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.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Just a Word

Around the middle of December, I start praying and asking the Lord for a new word, some phrase, statement, or verse to serve as a foundation for my thinking and actions for the next year.

This year I really didn’t want to ask. Honestly, I haven’t been sure how well I’m hearing God, and I am tired. The idea of meditating on, absorbing, and fighting for a passage of scripture or some deep revelation or promise left me a crumpled heap on the floor. I really did not have the gumption to be a warrior racing into next year sword raised and expectations high. I really wanted to slide into the New Year curled up under my warm blankets, sheets over my head, quiet, and unnoticed.

So I hid in my spiritual closet. No, not my prayer closet. My hiding closet. The one I go to when I really don’t want to talk to God and I really don’t want Him to talk to me. The problem is He is the biggest nag in the world, and He has no problem with closed doors. He stands and knocks and knocks and knocks. Or in my case, slips little notes under the door in forms of phrases in dreams or thoughts that float through my head or the time that keeps showing up on the digital clocks or…I’m telling you. God is a nag. And if small notes under the door don’t work, He’ll send someone to talk to me, someone I like, someone I like to talk to, someone I look forward to. Someone like Alece Ronzino.

Then last week I was actually reading updates on Facebook when I saw a post by Alece. I like Alece. I like her writing. And God knows that.

In her post, Alece said she asked God for one word for next year. One word. One thing that she could use as a compass for her actions, for the way she lived, for her focus. Just one thing because surely she could do one thing.

One thing.

Surely I can do one thing.

“God, do you have one thing?”

Instantly, I had the word.

In the next instant, all those little notes God had been slipping under my door became more than random words. They became a command, an encouragement, and a promise.

My word: Courage

The scripture: Joshua 1:9—“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

The door had been flung open. The Lord stood in the doorway. He spoke clearly, and I listened.

Courage to believe for great things…anyway.
Courage to live as though those great things already are.
Courage to get outside your comfort zone.
Courage to do whatever you fear.
Courage to be the person you’ve always been,
the person I know you are, the unaltered version of you.
Courage to leave every hint of boxes behind.
Courage to believe you are all I say you are and can do all I say you can do.”

A word.
One word…but because it’s HIS word, it means everything.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In Summary...

It has been months since I've written on this blog. I have looked at it on my "dashboard" of my blogger control page a few times, but I have not known what to say. With the sweet comment Joy left, I felt I should update anyone who might find this blog or who might have followed it and wondered how things have evolved.

My mom, Gayle Kelley Lewis, went to be with Jesus October 2nd. I was with her when she transitioned from this world into her true home, where she was created to spend eternity. We were blessed with two months of her being in relatively good health before she became sick, went into an unconscious state 24 hours later, and passed on five days later. God was merciful beyond my wildest dreams, and I praise Him for His kindness to my mom and to us.

On November 1st, my uncle with whom I lived during college passed on. It was not unexpected, but it was a hard blow so soon after losing Mom. I remember little about November except I cried virtually everyday...but Thanksgiving was wonderful. I have to say that in the last six months November is the span where things felt truly dark and I felt lost. I ended up in Petite Jean State Park in Arkansas, really very much against my will, and God and I had a stand off. I raged and hurt and raged some more. I didn't hear big booming voices, couldn't point to an epiphany moment, but somehow in the midst of it all, I came home okay again.

My husband and I have been separated for six months. I have said little because we have not told the children, but Rob has decided to pursue a divorce next year. He is being very gracious concerning the finances so I will be able to stay home and home school until our children graduate high school, and our relationship remains amicable and focused on co-parenting the children.

The children have ups and downs. Anna has been amazing throughout the holidays. She has missed my mom horribly, but she has found great joy anyway. After Thanksgiving, she said, "Thanksgiving was wonderful, and I believe Christmas will be, too. I don't know what will happen next year, but I refuse to let it steal the good stuff from these holidays." If only ALL of us could live so wholly in the present...

As for me, the last two weeks of Christmas preparation has found me in tears again. I miss Mom horribly, and it is a different thing not having parents. I still love having the family here, but it was hard knowing that is even changing. My brother plans to take a trip next year. Rob is embarking on a life without me, and I don't know where the children will be. Christmas as I have known it for my whole life is no longer, and that has been very painful.

However, I have to say despite the pain--and trust me, I've hurt more deeply and wholly than I ever could have imagined--I am also hopeful and peaceful again. I still believe God is doing great things. I believe the children and I will flourish, and I am excited to see what the Lord does in 2011. It will be different, but I trust it will be the Canaan in contrast to Egypt kind of different, and it will be wonderful.

Please keep all of us in your prayers as we need them desperately. For those who have been praying for us, I truly cannot express the gratitude I hold in my heart for your love and kindness for my family and myself. We surely would have drown had we not been held up by others in prayer and deed. Thank you most sincerely for holding us before the Father.

I don't know if I will visit this blog again, but if you want to visit me some more, please come by my new blog and make yourself at home. Chat with me some and let me know how your heart and life are. You bless me greatly. If I can hold you up in prayer or with kind words, please feel free to share with me. I will gladly talk to Daddy and intercede on your behalf.

God bless and keep you.
May He gird you round about with His Presence and His passion.
May He be known by you more deeply daily,
...and when you are in the desert as we have been, may you always find the new way He is creating and be refreshed by the new springs He provides and the courage to believe His promises are still solid.

Most humbly His,

Michael W. Smith - Healing Rain

I signed this song for Project Dance in New York a few years ago. It was in the low 50s, raining buckets...utterly miserable...and the street and sidewalks around Time Square were packed with people standing, watching the concert, hearing and seeing the powerful Truth of Jesus.

It was one of the most powerful moments of my life.

Dear God, please do what is necessary in me that I would always be a place where Your healing rain may fall...may soak the dry hearts, including my own...

I'm not afraid...of the healing rain.

Monday, December 27, 2010

When I Look in the Mirror, I See John Wayne

My Facebook avatar is John Wayne. Today a few folks asked why. Below is my answer.

John Wayne: I started to be sassy and say I have a leather fetish, but's not just the picture. It's the statement--"Courage is being scared to death--but saddling up anyway." 2010 has been a year when I learned a lot about what I am capable of...both good and bad...and it has required more determination and courage than I thought I had...

...2011 holds further changes that will push me further, demand more, and require faith I can only trust I have. I don't have the luxury of being weak or a wimp. Courage is a matter how I feel, no matter how I fear.

Courage with the core character to do the right thing, to make the right decisions, to consider others' welfare and my responsibility to them...even when I appear questionable to me or essential to traverse what lies ahead...

...and instead of simply having vague metaphors or commonly used verses, I have chosen a clear picture of what that means. I have chosen a picture of what it means to saddle up anyway, even when I'm scared to death...

I have chosen to be someone who does the right thing...not because it is the easy thing...but because it's the right thing.

And right now, to me, that looks like John Wayne.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


"PURPOSE is more than knowing one is loved.
It is knowing the power one imparts
through loving with word and ACTION.
It is knowing one is not here to simply get...
but has something valuable to GIVE....
and is COURAGEOUS enough to do so."
--Jerri Kelley Phillips

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Alive and Dreaming

"Be a dreamer. If you don't know how to dream, you're dead." -- Jim Valvano

Six months.

