One Sweet Soul

20232369_1579077858809025_2567538328378904420_oMy heart has been heavy this week.  A young man very dear to me and my husband, and children, passsed away.  He graduated with our son, and was one of his best friends.  He was also a good friend to both of our daughters.

It did not take long for him to gain our affections as well.  In fact, I believe everyone who  got to know him, thought the world of him.

He was born with a disability that led him through a lifetime of surgeries and physical struggles.  He had every right to feel sorry for himself, to be depressed, and bitter.

But this was not in his nature.  Jason, or “Cricket” as he was lovingly known by us, always had a smile on his face.  He never passed us anywhere without a wave.

He was very social and The Cowboy Bar and Supper Club in Fishtail, was his gathering place.  Any time we stopped in there for dinner, if he was there and spotted us, he would try and buy us a drink.

He had a big, kind heart, and was one of the sweetest souls I’ve ever known.  My prayers go out to his family.  I hope it helps them in their grief somehow to know he was loved by so many.  I know they have a hole in their hearts right now.  So do we.  So does the community in which he lived.

We hope to see you again in heaven someday Jason.  Until then, rest in the arms of Jesus.

I Can Do This ~

Love this poem by Deborah Ann…Needed this today

CHRISTian poetry ~ by deborah ann

I Can Do This ~ CHRISTian poetry by deborah ann
I can do this,
I will get through it
for I have Christ
He gives me the grit.

I can climb this,
this I can do
for I have Jesus
and His power too.

I can battle this,
yes, I will win
for I have Christ
and His strength within.

I can handle things,
this storm I can face
for I have Jesus
and His constant grace.

I can do this,
I will get through this
for I have Christ
how could I ever miss!


Philippians 4:13
King James Version

“I can do all things through
Christ which strengtheneth me.”

Copyright 2012
Deborah Ann Belka

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Sweet Home of Liberty

Home of Champions Rodeo, Red Lodge, MT

It is the 4th of July.  Fireworks have been going off in Laurel, MT for the last couple of days.  Tonight is the big show.  Laurel has the largest fireworks show I’ve ever seen.  It is truly amazing!  The  town is overflowing with people.  They come from near and far to watch the show this small town puts on.

It is a celebration and a half!  There are food vendors, craft vendors, and drawings for fantastic prizes for all who donated to the annual show.

My husband and I, and many others, had the day off.  It is easy to get caught up in the activities and forget what we are celebrating.

The fourth of July is our independence day.

We are so lucky to live in the United States of America; land of the free, and home of the brave.

We went to the Red Lodge Rodeo this weekend.  When the Stars and Stripes made its way around the arena in the Grand Entry, you could feel the patriotism; the respect and love for what that flag stands for.

I hope you all had a great 4th.  May we never forget how special our freedoms are.

Sweet Home of Liberty

Sweet home of liberty,

where I can live the way I choose.

I can worship in my church of choice.

I can read the daily news.

I can vote for whom I wish to,

without fear of retaliation,

and speak my mind, and disagree

with the leaders of my nation.

I have the right to pursue my dreams.

My life is of my making.

But with that right comes sacrifice,

some giving with the taking.

Sweet home of liberty,

forgive me if I brag,

about the honor, love, and valor,

that stands behind your flag.

Sheryl Craig Russell


My Dad, My Hero

My Dad, Jim Craig

It is Father’s Day.  I know I’ve said it before, but I mean it.  My Dad is my hero.

He gave me the best life.  He taught me right from wrong.  He taught me to love nature, horses, and all animals, small and great.  He taught me by example how to respect all people.  He taught me how to respect myself.

Dad was always present in my life.  He still is.  Even though we live hundreds of miles apart he keeps in touch almost every day.  He is my encourager, and my comforter.  He is the root of at least half of my childhood memories (Mom being the other 1/2) and they were almost  all good ones.

Even when the memories were not good ones, he was beside me and made them some of my most precious ones.  I remember once we were playing hide and seek in the hay loft.  There was a small door that led from the loft to the ceiling of the ranch shop connected to the barn.  Dad told us many times to NEVER go in there.  It was not safe.  Like many kids, I did not always think my Dad’s warnings were all that big of a deal.

I hid in that room and ended up falling through the ceiling.  When I fell, my arms flew out to my side and I caught the support beams under my armpits.  I was hanging there, looking at the cement floor and large anvil below me.  I was scared to death, mostly of the licking Dad was going to give me.  I knew I was in for it!  My sister helped me up by telling me to walk up the nail and bolt bins attached to the wall.  When I was safe again in the loft, I waited with dread, while Pat went and got Dad.  To my amazement, I only remember him holding me and asking if I was alright.  I think he asked me if I learned my lesson, but there was no punishment, just the loving arms I so needed!

Dad was, is, and always will be my friend and biggest hero.  I love you Dad.



Flag Day


Every since September ll, I have become very patriotic and find myself getting emotional whenever I hear our National Anthem.  From the beginning of our nation until this very day, men and women have died to give us the freedoms that our flag stands for.

