Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A New Thing--A New Name (sort of)

With the future filled with uncertainty and the possibility of great change, I have opted to return to Jerri Kelley as my writing/speaking name. As a result, I will be changing blogs to Jerri Kelley effective immediately. 
If you are linked here, would you please update your link to the new blog. 
Thank you.
Monday, July 19, 2010

Comfort on the Path Alone

When my dad was in the hospital the last time, I knew it was a matter of days. The year had been hard, in and out of hospitals, procedures, ICU, long drives, short nights, an ocean of tears. Now, the battle was coming to an end, and despite the effort to prepare emotionally and mentally, one never knows what to do when the time finally arrives.

My friend Diana did one of the most unorthodox--and so desperately needed--things I can imagine. She took me out for a day, not a day of processing or preparing for the inevitable, but a day of coffee, chocolate, lunch, a glass of wine, shopping, and laughter. Oh!, the laughter! We reminisced, not about my dad, but about college, boy friends--especially the one we shared :-) --friends...did I mention the laughter?

I went home after my day with Di and slept...hard...peacefully...comforted.

A week later Diana stood with me as they wheeled my dad's casket from the church to the hearse. She squeezed my hand, hugged my neck, and let me go. It was all she could do. Some paths can only be walked alone...but what you have when you step onto them can determine how well you walk through them. Di had given me all she could, and it was all my heart needed.

Again I am on a path that really can only be walked alone. Grief, hope, and healing are witnessed from the outside but can only be lived within. While others can hug my neck and hold my hand, ultimately, they have to let go and let me walk through stumbling at times, head held high at others, and anywhere in between at any given moment.

But their hearts are with me...and this is the comfort.

It is rarely what is said. In fact, it is more often what isn't. It is more what they do and the tender grace with which they do it.

It is the acceptance of the path, the willingness to witness it, the pain and pleasure of watching me stumble and stand up again I see in their eyes.

It is their willingness to laugh with me at the most seemingly inappropriate places knowing the laughter hedges the pain that would drown me.

It is their quiet grace as they watch me bravely stagger from a joyous occasion because the grief is too heavy and too deep to hide behind a smile.

It is their knowing when a detour is necessary to give strength and not just diversion.

It is the discipline to stand back when they want to rush in with a hug or advice, and it is the deep breath they take and the silenced tongue when I walk in a way they would not and the tender way they pick gravel from my knees without making me feel ashamed or like less when their way was right and mine was wrong.

It is not yelling back when I am yelling at them...and when it isn't at them all but I'm still yelling.

It is the simple texts, "I love you. I believe in you. I am still expecting great things for you." The cards in the mail with elephant seal hugs, butterflies in the becoming, and sunshine on my face.

Sometimes it is the phone calls, and sometimes it is knowing not to call right now.

It's more than being willing to listen. It's being willing to sit in the silence...when tears burn hot...breath comes shaky...and all there is to do is hand over another kleenex.

It is the heart that holds on while letting go, stands fast while stepping away, and answers calls spoken and unspoken. This is the comfort that I take with me on this path...the comfort that while I am walking alone...I'm really not...I'm taking loving hearts with me.
Sunday, July 18, 2010

Identity--Who I Am


Derivative of Jeremiah. Translated to mean "Mighty warrior" or "Exalted one of God".

This is not my name. It is who I am. It did not change when I made horrendous decisions in high school. It did not change when my dad died and our relationship was left fractured. It did not change three weeks ago when my husband moved out.

I am still Jerri.

I am still the same compassionate person with the same calling on my life. I still like the same decadent desserts, enjoy the same music, and laugh at the same goofy stuff. I still hurt when my friends hurt and rejoice when they rejoice. I still hate doing lesson plans but love the light bulb moment. The beach still speaks to me like nothing else in the world, and I still find myself having mental conversations...aloud. And my hair is as red as it's ever been.

I am still a warrior. I fought for my marriage for nineteen years. I put everything I had into it. As a friend of my says, "not one tactic was left in the tool box". That is how I live. That is who I am. Circumstances and choices made by others do not diminish or change that.

If I had to do it again, I hope I would fight with the same ferocity and hope that I did then, not because it's easy or because there are guarantees, but because it is worth it, and it is what you do. It is what I do. It is who I am.

I still have the same gifts, same dreams, and same passions. I still don't like to cook, and my house still isn't spotless. BUT, I still love the laugh of my children, and snuggling up with them is one of the best places in the world ever.

My faith is still in a perfect God whose power is greater than I can fathom. His promises for me are still yes and amen. He has taken me from the muck and mire, put me on a high place, and given me open spaces. My gifts and anointings are from Him, and they are without repentance.

I am an amazing person and woman, not because of my dress size, the state of my marriage, or the cleanliness of my house but because my God says so.
Only God has the right to define me, and since He hasn't changed, neither have I.

This is who I have always been, and that has not changed.

The only thing that has ever wavered is my choice to live in the truth of who I am. Sometimes I have chosen to think and act in a way effected by people or circumstance, but that was a choice, not an identity. Even a princess can act like a pauper if she chooses.

However, this time, I don't choose to.

This time I choose to live the princess. I choose to be the warrior. I choose to be the redhead with attitude, purpose, and vision.

I also choose to be real, to be vulnerable, to be uncomfortably honest, to be an example for others walking this road. I choose to live my life publicly and feel my feelings honestly so others can be free to be honest, too. I choose to be the light even while the enemy wants me to hide in the darkness.

I choose to believe in healing, redemption, and embrace them...and be a conduit for them...

I choose to be nothing less that who I am.
I choose to be...
Saturday, July 17, 2010

When Okay Really is Okay

How do you tell friends and family that a seemingly bedrock piece of their reality has crumbled? How do you lead them through the collapsed remains when in their wide eyes filled with shock, you can see the reflection of an emptiness, where what once was isn't any longer? How do you take the conviction that God is still able to build something amazing--whatever that may look like--from your heart and place it in theirs? How do you assure them life is still present and despite what looks like decimation? How do you help them breathe?

I don't know.

I feel I have not done it well, although I do not know how I could have or should have done it better. Perhaps a blog entry wasn't the best solution, but I really did not have the mental or emotional energy to write literally hundreds of personal notes and the inevitable replies that would have needed to be addressed. No, sometimes it is easier to drop one massive bomb than to lob hundreds of grenades.

In either case, there is the reaction, and that requires far more tact and gentleness.

When the aftershock of telling people that Rob and I had been separated a few weeks hit, so did the emails, texts, phone calls, and messages. The number of wonderful, loving friends and family who offered support in every way was a healing balm. There is no blanket like the one created by loving people.

It was also overwhelming.

I cannot imagine the shock people around us must have felt when they heard the news. I can only liken it to hearing news of a sudden death. All is fine...and in an instant, in the most unimaginable way possible, it isn't. It is human nature to react to that instant.

However, for us, it wasn't an instant.

I realize every situation is different. We have a friend whose world exploded when her husband walked in one day, told her he was divorcing her (papers in hand), packed his clothes, and walked contact information given. THAT is a whole different situation. I cannot fathom the pain that comes from that.

Sometimes, though, pain is spread out over time and events...healing along with it...and by the time the bomb hits, there have been enough smaller things that did so much damage that the difference is so minute. Sometimes there is simply peace in no longer being shelled. And in that peace, one finds that despite the debris, it really is okay. Life didn't stop. Breathing didn't stop. Dreams are not dead. Hope continues.

There are hard days...when my gaze drifts backward at what was...what I thought was...and what isn't. Tears fall. Questions are asked. I am amazed at how few answers come, but even in the not understanding, God grants peace.

Then my ears hear the Whisper...the one hard to hear in the thundering of war...and I look...forward...and I see...

Promises that have not been discarded. A God who knew then...and is not shocked now. Life still present. Hope all encompassing.

And I wish I could open the eyes of those who are in shock, who are trying to find footing in the aftermath, who only see what isn't anymore. I wish I could open their eyes to see that God is still present...still has His great plans for hope and a future steady in His hands...and is still wholly Sovereign.

I wish I could help them see it isn't the perfect choice, but God is the perfect God, and it really is...and really will be...okay.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

When Things Aren't Fine

As news of the separation spreads, I receive emails, texts, and phone calls asking if I am okay. Ninety percent of the time I answer that I am, and I am being truthful. Most of the time I am thankful for the calm and peace that has settled since the fighting and silent battles have ceased.

Then there are days like today.

Days like today hurt all through me, to my very core. How do I communicate that? How do I communicate the anger without sounding like I am nursing grudges? How do I communicate the pain that defies every word or phrase I know?

I don't know. I simply try to keep putting one foot in front of another, make a longer to do list to fill the time, and try to act sane for anyone watching.

