For a few very hard years this word was my mantra.
The word means
-undismayed; not discouraged; not forced to abandon purpose or effort
-undiminished in courage or valor; not giving way to fear
But the truth is, I was often dismayed by everything that had taken place, and I did battle discouragement. I battled fear and doubts. I hurt and was angry, and sometimes "undaunted" sounded more like a mockery than a mantra, and I was determined to be real about all of it in these posts, thus the name, Undaunted Reality. More than that, though, I was determined to live undaunted, not because I'm so great or strong, but because my God is, and no matter what this world looks like, He is the only reality that matters.
I pray I live the reality of Him beautifully undaunted.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Preparing to Receive the Gift--Day 7: Rest

Be still.
And know.
I am God.
Psalm 46:10

I do not recall if I have stated it here, but the simple fact is I am exhausted on all levels--spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and thus, physically. The last four years have taken a large toll, and I have reached the bottom of my reserves.

For a variety of reasons, I have tried to battle on anyway.

I was afraid if I stopped writing, no one would be here to read it when I returned.

I was afraid if I admitted my utter exhaustion, I would get what I got last week and people would tell me to stop being weak and to man up and fulfill my destiny and who did I think I was to sit around when the world is going to hell in a handbasket?

I was afraid people would think I am weak because I didn't just dig deeper or find that other gear or hit that extra switch. Except there is nothing else to dig into. I have no other gear, and all my switches are running on high.

I was afraid of failing God by not taking responsibility for my gifts and using them to build the kingdom and bless others.

I was afraid if I didn't lay a certain foundation or take certain steps then I wouldn't have made the right preparations to receive my personal promises He has made.

"Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid.
Do not be discouraged,
For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
--Joshua 1:9--

Last night I spent about two hours talking with a friend. We both know God always answers prayers, so where was the answer? We talked through the "stuff" until it became loud and clear.

"Take some personal time."

In case I missed it, I hopped on Facebook earlier today, and my friend Lisa had posted a picture with Psalm 46:10 on it. :-)

I won't bore you with the details of the whole conversation with my friend or with the Lord after the phone conversation. I might write about it someday, but for now, the pertinent information is...

For the next three months, I am taking "personal time". I will not be blogging, writing for a deadline or clear purpose, ministering in a formal way, or any other activities requiring energy beyond raising my kids and making a home. Whenever my Healer and Great Physician say I am allowed to return, I will, and I hope y'all are all here to catch up with then.

Until then, y'all take care. Be blessed. Know you are loved wildly, and always take time to...

Be still
And know.
He is God.

Blessings, y'all!

Compassion Isn't Big or Small, Just Personal

As I write this, the news media is full of headlines concerning the missing Malaysian flight. 239 people are gone.

If you are like me, this is more than you can wrap your mind around, and it's easy to leave it there, in my unfathomable realm. Letting it be too fantastical to be real means I don't have to think about or care about those real people whose lives have human-size holes in them now. Easy for them to be the least of my concerns.

Except, isn't that the very people I'm supposed to care for? The least of these?

But how do I care about the least of these when the loss feels too great to comprehend? How do I make their pain personal? By looking at it personally.

Those 239 people were mothers/fathers, husbands/wives, sons/daughters, friends, loved ones.

They were people called every day or every week. People laughed with them, shared dreams with them, had dreams with them. They were the movie buddy, shopping buddy, coffee buddy. They were the one who encouraged when times were hard and listened when things just needed to be said. They were the pieces of lives, the very important pieces. They were the footsteps down the hall at night, the door opening after work, the one always called, the perfume always ready for a hug. They were the sounds and smells of life.

I don't know any of them.

But I know I have a shirt that I keep simply because it smells like my mom, and I know what it is like to want to hug her again.

I know what it is like to think something is funny and I need to call Rob because he'll think it is hysterical, too.

I know what it is like to see a heart in some odd place and take a picture so I can text my friend Sharilyn.

I know what it is like to crawl in bed and see an empty place and have no one for my toe to touch.

I know what a human-size hole looks like in my own heart, and I imagine it is just as crushing in theirs.

No, I don't know them, but I do. And this monstrous loss isn't too big for me to comprehend because I know it is human-size, and I comprehend that well. And it isn't hard to make it personal when you realize it wasn't an airplane that was lost, but 239 persons.

Part of me is afraid for it to be personal because what if it hurts and I cry and people don't understand why I am crying for a bunch of strangers?

But are they really strangers? Or just people I've never met who have experienced grief like I have?

And maybe that is really what I need to understand more than anything else.

Copyright 2014 Jerri Kelley Phillips

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Preparing to Receive the Gift--Day 6: The Gift of Crazy

The box has been gone so long I don't remember when it disappeared. We've looked, cleaned rooms, scoured the dust bunnies behind shelves. Nothing.

I prayed.

WonderBoy is a sculptor. He uses polymer clay to make tiny figures, and he uses those figures to make dioramas so he can take pictures that he turns into slideshows and films. Sometimes he just uses them to create another world where he works things out or simply finds adventure.

 That box held some of his favorite adventure figures, and I was sure it had somehow ventured into a trashcan. Still, I prayed.

What else do you do when something is hopeless besides pray?

I have prayed a lot for that box, for us to find it, and all the looking still didn't find it.

A few months ago my fridge started making puddles on the floor. It was leaking into the bottom freezer and seeping onto the floor. I finally broke down and asked someone for some help. He told me to turn off the water to see if it was possibly the water dispenser or the ice maker, so I did. It still leaked. So I turned the water back on, and the ice maker no longer worked.

After trying everything I knew, I finally apologized to my checking account and called the manufacturer. Of course it is no longer under warranty. Missed that by six months, but they would cover the cost of the part, and I only had to pay the $120 in labor. When I mentioned the ice maker, I was advised to simply buy an extended warranty for a year for $367 because both repairs would exceed that. I nearly choked. I was almost buying a new refrigerator just to fix my "just not new enough" one.

