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UNDAUNTED
For a few very hard years this word was my mantra.
The word means
-undismayed; not discouraged; not forced to abandon purpose or effort
-undiminished in courage or valor; not giving way to fear
But the truth is, I was often dismayed by everything that had taken place, and I did battle discouragement. I battled fear and doubts. I hurt and was angry, and sometimes "undaunted" sounded more like a mockery than a mantra, and I was determined to be real about all of it in these posts, thus the name, Undaunted Reality. More than that, though, I was determined to live undaunted, not because I'm so great or strong, but because my God is, and no matter what this world looks like, He is the only reality that matters.
I pray I live the reality of Him beautifully undaunted.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Because We All Need It--Hope

This morning I jumped online to check a few things, and I thought of people I know who are facing horrible losses that have either come or are coming...as well as those who are waiting for blessings and miracles, and they all have one thing in common:

Every single one of them needs hope to sustain them.

For each of you needing hope today....

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
    I wait for God my Savior;
    my God will hear me.
Micah 7:7
 
5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Psalm 130
 
May the God of hope fill you
with all joy and peace
as you trust in him,
so that
you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 13:15

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

My Secret Life with ADD/ADHD--The Utter Fun of Life as a Mental Muscle Car

Okay, so it really isn't secret. In fact, if you talk to anyone who really knows me (like the WonderPeeps), they will tell you I have the attention span of a dead guppy. Well, sometimes it is a living guppy, but you get the point. The thing is, we all know this, and instead of talking about it like it is some dark cloud, the kids know I love being ADD/ADHD. What do they think? They think it is part of the driving energy that makes me who I am and gives us an adventurous life. In other words, they think it is pretty crazy groovy, too.

Now, I think I need to clarify something. I was taught there is a difference between true ADD and what folks usually call ADD. Typically, if a person lacks concentration, lets the mind wander, doesn't get the mundane stuff done, flunks at the everyday routine of life, they are considered ADD. Not so. True ADD folks cannot focus on anything for more than a few minutes at a time. They really are all over the map, and as I understand it, there are some medications that help those folks. In my time as a teacher, I had several students on ADD meds. I saw an actual difference in ONE of them. That tells me something else was going on. That something else is that those kids were like me. They could focus on what excited them. If they found something interesting, they could spend hours on it. That is not ADD. That is called being bored with everything else. Meds don't help that, and in fact, they tend to squelch the beautiful creative side of those kids. What DOES help is letting those energy rich kids with genius level problem solving abilities and imaginations that take them to impossible places that suddenly are not impossible if they just keep turning it over in their heads...be themselves. And quit telling them they are broken because they don't fit into the norm. They are not broken. They just have a different kind of normal.

Today I had a conversation with a dear friend whose son has indicators that he may be ADD, and it occurred to me that people use these labels like they are indicator light on a vehicle saying something is wrong and needs to be fixed, and I hate that. ADD/ADHD is not broken. It is high level energy that the world needs because good golly can ADD/ADHD blessed folks get stuff done, especially when we are passionate about it.

On the way home from lunch, I found myself writing a letter to this young man--whom I know, by the way, and I know is an exceptional young man, and I started to write it to him, but then I thought that might be a little personal to him. You know, none of us like folks getting too close to our face. Plus, there are a lot of people out there who struggle with a gloriously huge amount of mental and physical energy that may need to know how to drive the muscle car mind/body they have been given, and that is what it really comes down to, friends.

We have been given a muscle car mind and body, and folks want us to drive it like it is a minivan. Very often, we try to accommodate, and then we end up depressed and numb, feeling listless and kind of dead. That is because minivans are wonderful vehicles and serve a great perhaps, but being a minivan isn't OUR purpose. We are made to be muscle cars. Unfortunately, other folks on the road of life don't really get muscle cars. We drive fast, look reckless, roar with life. We look intimidating and unpredictable. People think we may just be dangerous because we don't follow the routine and pattern and we are judged as rebellious and wild. But the truth is a muscle car is not reckless...or dangerous...or unpredictable...or wild. It all depends on how you drive it, and muscle cars were not meant to be driven like the family station wagon. They were meant to roar with power. So were you.

Let me explain some things I have learned about being a muscle car.

A lot of folks who have muscle car mindsets are labelled a lot of misguided things. I won't even go into that because we could be here all week. Instead of focusing on the lies, let's focus on the realities that people who have not embraced their ADD/ADHD may not know.