What feels like a lifetime only started six months ago.

I have spent much of the last few days looking back over those six months, trying to make sense of the choices and the chaos, trying to understand the losses.

I have spent much of the last few days looking back over 20 years that brought me to the point of the last six months, trying to identify the causes, trying to figure out what could have been done differently.

I've spent a lot of time looking at a landscape that screams loss and ruin. Carnage of dreams and hopes lie scattered everywhere. Pieces of broken hearts lie scattered.

And my chest hurts, and the tears fall, and I force myself out of bed because the weight of what has fallen apart is too heavy to carry. Isn't one supposed to sleep when it is dark? When one is in the dark and isn't sure what way is forward, isn't best to not move at all?

Is it really that dark? Is it so dark that paralysis is the answer?

Or is it only dark enough to say that one time is over but another is coming? Is it only dark enough that one can dream well?

Dream of a home filled with laughter, of hearts filled with joy, of feeling purposeful again.

Dream that someone's life is better because I'm here, that someone's day is better because I am part of it, that someone's pain is lessened because I infuse some bit of love.

Dream that a day will come when I start the day with anticipation, that I will walk out my door on an adventure, that breathing will feel normal again.

Is it so dark as to sleep so deeply that hope's presence cannot be felt? That dreams are so easily forgotten? That belief in the morning is forgotten? That life should seem to stop because so much of what filled life is not anymore?


It is not so dark that death should overcome, but only dark enough to allow one's mind to forget the previous time and present circumstances...and to dream...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hardcore Faith

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."

This sounds so "nice" and "pretty".
I don't need "nice" and "pretty" faith.

I need hardcore, withstand the onslaught faith,
the kind that keeps me solid when
I'm standing in front of an avalanche barreling at me,
knowing I can do nothing in my own power to stop it,
and trusting God is going to make it go around me in some way
--or dig me out safely--
because He said next week He has something for me to do.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Christmas Story: Still Being Written

The following is a family letter I sent out earlier this week. At the encouragement of some friends, I am sharing it with you.

May it offer hope and encouragement for the hard places of your story, and may you always remember the story that started in a manger didn't end on a cross but is still being written in you.

Blessings for your still-being-written story.....

The Christmas Story: Still Being Written

It is our family tradition to put the Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving. As you can imagine, this year was a bit odd with the separation, but we found a way to make it work.

Since Rob and I met in 1988, we have bought Christmas ornaments and personalized them. Last year we put up a larger tree and covered it with personal ornaments. This year there was much debate about what to do about ornaments for the tree. Ultimately, I opted to get personal ones for the children and myself. Anna picked out a very blingy square that is the perfect princess stuff. Robert picked out a heart because sometimes he really needs to know he is loved, and Anna picked out mine. She picked out one with a palm tree, because I’ve grown very tired of hearing people tell me to put on the big girl panties. She said when the big girl panties rip, it’s time to put on the swimsuit and head to the beach.

I love that girl.

So, we took our pictures, fixed our ornaments, and were ready to do the tree.

That morning I was drinking coffee and thinking in the quiet of the house. The children were with Rob, and he was going to drop them over later. He asked that his ornaments or the ornaments we share not be put on the tree. I had a problem with that because those ornaments are our story. We put them on the tree, talk about that year, and relive the story of precious moments and precious people. I love the story, and yes, it is Rob’s and my story, and yes, this is part of our story that is painful beyond words, but, it is also the children’s story. And they need to know their story is amazing. Christmas is a story of life, and while our story has brought us here, it is the story that has also given us two incredibly amazing children. Yes, this is a painful place in their story, but they need to know that even stories with painful places, like teenage girls pregnant out of marriage who give birth to a baby in a barn, have amazing impact. They need to know the story is so small in comparison to the power of the lives that come out of it. They need to know their story is amazing, their lives are amazing…THEY are amazing, and it’s not the hard places in the story that determine the impact. It’s how it ends, and they have the power to make it a good ending…no matter where it is now.

So, I texted Rob and told him the story is still solid, the lives are still amazing, and he needed an ornament.

Later that afternoon, he and the children arrived ready to put up a tree…ornament in hand…story still being written…

The first job is to actually put up the tree. That is Rob’s job.

Looking sort of ugly right now, but with some help….

That blue spot by Rob’s elbow is Anna, and the blur on the left is Robert.

My job is to sit in the recliner, be the cheerleader, and take pictures.

Told you it would look nice.

The first ornament on the tree is usually the one Rob and I picked out from our first Christmas together. This year, though, Anna had a special ornament. She picked up this lovely cardinal in honor of Mom, and she put it on the tree first.

When all the personal ornaments are done, we put the new ones on one at a time.

Robert is a bit short to lean over the tree from a chair or ladder, so Rob gave him some help.

Anna is a perfect height this year.

By the time Jerri got around to putting up hers, the tree was nearly full.

Next Rob puts his on the tree.

Finally, Rob reaches really high, cuts a hole out of the ceiling, and puts the star on top of the tree.

Then we do a light check….and find out they don’t all work because the Enterprise isn’t plugged in correctly.

But once it is fixed….

It’s beautiful.

And the story…with all the light and shadows, laughter and pain…is too…

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Speaking Into the Void

It has been a painful week of hearing how completely not worth the effort the children and I are, and yes, we can choose not to hear those voices, but they've been coming fast and furious, so it has been hard to silence them all.

Both yesterday morning and this morning I have spent a lot of time praying about restoration and "reinstatement" by people who matter as counter-voices to the others. I specifically asked God for restoration spoken over and to the children and myself by people we love and admire.

Yesterday morning was a huge one for me by Christian Brothers Automotive in the Mid-Cities. I had to take my van in for what I thought was a simple maintenance issue. There had been a miscommunication about the cost, and I was sure I had heard correctly. The conversation about the price was intense, but in the end, the manager was willing to accept my understanding of the cost...even though it meant a financial loss for him. However, because God loves to work in wild ways, He graciously showed me where I had actually been the one wrong, so I called the manager and asked for pay the correct amount. The manager had been praying as well, and he said, "Mrs. Phillips, you are a great customer and have been for a long time. YOU ARE VALUABLE TO US, AND I WANT TO BLESS YOU. Let me pick up the cost."

In the world, it was a good business move. In the spiritual, it was God speaking into the void, calling forth the blessing, restoring value.

But the you-aren't-worth-my-effort voices were still really loud, especially to the children.

Yesterday Anna couldn't find her phone. Last night, she found it...under her the bottom of the washing machine. She was sure I'd be upset. No. Those thing happen. With the car repairs, I knew I couldn't replace her phone right now, but I wasn't upset. Then, I did the oddest thing for me. Usually, I'd have the attitude that being without a phone won't kill her and it's part of learning responsibility, but not last night. Last night I texted some friends asking if they might have an old phone with text abilities they weren't using.

The replies started within minutes. The resounding answer--no.

I told her we would dry the phone and hope for the best. My friend Lisa sent the suggestion of rice in a bag, so we were going to try that today.

