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, March 28, 2012

What You Don't Know

"Your life just seems so full of death and sadness."

Her words settled like an annoying fly that stays just out of reach when I swat at it but close enough to tell you all about the fine hair on my earlobe.

"I don't see it that way." I picked my words--and tone--carefully. "Yes, some days are hard, and some moments are really hard, but overall, I think our lives are awesome."

"Maybe I'm just not around you enough to see all the good stuff. We talk on the phone once in awhile, and I read your blog, so maybe I just don't see the good stuff."

Okay. THAT hit like a punch to the gut, BUT, maybe it was also the answer to my question I've been asking the Lord lately. "Why do people see us as so broken STILL? Why can't people see the good stuff?"

They aren't HERE to see the good stuff, and I don't talk about it enough, so, let me tell you.

What you do not see is The Girl Peep in the starring role of Willie Wonka or playing multiple roles and covering multiple responsibilities in Mulan. You do not see her as the head elf in The Reindeer Who Saved Christmas or the actress honored with the position of Second in Charge when the director misses rehearsal due to traffic. You don't see her learn all the lines, all the music, the entrances and exits, prop places, and so on or her ability to correct mistakes on stage, modify at a moment's notice, or improvise lines and actions when things do not go perfectly, nor do you hear the untold compliments the parents who work with her speak to me or the gushing reviews by the director or theatre staff. Most of you have not seen her walk on stage like she owns it and do it with grace and humility and a depth of character that not only makes me smile but also makes my eyes brim with proud tears.

You were not here when she went to her first political camp without her dad last year. You do not know how she pulled herself together after a meltdown, bravely walked into worship the last day when it had been too hard every other day, or found joy in running multiple election campaigns. You are not here now to see her prepare for this years camp. If you were, you would see her research the New Deal and government entitlement programs. You would be privy to the conversations debating the pros and cons as she identified and considered both the positive and negative results. You would hear that she considers far more than the essays written by the scholars, that her pondering includes biblical foundation, sociological studies, psychology of masses and individuals, the demographic trends, and the present day state of society that can be linked back to the programs of the New Deal. And you would see her doing more than deeming things good or bad. You would hear her ask how SHE can make the bad better. How can SHE be an impact?

When a person chooses to look at the world, see the things that don't work, and take responsibility for her role in making it better, THAT is life. THAT is choosing to step over the void and dare to dream something new.

Yeah. The Girl Peep is okay. If you were here, you would see that.

You would also see The Boy Peep designing entire worlds with Legos, creating stop action films, and receiving recognition from his peers. You would know he was even asked to help with a commercial for a local church. And you wouldn't be shocked to find he is also finding a place in theatre, behind the scenes with the technical group that makes so much look so good, and believe me, his excellence makes a lot look really good.

If you were here, you would know our trips to San Antonio and Missouri were wonderful. You would see the laughter of watching The Boy Peep build up energy on the hamster wheel and hear the shouts as each of us took turns trying to go vertical as the wheel turned us over and gravity pulled us down. If you had been with us, you would have seen the three of us, the science centers employee, and our friend Jason working at the water table for over an hour and a half as we built water ways, redirected water, and determined means to specific ends.

You would have joined us for our kayak lessons and been there when The Boy Peep and I saved the coconut from the lake during clean up and seen The Girl Peep handle the water all on her own. You would have been impressed to see how well she handles the kayak, and you might have been impressed--once you quit laughing--at how well she and I do rescue drills when one of us tips over and ends up in the water. We had a lot of practice with that.

You would have joined us when we made decorations, set up, and served food for anyone who needed a place on Thanksgiving Day, and you could have tucked in your own notes or homemade cookies for the Army unit we support in Afghanistan.

And, you could have sat with us and watched the sunrise from our camping spot on the bluff overlooking the lake early in the fall, in the same state park we camped with Rob and my mom last. You would have laughed at the In a Pickle game, witnessed the melancholy of being alone...and in the pride of braving it alone.

If you had been with us in the last two years, you would have seen me get my CERT certification and respond to a call out. You could have sat with me while I studied for my Emergency First Responder's certification and maybe been there in Galveston when the Marine Veteran needed a hand, the young couple was hit by the van, or the chest pains needed a transport. And you could have joined us when I volunteered for Special Olympics, and we had the best time watching great basketball. You would even know that I've found I like throwing darts and I'm pretty good.

You could have even proofed the articles I sent in that are still being considered for publication or been excited when the two books I've been published in arrived and we saw my name on the page.