First, folks with ADD/ADHD seem to be diagnosed as depressed a lot, or in my case, I was never diagnosed, but I felt this general malaise most of my life. Two things about that:
1. If you are constantly told all the things you are, all the ways you fail, all the ways you "should be", all the "not enough", yes, THAT is stinking depressing. Who wouldn't be depressed when all they are told is how much of a failure they are, especially when they are constantly fighting inside themselves to be this person others want them to be. Goodness. We all want to be accepted, so when you feel no matter what you do you will never have it together enough to  be this acceptable person, yeah, that is seriously depressing. We'll talk about this before I'm finished.
2. I went through a lot of my school life feeling "depressed". The rare times I didn't feel depressed were playing basketball, participating in One Act Plays, being outside fishing, hunting (I know, every PETA member just dropped me), or other physical activities. A few years ago I finally had an epiphany. I wasn't emotionally depressed. I was mentally depressed. It is also called "BOREDOM". Folks who are ADD/ADHD have immense mental energy they have to burn. If they don't, they go into a state of mental boredom that feels like depression. Can't get moving. See no real point in getting moving. Can't see past the gloom. ADD/ADHD folks, from my experience, tend to work on a genius scale intellectually, need to be building neuropaths all the time, and need to be creative. If the mental energy isn't burned, it goes stagnant, and boredom becomes a black hole. Also, too much sitting and not enough motion will do the same thing for those of us who have the hyperactivity ingredient tossed into our personal recipe.

So, what do you do with that?

On the "unacceptable" side, if I could tell you anything, I would tell you that you are not broken. The educational system that labelled you is broken. The parent who doesn't understand how you work and is trying to make you function a certain way has a broken perspective, but YOU ARE NOT BROKEN. I spent years and years trying to fit in a box that made others feel good about me, and it successfully made me feel exhausted and feel like a failure. Then, because God is very good and kind...and He made me and thinks He knows what He is doing...He made it clear that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. If that is true, then my ADD/ADHD has to be "fearful", as in amazing and glorious. It has to be wonderful. So instead of trying to eradicate it and make myself work like someone else, I embraced it and started learning to work like me. How did I do that?

Well, I did a lot of praying and spending time with the Lord so the Spirit could enlighten me because, honestly, the information I had read on ADD/ADHD was always about what a hassle it was, that it was a curse, that it needed to be "fixed". I wanted to know who to be wonderful.

The other thing I did was keep my basic functional rules:
1. I am a muscle car, but I have to respect all vehicles on the road.
2. I am a muscle car and like speed, but I have other riders like my kids and my pets. I am responsible for them, which means even if I would rather sleep in or watch a movie, I still need to get up and feed my pets or make dinner for the kids or sit through a meeting that is important to them.
3. When I give my word, I keep it even something more interesting comes up.
4. Being someone dependable is essential to me, so I show up on time. I communicate my plans ahead of time, and if they change, I communicate that as soon as possible. For instance, if I am meeting a friend for dinner, I tell them when to expect me. If I get stuck in traffic, I call and tell them I am delayed. I don't just say, "I'll pick you up for dinner," and show up whenever I'm done with other stuff that caught my attention during the day or who up late without warning. Both of those have happened to me, and I found them totally disrespectful.

You may be a muscle car, but you are still to show respect to others. To do otherwise, is not about being a muscle car. It is about being self-centered and irresponsible. You make the decision to respect others, and if it is hard for you to remember things, set alarms on your phone, make a list of what to get finished, whatever it takes for you to remember. That is demonstrating value to others, just as you want them to value you. It's called common courtesy, and it demonstrates personal respect.

Now, I think the rest of this is easier if I tell you what works for me and hopefully that gives you some idea of what might work for you. Obviously, I am available to talk, answer questions, etc. on personal situations, but for this, I think giving you some ideas might be the right thing.

I never took meds for my ADD/ADHD. It was suggested to my mother who told the teachers that it was their job to keep me engaged not her job to keep me silent through medication. This was, in my opinion, one of the best gifts my mom gave me.

I have been called a lot of things in my life. I've been called controlling, obnoxious, intimidating, too loud, too intense, too a-lot-of-things. I have tempered some of that, but I have also accepted a lot of that as well.