It so saddens, disheartens, and troubles me, when I see so many disrespect our flag, country, its leaders, and our values.  God has blessed us so much.  This is a great country and we should be grateful for all we have.

I saw a post on Facebook with President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence (who was gracious enough to visit our small country church on his recent visit to Montana) and others standing in a semi-circle praying.  It gives me hope to see our leaders seeking guidance from God.  I am hopeful we will again be “one nation, under God.”

What is Flag Day?  On June 14, 1777, a resolution of the 2nd Continental Congress called for an official United States flag.

On May 30, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson stated “I therefore suggest and request that throughout the nation and if possible in every community, the 14th day of June be observed as Flag Day with special patriotic exercises.”

It wasn’t until 1949 that President Harry Truman signed the permanent observance of Flag Day into law.

In my observance of Flag Day, I’d like to share a poem I wrote several years ago.

Old Glory

Thirteen stripes unfurl before me,

thirteen colonies for which they stand,

fought to give us independence,

and thus founded this great land

Red is for her valor,

white for hope and purity.

Blue is for God’s heaven

justice, truth, sincerity.

The star for aspirations,

one for each and every state,

join together as a union,

yet can govern their own fate.

Men have died to give me freedom.

Let me hold their memory high.

Let me feel their pride and honor

every time Old Glory flies!

Sheryl Craig Russell


Please feel free to share this post if you are as proud of our flag as I am!


Reply to “An Open Letter to Rev. Franklin Graham , from a small church pastor”

There is a post circulating on Facebook titled, “An Open Letter to Rev. Franklin Graham from a ‘small church’ pastor.”  It has disturbed me from the first time I read it.  I’ve tried to ignore it, but it has irritated my conscience like a sticker in my foot.  You will probably have to read his post before this one makes much sense.

Although I am…this blog post is not intended to praise or defend Rev. Graham.  I am just tired of people knocking Christianity.  And when one church pastor tries to stir up anger against another pastor who is doing so much for human suffering not to mention winning souls for Christ…well frankly, it upsets me!

This pastor who says, “Feel free to call me Peter” (perhaps because he tries to quote the Apostle Peter) criticizes Rev Graham for being a mega-church pastor and for touring America to encourage Christians to pray and to stand up for our religious freedoms.

He seems to be supportive of same-sex marriages and accuses Franklin Graham of preaching hate for supporting Christians who refuse to perform services for them that go against their religious beliefs.  “Peter” says that when we meet Jesus,  he will not ask us what our sexual orientation is, how many times we have been divorced, or who we voted for; only if we have done good deeds for others.

This pastor does not preach God’s word.  The Bible tells us that our good deeds will not get us to heaven, lest any should boast.  The only thing that will get us to heaven is if we repent of our sins, and follow Jesus.

God tells us very plainly that homosexuality is a sin.  So is adultery and fornication.  He tells us that any who are living in sexual sin will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  To preach this is not hate.  It is love.  It is to warn us that we are living a lifestyle unacceptable to God so that we may change.

The example “Peter” uses about the baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage is stupid.  She did not refuse to feed the hungry.  They did not want a wedding cake because they needed food.  They wanted it to celebrate a lifestyle that is against Christian beliefs.  The woman who owned the bakery actually employed this gay man.  She said she had nothing against him, and he was a good employee.  She did not refuse to serve him because he was gay.  She refused to bake a cake that celebrated something God called a sin.

I, as a Christian, am tired of people calling me hateful if I don’t accept the gay lifestyle and call it normal.   People are free to choose however they want to live, as long as it does not cause harm to any one else.  I have worked with gay people.  There are some I call friends.  There are also people who have cheated on their spouses that I call friends.  That doesn’t mean I hate them or am prejudiced against them because I believe their infidelity is wrong; a sin.  And I don’t judge them.  That is God’s job.  But I can discern between right and wrong.  There is a difference.  I am not going to call them out on their sin (I’ve enough of my own), but I am also not going to pat my friend on the back who just cheated on their spouse and tell them “way to go!”

And as far as persecution in this country not being real?  This is not physical persecution.  It is verbal, and financial persecution, and it is real!  If we stand by and do nothing, it will escalate to physical persecution in the same way that verbal abuse and control of what you say, or do in a domestic situation, often leads to physical abuse.  And there is religious physical persecution happening in our country.  It is called  radical Islam.

As a nation we are losing our Christian freedoms every day.  Read the paper.  No mention of God in the classroom or even on some school grounds. People wanting to take In God We Trust off our money and national monuments. No Christmas songs can be sung at school “Christmas” programs.  Some are not even allowing their programs to be called Christmas programs.  Winter program, now that is acceptable.  That is what I call no common sense political correctness!

If you own a business, they are trying to make you offer birth control options that end life, to your employees.  Company’s are demanding their employees to say Happy Holidays to their customers instead of Merry Christmas!  They are afraid of offending the atheists, or the muslim, but not afraid of offending the God who created us?

