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.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Just What I Needed

I stare at my email box.



I didn't want comments. I closed the comments...just like I've turned off my phone and ignored my email.

Verses that are "old standards" that really don't help in the newness of my life changes.
Patented Christian "responses" that are meant to help me refocus, but only make me feel like I am expected to perform better.
Another book I need to read that will help me beyond this grief.
Another worship CD to get my mind off things.
Another means of ministry that will sooth my aching soul.
Another person wishing she could hug me. I find myself wishing she realized sbe needs to hug me more than I need to be hugged.

I push the delete button...and push it again and again until they are gone. I know they mean well, but this is not what I need.

I need Dena, who sat in my bedroom floor, smoothed my hair, and cried with me as I sobbed with the pain of missing my mom.

I need John, who makes me laugh, asks me about everything except my mom or marriage, and makes my eyes cross with how much mustard he puts on his pretzel.

I need Jessica, who has no answers, but when I text, "Mom's death certificates came in the mail today. I can't make myself open them," replies simply, "I have never seen one before. I can only imagine the pain in black and white..."

I need Stuart, who simply looks in my eyes and says, "I'm sorry you are hurting like this right now," and hugs me tight.

I need Lisa, who sends me {{hugs}}, love, and prayers from Idaho...almost daily...and I wrap up in them every single time.

I need Chris, who asks me how I am and doesn't question when I say fine...even though my voice says I clearly am not.

I need Amelia, who brings my favorite cookies, gives me a hug, tells me she misses me...but she is waiting...and she really is.

I need Raymond, who meets me for dinner, laughs hard at my CERT adventures, and shakes his head with how funny I find life to be...sometimes with how funny he finds me to be.

I need Diane, who sends me emails telling me she is praying, calls to tell me she was surprised by seeing a mutual friend, and always has a smile in her voice.

I need people like these who know despite the pain I will be fine...I am fine.

I need people who know the tears are normal, the sadness is normal, the laughter is real, and my faith is solid. I need people who aren't afraid of smeared mascara or bad jokes. I need people who understand when I need to talk...and when I simply can't...who know both are okay.

I stare at my screen and ponder the comments. These people have good hearts. They mean well. I know they do. It's just not what I need right now.

I sigh again...

My thoughts are interrupted by my phone. A text. Something stupid followed by, "LOL I love you!" I laugh out loud, too.

It's just what I needed.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dark Places

When I am in a dark place, I tend to be quiet, to sort of hide in the shadows.

I do not wish for people to see my tears, to hear my sobs, or to share their advice. I do not want people to expect me to be anything. I do not want people to expect me to be "over it", to be strong for others, to be happy anyway, or to be miserable with pain.

I simply want to be.

Right now, I am in a dark place.

A dark place isn't a bad place. It is simply a place where I must depend on something...Someone...outside myself to give direction because none of my senses are reliable at this point. All I know and all I think mean nothing because in the dark, sounds are magnified, steps are not obvious, and I am guessing...about what lies ahead...about what lies behind...and how the two relate.

The dark is a place to be quiet, to be still, to rest.

And I am resting...from the voices...from the expectations...from needing to know everything...from needing to understand...from needing to have answers.

I am simply being.

And there is a peace in simply being...

...Even when it is in a dark place.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Life Moving On--Part 1

When my dad passed on, I got through his last hospital stay, his last day with us, his death, and the funeral relatively unscathed. Amazing what the human mind and body can do when one sets her mind to a task. People who watched from the outside were amazed at how well I did, how strong I was.

One friend, though, had the courage to pull me aside and ask, "So you are taking care of everyone else, and you are doing a great job. When are you going to crash?" In three weeks, I told him. He said he would be there. I don't know if he was prepared for how bad the crash was, but I wasn't.

I expected to cry, to miss my dad. I knew I'd pick up the phone to dial his number only to remember he wouldn't pick up. I knew I'd go home and his chair would be empty, and I knew I would choke and my heart would miss a beat or two.

I also expected when the funeral was done and all the activitiy was finished, I'd go home, have a long sleep, and jumpr right back into life where normal had left off. That was one of the greatest delusions of my whole life. I knew "normal life" no longer existed, but I didn't realize the "normal me" didn't either. I couldn't make it exist. I couldn't make me exist, not like I had been, and the harder I tried to do so, the worse things became.

Last week we buried my mom after a wild two months of doctor's visits, hospital stays, and emergency issues. The flurry of activity is over, but life won't go back to normal. It can't. I'm not "normal" either, not the normal I was. I never will be that person again, and instead of fighting that, I'm working with it, not letting it control, but letting it lead some. And I am giving myself grace and time.

These posts are my journey into the adjustment of my mom being gone and life moving on. Hope it encourages you to embrace life moving on, too.