This morning I woke up and felt the loss of people who have screamed by their attitudes and actions that we are not worth fighting for...that I am not worth fighting for. That we are not valuable enough to be a priority, and when those hit, I feel as though my heart is being ripped out. Tears fall hot, and I ache all over.

Then my phone beeped.

My neighbor was texting. "Haven't see the van for a few days. Haven't heard from you. You okay?"

Van's in the shop. Have nothing to say.

Am I okay? No. I hurt more than I have words for, and I can't seem to come out of it. I feel like I'm drowning in the pain and rejection, and I feel like it'll never be okay again.

I didn't punch in the last part, but I thought it...felt it.

Then the phone beeped again.

"Did you find a phone for Anna?" Raeetta asked.


"I have one. I'll bring it today, or you can meet me somewhere."

I started to laugh.

I don't know where Rae got the phone. Well, yes, I do. From God who doesn't make invaluable things, and the Father who speaks into voids and restores value and hope.

I haven't seen the phone yet, but I have a feeling it will be even nicer than mine.

And as I write this, the symbolism isn't lost on me. Anna's phone,  one set of voices, was washed and silenced so He could give a new phone, a better set of voices...voices that do not create voids but come forth despite them, sometimes right out of them...that speak and create what is missing, what is so fill the voids...and the restore lives, to build create the new thing and restore what He already made...

*One of the spiritual ways to counteract curses, which is when someone says or "declares" something about you that is against God's Word about you, is to have Truth spoken over you, especially by someone "in the office" or position of the person cursing you. For instance, a father figure can bless a young man or woman and restore the identity that was cursed by a father or other authority figure. In our cases, it was a male authority figure and a vital adult presence in Anna's life.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's Not That Bad, and It's Getting Even Better

This morning I actually came out of hiding to make a phone call. :-)  The person on the other end of the phone was surprised not only by the call but by my upbeat tone.

"I thought you had become depressed. I was worried."

I laughed. It seems despite my assurances throughout the last five months that the children and I are doing well, they get lost in the "gloomier" posts. I didn't realize. She suggested a post in the "upbeat" times would be good.

She's a smart lady.

So, let me take a few illegal lines (pinched nerve in my shoulder means computer use is forbidden) to let you know that it's not that bad.

If you had been hanging out with us the first three months after Rob moved out, you would have seen the positive direction in which we were moving. Anna started her drama class. Both children started counseling. Robert's counselor finally looked at me and said, "He's doing great. I don't think we need to work on this anymore. If you see a problem, call, but otherwise, he's good."

And he was. We all were.

In the midst of that, I started a CERT class. CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Training. It trains citizens as volunteers to back up major response groups like the police, fire, and EMTs in the case of a large emergency. I LOVED it. Rob had the children anyway, so I went to class for ten Monday nights. I met some new friends, learned a lot about emergency response, found out I really enjoy the search part of search and rescue, and became more fascinated with the medical treatment of injuries in the field. In fact, if all works out, I will be taking a EMR class this spring, which will certify me as a First Responder in the case of a medical emergency. I will basically have all the privileges of an EMT. From there, I can take some other certifications and ultimately take the classes and train to be a paramedic. I don't know if that is what I want to do, but we'll see.

Life was a rollercoaster, and we had some really hard days, and we cried hard, but really, we were okay.

Then November 1, my uncle with whom I had lived in college was found dead. I was not prepared for the effects. While I don't know if I ever felt hopeless, I had reached my mental and emotional wall. I didn't want to check out of life. I wasn't suicidal. I didn't think it was never going to get better. I did, however, want a break. I just wanted to lie in bed, cry really hard--or not, and not have to be or do for anyone. I didn't want to have to pull it together for anyone. I didn't want to think of positive motion. I didn't want to fix meals. I didn't want to smile and pretend all was well. I wanted to simply be left alone to breathe because that felt like it took all the energy I had.

For the next two weeks I struggled, and I knew it. I knew I was not where I had been, and I tried to be there. I tried to simply choose to be there. Surely, enough resolve would get me back there. It didn't. I felt like I couldn't think clearly. My whole goal became making three meals a day for the children because that is all I felt I could do. I made contact with at least one friend everyday, and honestly, I kept expecting one of them to say, "Okay, you are not alright anymore." None of them did. Now I understand why.

Those two weeks were not just random dreariness. They were angry weeks. They were packed with anger, rage, and hurt. God and I had some really ugly conversations. I screamed. I cried. Some would call it a pity party. Some call it plagiarizing Job. I call it....really....ugly.

The reality is healing can be really ugly. Real, deep, honest healing does not happen unless all the puss and infection comes out. I have tried so hard to be constant and stable through this that I have hedged the puss and infection. Finally, circumstances cut deep enough to reach the ick, and it erupted out.

While I was trying to pull it together and be "acceptable", my friends recognized this as a good thing and let it erupt...even when it erupted on them.

In the midst of this, my friend John, who is a former Marine and speaks in language I understand, gave me simple but truly sage advice. He said, "You are where you need to be. You know where you need to go. You may not know exactly what it looks like yet, but you know two vital things: where you were and where you are. From those two things, you can figure out the direction you need to go. Now, keep marching."

So I did. I marched right to Arkansas.

I left the Sunday before Thanksgiving on a trip that was supposed to keep me from being home on Thanksgiving. Really, I didn't want to go, but circumstances made it so I needed to give Rob and the kids the house for a few days. God covered the expenses, and in ways that could never been written off as coincidental (because I would have done that to keep from going), God told me to go to Arkansas.

I can't tell you what really happened while I was there. I yelled some more. I pointed my finger, asked questions, and accused...and hiked...and tried to listen.

And what I heard was not an audible voice. What I heard was different.

What I heard was the voice concern in one of the hikers who passed me when she asked if I was hiking alone. Yes. Yes, I was. The group of five and I walked along together awhile, but the extra three miles I had already done was taking its toll, and I couldn't keep up. They walked ahead, but every so often, I'd go over a hill or come round a bend, and there they would be waiting to check on me. I'd wave. They'd wave, and they'd move on...until I was too far behind, and they'd wait again.

What I heard was the strangeness of making a mistake and hiking 3 extra miles, making a 7.5 mile trek instead of 4.5, but ending in the same amount of time the 4.5 miles should have been.

I heard the beautiful accents of the couple with the map that were coming up the hill as I was preparing to turn around because I was sure I was lost again because it was taking longer than I had expected. Let him check his map. Hmmm....Nope. I'm headed the right direction. Just keep going.

John's words reverberated in my head. "Just keep marching."

And I did.

Until I met a sweet young lady who was far better prepared that day than I. My fanny pack and water were sitting in the car because I was only going a quarter of a mile, but my short trip had taken a long turn, and I was getting thirsty. The young lady and I chatted about the desinations ahead, and when done, I told her to have a blessed day and started to walk on, silently wishing for my water that sat in the car. The sound of her voice made me stop and turn. Did I want water? She held an un-opened bottle in her hand. She wasn't going to use it because she was nearly done. Did I want it? I didn't cry. Didn't even sniffle. Just smiled big, took the water, and blessed her again...aloud and in my heart.