But this isn't sane, and while trying to move forward, I end up on my knees in my bedroom shaking from the pain oozing out of me in loud sobs. The tears seem endless, and the pain feels so deep that I'm going to drown in it.

Prayers come out as gasps for air, and I cannot put a whole sentence together even in my mind.

There is no booming voice from heaven telling me it is fine. There is no overwhelming peace that comes. Just silence...and waves of pain.

And when the torrent has subsided, I sit with my back against the wall, not trusting my knees to hold me up, and I wonder if grace can reach here. Can grace reach beyond my rage at being discarded so easily? Can grace reach into a heart whose trust has been so completely shattered that it is impossible to hold out love but instead cringes at the thought of being touched?

Dear God, show me you, even when things really aren't fine because only with you am I going to really be okay.

Beautiful Analogy

An Old Cherokee Saying


One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

"One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

"The other is God - It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

(Sent to me by my cousin Stacey.)
Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Deams Gone Awry

I used to think if I did everything right--went to church, read my Bible, prayed fervently, was truly repentant for my sins--life would progress from point A to point B in a generally straight fashion. Oh, I figured there would be a few bumps and a few slight deviations in there, but for the most part, it would continue on a straight and simple path.

I obviously lived in a delusion that that Old Testament did not apply to me.

Joseph had dreams of his family bowing down to him. Sounded great...until he found out that meant sibling rivalry that landed him in a pit, slavery, and prison.

Abraham was called the Father of Many Nations and then asked to put his only son on a pile of wood and sacrifice him.

David was anointed king, but he had to face his own family's jealousy, an angry monarch, and a giant before he could sit on a throne.

Really, what made me think I got to be the exception?

My dreams for life were simple. I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I've always loved speaking and teaching, and once I was married, I wanted to be a great wife and mom. I dreamed of a great marriage that served as an example for others, and I dreamed of having the perfect family.

Over the years, I have had dreams (like Joseph), and people have said or prayed things (like David), and I believed God promised things (like Abraham). I truly believed all of those things said my desires were God's desires, and as such, life would progress in a linear fashion, dreams would become reality, and all would be good.

While I do still believe my heart's desires are God's desires, too, my dreams slammed into the reality that life isn't linear, and sometimes the road to the promises makes no sense. Sometimes it doesn't just hit a few bumps. Sometimes it goes right off the cliff.

Like when my husband moved out.

For the last two weeks my blog has been quiet as I have tried to figure out what to say when I have said repeatedly that God can heal, restore, and redeem anything, and yet, my marriage that I have fought for so hard has come apart at the seams. In light of such obvious evidence that God is not in absolute control and that people can make painful choices, what can be said?

I didn't know, except I do, and I say...

God can heal, restore, and redeem anything.

It is one thing to make that proclamation when life is running along its linear path, but when the world comes down, it is a whole different thing. The first comes from a place of comfort. The second, from a place of faith.

The truth is a lot of damage has been done in my marriage, and I will tell you honestly that it will take a miracle for it to be put back together. However, I have come to realize that God's promises are not void simply because they do not look as I thought they would. God makes promises of the end, not the journey.

He promises prosperity but gives no clarity on the hard work required to get there.
He offers eternal life but does not detail the daily deaths required of it.
He gives love but gives no specific number of people who will hate you.
He extends mercy but does not mention the pain of humbling oneself to receive it.

The plans are for our good. The journey is for our stretching...dying...believing...

If only faith came easier. If only promises came with magic wands.

But there are no magic wands. Only a wondrous God who heals, restores, and matter how hard, impossible, or painful the circumstances might be.

This isn't the road I would have chosen. It looks nothing like what I planned, but God's plans have not changed. They are still good. He is still God, and I know...

He can still heal, restore, and redeem anything...

even this.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Creating Redemption

All creation starts with You.

It's a crazy thing to wrap my brain around. Nothing, and You show up, and You're everything.

You are not a mere observer as some would like to suggest. On the contrary, You are the conductor with music mad in Your mind but coming forth symphonies through Your hands. You are the sculptor incapable of reproducing what You have already done because You are wild with the new. Passion and power collide into explosions of life calling breaths.

What looks like chaos is creation in the hands of the ultimate Creator--One uncaring about creating order if order defies Your plans for redemption. And what is man's idea order in the vastness of such powerful vision anyway? Who who am I to tell You how it should look or how it should feel?

I beg for new, cry out for extraordinary, plead for anything but here. You answer in resounding thunder, and I am blinded by the lightning screaming through my darkness. I am terrified and amazed and torn between hiding my face and staring in awe at the God who answers such pithy prayers with wonders beyond all I ever imagined.

I am terrified and fascinated, and my breath escapes me.

This is not what I meant. This was not what I had planned. I didn't mean for the very ground I stand on to be jerked out from under me, and You answer, "The only safe place to stand is in Me."

My feet scramble...trying to find something solid...trying to get a footing in the only Constant. I hit my knees, tears burning hot, and I find You. Not the safe You I expected...have believed in...but the wild You...the One unafraid to radically tear down to gloriously build up.

Do I have the faith for You? Do I have the trust for...this?

Can I trust You for the new when my heart grieves so deeply the old?

Can I truly believe You are everything when all around me looks like...nothing...I ever would have chosen?

Oh, my unbelief, and in Your act of creative redemption, stop at nothing until I see You're everything.
Saturday, June 26, 2010

Something to Consider

Have you ever noticed...
On days that are so deeply painful and unlovely that they defy words,
God is faithful to provide love so deep, so healing, so real that it defies words too?

For all of you lovely people that I have no words for...
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Still Breathing

The carnage of a life well-intended lies around me. Dead hopes. Dead relationships. Dead dreams. It looks like a wasteland as far as I can see. I am battle weary, tired of trying to defend what is already gone. Why fight on for what isn't...what won't be? Time to accept the loss. Time to let the dead rest in let me rest in peace...

My swagger is gone. My heart and spirit sag. I am ready to call time of death on these carcasses, but before the words tumble from my tongue, my comrade in arms slaps her hand over my mouth and says, "NO! I still see it breathing...I still see God breathing into it."

She is not looking at the bones littering the landscape. She is looking at me. She sees God still breathing into ME.

The dry bones in the desert are not the issue. How they look is not the issue. It isn’t how old or breathless they are. They are just bones, lifeless bones. Their condition doesn’t matter. It is the breath in the one speaking that matters. The willingness to be breathed into so breath can go forth is what matters.
God still has something for me to breath into. It may not be what I used to breath into, but He always puts in breath so I can breath it into something else.

The question is not the lifelessness of the bones but whether I am still breathing?
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Night Whispers

The medicine has run its course through my system, and now the aching muscles groan when I turn over. Each swallow brings an explosion of pain in my throat, and my sinuses feel heavy with the weight of congestion.

However, in the darkness of my bedroom, my thoughts do not focus on the pain in my body but rather the music that fills the quiet around me. The words of the song are clear in my ears, and my groggy mind understands. They are not of earthly source but a heavenly one.

Words of answer to the pleading of my soul thoughts as I fell asleep. Questions too painful to ask aloud answered in the lyrics that fill my head, wrap around my heart. He is speaking. His words unmistakable, the message clear. My heart, broken and grieved, settles. Peace slips in through harmonies in the the Spirit...and let them settle over me like a blanket.

In the early hour darkness, He lies with me, quiet except for the song He sings, healing, answering, soothing. I feel Him...hear in Him.

My eyes drift closed, but the words continue. Answers to hard questions and painful regrets...I listen...and I hear...Him.
Sunday, June 20, 2010

When Father's Day Hurts, There is Still Hope

Lori Freeland is a wonderful writer with a gift for putting God's healing power into words. This week she shares how God took her broken relationship with her dad and healed not only their relationship, but their broken hearts. It is powerful and beautiful.

I encourage you to stop by, read the two-part piece, and take hope for yourself or pass it on to someone you know who is praying for their own miracle.

Father's Day, Part 1

Father's Day, Part 2
Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thoughts from my Journal

"God is amazing in that when I feel like He is ripping things out and leaving huge gaping holes, they tend to turn into obvious doors for me to walk through so I can receive or do something new from or in Him." -- Jerri Phillips, June 12, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I Shall Not Fear...For You are With Me

Tomorrow my dad--my stepdad--is having heart surgery. The angioplasty they tried yesterday didn't work, so they have scheduled a triple bypass.

This is not new territory. My dad--the one my mom was married to my whole life and then some--had heart issues. I have spent many hours in surgery waiting rooms, ICU waiting rooms, and hospital cafeterias. For fifteen years we lived under the shadow of severe heart damage and an aneurysm on the aorta in Dad's heart. I learned well the verse, "Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."

Except I did fear.