The nice lady at the manufacturing company suggested trying to reboot the ice maker. Just turn it off, leave it off an hour, and turn it back on. Worth a try. So I did. And when I turned it back on, the water dispenser had stopped working, too.

You ever had one of those why-do-I-bother? moments? It was one of those with a side order of just-shoot-me-now.

I tried everything. I thought maybe the hoses were frozen, so I unplugged the fridge overnight to let them thaw. Nothing. I turned the water off and rebooted the ice maker again. Nothing. I made sure the water was on. A trickle came out of the water dispenser and stopped. I tried rebooting everything since I knew the water was on. Nothing. Reset the water filter. Nothing. Changed the water filter. Nothing. Every combination of on and off for all the pertinent water and power sources was tried. Nothing.

When I went to bed last night, I just prayed, "Lord, we can use ice trays, but we use the water dispenser a lot. If you could just make that work again, it would be nice." And I wrote on my to do list the need to call and schedule the repairs.

4:01 a.m.

The red numbers were bright in my dark bedroom, and the voice was loud. "I wonder if the water is even on."

It was a stupid thought. I knew the water was on. That is why it would trickle and quit. When I turned the water off, there was no water at all. Of course the water was on.

So I rolled over and pulled my blanket up around my chin.

"What if the water isn't on?"

But it is.

"Is it that hard a thing to check? I mean, getting up, walking to the kitchen, and checking a valve versus a few hundred dollars in repairs. Doesn't it make sense to at least check?"

So I tossed off the covers, walked to the kitchen, reached behind the fridge, and felt the valve. Just like I thought. In the "on" position, but for reasons not of my mind, I twisted to see if I could turn it some more. It turned. Not even a quarter of a turn, but it turned, and I heard water hum through the tubes.

When I put a glass under the dispenser and pushed, water flowed freely.

And all I could do was laugh and say, "Thank you," and wonder at the goodness of my Daddy.

With gratitude for the answer to prayer, I headed back to bed.

Couldn't sleep. My brain was busy thinking about how God answers the craziest impossible-because-I've-tried-everything-I-know-and-if-you-don't-do-something-it-is-hopeless prayers.

So I decided to journal, except I couldn't find my pen, so I pulled out my side table drawer and rummaged for a pen, and in the rummaging, there sat an Altoid box. I stopped.

It's that moment when that crazy prayer has been answered but you are afraid to touch it because it might not have been, and I mean why in the world would that box be in my side table, except there was a box in my side table...and why would we ever look here....

And do you open the box because it probably isn't THE box because if it is....well, must how crazy would that be anyway?


The kind of crazy that only happens at 4:27 a.m. after a dead refrigerator water dispenser is restored to life. That is when the craziness of a lost Olimar and his Pikmin sheep being found happens.

Crazy, I tell you.

The no-way-in-the-world-that-will-happen-so-it-must-be-God kind of crazy. And that kind of crazy is a total gift.

Copyright 2014 Jerri Kelley Phillips

Light in the Darkness: The Light on the Hill

In my last post, Light in the Darkness: Why Would You NOT Tell that Story? I mentioned my friend John Perron and his challenge to show Christ's relevance in other's lives by telling about His relevance in mine. People see how Christ can impact their stories by seeing how He has impacted mine. My story isn't just a story. For those in dark places, which is anyone--believers in Christ or not--at various times, it is a light on a hill. It is the place God shows up and shows off, and I have been asking, "How can I show you more?"

In my last post, I talked about the challenge to simply tell my story. For folks to see the light, there has to be a light to see.

Then I began to ask the Lord, "How can I make my fire brighter and more consistent?"

After thinking about it and praying, I can identify three things that affect how my fire looks to those in the darkness:

1. How bright my fire shows because of the stories I tell. There are so many examples in my life of how things happen that were not done in my power or with my ability. Those are the fuel. Those have to be loaded on heavy and often.

2. The whining and anxiety I spew feeds the darkness and distracts from the fire. The Bible says to share our needs with other believers so they can pray and add practical help when they can, but too often "sharing" is simply whining and confessing anxiety due to a lack of expectation of God coming through. Sometimes it is blatant attacks on God's character that He is somehow failing because look what is happening NOW and the pity party is off and running. I try not to spew, so I go silent, which isn't the answer either. I'm still praying on this, but I have some ideas. I'll get back to that in another post.

3. Expect Him to be amazing. When Daniel found out about the edict to kill all the wise folks if they couldn't give the king his dream and its interpretation, he didn't walk into the room with his friends and say, "We're all gonna die if God doesn't show up in a big way." Nope. He said, "We are going to pray because God can show up in a big way." He wasn't sure if God would or not. When he went into the lion's den, he didn't say, "God will save me." He said, "God CAN save me. Even if He doesn't, I choose to be in His hands instead of that idol's." God has shown up huge before. He can do it again. Even if He doesn't, I still choose to be in His hands than any where else, and it isn't because He expects me to be that good. It's because I know He IS that good.

And I don't want anything to keep people from knowing how good He really is.
Copyright 2014 Jerri Kelley Phillips

Monday, March 10, 2014

Light in the Darkness: Why Would You NOT Tell that Story?

"Why would you not tell that story?"

John's words keep rolling in my head...and so do some of the responses to my initial post.

Tone is often lost in written communication, so let me clarify some things that I believe were lost.

John was not accusing or attacking. He was sincerely asking. He has stories to share, too, and he'll tell anyone who'll take time to listen. I don't hear all the stories because I'm not around him all the time, just like he doesn't hear all my stories or know how much I talk about the things God has done because he isn't around me all the time.