And although I was sure my heart was full from the water, the children at the cave filled it further, overflowing it with their smiles and questions. What about this? And can I that? I answered what I could, but most of the time, I didn't know.

Once I stared at a carving on the wall made by the dripping water, and a small boy (my favorite one) stood and stared intently with me. Finally, he asked, "What do you see?"

I giggled. "I just think it is beautiful."

He stared a moment longer and nodded. "Oh. It's just beautiful." He nodded again and shrugged. It was just a wall, but it was okay. Did I want to sit by him on the rock anyway? Yes, I did.

And we sat...looking around at the immensity of the cave around us, the amazing work of water and God...and breathed.

When they left, I was still breathing...and smiling...and being filled.

There was no booming Voice, and yet, something spoke to me...deep.

By the time I returned home, I was ready to talk about the future, ask forgiveness for things I had done that led out marriage here, to see if there is a way out of where we are...and to be okay if there isn't.

I'm okay.

And once again, we are moving forward.

Anna is loving drama, and we'll continue that. Maybe consider some more auditions. I hope so anyway. I'm looking at some activity options for Robert and have been in conversation with some different people and groups. I'm looking at some out-of-the-house class options, so the children have outside friends and I do as well.

I hope to be taking my medical class this spring, and my CERT group is having a holiday CERT Jeopardy party in a few weeks I'll attend. We do some kind of training each month, so I get to see friends then, too. I had hoped to go to Haiti with a medical team this summer, but the focus of the trip has shifted, so I don't expect to go. However, I am considering going back to school if it works with what is best for the children.

And there are my "commune" friends, the folks tight as family that live within three houses of us, and the one that drives in from Waco and invites me to dinner or go shopping. Target is so much more fun with a friend. And friends who are a phone call away for coffee, help getting the car to the mechanic, or a long walk.

And don't worry. I am not ignoring myself. I know if the children are going to reach the other side, I have to get there, too. It's kind of strange being "Jerri" and not "Rob's wife". It's a million miles outside my comfort zone, but it's not bad. Just different. Like I said in my previous post: it's all new...all different..and it's all good.

The weekends when the kids are gone are still hard because I don't know how to fill them yet. I'm not one to sit on my butt and watch TV, and I can only read so much. I'm a get out and do something person, so I'm looking at stuff to do. I am considering joining Habitat for Humanity when my shoulder heals, and I found a wilderness rescue training program that I would love to do. And, there is a rock climbing gym in Arlington that has ladies' night on Monday when Rob has the children and I no longer have class.

So, don't worry. I am not languishing in depression or grief. None of us are. On the contrary, I see great things happening in our family despite the wildness of the last few months. I know great things are to come. The kids are going to be great, and so am I. In fact, we are pretty crazy good already, and it's getting even better.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

All New...All Different...All Good

I rolled over and looked at the clock. 7:30 am.

Four hours for the turkey to cook.

Sigh. I had time. In fact, I had time to cook the turkey, cook the cornbread and biscuits, crumble them up, and cook the dressing, fix potatoes, AND make the ham...provided I could borrow someone's oven for a bit.

Did I want to?

Words from Leslie's* text came to mind:
"Well, it's all new really, isn't it? New to being a fabulous single mom. New to being the matriarch of the family. New to having a sister."
It's all new really, isn't it?

All new...

Not all over...or all broken...or all...horribly sad...

...but all new...

All full of promise...all full of potential...

Yeah, I wanted to make turkey. I wanted to make the ham and potatoes and dressing and rolls. I wanted to make the day great for my family...because that is who I am...a fabulous single mom...the matriarch of the family who sets the tone...who dishes out dinner and dreams and trust that new isn't bad...just different...and it's good.

Yes, that is what I wanted...even if I had to borrow someone else's oven to have everything ready to feed my family...

It really is all new, isn't it? 

Yes, it's all new...all different...and it's all good.

The Dressing
The hardest part of this Thanksgiving for me was Mom's dressing.
She would walk in door, and the smell of sage and onions would
fill the house. She would sit the pan down and dole out big hugs.
I miss her...the dressing...and the hugs.
Time to step with presence, the food, and the love.
I can do this.

Wonder Boy drooling over the "traditional" Thanksgiving meal of
ham, turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, and cranberry sauce.

Rob joined the children and me for dinner.
We ate too much, watched Thanksgiving football, and played family games.
This morning Anna crawled in bed with me and said joyfully,
"Mom, this is going to be the best day ever."
How did she know?

*Leslie is one of my mom's "adopted" daughters. She worked with Mom at H&R Block. They were very close. I had heard about her for a long time. Mom thought the world of her. However, I had never met her. When Mom found out she had cancer, she said, "You need to get to know Leslie. You'll need her. You'll need each other." Mom knew. I'm thankful she did...and I'm so thankful for my new sister, Leslie.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful Despite the Empty Places

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. This may be the first time I actually dread Thanksgiving. Honestly, I'd eat Fuddrucker's, watch football, and never get out of my pajamas. I would make it as UN-Thanksgiving-ish as possible because if it isn't Thanksgiving then it isn't a day when my folks should be here...but aren't.

And, yes, I've been told at some point I need to face their being gone, and I've heard the theory that I need to include them by setting places for them at the table, talking about memories, and all that. I have tried to respond with a smile, but sometimes I've been really honest and said, "Believe me, I know they are gone, and an empty chair at the table does nothing for me but make it hard to breathe because it only magnifies who ISN'T there."

This is the first year both of them are gone, and even though Dad passed on 7 1/2 years ago, Mom's passing makes it feel like they've both just gone, and once again I can smell Dad's pipe and Mom's perfume and feel Dad's stiff hug and Mom's tight one, and the hole is huge. And honestly, the idea of a family dinner makes my heart ache and my stomach churn.

However, my children want something that resembles "traditional" so they can feel like their whole world has not collapsed around them, so we are having a dinner and giving thanks...because despite the empty chairs, we have much for which to be thankful. In fact, it is the things for which I give thanks that make the empty chairs so hard.

For instance, I give thanks for:
1. My mom's amazing food. She was a great cook. I loved her fried chicken and her pea salad, and her salmon patties are still one of my favorite comfort foods.
2. The matching outfits she made at Easter. My poor dad and brother wearing the pink shirts with tiny roses buds that matched the dresses Mom and I wore. Dad never griped. I admire him for that. :-)
3. Mom's hugs. If you ever had one, you know.
4. Dad taking me hunting with him. One of my favorite memories.
5. Dad taking us to church on Sundays.
6. Dad putting up a basketball goal where I could practice.
7. Hot coffee on cool morings with Dad on the steps, just talking.
8. Mom choosing to camp with us.
9. The smell of a good pipe tobacco.
10. Long talks about the Bible.
11. A sewing machine of my own.
12. 55 YARDS of ruffles on my wedding gown.
13. Four bridesmaids dresses...even when one of the bridesmaids was "difficult"
14. Some of the wildest games of 42 I've ever played
15. Fishing
16. Riding in the back of a pickup
17. Trips to pick me up at school after UIL or sports...especially when money was tight
18. For an 15 extra years...
19. For a merciful 2 months...
20. For parents that lived in a way that leave us with laughter and tears...wishing for one more cup of more game of 42...the sound of their laughter...the feel of their hugs...gratitude for what they did right...and the desire to do better than they did...