I feared the gaping hole in my life if Dad passed on. I feared the pain. I feared trips to the farm to see an empty chair, and I feared drinking coffee alone on chilly spring mornings. I feared that it would never be better...and I feared it would.

And it is.

And today, despite the reality of tomorrow's possible outcome, I don't fear.

I have lived through the gaping hole that felt like it would suck me in forever. I have grieved deeply and hurt more wholly than I ever thought I could, and sometimes chilly spring mornings still sting more than my skin. The chair is empty, but sometimes I would swear I hear his laugh come from that part of the room. Always, I seem aware of his absence.

But it is better.

"...For You are with."

I did not live through the gaping hole alone, and friends, no matter how great their love, can only go so far into that pit with me. Even in the darkest, most empty time, God was speaking life. Time did not heal my heart. The hand of God did. When the morning feels too empty, the Lord fills it with His presence--a bird's song, an iris' bloom, His calm. When I hear that laugh, I know Dad is okay, and in his absence, I am made more aware than ever of God's love and faithfulness, and the gift of and eternal...tells me how greatly He understands the void caused from loss.

I am not in this alone.

Tomorrow my stepdad will not be alone when he goes into that operating room...for You are with him...

We will not be alone in the waiting room...for You are with us...

And in the recovery...whatever that looks like...we will heal...for You are with us.
Monday, June 14, 2010

What Are You Running On?

Today I am honored to be a contributing writer for

Come by and see what happens when our fuel is bad and our lives start to die...and how life can become vibrant and run better when you simply change what you are running on.

Gratitude 38--When It Storms

Seven days...a universe is formed...a God proves His power...proves His willingness and ability to provide...

Seven my life...He proves it all again...

916. Wonder Boy is in wonder as he sorts through his treasure trove of Legos...and he is thankful Ms. Vanessa was patient with the lost phone we couldn't answer...the slow timing of the day...

917. Finally finding the source of the smell...a rusted pipe easy to fix...

918. Carpet that easily pulls away so the soggy pad can dry...

919. Fans that keep air moving

920. A strong man in the house who could handle the rearranging of the bedroom.

921. Yellow fingernail polish, a missing Pet Shop, flashlight with batteries still powered...wonders lost and found...under the bed

922. The road home

923. Enough room to miss the pickup who wanted my lane...while I was occupying it

924. Brakes that were damaged but not broken when I avoided the embankment

925. Mechanics we can trust

926. Places to sleep that are not our bedroom...where tired and sick bodies rest close and comforted

927. The privilege of being a mom...especially when they really need one...

928. Doctors who do stress tests because something "seems wrong"

929. Surgical procedures that allow my dad to be alive and healthy longer.

930. Rest...when...

...the leak is fixed
...the carpet and pad are dry
...temperatures have returned to normal
...the van sits in our driveway again

...and the storm has subsided

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I don't even have words, except to say it is my new favorite song. Check it out.

Something Beautiful by NeedtoBreathe
Friday, June 11, 2010

Where I am Reading This Week--June 11, 2010

My Father's Daughter -- The hole left gaping in a daughter's heart when a father chooses to abandon his post can feel too huge to heal, but God is not too small, and sometimes He fills a father-sized hole with a dad-like answer.
Monday, June 7, 2010

Gratitude 37--Celebrating a Father's Daughter

It isn't an easy day for her today, not because the calendar turns another year older but because this is the first birthday her dad did not give her a call first thing. He went to be with Jesus last fall, and today, the hole in her heart gapes big, and the tears fall hot. And today, I want to put my arms around her and hold her and somehow make it better, but really, there is nothing I can do but hand tissues...

...Except to honor the man who is gone by celebrating the daughter he left behind...

In counting the gift that is Rae...

901. She laughs deep, and it rooms, in hearts.

902. Her door is the homeless, to the hopeless, to anyone needing refuge.

903. There is always a cup of coffee

904. Whole body hugs...that hold on until you are okay to let go

905. Her words of honor and love for her husband

906. Her fierce devotion to friends

907. The odd things she finds funny...the same ones as me

908. If she has it and you need it, it's yours

909. The way she rolls with things

910. The mom she chose to be

Did I mention her laughter? :-)

911. Her phone that is on all hours, even when she is tired

912. Potato Salad

913. Learning to swim together at a lake in the country...I'd be terrified if my children did what we did

914. Faith talks

915. Her deep love, which hurts her now, but blesses those blessed to receive it.

The greatest gift is not in who she is...or what she has...but in how easily she gives herself away...

Happy Birthday, Rae! I love you!!!
Sunday, June 6, 2010

Alone--The Place of Honor

Somewhere in my life I learned that being alone meant being a failure. If a person was alone, it meant he or she had not been sufficient for others to desire their company. It was more than being an outcast. It was its own scarlet letter, defining a person as having nothing to be desired by others.

Interestingly, I have spent a large part of my life feeling--and being--very alone.

To avoid this fate, I have often compromised and sacrificed greatly, sometimes my morals, more often myself. Each time I have lost far more than I ever hoped to gain, and I have come to realize that to be alone is not great shame. Sometimes it is a defining act of courage. It is not just the refusal to be what one is not, but the determination to be what one is. Honor and integrity are not most often found in large gathering. Instead, they are found in the choice not to gather.

It is simple to pick up a drink, a drug, a porn flick, or a grudge, and be part of the crowd. Anyone can do that. The fact is people will take anyone who entertains their follies. However, to go home to a spouse, to endure the pain till the other side, to honor one's vows even in the dark moments, or to let a matter go requires valour beyond the measure of most men. It requires a conviction of right and wrong, and a determination to accept responsibility for that conviction, a responsibility to act in accordance with the wisdom and knowledge of what is righteous, just, and holy.

This is not a light-weighted identity to carry, but it is one that allows a person to look in the mirror and be content with what she sees, one that allows a person to lie her head down at night and sleep deeply without torment of mind or spirit.

To be alone in such a manner is a choice of character, not a result of rejection. It is not determined by what a person is not, but by what she is.

Knowing what I truly desire to be, I choose to be worthy of being alone.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Where I am Reading This Week--June 4, 2010

Marriage Fully Decorated--Subtle comments and selfish attitudes can have a big impact, especially on marriage. In a non-condemning way, Christine encourages wives to look at the everyday interchanges that can either bless a marriage or make it a battlefield.

The Heart of the Beholder: the Power of God Esteem--For all the women who have been attacked by the world's eye view of beauty...
Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What She Did Now

My friend Sharilyn is a very talented woman. She is an amazing photographer. Her heart is pure gold, and she has the ability to make anyone feel incredibly special. She puts together lovely gift boxes that are so personalized that it is breathtaking. Some day I'll show you pictures of mine. When people who know her talk about how she blesses them, people wonder what beautiful gift she bestowed this time.

Last week I mentioned Sharilyn on my 1000 Gifts list, and people who know her asked what she had done. I really didn't know what to say because it sounds so small to them, but to me, it was like suddenly having air to breathe.

So what was this great thing she did?

She heard me. That simple.

Instead of simply reading the words I wrote, she heard what I couldn't say. She didn't see a writer with eloquent words. She saw someone hurting with no words at all. Instead of a quick response, she gave a quiet reach where I sat with hopes unbreathing scattered around me.

It wasn't her profound solutions that blessed me. In fact, she offered no answer at all. It was simply her willingness to see me. Sometimes being seen holds the deepest healing of all. Then she sat down with me, put her heart's arm around my shoulders, and understood. Oh, the comfort of being understood. Oh, the refuge it affords!

We sat there. She in my email basket. I in her prayers.

And even though she is half a country away, I wasn't alone.

And for that, I was grateful.
Monday, May 31, 2010

Gratitude 36--When I Can't Remember

"Friends are the people who, when you forget your heart song, sing it back to you so you can remember."

Or so some say.

My friends are more than that.

They are treasure keepers, and I am blessed to be treasured by them.

They do more than sing a song to me in hopes of jogging my memory when the roller coaster of life leaves me lightheaded. These people are not a bunch of high-heeled tea sippers happy to chat along while I pick up the lunch check. These are people who plaster pictures of me in my heart, mind, and soul when life pain and too big mountains leave me with identity loss. These are people who do not say, "Call me if you need me," but show up at my door and scream, "I know you're in there. Don't make me break this thing down to get to you." And...believe me...they would. They have.

I love them...and I am amazed at how much they love me.

And, "Thank you," will never touch my gratitude.

882. Friend of 20 odd years, unafraid of hard questions, still seeing amazing even when I've forgotten.

883. Understanding instant messages can provide enough cover to slowly be found

884. Patience when the bars keep dropping out down in the Hill Country

885. 4:00 am, "Are you sure you're okay? If not, we can talk some more."

886. A bottle of wine and talking like we were in college

887. Holding on when I can barely even stand up

888. "...wonderful...even now..."

