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.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014. I'm ready for you.

2013 kicked my butt royally. When I look back, I just think, "God, that was a hard year." And it was. It was also a year of transition. WonderGirl decided she was done with Teenpact. We moved. Relationships changed radically. Archery, firearms training, and kayaking were all lost in the changes. My beautiful truck that I enjoyed so much was totaled. IT WAS HARD.

But we got the sunrise. Every morning. Just over there.

Every time I would sit in front of the Lord and wonder what in the world he was doing and why in the world he would put us here, I would make myself watch the sunrise. Where we lived before here, we never saw the sunrise. It was too full of trees and houses and highline poles. Here, I sit, drink my coffee, rock on my patio, and watch the sky explode into a sunrise. MY LANDS. I always see it as His personal gift to me. Something we share, like the whisperings between lovers...spoken as loud as the sky.

I wish I had some fabulous metaphor about the sunrise and 2014, but the truth is I realize 2014 may be another hard year. I have things I hope to accomplish and hope to receive. I have things I would like to see happen and ways I want life to change, and I know good things will come.

But I also realize I may spend a lot of it on my knees like I did this one. I realize what I am hoping for may not happen in those 365 days. I realize changes are inevitable, and some are going to be hard.
I also realize God is good, and whatever comes there will be something He gives me that I can hold onto. Something is going to break the darkness and shine, and when I'm in tears and broken, I will stop and make myself look at that and realize I am not forgotten. I am not abandoned. I am loved. He has a purpose. He is whispering. We are still lovers, and His heart is still for me. Big as the sky.

2014, I'm ready for you.

"Mom, How Do You Study the Bible?"

My thirteen-year old asked me this question this week, and I've been praying about a good answer for him. The truth is studying the Bible is just what I do, and I don't really think about how I do it. Sort of like a weird spiritual shoe-tying thing. I had to think it through to explain it, and like shoe-tying, there isn't more than one way to study the Bible depending on the purpose.

Let me explain.


I want to know the Bible--I often get asked how I know the Bible so well. How I know what is in it and what it says. Simple. I read it. Every year for several years, I made it a point to read 30 minutes a day. Started in Genesis and worked my way through Revelation. No fancy reading plan, just starting at page 1 and working my way to the end. Easy. I like easy.

I also found out I could read 3 chapters a day and finish the Bible in a year. I also found I missed some days, but no problem because there is Psalms! Psalm 119 is day on its own, but so many of those can be read together that missed days can easily be made up. I also found taking my Bible to things that would require my time worked well, too. A chapter here or there adds up. Far easier now to do with the apps on the phone, too. If you just want to know what is in the Bible, read it.

What kind of Bible? "Regular or Chronological"?--Yes. I don't like the chronological Bibles because I'm a goal oriented person. I like to easily break things up into pieces and finish those pieces. Chapters and books let me do that. I see the progress I'm making. Easy. Chronological Bibles are like the never ending page of a Nook. You just read and read and read, and how do you know when you're done? Read a certain number of pages, maybe? Now, the perk of chronological Bibles is the big picture. You can actually see how all the parts fit together. This is THE great thing for some folks. I love that. I love that we have the choice. I love that whichever you choose, you will learn the Bible when you just read it. You want to know it better? Read it again. And again. And again. :-)

Which version? -- Yes. Okay. Not all versions are the same, and I don't want to get into translation trash talking, so I'll just give you a general overview. I use the NIV mostly. I like it. Easy to understand. BUT, it does not have all the text the New King James Version has, and some things left out are important in my opinion. The Message is a VERY loose interpretation, more like a storybook. The Amplified gives a wealth of deep word meanings, but I find it can be hard to read through all the explanations and word meanings, but if I am really trying to understand a passage, it is a good resource. In my opinion, if you are simply reading for an overview, the NIV, NKJV, or American Standard are good.

When my dad died, my mom gave me his Bibles. He had one of every translation out at the time. One time I asked him why he had so many, and he said he realized at some point he was no longer really reading what the Bible said but reading what he had always known it to say. He read different translations to force him out of his rut. It made him see things differently, allowed him to see what he had never seen before. I use the same tactic now when I study specific passages. It allows me to see what I might not had seen before.


What Should I Study--There really are two simple ways to find topics:

1. Have them given to you. A friend of mine told me he goes to his Sunday school to get topics he can study on his own. In fact, he thought that might be the whole reason he even goes. He thought this was more sensible then going through an alphabetized book on biblical subjects because it mixed things up, and he didn't have to wait until the end for the words that started with the "latter letters". True, but really, it is the same thing. Someone else is assigning the topics. The good thing he is learning about those topics, and when he needs the information, he'll have it. The negative is the topic may not relate to his life right now.

2. Study what is relevant. What are you dealing with right now? Study that. For instance, I'm the single mom of two teenagers. They are good kids, but they are kids. I know the kind of adults I want them to be, so I go to the Bible for guidance. Only I don't read about the rod and the spoiled brat. I read about being a good leader, an example of godly character, a place they know they are safe, a person of vision who embraces that they are God's first and mine second. I pray for wisdom, for them to have grace to forgive me when I mess up, for me to be humble and ask forgiveness, for me to be an example of who they need to be both in being strong and weak.

I'm having some problems with some authorities who have power over a project I've been asked to lead. So, I've been studying leadership again. What makes a good leader. Characteristics of a good leader. What it means to be humble. What it means to be a servant leader like Jesus. I'm praying for God to lead them. I'm also asking Him to lead me and give me wisdom, and I'm making things easier for Him by being in the Word studying how to honor the leaders over me and flourish when others' have power. It sounds simple, but being a leader is very complex. It requires patience, love, compassion, accountability, humility, honor, truthfulness, respect for others, valuing others. I study all of those things.

What is relevant to you? Marriage? Being a good spouse? Work? Handling a bad work environment well? Sickness? Healing? Grace? Self-forgiveness? Whatever you are praying about this morning is probably a good place to start studying what God has to say about it. It is far easier for God to fix something when we are acting in agreement with Him and His concepts than when we are sabotaging ourselves and His efforts to fix us.

Word study -- So much richness is lost when important concepts are put into the vernacular because, let's be honest, we live in a society that does not value real mean of words. We gloss over them with general meanings, which is really our interpretation of the term or concept. If we truly want to understand the Bible and what God is saying, we need to look at real word meaning. Loose translations allows us to read what we want to read or what we've always read. I have found word study makes me take responsibility for what is really being said. One of my favorite resources for this is a Key Word Study Bible.

Concept study -- I also take time to really dig into one concept. I will use a program like and search for all the verses on something, like grace, and copy all of those to a Word document. I start reading from top to bottom. What is grace? What is the benefit? How do I get it? What is my part? What does it mean by it is a gift? I saturate myself in that concept until I feel like I understand it and can absorb it correctly into my belief system and apply it to my life. My goal isn't necessarily to get it "perfect", but I get a strong foundation that the Lord can come back and work on later and adjust as He needs to. This may take days or weeks or sometimes months, like my study of the armor of God, but it is good, rich stuff.

Specific passage studies -- These include word study and background study. To do this, notes in a study Bible are good. I tend to compare them from a few different Bibles to avoid getting the personal filter problems that can arise from one author or theological group. Knowing the writer, who he was writing to, why he was writing, and such are important. ALWAYS take the passage in context.

Books of the Bible study -- I've tried this, but it doesn't work for me. I've found I could spend a lifetimes studying any given book of the Bible. It is just that rich. I know folks who do this though, and it is good for them. The spiritual revelation and growth is obvious. If this is what you are lead to do, jump in and do it!

Other "stuff" -- Here is the fact. I did not learn the Bible from a preacher or a study book or a class or a DVD series. I learned the Bible from the Bible. Now I've learned from pastors, study books, classes, and various teachers, but they added to what I knew and deepened my understanding. They did not build my foundation. Studying the Word did. They only built onto what the Lord laid in me through my study and seeking Him.

Be a Berean -- The Bereans are only mentioned once in the Bible, but their example should be one for all of us to follow.

Acts 17:11
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica,
for they received the message with great eagerness
and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

I do not believe in following blindly. That is how Holocausts and David Karesh situations happen. Here the Apostle Paul's words are being tested. Do they line up with the Word? Is he taking anything out of context? Leaving anything important out that might contradict what he wants them to believe? He seemed solid, but how would they know...unless they tested what he said? Be a Berean.

