul good to earn your way in the world.

Pray for your enemies and for your heart towards them.

Don't just go to church, be the church.

Know your abilities but don't be afraid to challenge them.

It will always work out, somehow.

Don't take 19 for granted.. Ready to move on to 20.. Some never make it. Enjoy every minute you have (I love you, Angela)

Remember your manners.. You were taught them for a reason. Please, thank you and excuse me can get you far in life.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


I can't tell you how often at a stop- I look behind me and see people digging in their purses, on their phones, trying to find something in the floor, messing with kids in the back or playing with the radio..etc. It seems in this busy type culture we've made for ourselves we can't ever JUST STOP. Even when we are sitting in a still car we use those few seconds to do something else.
 I'm not encouraging doing those things WHILE driving or even being lazy.. I just think it may be a huge testimony to many of our spiritual states. We struggle to be still, wait upon the Lord and listen for a response. I can't even say these people behind me are christians- but I'm sure many of us who are saved struggle with not enough time during the day and multitasking to the max.

I'm guilty of this "business" as well. I often do what I call "briefing God" a prayer request or thought will pop in my mind, I'll quickly mutter a prayer and go on. It's better than never praying at all.. but I should be eager to hear what God has to say in return. My heart should be open- my body should be still and my mind should be calm. But so often, it's not!

I may not be digging in the floor of my car while at a red-light but there's still a part of me that is unavailable and occupied at all times. I'm never at a point where there isn't something I'm anxious or in thought over.. And when I'm in that state of mind, the Lord can't fully take over- to show me His will or give me His peace which is ultimately the goal we should be reaching towards in our quiet time. The Bible confirms:
Psalm 46:10
"Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
Isaaiah 40:31
"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

What will it take for us to be a nation that can be still? one that trades in the "Hurry up" mindset we live in for waiting upon the Lord and His plans for us? can we still our hearts enough to let His love and peace enter?
and better yet- why do we live feeling anxious and rushed- knowing theres a savior willing to give us rest?

I don't have the answers- I imagine none of us do. But maybe once our eyes have been opened to this we can work towards achieving the relationship God desires to have with us. That's my hope and prayer for not just myself- but all of you as well.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


When I was younger, I liked to question things. Movies were no exception. In fact, I often questioned them more than anything else.

My dad never found this amusing. Rather, annoying. He would always pause the movie, turn to me and say
"Tamara. Hush. It's JUST a movie"
While I never found his response the least bit nice, I have learned from it.

I was interested in the who, what when, where and why- while my dad and the rest of the family were interested in the entertainment. My questions only made them turn up the volume so they could hear over me.

I quickly learned to watch the movie and take into account that it was "just a movie" and not everything had to make sense. If there was the occasional question I found to be worth asking, I would save it until afterward. This seemed to be a lot more affective. Dad was more apt to answer them or explain things when it didn't mean he was missing what was going on.

I've found in my own life recently there have been lots of questions I've asked with no answer. While it's frustrating, not knowing things that I think would make me feel better.. I'm reminded of my dad's statement. Can that apply to more than JUST movies?

We often say "that's JUST the way it is" or has to be/has been. Should I have this attitude towards my questions? Stress less over the unknowns and find solace in the fact that there are JUST some things I'll have to accept?

Or maybe, like the movie.. I should wait until someday my questions can be answered. And for now, I'm supposed to do the best I can with what I know.

After all, knowing isn't everything. Knowing why something happened doesn't necessarily mean it will be any easier to handle or that it will change anything.

So I'll save my questions for later- the ones worth asking. And for now, I'll sit and wait patiently with what I do know.

