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, June 30, 2017

Seeking THE Answer

This morning I am praying for direction. There seems to be two possible paths to take, and I want to take the right one, you know the BLESSED one, the one that makes GOD HAPPY, and really, I would love an answer right here and now on where I am supposed to be going because If I knew the end, I would know the path, right? Because after all, my tiny finite human mind can think on such a big scale to know all that.
I don't know about you, but when the path forks or life makes a radical turn or some previously unknown option appears, I tend to want to know right then and there what the outcome needs to be, where I am headed, what the other end of this looks like because then I know what I am walking toward...or more honestly, what I am working toward. But honestly, I am questioning whether that is biblical or man's hyped up theology of working harder for God.
This morning as I am seeking answers, I got the answer I didn't expect.
I got Psalm 37:23-24
The point is not to find an answer for where I am gonig. THE POINT IS TO FIND GOD because HE is one I am going with.
The point isn't to work harder or even better for God but to walk closer with God.
The point of any journey on this planet isn't to reach an end.
God is the end. He is the beginning, end, and everything in between, and instead of asking for how to get to a goal, I need to be asking how to get closer to Him.
And I know, it sounds like warm fuzzy theory and that still doesn't tell you which college to attend or which job to take or which house to buy or...I don't know those answers. What I know is every time I seek God's heart and get still and learn Him, I learn who I am in Him, what my purpose is in Him, and somehow all those answers I don't know become known.
Praying every single one of us seeks Him above evrything else and walk in the peace of knowing He adds all these things to those who seek Him.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Making the Week...and LIfe...Great

It's Monday! You know what that means? A whole new chance of making a great week!!!
Because if we simply HOPE to have a great week, frankly, we probably won't, but if we MAKE a great week, we are in charge and can put in what recharges the soul, and really, don't we all need some soul recharging from time to time (like everyday)? How do we do that?
Two things that seem radically different in the Bible, but are really the same thing:
It is not good for man to be alone.
Jesus often went off to be alone and pray.
We are not meant to be solitary beings. We are made for relationships. So when I think of recharging my soul, I think two things:
How do I better or deepen or feed my relationship with God?
How do I build relationship with other people?
Jesus got alone with the Father, talked to Him and listened. The Bible tells about God's character, but intimate alone time with Him is when He tells us His heart.
We all need people. Instead of saying, "We should (do this thing)," go do it. Instead of saying, "We need to have coffee/lunch," get it on the calendar and make it happen. Invite folks over for dinner and Mexican Train or cards or whatevr.
No soul-feeding relationship is an accident. Every relationship that fills the heart and feeds the soul is intentional, whether that be God or man.
I hope you live a wonderfully intentional week!
--Jerri L. Kelley--

Thursday, June 22, 2017


Hey! I'm glad you are here! I'm glad you opted to brave the world today. Some days just getting out of bed takes some serious bravery. I know. I've been crazy brave before too. But you know what? Every time you are brave it makes the next time easier, not easy, but easiER.
A long time ago I read a story by Faulkner called The Bear, and my favorite part of the story was the ending. It told about this little dog, less than 10 pounds in size, that took on a bear to help his human. Of course, the dog could not really do anything against the bear exact yap annoyingly, but the yapping was enough, and that sequence of writing was about the dog's mindset during the ordeal, how he couldn't be humble because he was too short to genuflect, and he couldn't go to heaven because man had decided he had no soul, and he couldn't be fierce because people just called it noise. But, he decided in that minute it didn't matter what others said or saw in him. It was what he saw or chose to be, and as he stood before that grown, rampaging bear, he decided to be brave because, "I can be brave. Even if they just call it noise."
This morning some of you need to know you are brave, even if others just call it...
...just getting out of bed.
...just going to work.
...just taking care of the kids.
...just breathing through grief that could crush you.
You are brave.
And I am so wondrously glad you are here!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

My Fitness Journey--The Big PIcture of It All

Yesterday I posted on FB and then copied it to my blog about deciding to do something different one day and going for a walk, which was a killer one mile that day and is an easier 3.5 miles less than six months later. I have been thinking about blogging about my fitness journey, but honestly, it feels odd for ME to blog about fitness and weight loss. BUT, who knows? Maybe if folks see that an average person like me can do this, they will realize ANYONE can do this.

First, let me say up front, I am not a hardcore workout person. I am not a hardcore fitness person. I am not looking to be a size 4. I do not starve myself. I'm not into any of that. I've tried that. About 4 weeks of insane is my limit. So if you are looking for fast and furious results or a super muscle body, I'm not your girl. However, if you want weight loss in real life, here my story.

Long story short, I have been seriously overweight for about 20 years. In high school, I was always told I needed to lose weight because I didn't fit those evil little tables they had, so even though I was 133 pounds and a size 12 and all muscle, I felt fat. Then I got married, had babies, ate out due to unhappiness and boredom and honestly got fat.