Put into practice what you read and learn. It doesn't matter if I study how to be a great leader and spout passages on the outcome of great leaders or blessings of God as a result of godly character if I don't really live that.

KNOWING the right thing to do is meaningless.
DOING the right thing is what makes the difference.
Knowing the Bible isn't enough.
LIVING the Bible is what will change your life.

You don't have to know the whole Bible to start making huge change. Start with one thing. Take one concept and ask the Lord, "How do I apply this?"
Maybe start by giving grace. Give grace to the person trying to squeeze into your lane at the last minute. If nothing else, it keeps you from feeding a frustrating morning.
Give grace to the wait staff that brought you the steak cooked the wrong way.
Give grace to your spouse who didn't get it all right today.
Give grace to yourself. You are a work in progress. Let yourself see the progress, not just what you need to work on.

Maybe start with forgiveness.
Accepting God forgives you.
Giving forgiveness to others.
Forgiving those who hurt you today...those who hurt you a decade ago.
Forgive yourself. Jesus came to set the captives free. He never intended for you to keep wearing your prison clothes.

One thing. Really applying one biblical concept can alter your life so radically you crave the rest. Seeing one piece of the Bible really make a difference can catapult you into wanting to learn everything in it. What makes me so sure? Let's just say I don't keep reading it and studying it because I love the book of Leviticus. When you read it, you'll understand. :-)

Monday, December 30, 2013

From my journal...Maybe it is what I make me that really matters

I've started blogging again. I'm not sure if it is a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe it is neither...and most things in life are. Maybe it is what I make it." Funny. I actually wrote, "Maybe it is what I make me."

Certainly not what I had in mind, but probably far more realistic.

I have prayed for years to be the place where God invades earth. If my writing is really a piece of God in this world, it has to be where heaven invades earth.

That is the simplicity of what I want it to be. In which case MY wanting to be profound, MY wanting to be wise, MY wanting to be a great writer, MY words being memorable has very little--okay, NOTHING at all to do with what I really want. If what I really want is the Lord, if what I really want is people to see Him, I cannot desire to be seen at all. Or, if in my honest human state, I do desire to be seen, I have to give that back to Him, consciously put it in His hands and let go.

This morning as I sat down with my coffee for my usual prayers and journaling time, I thought about my blog. I have had posts for the last three days. I don't want to fall off the planet for another two months, but I can think of nothing to write. I just kept think, "I want to write something profound, something worth their time to read."

Faithful as always, the Lord spoke profound Truth. "All of it flows from time with me."

Of course I know that. Everyone knows that. So I did the mature Christian thing and prayed.

"Lord, I want to be profound."

I swear I heard Him laugh, and He said, "Talk to me."

And in the talking, He struck Truth.

"Maybe it is what I make me."

If I make ME known as profound....
If I make ME wise to the readers....
If I make ME great and MY words memorable...
what am I making Him?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Came to my Couch--The Gifts

Last I saw you it was Christmas Eve and I was propped up on my couch trying to keep my head from exploding. The kids had gone with Chris and Dawna to their children's home for Christmas. It was quiet, and I was amazed by Christmas coming to my couch. I was dozing off when I got a text from WonderBoy. They were making crème brulee, and he was getting to be the torch bearer. He thought this was fabulous.

Then he texted that he and Anna had gotten gifts, which was so very kind of their host family, but somehow, it didn't surprise me at all with this family.

Then came the text:
"People love you."

Me? He and Anna had been the one who had gotten gifts.

"You got gifts, too."

What? But I wasn't there. I was sure the gifts were think-ahead-just-in-case gifts, sort of generic so no one would be without gifts, especially the kids.

I was wrong.

The gifts were thought-filled gifts picked out just for us by people who have never met us, only know us through their parents. They were personal, and if crying wouldn't have made my sinus pain worse, I would have been a mess.

Instead, the kids came home with a box of gifts and yummies, and we sat them on our undecorated table to open Christmas morning.

Except, I cheated.

I peaked into the bag that held mine and saw the envelope, so I pulled out the card and read it.

"We want you to know that you are cared about and love and not forgotten. Keep the faith and keep hanging on. If you ever need anything or just want to talk, we are here. (phone number included)"

If there had been nothing else in that bag, the words of someone who understood would have been gift enough. Kayla had been a single mom after her husband died. Ravi had been a single dad. They know. And they know the perfect gifts.

Painting canvasses and art kits for the kids and a spa-in-a-bag for me. Chocolate, hot chocolate to drink, shower gel, fabulous smelling plug in fragrance, and other goodies. Perfect gifts. Personal gifts.

And there we sat, on the couch, with our perfect personal gifts, with the yummy goodies, and phone numbers from folks who are available to sit at the dentist's office while I have work done or take the kids to a fun place while I sleep or who think about us, understand, and will listen just whenever.

Then the kids made lunch while I gave a few pointers.

My brother came, not because he was getting gifts but to eat lunch and play games.

I took a few naps.

A few friends called and talked to me since I couldn't talk to them.

Pop, Rob's dad, called, which is always a joy. I didn't get to talk to him, but I love that he called, nonetheless.

WonderBoy made the comment to me last week that he thought maybe this Christmas--the low-key, stress free, enjoying the wonder of it--is more what God had in mind than what we normally do. Well, let's see.

A hurting lump that has nothing to offer, whose plans have gone awry, who can't get out to anyone but needs someone to come in to her, who is Throw in some love, perfect gifts from someone we didn't know, invitation to a feast, new experiences, new relationships. Family.

Craziness. But then, God is the King of crazy Christmases. In fact, this whole craziness of gifts to people with nothing to give but having a lot of needs was His idea. So, yeah, I think this is His idea of what Christmas should be.

And it happened right here on my couch.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Came to my Couch

A few weeks ago I wrote in my journal:

"I need Christmas to happen to me."
An honest prayer after a long, hard season. No idea how it could happen. I mean, not like Jesus is going to show up in a manger twice. Not like I had the clarity of mind or body to go see Him even if He did. No clue how God could pull this off, but He is God. If anyone could do it, He could.

Then came the dental reality.

The shock of seeing my sinus cavity sitting on the roots of my teeth because the bone wasn't thick enough to cover the root tips. The root canal gone wonky. Then the mother of dental complications.

I've had teeth extracted before. 48 hours of medicated dreamland. A few more days of letting the gums heal, and all is good in the world.

Not this time.

This time the tooth broke multiple times. The dentist had to drill it out, which was not my idea of happy. As he said, he used everything but a surgeon to remove that tooth, but that really wasn't the worst part. The worst part was the post from my previous crown had punctured my sinus cavity, which created a perforated sinus. What does that mean? It means I could breath through my mouth via my nose through the hole left by the tooth my dentist removed. It also means off the chart sinus pain that seems to radiate through my entire head that even piggybacking ibuprofen and hydrocodone doesn't kill. It also means sleeping on my couch where I am propped up to lessen the pressure and thus keeping my head from exploding, which seems counter intuitive when trying to stop this much pain, but somewhere in the dizzying pain and medication created fog, I keep hearing, "You've got kids to raise," so I'm propped up and not exploding.

It also means our decision not to "do Christmas" this year was a good one.
A few weeks ago, we opted for a never-done-by-us-before Christmas. No tree. No lights. No decorations. No gifts.

Not being a humbug. Not anti-Christmas. Just tired of Christmas as it is.

Tired of the stress. Tired of figuring out how to get everything done in this tiny time frame. Tired of Christmas being something we do. I wanted Christmas to be something we experience.

This year was an experience. This is what I wrote friends Christmas Eve:

"Leanna texted this morning to see how I am and listened to my tired and frustrated rant, and she just told me she loves me and is sending hugs and is sorry. It was the perfect response. I’ve learned real love just accepts you in your misery and doesn’t have to make you better but loves you and hugs you where you are, and Leanna loves deeply. It is an amazing thing she does.

 It’s a pretty amazing gift actually.

 And there are other gifts.

