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.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Unexpected Answers

I guess every artist has their definition of "making it". For country singers, it used to be singing at the Grand Ole' Opry. For some actors and actresses it is being on Broadway. For a friend of mine, her "making it" was having her photography showcased at a particular gallery. For me, there was a list, and right at the top was being published in a Guideposts book.

My mom loved Guideposts. When a new book came out, she bought it and read it cover to cover, marking her favorites, going back and reading them again. On my bookshelf is the compilation book from 1998. I've never read it, but my toddler used to sit in her grandma's lap, "read" to her (follow the lines with her finger while she made up the stories), turn the page, and read some more. Every trip to my parents', my daughter read to Grandma, and every time, my mom listened as though each word were gold.

In April 2010, I took a deep breath and a big leap and submitted my article "One Dad Plus One Dad Equals a Whole Me" for consideration for the Guidepost compilation Unexpected Answers.

In the article I talked about the blessings of my two dads. My dad was a hard worker, faithful to my mom, took me to church every week, helped me learn the Bible, solid, but he wasn't a nurturer. I remember hearing him say one time how proud he was of me, and that was the week before he died, and I heard it while I stood outside his hospital room not wanting to interrupt his conversation with a visitor. My dad sometimes choked out that he loved me, usually after I said I loved him, and if we wanted to see him, we knew where he lived. When he died, he left a big gaping hole in my "daughter heart". I sat in my study not too long after Dad passed and railed at God. "You promised me healing. How are you going to heal this? He's dead. How are you going to make this any better at all?" Two years later, my mom married my stepdad.

My stepdad hugged, called just to tell me he loved me, and made time with my family a priority. He wasn't the spiritual strength my dad had been, and the deeper, foundational conversations didn't happen with him, but he loved me and my family, and he filled the gaping hole.

Not many people get the best of both worlds, but I did.

On June 18th, I got another answer to prayer. An acceptance letter. Guideposts wanted to publish my story.

I wanted to call my mom first thing to tell her about it because I knew she would be thrilled. Her daughter was in Guideposts. I immediately started thinking of how I would sign the copy to her. Oh, my lands. She was going to be so tickled! I could already see her showing it off to her friends. But instead of calling her, I decided to surprise her when the book was done. The publisher expected to have it finished in time for Christmas, and it was going to be the perfect gift. I'd wrap it for her, put a bookmark in, let her be stunned. I'd be excited all over again...with her. So I didn't tell.

Then things changed.

Mom was diagnosed with brain cancer July 30th. It had travelled there and to other parts of her body from her lungs. On August 2nd, I told Mom she had two months to live. There wasn't going to be a Christmas with her.

When the shock had worn off and we had Mom stabilized, I contacted Jeanette at Guideposts. I explained the situation, told her about my mom's love for Guideposts and why this was so important to me, and told her I know books take time, but did she have any idea how much time?

Honestly, I was praying for a miracle, and I knew it was a miracle. The book was supposed to be ready for Christmas. There was no way it would be done in September, and that was hoping the brain cancer's assault was slow. If it was aggressive, Mom could lose her ability to know anything even before then. Really, it was going to take a miracle for Mom to see this.

Still, with big, fat tears rolling down my face, I wrote the email.

Less than 24 hours later, I had a reply. Jeanette contacted Erin who was in charge of the actual printing. Her simple question, "Can you do the miraculous?"

Less than 24 hours after that, an email arrived in my inbox. "I'm attaching a PDF of the book in case that helps any. This is what was sent to the printer. If you want, you can print just the pages your story is on (and even the cover page) =)"

And there it sat. Unexpected Answers. MY unexpected answer.

I did get to share those pages with my mom, and she was proud and excited for me. It wasn't the celebration I had hoped for...but it was also more than I could have hoped for.

On October 2nd, Mom went home to be with Jesus. The books wouldn't be ready for another two months. Their arrival was bittersweet, but the kindness and compassion of the ladies at Guideposts who let me give Mom a sneak

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Wonderful Gifts of Hard Emotions

I posted this to my Facebook page this morning. There is so much more to say about this, but for now...

 Life is not all easy. It isn't supposed to be.  There are times when it's hysterically funny and times when it is horribly painful. Grief, sadness, the discomfort of transition. Those are all normal feelings. They are gifts given by God. They tell you wonderful things about yourself.

They tell you something needs to change and you need to take responsibility for changing it...who in their right mind stands in pain and does nothing to stop it? (And I don't mean taking antidepressants that just equip you to take more and not care.)

They tell you that you've known what it is to love and be loved...because grief doesn't happen when you don't care.