Monday, June 23, 2014



          People are eternal beings. We either spend an eternity in heaven, or hell.
So often we think once we are "done" with someone, we can simply "move on" from them or find someone else to replace them.
I have a problem with this thought.. it seems flawed to me. As I've said, we are eternal. So, why would we think just because we are "done" with a person, they cease to exist?
Obviously, we allowed them to have a part in our lives for one reason or another. Reasons can be causes of regret later on- but never completely forgotten or erased.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard woman tearfully express
 "I can't believe I was so stupid to think (blank)"
whether we blame ourselves or someone else- it takes a lot to bury thoughts or past experiences.
There will always be a piece of someone that's left behind. Sometimes small, but other-times very large. My grandma for example; left lasting memories and love when she passed. While an ex boyfriend may just leave a few lessons learned or items they never collected. Whether what's left behind is an item or wrinkle in our brain-
it will take more than making yourself think about something else or throwing things out to completely erase the impact left behind by people.
People can never be replaced- not by machines that are more efficient, or others who are "more fitting" to your personal needs.
Everyone serves one purpose or another. Everyone has something only they can offer.
No two people are the same. God has created us all unique beings.
So why are our first thoughts when we lose someone/something of how to replace it? what in our mind switches from being attached to an item so much we feel empty without it- to removing ourselves and seeking to find something else to "fill the void"
why can we not mourn the loss of one being without seeking another to make us happy again? we replace items when they start to act squirrely, instead of trying to fix them. we buy another fish before Suzy gets home to find that it died. We start talking to another guy not long after the first leaves us.
I'm not claiming to be innocent of this "crime" I've seen it in myself once before. I leaned on a friend entirely too much after a troubling time in my life and focused on them rather than healing.
The results from the crash of this relationship were just as devastating- because I then found myself dealing with not only the issue at hand, but the one I had hid from before.
I urge everyone to see people as eternal..
whether you believe they will be eternally in your life or not.
Just as you will be living with the trace they leave on you, they will carry a piece of you with them as well. Is the affect you've had on them worth carrying eternally?
think about it.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Now that I'm pregnant, I can't seem to get enough of Brussels! Everyone gives me a crazy look when I say this. which I guess I can't really blame them for, they're not the most popular of vegetables. Still, I thought it would be fun to share my recipe! No worries, I'm not becoming a food blogger- just want to represent these amazing veggies! I have a newfound respect for them and hopefully you will too after trying my recipe.

Pict sweet frozen Brussels (much better taste and color.. I think they're fresher than canned)
(To taste)
Onion, chopped

I add as many Brussels as I will need to a pot- cover them about half way with water, put on a lid and while I cut the onion, let them simmer. I then add the chopped onions, butter, salt, pepper and a hint of lemon (to taste) and put the lid back on to cook awhile longer (really just until the onions are soft)

Brussels only take 3 minutes to cook- but you can let them simmer longer until they're the desired softness.
A little tip: poke them a few times each with a fork or toothpick before adding the butter and seasonings- this can make even the core taste better (which is usually what turns people off to them.. It tends to be a little bitter)
Also, if you do go with a canned option, I would pour the contents of the can into a colander and rinse until the juices from the can are removed.

Child care- emphasis on the caring

I absolutely adore children, I always have. My mother has jokingly told me on more than one occasion that I "get along much better with little people than those of  (my) own age" I'm not sure if that was meant to be sarcastic or rude, but I've always taken it as a compliment. I was devastated when my "career" at Forrester Davis came to a close. I still think back fondly of my days there, wishing they could be again..
However, the memories and thoughts aren't all pleasant. There are many things I feel as if I've been sworn to secrecy about. I saw much brokenness in children so small- and felt it as deeply as they did. I was blessed to be brought up in a home where church was just part of the routine, and my parents always found a way to work out their problems. I have no idea what a divorce would be like, the affects of not knowing your father or having parents with drug problems.. And after the hurt I've witnessed, I have no desire to know from personal experience.
Still, I've seen it.. And I hate it. It's something I can't erase. I pray for my little Forrester Davis kids, though I haven't seen most in months.. I ask God to protect them and wrap them in His love.. I beg that they will feel that love, knowing for some it's the only real love they will feel.
Children are honest and candid. There are few successful ways to mold them into the perfect being you want them to be, something will always slip out- I was often the witness of this. And I would choke nearly every time. It takes a sensitive person to benefit a child in a daycare/teacher position- but it doesn't do the sensitive person much good. By listening to a little ones stories about mommy or daddy you're taking in their pain, as if it were your own. Sometimes, even wishing it were.. No 4 or 5 year old should ever feel the way I've heard expressed. Sure, writing a case note about the problems we learned of at home got old after awhile and you almost wished the stories would stop- but, that wasn't what was really getting old.
What is, is this: children being forced to deal with adult problems. Why? Because the adults in their life are too foolish to deal with them themselves. No child should witness abuse and feel obligated to report it. No child should worry whether their parents love each other, will be able to pay the bills, if there will be food on the table.. I often wonder WHY would God allow this person to get pregnant? These kids don't deserve to be mistreated, neglected, put down or scared. No one does.