Our neighbors Tim and Cynthia, whom I enjoyed a morning with coffee with this week, brought by delicious baked goods. She makes sugar cookies look like art, and when he found out I am still not doing well, he immediately wanted to know what we need and how they can help. They had offered to take me to the dentist and drive me home so I would not have to drive while medicated last Friday. Truly, they are precious and such blessings.

Our other friends and neighbors Dawna and Chris called to wish us a Merry Christmas this morning, and I could not talk, so I texted and explained the situation. Dawna texted back and asked what we need. I told her prayer; I am weary. She asked if they can have the kids this evening and take them to their family gathering. They have something like 20 grandkids of various ages, and the kids can join the fun. As she said, “There will be kids and fun and noise.” So they are taking the kids, and she is bringing me a plate of sweet potatoes back with them.

It’s funny how when we get past the can’t-believe-how-ugly-it-looks wrapping and the lopsided bow, we can see the gifts we really want and need. This is not how I planned to spend Christmas, not what I would have ever asked for, and yet, it is. It is quiet. It is restful. And my goodness it is dripping with love.

A few weeks ago I wrote in my journal, “I need Christmas to happen to me. I have no idea how. I just need it.”

Well, let me tell you how. You have a root canal that goes wonky and hurts for nearly 2 weeks, and just as it gets better, have 3 teeth removed. Let one of those teeth be majorly complicated that results in a hole that goes through the bone and into your sinuses that feels like the pain of a dry sock and sinus infection all rolled into one. Be totally useless. Really. All you can do is sleep on your couch because motion, talking, laughing, eating causes pain and reopens that hole, so all you can do is sit and sleep and do and say nothing. You are a lump, and you have to sleep on the couch because it props you up. To lie down is to make your whole head want to explode.

Now take this very inglorious lump with the swollen face…and make it loved.

Not because it has anything to give, not even a Christmas card or a cookie, but just because it is and because there are people who have compassion and kindness and maybe know what it is to need or maybe just know what it is to give…what it is to love…

And that is Christmas. Right here on my couch. Christmas.

Can you imagine the craziness of it all?

Me either.

But then, it is Christmas, and really, a King in a stable all because a perfect God loved wildly? Does it get any crazier than that?

Yep. On my couch. Christmas."

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Human Stuff We Don't Talk About...But Maybe Should

I have spent much of the holiday on my couch. A few weeks ago I had a root canal done that went a bit wonky. My dentist did his part perfectly. My dental genetics, which is the cause of the root canal in the first place, did their usual antics, be a pain. Figuratively and literally.

The pain had finally subsided nearly 10 days later when the next phase of treatment started. Due to bone structure, which is to say I have very little bone structure in my upper jaw, the sinus cavity sits on the bone and in some cases, on the roots of some of my upper teeth. the result is a lot of pain in my sinus area and teeth and my teeth are decaying despite all efforts and all hygiene habits to stop them.

There are two solutions. First, we can do a major sinus surgery and lift the cavity and then do at least one bone graft but possibly more. Long time. Lots of pain. THEN we root canal and crown every tooth I have on the top. In case your trying to calculate the cost of this in your head, imagine both kids' college funds and then some. The crowns alone would be over $10k out of my pocket. And, there are no guarantees it'll save my teeth. Very unlikely since the crown and post I have now are one of the major issues we have to address. Second option. Embrace it for what it is. Genetics are not always kind. Remove all the upper teeth since something has to be done and cope with being 44 and having dentures.

Yep. 44. And I need dentures.

Despite great hygiene and thousands of dollars worth of dental work, I have to have dentures.

Something in that just feels completely wrong to me.

But as I write this, now from my recliner, we have started efforts to keep my lower teeth as long as possible and have begun the removal of the upper teeth, which is surprisingly hard to write because I fight this mental shame. No one who knows about this has said anything that would make me feel ashamed. In fact, those who know about it are thrilled. They have walked the road of horrific sinus headaches and infections with me and the ongoing tooth troubles. They aren't embarrassed that a friend of theirs is getting dentures. They are excited that their friend is getting out of pain.

So why do I feel ashamed?

I think I was taught to. Let's look at society for a moment. People who lose their teeth aren't pretty. In fact, they are deemed "hicks" or "rednecks", folks of lesser social couth than the general populace. Their lack of basic hygiene and social standards are obvious. I was on a dating site one time, and a man's profile said bluntly, "If you don't have all your teeth, I don't have any interest." Wow. Are teeth that important, or is he making some serious leaps of character judgment based on dental records?

And here I am putting it out there for the world, "I have a significant number of missing biological teeth, and it is going to get worse."

Why would I tell any of you that? Two reasons.

1. I want to tell you about Christmas, but to really understand, you have to know the back story of why I am on my couch in a medicated haze.

2. As I've talked to friends about my dental issue, I've realized a few things. A lot more people have crowns, partials, bridges, and dentures than I ever imagined. Some even younger than me. I had no idea. And, I can't tell you anything about my friends' teeth. I can tell you about their eyes, their hugs, their height because of their hugs, their hearts, but nothing about their teeth. They have teeth. I think I would notice if they didn't, but maybe I wouldn't. Maybe I'm too busy seeing inside them that I'm less concerned with what decorates them.

Maybe some of y'all are facing issues like this, too. Maybe you are having to face some minor or even major physical change that society likes to tag as a failure or an identity changer or a value-lessener. Whatever it is, I hope you know you are not the only one who has dealt with the mental or emotional pain of what you can't control, wondering how you will look, wondering how people will react.

I wish I could tell you we live in a world where that doesn't matter, but that would be a lie. To some folks, it obviously matters a lot. What I can tell you is you don't need to feel ashamed or like a failure. You don't need to let this piece of you define all of you, and you are not alone in finding your way through the thoughts and emotions of it all. And you might be surprised who knows exactly how you feel but just never said anything because they didn't think anyone would understand how they felt.

And if nothing else, for what it is worth, I can relate. Won't tell you I "understand" because I might not, but I can relate, which is to say I understand being embarrassed because the body is wondrously made but it is still made of clay that cracks and breaks. Sort of stinks, but it is what it is. So if you need someone who gets the frustration of living in a human body, I'm your girl.

Besides that, though, is Christmas, and I really want to tell you about Christmas. You might wonder what kind of Christmas happens when you spend a few weeks medicated on your couch and can't really get out and do anything that resembles Christmas. Well, in my case, Christmas came to my couch.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Searching for Life Beyond my Imagination Part 3

I'm wondering...if we are called to be different, if we truly believe Christ is the Savior and healer and the Spirit is the counselor...why are there so many broken Christians wandering around?

I'm not talking about imperfect. I'm talking about broken--insecure, angry, lacking trust, fearful, still living in abuse, still living identities of rejection/abused/unvalued.

If Jesus is the answer, why are so many people who attend church regularly, pray and read their Bibles, and do the right stuff, still living in lack? If Jesus came to give abundant life, why are so many living in poverty conditions? Why do the statistics of church attenders (for suicide, divorce, drug addiction, crime, etc.) look just like those of non-church attenders?

If Jesus really makes a difference--and I know He does--how do I need to live and what do I need to do so He can make a bigger difference in others' lives through me?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Searching for Life Beyond my Imagination Part 2

My mind reverberated with the question:

If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?

For the first time in my life, I knew.

First, I would stop spending four hours going to church every Sunday morning, and instead, I would take Jesus out to folks who need Him. I would have worship and teaching a nursing home or youth home or orphanage. Instead of praying for God to bring people in, I would ask where He wanted me to take Jesus to. The Great Commission says:

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”--Matthew 28:18-20

If I fully lived the truth that all authority is Christ's and I can't lose, I would go.

Second, I would have a study in my home in which I taught people their real identities in Christ. It is my experience that the church teaches a lot about how to live (i.e. what to do and not do), but they don't teach about who we are. If people really understood who God is and thus, who we are in Him, wouldn't we doing what Jesus said we would do?