Life Moving On--Part 2

Today's goals:
5 thank you notes
walk my usual distance
one set of 15 reps on my weights
catch up on grading homeschool stuff

Wrote several thank you notes
Bought special thank you notes
Went grocery shopping
Walked my usual distance
Did the 1 set with weights
Sorted the shoes in the bags in the living room and several of the shoe boxes. We ended up with 117 matching pair of shoes. We think we are over 1/2 way finished sorting shoes.

Slept horribly last night. Had a lot of nightmares. I think I remember that being the case when Dad died as well.
My patience is too short, and I'm overreacting to the kids. Only makes me annoyed at myself.
Can't believe how horrible my house smells after having Mom's shoes in here for a few hours. I love her, and unlike other people close to her, I am not angry she smoked. I just hate the smell in the house. I'll open up the windows in the morning while it is still in the 60s and 70s to let it air out.
Have to work on catching up on grading tomorrow.
I'm so tired I could have gone to bed at 8:00.
Still nauseaus after eating. Figure that will settle in time.
Fixed a nice supper.

All in all, though, it was a good day. I love having the kids with me. I love the calm after the storm of the last two months. I just want to sleep better...speaking of which, I'm off to bed. Night.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Being Okay in the Ocean of Grief

When I talk about how I am, it isn't something to be made better. It simply is what it is. Grief is hard. It is up and down. It drowns you one minute and then runs to hide the next as though it has never been there. It will knock you to your knees and drag sobs out of you that are so raw you think you'll never get up, and then suddenly, the tears are gone, you are breathing, and life returns.

It is the way of grief.

Last Sunday night Anna was crying...grieving deeply...and I said, "I am so proud of you."

She looked shocked. "Proud of me, but I'm the one throwing a fit."

"No, you're not throwing a fit. You're grieving. There is a difference. If you cut your hand and cried, it would be okay. Right?"

She nodded.

"Well, your heart is bleeding, and it's okay to cry about that, too."

She thought about that a bit and then said, "Mom, I feel like I've been tossed in to the middle of the ocean and told to swim."

Dear God, I know that feeling well. Give me words.

"Anna, I know right now you feel like you are in the middle of the ocean, and you are about to drown, but you won't. Either Daddy or I will grab your hand and keep you above water, or God will. Whichever, you won't go under. And you won't be out there forever. God didn't abandon you to water over your head so you could drown. You might be out there a bit, but then He'll move you back to the beach, and you can play and relax, and it'll be good. Then without warning a wave will hit, and you'll feel like you are back in the ocean again floundering, dogpaddling for all you are worth just to keep your head above water. But when that happens, just remember, the beach time will come. The rest will come. The breathing will come. JOY will come. Over time you'll find you are in the deep water less and on the beach more, and you'll find when you are in the deep water, you know how to swim better, so you won't feel like you are drowning. It'll just feel hard or tiring, but you won't feel overwhelmed, and eventually, you'll find that missing Grandma isn't the deep part of the ocean, but a wave the knocks you off your feet sometimes or throws water in your face, but you'll still know where you are, and it'll wash over you with ease. The big thing is, Anna, remember as bad as the middle of the ocean is, you won't stay there. If you keep remembering you're going to go back to the beach, you'll be okay."

Sometimes I'm in the middle of the ocean. Sometimes I'm on the beach. Believe it or not, I'm okay with both because both are natural and normal. Both are of God. Both are necessary for healing.

I don't always think clearly in the middle of the ocean, and sometimes I need someone to help me keep my head above water until I can remember the beach is coming, but I'm not drowning, and I don't feel hopeless in the ocean. I feel like it is simply part of the process of healing. The crying, the sadness, the laughter, the memories that make me warm with joy...and leave me cold with pain...are part of the process.

I'm not worried about the dreams or losing sleep. Time will fix that. I'm not worried about lying in my floor sobbing. Better than using booze to be numb. I'm not worried that the walls feel like they are closing in sometimes. I have friends to call who will either talk on the phone or come over.

Everything I am experiencing is normal. And as long as I have spots where I clearly see what I consider to be the "beneath this chaos this is who I am" Jerri, I know I'm still intact and will be fine as I work through all this.I know the core of me is still solid, and I'm going to come out better on the other side. Will tomorrow be better? I don't know, but I know a week from now will. I know a month from now will. I know sometimes the way to live through this moment is to focus on the future. The key is letting the future give the strength of hope without the weakness of escape, and I think I am doing that well.

