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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.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Comfort--Humans May Blow It, But God Never Does

It's a lie. That whole idea that the first year is the hardest. It's shocking, and it's raw and in your face and heart shredding stuff, but hardest? I don't know about that.

Dad's been gone over 13 years, so it is hard to remember, but with Mom, the second Christmas she was gone was so hard I thought it was going to bury me. I spent most of the holiday feeling like I couldn't breathe. Last Easter, 5 1/2 years after her passing, I forced myself through the day. A lot of tears. Couldn't pull myself together.

My late husband? The kids' birthdays. I don't cry really hard the night before like I did the first year or two, but the birthdays are hard, knowing he isn't here to see our kids becoming adults. Our daughter is a beautiful 19 year old who loves music and movies like her dad, and our son is 16, and he is handsome and quirky and funny and looks a lot like his dad. And their dad is missing it, and they are missing him.

And we don't talk about it because we hit a point where we knew if one more person gave us some churchy answer, we were going to be anything but churchy.

Here is the thing about someone dying. Ready?
  • They did not die because God needed another angel. He has plenty.
  • We are not being selfish for missing them. I don't care what they died of.
  • And, yes, prayerfully, they are in a better place, but we are still here and still dealing with the fact they are not.
  • We agree God uses all things for the good of those who love Him and are called to His purpose. That doesn't make it not hurt.
  • Time does not heal. God does.
  • Trusting God does not instantly fix grief.
  • We have hope of seeing them later, but the chair at the table is empty now.

And if you are one of those precious hearts who just read that last list and thought, "Thank God someone gets it," let me tell you something else.

Grief is vicious. It is unpredictable and real. You cannot let it bury you, but if you try to deny it, it will bury you.

Grief has no time limit because love doesn't die and it misses someone that is no longer here. The hole is real, and so is the pain.

There is no right way to deal with grief. There are days I cry most of the day because I miss someone, and there are days when I intentionally do something I did with that person because in remembering the good stuff, I am celebrating them. I am bringing pieces of them into now with me. A lot of the time it is kind of melancholy because I miss their being part of it, but I'm also incredibly grateful because at one time...they were part of it.

I let my faith walk me through my grief instead of believing my grief says my faith is failing.

I've been in church my whole life, and people throw out verses about God's faithfulness and everything having a purpose, and there is the suggestion that to grieve means you don't believe those things...or don't believe them enough.

Let me tell you what I held onto on my dark days and when I hurt so much I felt I couldn't breathe.

You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.--Jeremiah 8:18
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.--Psalm 23:4
...for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.--Psalm 86:7
May your unfailing love be my comfort...--Psalm 119:76
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.--Matthew 5:4
But God, who comforts the downcast...--2 Corinthians 7:6

The only thing that I found to make any difference is God. I poured my heart out to Him. I cried to Him. I told Him how much I ached. I told Him what I missed. I told Him how empty things were, and every single time, He responded the same way...with comfort. Real comfort.

He listened. He calmed. He was a presence even when grief was horribly ugly. He comforted in ways I do not know how to articulate, but I felt them. I felt peace. I felt hope that tomorrow would be less crushing. I felt hope that one day I would see pink and not see the roses on Mom's casket. I felt peace that some day family dinner would be filled with laughter and not the reality of who had been lost. And I felt loved, not because of how well I was handling my grief but because God was handling my grief with me.

The road is still hard, but I've become aware of a divine kindness and mercy in it. That is part of the comfort. It wasn't always prominent, but I never once prayed for it that God did not give it to me.

Today I know some people who are grieving. For some it is incredibly fresh. For some, not so much. For some, it just comes out of nowhere. I want you to know I am so sorry for your loss. I'm sorry for your pain. I'm sorry for how hard the road is. I'm sorry for the calls that don't come, the birthdays that pass without hearing a mom or dad say happy birthday...or that they are proud of who you are becoming. I'm sorry for the birthdays you won't have with your child. I'm sorry that you weren't married longer. I'm so, so sorry. But I am praying for you, for God to comfort you, for the hole to be filled, for your heart to beat without hurting like this.