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father."--John 14:12

I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone doing anything close to what Jesus did, which makes me think we either don't know Him, don't know the Father, or don't know ourselves, and it is time to change that. I cannot continue to live an innocuous life proclaiming that my prayers are bringing about changes I just don't know or see yet and I am making an impact by loving "every moment those God puts in my path" and say that is good enough.
When I imagine what God can do through me, safely sitting on a pew singing hymns, dropping a tithes check into the offering, and lying by telling everyone I'm fine because--what will they think of me if I'm not?--isn't it. I imagine young people passionately desperate for Him.
I imagine young people finding answers for their lives, finding identities their parents had no idea how to nurture, being healed of abuses most of us do not want to imagine. I imagine young people who dream of changing their city, not just upgrading their cell phone. I imagine young people with a ferocious faith who know they can't lose...
...And who will teach them they can't lose unless someone believes she won't lose them?
I want to be that someone.
I imagine women walking out of broken hearts and broken pasts. I imagine women rising up to know they are the place God chooses to birth reality, not just the physical but the spiritual. They are the place heaven invades earth, and if they can conceive it, He will bring it forth. I imagine women knowing they are able and worthy and hand-chosen to be the dreamers and birth place of mighty movements of God. I imagine women doing and being and breathing and birthing more than they can think or imagine because of who God says they are. I imagine women with a ferocious faith to boldly know they cannot lose...
...And are just waiting for someone to say, "I believe in you because I believe in the One who made you and lives in you."
I want to be that someone.
I want to do what Jesus said I will do, and while I'm not doing it yet, I imagine I can.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Searching for Life Beyond my Imagination Part 1

My friend John Perron is a Marine. He served actively for 9.5 years, served in Desert Storm.

My friend Leanna Ellis is author of the Plain Fear series, one of my absolute favorite series ever. She is one of my soul stretchers. She dumps truth in my lap, plops down beside me, and asks, "So, what are we going to do with this?" She's always in with me, and we go some interesting places together.

I've never met Allen West, but he gets in my face with his comments so often I think he is my personal version of a Christian USMC Jiminy Cricket that lives in the land of Facebook.

This week comments made by all of these people suddenly slammed together like a cosmic crash of life questioning proportions.

John told me once, "We (Marines) were never allowed to believe we lose." Take those words, "We could not lose," put them on reverb in your head, and let them play so long that they sink into your spirit so that the core of you is whispering, "We can not lose." Now add the harmony, "If you knew (I cannot lose), what would you do?"

That is the background music playing when Leanna plops down beside you and says, "I read this book about this man who lives with such ferocity of faith..."

Now, insert Allen West commenting on a young woman who embodies two values of the Marines: 1. Semper Fi and 2. never leave a comrade behind.

And suddenly I can't help asking if my faith is ferocious or happily "good enough", and how truly "good enough" is it, if I am leaving comrades behind?
And if I truly know God's character as semper fidelis, how can I remotely suppose I could lose?
And if I truly can't lose, what would I do?

If I know I can't lose, what would I do?

For the first time in my life, I knew.

Friday, October 11, 2013

On the Unthinkable Days

He's been gone almost a year.

Each day I look at the calendar, breathe deep the step closer, bow my head, and pray.

I've never lost a brother. I have no idea how that must feel. I won't tell her I understand. I don't. And when it comes to advice for how to get through the day, all I have to offer is, "Trust God to not let go of you." How many days I prayed that very thing. "God, I can't figure out how to hold onto you, so please don't let go of me."

I pray He doesn't let go of her, and I know He won't. Through the kicking and the screaming and the questions and tears and....rage...and...all of it. He holds on.

But the day is still there, and the pain is still real, and the place he sat is still empty, and the phone he answered goes to someone else, and, dear God, a year? Has it really been a year?

Some folks don't remember the date, and that's okay. Some folks remember but don't know what to do with it, so they do nothing, say nothing. I've come to accept that as okay, too. Silence is far better than a voice that rips right to the soul because of a heart that doesn't understand.

Me? I'm jumping right into that day with her. I'm going to cry because he was amazing and the world lost a beautiful life. I'm going to send her a message with a prayer and love and tell her today is hard, SO very hard, and my heart is with her. Even if it means getting through one minute at a time, I know she can do it...even though there is a part of her sister's heart that doesn't want to...because part of her simply wants to be with him...because...a year? And how many years to come? And what life events between now and then that he was supposed to be part of? And does anyone really know how totally unfathomable it is to think of those days without him?

One minute at a time. On this day...and those to come. That is how we get through sometimes. One minute at a time.

And even though I know it is true, I don't think I will tell her as hard as it is to believe, it will get easier. Whether the pain lessens or the heart acclimates, I don't know. The hole never goes away, but somehow the smiles come easier, and the tears some less. And surely it is all because God does not let go. Time doesn't heal. He does.

She knows this.

She has lost people she loves before, and her heart has mended, but this...oh, my gracious, nothing is like this. Maybe I will tell her that. Maybe I will tell her to simply be nice to herself and grieve and cry and mourn as much as she needs to because she really does need to.

While she mourns, I will think of my favorite memories of him and what his life meant to me, and I will choose to do things that celebrate that life. I will write down everything I do, what I feel and think, how I smile and cry, and I will tell her everything because she needs to know.

She needs to know people remember the gift and mourn its loss. She needs to know I don't understand...can never understand...and yet, I do.

I understand she might need to tell me things, things that made her laugh, things that make her heart break, things that give her strength, questions she has, anger still working through. If she does, I'll listen. And so you know now, I'm going to cry, maybe with her, maybe without her, but I'm going to cry because...because part of me still keeps thinking this can't be real and it certainly can't be a year...and, God in heaven, I wish they didn't have to hurt like this. I know it is part of being in this world, but, God, I hate this for them. I hate this for her. My heart breaks for her.

And I know. I know it won't fix anything. It won't remotely make it better, but my heart is holding her tight...and even though he is gone, my heart isn't letting go of him either. And who knows but in ways only He can manage, maybe my stepping into the day with her is one of the ways He holds onto her. If so, I hope she knows He is holding her tight, and even on this day...the unthinkable one year day...He isn't letting go.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Parenting--The Amazingly Simple Answer

Folks ask me often how I have such amazing kids. Here is the recipe:


2. Know they were made to be amazing

3. Understand the road to amazing is bumpy. They'll mess up and so will I and only God can cover any of us.

4. Accept the fact the best thing I can give them is my attention, interest, and encouragement. I am Mom 24/7. They are not my children simply when it is convenient.

5. Plead for and give grace....and plead for more grace when I don't give enough.

6. Say no even when it hurts...especially when it hurts me. (some of you parents know what I mean)

7. Pray some more.

8. Be amazed...every day...with the wondrous people God is growing them into.



Thursday, September 12, 2013

Because No One is Small or Insignificant

Sunday night I created some concern when I posted about my worship time in church that day. I had really hoped the focus would be on the big vision God was giving me and the fact that although I am nothing special as a person and by myself I can’t make a difference, but with HIM I can accomplish great things. It really is all about Him, and honestly, I’m humbled at the vision and scope He has given me. That was truly what I meant when I used the words “small” and “insignificant”. However, that was not how they were interpreted, and some beautiful hearts expressed concern and support.

I’ve considered how to respond and prayed about it because…well, you’ll see…I hope. I even considered saying nothing, but last week the Lord kept echoing in my mind one sentence people have said to me untold number of times over my life: “Jerri, I’m not you.” They say it with sadness, and it is obvious they think there is something about me that makes me somehow more than them. More gifted. More outgoing. More determined. More spiritual. More…I don’t know. I’m not more than anyone. That is what makes me small and insignificant. I’m no bigger or more significant than anyone else. I’m just Jerri, and, yes, there are some fantastically cool things that comes with that, red hair included, but there are some things that are hard and keep me on my knees praying because they are not something I want up where everyone can see them. They are ugly, and I know they are ugly, and I promise you have witnesses who will testify they are ugly.

But even with as ordinary and regular as I am, God can take all that stuff—even the ugly—and do powerful, powerful things I could never do on my own. If He can do that in MY life with my background and my ugly, He can do it with anyone’s life.

So, let me tell you about the real me. It may get ugly. Are you ready? Okay.

First of all, I am not "small" or "insignificant". I don't EVER think that way about myself. I think I was put on this earth to have powerful impact. I believe I am a gifted speaker and writer. I believe I am a force to be reckoned with. I believe I do have my Daddy's full attention, and, yes, I do believe I am the favorite.