If anything, hearing these stories and getting a better idea of the home-life for many explained a LOT about their behavior. Of course they were violent towards peers, they witnessed violence at home and thought that was the only way to deal with problems. Of course they acted out, that's the only time they received attention at home. Of course they were shy and quiet, they were yelled at when they spoke at home..
These children taught me to look inside everyone. There is always more than meets the eye. Everyone has a reason for what they do- you just might not know it. People have stories, pasts, fears.. And they act on them. We are quick to label or judge, it's easier than trying to understand.

Everyone has been hurt by something or someone- and it can make a dramatic difference in how you relate to others or handle a situation. That's another lesson these kids taught me. To give second chances and try to find something good in everyone. Though ___ was treated poorly at home, _____ showed me all the trust and love in the world. _____ found something in me, an average person that was worthy of their respect, attention and friendship.
We often retreat inside ourselves when we are hurt or confused- but as these children reminded me, it doesn't do any good.. Only hurt. We need friends. It's easy to shy away from them after you've been hurt- but with the right friends, not only will you find a safe place to be you- you can find healing.

I pledged to always be a safe place to those kids. I hated filling out paperwork when I heard something from them about home- but I knew they needed to get it out, so I listened for as long as they needed too. I found opportunities to share with them the love Jesus had for them- a love that would never disappoint, hurt, lie or cease. I took every opportunity I could to teach them something- as my grandma did with me. Little minds are very impressionable.. And I knew the impressions they received   at home were less-than-impressive.

Every day I learned something new. Whether from these kids, my coworkers, my Jesus or sometimes even myself. Daycare is never easy- and with the situation kids are in today, it will continue to get worse.. But I'll never loose sight of what the kids taught me or regret the experience. I believe, with the perspective I have now, I can be a better mom- if anything, I have taken many notes of what NOT to do!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Child rearing.. the RIGHT way

My parents raised me with "strict" rules. Naturally, as a child I hated them.. I was often "left-out" from the movies my friends were watching or clothes they were wearing. Looking back, I'm grateful for the decisions they made and the way they raised me.

Even after moving out I found myself getting home at the same time my parents had my curfew set when I was under their roof or following other rules they had set and I lived by.

I've been thinking a lot lately with me being pregnant- and I've decided (as my parents did) I will be choosing the "not-so-popular" path. One that sometimes makes you seem like the bad guy- but ultimately protects your children and teaches them responsibility.

My children will have a curfew, dress-code, they will be expected to use manners and complete chores.. I will monitor their internet usage and pay attention to the movies they're asking to watch.

I'm sure it won't always be welcomed by many that are "in the world" but it's a simple step that every parent can take to ensure that they don't become "OF the world" which we are told not to be by our maker.
Sadly, I know MANY Christian parents, even some who are in my close circle who are too busy trying to be their child's "friend" rather than their parent. Letting them wear immodest clothing, date at a very young age, watch and listen to whatever they want.. and get caught up in the wrong crowd. Things such as these can severely damage your witness as a Christian.

We are often looked to for answers- or observed for some sort of difference from the rest of the world. If your child is doing just as everyone elses; what is there to set them apart and make them different from their un-saved peers?  

So, as my husband and I make the decision to be different from others.. I only hope someday my children will have the "AH-HA" moment- as I did. One where you realize your parents don't hate you, they aren't trying to ruin your life and all they've done up to this point and from now on- was and is in your best interest!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Dreams of a little girl, VS the reality of the world..

From a young age I have always had clear ideas of what I wanted for myself. Sometimes they weren't the most practical- all the same I wanted them with every fiber of my being.. whether it was a reporter or a stay-at-home mommy, I would "practice" at home in order to reach that goal. Carrying a notepad with me everyday jotting down scribbles of whatever event the Payne house had to offer that day- or recording unwilling siblings and trying to get an interview out of the deal. I had dozens of journals filled with this "practice" and was so sure someday it would be published or at least read and appreciated by someone with appreciation for my "work"

Obviously, my dreams of being a journalist haven't exactly "come to be" but I have dabbled in the arts of writing.. taking a journalism class through DLC (Distance Learning Classes) and writing for an EZine. And really, I think I've come to peace with that.
When I was younger- all journalism consisted of in my mind was writing, being on TV every once and awhile, asking people questions and taking pictures. It wasn't until I was writing for someone elses standards and critiquing that I realized there is much more to it- the deadlines, constant editing, research..etc. It's all exciting at first but like many other things, it loses it's luster. I quickly decided writing for my pleasure or to express feelings/thoughts would be much less stressful. Sometimes hobbies are meant to be just that, a hobby.