In the last 20 years, I've tire the diets. As I said, they last about 4 weeks, and then I feel horrible. My body aches. I'm starving. And I say something akin "boo this".

So what is different this time? Last summer I built a covered deck, and in the process of carrying boards, climbing ladders, and all the hard work, my strength increased. By the time I was finished, my stamina had increased from tolerating 2 hours of hard work in the morning to 6-8 hours of work a day, and that was in July and August. Plus, the back pain I had endured for years was gone. By the time I finished the cover of the deck in October, I had a new project of renovating a house. Most of the inside work was done by someone else, but I did the outside work. I moved large landscape rocks and built fences and tore down a wooden playset and fort and did a boat load of manual labor...and loved it. Not only that, but all the cardio pulled the pounds off pretty easily, which was great!

But, I knew I wouldn't be renovating a house forever, and I didn't see myself working on a construction crew, so I contacted personal trainer Adam Napper at Lose Inches, LLC, and met with him. My desire was to have a structured work out plan in place by the time I finished my "unstructured workout.

The first thing we discussed were my goals, and I told him I had simple goals:
1. I want to be a size 12 again. Much easier to do a lot of things in life, and much easier to alter my pants, which is a big deal since my waist and hips are not fashion proportional. Plus, I like skirts and want my legs to look good.
2. I want to do 5Ks again.
3. I want to like how I look in the mirror.
4. I want a lifestyle, not a number. I know what the tables say. They say I should be around 140. When I was in college, I worked out and became incredibly tone, not athletic toned but slimmed down tone, and I was a size 4 and weighed 150 pounds. I'm not concerned about the tables. I'm concerned about being happy with how *I* think I look. He understood.
5. Whatever we do has to be sustainable for the res of my life. I refuse to do what I see so many people do where they lose weight, hit a goal, and go right back to the previous lifestyle and gain it all back. Nope. This was not about weight loss. It was my life, and whatever we did had to be sustainable for however long that life lasts.

I explained my limitations with my knee and concerns with my back, and we spent a month figuring out what worked and what didn't. I'll talk more about specifics in other posts, but I have to give huge compliments to Adam. He was GREAT at protecting my knee and back and encouraging me that beginning is a big deal, even when the beginning was as small as mine

By the time I was finished with the house renovation in January, I had my plan in place to step into the gym. At that point, I had lost around 10 pounds and a whole size in pants, and it was time to decide whether to keep going or not.

I chose to go for a walk.

It was shocking to me how hard that mile was after spending weeks working 5+ hours a day carrying heavy things, building fences, and so on, and it hurt. My knees hurt. My thighs hurt. I ached so bad, BUT I did it again because this time I decided I really wanted a particular lifestyle more than I wanted to be comfortable.

Besides walking, I was doing weights. Adam understood that I am not the kind to do eight million reps of easy weights. I want strength. I want muscle definition. I don't want to look like a boy, but I know my body, and heavy weights tone it and shrink it faster than those kazillion rep light weights. Plus, frankly, I do not have the attention span for all those reps. Nope. I wanted change, and I wanted it in a short amount of time, so during our month of planning, we figured out the top of what my body could handle, and that is what I did three times a week.

I was really getting into a rhythm when I got sick in February and spent the next 2 1/2 months fighting bronchitis and pneumonia. Needless to say, there was no toning or walking during that time because breathing took precedence. I finally got back into the gym the second week of May and have been walking Semper everyday and doing weights 3 times a week. This week I am finally once again at my pre-sick levels on weights and distance. Actually, I'm about a mile further on distance.

So in the last six months, I've worked out about 4 of it. I've only lost 25 pounds, but my jeans have shrunk three sizes. I've added pictures. I don't know if they really show the difference, but even without needing new clothes, I can tell a difference in how my body looks in the mirror and how it feels when I do things, like cross my legs or climb stairs. Obviously I still have a long way to go before I am where I want to be, but I am a lot closer than I was in January.

I'll give you more information on what I am doing and why and what works for me and what really doesn't work for me in other posts. For now, I'm tired from my workout, and I am going to go soak in a hot bath.

But before I go, let me assure you, I am not some super person with some super diet or super anything. I'm just a person who wanted a life different than I had and made some decisions to make it happen, and I'm still on the journey.


About six months ago, I was bored, thinking, "If I could have any life I wanted, what would it be?" and "What do I miss doing that I don't do anymore?" And all that came togethe with the idea: I am going to go for a walk. So I did.
I walked "to the corner" and back. Now our corner is half a mile away. The first half if downhill, and the second half is obviously uphill, not K2,but a solid incline. Lands. My legs hurt so bad. WonderBoy walked with me, and bless that young man, he endured a lot of whining that day, but I did it, and the next day, he bravely endured listening to me whine again.
Today I walked 3 1/2 miles. And I have to tell you, even walking faster than I did then, the 3 1/2 miles was easier than that 1 mile. You know why?
Because one day I decided wanted something different, so I got off my bum, and went for a walk. And then I did it again the next day. And again. And again.
It didn't start out planning to do a 5K. It started as wanting something different. That's how change happens. Someone decides they want something different.
If you are looking at your life thinking maybe a change would be good, today is a great day to do something different!
Wishing you a gloriously different day!