Just so happened we were on the phone discussing how we as Christians can live lives for Christ that are relevant to the world. It's a challenging topic, and we don't cut each other slack on it. In the course of  conversation, he said if we want people to see Christ as relevant in their lives, they have to Him as relevant in ours. If we want them to see how He can impact their stories, they have to see how He impacts ours.

"You need to tell your story more."
It wasn't an attack. It wasn't an accusation of failure. It was an observation of someone who sees God in my story in huge ways and wonders why in the world I would put that light under a basket. I owe God the glory of lighting it bright and sticking it on a hill for all to see.

At first, it caught me off-guard. I thought I did that. I thought I talked about God and what He did in my life a lot. I thought...I was doing pretty good.

That's the ugly truth. I thought I was doing pretty good. And let's be honest, if I am doing pretty good, I'm probably doing well enough.

Except I heard that Whisper. "Can you do better?"

If my story is a light on a hill, can I stoke the fire? Can I share it with more of the darkness? Can I make it a bit bigger?

Can I do better?

Obviously I can. So I am.

In the Old Testament God commands the Israelites to tell the stories of His great acts so people remember and know why they worship. They tell their stories so they remember His goodness toward them even when things are impossible. They tell their stories to offer hope...especially when things are impossible.

Did the people know the stories already? Some.
Weren't the stories old? Not to folks who hadn't heard them.
What difference could that old story make? All the difference in the world.
Who would want to hear it anyway? Someone looking for a light in their dark place.

We tell stories to remind ourselves,
to give glory to God for His goodness,
to give people a reason to hope.

So, you have any good stories?

Copyright 2014 Jerri Kelley Phillips

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Preparing to Receive the Gift--Day 5

It was about 20 years ago when I read it and I prayed it.

Matthew 7:12:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I memorized the verse before I ever went to grade school. It seems like I've always just known it.

However that day, I saw it differently.

That day I didn't see it as a command. I saw it as a way of life.

Do for others like you want someone else to do for you.

And I wondered, "If anyone could do anything for me right now, what would it be?"

I made a list. I would want someone to:
--encourage me.
--point out the things I'm doing well since I get imprisoned by the things I'm doing wrong.
--notice when I'm not there.
--think about how to help before I have to ask.
--be a safe place.

Over time the list has changed. When I became a parent, I thought of things like:
--hold the squirming baby so I can have a bit of rest since my husband was on the road or catching up on sleep all the time.
--invite me to coffee with no hubby or kids are welcome.
--just know being a mom is exhausting and hard.

More things happened, and I added bits about when parents get sick and die. Or when a spouse dies. Or when a spouse leaves.

The list isn't in concrete. It isn't even on paper. It's just a mental list I keep, and I've prayed often for God to let me be those things for others. Hard times happen. I wanted to be the haven when they do.

This week the Lord granted me the gift of being several of those things. I can't tell you the details because obviously the needs were personal. I don't want you to think I'm telling you this because I'm so great or look what I did. It's not that.

I'm telling you because I prayed a prayer 20 years ago that the Lord is faithfully answering, and I am humbled that He heard and even more humbled that He gives me this gift. It isn't that these people don't have someone else they can call. It's that they called me. It's that He gave me a big house so I can let folks stay when they need a place, and I can feed them, and I can offer a reprieve and maybe give them time to rest so they can keep on this journey and move forward with courage and hope. To be able to do that is priceless to me.

Sometimes the greatest gift isn't what He gives me. Sometimes the greatest gift He gives is who He empowers me to be and what He lets me give to others. Sometimes the greatest gift is being the tool He uses to help someone else live their story.

Copyright 2014 Jerri Kelley Phillips

Preparing to Receive the Gift--Day 4 The Story that Started Me Talking--My Truck

In my post Preparing to Receive the Gift--Day 1 I mentioned that my friend John Perron challenged me. He asked me why I don't talk more about what God is doing or has done for me. He knows there is a reason I tell people I am God's favorite. It's because God treats me like I'm His favorite. He is lavish with His kindness and gifts, and John asked why I don't talk about that more.

He specifically mentioned my truck.

A lot of you don't know about my truck, and he only knows part of the story on my truck, so let me share with you all the story about Farmer Ted.

I think to truly understand God's hand in how I lost Farmer Ted, it is important to know about God's hand in how I got him in the first place. A comment later will make much more sense if you know the story from the beginning.

My husband died in February 2011. I hadn't been single in over 19 years. I had not been single my entire adult life. There was so much I didn't know and so much was overwhelming, not to mention that with the happenings of the last 8 months, I was an emotional wreck trying to hold life together for my kids.

Do you get that this was not the most stable place I've ever been and probably not the place I would choose to make big decisions from?

A month after my husband died, my van became ill. I had put in a few thousand dollars in repairs the year before, and I was looking at putting in at least a few thousand more, and that didn't include the "expected" work. It was time for the van to go.

I had never picked out a vehicle on my own, and I have had some less than glorious experiences with men who sell and/or repair vehicles, and I didn't really want to buy new, and I knew nothing about buying used and....just breathe, Jerri, just breathe....

That was my mantra a lot.

Just breathe, Jerri, just breathe.

In mid-April, I called my brother-in-law who is the best mechanic and one of the most automobile-knowledgeable people on the planet and got some guidance.

"I want a truck. I know nothing about trucks. What do you suggest?"

Without hesitation, "Toyota Tundra, under 60,000 miles. You don't have to buy new. They are great trucks."

I had a starting point.

I didn't want to buy new. Actually, the idea of finding my way through a new car experience was more than I could fathom, so I got on Craigslist. I found a beautiful 2005 Tundra with camper having about 35,000 miles. Crazy good. Probably too good.

I asked my cousin Rae to look at it for me since she and her husband are all things truck. She called, asked the questions, talked to the lady, called me and said, "This is the perfect truck for you. You need to buy it."

Except I didn't.

Instead, I survived my mom's first birthday without her and my daughter's first birthday without her dad and my first mother's day without a husband and without a mom and prepared for my first anniversary in 20 years in which I wasn't married. The last thing on my mind was a truck.

