Ready now? Okay. About today…
22 years ago today I committed my heart and life to the man with whom I thought I would grow old. We spoke the vows—in sickness and in health, in poverty and wealth, through thick and thin, come what may…till death do us part.
Except he didn’t…and then death did.
And it’s been three of these years, and I still don’t know what to do with today.
It’s a reminder of broken promises and broken dreams, and questions remain that will never have answers except the ones I just choose to call Truth, and I never expected to bury that young man when we were 42. Somehow I thought till death do us part included more wrinkles, older bodies, more time.
But there is the promise that even in the loss God is a giver, and even when death parts, God brings together. In light of such hope, what is there to grieve?
Except I do grieve.
And I look at my ring finger that still fidgets with a ring long removed, and the thought that this is not how things were supposed to be floats through my mind, but who am I to say what is supposed to be? All I know is what is…and what He has promised will be…and today…
Today…I am fighting the mental and emotional hang over of two days of battering.
Someone we knew when everything started three years crossed our path two days ago and opted to share more than she should have about the church we attended at the time. I knew the pastors and leadership had cut me lose, and my daughter had said people reacted to her differently. I did not realize it is because leadership had given the order to be uninvolved, to keep distance, to not try to deal with her because “she’s just so emotional.” Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between rage and soul-deep pain, and I am still spending time with the Father working through because right now, forgiveness isn’t there. And I wondered, “Why now?”
Why when we are finally obviously building a new life in a new house and finally feeling we are moving to where we are supposed to be? Why when an obvious “new start” is imminent? Why the dredging and the chaos of someone who feels she needs to tell us just how bad things were and how horribly church leadership treated us? Why 45 minutes of listening to her try to “help” us and make us feel better and tell us how to move on while I’m saying, “You don’t know us now. WE have moved on. You are the one still stuck there”?
A few hours later a jabbing message.
“So you are moving and didn’t tell anyone?”
Got to love in-laws who want to feel left out.
I pointed out that I had sent an email. I told about the kids, life, the move. Sent it to several people. A lot replied. No clue why it failed to reach that inbox. A few minutes later, lo and behold, maybe she should actually check her email.
And then the questions.
"Have you sold your house? Why are you moving? Well, I guess your house is paid for?"
And I am trying to figure out how to not be declared rude, while still saying, “Really, it’s none of your business.” Do I even care if I’m declared rude? If I don’t, am I bad person or just more honest than most?
In the midst of this, I’m messaging and texting folks who need to be loved on, praying the whole time for the right words, praying I don’t filter through my fatigue, hurt, and anger, praying to be Jesus while hell keeps banging on my front door.
The next day, yesterday…
The kids and I spent a lot of time yesterday evening and again today talking about spiritual warfare, specific attacks, how to identify it, how the enemy tries to break people down, and why demeaning and criticizing others in the name of “being funny” isn’t funny at all but a different form of bullying. We had a long conversation about the kinds of spirits that incite such behavior. It was good, but it was deeply personal because I’ve battled those spirits before first in my dad and then in Rob. In fact, I’m battled them enough to know they are not about the rejection of the person being attached but about the misery of the person doing the attack. Out of the heart the mouth speaks. Some hearts must hurt a lot.
I watched everything unfold, took a deep breath, and realized God was closing a door. A door I had thought…and I was sad. It is okay. I trust God and His faithfulness and His choices, but after incident after incident of being told we are not worth fighting for, we are not worth the effort, we can’t get it right, then to be told the parts of me I believe are the greatest part of me are mere jokes and fodder for critical “humor”…I wasn’t reeling as I’ve done before. I didn’t take back on the whole rejected wife thing or post traumatic unloved identity. But I was sad. So very, very sad.
To make matters worse, the kayak trip I’ve looked forward to the last three months had to be cancelled because my Favorite Boy’s temp was elevated and tummy was rolling, and it doesn’t matter how much you need kayak time on a lake when your Heaven-Gift needs you.