I am fully convinced if I need my Daddy, He will send any resource He has in heaven to my aide, and if need be, as it once was, if I need Him to, He will get off His throne and come to earth Himself to do what needs to be done to save me from whatever has the audacity to attack me. Mostly, He saves me from myself.

I truly believe anything that comes before me I am capable to handle. I believe any giant and any mountain that steps in my way makes a mistake because it will come down.

I believe I often come across as harsh and overly blunt, and because of that, I sometimes say nothing when I should say something, even if I say it with a bit more edge than I intend. In my opinion, these are my two greatest weaknesses, and I would appreciate prayers for these things if my Daddy brings me to your mind.

One of my great strengths is my refusal to back down from a fight when I’m fighting for someone or when I know I’m right. One of my great challenges is learning when it really doesn’t matter if I’m right or not. I get to practice this

Because I know I’m a strong presence, I sometimes play “small” in order to not overwhelm people or to keep from being a target. This is one of my greatest faults. I truly believe I can be a strong presence and be a place of refuge in that strength without being less than who God expects me to be. I’m still learning this. I hope I get it figured out before I die.

It hurts me when people don’t like me or people don’t understand me. In fact, those wounds cut horrifically deep, and I expend absurd amounts of time and energy figuring out how to mend the relationship. The Lord is teaching me to know when that matters because not all relationships are meant to be mended. It is a hard truth, and I have to keep that on the altar before Him all the time.

Oddly, though, I have no problem standing against another strong person when I feel that person is threatening, and if they don’t like it, I don’t care. Still learning proportional response. Sometimes a .45 is enough to fix the situation, and I bring a tank, and sometimes the collateral damage is… Remember the ugly I talked about? Well, this is way on up there on the ugly list.

I stink at being vulnerable, and God has made it clear this is one of my greatest strengths. However, it has been stolen through people’s painful treatment, accusations, and abandoning me throughout my life. It is something He wants restored. Can I tell you how much I am not loving the idea of THAT battle? But I am also excited. Walls can be so hard to maintain, and it is not good for me (man) to be alone. It’s a worthwhile battle. Love the idea of when it is over, just not the walking through.

If God brings you to mind, please feel free to pray for any (or all) of the above.

I am far more the warrior than the woman of grace, and I realize that rocks some people's world's and upsets their happy apple carts and rips their comfort zones to shreds. I have been called "intimidating" by more than one person, and while I can assure you I never desire to intimidate, I also have no intention of being less than who God created me to be.

I can also tell you if you are fighting to be who God created you to be, I'll be your best cheerleader. I will be the warrior who stands with you to encourage you and defend you because when we start standing up in the Truth of who we are, Satan will start throwing bombs about who we used to be. I’ll be there to remind you of the Truth and to tell the liar to go to hell where he belongs. I just may not say it gracefully. J

I'm not perfect. I don't claim to be, and I'm more aware of my faults than most people think. I thank God for grace, and I pray every day to be a person who extends it more than I expect to get it. I make mistakes. I hurt people's feelings, and sometimes I can't figure out how to say I'm sorry without sounding not-sorry, and I hate that. But honestly, sometimes I don't say I'm sorry because I really think I am right and have nothing to be sorry about.

That is kind of the way I see me.

Now, let me tell you how I see YOU.

First of all, you are not "small" or "insignificant". Don't EVER think that way about yourself. I know you were put on this earth to have powerful impact. You have gifts and talents no one else has. He has a big plan, and you are part of it. You are a force to be reckoned with. You have your Daddy's full attention, and, yes, I do believe you are the favorite.

I am fully convinced if you need your Daddy, He will send any resource He has in heaven to your aide, and if you need Him to, He will get off His throne and come to earth Himself to do what needs to be done to save you from whatever has the audacity to attack you. He will even save you from yourself.

I know you are a gift and a treasure, and I also know I am no better—no bigger, no more significant, no more talented, no more important—than anyone else, not even you.

So when I say I am small and insignificant, I don’t mean I think I’m worthless and unimportant. I’m simply saying I’m a human being like everyone else. Period. I’m also HIS, and in Him, I’m everything I need to be for Him to be great through me.

I believe that is true of everyone. So anyone who has ever said or thought, "I'm not like (Jerri, Ann Voskamp, The Piano Guys, Tedd Dekker, insert the person Satan uses against you HERE)," no, you're not. But you aren't supposed to be. You're just supposed to be like the beautiful flavor He built into you.

And THAT is always significant.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Grace--Love, not License

Yesterday I wrote about what grace is and what it does, but some of you need to know what it isn't and what it won't do.

Grace is not a license to do whatever you want knowing God will cover your butt.

Grace does not hand out a condom knowing you will be stupid and have sex with someone you shouldn't. Nor will grace tie you down so you don't go to that crackhouse again. Grace does not hide your wallet so you won't go to the track and lose this month's rent and risk putting your family on the street. Grace doesn't save your job when you've been looking at porn at work, and grace won't make your spouse stay because you aren't responsible enough to be faithful.

But Grace says, "If you have sex, I'll love you, even when you hate yourself."

Grace holds your hand and whispers, "You can do this," the whole time your body aches and the only thing you want more than that drug is to be clean...and even when you don't but you are determined for this time to be different.

Grace says you don't have to lose your self-respect forever just because your past choices made you lose everything else.

Grace never brings up the past except on those days when you are drowning in what a bad parent you are and how you never get it right and how you wish you could do it over, and then it reminds you of when you were the mom who wanted the crack more than you wanted that baby and you couldn't get through the day without a drink and you chose the way out instead of searching for a way in.

Grace reminds you of who you are and encourages you to believe in who you can become.

It is Love that says I know it all, and I'm still all in...with all of you...the parts that hurt and  the parts that hope.

Grace can't fix the past or change what you did or who you were. Grace just says, "You don't have to be that anymore."

And if you are tired of who you are and what you are doing, I want you to know, there is grace, and God has enough for you.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Grace--When Looking Up Says You Never have to Look Behind Again

"Jerri, you keep mentioning grace, and I've heard about it in church, but I really don't understand what it is."

"Jerri, I have this head knowledge of what grace is, but I can't figure out how to make it heart knowledge."

"Jerri, you keep mentioning grace. What IS it?"

Let me tell you about me, and my experience with grace, and maybe that'll make it more real and less "theological dictionary."

When I was a teenager, I had an addiction to prescription drugs. I used alcohol to excess so I could feel numb. I thought the most valuable thing about me was my jeans size. I got everything wrong and nothing right, and there was an ample number of people who told me so. I was horribly ashamed of who I was and what I did, and there was no way out of it. I was judged by people in my family, in my school, and in my church. Did I mention I ran with the "bad" crowd? Druggies. Drunks. Thieves. People who thought sex was a premium and people were expendable. People with rap sheets as long as my arm with no fear of the law. In fact, the only law  they recognized was the one on the streets dictated by the situation.

In an effort to pull my life together, I met a "nice boy", finished college, and got married. The degree turned out to be useless for employment, and before the honeymoon was over, I realized I had made a huge mistake but had no where to go and saw no way to get out. I tried to get help from the church and the church leaders only to be told what I failure I was because he was so amazing, it must be me. I spiraled into a dark place, shut down, hid the truth no one wanted to hear...and hated myself more than ever.

Nineteen years later, the charade came apart. A divorce petition was filed, and the fake I had been for all those years was right in the open for all to see, and judgments came hard and fast. And can one really drown in shame because if you can, surely I would?

How could I have stayed with someone like that? Did I have no self-respect? How could I lie? It was my fault for not telling. And it felt like all the sins and failures and false claims were waged against me, and I had been found guilty of it all because how could I be found otherwise? And there I stood in front of the firing squad who felt they had every right to demand I take responsibility for the whole mess I had created, and, Lord God, was it ever a mess.

I had made the wrong choice. I had married badly. I had...believed for the miracle that didn't come, and when you believe for a miracle and it comes, you look like a giant of faith, but if you believe for a miracle that doesn't come, you look like a sham and a failure. I looked like the biggest charlatan of all.

So there I stood. Taking the beating and the hits and the judgments, and there was no way out. There was no defense because how do you defend a life gone so horribly wrong? You can't.

But you can hide.

Except you don't hide in the lies or in the facades. You don't hide in mirages of what you wish things were. You hide in Truth.

You hide in Him.