Except the van was getting sicker.

Astonishingly, the truck was still for sale. If you know Craigslist, you know how utterly impossible that is.

Finally, I went over and drove it, and I really liked the truck, and although I asked for a few days to think about it, I was on the phone before I ever got home. I wanted the truck.

Then I found out I had to rearrange some funds so I could get a cashier's check to pay the owner. That was another ten days. About day 2, the owner called me. "Jerri, someone has called and wants to look at the truck. What should I do?"

"Let them look at the truck."

"What if he wants to buy it?"

"Then it is his truck. He gets the truck he needs. You sell the truck you need to sell, and I don't get a truck God doesn't want me to have. We all win. Really. It's okay."

He looked at the truck. The owner called. The disgust was obvious in her voice, "He didn't even drive it. He opened the door and said, 'This isn't leather interior,' was rude, and left." I laughed. "Jerri, this is your truck."

She knew it. I knew it. My cousin new it. We were just waiting for everything to work through.

And it did.

On June 1, six weeks after I first saw this truck listed, nearly 2 weeks after I knew I wanted it, one day before my dreaded anniversary, I drove home in my new truck. I loved that truck.
I don't think I have ever driven a vehicle I enjoyed more than that truck. It was perfect. He was beautiful, perfect condition, easy to drive. He was blessed. He was God's gift. Farmer Ted was most certainly my truck.

In the next 2 1/2 years, he had some minor repairs done, and then he went shimmy crazy on me once. Took two days for the repair men to figure out what was up with my beloved Farmer Ted. I have no clue how many hours they put in or the parts they tried. Nothing worked, and I was getting nervous. Finally, the manager called. Would I be willing to let him send a tech to the tire shop and let them replace the tires with heavy duty "the life Jerri really lives" kind of tires? It wouldn't be cheap, but they had tried everything from rotating tires, to balancing, to adjusting the front end, to fixing this and that, realigning, and then some. Nothing worked. This was all they could come up with despite the fact the tires looked perfect. He told me honestly, "I'm not sure it will work. In fact, it is a long shot that it is the tires, but we have no other idea."

I started to laugh. "Oh, thank goodness I'm not crazy. I thought it was the tires the whole time but couldn't figure out how since they look like they are in perfect shape. I think this is what we should do."

And they did.

And Farmer Ted was fine.

While I was thankful to have Farmer Ted back, I was dreading that bill. They had spent HOURS on the truck and who knows how much trying different parts. Just taking the truck to get the tires had been 6 hours of tech time lost on my truck.

Just breathe, Jerri, just breathe.

When the manager of Christian Brothers handed me the bill, I was shocked. Surely there was a mistake. He went over it with me. "The tires were this much." He pointed at a number. "The bushings were this much." He pointed at the other number. "This is how much they come to."

Uh. What about everything else? You know, like labor?

He shrugged. "I'm not worried about it." He jerked his head back toward the bay where the techs worked. "We're all good with this."

Is it appropriate to hug a car repair shop manager? I didn't know, so I didn't. Instead, I handed him my credit card, paid the absurdly underpriced bill, and drove Farmer Ted home...crying tears of gratitude the whole way.

That is just how blessed and good my 2 1/2 years with Famer Ted were. It was a good 2 1/2 years.

Then it came to an abrupt end.

On November 1, 2013, I texted my kids to let them know I was leaving a friend's house and would be home in about 20 minutes.

I was headed home, driving down a road I had driven untold times, nearing a large intersection when a teenage kid heading my direction, turning across my lane of traffic, didn't look up at the light, didn't look at the traffic coming toward him, just followed the car in front of him...right into my lane...right in front of me.

When the screeching and crunching stopped, the kid and his car had finished the turn. (I don't know about his car, but I'm guessing from what I was told it was totaled. He miraculously was unhurt.)

Farmer Ted and I sat in the intersection, and from what I could see. It was bad.

I just sat there.

Honestly, I was afraid to move because I was afraid my knees would give way if I tried to stand, and I didn't want to look stupid. Plus, traffic was still going by us, and I have read too many reports of folks surviving an accident only to be hurt by folks driving by. I was safer in my truck.

Almost instantly, three women were by my door asking if I was okay. They had seen everything and would give their accounts. They had already called 911. Police were on the way. Seconds later a policeman was by my other door. He had an ambulance on the way.

I sat there still stunned.

I called my kids. "There has been an accident, and I'm going to be a bit later than I thought." Since I'm an emergency responder, they didn't question. They assumed I was helping. Never occurred to them I was being helped. I had chosen my words carefully just for that reason.

I texted John. "I've been in a wreck. I think my truck is totaled." I wanted him to know in case this took awhile and I needed someone to go to the house. He's the only one the kids had permission to let in the house, and I thought I might need backup.

I kept waiting to hurt. I kept thinking I was so much in shock that I just wasn't feeling how much pain I was in.

When the ambulance arrived, they did their check and asked me all the right questions, and finally I said, "Really. I think I'm fine. If we were to swap places, and you could tell me exactly what this feels like, I'd tell you to take some ibuprofen, keep a rolled towel behind your head to keep your neck curve protected, and you probably won't like being you in 48 hours because that is how long soft tissue takes to work through the trauma. Really. I would think you were blessed  and God took good care of you."
When I stepped out of the ambulance and saw Farmer Ted, I realized how truly blessed I was.

 See that big bump under the hood? That is part of the side of the motor that was sitting on top of the motor.

 You can't see it from here, but radiator isn't okay. The axle mostly looked alright. Mostly.

But when I looked closer, I could see, and really, my stomach rolled.

The frame was bent. Not only was Farmer Ted totaled, but there was no denying just how bad it was...or blessed I was.