And I was angry. I was angry at everyone who was part of the pain and loss that happened to us. I have rarely walked into the throne room and said, “I think you should let me kill them all.” But I did, and in that second, I would have lined them up and watched them fall. Then gone and had coffee and some kind of desert. Could I have truly done it? I don’t know. I like to think not, but in that moment, if someone had walked in my door and said, “Jerri, (list of people) have been ripped from this world and their dispatch was painful and awful,” I would have said, “Good,” and gone on because in my mind, they would no longer be her to cause pain, not for me or my family, not for anyone else. Good riddance.
So I stopped. Right there. In the throne room. I looked my Daddy in the face and said, “This isn’t who I am going to be. I refuse to be controlled by anger. I refuse to take up a cell in unforgiveness. I refuse to be imprisoned by the very garbage you set me free from, so talk to me. Where did this come from? Why did you allow it? How do I counter? What are you building in me through this?”
I wasn’t accusing God. I was conferring with my King. He is a warrior above all warriors. I needed to be at His feet to learn, to be equipped, to be given strategy for victory.
And my phone rang.
Scott and I talked twice last night. The first time I told him everything that had gone on, and I cried the whole time. It feels good to know I’m at a place with the right people so they know when I say, “I’m okay,” it’s true. It’s just sometimes the okay thing is to cry. As I told him the “lies”, the stuff people were accusing or dumping on us, he countered every one of them. When I told him how the lady said we need to learn to be happy again, he laughed. “Jerri, you are three of the happiest people I know.” I told him the rejection and the hurt, and he told me the love.
When he called back later, I didn’t cry. We joked and talked heart stuff, and it was home, and after nearly 3 years of wandering, home feels good.
When I woke up this morning, I was okay…and not.
I had planned to fill today with laughter and memories and good stuff. I really so needed “good stuff” after the last two days. Even without them, “good stuff” would be nice, and could I just not think about it at all? Today, I mean. Could I simply just…could it be nothing? Because honestly, I’m tired of it being anything.
So I got coffee and took my emotional/mental ick hangover to my recliner where I sat down with God. He’s been talking to me about dead things, tombs, and only people “not in their right mind” live in a graveyard, and I don’t know everything, but I know all these apparitions are a graveyard. How do I walk out of this graveyard and back into my right mind? HIS mind? After all, His mind is the only one that matters.
How do I deal with the stuff of the last few days? How do I deal with the rage at church leaders who leave their flock for dead? And that is exactly what this group had done.
“Go find them. Go find every sheep they declare dead.”
My mind flashed with vision and plans for the house, gatherings, groups…the safe place where people can breathe. These were the sheep declared dead. The ones wandering in the tombs needing someone to find them so they could find their right mind—His mind, His thoughts for them.
And I understood. I understood it all.
Why the attacks? Because I don’t handle thieving lions well. I don’t run from the roar. I run to it. I don’t get scared. I get mad, and I march right into my Daddy’s presence and ask, “So how do I kick his (rear end) this time?”
And I then, I go to war.
This morning, I went to war.
I prayed for people, wrote some emails and messages, fought on the front I was given, and it felt good, being me.
As for the unwelcome questions and the spiritual attack, I know what it is to have God hold my tongue, and I know what it is for Him to give me full reign. In both situations the last two days, He held my tongue. I was not wrong. I was not coward. I humbled myself under His hand and took the blows. He asked, “If battle lines are drawn, are you willing to do and say what has to be done and said even if it means losing those relationships?” Yes. I am, and it is heavy on me because usually that question means sacrifices will come. Battle lines can be hard, but the joy of Him…the absolute joy of Him…
Then I got on Facebook to check on a friend, and Rachel had commented on something I had posted which was actually her words, and she said, “You know Jerri Kelley Phillips-friends, I think you are one of the coolest people I know. I love your candor, humor and outlook on life. Do you know Dayna Oliver? I love you!”
This person who knew nothing of the battle spoke to every aspect of it, and that is always amazing to me, but what left me…”only God”…were her words, “I think you are one of the coolest people I know.” Of all the things to say. Of all the words to use.
It’s more than being part of the “in crowd” or the one people look for at an event of think to ask to tagalong. It’s more than being the one folks want to date or dress like. It’s more than a name folks want to drop.
To me, to be “cool” is a whole package. Fascinating, funny, compassionate, real, fallible, able to apologize, thrilled for others, at peace with oneself, worth the time to talk and listen and know.