889. The daily dose of laughter because it's good medicine.

890. Dunked Oreos

891. Freshly created songs sung not so on key

892. Calm in the midst of the chaos

893. Not being shocked

894. Follow-up calls the next day..."just to check on you"

895. Believing in the whole picture

896. An hour and a half of looking for Wifi that actually worked because some emails are really important

897. Long hugs

898. Road trip therapy

899. "It's about standing in your hair color."

900. Hummingbirds
Friday, May 28, 2010

Where I am Reading This Week--May 28, 2010

Soul Food being served this week:

Dead Weight--Beautiful picture of the peace of being carried that overcomes the self-conscious idea we need to help the One carrying us.

The Treasure of Thrown Away Food--"The truly thankful person is a truly peaceful person. They have made a habit no matter what to notice, pause and choose." You've got to read the rest. Really. It's convicting, challenging, and OH!, so empowering!

The Lost Art of Friendship--When doing small things makes a big difference.
Thursday, May 27, 2010

Becoming Naked

I make myself small, try to blend in, become one of the shadows. I am drowning in loneliness and hoping to be found…afraid to be found. Knowing too well what people will truly find.

Being naked is hard.

It is easier to hide.

In hiding, I can pick and choose what is seen. Camouflage the unbeautiful spots.

The ugliness of my stretch marks made when my skin grew thin from conceiving and growing life don’t show. I can point to the fruit, and no one sees the pain or the imperfections exposed during the process of life bringing.

A well placed cover hides where my skin does not fit me well. The too tight places where I over extend and perform perfectly take the focus from the sagging parts where I don’t fit into my skin quite right.

Scrapes, bruises, and wounds fade into shadows of the appearance of light and depth.

Perhaps in the hiding, glimpses of truth come forth, but if I keep moving, they quickly return to the shadows and anyone who has seen is unsure of exactly what they saw.

Yes, being naked is hard.

It is easier to hide.

But I hear Him--calling me, seeking me, desiring me.

I stand statue still. What if He sees me? But He has seen me.


Before I saw me.

Before I knew my imperfections, my ugly spots. Before I became ashamed of what there is to see.

Yesterday, He saw everything, and He did not turn away. He did not snicker. He did not offer suggestions to make that trouble area better. He simply walked with me, spoke with me, shared His heart and let me share mine…

Yesterday. When I was naked.

And unashamed.

Because I did not know what I had to be ashamed of, only that He enjoyed me…that He wanted me.

Yesterday He walked with me, openly. Today I am hiding…But He calls…

I answer. “I am ashamed.”

He replies. “I never told you to be.”

I swallow hard. My heart races. Do I have the courage to be found?

I step from the camouflage where I have tried to be lost, where I have tried to blend in and not be seen.

He is waiting.

I am naked. More naked than I’ve ever been.

His love is unchanged. He has seen me naked all along, and He covers me.

Genesis 2:25, “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thoughts from my Journal

There are times when God is encouraging, loving, and affirming as He gently moves you forward, and then there are times when He just shoves you out of the nest and expects you to have the sense to recognize the opportunity to fly

Growing Faith

This morning I was thinking about my garden. It looks pretty puny. We've tried gardens before, and they were flops.

This year I felt like the Lord said to plant a garden because we would get a good harvest from it, so we did. We put in tomatoes, peppers, onions, and a variety of seeds...along with a lot of our money. So far...well, I'm really learning to see with faith on this.

This morning I was so frustrated I wanted to quit, just walk away and give it up to the hot Texas summer. Then the Lord spoke to me, "What about my promise? Do you not believe my promise just because you can't see it?"


So once the sun comes up and before it starts to get too warm, I'll be out there watering again, praying over the okra, corn, tomatoes, peppers, and beans. Sowing into His promise...praying as I go...asking Him to remind me of other promises that the desert sun has assaulted and praying for the faith to believe again for what I do not yet see.
Monday, May 24, 2010

Gratitude 35--Friends and Neighbors

I am not going to put up a brave facade today. Last week was a hard week. I spent it in deep pain, with a lot of questions, and on the mental and emotional edge. I never felt abandoned by God, but it is because He made Himself so obvious in people around me, and I am so grateful for those people who let Him speak through them--not only in words but in their lives that they live everyday.

I am grateful for...

862. A neighbor who would run into a burning home to save others.

863. A new friend who opened her home to an elderly couple with no place to go.

864. A small army of neighbors who stepped up to salvage pieces of lives, protect what was left, and rebuild what was lost.

865. the Man of my Dreams who made multiple trips to the grocery store to supply dinner for people who thought of everyone but themselves.

866. My friend Lisa, who cheered when I sent off another article to be considered by a "big publisher"

867. My friend Paula, who worked found submission information and helped me with a query letter to send off another article

868. Those who believe God is blessing others through me, which feels unimaginable at times.

869. Molly, the Heeler/terrier mix, that honored me by bringing me her ball to play a great game of fetch

870. Debra, Molly's "mom", who talked dogs, toys, and training. Camping folks are some of the friendliest anyway, and Debra certainly gives them a great name.

871. Sarah, a friend for a little boy trying to figure out how he fit into camping when "relaxing" does not include sitting around doing nothing

872. Grandma, who helped Anna try to get the fish in, and fought valiantly, until the line snapped. We lost the bait, hook, and bobber, but Anna got a memory and a smile that was worth it.

873. My brother, who is just cool

874. Sharilyn...for being more of a blessing than this writer has words to say.

875. Friends who sit around and hang out for a few hours talking, processing, deccompressing, and laughing. I didn't know how tense I was until I'd been around y'all a few hours, my muscles relaxed, and I ached all over. LOL!!!

876. The two most amazing children in the world.

877. Teenagers that make me excited about what their generation is going to accomplish. Jordan and Oakley, y'all rock!

878. Prayer team captains that bless, listen, and encourage. I have the best!

879. Prayer team members that ask the right questions and say the right things at the perfectly right time to let me know God is hearing, God is working, and God is not looking for a backup plan.

880. Shaleen, who drove over an hour and a half to help adopted "neighbors" when they were in need.

881. Bilal, the Man of my Dreams' trainer, who is not only a positive force during class, but calls to check in when Rob misses classes, is truly concerned for Rob's health, and is available to make help in any way possible to see our family be healthy. I don't know that he'll ever know how much that 15 minute conversation meant to me.

I am sure there are more that just have slipped my mind at this moment, and I might add them throughout the day...or week. Looking back over the last week, these are the people who have been healing balm to my heart, a hand to hold me up, and Jesus in front of my face. They are amazing people, and I thank God for every single one of them. I pray you have people like this in your life, too.

holy experience
Thursday, May 13, 2010

In the Aftermath, Pentecost

My aching muscles drag me from my sleep. The aftermath of yesterday's long walk around the neighborhood drive me from my bed and out to the street again.

The too moist air settles on me as I check the time on my cell phone, slip my headphones over my ears, and head down the street.

In truth, I had hoped to rest a bit longer. A long night of warring with thoughts, memories, and heart wounds still throbbing left me with little sleep. When I finally closed my eyes and felt sleep slipping over me, I longed to stay in the quiet, to let the headache subside, and let my tight muscles relax. A few hours later, I was on the road again, moving toward a better level of fitness, working off excess pounds, and making strides to the physical life I want.

My muscles stretch with the strides, and the ache loosens. The music in my ear is lost in the songs of the birds around me. They are joyous.

I don't remember joyous. Right now, all I remember are the things I want to escape, and yet, instead of allowing me to lie quiet in my bed, the Lord has chosen to bring me right into the middle of the onslaught. It is just He and I the quiet...amid the screaming voices, and I am silent, except for the screams at Him.

How long? Forever? Does this last forever? What must I do? How can I convince you? When will you hear me? When will You stop this...or am I as alone as I feel I am right now?

And the screaming voices continue their cacaphony, but mine goes quiet.

Is it faith or resignation that quiets me? I am sure I don't want to know.

And in the mind-darkness, a Voice speaks. "Pentecost."


When the Spirit came. When shaken men received unshakable faith. When uneducated men knew they had not believed in vain. No longer merely followers, they became Fire carriers. The questions about Jesus' dying became the declaration of His resurrection. Hearts that had known their failures now knew the limitless power of Almighty them...through them.

The promised Counselor had come, and nothing would be the same again. Not for those men...not for the world...

My feet turn the last corner toward home. The voices still scream. My heart still aches, but hope has again revealed itself. In the aftermath of all that has happened and all I still hope to see, there remains the promise. Pentecost.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I Wonder...

Why is it that being buried in busy is the considered a perfectly acceptable way to be buried alive? And don't people who are buried alive end up dead from lack of Breath?
Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What Are You Running On?