They tell you when one season is ending but there was something good and wonderful about that season...or you wouldn't miss it.

These are good healthy emotions.

They become destructive when you sit in them or when you try to avoid them.

Feel them. Let them wash over you. Learn to walk through them. Let them be gifts.

Praying you have the courage to be real and true.


Jerri Kelley Phillips-Writer​

Monday, July 6, 2015

On Hard Anniversaries

I think I started counting days two weeks before the actual date. Had it really been a year? How could it be a year since I heard his voice? Or shared a laugh? Or...said goodbye? It was just yesterday...wasn't it? Not a year.

But the calendar is not prone to lying, so sure it had been...a year.

How do you face a day like that?

How do you face a day when part of your world went into a black hole and part of your heart went with it? How do you face a day when everything changed...and nothing did?

And now, this young woman sits in front of me at the coffee shop with tears slipping down her face, and she is asking me the same thing. How do you walk through that day and not fall into the black hole yourself?

Grief is a funny thing. Funny insane, not funny haha. And the one thing I can tell you about it is there is no absolute right way to grieve or face grief. Therefore, there is no absolute right way to handle the holidays or anniversaries or just crappy days, but I think there are ways to get through them easier than others.

First, remember it's a hard day. Give yourself the grace to let it be hard.

Second, you are not required to have any particular kind of day. You do not have to be happy and bubbly and pretend all is fine. Nor do you have to be miserable and glum as though the world just stopped all over again. Just be. There may be moments you can't breathe. That's normal. There may be moments when you realize you are just having a regular ol' day. That is normal. One year I remembered the anniversary of my dad's death...a week late. I laughed. This past year was 12 years since his death, and I missed him like I hadn't missed him in years. A lot was changing in my life, and I really wished I could just talk to Dad about it. Both of those reactions are normal. This year my son missed his dad horribly on Father's Day. Last year it was no big deal. This year he is the tallest person in the house, has a shadow of a moustache, is becoming a young man with all the changes that go with, and he missed his dad and the friendship and companionship he and his dad shared. Makes perfect sense. Accept that the day is what it is and roll with it.

Third, I found it helps the first few years to have a plan. Our friend David died from cancer when we were all 33. The first year he was gone I decided I could not sit around missing him all day drowning in the loss of this precious man. So, I made a list of things he loved, and the kids and I did them. Rob was at work for most of it, but that evening we did things as a family, which was second only to God in importance in his life. I don't think anyone but me knew what the activities really were. They thought we were just having fun, and we were, but we were celebrating David. And, yes, during the celebration I had some emotional moments, but it was celebrating his life, not focusing on his death.

Since then I've done the same thing with my dad, mom, Rob, and other family and friends. It helps me remember the gift of them. It feeds my soul with life. In my mind, it takes back what death tried to steal, and it blesses the world with joy.

Fourth, don't make it worse than it has to be. Booze and drugs won't help. Letting the ups and downs of the day go over you like a wave is what helps. Be weepy and normal and absurdly funny. Honestly, it is no different than yesterday. It just has a tag attached to it. The loss is no greater than yesterday. Your heart is no more broken than yesterday. The day is no darker than yesterday. It's the number that trips us up, that screams a reminder. Just remind the day, "I made it through last week and the month before and yesterday. You are no big thing. I'll walk through you, too."

Now, I know folks who take the day off and stay in bed each year or go to the cemetery and sit and talk to the gravestone or sit at home, look at old pictures and videos, and let misery and grief consume them for the day. I'm not a counselor, and I'm not them, but I wonder how that helps. But then, I'm not one to focus on dead. I'm one to focus on living, so I choose to take the life of the person into the living of life now. No. That doesn't bring them back, but it helps me remember that the important part of them--the real life of them--is still with me and is still affecting the world. It helps me see that the loss is not total, that I can choose to infuse the world with their lives any time I want.

I'm not a grief expert. But, I have experienced a lot of it, and I am pretty experienced with going on with life anyway. Life means some days are hard. They just are. Some days feel like going through the motions, but I'm a firm believer that if I have to go through the motions, they should be motions of life and celebration of God's gifts.

This morning I am praying for several folks who are facing anniversaries of loss, and if I could tell you anything, I would tell you I'm sorry. I'm sorry about your loss. I'm sorry about the hole in your heart. I'm just so, so sorry. I wish I could sit with you and listen to your stories of joy...and sorrow. I would look at your pictures and listen to the crazy antics and precious memories. I would slip a box of Kleenex to you when tears fell. I would go with you and visit the places you need to visit and listen to your words...and your silence. I would simply be a presence and tell you how sorry I am I never met this person you love so much because they sound so amazing, and I have missed a bit of heaven for not knowing them but thank you for sharing them with me.