Friday, June 16, 2017

At the Ending of a Crazy Week

It's the end of a kind of crazy week around here. I was thinking about it last night, and the truth is, it isn't really "a week". It's a symptom. Some things in life just aren't working, so there is always an undercurrent of frustration, fatigue, some anger, maybe some feelings of aloneness. And it is easy to look for things to just make those symptoms better, but eventually, there is going to be another week or another day, so this morning during my prayer time, I was specifically asking for solutions to the real problems. I don't believe praying to feel better works unless I also pray for the wisdom to change what is causing the problem. Sometimes I can't fix the problem, but I can address how I react to it or how it affects me. Right now, we are dealing with both here, and I am asking for--and listening for--answers. I'm praying for the insurance company to pay for the roof to be replaced, and I'm being someone they can be nice, too, and getting my ducks in a row. I'm praying for organization and bracing myself for getting rid of things or changing things that cause disorgnization and clutter. There are other things, too many to list really, but I'm praying and choosing to be part of the answer because God can do amazing things, but it is amazing how often those things include human hands and cooperation.
I hope you have a great day!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hard Day?

Hard day? Maybe some tears or screaming or just going to bed in silence? Yeah, I've had those days. Had one recently in fact. You know what is hardest about those days is that I don't usually tell anyone how hard it is because I don't want to look stupid, and I'm afraid people won't understand or they'll tell me how to handle it better or give some unwanted advice. On those days, really, I don't need that. I just would like a presence. Someone who takes the brunt of my vent and listens. Someone who sits with me while I stare at a TV with some pointless movie on. Someone who nods and says, "Yep, that sucks," and realizes it is just a day, except it is a day at the end of a string of days or weeks, and this last thing happened and...insert tears or screaming or numb silence. So, if it that kind of day, good for you for making it through and letting everyone else make it through and not making any decisions that cannot be undone. Sometimes, it is a big enough battle to just get through the day. Tomorrow when things are less intense, you can think through, have conversations, make decisions. You'll be in a much better place for those things. Tonight, be nice to yourself. Give yourself grace. Dump on someone if you need to. Get some sleep.
I'm really sorry if you had a bad day, but I'm really glad you made it through it.
Hug, hand squeeze, and presence.

An Idol

is anything that causes you to
question God's character
be angry at God
because you don't get what you want.
--Jerri L. Kelley--

Not Finished Yet

I just had an awesome prayer time with my friend Marza Bush, and you know what?
The stroy isn't finished yet.
My story.
Your story.
Keep working through the pages He is writing. ...
Some parts are hard, really hard.
Sometimes it gets way over dramatic with one thing after another and we all wonder just when this crap is going to stop.
But never give up the hope of a great ending.
The story isn't over.

When You Can't Be There

I said I don't post about my kids or personal stuff on Facebook because my real goal is to encourage people and be a bright place in the world. Well, sometimes those two things kind of collide, and I want to say...

To the officer who responded to WonderGirl's motor accident, thank you for your kindness and encouragement. Thank you for telling her she did the exact right thing by calling campus police and you would handle it. Thank you for your leniencies and not issuing any tickets.

To the woman with white hair, in the white nurses uniform, driving the white car who stopped after the policeman left, made sure WonderGirl was okay, offered to let her sit in your car while she waited for me and WonderBoy to pick her up, and applauded her for her honesty instead of just driving away when no one would know, thank you. WG isn't sure you were not from heaven. I"m not either.

To Shannon at our insurance who immediately started finding out if a tow truck was necessary and if medical care was needed (neither were), I love you.

To Angela who offered to leave work and go pick up WonderGirl since she was closer than I was, I love you.

To Professor Robin who said to take the week off and sleep...a LOT, your are a beautiful gift. Thank you for loving my daughter.

To the parents out there who worry about their kids, I pray for the same happy ending for you every time, and I pray that your children are also blessed to have someone there when you can't be.


It is Wednesday! You know what that means? Nope. It does not mean it is humpday. It means it is the FIRST day!

This could be the frist day you take a walk around the block.

Or the first day you read that book you've been wanting to read.

Or the first day you start looking for a job you like instead of complaining about the one you hate.

Or the first day you start seeing your life as amazing instead of amazingly crappy....

Or the first day you tell the important people in your life, "I love you." Honest, you can say those words and the world won't end. In fact, someoen might be waiting to hear them, so you might make the world a lot better.