My car died. It did a herky-jerky sort of death throws dance, let out a hideous grumbling moan, and died. Too late I realized what was wrong. In my frenzy to get where I needed to be, I had put diesel in my gas-powered car, and now it was dead.

I see hauntingly familiar dance moves in my home. Sarcastic comments when someone’s question annoys one’s superiority complex. Bickering barbs thrown at each other over miniscule offenses. One person in this room. Another in that one. Four people spread to the winds...

(Join me at The Christian Pulse to find out how God takes an out of control family and puts them lovingly in order.)
Saturday, May 8, 2010

Knot Exactly What I Wanted

I feel like it's been a long time since I actually sat down to write. It is partly caused by the busyness of life, and partly due to blankness of mind. I have found that blankness of mind has two main causes: too busy and too concerned.

Sometimes my brain is so full of abbreviated to do lists that putting together a full sentence--little less a reasonable paragraph--feels overwhelming. Lately, I've been drowning in abbreviated to do lists. While I am concerned with getting those things done, it is more. I am concerned about saying something worth my readers' time, and I'm concerned about saying it with excellence.

Then I start to think.

I work through first lines, structure, a real meaning, style of presentation, and a memorable ending. It doesn't take very long for everything to get muddled in my brain, and then I start to try to unravel it like a bad knot only to find that the more I work on it, the more it tangles. Finally, having developed an ugly headache and feeling more lost than ever, I walk away.

Today, though, I'm hoping to unravel the knot a bit at a time...and maybe, somehow, it'll help someone else with their knots, too.

When I crocheted a lot, my yarn would sometimes get into knots, and some were worth trying to figure out. Sometimes it was just a matter of figuring out some caught loops, identifying a snag here or there, and straightening the string out. Then I was back on track with my project.

Life isn't so different.

Sometimes I end up going around in loops due to a snag. My priorities are sometimes wrong. I'm not always as disciplined as I need to be. Sometimes I am reluctant to try something new because the old way is too comfortable. In cases like that, I need to identify the loops where I am stuck, undo the snags, and move on to the way things work.

Sometimes the knots simply became too tangled to fix. There was simply too much to figure out and sort through. Sometimes I simply had to cut the knot out, tie the ends, and move on. Yes, there was a bump sometimes, but in the end, I created what I wanted and was happy with the result.

Life works that way, too.

Sometimes some thing happens that I can't work out. There have been things that hurt more than I could sort through. Events happened that couldn't be undone. Relationships went in directions that still make no sense. Untangling the knot was impossible. I couldn't undo a person's actions, words said, or unwanted events. And frankly, no matter how much I rolled them over, talked about them, or put them in writing, they were still crazy and "making it better" was impossible.

While I do not believe denial is an answer, I also do not believe the knotted areas of life have to be salvaged and become a significant part of the larger project. For instance, the young man who crushed my feelings by telling me he had started dating someone else because "I forgot I was dating you" never apologized. He never had an explanation. He just shrugged and walked away.

That was a pretty big knot, and no matter what I did I couldn't undo it. Ultimately, I had two choices. I could either live in the pain and the idea that I am so insignificant that I could be forgotten despite wearing some one's expensive ring, or I could simply acknowledge broken people do broken things, and the situation was more about his heart than my identity. I am not insignificant. I am not easily forgotten. I am not a throw-away person. And, there are people who think that young man was totally wrong. There are people who believe I am a gift, an answer to prayer, and an amazing person. I choose to keep them. They are part of my bigger picture, the bigger project that is me.

Yes, there is a bump--an imperfection--where that young man's hurtful actions messed up my thinking. It's a bump that reminds me others have been told they are invaluable and dispensable, and I can be the one to help undo their knot. I can be the one who tells them they are a gift, an answer to prayer, and an amazing person. I can be part of the bigger picture of who they truly are.

Maybe in talking about my knots--the ones that did not determine the outcome of who I am or what I do--I enable others to work through their knots, unravel what needs to be unravelled, and cut out what doesn't need to be there. Maybe by dealing with my knots people can get untangled and become the person God wants them to be, not the person someone else says they are or the victim circumstances try to make them. And maybe--hopefully--they can look at the big picture--the big project God is doing in and with their lives--and see something beautiful and amazing.
Friday, May 7, 2010

Where I am REading This Week--May 7, 2010

How A Child Shows the Way to Do Hard Things--Warning: This is not a place of easy faith. Don't go here unless you want to be laid low, to look hard in a mirror hoping to see a child and humbled deeply by all that is not.

Wounded Spirits: How to Stop the Bullying--Spirit wounds are not acceptable--not on the playground, not in the locker room, not in the home. Understanding what we are doing and Who we are doing it to is powerful healing for those with spirit wounds...and those who inflict them.
Thursday, May 6, 2010

The National Day of Prayer--May 6th

May 6th

National Day of Prayer

"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."--Mark 11:24

Have the courage to ask.

Have the faith to expect.

See God do above and beyond what you can imagine.
Monday, May 3, 2010

Prayer for You Today

Father God, Lord above all things, all powerful, merciful, loving, and generous God,

I lift up my family, friends, and readers to you this morning.

You know all their needs. You know the mountains in front of them.

I ask you to give them a gift of faith and assurance that there is no mountain bigger than you.

Reveal to them in new and thought-altering ways how much you love them. Give them courage to live in the reality of Your HUGENESS and Your commitment to them so they can see mountains moved, lives healed, and lineages blessed.

Thank you for your faithfulness, Lord. I love you!
Friday, April 30, 2010

Where I am Reading This Week--May 1, 2010

Ready to be stretched? This one will do it.

How the Kids and the Neighbor-Next-Door Might Really Become Christians? -- "And is that why there are fewer and fewer of genuine disciples? Because we who have Bread are indifferent hoarders, letting the masses die? Or because we're going around passing out cardboard, pseudo-Life, because the ugly truth is that we've never tasted of the Real Christ ourselves?"--Ann Voskamp
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Relay for Life Survivor Dinner Speech

Friday night I had the honor of giving the welcome and invocation for the Survivor Dinner for the Wylie Relay for Life. I don't know anyone whose life has not been touched by cancer. Whether you are battling this enemy, fighting for someone who is battling, celebrating victory, or grieving a loss, I want to share this as encouragement. Wherever you are on your journey, I pray this blesses you.

May your hope be strengthened, and may you keep on walking.

God bless you,

Wylie Relay for Life Survivor Dinner 2010

Last year when my daughter joined a Relay for Life team, we didn’t know much about Relay for Life. We understood the logistics of it. We understood raising money. We thought we understood all night.

However, there was so much we didn’t understand. We didn’t understand that Relay for Life isn’t a once a year event. We didn’t understand that once we were done, you weren’t really done. We didn’t understand that when we went home…we would take it with us.

We joined a Relay for Life team last year because my eleven-year old daughter had realized the world was a big place with big problems, and she didn’t feel a little person could make a difference. When I found out Stacey was a team captain, I asked if she had room for two others. No, but she had room for one, and Anna would fit perfectly.

The first day we set up her webpage and set her fundraising goal. Later that day, she exceeded it, and we upped her goal. Over the next few weeks, we upped her goal three or four times. When the day came for Relay for Life, she was very proud of the money she had raised, and because of the nice graphic on her webpage and the team’s page, she could see that her efforts were making a difference.

Then we got here, and the nifty little graphic on the computer suddenly became people…with names…faces…and families.

Each luminary that encircled the field told a story of merciless attacks on innocent victims. Some of the stories ended in victory, and some ended in tears. We have been part of those stories.

Each survivor that walked through this tent and slipped on a “Survivor” ribbon was a face we knew…the face of someone precious, someone loved, someone with a purpose, someone of promise. We have touched those faces, too.

Each caregiver that humbly wore their ribbons…the little girl who wore it for her mom, the parents who wore it for their pre-school son, the husbands, wives, sisters, and brothers…We know them. We’ve walked with them. We’ve prayed for them.

We were here to walk for people, and they weren’t the strangers we thought they would be. They were people we sit down with at family dinners, the people at our school functions, our neighbors next door. The people who walk the hard road, who become exhausted, who wonder if the mountain is too big…but still keep walking.

And people kept walking…all night long.

Some walked for those they had lost, and some walked for those in the middle of the battle. Some walked for those who had overcome. Everyone walked for a cure.

See, it’s not relay for raising money.
It’s not relay for a better treatment.
It’s not relay for endurance.
It’s not relay for 5-year expectancy rate.
It’s Relay for Life.
… for a full Life.
… for a long Life.
And every step gets us closer to our destination.
Every step gets us closer to the cure.
And one day, we will get there.
We just have to keep walking.