The next concern for me became how to get home to my kids. We were still new to the area, and while I knew people, I didn't know phone numbers, and I didn't know anyone well enough to call to pick me up. You might be wondering about my friend I texted to check on the kids if I needed him. Well, he was over 30 minutes away at his son's activity. Asking him to check on my kids if I had to go to the hospital was one thing, but just getting a ride home? Surely they had taxis here.

I don't know. I didn't have to find out. Two of the witnesses, opened their hearts and their car door and told me they would happily take me home. As it turned out, they are believers in Christ, and we had great church and worship time as they drove me home, and they openly agreed in God's safety because, "We still can't believe you walked away from that unhurt. That's a miracle."

Yep. That's God.

As it turned out, the young lady had been the prom date of a wonderful young man I volunteered with at the volunteer fire department.

They were beautiful women. They were God-gifts.

While some folks know I totaled my truck and I walked away with only a bit of soreness, let me tell you what few folks know.

First of all, my children go everywhere with me. It's what we do. We load in the truck, go somewhere, and talk. It's good family time.

On that day, we were all at the front door when I stopped and said, "You know, I'm just going to run in and run out (at our friends'). Why don't y'all stay home and get school done that you need to do? I won't be gone an hour."

They hugged and kissed me, told me they loved me, and went back to their rooms.

My daughter always sat up front, and my son sat behind her. Had they been in the truck, the impact--you know, the one so great it bent the frame--would have been on their side.

I thank God for airbags, but there are no airbags in the backseat, and while an airbag "helps", how much could it help against impact that bends truck frames?

As we all expected, Farmer Ted was declared totaled. Folks had told me about their experiences with the paltry sums offered in exchange for their vehicles. I doubted I would get anything near what Farmer Ted was worth. When the phone call came to negotiate, I braced myself. When the woman gave me the total, I asked her to repeat herself.

She did.

I was silent.

"Ma'am, do you feel that is an unfair settlement?"

I answered, "Let me make sure I understood you." I repeated the number back to her.

She assured me that was the right number and again asked about the fairness.

I assured her I thought it was fair. It was within dollars of being $2,000 more than I had originally paid for Farmer Ted.

How do you buy a used truck, drive it 2 1/2 years, total it, and make $2,000?

Only God.

During the process of settling with insurance companies, I spent a lot of time on the phone with the other driver's insurance. The representative and I ended up having long conversations about faith, God, His goodness, and the story of how I got Farmer Ted in the first place. One day while we were discussing specifics about the wreck and settlement, he grew very quiet.

"Jerri?" We had been on first name basis for awhile. "Do you believe God knows what is going to happen?"

Yes, I do.

Again, he was quiet. "Jerri, 2 1/2 years ago God knew you'd be in this wreck, and He held that truck for you. I'm looking at the pictures and the written reports and all the notes, and the fact you aren't hurt just shocks me."

As he had done multiple times, he asked me if I needed to see a doctor. Get an MRI. At least get x-rays? I assured him that really I was totally fine. Not even sore.

He said it's just because he's dealt with wrecks like this and no one walks out unhurt and he wanted to make sure I was fine because really this was a bad wreck, so bad that...he grew very quiet. Then he said in a voice I can't describe:

"I've read a lot of reports and seen a lot of injuries. You should be in the hospital as it is, but if you hadn't been driving a truck that big, not just a truck but one that big, we wouldn't be having this conversation. I'd be writing your kids a check. Jerri, God gave you that truck because He knew you'd have this wreck and He knew what it would take to keep you alive. He just gave you the 2 1/2 years to enjoy it as an extra gift."

People wonder why I think I am God's favorite. Part of it is because God gave me a wonderful truck to drive for 2 1/2 years, and I'm still here to tell about it.

What Has Stayed with Me

Something interesting struck me this morning while I am being still, hanging with God, and laughing with friends.

Kenneth and Joy Jordan were our pastors through most of the first year of loss and rebuilding from 2010 to 2011. At that time, they lived 7 hours away, but they were always present, always available. Good heavens the love they poured out on us.

Then in fall 2011 (they can correct me if I am wrong) they moved less than 30 minutes away. They lived near us for nearly a year. I thank God for that year. Few years of friendships have been so precious to me.

The whole time they lived near us, they attended church. I remember their beautiful children asking my son (and probably daughter) to go to camp with them, and my son did attend a children's thing with them once. But you know, I don't remember their asking me to go to church with them. I don't remember their ever being a big promoter of their church. HOWEVER, they were big promoters of love, acceptance, kindness, compassion, presence, strength. Their home was always open to us.
We enjoyed many meals and much laughter with them.

I've heard Kenneth preach once. I remember I thought it was a good sermon, but now I can't remember it. I've seen him and Joy love a lot, and I can tell you tons about that. I'm not saying Kenneth isn't a good preacher. I'm just saying I've heard him talk about Jesus, and I've seen him live Jesus, and the way he lives Jesus is what has stuck with me.

Copyright 2014 Jerri Kelley Phillips

Honest Prayers--What I Need to See at Church

Dear Lord,
I plan to go to church today. When I do, open my eyes that I would see those hurting that you want me to love and make their day better and not just those dressed badly who let me feel better about myself.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

When You Have to Let Things Die So You Can Learn to Live

Yesterday I mentioned that I realize learning to live better isn't working, so I want to know how to die better.

Now, the truth is I have no clue how to die better. I know religion, but religion is far more about self-preservation than it is serving God. Religion tells me how to act and live so I can get blessed, earn eternity, and look good. No wonder religion kills. It keeps me from the very thing that brings real life--letting go of anything good I hope to be or do or become so I can embrace all He is, can do, and wants to become.

Today I keep thinking about the phrase, "Die to self."

If myself has always known religion and agreed with it and lived by it, then if I want to learn to die well, isn't religion one of the first things I have to lay down?

And to be honest, I'm wondering, "Do I even know what life without religion looks like?"