Yes, I am intense. I need mental stimulation. I need to be learning all the time. I need things that make me think, that make me work through issues and problems. I am a great problem solver, and I like problem solving because it engages a huge amount of my brain at one time. Now, implementation is hard. I get bored. This week I was thinking about the garden I wanted to plant, and I finally embraced the reality that I love designing the garden and building it, but I don't want to maintain it. I don't want to water it everyday. I don't really care once the creative part is over. So I'm not doing a garden. I'm going to see what other activities I can find that sustain mental activity.

I am not intimidating unless someone is insecure. It really is that simple. Confidence, wonder, and excitement are not intimidating. A person's insecurities may perceive those characteristics that way, but in a person who is comfortable in their own skin (i.e., totally digs being a muscle car), they are just normal aspects of personality.

Too loud? Sometimes. Especially when I am really excited about things, but, that also works well when I am in an emergency situation and having to get things done and give directions.

Am I obnoxious? Truthfully, I can be. Now part of that is in the eyes of the beholder, but part of that is also a result of trying to find comfort in one's own skin. Folks who are trying to figure themselves out try on different "personality clothes", and we want to be acceptable, so we tend to overdue on what we are good at and possibly try to make folks more like us. I have learned folks still find my energy and enthusiasm obnoxious (see the intimidating paragraph), but I don't need to prove myself, so that part has toned down.

A key part of embracing myself was being able to have a vision of myself. What was I really working with? The whole story is amazing, but for (the illusion of) brevity's sake, I'll just say that God made it clear I am a muscle car. He made me this way. I don't idle well. I go full bore and stop. That is pretty much it. Anything in the middle is...boring. So what I did was create a vision of myself in my head. I happen to be a '65 Mustang convertible, kind of a bronze-orange metallic color. I am fierce, and in my mind, if I am at a stop light, and the car beside me revs his/her motor to ask "Wanna race?", I smile, get a comfortable grip on the steering wheel, and when the light turns, I smoke them. Because really, they clearly have no idea who they just challenged. A bit self-centered? Not if you live a life of passion and excellence to back it up.

And that is what makes us who we are. I am driven by excellence. I am driven by hard things.

Not only do I need to be learning all the time, I need physical exertion. I love my trainer, Adam Napper, because when he asked me my goals for weight lifting, we talked, and he said, "So my job is to make sure you don't hurt yourself." I cannot do eighteen million low resistance reps so I can tone. Nope. So Adam worked with me to develop a routine with the heavy weights that cause me to make the ugly faces on the last two or three reps. I NEED the resistance. I need to use my muscles that way. When I get really angry, I want to throw something. Not at anyone. Not anything in particular. I need the physical expenditure that comes with feeling the resistance of the motion, the weight of the object, and the follow through. Now, I don't throw things because of that respect for others issue I mentioned above, but if I can exert heavy physical energy, I can think and process better emotionally.

I'm not a runner. I never have been. Not my thing, but I love firearms and archery. With archery, I love the hard pull of the string, the mental focus of the shot, and the processing to correct any imperfections. Firearms is very similar. Firearms for me is mental, but I also like the ones that have a lot of recoil. I think I was made for long distance marksmanship in a lot of ways. I pursued that a few years ago and then stopped because I felt awkward. I'm in my late 40s starting a hobby that I have no real use for except I think it is cool. Let me tell you something about those "it's cool" hobbies. Sometimes they intrigue us because they feed our spirits. They don't have to serve a greater purpose than that. A hobby that simply burns the mental and physical energy that allows us to relax and feel "alive" (meaning not bored, depressed, or dead) is a good thing. Ironically, a lot of us don't have a problem spending large amounts of money to see a counselor or take meds to alleviate "depression/boredom" so this mental and emotionally misery gets pushed down and can be ignored (which, by the way, also kills a lot of our creative drive and ability), BUT we feel awkward doing the healthy thing of finding a hobby that actually helps that amazing creative part of us flourish. We seem to find it acceptable to find ways to stop being ourselves instead of letting ourselves be who we are...who we were created to be.

Now, I took some flak from folks who don't understand a woman who is a good shot, enjoys firearms, thinks independently, and lives intensely. They don't get me. I don't look like their preconceived ideas of a woman. They have the domesticated idea of a woman from social England. I honestly tried to be that person for a long, long time in order to make others comfortable. I will not do that again.