Or the first day you read your Bible or pray or go to the zoo or learn that thing you've always wanted to know or...

The possibilites are endless!

What are you going to do first?

What Next?!

I know some folks having a bad day...or a string of bad days. Been a bit intense here this week, too, and it is easy to get a "what next?" attitude. I want to share some "what next?" that we often forget--the crazy God answers.

WonderGirl and I took her almost undriveable car in to the body shop this morning. The back bumper was sticking way out on the side, which is not good on a plastic car, especially on major roads driving 70+ miles an hour. The man came out to do the est...imate. Looked at it. Got on the ground. Looked some more, and I knew the bumper would most likely have to be replaced, but I was getting nervous about structural stuff. Then he said, "Give me a minute." He went into the shop, got a screwdriver, and got on hte ground. He undid a screw, pushed the bumper back in, and put the screw back in. He bumped it with his hip, and it didn't move. The car is fixed. No claim. No money for fixing the screw. Just, "Y'all be blessed." Oh, sir, we already are. Thank you!

On the way home I was getting information about widening our driveway from the city secretary and mentioned WonderBoy may need surgery on his ingrown toe. She suggested trying pedicures first and told me her story. Same issue as WB, but surgery didn't help, so pedicure once a month does the job. That and essential oil to handle the pain and swelling so they can get the nail is a lot easier fix than surgery.

Then roofer #2 came to the house. VERY different story than roofer #1. He thinks insurance will cover the replacement with no problem, and he certainly didn't suggest lying to the insurance company. (Yeah, I know. Do you see why there is a roofer #2?)

No, not everything is fixed. Yes, there is more to be done, BUT "what next?" isn't always another blow or another exhausting thing. Sometimes "what next?" is an impossibly easy answer, a much easier option, or someone willing to walk through a hard process with you.

I really hope you have an amazing "what next?"!!!

No, He Really is Good

It's going to happen. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but it will happen. You are going to pray for something...and not get it. It happens to everyone who prays. When it does, you will most likely be tempted to get angry and tell God a lot of things, like how He doesn't love you, how He has abandoned you, how He needs to tell you what it will take for you to manipulate Him into giving you whatever it is you want. Can I offer you a thought?
God isn't a human being that He abandons His children or that He forgets to value them or that He can be manipulated by human word or action. He's God, and He is a good God, who gives good gifts, and it just might be that this house or job or relationship or pony or vacation or whatever you think you have a right to really isn't a good thing for you right now. I know that is hard to fathom in our all-about-me society, but it is true. God is a good Father, and He gives good gifts, and sometimes that good gift His telling His children no.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Sweet Heritage

Murrel ("Mutt") Rosson, Estelle Kelley, and Ivy Ford
You never left their house hungry,
and there was always coffee, dessert, and time to talk.
 We walked into the kitchen with the linoleum covered floors and tile counter top, and he pulled a chair from the table and sat down.

"Want something to eat? I have roast leftovers," she said as she opened the percolator lid.

"Nope. I'm not hungry."

"Well, I have chocolate cake and apple pie." She scooped coffee into the metal basket, put the metal top back on it, and closed the percolator. I looked at the pie plate covered with plastic and the metal cake cover with the red knob handle.

"I'm not hungry."

"Well, I have cookies I picked up at the store." She set the sugar bowl in front of him.

"I'll have a small piece of pie," he said with a resigned sigh.

She pulled out two saucers, one for him and one for me. I had chocolate cake, and he had the pie he wasn't hungry for with the cup of coffee he never turned down.

That is how visits to my Aunt Ivy often went. The same was true at my Aunt Mutt's house. Her table always had one or two desserts ready for the sharing. At my grandma's house, Dad didn't feel as required to eat food he didn't want or need, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there, and if it wasn't already made, she would make it for you while you waited.

My grandmother and her siblings.
A generation that knew how to get by with little
and share as if they had everything.
But that is how it was with that generation. They didn't have much, but what they had they would share, and you never left their house hungry.

It is how they valued people, how they welcomed you into their home. Anyone was welcome at their table for coffee and a bite to eat.

I loved being in their kitchens, not just to eat, but to cook with them. My Aunt Mutt taught me how to make a basket weave crust on an apple pie. My grandma patiently waited while I made my first merengue with a chicken wire whisk. I thought my arm would fall off, and she kept asking if I needed help, but I was determined I was going to finish it myself, and when I was finished, she told me the peaks were perfect. Forget the thrill of winning a million bucks. I had perfect merengue peaks. My grandma said so, and that was worth everything. I still remember the day my grandmother decided we needed to make Divinity. We both really liked that candy at Christmas, and she was going to learn to make July. I don't remember how it turned out, but I remember her adventurous attitude. If you like it, enjoy it, and if you get it wrong, you can try again. I never learned to fry anything in their kitchens, but good golly, those women could bake, and they made room and let me be part of it.