You could see the beans, peas, and cucumbers coming up or sit on the nicely fixed sitting area or even check out the tiny tomato already growing on the vine.

Mostly, you would hear us laughing, talking, making cookies, learning new things, pushing ourselves into new territory, and living.

But you weren't here, and I didn't tell you. I didn't mean to leave you out. It wasn't personal.

No, that isn't true. It was personal.

All of the things I've just told you are deeply personal to us. They are treasures, beautiful and wondrous, and for awhile I tried to tell people the good things, and the response left me confused...and dreary.

When people asked how we are, if I said it was bad day, they understood. They were totally okay with that, but if I said it was a good day, they asked why, like I had to justify it, or when they did agree it was good, it was never as good to them as it was to us. So instead of losing some of the "amazing", I simply didn't tell. The bad thing with that is it trapped the kids and myself into mediocre or even dark thinking. We stayed low key instead of risking explaining why we had the audacity to be happy. It also gave people around us false views of our reality. They only saw the struggle and the pain, and that was good in that others who are struggling or are in pain have found a safe place to share their hearts. I love that.

However, my goal is not to simply show what we have survived but to show the life being created in us as a family and as individuals.

I won't tell you everything is fine. I won't tell you some days aren't challenging. What I will tell you is that there is a Voice in the void, and He is creating something amazing. Not perfect, but amazing.

And I hope now you can clearly see that.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Letting the Battlescars Refine Instead of Define

One of my goals with this blog has been to give a safe place for people in painful places. I wanted folks to know they aren't alone, that someone gets it, that there is life in and beyond the desert. Except in the writing in the emotion of the moment and wanting to reach those that others might not reach, I have committed the heinous act of leaving out the life part.

One of the things I've said since this part of my life journey started about two years ago is I expected God to create life in the void.

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."

Genesis 1:1

In the beginning, He speaks to the spiritual and the natural.

In the beginning, He speaks to a void...a nothing...and makes something wondrous.

I have said from the beginning that no matter how big the hole got--and wow!, did it get big--He would create something in it. There would be life that came out of the void. He created an entire universe in a void. He could rebuild--recreate or even create all new--in us and for us.

He has not failed us in anyway.

Life does not look like I had thought or hoped. Yesterday I sat in my truck with tears rolling down my face as I grieved another piece of lost dreams, and I talked to Him and told Him it was discouraging to think we had reached the other side only to find out we were still in the desert. Very clearly, He spoke beautiful words to me:

"Jerri, the other side when 'all this is over' will not--CANNOT--look like it did when it started."

I thought I understood that, but in that instant, I realized I didn't understand the depth of it.

I had some idea that we would go back to a wholeness we had then, some semblance of life being what it was, feeling like it felt, returning to "normal", but we can't.

The normal that existed then is gone. Part of us is gone.

Rob is gone. My friend, my life companion for 23 years, gone. My children's dad is gone. My hopes for that marriage are gone.

We cannot be who we were then. Our hearts will not be they were then. The loss has left holes and scars and pain. We can live with that, and we can flourish anyway. However, it will not be what it used to be. This home will never feel quite like it did when Rob's laughter bounced off the walls. Christmas is still going to have shadows of traditions we had with my parents and Rob that we cannot do any longer because they were specific to the people. It will never be exactly what it was, and while we can do those things and enjoy those holidays and laugh anyway, it is not--CANNOT--be what it was.

However, that does not mean it cannot be wonderful.

It simply means it will be different.

We have spent much of the last two years getting accustomed to the different things, and we have done well. However, there are aspects of life we have avoided because it feels like embracing those is letting go of the precious things we've lost. The truth is, though, the things of the past are already gone. The memories are there, but tangible things are gone. Embracing something new will not make them more gone or less precious. It only means we are embracing the reality of change, of what is not, what cannot be...and what can.

If you had asked me if I was holding on to the the past I would have told you no. I would have told you we are moving on and embracing possibility and life. I didn't realize the subtle ways I was trying to recreate the peace and lack of pain, which is really what it is about, we enjoyed before.

Recently, I saw a picture of  Marine SGT Jason Pacheco, who trains scout snipers. In the picture he is sitting on the ground demonstrating how to accurately set and fire the rife in front of him. If you look closely, you realize one of the boots you see is being used to stabilize the stand for his weapon...and the Marine only has one leg.

I will not pretend to be in the same class of character or determination as that Marine, but as I have written this and prayed for a clear picture of the Truth I am trying to share, I thought of that him.