Dear God, for the time that I had...for the memories you've allowed...thank you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Right Answer

While the children are gone, I'm reviewing Man Without a Face. Nearly twenty years ago, it was one of my favorite movies. I haven't watched it in years. The specifics of the plot have escaped my memory, but one particular scene has stuck in my mind. In fact, that one scene is why I want the children to watch it. Because I believe if they understand and take that one scene to heart, it can be a road to freedom for the entirity of their lives.

The scene is near the end of the movie. McLeod has been accused of abusing the boy, and the boy has doubts...and questions.

How could someone for whom he cared so much, whom he trusted so deeply, be capable of inflicting such pain? Surely he couldn't...but maybe he could...If only he would say he didn't, but he won't.

Instead, he says, "Look at the evidence. Look at what you've seen of me. What you've seen me do. How you've seen me act. What have I ever done to make you think I am capable of that?"

It's a powerful scene.

The boy yelling, "If you'll just tell me..."

The friend yelling back, "I did tell you...everyday. There's no cheating on this test. You have to decide the answer. All the information, all the knowledge has been given you. YOU have to answer."

Today, I find myself the boy...and the friend.

Earlier this week I was questioned. My character was questioned. My heart was questioned.

The very core of me was questioned..and I thought the person knew.

And I keep thinking surely deep down the person knows...but in truth, what the person knows is that others have lied, that others have inflicted pain, that others were not who they said they were. Now, I'm suspect, too.

And while I understand the pain, I also want to say, "But I told you...everyday. I have given you the information. You have the knowledge. You have the answer. How did you come up with that one? Or is your answer about me at all? Because it doesn't feel like it is. I don't feel like I deserve that answer, and I feel like you have judged me, not on my merit, but on someone else's sins. How can I ever overcome that, especially if that is all you choose to see?"

And I am questioning.

I am questioning my ability to know someone based on personal merit and not on other people's sins. I am questioning my ability to see past my pain, past my anger, past my broken trust, beyond my bias to another's heart.

I am praying.

I am praying for courage to see the truth, to trust even when it is terrifying, even when it puts my heart at risk.

I am praying not to poison my present with the pain of the past.

And when someone stands before me and says, "But I told you everyday...You have the knowledge and the information...You have the answer..."

I pray I have courage to have the right one.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Actually Look

It's nearly 4:30 am, and I am awake because I feel sick. I am sure the hotdogs and chips for dinner have collided with all the sinus sludge from crying to create this gastrointestinal turfwar. While my stomach rolls with the mess, my body goes right on being content and functioning fine because the reality is I'm not sick. I just feel sick.

For a few weeks now, I have struggled with feeling spiritually sick. Symptoms include:
-feeling abandoned
-feeling like God isn't speaking
-feeling like I'm in events and decisions of life by myself and God is just waiting to see if I sink or swim
-feeling like He sees me as a failure

That is how I have felt.

The reality is sometimes God is right in front of me, speaking loud and clear, and I miss Him because I've got my eyes closed.

This week my friends Thomas and Amelia dropped by the rollercoaster. She waved and told me she loved me as I whizzed by. Thomas, though, crawled up here with me and said, "Maybe you can control the rollercoaster by simply leaning a little more in a given direction." Okay. That isn't exactly what he said. What he said was:

"I would like to suggest that you look for the actual grace God sends from people."

Look for the actual grace God sends...

Open your eyes to see what God sends you. Actively see the grace in people...the grace of people.

Yes, Thomas, the grace of people.

Because while I feel alone in my cave, there are those whose hearts God has kept for my family and me. There are those who are praying daily. There are those who still believe in the midst of this mess I have something to say that might help someone. There are those who have not been offended by the raw honesty of my writing...or my silence.

Isn't that grace?

Isn't grace mint chocolate chip cookies because it is all my sweet friend knows to do? Isn't grace my friend who sits phone in hand to communicate via texts because I don't trust my voice to call? Isn't grace the friend who calls every few days, even when I simply reply by text, "I'm fine, just not very talkative"? Isn't grace the friend who treads gently to crawl up on the rollercoaster and say, "Can I make a suggestion? And by the way, we love you and pray for you everyday"?

"Look for the actual grace God sends from people."

Don't get blinded by how you feel. Look for the actual grace God sends...Actually look for God...

I'll let you know what I find, and don't be surprised if I actually have a lot to tell.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Find Me Here

Dear God, find me here... the midst of my shattered dreams. My heart feels broken beyond repair, and all I can see is what isn't. All I see is what is lost.

Give me a vision for where I am going because I don't know.

Oh, God, if you don't speak, I have nothing. If you don't give me strength, I'm going to drown.

I am desperate, and you are silent, and I don't understand.

If you do not abandon me, then how do I not see you? How do I not hear you? Dear God, if you are speaking, speak loud enough for me to hear you over my questions and pain. And if you are being quiet, give me faith to wait...until I hear and know...

...Until you find

The Rollercoaster from Hell

That is what I feel like I'm on.

Most days are fine. Then I get hit with a week like last week, and I cry almost everyday. Next comes a day like yesterday when I finally decide it is pointless to even get out of bed. So I lie in bed and pick a fight with a friend, close down my Facebook account again, and decide it's stupid to try to be a writer at all because...really? What of any value do I have to say anyway?

This morning I wake up before 6:00 am...and smile. My head is clear. Priorities are obvious. Goals and strategies are simple. I have my prayer time, read my Bible, and am sure I hear God speak. The day is going to be wonderful. I know it.

When I get time, I call my friend to apologize and request a truce. We are fine.

I head out into the day to enjoy hanging with my children.

I love contentment, peace, and being settled.

And then there was the post yesterday...

I cringe. 

Maybe I should just erase it. Pretend it never happened. Ugh. There are comments about it in my email box. Great. How do I explain the horrible darkness of yesterday and the peace of today?

Simple. I'm on the rollercoaster from hell.

This afternoon I saw the chocolate mint chips that Amelia dropped by when she brought me cookies a month ago, and I smiled because she remembered they are my favorite.

Debra texted that she thought of me when she read Psalm 30, and I sighed out, "Thank you, God, that she prays for us."

Lisa responded to a text and asked me how I am, and I could feel her hugs. They felt wonderful.

Rae called, and I enjoyed chatting with her instead of dreading picking up the phone.

That was today. Did I mention it was wonderful?

Who knows about tomorrow?

I don't know how many people have called, emailed, or texted that they are here for me if I want to talk, but really, I don't know what to say because whatever we talk about is their reality for where I am and where my family or marriage is.

If I'm in a good mood, Rob and I are talking nicely, and the kids are having a great day, they assume life is great and there could be a good possibility of reconciliation. One person asked simply, "Well, if you can talk nicely, then why hasn't he moved home?" If only it were so simple.