You hide in the One who says, "I'm not ashamed of who you are or who you were or what you've done. I'm not ashamed to have my name associated with yours. I'm not ashamed to be seen with you. In fact, I want to be here. I want you for me. I want to give you grace."

Grace is the thing  that steps between you and the Judge, and instead of your getting beaten, it takes the bullet you deserve. Instead of hating you for all you've done, it loves you because you are simply you. It doesn't look at who you've been. It sees who you are and were created to be, and instead of looking back, it rejoices in now and looks forward to what will come.

Grace is the get-out-of-the-disgusting-Jerri free card. It is the gift that says you no longer have to be who you were or  think like you did or hate yourself for what you weren't. It is the Voice that says, "You are fearfully and wonderfully made. I have a purpose for you. You are worth dying for," and when you point to the past, He smiles and says, "I'm bigger than all that."

It is the safe place where punishment isn't, and you no longer have to fear the next shoe dropping. It is where you can breathe and dream of what you can become instead of carrying the weight of what and who you have been.

Grace is the Love that says, "You are more important to me than my right to be angry about not being important to you.."

Grace is what says I don't have to carry a sign that says:

"I'm an addict, a drunk, a failure at marriage, a failure in society, a failure at life.
I am an embarrassment to my parents, a bad example for my peers, and disgrace to my church.
I lose patience with my kids, lose desire to care, lose concern for others.
I deserve nothing good because I am nothing good."

Because in grace, none of that matters any more.

What matters is that I let Jesus take the nails, take the garbage, and have my heart.

What matters is that I choose God's love over my self-hate.

What matters is that I leave my insanity in the graveyard where I was living and walk right into civilized society and tell people how good God is because how good He is far more world changing than how bad I was.

Grace is when you are on your knees sobbing with your heart screaming, "If only I could start over...", and you hear that whisper that says, "You can."

Grace is what forgets what you got wrong yesterday and excitedly waits to see what you get right today.

Grace is the gift that lives in the present and has no interest in the past.

Grace is all about who He is and so very unconcerned with who I was.

Grace is what says, "You don't have to look back. Just look up."

So I do, and in Him, I find me. The peace-filled me. The hopeful me. The fearfully and wonderfully made me...the me I always wanted to be but never could on my own, and you know what that looks like?

It looks like grace.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Because Sometimes You have to be Right

It happened in Sunday school in a class with the deacon, the worship leader, the assistant pastor, the senior pastor, a friend of mine for years, his son, and me. The assistant pastor is the class leader, which means he serves as referee, and this particular morning he must have been feeling something between courageous and insane because he picked the topic of Halloween for the discussion.

Being the vocal female, I stayed quiet. This is not a good topic for me, and I know it. I am very opinionated on this issue, and sometimes opinions become a battlefield to die on, and it was not a good day to die...for me or anyone else in the room.

Then it happened. One comment led to another, and someone said something else, and I tossed in a quick thought and tried to step back, but the young man said it, “It’s just about candy.”
And that line of thinking kills.

“NO! It’s not!”
It is not about candy or costumes. It is about satan and hell and agreeing with demons, and haven’t you ever read the history?!

And my opinion gives way to passion, and my passion refuses to lose this battle. The calm demeanor disintegrates, and I am shocked at what the church finds acceptable if it is just presented in the right wrapper, and I am honestly hoping this young man simply doesn’t know, but if he doesn’t, he needs to. Then the long-time friend who is the father throws in, “I realize you are a woman, and most of you think you are always right.”

His words slam hard because there are times I did have to be right, and having to be right can sometimes make things all wrong, and I question.

Do I really believe I am always right…or are there topics in which you have to be right always?

There are times we cannot afford to be wrong.

When we are dealing with satan and his minions and their determination to steal, kill, and destroy all we are and all we love, we cannot afford to be wrong. And that is what Halloween is.

Halloween is about heaven and hell and inviting hell into your house wrapped in a piece of chocolate or dressed in a princess costume.

Halloween is about agreeing with an enemy who wants nothing more than to kill, steal, and destroy, and to give him an inch is to risk giving him everything.

It is NOT about candy. It is about your kids and your marriage and your lineage. It is about saying you will not entertain evil, not even evil that feels good or tastes good or lies and says it is good.

Halloween is about standing your ground and holding fast and knowing to agree with any part of hell tells them you accept them all because they don’t want your taste buds.They want a way in because they want it all, and a house isn’t taken down with an A-bomb but a million tiny cracks in the foundation where the water and the termites and the enemy seeps in.

If a member of Al Qaida steps onto your front yard and holds out a piece of candy, will you let him or her into your house? No. If you are in Texas you will grab your gun and kill them where they stand before a second step could be taken because you know they don't want to come in for tea and a chat about Duck Dynasty. They want to destroy your way of life and kill you and all those you love. You will NEVER let that into your home. They are evil, pure evil, and you will kill them or die trying before you let them near you or your loved ones.
The fact is the same evil that runs that operative is the same evil that is celebrated and worshipped at Halloween. The same evil that kidnaps children, sexually molests them, and kills them is the same evil celebrated and worshipped at Halloween. The same evil that will destroy your marriage, turn your child prodigal, and make you put a gun to your head because it is all pointless anyway is the very same evil worshipped and celebrated on Halloween.

If you were to show sympathy to that Al Qaida operative, he/she would think you were sympathetic to their cause, to who they are, to what they stand for. If you decide one part of evil is acceptable, you decide it all is. Satan doesn’t care if you just want candy. He wants your soul, and if he has to wrap his evil in candy to get to you, he will.

I don’t care if it is Halloween or yoga or some other demonic rooted activity or mindset or philosophy wrapped in a pretty wrapper. Satan will not give up what his inherently his, and some things cannot be redeemed, and God expects His children to have the sense to see the fruit and walk away.

We tell our kids not to take candy from strangers because the strangers might be out to hurt or kill their bodies, but every Halloween Christians encourage their kids to take it by the bag fulls from satan who is out to destroy their souls.

Why? Because we don’t want to give up the traditions? Because we want our kids to have the great childhood memories? Because we are afraid of looking like freaks who don’t do what the culture does? Because this is what we’ve always done, and we are determined to be right?

Just remember. You can be determined to be right and be completely wrong. And when that happens, sometimes the consequences just sting. Sometimes there is hell to pay.
There are times when wrong cannot be an option. You simply have to be right…even if you have to buy your own candy.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

An Open Letter to Robin Thicke

Dear Robin,

I don't know you. In fact, until I watched the VMA video, I didn't even know you existed. However, I did watch the VMA video, and I do know you exist, and I know a bit more about you than I wanted to, and I would like you to know some things, too.

I want you to know what means to be a man of integrity and honor. Just trying to google your name to make sure I spelled it right told me a lot about you. Granted, paparazzi and tabloids have a tendency to stretch the truth or just make it up, but if that is the case, what I saw was a lot of stretching and similar imaginations. Robin, I know society, and maybe even your dad, tells men that real men are the ones who can convince as many women to have as much sex as a body can tolerate. A real man is unattached but always wanted. A real man is one who is always in control, always above everyone else, always...the master...who lives above consequence or concern. Society lies.

A real man knows how to honor and cherish one woman. A real man doesn't need everyone woman in the kingdom but knows how to daily take care of his queen. A real man knows the only one he needs master is himself, and he knows that is the hardest one to master of all.

I want you to know what it is like to be a real man.

I want you to know shame for what you've done and how you've lived, not so you can wallow there, but so you can leave there. No one repents of their past without seeing the damage and disgust it holds. I hope you see yours with wide eyes and open heart, and I hope you walk away from it, and when you do....

I also want you to know grace. Grace is the wondrous gift that says starting today, right now, that person you were is someone you don't have to be any longer. It isn't a get out of consequences free card, but it is a get a new future promise. You have to choose it, though. It won't fall in your lap. No one will wrap you in it and throw you into tomorrow. It is a choice, and you only find it in the One who created you in the first place. I hope you take it.

I want you to know forgiveness both His and your own. Very often we look at the life we've lived, especially in front of people, and we have a hard time getting past it because we can't let it go. Give the past to God, let Him handle it from here, and you keep moving. There is nothing back there and beating yourself up won't change it. Best thing you can do is leave the dead in the tomb and walk back into sanity, just like the man in the cemetery whom Jesus set free from the demon. Get set free. Leave your demons and move on.