I would also tell you it won't always hurt like this. I know it feels like it will, but it won't. Sometimes it takes a long, long time, but Life wins if we let it. I am praying you are able to let Life win.

Please know on hard anniversaries my heart and prayers are with you, but more than that, the Lord our God is with you. May He be a comfort in your grief and joyful hope for your life.


Can I pray for you? I'm not a counselor, but I can pray...and listen. You can find my email on my profile page or leave a comment with request for privacy. If you give me your email, I'll reply. If you don't, know I'm praying.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

STDs, Unwanted Pregnancies, and Grill Fires--All Good Reasons to be a Safety Girl

Okay, so the first two are reference to a line by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, but when it comes to grill fires, I'm a lot hotter than Julie Roberts ever wants to be.

July 4th, and we are doing the all-American grilling, baby. Thankfully I was the one grilling the steaks for supper, not WonderBoy. It started fine, but when I opened the lid to flip the steaks, the fire came out of the whole thing. I'm an experienced griller, but I've never experienced anything like that. Seems the steaks were a bit more marbled than the grill could cope with, and it got a bit hot under the lid. :-)

I don't usually do these kind of posts, but this is important. And before you decide you know this and don't need to read it, does everyone you are responsible for (kids, spouse, youth group, etc.) know how to do this? If not, make sure they do. Chances are they will never need it, but in the one case they do...

First thing...kill the gas. I turned off all the nobs. That didn't kill the fire.

Close the lid. The idea is to kill the oxygen source, but my fire was already raging with the lid down in the first place, so it did no good.

Turn the gas off at the tank. Some might say do it first and forget the nobs. I've had fires get a bit over excited before and simply turning off the flames fixed it. At this point, I thought I might have a gas leak, so I turned the whole thing off. The fire didn't change.

Get baking soda. Baking soda is perfect for a grease or oil fire. Get a big box! This did slow the fire, but it was still popping up under the bottom of the gas pipes.

 Here's why. See that bit of sunshine down on the right lower corner? That would be the hole burned into the bottom of my grill. That is also the oxygen source. No. I did not stick my head under there to see. However, I did see fire dripping to the ground. If you look at the above picture, you can see the white on the lower part of the grill. That is where the fire was dripping to.

I pulled the gas. And prayed for God to hold that fire. The truth is at that point, I didn't know how much fire was roaming under the bottom grate. All I knew was if the gas stayed, I ran the risk of a really good size explosion, so I pulled the gas tank.

Fire extinguisher. The fire was still coming from under the lid and out of the bottom, and all my brain could think was PASS.
Pull (the pin)
Aim (the nozzle)
Squeeze (the trigger)
Sweep (back and forth)
Please note this extinguisher is not the typical red one. This one is specifically for kitchens. I'm not the fire expert, so I won't give you all the chemical information, but a regular fire extinguisher will not handle a grease fire.

NO WATER!!!! Grease/oil and water don't mix. EVER. Inside or out.

When do you call 911?
I've been trained to call 911 when the fire is bigger than a trashcan.

This time, following simple home fire response protocol worked, but I was already mentally preparing to call in backup. In a normal July when we are dry and crispy by this time of year, I would have called in reinforcements. I would have had someone hosing down the grass, someone watching for sparks, and maybe even someone on the phone to 911.

My kids think I'm amazing. I had to tell them the truth. I'm not amazing. I'm just trained.

Using the Extinguisher
I trained with Bedford CERT five years ago, and one of the drills they do for each group is putting out a fire. I've practiced. You and your family can practice, too. Fire Extinguishers are cheap. Get one and figure out how it works before you need it. Use it in the backyard away from the critters. Do your PASS (Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep). A big thing, figure out what it takes to actually make it shoot. I did the Squeeze part, and it didn't do anything. I had pulled the pin, so...? I tried something else. Didn't work. It was my third try before I figured out how to squeeze the two pieces of the trigger to make it work. Honestly, I'm not sure my kids have the life experience to have figured that out on their own, and they shouldn't have to at this point. At this point, they live in my house. Making sure they can use devices meant to protect them is my job. I will be checking the rest of the extinguishers before I go to bed tonight, and the WonderPeeps will get the updated information.

Oh! And don't try to reuse an extinguisher. Once you use it, toss it. I'm taking mine to the fire department next week so they can dispose of it as necessary.

I hope you never ever need this information, but just in case you do....

Y'all stay safe!