On the other hand, if Rob has gotten on my nerves and I say something negative or the kids are struggling that day or I'm just in tears, that is the reality that person has. It looks like we are coming apart at the seams, and that is the reality they take with them when we get off the phone. While an hour later, all may be fine and settled here, for that person, the chaos is still there, or vice versa.

And while I am trying to wade through rejection aftermath, I can be having a fine morning, someone I admire or care for can say something I perceive as critical, and I'm in tears. One day I was in the store doing some shopping, bebopping along, great day, and then I smelled it. Mom's perfume. Suddenly, I couldn't breathe. I thought I was just going to hit my knees right there. Sometimes I can be having a great day, but the kids have a rough day, and by the time I go to bed, I feel defeated, sad, and angry.

It also works the other way. One day Anna and I were both sad and boohoo-y, and we were talking about Mom, and she just said, "So do you think we'll miss all four pies she always brought for Thanksgiving or just the slice we ate from each one." I burst out laughing. We laughed hard for the next half hour or more. When we were done, we were fine. I've been furious at something Rob has done, found something that brought back a good memory, and shaazam!, all is fine again. Or sometimes, I've been struggling to remain settled or constant, and one of the children will bring a book, cuddle up on the big bed, and ask me to read. We read until we are okay, and we really are okay.

One of the reasons I deactivated my Facebook accounts is because I hate the rollercoaster, and I know it spills into public arenas of my life. Sometimes I can't help that. Last night I went to my CERT graduation, and instead of chatting with everyone, I kept to my children and brother. It wasn't like me, and today I received an email asking about it. What was I supposed to say? "Uh, yeah, yesterday stunk. Basically, my mental and emotionally world caved in around me, and I cried all day. No worries." I hate being seen like that. I simply replied, "Hard day yesterday. No, I wasn't my usual self, but I'm better today. Thank you for asking."

When I sent it, I sort of cringed because I expected the usual reponse asking if there is anything the person can do. If so, I don't know what it is. Just accept yesterday as a blip on the radar, and let's move on.

And really, I think that is what I would ask for most. I would ask people to listen quietly during the hard days, don't ask me how you can help, and for goodness sake!, don't try to fix it or make me better. I'll get there, just have faith in me long enough to give me a chance to get my feet back under me. Realize that, yes, I have hard days, sometimes a hard week, but overall, it's a blip on the radar, and I may have hit a low spot, but the rollercoaster is still in motion, and who knows where I will be tomorrow? Or even in a few hours.

Or if you talk to me and we are laughing and all is fine, don't be shocked or ask, "What happened?" if I call you later that day in sobbing tears, overwhelmed, and feeling like I'm drowning. As for the "What happened?", life.

It's not what happened in the last few hours or minutes. It's what has happened in the last six months that simply got touched in a painful way, and I may not want to explain it because, honestly, it may sound dumb in contrast to the emotional impact, and really, I don't want to feel dumb or feel I need to explain why I put on the family ring Dad gave Mom as a "going away" gift, wore it most of the day with no problem, then looked down at it, and suddenly began to sob. Really? You're going to understand that? Or can you simply understand that I miss my parents? I figure you can understand the latter better, so that is what I'm going to tell you...while I hold that ring, think of my dad, mom, and messed up marriage, and cry.

The fact is if I am crying that hard or feel that sad, I know you expect it to be from something of equal traumatic definition...and it is. It's just that the trauma didn't happen today. It's just that something happened today that punched a hole through to the pain, and it came screaming out. And usually that something isn't very big, and when I hear the silence on the other end of the phone or hear the, "And?", I know you don't see it as big enough to warrant this kind of reaction.

I understand that. I have been where you are. I still am. Sometimes those "you aren't serious" type things set the children off, and I have to remind myself that this is not about my interpretation of the event or the trigger. It's theirs. I may not care about a particular bead, but if that is the one that Anna made Grandma's necklace out of last Christmas, it's a huge deal because Anna doesn't need to make anything this year, and in the midst of that loss, a bead becomes an emotional sink hole.

And the rollercoaster takes a downturn.

Aren't you glad you aren't on it? Thought you might be. Don't feel bad. I wish we weren't on it either, but we are. Someday, when it all settled down, maybe I'll tell you about, but then, maybe I won't...unless of course, you find yourself here. And if you do, feel free to call. I won't lie. I don't know or understand what it is like for you, but I give you my word, I'll do my best to wave at you and scream a word of encouragement as you go by because I know that's all anyone can do--and it's really what you need most--when you are on the rollercoaster from hell.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Yesterday was hell on wheels. I have no other description that aptly describes it. "Hard" doesn't touch it. It was truly an emotional and mental day made in hell.

In the midst of the emotional and mental chaos, a friend and I tossed a few sharp darts at each other, and when the "how dare you's", "you have no clue's", and "let me tell you a few things" were done, I felt pretty good about life, how I am doing as an individual, and how we are doing as a family. Defending the ground I have helped me realize how much progress we have made.

But while the darts were flying and the emotions and doubts were raging, I sat in my shower floor while hot water pounded down, and I cried.

I don't know which was fatter, the hot drops of water falling from the shower or the hot tears falling from my eyes.

All I knew--and know--is the feeling of failure that comes when nothing I do is right and everything I do is wrong, and yesterday, everything I did was wrong.

If I left the children to go for a walk, I should have been home.
If I chose not to leave the children, I was suffocating them and needed to let them breathe.
If I took a class I enjoyed, I should put the kids first and be with them.
If I chose not to do something for me, I wasn't taking care of myself.
If I went on a trip, I was neglecting the kids.
If I didn't, I was controlled by guilt and needed to get over it.

NOTHING was right. NOTHING was good enough. NOTHING!

So finally that is what I chose: nothing.

Nothing to say. Nothing to share. Nothing to let people give their opinions on. Nothing... find out what a failure I am find out how inadequate I am hear all the ways the details don't line up with others' opinions run through the filtered experiences, feelings, and brokenness of others.

I have amazing friends. Even the people that I have struggled with the last six months are amazing. They are also filtered.

We all are.

And the fact is no matter how much love, compassion, or good intention fills our hearts, our humanness is filled with our interpretation.

People interpret my marital separation depending on their background, religious beliefs, or own marriage experience. People interpret my mom's death and my response according to loss of loved ones in their lives or how they responded...or the lack thereof.

The fact is most of these amazing people are strong Christians whose hearts are to serve and love God, and in turn, His people. Some have even been where I am at various times, and believe me, they know exactly what I need to do to get where I need to be, and if God had the same destination in mind for me that He had for them, we'd be fine. However, I'm finding that there is no cookie cutter plan.

In the Bible David took one road to kingship while Joseph took another, and Esther had a different one still. Peter was called to be a disciple from a fishing boat, and Paul was called from a religious mindset. All of them had one purpose: to glorify God. That is where the commonalities ended.

Life hasn't changed much in a few thousand years.

God is still blowing away boxes, doing things that seem insane, and taking us along for the ride. Those of us in the midst of it look like we are from some other world, and maybe we are.

Maybe I'm doing everything wrong in the eyes of people because only God knows what it will truly take to get to the other side of this whole and healed. Maybe I look crazy because the cracks in broken filters make the progress too fuzzy to see.