That is what I saw growing up. Some folks learn that being a lady means you wear certain things or act a certain way. I learned that being a lady meant you worked hard when you needed to, took pride in what you did (even if it was as inglorious as working someone else' yard or cleaning their house), had a dessert ready in case someone drops by to talk, and gave people priority over everything else.

Times have changed, and people don't visit just to visit, so there really isn't a reason to keep desserts on the table, but deep inside me is still the knowledge that feeding people is valuing them. So, I've adapted.

Cupcakes for the Universal Positivity Society
Whenever there is an event that needs food, I take dessert. Our church has a meal with every service, and I have been given the joyous privilege of making the desserts for our group. I make cupcakes for my daughter's Universal Positivity Society cupcake day. I bake all kinds of food and give it away to friends and neighbors at Christmas, and when someone new moves into the neighborhood, I try to take them something yummy. I make desserts for the fire department and sheriff's office. I make pies, cakes, cookies, cobblers, puddings, and other ridiculously sugary things. I always make more than enough because I don't want anyone not getting something because we run out, and I always try to send any extra home with folks so they can have them on their table during the week.

Banana Pudding for our
faith group.
I smile every time I make
dessert for The Table.
I think my grandma and aunts would be proud.
Truthfully, it isn't that I'm some great cook, but I love baking. For some reason this week I've pulled the thread of WHY I love baking so much and why, when I think of doing something kind to show someone welcome or appreciation, it involves food. I've traced it back to the kitchens I sat in as a child, where desserts and coffee were the welcome, and talking took priority. Kitchens where you were welcome to eat or learn to cook, and pie crust stuck to rollers wasn't the end of the world, and Divinity was a treat for any time of year, and it was heavenly what a wire whisk could do to eggs and sugar.

My grandma's generation didn't have a lot of worldly stuff to pass down when they passed on, but these women left me something beautiful. They left me a love of baking and a belief that time in the kitchen can fill a lot more than a person's stomach, and THAT is one very sweet heritage.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


I don't know what you are facing today. It may be amazing, or amazingly heartbreaking, but whatever it is, I pray you have the courage and strength to be real with God about it.
If you are hurting, He can handle it.
If you are excited, He loves to hear it.
If you are so battered you feel like you can't go on, He wants you to cling to Him.
If you are ready to fly into the next thing, He wants to make sure you have everything ready to be successful.
God doesn't need you to perform for Him, but you need to be real with Him. Trust me. I've done both, and I find nothing in performance except another checklist, but in being real, I always find Him.
Today and every day, may you find Him.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Let My Heart Not Be Far From You

The Lord says:
"These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship for me
is based merely on human rules they have been taught."
Isaiah 29:13

Father, as I read this, it scares me. It scares me that these people thought they were following you but were so deceived, and I am wondering if I am deceived. I am wondering if my heart is far from you in ways I don't know. Jesus said there will be people who stand before you that you will tell you never knew them, and they will be confused because they did all these things in your name, and you reply, "But I never knew you. Away from me."

Father, I ask you to forgive me for worship that was not what you desire, and I ask you to show me every single way that I think I am worshipping you when really, I'm just performing well. I pray that you would show me your heart so my heart can draw near to it. I ask you to speak deep into me and uproot theology that is a lie or twisted to serve anything other than you. I ask you to forgive any way that I use my obedience to feed my ego and develop pride when I should be humbling seek hard after you.

Show me any way where my actions do not align with your heart. Show me where I am all talk and no love.

Show me where my heart is far from you.

Lead me into holiness that I may know you better and love you deeper. Show me how doing things for you has been my goal and who me how to love you greater, which should be my heart.

Father, I don't want to be someone far from you. I want to be someone in the most intimate place of your presence. I want my heart to beat with the same rhythm as yours. I want to be so deep in you that you see me every time you open your eyes and I see you every time I open mine. I don't want to be a performer. I want to be the one that you find such amazing oneness in that it brings joy to your heart.

I ask that you would bless me with your discipline and correction. Bless me with your heart, Father.

I love you. Show me how to love you better.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Why I Chose Not to Date As a Single Mom of Younger Kids

In June 2010, my husband moved out. In February 2011, he died of a massive heart attack. I was 42 at the time, and my kids were 10 and 13.  That was seven years ago.

During the last seven years I have been on two "dates". I was told they fell into "date" status because I got dressed up, and he paid. Those two men I have loved as friends since high school.

There has been nothing romantic, not because there wasn't opportunity but because I made some choices with the intention of a specific outcome.

My kids had experienced a parent who wanted another life more than he wanted a full-time life with them.
They had an up close and personal reality check that life is not stable.
They knew what it felt to be "not valuable enough".
They were sad, angry, and grieving.
They wondered if it were their fault and if they had been something else would their dad have stayed.
They knew the devastation of not being able to depend on someone to stay and keep the world steady.