I have never felt “cool”.
And today, of all days, to be one of the coolest people this amazing, intelligent, beautiful hearted person of honor and integrity knows…
AND for her to post that AFTER I said I was taking a few days off FB to pray through “stuff”, which really meant God and I are working out some rather intensely human throne room honesty.
But there it was this morning. First thing. What a way to step into the day.
As I was pondering this and just letting myself soak in it, because really, when God gives you THAT kind of love letter, you let yourself wrap up in it and soak in it like a hot tub of luxurious bath water seeping warmth and all that is good right to the very bones of you. So I was soaking and letting it be life to my bones as it says in Psalms and Proverbs.
Then He whispered.
“Jerri, ask them. Let them be part of this.”
As I’ve shared before, I don’t have intimate relationships. I do not “do vulnerable”. I do not set myself up to be disappointed. I do not open doors for people to hurt me. Enough people do that without my putting a target on my back or heart. I don’t add to the ease of the shot.
However, in that very second He spoke, I felt it. The truth that there are people who do love us deeply, who do hurt us but never by intent (being human happens), who truly want to be part of this celebration and rejoicing.
“They need this as much as you do.”
Yes. Yes, they do. They need to be part of the harvest of a hard season. They need to be part of the rejoicing after the mourning. They need to be part of the wonder of God’s goodness and the fulfillment of His promises. They need the same closure we do.
In my mind, I saw dancing and clapping and a festival of celebration. I don’t know if it’ll be “real”, but in the spirit, this is what we all need. Our hearts need this. We’ve walked such a hard road, and the pain, even for those who didn’t know how to help, was real and hard, and the prayers were long and deep and tear-filled. The grief was heart wrenching to those who have loved us through this, and now, they need to rejoice with us. They need to partake in the fulfillment. Yes. They need to be part of this.
So, I posted on FB.
“Some of you have asked what you can do as we prepare to move, here are some things I need…”
And it was okay. If dozens replied. If none replied. It was okay.
It is an amazing thing to simply be okay with people and how they love me and how they can’t love me. It’s one of the most amazing gifts to simply enjoy knowing I am loved...and I am loved deeply by amazing people.
Some of you might not understand, but I have never felt loved like this. I’ve never felt loved by people who have seen me at my absolute worst, not just in pain but in rage, people who have taken some hard hits that were totally undeserved because I was just angry and hurt and lashed out at anyone who came close. People who have seen me when I trusted no one, so I questioned and doubted even their honest hearts. People who have stepped back to give me room to feel unthreatened but never left. People whose forgiveness and compassion blows my mind. I’ve never been loved by people who don’t punish for wrongs committed, either real or imaginary. I’ve never had people in my life that do not invoke fear because if I get it wrong, whatever “it” is, they are going to leave. Either mentally, emotionally, or physically, if I get it wrong—say the wrong thing, care too much or too little, do the wrong thing, don’t do or say something—they are gone.
Today, I looked at the people who have no idea about the last two days, who don’t know I need to step away from Facebook because I’m afraid the rage or pain will leak and I’ll make a fool of myself, and good grief, I feel I’ve done that enough—I look at these people who know none of this but are saying all the things I need to hear TODAY, and it hits me.
There is only one way they could know to say those things. Daddy had to tell them. They are speaking Daddy’s heart for me.
Then another whisper, “Their hearts are for you.”
The fear curtain pulls back and the walls drop, and right there in front of me, clear as day. I see it.
Hearts of these amazing people, and they truly are for me.
It is reality changing to know people have God’s heart for you. It creates a safe place like nothing human words can describe. There is a courage and boldness that comes unlike anything I’ve experienced, and I know how to be bold and courageous. I’ve done that a few times, but this is different. It is not so much what you do but who you are. In fact, that is exactly what it is. WHO YOU ARE. Because these people who have chosen God’s heart for you accepts who you are and loves who you are and looks at the “ugly” and says, “Being human can be stinky. I’m still in.”
And they are. And have been. And…when I asked God for “good stuff”…and oh, God, let it sink deep into my bones.