Although some folks don't get who I am, a lot do. In fact, a lot of folks are incredibly encouraging and supportive of this "version" of me. I had to step out of some social groups and out of some relationships that I called "comfortable" but really weren't because I never felt comfortable, never felt like I fit.  I also had to be courageous in stepping out my box, being willing to try new things, being willing to be real with friends who were used to the "sedate" life I tried to live.

Two things about not fitting:
1. Sometimes people have preconceived ideas that we don't fit into. Just true. That's okay.
2. People who are intense, who are driven to be excellent, who are driven to push the edge, who think outside the lines, who want to see just how far they go with something and it still work or figure out how to make it work....those people really don't fit into a society that is taught to be mediocre, live down to expectations, be entitled, accept feeling no (or very little) passion or conviction, accept the way things are, and to adhere to status quo. ADD/ADHD people don't fit into our present culture. They often make others look back with the amount of work they can do and the innovative work they can do. People around them may resent them or criticize them or try to sabotage them. Let me tell you something, and I really want you to get this:
JUST BECAUSE SOCIETY DOESN'T LIKE YOU DOESN'T MAKE YOU WRONG.

Just because other people don't understand you, does not make you wrong.

Just because they don't understand you, just because they don't think like you, just because they don't obsess over the thing you do, just because they don't like the same thing you do, doesn't make you wrong.

I have friends who don't understand me, they don't think like me, they don't relax firing a gun over and over and over trying to get a perfect group, they don't read books on trauma/loss/terrorist psychology, they don't kayak or build fences to relax. They have no desire to drive a big crew cab, 4x4 truck, and they would never want to be a red head, but they love me fiercely, and if anyone bad mouths me to them, that person better be ready for what will be unleashed upon them. People don't have to get you to accept you. They don't have to be like you to love you.

But I give you my word:
You will never really feel accepted
until you accept yourself.
You will never really feel loved by someone else
until you love yourself.

And these friends of mine, they think I'm amazing, but more than that, I think I am amazing. I've quit trying to figure out how to be less different and embraced the truth that I was created with this intensity because I am meant to make a difference. I don't try to live the quiet life anymore. Instead, I pray for where and how to live big. There are a lot of needs in the world. Big needs. Since I am ADD/ADHD, I have a big need for new challenges and new stimuli, a big determination, a big ability to problem solve, a big imagination for answers, and a big reserve of energy to get something done.

So do you.

The hard part is finding what keeps your fire lit. Give yourself the freedom to find out. Do some research. Find things you think are interesting and try them out. Give yourself freedom to think differently and do things differently. Respect others. Best way to do that is know and embrace yourself so you aren't fighting yourself all the time. In other words, respect yourself. Stay busy.

Oh, yeah, I have often been called a workaholic. I'm not. I just have a ton of energy I need to burn, so I spend more time in motion of various kinds than other people do. I sometimes envy folks who relax watching TV or being still. I have learned to find certain stillness relaxing because I focus on God. Just being still...that is actually incredibly agitating to me.

Other thing to tell you, my "quiet time" with the Lord is best outside, either walking, riding my tractor to mow the yard, kayaking or bobbing on the water when the sun comes up, things like that. There is just something in my body that "stills" with motion.

I stopped trying to make other people's rules of relaxation, concentration, etc., fit me, and I found what works for me. It doesn't look very "feminine", but God doesn't seemed freaked out by it, so I'm good.

This is far more rambling than I meant for it to be (ADD obviously did not study geometry and the shortest distance between points), but I hope it helps you or someone you know who is trying to get a handle on this out of control energy level.

Oh, yeah, I don't try to control my energy level. I direct it. Big difference, and I think you will find that directing the energy creates a huge amount of peace that trying to control it never will.

Anyway, as I said at the beginning, I am glad to answer questions, offer suggestions, talk through, and generally be of help. You should be able to find my email on this site. If not, comment, let me know it is private, and give me contact information. I will get back to you.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. May you embrace that, enjoy who you are, and be in awe of the wonderful creation that is you, and in that, may you find...

Shalom.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The All-Important Final Word

This morning in our faith gathering we had a wonderful worship time. Jay and Kari are our Sunday morning worship leaders, and every two weeks we do a different kind of worship. This morning we used drums and did a fascinating sing/chant response for both Isaiah 48 and Psalm 112. As Jay was introducing this morning's worship style, he explained that David--King, psalmist, man after God's own heart, worshipper--commanded us in Psalms to use a variety of instruments in worship, and he looked at our pastor and asked which chapter that was. Pastor Dave correctly said there are a lot of chapters that talk about it. I decisively answered, "Psalm 150." Some folks thought that was impressive. Well, the fact that I am knew it is not impressive, but for it to be Psalm 150...that is VERY impressive. In fact, it is very important.