By the way, these are typical emotions for kids who experience divorce.

The kids did not need someone else they couldn't depend on. They didn't need to feel like they were a bother. They didn't need more chaos.

I couldn't undo what had been done, but I could keep it from getting worse, so I opted not to date casually because I didn't want men coming in and out of their lives who only strengthened the idea that men are not dependable but walk out on you.

I chose to focus my energy on my kids. Instead of going out with someone who made my heart flutter on Fridays, I stayed in with people whose hearts needed a steady presence.

I chose to make them first, and I canceled or said no to anything that conflicted with them.

I chose to be the stable force, and by doing so, I demonstrated with actions that they are valuable.

I stayed and made it clear to them that they were not too much, too loud, too demanding, or too big of a failure to be worth staying for. They were not the problem. And on days when the weight of responsibility got to be too heavy, I made it clear to them they were not the ones making me heavy. It was all the decisions, all the things I had to figure out, all of the rest of life, but THEY...they were the gift.

And I made sure no one came into their lives who might shake that.

Yes, I was asked out on occasion, but no one passed my four non-negotiable questions, so no one became part of the landscape, not even passing through. The kids knew I talked to this man or that man, but they also knew why it never went further than talking. I explained the non-negotiables and how I would not settle, and frankly, that made them feel safer and more stable.

My kids and their hearts were non-negotiable.

The only two men my kids have met are long time friends of mine that I knew would remain friends, and they have. My kids love both of them, and they love my kids. My kids have these friends' numbers in their phone and know they can call any time.

I won't lie and tell you it has been easy being alone this whole time. It isn't. Sometimes it isn't so bad, and other times it feels crushing, but the truth is it has been worth it. My kids are in good places emotionally and mentally. We have a great relationship. They know they are valued, and I am always here for them. They know I am fierce for them, and they feel crazy loved. Even when we strongly disagree, they know I'm not going anywhere.

I know when someone chooses to leave, it is tempting and easy to want someone to fill that void. It feels good to be wanted and loved. It feels exciting for someone to want to spend time with you and listen to you and be there for you. It feels good to the soul. I know. I really know. It also feels good to a kids' soul, and as parents, our priority should be the well-being of our kids. Sometimes giving that kind of stability and healing to your kids means you put your desire for all that on the back burner until your kids are okay.

My kids are now 17 and 20, still living at home but both in college, and for the first time, I am honestly open to dating again, and the kids are ready for it too. Not just because they are getting ready to leave home, but because they have been blessed with an intentionally safe home.

Sunday, June 4, 2017


November 1, 2013, I was heading east down a major highway near us. As I approached an intersection, a teenage boy heading west made an unprotected turn in front of me, and despite evasive actions, my Toyota king cab Tundra slammed into the passenger side of his car totaling both vehicles. By God's kind mercy, other than being sore a few days, we were both fine.

Except, I am not.

Every time I approach that intersection and a car is heading the opposite direction in the turn lane, my stomach gets tight, and my knuckles get a bit whiter on the steering wheel. It isn't just that intersection. It is any intersection where I find myself in the same situation. Not every single time, but sometimes, and honestly, I can't tell you why the difference. Just...sometimes...ugh...and though nothing ever happened.

Maybe you have those kinds of things in your life. Maybe you have those things, but they aren't places. Maybe it is a situation, thing, or something more insidious. A date on the calendar.

One of those dates for me is June 2. June 2 is...was...not sure how the tense wedding anniversary, and for a few years after I became single, that was a hard day, but the last two or three years, it has mostly come and gone without any kind of effect at all. This year, though, I was unsure.

The spring has been hard. Both of my kids are in college now, and I spent the spring on the couch with bronchitis and pneumonia, so the empty house was nearly unbearable with its silence, but more than the empty house, I felt the weight of what feels like an empty life.

This isn't where I expected to find myself six years after Rob died. I have had five simple goals for what "life" would look like. You know, that place when you know you are living again, and not just treading water or breathing involuntarily. Mine are simple:

1. I want my kids seeking after God. (That is about being a good mom for me.)
2. I want to make a difference in people's lives. I want people's lives to be better because I'm part of them (too big to expound upon here).
3. I want my writing to make a difference, and I hoped to be published.
4. I wanted my house filled with people because they love being here and love the atmosphere and know they are welcome and wanted.
5. I want a best friend to spend my life with.

To be horribly honest, I feel I have made no personal headway. I feel like on a personal level I am still sitting in the dust and rubble that I found myself in six years ago. I am not in the same emotional pain by any means, but I don't feel like there has been any building or change, just...making sure the kids are okay, and now that they are, the absence of the other four things screams loudly, and as the kids prepare to move out and move on, the empty is getting even emptier, and that...that kind of void will suck the air right out of you.

