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UNDAUNTED
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.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Sweet Gift

We met online. In the beginning, it was innocent enough. We chatted on the same message board. We had similar interests. Then one day, she said something really sweet…

And we’ve been close friends ever since.

Sounds like the stuff you’d hear from a commercial promoting online relationships, doesn’t it? Sort of the stuff that either makes you swoon or makes you gag. I know. If it wasn’t my friend, I would roll my eyes, too. Instead, I just laugh. It cracks me up how Jesus puts things together sometimes.

MaryB and I really did meet online. Actually, we’ve never met in person. We were part of a message board focusing on the worship arts. She and her daughter lived further on the edge than anyone I knew, and I was thankful to have a place that allowed some freedom. People I knew really didn’t understand my intimacy in worship. They seemed to think it was…a bit skewed.

While I was begging to dance like David, people I knew were excited to raise their hands. Not saying raising one’s hands is bad. I do it myself. However, I wanted more. I didn’t want just a God or just a Lord. I wanted the Lover from Song of Solomon. I wanted passion and intimacy. I wanted to know and be known as is meant in the Bible. I was tired of a comfortable God that lived nicely in a church service on Sunday morning. I wanted a God that took my breath away every day at any time He wanted.

I was also considered…odd…except by MaryB, who had the same fantastic ideas of a God and King who wanted a passionate bride, not just an obedient servant.

So, we chatted, pushed others’ ideas of Christian decorum, and encouraged each other to believe our desires were more than fantasies but rather desires given by the King Himself, who was speaking that He desired the same.

I praised God for MaryB.

Then came the gift.

For Christmas, MaryB sent cookies. I sent her a glory hoop I made. It was for her worship, a banner for her dancing. I shared with her what each element represented, and the Lord spoke the rest.

After that, we started emailing regularly. She shared what the Lord was doing in her life, and I shared what He was doing in mine—the good stuff that is because I knew how to perform via email, too.

Over time, MaryB shared deeper things. She shared about her struggles, her wounds, and her hopes. I prayed for her and with her. Slowly, I started to share, too. I dropped the mask a bit and showed some of the ugly stuff in life. She responded with compassion, love, and prayer. I dropped the mask some more. She never budged. Her friendship and acceptance remained steady.

Then came the inevitable. We had a misunderstanding or disagreement. I don’t remember what it was or what it was about. I only know whatever it was put us at a crossroads. We could take offense and walk away, or we could love through.

We loved through.

Now I tell her anything. There is nothing too ugly or too dark. There are no wounds too pussy or nasty. She doesn’t wallow in the mud with me. Instead, she acknowledges and prays. She’s one of those Acts 12 friends always praying for my release from whatever prison Satan is using against me. She is one who points me in the direction of freedom, and she rejoices with me when the prison gates open up and I walk out onto the path God has for me.

Every so often, she reminds me of that Christmas when she sent me the gift of the cookies. I smile because I remember it as the Christmas God gave me the gift of MaryB.

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

Out of Solitary

Last week I told you about the amazing friends the Lord gave me and how they were right with me during this very hard season. In the past, if I had read such a story, I would have been sad and envious of someone who had such good friends, who had relationships where they could be real and not have to perform. It occurred to me, that some of you reading this might feel the same way, so I want to share with you about the three friends who have walked so closely with me the last few months.

Before I tell you about the friends I have now, let me tell you about the friends I haven’t had. Honestly, until a few years ago, I could not have identify a “good friend” for you, little less a “best friend”. There were people I did things with, people I loved and still do, people who loved me and my family. However, there was a lack of realness there. I won’t say it was their fault.

Believe it or not, I’ve never been good at being transparent. When I was growing up, I learned acceptance came from performing well. I learned to perform very well. Instead of being the road to acceptance, it became a prison. One never performs perfectly, so one is never perfectly acceptable. Being analytical in nature, I knew well what not performing meant. No one had to tell me. I simply knew. Perform well, you are acceptable, but what about days when I didn’t?

Any actor or actress knows what you do. You keep the audience at a distance and cover the imperfections with smoke and mirrors. I was very good at what I did.