I also want you to know I had a hard time figuring out what to say in this letter because honestly, what I saw on the VMA video and what I've read about you disgusts me, but sometimes, what I see in my mirror disgusts me, too. I pray for forgiveness and grace for me. I pray for it for you as well.

Finally, I want you to know if you ever want to talk about what any of this means, I would love to talk to you. There is a life so much better than the one you are living. You may not see it now, but prayerfully, one day you will, and when you do, if you want to talk, I am here. Just wanted you to know.

God's grace to you.

With utmost sincerity,
Jerri Kelley Phillips

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

An Open Letter to Miley Cyrus

Dear Miley,

I've never had the pleasure of meeting you, but I am a mom of a teenage girl who has sung your music and loved your hair and a teenage boy who has eaten popcorn and watched your movies. We are a family who has prayed for you because...well, we know. As a woman and a mom of a daughter and a son, there are a few things I want you to know.

I want you to know I'm sorry. I'm sorry you were exploited growing up. I'm sorry you carried a company on your shoulders. I'm sorry that people asked you to be an example to others when they were lousy examples to you. If they had been good examples, they would have known when to pull the plug, when to let you be a teenager, when to tell you no even when you wanted on stage. If they had been good examples, they would have cared more about you than their profit margin or their ratings. They would have shown you what a true "covering" does. They would have shown you how adults protect young people, maybe even from themselves. They would have known that sometimes dreams need to be held at bay a bit, that just because you can doesn't mean you should. They would have protected you. I'm so sorry they didn't.

I'm sorry the pedestal gave you a nose bleed and people didn't know how to handle it when it gave way.

I'm sorry you were not taught that your greatest value wasn't in what you could do for others but what Jesus did for you. I'm sorry you became a product to be marketed instead of a person to be nurtured.

I'm just so sorry.

I will not pretend I know how you feel. I know how I have felt when I was at the mercy of situations beyond my control or others' bad choices, and I was angry. I was sad and grieved what I had lost. I think if I were you, I would be outraged...and sad. I think I would have a lot to grieve, and if you are anything like me, you might even want to punish some of those folks who failed miserably. Of course, if you are a better person than me, maybe not. But if you are like me, I encourage you to grieve all of it. Give yourself some time to heal up. You'll be stronger if you do. And don't waste your energy trying to punish those people. It's not about being above it or better than them. When you hurt core deep, being better than anyone means nothing. However, the longer you focus your energy on them, the longer you are in their pathetic prisons. You deserve so much better than that. I say cut them lose and walk away because you deserve a better life than they have to offer. You've been at their mercy long enough. Give yourself the gift of freedom, beautiful one. It's time.

I want you to know you are welcome in my home any time. Come by. Have some sweet tea. I have an extra bed. The room is weirdly pink (previous owners doing), but if you can endure that, you are welcome to stay a bit. Rest. Don't impress us. Don't perform. Sing in the shower. Don't. Up to you. But you are welcome any time.

I also want you to know I'm concerned about your recent choices because I'm concerned about you. A woman who knows her value does not need to make some of the choices you've made, and I want you to know I know you are priceless. My family knows you are priceless. You were made by a perfect God who never makes mistakes. You were handcrafted by the greatest Artist ever. We know.

I want you to know if you decide one day you don't like the choices you are making or the life you are living, God has not abandoned you, and He can redeem anything. Lord God knows you haven't done anything I haven't done. I just didn't do it on a stage, and the paparazzi didn't care, and I'm telling you as a witness to His mercy, He has not abandoned you. Nothing is beyond Him. YOU are not beyond Him.

And the last thing I want you to know is I'm praying for you. Still. I've been a woman who didn't know my value, who made bad choices, who was failed by those who should have protected me. My heart is for your good, and my prayers are as well.

God be with you and help you find all you are in Him.

With absolutely sincerity,
Jerri Kelley Phillips

Sunday, September 1, 2013

When God Throws Your Own Words in Your Face

It was medical responders class when I said it. We had finished CPR and learning about heart attacks and the reality that the heart of the survivor may the only one we could really help.

And the nightmares were relentless.

Him unconscious in a car on the side of the road. My pulling him out of the car into my lap, trying everything I knew to bring him back. His dying there anyway. It played through my dreams at night and my thoughts during the day, and there was no conscious place it wasn't.

We were driving over to Burger King to grab lunch when he asked it. How he had died, and I told him, mechanical sounding and tired.

"So why did you take this class?"

Because I found medical response fascinating. I loved learning it all. I love the puzzle, the challenge, the whole thing. The cerebral answer.

"Doesn't it make you think about him and what happened?" All the time.

"Then why do that to yourself?" Because nothing will bring him back, but maybe--MAYBE--I can keep someone else from going through what we've been through, and if I can prevent this pain for even one person, it's worth it.

If I can make the difference for even one's all worth it.

Two years later I sit in my garden tub. Tears roll down my cheeks. The pain is deep, and no matter where I look, it is there.

I think about recent blogs and posts and verbal comments and conversations and discussions, and they tumble out of my head and replay in front of me. I talk too much. I always think I'm right. I'm just flat wrong. Who am I to say that? I said it the wrong way, to the wrong person, in the wrong tone. I should have said something else, written more, said more. I should be more humble and willing to learn. I should be more courageous and willing to teach. I should sit down and be quiet. I should rise up and step into my destiny.

I think I should stay in bed and avoid people altogether.

I think about the conversation two years ago, in the car as he asked why I chose to take the class. He had no way of knowing at that moment, I was trying to figure out how to fail the class because really, I just wanted out. I wanted out of the dreams, out of the torment, and out of the responsibility of it all.

The dreams were tormenting, and the always present reality that there would be someone I couldn't save and what then? What happens when you do your very best and it still isn't good enough, and no, I'm not God, didn't want to be, but this frail human had reached the limit and maybe the reality of what I couldn't do or be was the point where I shook my head and said, "Enough is enough." Really, is peace such a horrendous thing to want?

All I wanted was peace.

I sit in my garden tub and ask the same question: Is peace such a horrendous thing to want?

And again the mental and emotional torment is unending, and I am all too aware that no matter how good I am, I am never good enough. The reality I can't help everyone slams me like a wrecking ball. It is the barrage of voices telling me how I am not enough--not good enough, not smart enough, not "this style" enough, all. And this frail human being with a heart exhausted from three years of trying to rebuild a life and trying to understand who I am to be and what God wants to do has reached her limit, and maybe the reality of what I'm not or the personality and style I don't have leaves me shaking my head and saying, "Enough is enough."

Peace isn't a horrendous thing to want, and I'm wondering if the way to peace is to walk out of the war because, God in Heaven, I'm tired, and if I step off the battlefield, will anyone notice anyway?

Then it happens. His voice whispers, and my body cringes.

"If I can make the difference for one person, it's worth it."

My words. In His mouth. Not what I want to hear.

"How much is one person worth?" His voice is close to my ear, and I really don't like this. "If there was one person on a battlefield, and you knew you could reach them, but you also knew it meant every member of the enemy's army would turn their sights on you, would you leave them there, or would you go get them?"

He knows. And I am torn between being honored and being angry. "I'd go."

I feel His smile against my ear. "Yes. You would. Jerri, there are people down, and you are the only one who can get them, and, yes, the assault will be hard and unrelenting, and you may need a breather--"

"Not as long as there is one more I can get."

His smile broadens. He knows.

And I have no idea how I will stay on this battlefield, but I will, just like I passed that class, just like I didn't flinch when my patient was young man with symptoms of a heart attack...and the same heart problem that killed my husband...because sometimes they don't die in your lap. Sometimes they get what they need and live long, beautiful lives.

Sometimes it stinks to be the one who will run into the burning building, but I think it would be worse to be tormented by the voices of the ones I could have reached but didn't. So I'm still here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

This is the Package, and I Don't Apologize for It

In the last few weeks, I've been told I'm "belligerent", "talk too much", am overly opinionated, and some other things my husband told me the night he explained all the reasons he no longer wanted to be married. Only he put it into one big pile and called it "intimidating".