It isn't like I have done nothing the last six years. I learned to shoot, got my LTC, became an NRA instructor, volunteered at a women's shelter, developed classes to equip them in rebuilding life, became a pastor, became a certified emergency responder, learned to kayak, learned archery, found out I hate scuba diving but love to snorkel. I mean, it isn't like I have just hidden in my bed and done nothing, so how is it I look around at my personal life that was carpet bombed and see...nothing?

And in the midst of all this, here comes June 2 to put a date to the empty and magnify the void, and I never expected to be alone this many years later, and frankly, lonely stinks.

But there it is. Right up ahead. June 2. That intersection where everything got totaled, and I don't know if I am going to cruise through without a problem or crash and burn.

That is exactly where I was a week ago. Not sure whether Friday was something to dread or not. Not sure about this whole rebuilding thing. Infinitely tired of empty. Hopelessly aware only God can fill real empty, and painfully aware that He really hadn't and not knowing why.

I slid into Thursday morning with a $500 brake job, brand new orthodontist for WonderBoy, congestion from finally getting the acre of yard mowed the first time this year, and the awareness that a lot of people expect me to be above this painful numb that comes when your soul falls asleep.

Then my friend Marza called, and she asked I was, and in a moment of crazy, I told her the truth. "I don't know." And I poured everything out on her about the empty and the waiting and the no end in sight, and she said, "You're right. For you, nothing has changed. What you want isn't here. I see what you mean about still standing and seeing only the dust of what was. You're right. But," and she got quiet so I had to listen closely, "you haven't done nothing. You have poured yourself out into your kids. You have sacrificed the dreams for you so they could dream, and look at them. You have poured yourself into them, and they are amazing."

Yes. They are.

And no, God hasn't given me the obvious desires of my heart, but He has given me the greatest one.

I want to be an amazing mom. I have always wanted to raise my kids to fly, to be courageous, to be willing to move beyond where they are. I have always wanted to instill faith into them that is unmovable, and I wanted them to know they were made for a purpose and whatever God called them to was great things because they were God things. And when grief slammed us like an avalanche, and we were buried in pain and anger, I wanted to see the kids laugh again, be themselves again. I wanted to be the person they knew was here for them, and I wanted our home to be the place they knew they were safe, and I wanted them to know this is the place where you can be real in all its glory and gore...and still  be unwaiveringly loved. I see all those things in them. Marza is right. I haven't been doing nothing.

And that helped.

I hadn't failed to rebuild. I had just focused on rebuilding for someone else first, and there is a strange peace in that. It doesn't feel as hopeless. It's like looking at a devastated area after a tornado and realizing this block is still empty because other key blocks were rebuilt first, not because nothing will ever be here. I needed the perspective adjustment.

While my perspective was getting adjusted, my weekend was getting totally reordered.

I had planned to have lunch with a friend on Friday, and my brother was coming over on Saturday before we went to church. Then we found out one of WonderGirl's best friends was accepted to her college of choice a few states away, and this was the only weekend both of them knew they were free to see each other, so could she spend the night? So we wiggled it in so her parents and I could meet halfway for the drop off, and I would take the girls home before I headed to lunch, and we would take Best Friend home after church Saturday night. Then I asked a friend if he was busy Friday night because I thought maybe getting out of the house with someone would be good, and honestly, I figured he was busy. He is sincerely usually very busy, but just so happens, nope, he was free. Suddenly the weekend was full, and it felt a bit packed, but it also felt like a good distraction from the soul numb I've been enduring.

But nothing ever quite goes according to plans. Have you noticed that?

Best Friend's parents couldn't meet due to an unexpected situation with another child. Could I pick up Best Friend. Um...yes, but, it is a snatch and grab. No chatting.

And...Best Friend has an unexpected required meeting. Can I drop her off early? Uh...okay....if everything goes perfectly right, this should still work. But does anything go perfectly right?


Except when it does.

So we were supposed to pick up Best Friend at 10. At 10 we were sitting in an unmoving traffic jam thirty minutes from her house. Now, here is why this was a big deal.
1. Two full days of friend time has already been cut to one.
2. Best friend lives an hour from us, so I have to drive back to our house, drop the girls off, and drive to lunch with my friend an hour from us...where I am supposed to be at 12. Do we see a time issue here?
3. The lunch I am supposed to go to at 12 will take me right through this traffic jam again.

Now, that wasn't all. I had to be finished with my lunch by 1 so I could go to the grocery store to get the stuff for dessert for church Saturday night and take it home so I could then go to dinner--yep, an hour away--with my other friend at 7.

As I watched my digital clock laugh at my plans, I started to think about what I could cancel. I called my lunch friend. She understood. She would be there when I got there. Okay, then we'll see from there.