Except, I wasn’t. I was good at performing but horrid at being accepted. The very thing I performed to receive eluded me. Instead of finding a place to be myself, I just kept finding more places to perform.

Friendships were based on things others liked to do, not true common interests. In fact, I had no interests I could call my own. I just sort of followed everyone else and did what they wanted. I didn’t have wild friends. Nothing they did was immoral, so it didn’t hurt anything.

And yet, it did.

When my dad died six years ago, reality slammed me in ways I don’t think I can articulate. The harshest reality of all was that I had no one I could talk to about it. I had created such a lovely fa├žade of a life that I had no one to take behind the scenes. There was no one to talk to when I took off the mask because no one even realized I wore a mask. I was stuck in solitary confinement of my own making.

One thing I have found, though, when I am totally alone, I’m really not. In my solitary confinement cell sat Jesus.

In Isaiah 61, we are told Jesus came to set the captives free. I was a captive, and all I knew to do was pray for Jesus to set me free. I confessed what I knew held me captive—arrogance, pride, low self-esteem, fear, low self-value, rejection, lying (about who I was and having it together), and other things. I asked forgiveness, and I asked that He would do for me what the angel did for Peter in Acts 12.

In Acts 12, Peter is in prison, and an angel wakes him up. The angel says to get dressed and follow him, so Peter does. Peter assumes this is a dream until he is standing on the street, and the angel disappears. Then Peter runs to his friends, tells them the story, and escapes to freedom. I needed that kind of jailbreak.

It wasn’t enough to get out of prison. I needed to know how to walk and live outside the cell. Which way was I supposed to go mentally and emotionally so I didn’t end up in the same prison again? What was I supposed to do to remain free? What did freedom look like anyway?

I had no idea. But Jesus did, and in the next few posts, I’ll share how He set me free because He wants to do it for you, too.

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Job's Friends Could Take Lessons

The clock tells me it is nearly 12:30 am. I've been sitting here trying to find a beginning place for this post for...a while. It seems that posting has been extremely difficult for several months. I have tried. I have started untold number of posts only to close Blogger without posting anything. Two posts actually went public before I deleted them. Mostly, though, I sit here at the keyboard and wonder what to say that isn't continually depressing and is worth your time to read. Often, I find nothing.

That is not to say my life has been utterly depressing this whole time. It hasn't. However, I will tell you honestly the last eight months make up one of the hardest times of my life. Sometimes finding words to convey the reality of life is simply impossible. There are facts that cannot be shared for various reasons, and there are emotions that words cannot begin to express. When that happens, what is there to communicate?

The fact is that for much of the last eight months I have hurt more completely than I ever thought I could. I have amazing friends who are ready to answer a phone any time of day or night, but it seems pointless to call when all you can say is, "I hurt." There were times I lay on my couch or my bed, and my body shook with my sobs. I had no words to even pray. I simply cried until numbness took over, and then I would lie there staring at nothing. I didn't think God had abandoned me. I didn't feel forsaken. I simply had no way to verbalize the pain or address the cause of the pain. So I just was.

When I could talk to my friends, I would tell them without doubt that God's promises are solid. He never lies, and in the end, joy and restoration would abound. However, I wasn't at the end. I was in the desert, and the desert is a hard place that humbles you. It leaves you on your knees, desperate, gasping. "In the future things would be great, but right now, I hurt so much I feel like I can't breathe."

Thankfully, my friends weren't like Job's. My friends are more like Jesus. They prayed with me, for me. They gave me funny cards, encouraging emails, Kleenex. They kept reminding me that the fire might be hell but I wasn't alone. They never doubted the promises either. No matter how things looked or what twists came, they never doubted the promises that God would fully redeem, fully heal, and fully restore.

When I got tired of the battle, they stepped in and battled for me. I would call or email, and instead of being bogged down with me, they would pray right then and there. I'd get prayers via email and over the phone. Sometimes I would get emails letting me know they prayed and the Lord gave them verses or revelation. Often, it was the verses or encouraging word the Lord had given me. They were in agreement with the Lord, and when two or more agree, whatever they ask for is theirs. I listened to some of the prayers or read some of the emails, and I thought, "I'm glad you're on my side."