Now, the way I know that is not because I'm some great Bible scholar. I am not eyeballs deep in Bible trivia. I don't know all of the addresses for all the key stories and major passages Christians throw around. I remember this because the revelation of it was so powerful to me.

Years ago I was reading through the Bible and came across the most glorious story. In 2 Chronicles 5:2-14, it says:

2Then Solomon summoned to Jerusalem the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families, to bring up the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Zion, the City of David. And all the Israelites came together to the king at the time of the festival in the seventh month.
When all the elders of Israel had arrived, the Levites took up the ark, and they brought up the ark and the tent of meeting and all the sacred furnishings in it. The Levitical priests carried them up; and King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted.
The priests then brought the ark of the Lord’s covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark and covered the ark and its carrying poles. These poles were so long that their ends, extending from the ark, could be seen from in front of the inner sanctuary, but not from outside the Holy Place; and they are still there today. 10 There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt.
11 The priests then withdrew from the Holy Place. All the priests who were there had consecrated themselves, regardless of their divisions. 12 All the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives—stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. 13 The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang:
“He is good;
    his love endures forever.”
Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, 14 and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.

The same story is in 1 Kings 8.

Imagine that.

Imagine going to church and God being so drawn in by what He hears that He cannot help but come and sit among the people there.

What did these people do to give Him such pleasure that He had to be part of it?
What did they do that made Him leave His throne and sit in their presence?
What did they do that broke through the barrier between earth and heaven and become such a pleasing aroma to Him that He had to saturate Himself with it?

I wanted to be that pleasing.
I wanted to be that aroma.
I wanted to be that irresistible to Him.

So I read it through and through. I studied. I looked up words looking for some idea of what they did, what order of worship, what kind of worship, what...method...did they use to entice the God of the universe to want their company?

The simplicity of it left my religious mindset undone.

They worshipped.

The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang...

That's all.

There was not some complicated order. There was on some perfected sequence or song or rhythm. There was simply the worship and gratitude of an imperfect people, and God said, "I can't pass that up."

David says in Psalm 22:3, "But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel."

He inhabits our praise. He saturates it. Soaks in it. Dwells in it. Makes Himself at home in it.

I wanted to create a place in my life that God could inhabit, where He always felt welcome and at home.

So, I started studying worship, thanksgiving, and praise. I started studying the biblical acts of worship, worship commanded by God, and ways He commanded to offer praise and thanksgiving, and in my search, I came to Psalm 150.

Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.
Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.
Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.

And I read through each line, highlighted, prayed, pondered, and then I suddenly saw it. The real answer.

Psalm 150. The very last Psalm. The last words of Psalm. The final word.

Psalms is full of agony and joy. They are filled with calls to holiness and prayers of vindication. They have confessions of weakness and pleas for strength. They hold great faith...and great doubt. They ring with life's answers...and its questions. And at the end of it all we are left with Psalm 150.

Praise the Lord.

Praise Him with music, with dance, with wind instruments, with percussion. Praise Him however, but praise Him.

The very last words of this amazing book of real life that takes us through ugly places and glorious places, prophetic truth and human questions, and the summary is simple:

Praise, ye the Lord.

Real life all summed up in three words. Our purpose all summed up in three words. The key to living a life pleasing enough for Him to inhabit.

Praise the Lord.

Yeah. THAT was worth remembering.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

I Asked God to Show Me Where I was Blind, and He Gave Me a Pit/Lab so I Could See


Semper is definitely MY dog. I think she would be attached to me 24/7 if she could, and when she can't be attached, she wants to stand or lie within inches of me. Honestly, that isn't what I expected from...you know, a Pit.

The truth is she really isn't anything like I would have expected something that looks like a Pit to be. As I told you before, I have only had bad experiences with Pits, and they scare me. There is nothing scary about this dog, except the way she throws her head back and busts my lip or hits my nose, but Fred, my amazing Lab, did that, too, so maybe that is the Lab in her. I expected Pits to be aloof and brooding, kind of Batman in a dog. I expected a "no touchy" thing.