Well, we finally picked up Best Friend at 10:30, and I dropped the girls off, endured the traffic again, and sat down for lunch at 12:45. We talked for 2 1/2 hours, and I got back into my truck at 3:30. I looked at the clock...and the black rain clouds...oh, yeah, did I mention we were under a flood warning?...and called my dinner friend and asked if I could just go to his house instead of going back home and never making it to dinner because of Friday rush hour traffic. Yep. He would be there in about two hours. He'd see me then.

Instead of pulling up to his house a half hour later, I pulled up two hours later. He arrived an hour after me.

The next day the timing continued to fail as we got out a bit late to take Best Friend home and then chatted with her mom, had to pick up the stuff for dessert, ran out of eggs and had to borrow them from a neighbor, and spent the day on my feet doing stuff instead of sitting around talking to my brother. By the time I got to church, I felt so tired...and so perfectly blessed...and so perfectly...full.

See, because I got to lunch late, we missed the lunch crowd and could talk as long as we wanted, and oh my lands, that was good. We talked about life and change and the hard place of in between, and I poured out my desires and the empty and the hope that has begun to feel so hopeless, and my friend who is old enough to be my mother listened and understood and told me I'm beautiful, like beautiful in a way she has never seen me be, and she is convinced I am the youngest she's ever seen me, and I'm not to worry. I can put some stuff down because she'll pray for it for awhile. Just rest.

And can I just tell you how good it feels not to have to be anything but honest and tired when you are honestly tired?

Because our lunch ran late and the rain came hard, I ended up at dinner friend's early, and instead of meeting at the mall to walk around and eat at the food court, I had an hour with my friend's son and his girlfriend, and I love them. We talked and laughed in our warped sense of humor. When my friend finally got there, the three of us were lolled out on the couch and recliners, covered with blankets, watching Pirates of the Caribbean. I'm telling you, sometimes full looks a lot like hanging out with people you love doing nothing.

Then all of us went to dinner together and ate fried cheese and French fries and dessert, which doesn't sound like much, except it is exactly what I wanted but wouldn't have been what we got at the mall.

We went back to his house and "the kids" went on a date, and we stayed home and talked. I told him about my funk and the empty and wanting a relationship, and he talked about his life changes and his questions and his understanding wanting a relationship with a best friend. It's a strange thing. The comfort of lying on someone's couch with bare feet poking out from under a blanket pulled up to your chin because he likes it a lot colder than you do, baring you heart and hidden dreams that so many dismiss because you're a Christian and faith should make you happy where you are, how your life is, because God's timing and will is best and who are you to question--only he gets it...and he thinks they are reasonable and good...and possible.

If it hadn't been for Best Friend at home, I would have camped on his couch for the night and avoided driving more in the rain because I'm welcome to do that. The couch is always available, and it is a comfortable couch, but instead, I hugged them by, slid into my truck, and promised to text when I got home, which I did at 1:30 am.

As I lay in the dark letting the day slip into slumber, I felt the smile...all the way to my heart. Crazy how a schedule gone wrong can fill up so much empty.

The next morning we took Best Friend home and arrived back to the house with dessert stuff. We had a late lunch, and instead of sitting and talking in the living room, my brother and I filled the kitchen and talked while I cooked and he taste tested. When he left a few hours later, the cookies and cobblers were finished, and he and I had caught up on life and were planning the next visit.

Then off the kids and I went to church that feels more and more like family, and we enjoyed food and people and were soul fed deep. After service, we were talking to one of the men there, and he said, "I'm glad y'all are here." I had to give him a hug. He didn't know. He has no idea. Honestly, I don't think anyone does, and that is okay.

June 2nd isn't the same for me as it is most women who have buried their husbands. The other women I know associate their anniversaries with the day they married the love of their lives. They think of the friend who is no longer here and the live they miss. I associate my anniversary with a man who walked out on his family. I associate that day with not being valuable, not being wanted, not being perfect enough, not being...wanted "here".

I really, really did not want to feel that again this year, and I didn't.

Instead of feeling unbearably empty, I feel wondrously full.

No. I didn't have one of those love at first sight experiences, and I didn't get offered my dream job, and I didn't sign a book contract.


My house was a place of love where people know they are welcome.
My kitchen is a mess because I got to bake, which I love.
I was able to attend church with a good sermon and great people, but even more than that, my kids talked all the way home about the truth they can build their lives on.
Maybe I am making lives better, not because of what I do or write, but simply because of who I am in them.
There is something amazingly beautiful about sharing your dreams with someone who has known you nearly 20 years and that person saying, "Yeah, I see that in you. I believe in that dream for you, too."
There is power beyond explanation in the simple words, "I'm glad you are here."

And I just keep thinking about how wondrously beautiful the last two days have been and how much I have utterly enjoyed it all. Now, I am fully aware the emotional roller coaster could dip again because there is still a lot of empty, but right now, at this moment, even in the empty, I feel incredibly, gloriously full.