I know I must have repeated myself a hundred times or more. It felt like it, but they never fussed. They listened, let me pour out my heart, treated it tenderly. One of the things they did that opened the door for me to talk to them is that they knew when not to talk. They had no answers. There were no answers, and they didn't try to offer any. Instead, they had compassion and the wisdom to not not offer cliches or empty advice. Sometimes they would simply say, "I am so sorry this is happening. I love you."

One of the things I marvelled at through out the last few months is the ability of those I hold so close to allow me distance. The desert has so many facets to it. It's a place where survival is foremost on one's mind, and most of the time, it is utterly miserable. One of the things I have learned about survival is without God, I won't survive, so when I go into the desert, I try to make my focus God. I try to spend quiet time multiple times a day. I journal. I read the Word. I pray. I allow my body and mind to rest. For nearly a month, I took a nap every day just to be mentally and emotionally at my best.

When I "hunker down" like that, there isn't much time for email, Facebook, phones, or outside people. They are good support, but God is the only way through or out. And really, even the most amazing friends--and I have fabulous ones--can only be with you from a distance, but God is with you wholly. He is with you and in you. He understands what you can't put into words. He knows exactly what you need, and He is totally committed to getting you through the desert to a better place.

Thankfully, when the contact lessened, the commitment from my friends didn't. They gave me space to "hunker down" and God space to walk with me and to work in me. I'm sure more consistent updates--or updates at all--would have been appreciated, but they never claimed. They never pressured. They simply sent notes or left voicemail letting me know they were available when I needed them.

And I did need them. I still need them. They are my cheerleaders, my prayer warriors, the ones who hold up my hands when I'm weary, the ones who jerk me up by the collar and tell me I can do this, the ones who feed my heart and tend my spirit. They are the ones who know a well-timed, "I love you," can turn the battle. They also know silence is sometimes the best answer. And i know they are for me, with me.

They are my friends, and Job's friends who could have learned a lot from them.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gratitude 22-That It is Only a Dent

Dear God, I am so thankful.

1. Thank you for Psalm 91 that You've led me to pray over my family so many times.

2. Thank you for insurance.

3. Thank you for a driver with the integrity to stop instead of driving away.

4. Thank you for cell phones so Rob could call and let me know he would be late...and let him know he was okay.

5. Thank you that traffic was moving so slowly.

6. Thank you that both people involved were not hurt in way except for nerves.

7. Thank you that if the other man were going to hit someone it was Rob...who is the epitome of grace and not some scary road rage maniac.

8. Thank you for your protection.

9. Thank you for mechanics and body work people with integrity and good reputations.

10. And, Lord, thank you that it is only a dent.




Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gratitude 21--A Few of My Favorite Things

It is a rare time when I can sit in the quiet and write, and as I settled onto my couch to pour forth something of consequence, nothing came to mind. Blank. Honestly, I find that assuring. I never want my writing to simply be about my day or whatever my fixation is at the moment. I want the words that come from me to be life.

Proverbs 13:24 says, "The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death."

Life only comes from God, though, so I need to make sure I'm in touch with Him before I get in touch with you. So I took a moment to connect the fastest way I know how--I said, "Thank you." Then I thought maybe that is exactly what I should share with you--the fastest way into a God-focused mindset is to be grateful.

These are some of the things that I enjoy immensely, a few of my favorite things, if you will, and for them, I am extremely thankful.

1. Earthenware coffee mugs. Nothing quite competes.
2. My Harley Davidson coffee mug that my son gave me for Christmas two years ago. Sometimes I get really radical, put some ice and Coke in it, and just enjoy the attitude.













3. Notebook paper. I don'ty have an explanation. I have unopened reems of it that I buy because when I'm gloomy, I like to buy notebook paper.