Right now, I am on the couch, and she is lying beside me stretched out...with her back feet planted firmly against my hip. I thought Semper's affection and connection issues were just because we bonded or she is a puppy, but today I spent a few hours with my friend Janice, and she met me at the door with these two very big dogs that welcomed me with wagging tails and exuberant joy. Despite their size, they provoked no sense of danger or fear. They were very much like Fred always was. Just totally happy to see a visitor. Being educated in dog get-to-know-you, I stood there and let them sniff me, get the aroma of me, and decide I was okay. When I actually got a look at Xena, I asked what breed they are. I already knew, but I wanted to be sure.

They are Pits. Big. Brawny. Muscled. Lovable. Can't be petted enough. Pits.

Not one time did I feel anxious around them. I never felt threatened. I did feel a bit squished when Zeus, who had been lying with his head on my leg, adjusted and dropped half his body weight in my lap and put his big head on my arm so I could rub his chest. When Zeus went to get food, Xena sat in front of me until I held out my arms, and she walked right into them and buried her face in my shoulder. I realized in my few hours there that Zeus and Xena would be in constant contact as well. In fact, they were either connected to me or Janice the whole time unless commanded to lie down in their own beds.

I was wrong.

These are not scary animals or vicious animals. These are beautiful animals with capacity to nurture and love deeply. They are huge babies...with a protective edge that isn't a bad thing. And like anything else, human or animal, it is impossible to make a blanket statement about them, especially one that is based in ignorance, fear, or media frenzy.

I admit, I have never thought of Pits as beautiful animals. Honestly, I have always thought they were ugly, but today I looked at Zeus a long time with his huge black head and penetrating brown eyes, and yes, he could be intimidating, if you are taught to fear that look, and I have been. Today though, I just looked at him. I looked at his whole body language that was so relaxed and comfortable. I looked at his face that was so relaxed, and I looked at how his eyes drooped when Janice rubbed a particular spot behind his ear. :-) What I saw today in the dog that sat beside his owner and wallowed in my lap is truly a beautiful dog. And Xena, with her brindle coat, stocky body, golden brown eyes, classic Pit head, and hug snuggles is just as beautiful.

What does all that have to do with Semper? I realize there will be people who see a dog with a Pit head and don't care that her mom was a Lab or that she is the sweetest thing ever. They will only see a Pit. I understand that. A month ago, I was one of those people, but God decided I needed to be educated. I needed to have my eyes opened because I was blind to part of His beauty.

Why is it that I have no problem seeing God as the warrior God but have trouble seeing Him in the "warrior" animals He created? Why do I fear something in His creation that I find so beautiful in Him?

For me, the answer is simple: I have seen that beautiful nurturing, protective side twisted into something vicious. But honestly, I have seen some people turn a loving, protective God into something vicious, too--a cruel God who enjoys watching people punished for their sins, a God who is never satisfied, a God who will turn on you in a heartbeat and destroy you and your hopes and dreams. It's easy to believe the scary stuff when you have never experienced the loving stuff.

If I could leave any legacy I wanted, I would leave lives changed by the truth of a warrior God who is driven by selfless love, whose heart for restoration is boundless, and whose commitment to love makes Him unable to compromise His stance on holiness. I would leave lives changed by the love found in the fierceness of Him.

When I prayed for a name for Semper, I actually thought of Fidelis, "Faithful", but it kind of became Semper Fidelis abbreviated from Dios semper fidelis--God is always faithful.

God is always faithful. Sometimes I can't see that, but it is true, and sometimes He has to open my eyes by putting me up close and personal with exactly what I fear so I can see Him in it.

Dios semper fidelis.

Shalom.


Friday, February 3, 2017

What's the Story, Wishbo---I mean, Semper?

A few folks have asked me about an update on Semper. Well, she is now 20 pounds and is outgrowing her bed. She still loves her dinosaur (Dino) and her hedgehog (Hedgey), and as you can tell from the picture, she also loves my shoes. Actually, my shoes are the only thing she chews on in the house.

Her crate has been moved outside because while conventional wisdom says dogs don't like dirty houses and thus, they will keep crates clean, no one gave Semper the Book on Conventional Wisdom. If she has a choice of a place to go potty, she will go in her crate....even when her bed is in there or her favorite blanket. So, the crate had to go outside.