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010

Gratitude 34--For Walking

As some of you may remember, last year my daughter and I joined an amazing group of people to participate in Relay for Life. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

This year we did not walk, but it was a great honor to give the welcome and invocation for the Survivor Dinner. I have no words to describe the feeling of standing in front of all those survivors and caregivers and looking at the sea of beautiful faces...except thank you for letting me part of your celebration. You are amazing heroes. Thank you.

Last year I was grateful for Relay for Life. I am no less so this year. In fact, maybe now I am even more thankful because now I understand better.

851. For the vessel(s) that started Relay for Life, thank you for having a vision as big as a cure.

852. For Wylie Women's League who did an amazing Survivor Dinner and works so hard to raise money and support the event

853. For the army of young volunteers--If anyone thinks the next generation is a bunch of lost and hopeless adolescents, you need to watch this group in action. Wow!

854. Donated food, prizes, and other supplies

855. Good weather

856. Stadiums all around the US that open their fields and grounds to Relay for Life so people can walk for a purpose.

857. Those who donate money, you are making a difference.

858. For a "cancer free" report for Kipp Gremillion, Rob's step-brother

859. Prayers, prayers, and more prayers

860. For those who keep on walking...
at Relay for Life...
in memory...
in honor...
with hope...
to the chemo treatments...
to sit in waiting rooms and patients' rooms...
to carry meals to those who need them...
because quitting isn't an option...
for a cure...

861. For a God who is the cure. Lord, release the knowledge to your vessels that cancer may be defeated on this earth.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

When She Flies

She is still my little girl. She still likes to play Little Pet Shop, sleeps with a stuffed animal, and struggles to find matching shoes in her room. When she is sick, she wants her mom and her blanket, and when dancing around the kitchen with her dad, she still stands on his feet.

Don't be fooled, though. Inside that quiet, gentle little girl is a King's daughter who loves to fly.

Last week, she soared.

On Monday, a man came to check on our A/C. While here, Anna told him about Redlight Rescue and encouraged him to prayerfully consider donating to save girls from the sex trade. He asked if he needed to donate in her name. No. Just donate.

I watched his face. I know the look in his eyes. I've seen it before. he looked at a twelve-year old girl with compassion the size of a planet.

It is a look in many eyes when they look at this little girl of mine who believes she can have a great impact.

On Wednesday, this man returned with the A/C part...and money. He was matching Anna's pledge. He handed her the the girls around the her.

"My wife and I decided to give this to you directly because we want you to know if it weren't for you, we wouldn't have known, and if we hadn't known, we couldn't help. You are making a difference."

Her eyes shone with joy.

Mine blurred with proud tears.

On Thursday, she and her daddy headed to Austin for Teenpact, a time to learn how government works, the importance of godly leaders, and the steps to making a difference. That last she already knows.

At Subway, she sees a young lady in her late teens and asks what she always asks (I mean always). "Can I ask you a question?" A smile and nod. "Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?" A shake of the head. "Would you like to know about Him?" Yes, she would.

So, they slip to the side, and Anna explains sin, sacrifice, salvation. The need. The answer. The hope.

When done, she invites. "Do you want to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?"

The young lady accepts the invitation, and Anna walks the lost sheep into the Shepherd's arms.

Heaven rejoices, and Anna's voice joins them.

On Sunday Anna is home from her trip and heads off to youth group, money in hand...enough to rescue one girl. With joy she tells her pastors about the A/C man, about her sharing, about the donation. She cannot wait to give the make a save someone.

During the service, she is surprised when the pastor calls her to the stage. He asks a few questions, and then he opens the door for her to tell about the money, how she had simply shared her passion, how the man and his wife had a life will be forever others are set free...because she's not afraid to soar.
Monday, April 19, 2010

Gratitude 33--Out and About and Home Again

Some days--some weeks--leave me in quiet awe. This has been one of those weeks, and I am so grateful.

819. Daughter who finds passion in setting others free

820. Daughter's fearless evangelism that leads a young woman to the amazing love of Christ

821. Husband who takes daughter to Austin to learn the political process, the leading and growing of a godly nation

822. A job that allows Wonder Man to be involved in out of town activities with the children

823. Time with the Wonder Boy, game playing, art doing, movie watching...heart learning

824. Too quiet rooms filled with children returned home

825. Ice cream for upset tummies

826. Hot chocolate for sore throats

827. Long drives and deep talks

828. Couches with recliners on each end where mending bodies can rest and recoop

829. Curling up close and just being

839. Cake recipes, rich in chocolate

840. Husbands who diagnose broken computer batteries

841. Warranties

842. Plungers when necessary

843. Washing machines that work even at midnight

844. New socks for Wonder Boy

845. appreciated

846. Youth leaders that bless, encourage, and nurture tender hearts

847. Friends who believe I can do things that feel bigger than I ever dreamed of being

848. Long talks with friends, planning and dreaming

849. Conferences in the making, hearts valued and precious

850. Beloved Ann, believing in grace, rejoicing in freedom
Friday, April 16, 2010

In the Storm

Last night I was emptying out old emails, and I found the one below. I forwarded it to my precious friend Lisa Buffaloe, who suffered a tragic loss this week when her friend Erin and Erin's unborn baby were killed in a car wreck. When I read this, I thought of Erin's husband, family, and friends. It is a beautiful picture of how the Lord takes care of His children, even as the storm rages around them.

Lisqa asked me if I were going to blog it. At first, I wasn't going to, but I don't know where you are. I don't know the storms that rage around you, or in you. All I know is God is our refuge, and sometimes I need to see that clearly, so maybe you do, too.


by Darlene M. Makin

I think Charles Allen said it first. "When faced with problems which threaten to steal your peace of mind, learn the meaning ofthe word 'imperturbability.'"

I heard of two artists who were asked to illustrate peace. Each was assigned the task of depicting a peaceful scene on canvas.'

The first artist drew a beautiful picture of a countryside on a warm, spring day. A soft sun illumines green grass. A picturesque farm house and grazing cattle are bathed in its warmth. A farmer walks contentedly behind strong plow horses making his field ready for spring planting. The picture is one of beauty and quiet tranquility.

The other artist took a different approach. He drew a majestic, rugged cliff. Gnarled trees, twisted by years of violent winds, jut from the craggy mountainside. Dark clouds hang low and fierce while jagged streaks of lightening slash across an angry sky. The picture is one of violence, chaos and rage. But as one looks closely, something else becomes visible.

There in one of the crevices of the rocky mountain, tucked back just out of reach of the wind and rain -- a nest with two small birds. Apparently unconcerned about the impending storm, they appear calm, cozy and peaceful as they patiently wait for the turbulence to pass.

And isn't that the way it so often is? We may want to be surrounded by peace, but storms rage. Problems and pressures without threaten to steal peace of mind within.

The answer is imperturbability: inner peace which doesn't leave when circumstances change. It's a peace which is greater than the problems of life, built on assurance that the tempest will finally pass, we will survive the storm, we may grow stronger because of it and, in the meantime, we will not endure it alone.

Imperturbability -- it's the result of a peace which passes understanding. For serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.

Jesus to his disciples: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
Thursday, April 15, 2010

In a Single Bound

I feel like I took a flying leap off the side of a mountain, and if it were not for trusting God so much, I think I would throw up.

Actually, jumping off mountains solo isn't such a big deal anymore. I've become pretty accustomed to that. It's jumping tandem that leaves me reeling, especially when the one tethered to me is my daughter...especially when she is standing on the precipice ready to go over the edge and God says, "I made her to fly. Let her go."

She looks at me questioning. I nod.

Off she goes.

I am right with her, as though a mother's heart could be anywhere else.

And now we are flying in what feels like a free fall, out of control.

Out of my control.

My last illusion of control went flying over the edge with us, and right now, I'm not enjoying the flight. Right now, I hate this. Right now, one thought goes through my mind: "God, what have I done?"

I know the answer. What I have done is release my daughter from my safety zone to God's infinite possibilities. What I have done is declare that I believe His thoughts are higher than my thoughts and His ways are above my ways...and He can do amazing things...through my adolescent daughter...HIS daughter.

I keep tripping over that.

HIS daughter. His creation. His solution to a world in need. His answer to girls caught in a life of slavery and hopelessness. His chosen one.

Right now, though, my mother's heart is struggling. Right now it is concerned about my life, my comfort zone, my life status quo, my own personal Rockwellian view of family life.

But Norman Rockwell was an illusionist. He had a gift for making life's tough spots look poetic, but life isn't poetry, not the kind with perfect metre and comforting rhymes. Life is messy. Healing is done with tears, not smiles. Families in perfect clothes at the perfect table for the perfect holiday spill things...drinks, soups, and souls.

It's in the mess and the spills that the connections occur. A touch of the hand when wiping up the tea. Arms wrapped round to dry the tears. Hearts laid bare as souls are tended.