4. A big box of crayons with the sharpener. Even if I don't color with them, I look at the box, and it makes me smile.









5. Being 40 and admitting I still like crayons!

6. Chocolate milk.

7. Books. The Christian bookstore near us is having their home educators' sale while Anna and I are going to be gone camping, and I was highly disappointed. Robert said he and Daddy will shop for me, and I just mumbled, "But I like to touch the books. I like the way they smell." Some of you know what I mean.










And, yes, those are our bookcases.

8. A comfortable couch.

9. Warm blankets since Man of my Dreams likes it a lot colder than I do.

10. Small poodles that like to lie near me.










11. Fine point pens, blue.

12. Flavored creamer.

13. Cork boards that hold special memories so I can see them.

14. Pictures of people I love on the shelves where I can see them when I am being still and being grateful.










15. Clipboards.

16. Journals. The ones filled to overflowing...and the ones waiting to be filled.













17. Tape. I just trim emails and various printed copies to fit into my journal and tape them in. So much faster than rewriting!

18. Glue that dries on your hands and peels off. No, it isn't as cool as when I was in 3rd grade, but on a slow day, it'll still do the trick.

19. Precious friends who don't get the glue, but dig me anyway.
20. Socks...barefooted isn't for all of us.










21. Music.

22. Mute buttons.

23. Online bloggers that make me feel like we could sit together and speak volumes without having to say a thing.
24. The privilege of being able to homeschool.










25. Carol Colter. Professor. Beautiful lady. Loving heart. Purpose implanter.

26. Hoops and Yoyo.

27. Red hair.

28. Almonds to munch.
29. Ergonomic keyboards.










30. Rocking chairs...the creak. :-)













31. Sunshine.

32. Swaying trees that make me wonder what kind of symphony nature is lifting up to the King.













33. The vision of a smiling God who loves to hear symphonies...

34. My Bible.










35. My Greek Hebrew study Bible










36. Bible study books my dad left me.











37. The sound of my children singing...especially when it is Christmas songs in May.
38. The quiet filled with the voice of God.

39. That this is only a short list of all I have to be grateful for...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Art of Being Mom

One crochets, stitches becoming more consistent, still only in chains, but she is proud of the progress. The other draws with a marker that periodically slips off the edge of the paper and leaves yet another color on the tabletop.

Masterpieces.

The children, not their projects.

Wondrous bundles of joy, sorrow, excitement, disappointment, surprises just waiting to pop out like a jack-in-box, dancing to music no one but them hear, suddenly springing forth with life force that blows me away.

Masterpieces that wring my heart with pain when a friend turns traitor, plans are crushed, a pet dies. Their tears fall. Their hands cling, and somehow I am to find the glue to put their hearts back together when pieces of mine lie on the floor with theirs.

Masterpieces that show the world in ways my forty years have never seen, that live with a wildness that both scares and excites me, that can fill a room with laughter, and speak volumes in the silence of their awe.

Masterpieces that run in the rain, but never lose their colors.

Masterpieces that draw me in, fascinate me, frustrate me, make me want to take a long walk...alone.

Masterpieces that force me to look in the mirror seeing a mom...and a daughter...a keeper of the art of the King...a masterpiece herself...one who is fascinated and fascinating...

The paradox brings tears...a smile...awe.

And my mind dances on the laughter of two children who came from me and are beyond me, that make me look at myself and beyond myself, that are unnerving mirrors of me and so amazingly themselves.

Such masterpieces live in my home.

They do more than fill up bedrooms with toys. They fill my heart with love, my imagination with "what if's", and my life with detours, bumps, and adventure. They are glorious.

And I am the one the Lord chose to be Him in the flesh before them, a sad replica in my opinion, but the one He says is most perfect for the job.

They are masterpieces...made by a perfect Creator...being made daily...by Him in me, through me...through choices this fleshly example makes.

And I fall to my knees...am I doing well? Am I a good keeper of these masterpieces? Oh, Lord, I want to be...

It is then that He reminds me...I am a masterpiece...made by a perfect Creator...being made daily...by Him in me, through me...

And awe envelopes me...

A masterpiece in the making in the process of making masterpieces. Such is the art of being Mom.

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2009