He will never be the same. His life will never be the same. He can still do a lot of the same things he did, maybe even all of them, but he will always carry the battle scar of his lost leg. And maybe sometimes he grieves that loss. Maybe sometimes he wonders, "What if...?" Maybe he grieves what could have been.

I don't know his maybes. What I know is he has chosen to embrace life beyond the loss of his leg.

He has chosen not to let the battle scare define him,

only refine him.

He has not settled in to the void of what used to be.

On the contrary,

he has chosen to allow the loss of what used to be

push him to see who he can be.

We have chosen to embrace our life beyond our loss, too. Yes, we are still in the refining progress. We are still learning where we mistakenly think "rebuilding" means trying to reclaim what was...what no longer is or can be. We are not trying to avoid the battlescars or pretend they don't ache.

Instead, we are embracing them,
not letting them define us, but allowing them to refine us,
embracing life beyond the void,
the stuff God is doing that has never been done before,
stuff we didn't--couldn't--imagine.
Only we are imagining.
We are living.
He is creating,
and it is wondrous.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Something That Feels Good

I quit my CERT class tonight.

I hadn’t planned to, not when I left the house, but as I drove over, all the things of the week rolled through my head, and by the time I arrived at the Law Enforcement Center I knew. That isn’t where I am supposed to be.

Then when I told my instructor, I felt my voice cracking. When another instructor asked if everything was okay and looked me in the eyes, I am sure he saw puddles starting to form. I simply said, “Life changes. I need to be home.”

Then a third instructor asked me if there was anything they could do, and I choked out, “I just need to be home.”

By the time I got to the truck, I was in tears.

I hadn’t expected that.

Honestly, I really didn’t know why I was crying. I loved the class the first time I took it, but this time it really was just a means to the end of becoming an instructor. I wasn’t enjoying it at all, and I was counting weeks until it was finished.

Still, I cried.

So I sat in my truck, cried, and asked God what was up with that.

And somewhere in the jumble of words and tears I understood.

With the first class, I had felt so excited, so alive. I wanted to feel that again. Actually, I just wanted to feel something that didn’t feel like pain. And, this didn’t hurt. But, it didn’t feel good either.

I wasn’t crying because I was giving up a class. I was crying because I was giving up something that had been important, that had been a happy place, and there was nothing to replace it. Once again, I was staring at what used to be a place where I felt connected and joyful and now was just an empty spot.

And empty spots are hard things.

They are scary things.

Because I don’t know just how deep they are going to go…

Or how long they are going to last…

Or what will fill them.

All I really know is
I refuse to let the fear of Nothing
compel me to hold on to a useless Something.

So I wiped the tears from my face and started the truck. I didn’t look back because I knew it my break my resolve. Instead, I looked forward and put the truck in drive, not really knowing where I was going or what I was going to do. 

But I knew I was headed in the right direction, and that was something.

And that something felt good.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Wife's Hardest Journey

A friend of mine is watching his father fade away, and more than likely, today will be the day his dad's body gives up the fight and his soul passes on. My heart is so sad for him, sad beyond words.

I buried my dad.

But more than my friend, I am considering his mom, the wife who has claimed oneness with this man for nearly 60 years. I cannot imagine the strangeness of home for her, the too quiet rooms, the bed that is so empty even a toe slipped a few feet away only finds coldness not the warmth that has been there for decades.

I cannot imagine fixing meals on her own, the ones she know longer knows if she likes or she just makes because he likes them. They are all the same now.

I cannot image not finding whiskers in the sink after all these years or his suit set out for church on Sunday. I cannot imagine not needing to iron the white button-down shirts he has worn virtually everyday since they were first married.

I cannot image not having the hand so familiar that it forms around her own or the breath in the quiet darkness that soothes her to sleep.

My heart aches for this precious woman who has begun the journey she promised to take nearly 60 years ago should God deem it her road...

...the hardest journey one takes as a wife...

...the one she is required to take as a widow.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

If I could give you anything...Being...

If I could give you anything today, I would give you a seat on my glider on my deck where it is warm, and I would sit a glass of tea on the table beside you and make the presence of God on the other side of you so deep and rich, not only did you feel the peace of Him, but you knew the touch of His hand on yours or His arm around your shoulder...

...and I would leave y'all to talk...

...because today you need to talk to Him, to hear Him, to be with Him, to feel His love for you.

Today, you need to simply be in the arms of the One who loves you most, understands you best, and feels you deepest.

Today you don't need to perform or figure out what is expected. You simply need to be...

...and know whatever that is, wherever that is mentally or emotionally or spiritually...He wants to be there with you.

May you have THAT kind of day.