As I roll this around in my mind like someone twirling a pencil between their fingers, I am fighting this near panic that is trying to rise up in me, and I hear a Voice calm, "You realize this means giving up the hope that religious people will see what a great Christian you are and how much like Me you look. You realize this means looking stupid and looking like nothing religious people recognize and in fact, becoming what they criticize."

I realize it will happen, but I cannot realize how hard it will be or how much it will hurt until I'm in it. Is that supposed to settle me or scare me...or determine my resolve?

And the question fills my mind:

Are you still willing to move forward?

I ask in reply:

Where in the world would I go back to?

Copyright 2014 Jerri Kelley Phillips

Friday, March 7, 2014

Preparing for the Gift--Day 3

I can't tell you the whole story yet. You have to wait till March 22nd, but I am humbled by the God-gifts I get to call friends and how much they love my kids.

When You are Tired of the Battle to Live a Better Life, Maybe It is Time to Die

Unless I lose my life, I'll never find it.

Unless my wheat dies, it will never be a harvest.

For as long as I can remember, I have looked to the Bible and to church to learn a better way to live. But now I'm asking for a better way to die.

For years I have battled certain things in my life.

I have battled an arrogant impatience with people who simply do not understand well enough or do not perform well enough. "Well enough" for what, I don't know. Who am I to tell them the pace they are to live or grow? All I know is my patience is lacking and my harshness is abundant, and it makes me far more ashamed than I care to say.

I have daily battled the voices in my head that remind me of every single mistake I've made in a day and all the reasons why no one would love me, want to be near me, and want to be my friend and certainly never want to be my husband.

I have daily battled the reality that if I am put on a scale, my failures far outweigh my victories.

I have daily battled the black hole that pulls at me telling me the world would be better and I wouldn't look stupid if I were to just be silent and unseen.

I have prayed against, repented, cast out, released, rebuked, taken my thoughts captive, thought on things true/noble/right/perfect/lovely/admirable/excellent/praiseworthy, cut soul ties, broken curses, and..and...and...Been prayed over. Anointed with oil. Prophesied over. Listened to teachings. Read umpteen books on how to be a better Christian and live a better life, but the battle still rages, and I am weary.

And this morning I am pondering. Maybe the answer isn't in finding a better way to live. Maybe the answer is in finding a better way to die.

Copyright 2014 Jerri Kelley Phillips

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Preparing to Receive the Gift--Day 2

It was earlier this week when I sat in my bedroom floor, back against the wall, tears falling hot. Words stumbled through the tears.

"I don't believe in fairy tales anymore.
I don't believe in Prince Charming.
I don't believe someone is going to come to the rescue.
I'm sorry I ever wanted or believed any of that.
Please help me just want you and let the fantasy go."

And I sat in the dark and sobbed.

There are certain things in my heart I simply don't discuss with anyone but God. This is one.

When my husband died three years ago, my friend Josiah sent my children and me several different songs to love us and encourage us. They were always exactly what we needed to hear, and although I sat and listened and cried, my heart found home in that music. It wrapped me up in a way I could not explain. It was like the arms of God wrapping me up, holding me tight, and whispering, "I've got you. It's going to be okay." And even though I cried hard, it was okay.

Today Josiah sent me a personal message, and again, he spoke in music. There is no way he could have known this music or his words or...the only one who knows my heart that deep is God Himself...

Again, I'm crying. Because again, my heart finds home, and again, my Father wraps me up and whispers, "I've got you. It's going to be okay."

And it is.

I can't embed the video, but you can find it here.

Why Go to Church?

Being a single mom, trying to raise two children on my own, looking at things and wondering if I made mistakes that created problems for the kids instead of helping/healing, figuring out what to do with the rest of my life, knowing my oldest graduates in a bit over a year and finances change drastically, along with keeping the house running with yet another appliance that has lost its mind, multiple oral surgeries, in-laws that don't love me, church leaders who say they are here for us but aren't, same church leaders who say they'll get back to me on something and never do, the ongoing slamming walls of social connections and finding a place in the church, and.....sort of built up a bit, and I made the mistake of trying to talk to people in the church about it.

Their response? I need to be healed NOW. In fact, I was commanded to get over all those past wounds NOW! Well, um, I'm past those, thanks for not asking. A whole thing about how I need patience and grace and am a fighter and need to quit making excuses and do what I'm supposed to do because that is who I am and don't forget! YOU are expected to do it better because that is who you are.

In other words, "Jerri, let us tell you how you are not acting and performing like you need to. Let us fix your behavior because, girl, you need it."


Even if I didn't already feel like I was failing across the board, I certainly would have by the time these "love you lots" Christians were done.

Oh, yeah. Did I mention none of them actually let me tell them what was bothering me? But they were more than active in telling me how they thought I need to be fixed.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. These sum up the law and prophets.

Want me to tell you how many times they told me that?

Ironically, I didn't feel loved at all.

I felt blasted, as though someone had put a cannon to my chest. What do you even say to that?

Well, if you are me, you post on Facebook:

Church attenders (aka Christians) have hurt me more deeply and more thoroughly than a husband who left me, parents who let me know how much I failed, and in-laws who accused me of horrific moral actions and even committing murder.

If it weren't for my children, I would never walk in a church again, and I am prayerfully seeking God because I'm not sure I want my children there either.

Within minutes one person sent me a personal message, "Am I one of them?"

When I replied yes, the response wasn't defensive or accusing or filled with excuses. It was kind. "Sorry. I don't know what I said or did, but I'm apologizing anyway."

I will tell you honestly. It caught me off guard because it wasn't what I expected. Instead, what I expected came from others who commented.

Now, I want to preface and say I know with all I am these people were sincere when they said they were sorry I'm hurt. It's the other stuff they said...and didn't say.

They said...
...the church is filled with broken people.
...the church is imperfect. need to forgive. need to heal. need to find it in you to get over this and get back in church.