But who really has words to share all that anyway, and honestly, I don’t share those things because I really detest people who latch onto the “broken” pieces and “wounds” and feel the need to fix or heal or advise, and you know folks will do that. In fact, someone tried to do that Friday night. So, I sat in my revelation bath tub and soaked because, seriously, this is bone deep, to the core, change your DNA kind of stuff you just do not want to miss.
While I’m soaking, I feel the nudge to read.
Paula Moldenhaur has been blogging about her daughter’s wedding, and I’ve wanted to read it, but the Lord kept saying not yet. Until today. Except I didn’t want to read it today. I mean really, who wants to read about the fairytale wedding on the anniversary of the fairytale that was anything but one?
With a deep sigh and rolling eyes, I started to read…because when God nudges, you listen, not because you like it or because it’s easy, but because you know His character and if He says it’s good for you, it really is.
Fine. I could read one entry, and when I was sobbing because it hurt my heart, I could quit and say I had tried.
Except, when the tears came, I didn’t hurt. What I read sounded like God writing a letter to me that started with, “Let me tell you about this other promise I kept so you get how totally serious I am about what I promised YOU…”
I need to stop a moment and get us all in the same place.
As many of you know, when Rob moved out three years ago, God told me He had the kids and me. He said He would fight for us and when everything was done, I would know how much He loves me and I would never question that love again. It was hard to see that as I sat on my bed January 10, 2011, with a petition for divorce sitting in my lap. The tears were hot and fat, and my chest hurt from the clutching sobs. It was honestly happening. I was letting go of my dream of a healed marriage, and surely, SURELY He didn’t intend this. I mean. God hates divorce. Surely I missed it. Surely I was being selfish. Surely I just needed to get on my face and get more faith and fight through this. Surely…oh God…
Because I had repeatedly asked to try to work through things, I told Rob I would neither tell the kids about the divorce or remotely take responsibility for that choice. He agreed. Because he had not told the children, I had told no one. The only one who knew I was filing the next day was the paralegal who had prepared the paperwork for me.
As clear as anything, I heard Him say, “Jerri, you have my heart. This is of me. I promise you. I have the perfect husband for you and the perfect dad for the kids.”
I had no idea I could hurt like that.
Then a message from a dear friend popped up in my email, and oh.my.lands!, did I need a friendly email. It started, “I’ve been praying for you, and I doubt you want to hear this right now, but I know I am supposed to tell you.”
Numb is a strange thing.
I continued reading. “God says to do what is in your heart to do because it is of Him. He says—and please don’t get mad at me. Really this is HIS doing—He has the perfect husband for you and the perfect dad for the kids. Jerri, He has you.”
Over the next four days, I received emails with almost the exact same words. No one knew I had filed. No one knew anyone else who had emailed. There was no common link and no conspiracy. It was, without a doubt, God.
And it was horrible.
In the midst of the horrible, I asked God what to believe for. What does one have faith for when everything they have been having faith for is gone? He was kind when He whispered, “Jerri, I’m going to give you the fairy tale.”
What does that even look like? Seriously? And you know, really? The fairy tale?
Paula’s blog post today: Spirit Seeker Sunday Meets God’s Real-Life Fairy Tale
Less than two weeks ago I was frustrated with the whole cultural—and even “Christian”—relationship garbage. Actually, I haven’t been too keen on traditional relationships or mindset of men and women in a long time, but that day I had decided I’m okay being single. I do not need that mess again. He said, “Jerri, two are better than one. Three are not easily defeated.”
Fine…but I rolled my eyes. It was my least sarcastic way of saying, “If you say so.”
Right there in the first lines of Paula’s post…Ecclesiastes 4.
Still, I was fine. Typical marriage verses. Nothing big.
It was her daughter’s blog. Sarah’s blog did me in.
Now, obviously, I’m a blogger. I don’t know any men who actually read my blog. In the last month, there is someone I thought maybe-could-be-possibly, but he absolutely does not read my blog. My writing isn’t what I do. It is who I am. I am a writer. For someone to tell me he won’t read my writing because it’s not what he finds interesting or simply too long (yeah, this would make his eyeballs fall out) is to reject an integral part of me, and it didn’t take too many lengthy conversations for me to realize Mr. Maybe was Mr. Absolutely Not.