Father God,
I lift up those hurting today. I ask you to be the balm of Gilead, the healing balm, the soothing balm. Be the hand that they hold when their hand is  horribly empty. Be the presence when the missing is engulfing, and be the voice when the silence is just too much to endure. Help them remember the joyful things, the memories, and help them to celebrate those things, to be thankful for what was instead of being embittered by what wasn't. And when they get hit out of nowhere, give them comfort that it is normal and they are okay and help them to let the wave move through instead of stumbling through it with frustration. And, Lord, for these lives that are grieved, the ones that have left these monstrous holes, thank you. Thank you for the gift of them. They are valuable treasures, and I am so grateful that you placed them here for the time you did. Thank you for being The Comforter, and thank you for your ever present aid. We could not endure, little less heal, without you. Thank you for all you are and all you do. In Jesus' name I lay my petitions before you. Amen

Friday, August 26, 2016

Closing My Eyes

Something is wrong with my left eye. It feels like something is in it, but I can't figure out what. I haven't found anything. It is kind of swollen, probably from my aggravating it, and my vision is not like it is supposed to be. I can't really read. I can't type because of Arial font on a large setting. But watching TV is frustrating. Basically, if it requires my being able to see well, I'm out of luck.

So,  I lie with my head propped up, a pillow under my knees, and a cool washcloth on my left eye...and listen.

There is silence.

And God is in the silence.

I think of things going on right now over which I have no control. Things look crazy and questionable, and some of them look impossible, but things look like that to the human eye. They look too big, too hard, too crazy. They look like they have taken too long, settled in too deep, become too much of reality.

Sometimes the only way to see the change you know is to happen is to close your eyes...and listen.

Listen to the Lord who promises...
...if you seek Me you will find Me.
...I really never do leave you or forsake you and I have a way out if you are willing to walk it.
...not one of my words fails.
...I am not a man that I should like, or a human that I should change my mind. If I promised it, I'll bring it to pass.
...nothing is impossible for me.
...I don't always give you what you want, but I give you what brings you to me.
...I lead you in paths of righteousness for My name's sake, and if I lead you through the valley of the shadow of death, it's because there is something you need to learn there that you cannot learn elsewhere...and I'm with you in it.
...I am the good Shepherd. Heed my voice, and it will turn out for your good.
...if you confess your sins, I am faithful. I will forgive you and purify you from all unrighteousness.
...I am for you.
...sometimes the mess you are in is flat out your fault. I won't take responsibility for it, but I will be compassionate and help you deal with it and be blessed despite it. If possible, I'll walk you out of it. If not, I'll be with you and bless you live in it and deal with the consequences.
...you are better off spending time quiet with me than in the noise that distracts you from me.
...sometimes the most distracting noise is what you see, and the best thing that can happen is for me to give you something that forces you to close your eyes...so you can stop seeing all the stuff...and start hearing only Me.

Closing my eyes now....

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Would I Have Done That?

Big news in the great state of Texas. Tonya Couch, mother of affluenza teen Ethan Couch, is working as a bartender in the Metroplex area. And you know why it is news? Because some finger pointing, self-righteous judges will have something to say about it. In fact, they'll have a lot to say about it.

The owner of the bar had this to say: "I hired her because I think everyone deserves a second chance."

Her lawyer had this to say, "This is where she could get a job, and she is choosing to work instead of living off the government."

What do I have to say? I really don't know that I would have hired her...and I would have been wrong.

See, there are two stories here. There is the story about Tonya Couch working a menial job in an effort to rebuild her life (admirable), and there is the man who is giving her the second chance.