It is into this mess that my daughter chooses to walk, into the world of young girls captured into a hellish nightmare of human slavery, children sold to grown men to fulfill a wife's place. She, too, is the hope of freedom for every child who feels hopeless. She is determined to be their hope. She is determined to be the light in their darkness and to find them in their prisons and set them free.

She can do it. Maybe not alone, but people have good hearts. They just need someone to tell them about these children and give them the chance to help. And she will.

What exactly that means for my personalized Rockwell picture, I don't know, but while my mother's heart is screaming, "What have I done?", my faith answers, "I've given her the freedom she wants to give these children...the freedom to be an answer, to be a blessing, to live big, to serve God in whatever way He leads. I've given her the freedom to fly."

To find out more about how you can help set children free from the nightmare of human trafficking and sex slave trade, please visit AMPED Red Light Rescue, Sowers of the Seed Inernational, or contact me personally. Thank you.
Monday, April 12, 2010

Gratitude 32--The Basics

My temp is up, my face is pale, and my stomach is aggitated. The virus my daughter hosted last night has come to visit me today. I am annoyed and, at various times throughout the day, on the verge of tears.

I hate being sick. First of all, I feel like a failure. If I were truly a woman of faith, I'd have authority over this illness, and it would be banished before Anna's temp ever went over 99 degrees. If I were a real woman, I wouldn't let this annoying thing keep me supine on the couch. I'd just push through, get stuff done, and laugh in victory.

However, my temp is over 99, and the bug is still here, and frankly, if I don't lie supine on the couch, my face goes from pale to green.

Second, I had plans. The children and I were going to clear the part of the yard where we are putting in a flowerbed. We soaked the water last night so the roots would be easy to pull up. The ground is ready. Then tonight, I was finally going to have another tennis lesson. I haven't had one in a month because of a variety of things, and I was so excited...then I had to cancel.

Then, in the midst of my near-tears pity party, a prayer I've prayed many times came back to mind.

"Lord, I don't ever want to be your spoiled child who is ungrateful for what you give just because I didn't get exactly what I want."

I'm upset because I didn't get to prepare the ground for the flowerbeds. There are people who never get to see a flower either because their physical eyes are damaged or because their lives are barren. We can prepare the ground in a few days. Will others suddenly have the ability to see then? Will their lives suddenly be filled with color?

I whine about not hitting a tennis ball when there are people today who have no use of their hands, who cannot stand up, who struggle to remember the word "ball". Today I was able to work on laundry, help with schoolwork, and iron pants. Tomorrow will hands be regrown? Will legs grow strong? Will the mind become firm?

Oh, God...have mercy on my self-centered existence. Forgive me for focusing on the unimportant things that can be done later...or not done at all...and no one's world will be the better or worse. Thank you for reminding me that while I am blessed with many frills in life, there are those who would be so thankful for the "basics". And I am grateful, too.

Thank you, Lord.

802. My hands can hold a ball, type on the keyboard, hold my husband's hand, and wipe away my children's tears.

803. My body fights viruses on its own.

804. Our yard is green, even if it is mostly weeds right now.

805. For amazing children who bless me with peaceful naps when my body needs them

806. That you've never called me a failure.

807. Faith is a journey, and I am learning and growing as I go.

808. Grace covers me when I don't perform as well as I wish.

809. Austin, tennis coach extradinaire, who is the epitome of patience and grace

810. Coaches that are soft for my body.

811. Fred, our Lab-experiment, who wags his tale when I pat him, even when my patting him is for my comfort.

812. Rob was the hero of the day cooking dinner so I didn't have to smell it.

813. Dry toast. Oh, Lord, thank you SO much for dry toast.

814. Ice cream.

815. Cool wash cloths.

816. I can walk to the couch on my own power, and if I want to get up, I can do that, too.

817. Lord, I love automatic washing machines and dryers. Oh, I love having them in my house so I don't have to go to a laundromat.

818. Thank you for asnwering my prayers, especially ones that stretch me and cause me to get out of myself. You are so faithful, and I am undone.
Sunday, April 11, 2010

Where I'm Reading This Week--April 16, 2010

Strong Like Bamboo--Mary Faulkner is a friend of mine. More importantly, she's a world changer. She has a heart to see the world the healing of its women. And in her travels, she meets other world Sarah.
Friday, April 9, 2010

Where I'm Reading This Week--April 9, 2010

Good food:

"That for a Christian, identity is never about figuring out who he is —- but accepting Whose he is." -- Ann Voskamp

D-I-V-O-R-C-E--Divorce in the home starts with divorce in the heart. This is a wonderfully convicting, challenging, and encouraging article addressing the problem, the progress, and the prevention.

When it Comes Time to Really Die -- Baptism is more than a ceremony. It is the choice to tell everyone you are dead. This is a stunningly beautiful picture of baptism...dying and being buried in Christ...dying daily...and making Him the only life you want to live...

A Great Date (And It's not What You're Thinking) -- "The Lord sets the lonely into families." Maybe you are a single person needing to belong, or you are a family with a home to share. In either case, this is for you. Hope and challenge for the body of Christ to love like He does.
Thursday, April 8, 2010

All That Matters

I don't normally do this.

When I write personal emails or personal words of encouragement to people, I don't usually share them on my blog. After all, they are personal. This morning I wrote a personal email to the ladies who write the For Her column of The Christian Pulse. These are amazing ladies, and I am so blessed to serve with them. I have great respect for them, and I would never want to break trust with them. However, I feel part of what I wrote is for others, too, and since it is all God's, He can give it to whomever He desires. I pray it encourages and blesses you as well.

Always for Him,

From my email...

The Word tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

Last night I had a dream my husband was involved in an affair, and although he made no real effort to hide it, no one would believe me. He was such a good guy, no one believed he could do that, and they all said I was overreacting and being paranoid. Now, I don’t know if the dream has some deeper meaning from God. I haven’t had time to ask Him about it, and although I know my husband is not having an affair, I woke up in a funk, sort of miserable, heart sick, and just gloomy. Exactly the way Satan wants me to be because when I’m like that, I sort of ramble around the battle field feeling and acting puny instead of putting on my armor and fighting the battle set before me.

After about an hour of this pitiful mind misery, I told the Lord, “I feel…”

When I was done, His voice came back to me, and He said, “How you feel isn’t the issue. Who I AM is the issue. I AM the one who loves you, and I AM the one who has all power. Whether your husband is having an affair or not is not the issue. How you feel about anything is not the issue. Whether I am faithful to love and bless you is the issue. Whether you trust me or not is the issue. If you trust me, rejoice in me for I have great plans for you.”

I don’t know what Satan is dumping on you. I don’t know how he is trying to discourage you or attack you today. What I do know is our God is higher than all that. What I know is our God loves you infinitely. What I know is when God is for you, it doesn’t matter who is against you.

Father, I lift up those reading this today. Give them joy in you. Give them strength to stand, and when they have done everything, enable them to stand. Give them a gift of hope where the enemy has tried to cloud them with hopelessness. Open their eyes to see your power and your character. Satan wants them to think you can't--or WON'T--come to their rescue, but you are already providing the solution. Open their eyes to see your answer because sometimes our vision is warped by experience, doctrine, and tradition. Open eyes to see your answer and your love no matter how wild and far-fetched it may look. Open their hearts, minds, and eyes to see and know the reality and power of your love. Thank you for the wonderful things you are doing in all these lives today. Be glorified in us. In the perfect and all-powerful name of Jesus I ask these things, Amen.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Come on Over

Have those times when life feels overwhelming? Ever look up and see a mountain sitting in front of you that appears insurmountable? Ever just get to the point where you mutter in defeat, "I can't do this"?

But then there is a wondrous relief that comes from knowing I can't do least, not alone.

Visit me today over at The Christian Pulse to find out more.
Friday, April 2, 2010

Where I'm Reading This Week--April 2, 2010

Braver Every Day -- One of the bravest prayers I've ever read.

Human Target -- How would you live if you knew someone always had you covered?
Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Because GOD is the Answer

My dear friend Lisa Buffaloe was on Blog Talk Radio today. The interview and conversation was excellent. The ladies discussed several informative topics such as creating a blog, building an audience, and why they blog. One of the best topics addressed, in my opinion, is the importance of blogging for God's sake, not our own. While they were specifically addressing blogging, the truth shared is applicable to all parts of life, whether that be writing, singing, or mowing yards. Very encouraging...and convicting...stuff.