To Peter’s comments about President Trump I will say only a few things.  I don’t approve of some of the things he has said.  I am not defending them.  I also do not believe Franklin Graham has ever condoned them, nor do I believe God condones them.  However King David was an adulterer and a murderer.  Yet God called him the apple of His eye.  Why? Because of his sinful deeds?  NO!  Because he had a repentant heart and turned back to God.  Has Donald Trump turned back to God?  I don’t know.  Only God knows our hearts.

However Peter, God tells us in Romans 13:1 that “The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Not only did he tell Rev. Graham that, but he has told me and you that also.

To your remarks about following our nations’ laws even if they are against God’s ways I give you Luke 20:25 “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God, what is God’s.  The bible is full of examples of his people standing up to the government when asked to do something not in accordance with God’s way.

You say Rev. Graham is preaching hate.  I’ve listened to him a lot and I’ve never heard anything that remotely comes close to hate.  He preaches God’s word.  He ends every sermon or post that I’ve heard or read with something similar to ” There is no sin you have committed that God can not forgive.  Repent, from your sin and follow Jesus.”

You sound as if you are envious because he has a mega-church, and you have a small church.  You say you can not fill an auditorium and don’t have a 100 voice choir. You insinuate that is somehow bad or showing off.  If you will read back in the old testament, God’s people had a huge worship service.  It was to honor God.  If you don’t have that in your small church, I’m sure God will understand.  He might not understand you putting down others who can give him that honor.

You ask Franklin if he has ever heard of Peter.  Did you know that in the book of acts, Peter spoke to the crowd gathered and added 3000 people to the church that one day?  Kinda sounds like he had the start of a mega church.

I have only attended small churches, because I have always lived in small rural areas. They  teach God’s word.  They teach about love, forgiveness, mercy and grace.  They also preach about sin and the judgement that follows it.  They teach about the sacrifice Jesus made on a cross, that will cleanse us of that sin, if we repent and give our lives to him.

I have no doubt that our small church would welcome Rev Franklin Graham with open arms and would be honored to have him share the gospel with us.





Down Memory Lane…The Big House


Jim & Harriett Craig, Fairfield, ID


This was our “Big House” that we moved into on the Willow Creek Ranch in Fairfield, ID.  I don’t think it was actually that big in square footage.  I think it only had two bedrooms because Pat and I shared a bedroom.  However it was big to us.  Everett Coates, who owned the ranch, lived to the right of us.  You can see the trees in the background that we called our tree houses that I spoke of in my blog post, The Coates Family.

Back near that fence line we had a large garden.  In the winter Dad would flood it and we had an ice skating pond on it.  He taught my sister and I to skate.  We never were very graceful, but we had so much fun.   Dad tried to teach Mom to skate, but she refused.  She didn’t want anyone watching her as she learned.

However she must have really wanted to learn and join the family fun, because she would practice by herself, when we were in school, and Dad was at work.  He came home one day for lunch and found Mom lying on the skating pond, with a broken arm!

Skating turned out to be a generational curse for our family.  Years later when we took our 4-H kids to a roller skating party, I fell and broke my arm.  A few years down the road from that, my daughter, in college, tried roller blading, and fell and broke her arm.

You can see part of the clothes line to the right of Mom and Dad.  Some of my best memories of Mom were helping hang clothes on the line.  I loved the smell of line fresh clothes and sheets.  Mom always seemed to make chores, seem more like fun.  She would laugh with us and encourage us, and make it more like a game.  I think that is why clothes lines always give me such a warm, homey feeling.

In the winter, Mom had a wooden clothes rack that she hung our clothes on in front of the wood stove.  I did that a few times in my adult life when the power went out, but back then, it was an everyday thing.

Inside this house are memories of our family sitting around the card table.  It was here they taught us to play pinoccle.  Mom and Dad always enjoyed playing cards of some kind.  Even now at age ninety, Dad enjoys a good game of cards!

It was also in this house that I first remember getting tonsilitis.  That. is something I battled many times through out my life.  Back then, we weren’t given antibiotics for it.  A  bout of tonsilitis usually lasted a very long two weeks.  I remember Mom’s loving bedside care.  I remember her sitting up with me, wiping my forehead with a cold rag, giving me salt water to gargle with, and drinking hot water and lemon juice.  Her voice always quiet, calming, reassuring, and full of love.

In the back of this house, off to the side, was an apartment of some kind.  It may have been used as a bunk house at one time, I don’t know.  What I do remember is that it was a terrific play house for us.  Mom would give us all her empty grocery containers.  We had a little play store in there.  We had baking spices of every kind, baking powder, cocoa, Log Cabin syrup, and anything else that we could salvage the container.

We spent many hours playing store.  Our imaginations were used every day and were our best friends!

What a great place to be a kid!  I wish all kids could live the life we did!