First of all, if I were God, I wouldn't have hired me either. If you go on my background, there is not a lot to compel Him to let me be a blogger for Him, but He hired me anyway. Tonya Couch made mistakes. Some that were really big, and most of us look at her and wonder how she didn't know better. Because she didn't. There are things I did and thought that I look back on and wonder how in the world I didn't know better. Because I didn't. I knew what was imparted to me. I had to learn something different. Tonya Couch did what she knew. Where did she learn it? How will she learn something different...unless someone gives her the chance?

See a second chance isn't just a second chance to get it right. A second chance is a chance to learn to do it better, to learn you can do it better.

A second chance is someone willing to invest in you, someone willing to be part of your answer and not someone saying you aren't their problem.

A second chance is a chance to rewrite the ending of your story because someone is convinced that even a villain can choose to be a hero, and they are willing to endure the battering that can come with the change.

I've said untold number of times I believe people should get a second chance, but believing someone should get a second chance and giving them a second chance is not the same thing. One is loving with words. The other is loving with deeds. One is ugly dressed in makeup. The other is lovely glowing from the core.

That bar owner is lovely.

Me? Grateful that God showed Tonya Couch the bar owner's lovely instead of letting her be turned off to Him because of my ugly.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Peace at the End of an Unpeaceful Day

It seems one of my dearest friendships has ended. Kind of a mutual thing. We're not angry with each other. There isn't any hatred. We just aren't connected. We have gone very different directions, and a friendship requires an investment of time and has to be valued because they don't just happen. They are built. Ours has become a ghost town.

Right now, my heart is feeling the void, and it looks way too familiar, and God in heaven am I sick of this void.

And it is exacerbated by other things from today, which I won't go into in detail, but in short, my kids really miss their dad. That happens around birthdays.

And the void looks so vast that it feels impossible to see the other side.

There is a movie I have had in my Netflix queue for awhile now, but I found it at the library this past week, and I watched it today. It's The Hundred-Foot Journey. It's a story about how 100-feet can be a million mile void that becomes one big...oneness.

The truth is the void is only big in human eyes, not God's hands. And what may feel like the impossible, isn't. And sometimes painful things are the very things God uses to lead us to fulfilled dreams.

Personally, I know these things, and despite the emotions of today, I am not shaken in my faith or doubtful of His promises, but it really feels good to know God is whispering, "I know the void is vast, but in my power, it is only a breath."

And really, that is the peace at the end of a unpeaceful day. It isn't a movie or a warm fuzzy or a trite saying or even someone's worn out verse they like to toss at people. The peace at the end of an unpeaceful day is knowing God is bigger than the void and still cares about the most personal and seemingly small concerns.

Praying today you have peace...
Jerri

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Mississippi?

I found out from my brother the government will most likely or has declared Mississippi a disaster area due to flooding as well. Does anyone have any information on this? I know about Louisiana because of Rod Dreher. Can anyone help me with info on Mississippi?

Because They are Just Things...Except Those Things Make Up Lives, and Those Lives are Valuable

In Louisiana this week there has been flooding beyond what anyone alive has ever seen. They are calling it Katrina 2. 40,000 homes destroyed. 100,000 people displaced. Lives lost. Homes and business completely lost. For some, everything they owned is gone. We often say, "It's just things." Yes, they are, and, no, they aren't.

They aren't just things. They are lives. They are memories. They are baby pictures, wedding pictures, the only pictures they had of deceased loved ones. They are family Bibles, personal Bibles, Mom and Dad's Bible. They are clothes, beds (you know, like the one you are used to sleeping in), and a favorite chair. They are the children's toys, the children's medical records, maybe all they have left of a child they lost. These things make up lives. They are memories of their lives, comfort in their lives, the place they lived their lives. And they are gone.

Try to wrap your brain around that for a moment.

I'll tell you the truth. I can't. I go on vacation for more than 6 days, and the urge to sleep in my own bed overtakes me, and I point the truck toward my driveway. Right now I am wearing my favorite sweatshirt, and my Bible and journal with all kinds of notes and revelations sit on the table beside me. I can get up, walk into my kitchen, make coffee, make bacon and eggs, and sit down to eat at the table that belonged to my late husband's grandmother.