The whole program is about an hour, and it is worth the time. Drop by and get blessed!
Monday, March 29, 2010

More Valuable Than Butterflies

Today the children and I joined our co-op buddies at the Botanic Garden's butterfly exhibit. Because we had a large group, we were able to attend a very informative class on butterflies. The leaders explained how the butterflies were shipped from all over the world to be on display here in Texas. They also explained the butterfly life cycle and the importance of specific plants for specific species of butterflies. Certain aspects of butterfly behavior were discussed as well, and we were encouraged to take time to observe those behaviors. Mostly, they suggested we take time to just watch and behold.

I did just that, and what I beheld left me amazed...not just by the butterflies but by the wonder of me.

Butterflies are more than just a pretty face. Generally speaking, they are bugs. They do bug jobs. Specifically, they wander from flower to flower, picking up pollen and dropping it off, being the catalyst for new life. This is no small thing. Take away the butterflies, and a huge number of those flowers we love in the spring would disappear, too. They not only offer up their own beauty. They enable others' beauty as well.

I love that.

However, a butterfly's functionality isn't what made me stop and stare. Without thought, I was captivated by the art of the butterfly, not its part in creation but its creation by a purposeful Creator.

As I looked at the artwork that sat stone still in front of me, I became lost in the meticulous design of each scale on its wings, the blending of colors, and the perfection of its design. My eyes were fixed on this creation whose life span is a blink of an eye compared to mine. What I saw was not a bug or a nifty pollinator. I stared at a masterpiece formed by a God bigger than the universe with the ability to make something so tiny and delicate, and He knew every single scale on that butterfly's wings. He knew where it had been laid. His hands recreated it in the chrysalis, and He smiled when it took flight.

He watched with the same wondrous joy I did, and He was captivated, too.

If the God of all the earth cares that much for a butterfly, how much more me, the masterpiece made in His image, the one He longs to have as a companion? He holds the butterfly in His hand, but He holds me in His heart. Is anything more wondrous than that?

Gratitude 31--Life: Sacrificed, Provided, Eternal

Palm Sunday is an odd day for me. On one hand, I want to focus on Jesus. I want to meditate on the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb for me. I want to be in awe of the love that would give such an extravagant gift for one so undeserving.

However, my mind wanders. On Palm Sunday seven years ago, my dad went into the hospital...for the last time. He had been sick for some time. The last nine months had been very difficult. Multiple hospital stays, trips to the ER, and times of needing intense care spotted the calendar.

When I received the call from my mom that Dad was in the ER again and he was being admitted to the hospital, I went to be with them. I knew in my heart this was it. Our journey was done.

On Thursday of that week, my dad was released from the hospital. X-rays showed a mass, not pneumonia. A biopsy had been done, and we were waiting for the results.

We spent Easter with my parents. Dad sat in the sun, watched his small ground children hunt Lego blocks. In the wildness of the week, we never thought about eggs, so we improvised. He laughed a lot. I committed every moment to memory that I could. Treasures stored in the heart.

Late that afternoon, I took my children home. As much as I wanted to stay with Dad, I knew the little ones were tired and in need of rest.

In the late hours of Easter, Dad went home, too. As much as he wanted to stay with us, Jesus knew he was tired and in need of rest.

I suppose some might think my dad's passing on at Easter would diminish the day somehow, but on the contrary, it only makes it more special.

For me, Easter is not just about the salvation of my soul, although that is amazing beyond words. To me, Easter is about my dad breathing without struggling for air. It's about his being able to walk as far as he wants without chest pains, getting dizzy, or passing out.

Easter is about passing on the love of the Word my dad instilled in me to my children. Life continuing from generation to generation. It's morning coffee with the Dad of all time, sharing my heart, hearing His, and letting Him speak through me.

Easter is not just about what Jesus did 2000 years ago. It's about what He is doing now and what He wants to do.

It's life that changes sometimes in form, sometimes in place, but still goes on, and the hope that life can always be better here...and There.

And today I am filled with gratitude.

776. Jerry Dale Kelley--December 13, 1940 - April 21, 2003

777b. Top hats :-)

777. An empty tomb

778. Love that stayed on a cross

779. Doctors who do the best they can

780. Mercy

781. Breathing without pain

782. No oxygen tanks are needed in Heaven

783. Amazing medical staff

784. Lego "eggs"

785. Sunshine

786. Hope

787. Precious memories

788. Stories that still bring laughter

789. Provision beyond my ability to fathom

790. Laughter

791. Pictures and video

792. Life--here and There

793. Death--that makes me realize the power and blessing of life

794. Being able to tell people God is faithful, even when their hearts are broken

795. The Bible--The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

796. HUGE Easter Egg hunts at church

797. Matching dresses my mom made

798. Plastic eggs with a quarter in them

799. Dozens of boiled eggs dipped and colored turning from white orbs to rainbows

800. My grandma who didn't fuss about the Easter egg coloring mess

801. The reality of the resurrection in my life and my heart.

Yes, I stop and think about this week, what was done for me...what has been done IN me...the life given on a cross 2000 years ago so I can have life today and for eternity...and I am in awe...
Sunday, March 28, 2010

Part of the Crowd

Palm Sunday.

I am pondering the Triumphant Entry, the people who waved palms and adored Jesus, and then cried out for His crucifixion when He wasn't what they wanted Him to be.

Laying my heart before the Lord, asking Him to show me ways I refuse to accept His Truth when it isn't what I want to hear or be.

In His mercy, He answers...
Friday, March 26, 2010

Seeing Down the Path

It is 7:40 am, and I am sitting in a quiet house with the sun beginning to slide into the backyard and slip into the windows. It feels good to be quiet and still.

This is the first time in two weeks I have not started my day with a long to-do list sitting beside me, being added to as I think of things while trying to focus on my quiet time. It is the first time in two weeks I don't feel the pressure of "have to". It is the first time in two weeks I am not trying to figure out how to squeeze my family into the myriad of things to be done.

I just looked at the white board in my kitchen, which started the week saying, "Snuggle time for Robert and Mommy on the trampoline". It was our personal to do list. It stayed there a few days. We never did it, but now it is erased, and something else is there. It makes my heart sad.

Once again I tried to balance things, and I fell off the wire. I am hoping I didn't crash so hard that damage was done that cannot be healed.

This has not been an easy two weeks. While it has been productive, it has also been hard. It has stretched me, stretched my family, and left me with some questions. Today, while I am thanking the Lord for getting our family through the stretching, I am also asking Him what I could have done better. I am taking the whole thing back to the Life Director and asking how I missed it, where I missed it, what I should have differently. I need Him to show me where my priorities were wrong...and where they were right.

I don't believe it was all wrong. Just because something shakes up the status quo or messes with my comfort zone...or the comfort zone of my family...doesn't mean it is wrong or bad. It simply means the Lord is doing something new. He is leading down a new path.

There are two ways to go down a path.

The first way is knowing the path to take and barreling down it full speed ahead. That can be hard going. I have to watch my steps to avoid holes or rocks that can twist an ankle and possibly leave me stranded. I have to fight branches and limbs that grab at my head and face, and if I am not dressed correctly, the briers can rip my legs up.

The second way is to follow. When I follow, the Lord's voice comes back to me and tells me to watch out for the hole, step over the log, or duck under a limb. He knows when to stop so the snake ahead is well out of my path before I need to go by it. When God is leading, He is gives direction, leads my feet smoothly, and protects my head. I may not see the path, but I see Him, and that is all I need to see.

That is where I am this morning. Seeking Him. Making sure I am aligned correctly with Him in front. Listening carefully to be sure I hear His voice over the loud crash of my shattering comfort zone.

This morning I am not merely asking Him if I am on the right path. I'm asking if I am in the right place--behind Him, so that He is all I see. If He is all I see, then I see enough to get me where I am going safely.
Thursday, March 25, 2010

Where I'm Reading This Week--March 26, 2010

What Will We Miss? -- My friend Lisa Buffaloe is an amazing writer. She's also an amazing hearer of God's heart. When I read this, it was as though the Lord were speaking Himself, encouraging me on a hard day of transition, assuring me that sometimes we have to lay down good things to have His best things.

Lending a Hand When You are Down and Out -- All of go through painful trials, hard seasons, and times when we wonder what matters. Shae Hamrick has, too. However, instead of letting them engulf her, she lets them push her outside herself to see others' needs...a place where everyone finds comfort and healing.

You Just Have to Trust Me -- It's just good stuff. Trust me.



Red Light Rescue

Imagine being a parent barely able to pay bills and someone comes to your home and promises to educate your daughter and find her a job. You agree, hoping to give her a better life. Then she disappears, and you find out she is not being educated. Instead, she is a prostitute, a victim of human-trafficking, beaten and abused daily. Sounds like a nightmare, doesn't it? For 100,000 girls in India, this is reality. To find out how you can help, please visit Red Light Rescue.


"It's not the wind in our hair that makes us free. It's the movement of the Spirit, the growth of our invisible side." --Amber Haines

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