I still haven't outgrown some of my other visions for myself; having a nice house, a nice car (though my idea of that may be much different than many others.. I'm not after anything extremely costly or sporty.. my idea of nice is: practical, reliable and good mileage!) a loving husband and beautiful, respectful children.

I always knew I wanted to move out young.. start my own life and be independent. That did "come true" I moved out last September, on the 13th. I was only 18! I didn't move too far, mind you.. (my siblings came to see me more after I moved out than when I lived with them) I did buy my own food, pay my electric bill, and continued to buy my own clothes, pay my insurance, phone bill, gas..etc.

I did marry, not too long after I moved out. November 9th. I was a few days shy of 19. And once again, reality came along to rain down on my dreams. Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful for the place I have to live and the man I have to share it with.. But, as we are building on- making room for our little one that's on the way.. it seems my ideas of "nice things" have shifted to "affordable things" there won't be any sheetrock or hardwood flooring, a room dedicated to my crafty things or my awesome kitchen.. And while it does frustrate me a bit, I've come to terms with it.

My parents raised me in a "house that Howard built" sort of situation. Made from the cheapest materials they could find and LOTS of hard work. It isn't anything like my friends houses.. and after I got over the initial embarrassment, I learned to appreciate it. Thinking of all the time my dad put into it- every weekend away from work was spent working even harder on his house. Every accident that occurred, leaving him with scars. Or sometimes it was just appreciating the fact that it was warm, dry and safe.
I did share a room.. with one or two siblings at-a-time.. and when they were still "bed-wetters" I'll quickly admit that I detested it.. but overall I know that it has all contributed to who I am.

In building his house, my dad not only showed me great dedication and what you can do with a plan/hard work.. he also taught me, and my siblings what it meant to save your money AND then put it to good use. To have a budget, making room for the things you need and preparing for the ones you don't know you'll need until you do.
Above all, my dad showed me that looks are sometimes just an "extra" his house isn't the most ascetically pleasing (it's jokingly been called "Howard's Lab") but, as I said it has kept us warm, dry and safe. That's what counts.

So.. when I look at this addition to our house- I am trying to look at it with a fresh set of eyes. Ones that see not just the incomplete project- or how it isn't exactly as I planned.. But the purpose in it (to give us more room) the hard work (from Dylan, his dad and mine) and the budget we are keeping too (choosing practicality over the nicest things)

While this mountain may have been the place I dreamt of leaving for years.. Or, the house I'm in now may not be the one I've seen myself in- I am incredibly grateful for all that I have.. and I realize that everyone has to start somewhere. I may get my house someday- but I'm sure it will be down the road, after much work and saving. Because as dad taught me- that's where all good things come from.

Monday, February 24, 2014

When I first found out I was pregnant; it was if literally everything about my life had changed. I found myself too nervous to even be excited. I wasn't upset, per say- just thoughtful of what the test result would mean. Not just that I would have news to tell my friends and family.. But, that I would need to get more sleep, eat healthy, take vitamins and cut back on my caffeine.
And even beyond that, I realized just changing my diet wouldn't be enough. There are so many decisions to make as a mom, so much will change in my marriage and the rest of my life. It's just the beginning of the rest of mine and Dylan's life. Not only as a couple but as mommy and daddy.

I have been both ill and excited lately.. Getting on WIC and getting my first ultrasound scheduled made me anxious to hear the heartbeat and see my little raspberry.. But my hypoglycemia and a UTI have been a bit of a set-back.

I know in the end, when I see his or her face all will be well. And my worries will be nothing more than "new mommy jitters" I am very grateful for this experience and the future that lies ahead of us.. The people who have offered help or given us items and support. I only hope I can be a great mom someday and find peace!