I'm going to cry. I'm going to cry really hard. I'm going to have nights when my Mom is all I dream about. I'm going to have nights when sleep is elusive. I'm also going to laugh really hard. I'm going to experience moments that amaze me. I'm going to write, homeschool, clean the toilets, iron, and all those other life things, and periodically in the midst of those life things, the reality of my mom being gone or the pain of my marriage being in disarray will hit me really hard, and I am going to sob and grieve. It's just part of the process, and really, I'm okay with that.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gayle Kelley Williams--My Mom

My mom went to be with Jesus last week. She entered the hospital Monday, September 27th, and was taken home September 31st, where she remained until she entered the Lord's kingdom October 2nd. Thankfully, the worst part of her sickness with cancer was only a few days, and she was only aware of how sick she was for about twenty-four hours. God was exceedingly merciful.

Today we celebrated my mom's life.

I had the great honor of giving my mom's eulogy at her memorial service. My mom was good at so many things, but the thing she was great at is loving people.

Gayle Kelley Lewis
April 15, 1947-October 2, 2010

When my brother Raymond and I were sitting in the hospital with Mom, we spent time filling out the paperwork for her funeral. We were asked for a favorite scripture. We really didn't have one. We thought about Psalm 23, but it didn't seem right. We tossed out a few others, but they didn't really work. Finally, I looked at Raymond and said, "I know which one."

1 Corinthians 13
1If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,[b] but have not love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

When Raymond and I were looking for clothes for Mom, I ran across a small jewelry box tucked in the back of one of her drawers. In the box was a jewelry set—a necklace, earrings, and ring. The necklace and earrings were heart shaped filled with small rubies and diamonds. The ring was a simple row of rubies and diamonds alternated. I smiled. So appropriate.

Proverbs 31 tells us a woman of noble character is hard to find, the she is more precious than rubies. My mom is a woman of great value.

Often when people think of a Proverbs 31 woman, they think of a perfected to do list, but if you look closer, she isn’t driven by a list. She’s driven by a love.

A love for her family,
A love for those who depend on her,
A love for those with whom she works,
A love for friends,
A love for people she never met
A love to make a difference

Mom was a love-oriented woman.

When Mom first became sick, her greatest concern was missing church. She wanted to be where she loved. She loved leading the singing. She loved hearing the preaching. She loved the family she had there, and to her that is what church was. It wasn’t a building with four walls where someone talked about God. It was a home with the family God made, and she loved it.

After the diagnosis of cancer, Mom had a simple question: When can I go back to work?

She wasn’t worried about missing a paycheck, but was really worried about missing her friends.

When she found out she wasn’t going back to work, she started making phone calls—not to hospitals, oncologists, or treatment centers, but to people she loved. She wanted their prayers, but she wanted more than that. She wanted them to know she loved them, so she told them in her words and in her actions because they were too valuable to be left out of her life…even the painful parts so many of us try to hide.

Next, she planned a camping trip. She loved camping. She loved playing 42, but mostly, she loved being with her family. As many of you know, her grandchildren were the light of her life. The talking seemed endless. The children would draw pictures and tell her all about them. She listened with complete attention. The first weekend she was in the hospital, the children brought the game In a Pickle. Mom had no idea how to play it, but she knew how to enjoy her grandkids. She loved her family deeply.

She loved camping with family, playing 42 with her grandkids, and making impromptu Christmas desserts. She loved having being a surrogate mom and grandma. Her heart was full of her many daughters. She loved having her nails done by friends, training new tax preparers, seeing old friends, and H&R Block parties. She loved giving an encouraging word, a supportive hug, and a smile to carry into the day.

She loved all of you.

When Mom went into the hospital last week, phone calls were made. Tears fell…because we all knew what we were losing.

Some folks called. They couldn’t come. They wanted to remember better times.

We understand.

Sometimes love finds it hard to say goodbye. Sometimes love finds it easier to remember better times and whisper, “I’ll see you later,” in the assurance of Someday, as we breathe deep, swallow hard, and put one foot in front of the other. There is nothing wrong with that.

Sometimes love’s need to be expressed is greater than the need for what is easy. Sometimes the agony of saying goodbye is more healing than the peace of speaking into Someday, and sometimes putting one foot in front of the other takes you to the side of the one your heart clings to, the one you have to touch in order to let go of.

And love brought people to Mom’s bedside. Not because it was easy. The large tears said it wasn’t. Not because she would remember…but because they would…because they did…they remembered the love in her hugs, in her laughter, in her kindness. They remembered the love she deposited in their lives.

And they came to give the one thing that makes all the difference. They came to love back in touch, kind words, deep gratitude, and precious memories. They came as a testimony to Mom’s love, to Mom’s great value.

Yes, Mom is a woman of great value—value exceeding rubies because her value is measured in the lives she touched, by the love she gave.

Yes, we have lost my mom’s physical presence, but we have not lost the most valuable part of Mom. The most valuable part of Mom does not lie in the casket. The most valuable part of Mom was her ability to love so deeply and so freely. The most valuable part of Mom is still alive and well. the most valuable part of my mom is her love, and she has left that with us.