She is great at bringing the ball back and dropping it at my feet, and she is learning not to jump up without my holding my hand out to her or patting the surface I want her to jump to. She really is a quick learner and easy to train.

But I'm guessing that isn't really the update folks are asking about. :-)

As you know, I adopted Semper for the purpose of her being a therapy dog. As a pastor and thus, counselor (and just a friend most of the time), I wanted a dog that could offer the extra emotional comfort and support that a comfort/emotional support/therapy pet offers.

That leads to a few foundational issues:

I specifically wanted a Lab because I am familiar with them and know their temperaments.

I specifically did not want a Pit or Pit mix or Rottie or Boxer or Shepherd. NO BEASTY DOGS!!! They scare me...and other people. How can a dog that scares people comfort them?

Beyond my issues, though, are the issues of reaction to Pits.

People fear Pits.
Pits are banned from some places.
Pits are not easily insured (big deal for a therapy dog or organization that is going to let a comfort dog in).
Where I could take a Lab virtually anywhere, a Pit is a different story.

I did a lot of research on this, and Pits present some significant challenges I did not want to deal with, so when my vet was very sure Semper's head was a Pit head, I was really upset. I had bonded with this puppy, and now all my plans could be gone in one three-letter word.

I talked to the foster mom, explained the issues, and she offered to take Semper back. I would still lose the $200, but it would open my home to another dog, but instead, I told her I wanted to take two days and pray about it. I really needed to hear God because His word is the only one that mattered, so that is what I did.

While I prayed, the kids and I talked, and WonderGirl was adamant that Semper was God's choice.
"Mom, you put out a simple fleece. You were going to lie down on the floor like you used to do with Fred, and if Semper lay down with you like Fred did, you would know. Mom, she lay right beside you and put her head on your arm and got perfectly still, except for throwing her head back to look at you, EXACTLY like Fred used to do. Really. She is God's choice."

And WonderGirl was right. I had put out that fleece, and it came back sopping wet.

Then I started doing research. Pits are so common as therapy dogs, they have a name for them--TheraPits. There is a group in Austin that is the PitCrew. A therapist in Indiana has eight Pits that she uses in her counseling practice. There are so many groups I could tell you about, and I even found on the Therapy Dog International website pictures with theraPits, so there has to be a way to get her insured.

Then I read that warriors like soldiers, marines, law enforcement, and first responders don't respond to the "prissy" breeds well. They respond to the "beasts"--Shepherds, Boxers, Rotties, Pits, and y'all know I am all about our warriors, and I realized that God had not given me what I said I wanted. I said I wanted the safe road with a lovable Lab, but really what I wanted was a dog that brought out the best in me as a sheepdog who is fighting for people that our government tries to manage in order to do damage control but not heal, and those people deserve to heal. Those men and women who fight for us deserve to be fought for. They deserve someone who refuses to leave them to a broken spirit, and obviously that has been left to the hands of civilians because our government has washed its hands of that responsibility. As it turns out, in my life that dog is a Lab/Pit/Hound/WhoKnows mix, that looks totally fierce, and she is...in the way she loves.

And really, that was it for me. When I knew God had picked this dog, I was settled, and then I became protective, not just of the dog, but of her purpose. She is necessary for someone, and I am willing to stand against anyone I have to stand against in order to make sure that "someone" gets what he or she needs from this dog.

Standing in faith for God-things...

Shalom and Puppy Love from Us...
Jerri and Semper

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Living Decisively

Last I left you, I was hanging with The Pit. I still am. In fact, she is sitting beside me on the loveseat on the deck as we enjoy the last hour of warm sunlight today. From where we are sitting, I can look out over most of the acre of land that came with the house, and I am pondering.

My life is sliding toward the middle of a major transition. WonderGirl is a sophomore in college, and WonderBoy is now a freshman in college, and you may be wondering how you missed that. Don't worry. In Texas, dual credit is a great option for high school kids. Although he is still a high school junior, he will finish the rest of his school taking college classes. So, they are flourishing and exploding with all things wonderful. They both have their driver's license now, and in the next month or two, I will buy a car for WonderBoy and me to share. Although right now, he rides with WonderGirl, that could change this summer, so I want us to both be ready. With all the awesome stuff they are doing, they are needing my intense timing less, which frees me up to do other things, and that is what I am pondering.

