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.