I don't know.

All I know is when I don't listen to the voices, I am at peace. I can identify goals, determine strategies to reach them, and move us forward. I feel good about the progress we are making, and I know we are moving toward healing, toward being whole, toward God's destination.

When I do listen to them, I end up a sobbing mess in the bottom of my shower wishing I had the option of not even getting out of bed...until I have to defend where I am and realize I like it. I like how we are doing. I like the joy we have. I like the connecting we are doing. I like the laughter that rings through the house. I like lying on the trampoline and staring at the stars.  I like...waking up each morning and knowing it's a great day and we are alright...and we will be alright.

This morning my friend said honestly, "I can't help you with this. I'm biased, and I can't see where you are in it." I smiled. I had noticed.

So we talked about other things, like the day's plans to go to the Science Museum, maybe head to Tyler to see the leaves, my need to do laundry because I have no clean socks. Before we got off the phone, I said, "Thank you."


"For being a great friend, a great sounding board, an amazing encourager, and a voice I can trust."

Because you know when it is best not to speak at all, and you are okay when I know it is best for me not to listen.

To me, that is a big deal, but then, maybe between friends, it's really nothing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

When There's Nothing

For the last five to six months, I have tried very hard to keep my head up, to smile a lot, to look on the bright side, to have vision of where we were going. I have tried to stay solid in my faith, to praise God anyway, and to believe for better things.

However, I must confess the warfare has taken its toll. Between the shelling from the enemy and the hits from "friendly fire", I am tired. Frankly, I have never felt so abandoned in my life. I have never felt so much like I belonged no where. I have never felt like so much of a failure. And I have never hurt so badly.

Of course, we pious Christians like to remind those who aren't quite where we are that if they aren't as close to God as they used to be, it's not God that moved. Well, obviously I've messed up enough to put me completely off His charts.

And if I am that far away, then it is no longer sensible for me to write a blog hoping to point others to Him. I have nothing to offer. I do not know if I will remove this blog or leave it up with hopes that it still blesses people or that someday I will return to it. There are a lot of uncertainties.

But this I know:

Even with all my hurt and all my questions, I am convinced God is good. I am convinced He is loving. I am convinced His way is the best way. I know He is kind and merciful. I know Christ died for every sin, and I know forgiveness is found in His blood. A cruel, heartless, vindictive God could not love and give with voracious passion as the Father does. His passion and pursuit are beyond the human mind's ability to comprehend. He is God, and the wondrous things about Him never cease.

May you find Him in your seeking...


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In Depth at Arm's Length

A week or so ago I deactivated my FB account. I didn't go in depth in the reason. I didn't really know what to say. A lot of folks were very supportive. Some were very concerned. I am going to take a few minutes and explain what is happening around our home 1) to alleviate concerns, 2) to maybe give a picgture in to help folks who have never been here understand and offer aide and comfort to others they know that find themselves here, and 3) to hopefully encourage others where we are that there is Life, and He has you much closer than arm's length.

After Mom died October 2nd, we had the funeral on the 6th.
October 13th-- I was in the ER with chest pains. Several thousand dollars in test later, they thankfully determined it was an anxiety attack.
October 20th--I hopped a plane to Harrisburg, PA, for a conference.
October 23rd--three weeks from the time Mom died, I listened to one of my favorite bloggers talk about the Upside-Down Kingdom, being raw and honest and just what folks need to hear. I was honestly raw, but I didn't know if I had anything for people to hear.
October 24th--I returned home with the goal of stepping back into life where it had left off July 30th when Mom entered the hospital with stroke symptoms.
And I did.

I stepped right back into the shock of being separated, being a single parent, and figuring out how to build a life for the children and me...just the three of us.

And this time, it really was far more the three of us than it had been.

My brother and I talked, and we agreed we really were not up to celebrating Thanksgiving. My stepdad has imploded with his anger and doesn't speak to us unless it is a required business matter. The holidays loomed before me like a tsunami waiting to drown us. Both of my parents are gone. My brother won't be here, and Rob isn't here. Besides the children, I had no family with which to spend the holidays. It took about 48 hours for the wave of "alone" to pass over.

During those 48 hours, I cried A LOT. I barely ate because I felt like I was going to throw up.

I missed Mom horribly. Then the weather changed, and my emotions were drawn to the front porch of my parents' house where Dad and I sat and drank coffee on cool mornings. The feeling of "alone" hit even harder. And for a few days, I felt like I was drowning.

The weekend came and went, and Monday rolled around. I was feeling a bit anxious because my CERT class that I have enjoyed so much would be ending in a few weeks, and then I had nothing to do. I've loved this class. I've learned so much, and I've grown, but I love the people most. I look forward to them each week, and soon they would be gone. That left me a bit blue.

Then Stacey called. Uncle Buck had died in the night.

I just cried.

When Mom died, I was talking to God and said, "Now I know why you only gave us two parents. Because it would rip us apart to bury three."

But that is what had to be done. I didn't plan on going to the memorial, but I drove up to the funeral home. I couldn't handle the social visitation, but I visited. I talked. I thanked him. There was a lot to thank him for, and while I had tried to thank him over the years, I needed to tell him again...and I did.

Then I went home.

The next day I went to the graveside service, listened to a beautiful sermon, celebrated a wonderful man, and came home tired.

On Friday I made an appointment with my doctor for another evaluation to see if surgery to remove my gall bladder will be necessary.

And in the midst of those two weeks after returning from the conference, I worked to build a routine, to roll with emotions, to create unity among family that has seen each other so little. The children responded beautifully. We cleaned the house to "baseline", which is what the house should be before we go to bed each night. They rolled with the emotions, did their schoolwork, enjoyed activities, and talked.

We talk a lot.

And each day I spent about an hour lying on my bed with a child who simply wanted to connect, so we did.

Each night I went to bed tired. I didn't always sleep well, but I was tired.

During this time, my goal was (and still is) simple--create a stable environment for my children where they know they are safe, they are part of the solution, they can make a difference, and they are going to be okay.

We all needed to know WE ARE OKAY and WE WILL BE OKAY.

I needed to spend my time praying and pondering, analyzing where we were disconnected or struggling, and determining a plan to attack the gap, and it had to be done in such a way that the children stepped into it instead of being pushed or forced. They needed to be part of the healing process, too. We had to talk...A LOT.

I could not talk to them and talk on FB or email or phone or text. I refused to interact with anyone in any form that might affect my ability to think clearly or respond well to the children. I had a clear objective. Everything else was peripheral. Thus, I deactivated my account, and quite possibly will do so again. We are not through this yet. The holidays still loom ahead of us, and I still need to focus my attention on getting myself...the children...through.

I do not need escape. I need purposed relaxation and refuge, which I have been blessed to find. Last weekend was a tough weekend without the children, but my friends Chris, Shaleen, and Dena were fabulous about giving me a soft place to land, talk, and cry. And we all know that is temporary. Building a life takes time, and I am doing that one step at a time. I'm not there yet, but I will be. In the meantime, a place to not think and not have to be in charge...a place where someone else took care of me...was perfect. By the time Sunday came, I was charged and ready to go.