To these remarks, I would say:

If it is belligerent to be determined to break the status quo, to be a force to be reckoned with in a world going to hell, and refuse to believe my family will be part of those hideous statistics the news tosses out, you better believe I'm belligerent.

If being absolutely sure of my God, His abilities, His expectations of holiness, His grace when I fall, and the certainty that there is a right and wrong is opinionated, I really am sure I right.

Perhaps I do talk too much, but perhaps this country and our culture is on a high speed road to hell because people with the answers didn't talk enough.

And, yes, I expect other people who go by the title "Christian" to live up to a higher standard and to live with honor, integrity, and conviction that the normal crowd does not possess. If we don't, then we ARE the normal crowd, and of all the things Jesus was accused of, being normal wasn't one of them.

If that package intimidates you, I pray to God I am the most intimidating person you ever meet in your entire life, and I make no apologies.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Being the Answer


This morning I took time to watch part of the video of Miley Cyrus at the VMAs. I couldn't watch it all because I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry because I'm so sorry she thinks that is all she is. I wanted to cry because the man with whom she sang thought it was okay to treat her like that in front of people. I wanted to cry because those people thought it was fabulous. And none of them realize how much they've lost themselves in thinking all of that was okay and "edgy", and porn of all forms devalues everyone involved because you can't call a human a piece of meat without saying all humans can be cheap piece of meat including yourself, and, Daddy, I can only imagine how that makes you want to cry.

And instead of asking how she can do that, I'm asking for wisdom to teach my daughter to never do that because she is so far more valuable than that and to teach my son to be a man of honor who would never dishonor a woman that way. I'm asking how you want me to speak into the lives of the young ladies in my life and how to invest in them so they know they are priceless and never need to act cheap to get attention, and how do I speak to the young men and live in front of them to show them how a woman of character acts and how they are to treat her?

Lord, I see the problem. Show me how to be the answer.

Monday, August 19, 2013

What I Don't Understand

The sound of vomiting came from my bathroom. I could hear it, but it was muffled by my sleep. Then the voice.

"Mom? I'm sick."

A child calling, "Mom," breaks the sleep hold in an instant, and I am already sitting up when I ask, "What can I do?"

"A cold washcloth and more trash bags?"

The morning passed with the sound of vomiting and the swapping of trash bags. Nothing stayed down. Even water was offensive.

Afternoon found ease with crackers and toast and finally some dry cereal, and while he fought the virus, I considered what to do with the broken dishwasher and the backing of the shelves the girl child and I were building...the backing that had been cut too small. I pondered these things as I scrubbed more gunk (technical term) from the flat top stove that was forever needing scrubbing, and I questioned the terms "low maintenance" and "easy to clean".

Then the phone call asking me about WonderGirl's driving and telling me again how much easier life would be if she had a license and I can't keep her small forever. Can one look at a child with eyes the same height and think she can? And what about this activity and that one, and if she were just driving, I wouldn't be saying my time and energies are already stretched. Did I understand yet?

I understood.

I understood that people like to make judgment and demands when they don't know, and nothing I do lives up to everyone's expectations, and when the week has left me feeling inadequate and seeing all the ways I fail all the time, another person telling me how they think I am inadequate and a failure--and not just inadequate or failing at just anything. Oh, no. Inadequate and failing as a MOM, my heart fails, too.

And I wonder what is in His heart when the problems of life and the problem people are everywhere and the still yet to be seen.

But tomorrow is Sunday and the respite of church where my soul find solace and strength and Him. My soul longs for Him because the longsuffering has me thin.

Then the sun rises, and the light reveals the sickness, not of the boy child but four pets whose digestive tracks have all gone soft, and I hit my knees, not to worship but to work through the piles of illness, and right now, the piles are not all that stinks.

Right now, it all stinks, and really, could it have been so hard to give me a good morning THIS morning? Has the week not been enough? Does what feels like the sadistic have to slip into the Sabbath, too? If you made today for rest, can You not give me some?

After the piles of sickness, I see the pile of dishes left not so much from lack of discipline but from lack of dishwasher and the presence of sickness. The ability to make breakfast sits piled high in the sink, and I try to hold the tears in while the water runs. And my heart is sick. Sick of another thing on the list. Sick of one more thing on my every growing to do list. Sick of...this.

Somehow this sick heart and tired mind makes it through the dishes and the cooking of breakfast and out the door on time with two children in tow, and thank God they are no maintenance today because really I think one more thing may break me.

Then it happens. The breaking.

"Check engine".

I stare at the light on my dashboard, and in that instance, my light is gone out.

I am in darkness, and I wonder where my Daddy is and why He is silent...and really? Today?!

So I pray...for whatever that is worth. I've been praying all week, and instead of finding answers, I have found a harder assault. And I am helpless on this battlefield. I have no more armor and no more energy, and I need...I just need. Desperately need.

Because it is more than the list of what has to be addressed. It is the seeming sabotage of my efforts to address them. I figure out a strategy only to have it stopped by another problem, but I figure out how to handle them both, and before I can take a step forward, something happens that makes it impossible to address either, and if you have to do B before you can do A, and C must be done before you do B, and you find yourself somewhere down around M only to be slammed with an N that knocks you to your you sit there. On your knees. Because all you have is the reality that He is God and you are not, and He doesn't answer to you, and as much as you want answers, you remember Job...and then what do you do besides just sit there because really. You cannot handle it getting any worse.

So I just sit there. Hoping to stay off God's radar.

People are confused because I am quiet, and I am never quiet, but when you have a million questions and no answers and the hits keep coming even where you expect to find refuge, what does one say?

Sometimes the whole goal is simply not to sob.

At least not where people can see you because what would they say? What would you say? How could you explain? How do you explain that a God you know is good has left you feeling far more broken than blessed? How can anyone understand? Surely they can't.

I can't.

But I know He is good, and I know He is kind, and I spend the day trying to find peace with the pain.

Sometimes the greatest faith is finding peace with the pain...especially the pain that seems to have no purpose.

And all I know to do is cry...and whisper. "Please find me. I can't find you in this. I need you to find me."

And somehow I find my way to Isaiah where the enemy is bigger than Israel, and surely defeat will come, and the king only knows one thing to fall on his knees before the God who let them get here, so he does, and he never asks why. He simply says, "Without you, we will be defeated. We cannot stand against this army. Without you, we will be taken captive."

The words whisper from me. "Without you, I am defeated. I cannot fight this battle. I don't even know where to start. Without you..." My mind cannot fathom the thought...without Him.

As hard and painful as life is with much as I don't understand why He does what He does...without Him? I cannot fathom.

I read the words He speaks to the king. "Tomorrow you will see your deliverance. I will handle this."

Tomorrow. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but He is there, and His plans are not thwarted by the next letter in the alphabet, and I don't know how, but tomorrow things will fall.

This morning I woke early, and before I was out of bed to let the dogs out of the house, I knew the answer for the shelving problem and the oven top, and while those rolled through my mind, He whispered over them, "Call first thing about the truck."

I did knowing it is impossible to get in to see the shop I use on Monday morning, except this morning when they had an opening. Come on in. The disconnect button is blurry through this humbled daughter's eyes.

Four hours later the call comes in. The diagnostic is run, and two codes have pinged. They took off my gas cap, put it back on, and the codes cleared. Seems the gas cap was ajar, and they think it is petty to charge for that, so it is free. And my mind remembers another place that charged $120 for the same thing and had no concern or mercy.

Then the bad news. The front brakes are worn dangerously thin. Then I remember. The red light. The hard jerk to the right, the pop, and having to press the brakes again because they didn't hold. In the busyness, I had forgotten. But my Daddy didn't. This is concern. This is mercy. This is a Father doing what has to be done to keep His children safe. This is a Father who loves...even when this daughter is so completely unlovely...

"By the way, when the tech was looking through, he found a $20 bill in the seat rail of the front seat. He put it in your cup holder. I just wanted you to know in case you wondered where it came from."

And I am drowning in this mercy pool, and the tears are falling again. No. Not all the alphabet is fixed, but how much He loves me fixes my heart, and I still don't understand.

I don't understand this mercy. I don't understand this grace. I don't understand the lavish generosity. And once again He leaves me not understanding. I don't understand Him...or this wild and crazy love of all.