I think too often we minimize the depth of the loss by babbling about the bright side. After all, most of them have their families, and really, that is all that matters. Really? Go spend three days in a hotel room with your family with no clothes, no computers/tablets/Gameboys, knowing you can't go home, no way of knowing when you will go home, or worse, being working or lower class not being able to afford adequate insurance to rebuild or pay off what is left of your mortgage and wondering what you are going to do now.

And do not even go down the "they should have..." road with me. I've heard the excuses of how people should have insurance, should prepare, should plan ahead. Here is the reality. Some people simply make enough money to hopefully pay the basic bills and buy food, and some weeks or months, they don't even succeed with that. Not because they aren't good stewards of their money but because they are the people who keep this nation running with the jobs most of us can't imagine ever having to do. Believe it or not, a person can be a hard worker and a good steward and still barely make ends meet and sometimes not even do that.

Speaking of hard workers, it is hard to work when the business that employed you is flooded, destroyed, or closed for who knows how long. Now how are you going to pay for the food to feed your family that is staying in the hotel room until who knows when? How are you going to pay for the hotel?

See, we dismiss the greatness of the loss by saying, "It's just things," but it isn't just things. These are places where lives are lived, and right now, there is no way to live there.

Yes, these people will overcome like others have done, but for just a moment, instead of simply saying a prayer and trusting God to do something, stop and ask yourself if you are the something God wants to do.

Are you the hands and feet to help clean out soaked and stinking household items?
Are the face of Jesus smiling as you pour out a bowl of gumbo?
Are you the one finding every industrial coffee maker in the area church kitchens so you can spend your day making coffee for the people who are working tirelessly to love on people in shelters?
Are you the rich man giving to the poor from your income?
Are you the organizational wizard connecting with folks to find out when a good time a team from your church can go and be useful in some way?
Are you the strength packing the trailers with clothing, food, diapers, and baby formula heading to folks who have no way or place to buy it there?
Are you the comfort buying up the character bedding at the store to take to kids who need something that feels special because they need to feel special?

Absolutely be a person of faith and pray for God to be the answer for these people,
but I encourage you to be a person of courage as well and ask God how He wants to be the answer through you.

If you want more information on what you can do or where to go to help in Louisiana, Rod Dreher at the American Conservative can help you connect with the right folks.

copyright 2016 Jerri L. Kelley

Saturday, August 20, 2016

In the MIddle of the Night

Father,
Thank you for being up in the middle of the night. Thank you that even in darkness you are light. Thank you for being the ever present help.

Tonight I lift up the mommas and daddies who are walking and rocking sick, teething, and simply cranky babies. I ask you to give them patience as they love through the early hours. Give them supernatural rest because tomorrow they need to be momma and daddy again. Give them the songs in the night to sing to little hearts, and give them peace so it pervades the atmosphere and fills those upset tummies, sore gums, and growing bodies. Give them the gentle words, and as they soothe those babies, Father, soothe them.

And I lift up the mommas and daddies who aren't sleeping because their hearts ache with the loss of a child, who would love to rock their crying baby or check on their little one in their beds. I pray for comfort only you can give. I ask you to hold them as a Father who holds a hurting baby, and even as they scream and kick, hold them tighter. Grief can be ugly, but I know you are not afraid of ugly or loud or angry. Be a presence for them. Be their strength. Give them the ability to get through this night and another day tomorrow. Honestly, some won't want to. Some won't see a reason to. You are the one with vision. They need you to help them hold on, to see past this, or at least to keep breathing until they feel like their heart is beating again.

Lord, the middle of the night can be hard because it feels like morning is a million years away or like it may never come at all. I ask you to be with these hearts as they find their way through the darkness, especially the ones who don't want to find a way through, who simply want to succumb, who simply want this over. Help them through the night, but help them through the darkness inside because it is the most oppressing darkness of all.

Thank you for being a God who isn't afraid of the dark.

Amen

copyright 2016 Jerri L. Kelley