I have always wanted to be a vegetable gardener. I have great memories of my grandmother and me working in the garden, picking the vegetables, and canning lots jars for the winter. Part of me wants to be more like her, I think. She loved gardening. She relaxed in it. I know part of the gardening thing is nostalgia, but part of it is that I love fresh food straight from the garden. It has flavor that you can't buy in a store, or even at a farmer's market. So I was talking to my cousin about it over the weekend. She is a good gardener. She cans her food. You would have thought she grew up on the farm instead of me. She told me about keyhole gardening, so I researched, and it does sound wonderful, but I have to be honest. I don't know where I would get a dumpster full of cardboard, the (not so much grass) green stuff, or the ongoing food to feed through the compost chute. Plus, there is the time factor, and that has me stumped more than anything.

For the first time in my 48 years of life, I am an adult with no one who needs me all the time. I'm not trying to work out life around a husband or focusing on what is best for the kids. Granted, the kids play a huge role in my life still, but it is strange to not need to be needed all the time. Understand, "strange" is not bad. On the contrary, it is beautiful. I love having adult kids. I love watching them working their flight plans out so they can leave the nest. They are amazing people, and it is fun watching them becoming even more solid in who they are.

So I am wondering what to do with this freedom.

I have had the privilege of being home with the kids their whole lives, and I wouldn't trade that for anything, but it is nearing time for me to contribute to the world in other ways. So I am thinking job. I am wondering about classes. I am trying to order my days so I get work done on the house, get housework done, spend some time writing, keeping people as a priority, and volunteering more.

In all honesty, I am in the best place I have ever been in my life mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and physically, I'm working on it. Lost some significant weight, dealing with a plateau, but really liking the way my body is changing as I keep pushing myself with weights and construction projects.

In fact, I have considered volunteering with Habitat again. I really enjoy construction, and I know my way around a drill and hammer.

There really are a lot of possibilities, and it is easy to follow every whim that comes along. But right now, I have a dog I am committed to training sitting beside me, and she is not a small time investment. I am waiting to see how things shake out with some suggested programs at the sheriff's office, and I want to write seriously again. Plus, changing lifestyles is no small thing...or small time expenditure. Add the coffees and lunches and relationships, and I am wondering if a keyhole garden is a good thing, or a God thing. I've been caught in the trap of good v. God before, and I like to think I am not as easily fooled this time, but I didn't think I was being fooled before either. So, as the sun slips behind the fence, I am going to bid you good evening and go for a walk, listen to the quiet, and let the path come before me.

I pray you have a glorious evening.

Shalom...

Sunday, January 29, 2017

When Everything Else is Burned Away...I AM

You ever put your life on the altar and let God get rid of everything that isn't of Him? Most folks would never do that. They would never choose that kind of risk. They would never give up their control in order to give Him ultimate control. They would never choose something so scary. In fact, most folks don't, and frankly, that is why most folks are still living the same lives they have been living for the last decade (or several decades) wondering why nothing changes.

They sit in the same place every week for church, talk to the same folks they always do, quote the same scriptures, claim the same promises, and see the same results...and wonder why.

Let me answer that question:

Because if you want a different view, you have to take a different road.

Or as a coach I knew when I was teaching in public school said:

If you aren't the lead dog, the scenery never changes.

You know what it takes to become the lead dog?

It takes being willing to push yourself beyond your comfort zone.
It takes thinking differently.
It takes conviction that you have a road God wants you to go down that someone else may not choose or understand.
It takes a willingness to hurt.
It takes prioritizing. 
It requires being broken down and built back up.
It takes leaving old mindsets behind...and sometimes the people who cannot think beyond them.
It takes a willingness to endure criticism...especially from people whose opinions can bless you...or hurt you...the most.
It takes crawling on the altar of the Whom you worship and letting Him burn away everything that isn't of Him...and praying for Him to hold you there when everything in you and your flesh screams for the easier road.

It's brutal.

And worth it.


Why am I telling you this? Because the craziest thing is that all that dying is really finding out what it means to live.  I always thought the point of being on the altar is to find myself. I thought when everything else was burned away I would find the core of me, the authentic part of me, the me I was created to be.

But you know what I found out is left when all the traditions, false identities, lies of others, fear, escapisms, safe roads, and protective garbage is burned to nothing?

I AM.

And in Him is the only place I was ever meant to be in the first place.

(excerpt from Warrior Undaunted, manuscript in process, copyright 2017 Jerri L. Kelley)