As I talked to God about it, I told Him, “The right one will think I’m important enough to read my blog.”
Simple statement. But really, who uses criteria like that when determining Mr. Right?
From the post:“Sarah pounded out her passions and questions on a blog, writing mostly poems about her perception of life and God. One day she told me, “If I ever meet a guy who cares enough about my heart to read my blog I’m going to marry him.”
“(A friend) introduced them on Facebook. They chatted most of the night. Sarah mentioned she had a blog. David stayed up all night, read every post, then put several of his poems on a blog for her to read.”
Yep. Right there. That did it.
Insanity I tell you! This is the stuff of…fairy tales.
To add to this wild romance and wedding shindig being put together in front of my eyes was:--the “delight” tattoos…and the healing love of His delighting in me and singing over me
--the crazy duct tape flowers
--the fact my word for the year is “JOY!” and each of her posts boasted about the joy God was pouring out
--the word to get over being poverty minded and expect big things and beautiful things…things above what they can think or imagine…which is what God speaks to me every time I try to talk myself into settling for what is reasonable
--and the people who gave and helped because they wanted to be part of the celebration
--and even the verse God gave me when I was lying in bed crying over how everything I did and was seemed to agitate Rob or make him unhappy and this whole being real thing is just a bit on the terrifying side and if I can’t be real, a marriage would have no hope, so maybe I don’t need to be married to anyone, and remember? I am okay with being single. And He sat with me and said with such kindness and tenderness, “Jerri, I give you my word. The man I send you will be different. You will be naked in every way, and you will never be ashamed by who you are.” Stick that right in there with waggling eyebrows.
And SO MUCH MORE, but….
SERIOUSLY?! WHO PUTS ALL THIS IN A FAIRY TALE?!
Especially one being told TODAY of all days?
When I finally finished reading it, I wiped all the tears and just had to be still and let God settle it in. It is too fantastic. Too…impossibly impossible…and yet, all things are possible with God.
Then I decided I needed to write this up because Paula would love to know since she likes stories like this, too. We are female writers with a thing for fairy tales.
As I tried to figure out a starting point, I wrote a date on the page, and I froze.
Just so you know up front, what I am about to share is not a topic for debate, and if it becomes one, I will erase comments and if need be, stop communicating. I don’t care what your thoughts are. I know what God said, and as usual, that is all I care about.
God gave me a date for the fairy tale wedding, and I haven’t really understood why “that date”. The numbers hold no major meaning, some but nothing that made me ooh and aah. I could find nothing that seemed God-ish, something truly outstanding and “wow” worthy.
When I wrote that date, I saw it. The date when the collapse started…only it was turned around and I saw the wedding date the Lord had given me, and I heard that clear voice again. “Jerri, I’m reversing everything that happened that day. Everything you’ve lost when the promise was broken will be reversed and given back to you. Your belonging, your friends, your joy, your dreams, your family, your marriage, your fairy tale. Everything that ended that day, I’m giving back.”
I simply closed my computer. I could not take it all in.
“More than I can think or imagine”…yeah. We were so far into that realm my mind couldn’t process.
When I did finally get back on my computer and checked FB, Lisa had begun to look for appliances for me and do the research that I absolutely abhor. She offered to check utility set up requirements, which I’ve never done because Rob always did it, and I was dreading the learning curve time. I don’t mind making phone calls, but goodness, that time chasing my tail!
Now it is nearly 2200, and this is 10 pages long, and I keep hearing voices in my head saying, “Nobody is going to want to read that,” but I know there are people who do want to read it, who are actually waiting to read it. They want to know how the God who chose me to be His wife lavished me with love and all things good TODAY, not just “good stuff” but all things good.
Today did not go remotely how I had hoped. It has turned my world every direction but “life as usual”. Instead of day steeped in broken promises, it has been filled by the One who can’t break His promises.
It has been an amazing day.
Even though my brain is tired, and mentally and emotionally I feel exhausted from the deluge of Him, I am like a child who has just been handed the ultimate Christmas. I don’t know if I can sleep, but I’m gonna try.
Thank you for being part of today. J