Notice who is supposed to take the responsibility? Notice who is the victim?

if you look, I'm the one supposed to take responsibility for healing, forgiving, and getting over it so I get back in church. That only leaves on other option for the victim, and, folks, the church isn't a victim. The church is a failure.

Okay, so it is broken and imperfect. So that is the excuse for hurting someone else? I'm broken and imperfect? Does that mean I'm not expected to take responsibility for myself or my actions? Does that get me a "get of out responsibility for growing up and doing better" free card? Because at no time did those church people take any responsibility for fixing anything or make an effort to make the church better. All I got were excuses for why it messed up.

At no point did anyone say, "So how do we get better? What do we need to do? How did this happen? What could have avoided it? What could have been done differently? What do we do now?"

In fact, no one even asked, "So how did the church hurt you?"

The comments tended to fall into three groups:
1. Sorry you are hurt. Hope you heal and don't let those people keep you from church.
2. The church is broken and imperfect and can't help the fact they hurt you. You, however, need to grow and heal.
3. I totally understand. Let me tell you what I don't like about the church, and they did.

ONE PERSON said, "Hey! We are off topic. The topic we should be looking at is the fact Jerri is hurt!"

Here is the irony.

I was hurt because my heart was heavy and aching and I made the mistake of trying to talk about that, and I was hit with the ways I wasn't performing well. So I made the comment about the church hurting me, and I was told how I need to perform, how I need to respond, and how I need to be a Christian about it.

At no time did anyone actually ask me what is hurting me.

ONE PERSON asked me, "Am I part of the pain?"

Jesus said, "Unless your religion surpasses that of the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven."

The Pharisees weren't concerned about the heart. They were concerned about the dog and pony show. They weren't concerned with how they could serve and strengthen others. They were concerned with how others made them look, and they hated Jesus because He called them what they were, "White washed tombs."

I have seen a lot of dead religion this week.

Frankly, to call it anything else is enabling the church to continue in its legal haze and not grow in the way it loves like Jesus. The Lord has slipped lots of warnings about enabling throughout the Bible. I'll pass on that.

And I know what folks in the church are going to say. I need to forgive and heal. The interesting thing is, I'm not angry anymore. I'm not even hurt anymore. I'm simply very sad and refuse to be an enabler.

It's like I told someone in a reply to a comment on that thread.

I am part of the Body, but I have this idea of how the church should be and the way it should serve, and I'm not angry anymore. I'm not hurt anymore, but it is obvious what I believe the church should be, it isn't. How I believe it should respond, it doesn't, and it is ridiculous for me to keep beating my head against a wall expecting the church to be something it isn't and then whining because I have a headache.

If all I wanted was someone to care enough to take time to listen--and that really is what I wanted. I just wanted someone to care enough to listen and be on my side--and the church was so busy making excuses and telling me how I needed to be a Christian, then why would I want to be there?

If I am hurting and I need to be served or tended, why would I go somewhere that not only makes excuses for not serving or tending me but then also says I need to be Christian-like and get over the fact they are not doing their job and quit expecting them to grow up?

Why would any hurting person want to be there?

They don't. And neither do I.

The Real Life

It is a dangerous and ungodly thing to tell God how to work and how to speak. God does not give His throne to anyone. He is patient while teaching people to lay down their will or we would all be consumed as the Bible says, but once a person has asked Christ into his or her heart, the next question should be:

 "Where do I need to lay down my will and embrace yours?"

THAT is the life of a Christian:
becoming nothing that He may become everything.
Copyright 2014 Jerri Kelley Phillips

Demon: A Memoir...A Fictional Book or a Personal Reality

One of my favorite fictional books ever:
Demon: a Memoir by Tosca Lee

I really don't know how to describe it, but a bit about it...

Clay is a writer whose marriage and life have gone to pot, and he hasn't produced anything decent in who knows when. One day a meeting shows up on his calendar. He has no clue what it is, but he goes. The man he meets is a demon...and he wants to tell his story. Beginning with creation, the fall, and the rage-filled hatred for these creatures made of mud and continuing through the ways demons impact today's world on large and personal scales the story is told from the perspective of one bent on the destruction of these mud creations.

Not thinking it sounds that profound? Here is my favorite quote and the lead up to it.

Clay decides he wants nothing to do with this demon so he ignores him. One day Clay is in a bookstore, and sees this beautiful woman. Perfect actually, and his mind wonders into what he thinks would be fun. A bit later he realizes it is the demon. In a conversation later after the demon causes horrible things which Clay witnesses, Clay says he wants nothing to do with him because he is vile and heinous and wretched and all things hideous. The demon looks at him and says, "But I made you want me."

THAT is the enemy we are dealing with. One that can be all things horrific...that can make you want him.

Really. It's a good book. :-)

Preparing to Receive the Love Gift--Day 1

Earlier this week a very dear friend of mine asked me why I don't talk more about what God is doing in my life and the good things He does because God's goodness and ability to impact lives, not the rules and regulations, are the truly relevant aspect of God that the world (and people in the church) are seeking. Truthfully, I thought I talked a lot about it, but maybe I should talk more.

Today is the first day of Lent, and I know what some folks consider Lent to be, but last year when the Lord told me to celebrate Lent, He said to celebrate it as a preparation for receiving the love gift. You know that is the sacrifice: the gift of love that opens the door that all who believe may be saved. For Lent, I'm celebrating. I'm celebrating the love gift that He gives every single day because until I see His love in the everyday, I'm really not seeing His love.

Today's love?

I got to bake cookies with my kids.

Not such a big deal? For some folks, it isn't. For us, it is huge. I'm a single mom who still has the amazing privilege of being home with my kids, homeschooling, and baking cookies. Do you have any clue how utterly impossible that is? Except we get to live it. And, yes, my late husband did a lot of financial things right to make it possible, but all knowledge, understanding, and wisdom is from my God, and while I won't go into details, circumstances were such that we could have been in a very different place except for God's hand.