I tackled the garage. With help, I was able to organize one half of the garage and begin to dig into Mom's boutique full of clothes. To give you an idea, I've done 1-3 loads of clothes each day for the last three weeks I've been home. I'm not exaggerating. I had done 3 (over-)full loads of pants last week. Today, I did 5. I have at least 2 more to do tomorrow (JUST PANTS). We wash a load, hang them out for 12 hours or more until they no longer smell like cigarette smoke, and then we fold them and start over. We emptied around 20 large kitchen bags of clothes Sunday, not to include the 10 or so I had already done OR the 2 10-ft closets still on hangers lying over a large wooden trunk in my garage. And did I mention the other 70 or so pairs of shoes? We are around 200 pairs of shoes right now.

Also, I have signed up for my Emergency Medical Responder class, and Chrissy and I are working on chartering a homeschool 4-H. There are some other things that I prefer to wait until they are solid to mention, but they are exciting. Anna is rocking with her drama, and Robert is loving the cooler weather and being able to be outside to exercise. They are also working on designing and coding computer games.

So as you can see, we are really doing great. If you are worried, maybe you need to talk to Chris, Shaleen, Dena, John, or Rae. I think all of them will assure you that we are not floundering. We are flourishing. We have clear goals, and we are working toward them as a family. We are talking, crying, screaming, and laughing. I am watching the children mature and grow in beautiful ways, not broken ones. We have a fabulous counselor who is helping us when we feel overwhelmed by the landmines that we are trying to avoid. And we are learning that often landmines really aren't as bad as we fear they will be. We are learning that "hard days" and "sad days" are really good days because they cause us to think, process, and choose healing, and they give us a chance to talk, to be still, and to connect. It is amazing how one can hurt so much and be at the best place possible at the same time. God is so weird that way.

And speaking of God, our faith is solid. We question theology, but not God. We know He is giving us strength, peace, and wisdom, and we know He has not abandoned us. He is with us and for us, and although we don't understand why He does things or allows things, we know He sees the picture we don't see. It's one thing to serve a middle-class, cushy seat, hour-long service each week God. But to serve a God who isn't afraid to throw us into the fire to bring us forth as know we blame Satan way too much for the "hard stuff" when we should be giving God credit for His faith in us and His love that makes Him do hard things to accomplish great things in us...THAT is a different way to live...and while it hurts, it heals.

So there you go. That is where I have been--boldly building a new life based on God's promises to do above and beyond what I can imagine. I will most likely disappear again. If so, don't worry. I'm not failing. I'm focusing...and we are flourishing...and it is a great place to be.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Comfortless Comfort Zone

Much of her day was spent floating in the ocean of grief she thought would consume her. She lay on the couch, curled in bed, sat in the rocker and stared...into nothing...into her pain.

I watched. Ready to jump in if she went under.

The waves grew taller, more frequent. Her ability to stay afloat weakened. She grew exhausted from simply trying to keep upright.

When the waves finally toppled her, she cried for nearly an hour and a half. Hot tears. Sobs shaking her thirteen-year old body.

When air was available, she screamed, ranted, and questioned, and then the sobs came in another wave. When her head came above water again, so did the anger and pain. She thought she was drowning, but I knew I was watching her swimming the ocean of grief with beautiful precision and excellence.

Finally, she told me what had sunk her.

"Mom, they think I shouldn't be sad."


"It seems like everybody." A long list of names come forth. Youth leaders, youth pastors, friends...trusted hearts she thought would be a safe haven that had lobbed painful bombs. "They tell me I shouldn't be sad."

Within the last four months:
--her parents separated
--her long-time diving coach had lied and left her feeling disillusioned
--her traditional activities had come to an end as her age transitioned her out of them
--her grandma had been diagnosed with cancer and died
--her grandpa had imploded with anger and no longer spoke to us
--her uncle wasn't coming to Thanksgiving dinner
--her mom's uncle had died

In four months, her world had disintegrated under her feet, and she was trying to figure out where to stand...if there even existed a place to stand....But!, she had no right to be sad.

"Anna," I whispered quietly, "you are doing beautifully. I'm so proud of you."

Her breathing stopped, and her head jerked toward me. "What? Mom, I can't stop crying."

I smiled. "I know. Good for you. You should cry. This is horrible. The losses are horrible. Grandma was an amazing woman, and she left a big hole. Thanksgiving is always special, and she won't bring dressing. That stinks. And she won't make pies."

Anna laughed. "You mean the pies that she told you to make but she always brought?"

I laughed, too. "Yep. Those."

Anna shook her head. "She always told you she was only bringing dressing, and then she brought two boxes of food."

I nodded. "Yes, she did."

Quiet settled in for a bit. Then Anna said, "Mom, I'm afraid I'll cry on Thanksgiving."

"Then come sit with me, and we'll cry together."

"Mom, they said not to talk to you about Grandma because it would only make you sad."

I fought to keep the calm. "They're stupid," I said flatly.

"I don't want to make you cry."

"Anna, you are not my mom. You are not responsible for my emotions or my tears. I am so sorry anyone was so cruel and stupid as to put that load on you. That is not your job. Your job is to heal. Period. And healing often means crying and telling where you hurt, so cry and tell me. Besides, who else will understand the pain of losing Grandma as much as me?"

She was quiet a moment. Then she said, "Mom, they keep telling me Grandma is happy and better off. I know that, but I still miss her."

"Next time someone says that, just say, 'Yeah, but my heart has a giant hole, and that is what I have to deal with.'"

She ventured her heart again. "They say she is always with me. No, she's not." Her anger finally showed up for the party. "She's not here. I can't hug her. I can't call her. I won't see her Christmas. She is not with me."

I smiled, so proud of my daughter, courageous enough to speak truth others like to evade.

"Next time they say that, simply say, 'Really? Where? Cause I would like to give her a hug.' I hate when people say dumb things like that."

She stopped, seemingly surprised that she is not the only one who hates such comfortless remarks.

She stepped further into bravery. "Mom, they make me feel like I don't have a right to be sad, like I'm selfish. I'm not selfish. I hurt."

I'm not selfish. I hurt.

My heart swelled with pride.

"Anna, their comments have nothing to do with making you feel better. They are all about making them feel better. They aren't comfortable with your sadness, so they try to make themselves comfortable by making you what they are comfortable with. They are the ones being selfish."

She nodded. "Yeah. I thought they would be sad with me or be sorry Grandma was gone, but instead, they told me I had to feel better so others did, and if I didn't, I was selfish."

I smiled. "Well, I don't think you are selfish. I think you are grieving, and that is perfectly acceptable."

She became quiet. Finally she spoke. "Mom, thanks for being comfortable with my hurting."

I squeezed her tight. "Not a problem, Amazing Girl. I totally understand."

And unlike the others who say that, I really do...and she finds comfort in that.

God, thank you for all the times You have allowed me to feel what she has understand that other people don't really experience the pain of people's comfortless comfort I could learn from You the ability to create and be a safe harbor...where healing comes by making it to the other side of the hurting...where I am comfortable with her...and in me...