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.