From the time the desire for a baby became a conscious thought, I've wanted to be home to raise my children. I am getting to do that, and it's all because of God's acting on our behalf.

So, what did God do for you today? One thing? A dozen things? Come on. Share the love. :-)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Be Still and Know. I am God. And I am Good.

A few ago my friend Tracy Teppler messaged me that a package was on its way and please let her know when it arrived.

A few things I should tell you about Tracy. She has a heart that humbles me. Truly. It is beautiful beyond words. She shares my birthday, and she is in South Africa.

We've never actually met, and yet, when my world changed drastically, she would send emails that said exactly what I was supposed to hear. She listened. She loved, and she knew.

And now, she was sending a package.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been really quiet. Tracy is precious and keeps up with me on Facebook, so she knows about the oral surgeries and stuff, but she knows nothing about the internal stuff God is doing or He and I are discussing.

For instance, she does not know God has spent the last week speaking to me about the core of who I am and telling me to "embrace the fiery side of you." So when I received a package to "Ms. J. Kelley", I laughed. "Kelley" is my Irish maiden name. In my world, it doesn't get much fiery than that. Plus, I love that name. If it were not for my children, I would change my name back to that. It means "warrior". Some of my friends reading this are rolling their eyes saying, "Well, of course it does."

By the way, Tracy never knew me as a "Kelley", only as a Phillips. :-)

Nope. That is no "SA" as in San Antonio. That is "SA" as in South Africa. A world away...and right here, right now.

 I can't get the pictures to rotate, but the part you can't see is where she says she doesn't send regular mail anymore, but she did. :-)

And what did my wondrous package hold?

A DVD, magnet, and a bookmark.

And they could not be more perfect.

As I posted earlier today, I've been given the directive to "stand down", which means simply, "Be okay with being still." This is a hard thing for me. I was raised to believe I am supposed to be contributing. There is so much to do, and I need to be doing my share. I need to be actively pursuing God, serving God, loving others. I have the gift of writing. I need to be writing. I need to be LIVING my faith.

You know the really weird thing about living? You can't live if you don't rest. I read this week in On Combat by Dr. Dave Grossman that lack of sleep and rest will kill faster than a lack of food or water. Rest is necessary. In fact, it is so necessary, the Lord put a certain amount of time in darkness so we would be compelled to sleep and even declared an entire day necessary for rest. Rest is when the body and mind rejuvenates and heals. It is a necessity, not a weakness.

So I am resting.

And in my resting I hear a sweet whisper:
Be still and know I am God.

Or as I keep hearing it:
Be still and know.
I am God.

What does He want me to know about His God-ness?
I change everything.
Even when you can't see the change happening,
it is.
I am changing things.
Just wait.
And there is a whole other thing about butterflies I won't go into right now, but THIS? Just yes.
 Another thing the Lord has been telling me in all this is to focus on how good He is, not necessarily on the good things He does because really, that is about me and getting what I want or need, but simply about Him. It is a wondrously peaceful way to think, and instead of thinking about what I want and noticing when I don't get it, I simply think about Him and how good He is, and when I know how good He is, whatever the outcome, it is good because the only outcome that matters is Him and knowing Him. THEN my heart rejoices.

I don't rejoice so I can get something good.
Instead, my heart rejoices because I know how good He is.

The last thing I received is a DVD. Have you seen this one? Powerful story. Tracy wanted me to have it because it is a story of a man from South Africa, and she wanted to share something South African with me.

Don't you love when people love you enough to share themselves and give you a piece of their lives? To me, this is privileged stuff, this being let into the storehouse where the treasures are.

And that alone is a God-comment on conversations this week, but another thing God keeps speaking to me concerning topics I won't get into here is, "Remember the potatoes. You can't see anything. You just have to trust they are there. With these things I've promised that there is no evidence of, you have to trust if I say they will be there, they will be. Remember the potatoes."

Faith Like Potatoes.

From a half-a-world away.

Just goes to show God has the perfect gifts at the perfect times, and Tracy had no idea when she picked these up or put them in the mail. And had I gotten them that day, they would have been nice, and I would have appreciated that she did this for me because it is truly thoughtful and from her heart. However, they would not have spoken to be like they did now. So I am allowing myself to be amazed at what God did to make these arrive just on time.

And He whispers loud and clear:
"I am not controlled by time, and I will go wherever I need to go to get exactly what I know you need.
Be still and know, Jerri.
I am God,
and I am good."

And my heart rejoices.


I have tried multiple times to write a blog post about why I have gotten so quiet.

In short, physically I am very tired. The multiple oral surgeries, headcold, loss of sleep, being the only parent, and life have left me physically exhausted, and after much prayer, I have agreed with God to rest and sleep until I'm not sleepy anymore and all my mental faculties are actually functioning again.

Mentally and emotionally, which is a lot of folks' concerns since we just came through February, after much prayer on some things, the directive, "Stand down," is loud and clear, so I am.

Spiritually, it's an intense time, and if you have ever gone through an intense time of restoration with God, I don't have to tell you. If you haven't, it won't matter if I do, so just know the beautiful thing is I am in one of the most intense rest and restoration experiences of my life, and I am excited about the end result. There is peace beyond anything I can describe...along with the emotional upheaval that goes with the process.

So, the summary is simply that I am exhausted on all levels, and it's time to stand down, so I've stepped off the internet and phone and text and am spending a lot of time simply sitting in His presence. It's good. It's not always easy, but it's good.

And for those wondering, you can email/text me (I prefer to avoid FB messages if possible). I will reply. :-) I'm not on an electronics fast, just letting all of me do some healing. Thank you for caring, wondering, asking, and praying. You are gifts beyond measure, and I thank God for you. <3