Tuesday, January 31, 2012

And Then What Happened? Part 4--I Got Squished

She took me out for coffee. I love her so I went. Over cups of over-priced, calorie-packed designer java, she looked me in the eye and asked, "I read what you wrote. Why?"

I've been asked that several times, actually. Being a writer, I want to present it in some lovely, well-worded manner that leaves the reader with some profound truth. I really want to hand you a well-wrapped box with a lovely bow that you open and find this nicely organized gift of obviously connected items. Instead, it is more like pulling out the kitchen stuff drawer, dumping it on the table, and trying to tell you why the pliers, bread ties, plastic wine opener that I never us because I don't drink wine, and keys to who-knows-what are all there in one big lump.

What do they all have in common?

Nothing...except the fact they all seem unrelated to anything else...and they are automatically connected through the unbelonging anywhere else...

Here is my mental/emotional kitchen-stuff-drawer-dump-on-the-table attempt at explaining the battlefield...and what happened to all the stuff...

As many of you read or know through personal contact, the holidays were FABULOUS! So much better than I could have dreamed. We laughed...a LOT, enjoyed friends and family. They were perfect. Norman Rockwell would have asked to paint us. They were that good.

Then December 26th came.

I cannot explain what happened. "Crater" doesn't quite cut it. It was more like being in an airplane, flying wondrously above the clouds, and then being dropped out with no parachute. It felt like a free fall...again.

I really kept thinking it was just the adrenaline crash that comes from the big build up of anticipation for an event, and once the event is gone, so is the rush, and there is a crash. I know how to handle those. I have just finished one major event. I rest a bit, and move to the next thing.

Problem. I couldn't figure out a next thing.

I couldn't figure out a direction.

I couldn't figure out a purpose.

I couldn't figure out...anything.

It was like I had been teleported back to last summer when I was simply trying to make sure the kids had three meals a day, and my whole "goal" was to get through the to do list of the estate, except this time there was no to do list...and I couldn't create one.

I didn't want to create one.

I didn't want to get out of bed.

In fact, I didn't want to do anything.

I had always wanted to write, but I could see nothing in my writing. I could find no goal. I had been asked to submit some pieces for consideration for inclusion in a book. I could find no clarity for what to write.

For a few years, I've had ideas for books--fiction and non-fiction--rolling in my head, but I couldn't solidify things. They seemed like wisps of dandelion flouncing through the wind. No direction. No way to be caught. Just floating with the understanding they would land somewhere.

My desire for further training in emergency response stalled. What would I do with it? Where would I go? What was the purpose? No clue. Maybe it was just a nice escapism in the midst of the carnage. If so, why spend more time and money on it only to find it is not something God plans to use?

In fact, I suddenly didn't know if I wanted to be part of emergency response at all.

A few folks suggested I reconsider photography. And take pictures of what? I had no vision. Hard to get focus when there is no vision.

Homeschool was hard enough to wade through, and it felt like wading...through water thick with mud up to my waist or higher. Mentally it was exhausting. Did I want to do this anymore? Was it good for the kids? Could I really be effective?

Not like this.

But what was "this"?

I could see all the symptoms--the lack of vision, lack of enthusiasm, lack of joy, lack of...

And I was frustrated because I could see what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be, and honestly, normally, I would push right through and just do it anyway. This time, though, there was no pushing through. There was no second-wind. There was no one-more-try.

I had hit the wall...and then it fell on me and squished me.

There was no solution except to move the wall, but to do that, I needed to know what it was made of.

Where I wanted to be didn't matter until I really understood where I was.

Monday, January 30, 2012

And Then What Happened? Part 3--The Cavalry

During this hard journey and transition, I have often been asked what did help or what people said that strengthened or encouraged me. What words served as life preservers instead of hand grenades?

I usually didn't have a good example. This time, I have GREAT examples.

A few weeks ago I shared Jan's response. I didn't do it to embarrass her. Quite the opposite.

Her response blessed me, left me humbled, and bolstered my resolve.

If this kind of warrior is standing with me and is convinced I can still make it through this battle and take the Promised Land and somehow she finds some kind of encouragement from my being on the battlefield, I will not walk away. Unless the King clearly says I am needed else where, I will not leave the battalion where He has assigned me.

I know Jan probably felt like she was sharing her brokenness, and she did with beautiful bravery, but she also shared her courage. She didn't feel like getting out of bed. She didn't feel like she could make a difference, but she was going to give what she had, and THAT is where the battle is won. THAT is what encourages other warriors to keep standing and to keep fighting.

THAT is what encouraged me.

I thank God she did get out of bed that day and she did find her way to her computer, did read my white flag post, and did find me through the screaming sound of the assault against her. Who knew such a seemingly "simple act" could have such a big effect? And yet it did, and I don't know what effects are coming. What I know is whatever spoils of war come to me by keeping this blog open is hers as well.

But not just hers. There were other search-and-rescue responses...

"I may have been a stranger the past couple of months but please do know that you continue to be an encouragement to me. Your words resonate the deep longings and deep hurt along this journey I have and been going through when all I can say is 'I no longer can' and you lift my spirit in a way that only someone who can truly empathize, not just sympathize, can. I love you, Ms. Jerri and I praise the Lord for you!"
This made me cry. I have been there so many times. SO many times, and I just wanted someone to understand. For God to allow me the grace...the honor...to be the one who understands...no words...only amazed tears...
"It makes a difference, Jerri. Every blog you write makes a difference. Every time you share the deep, hurty places, it makes a difference. It is in our weakness that we connect and are seen by others in this place alongside you. Today, God gave me words for you. See my blog. Love you big! "
I read this, and my first response was, "SHE FELT SEEN!!!"

Have you ever been there? Where you just need to feel seen? I have. I have known the feelings of just needing to be seen. That God would use me to offer such treasure...more tears...

There are times when I read others' blogs, and they touch me deep, and I consider leaving a comment...but don't.

I'd probably sound like a dork. They probably wouldn't care about some stranger who can't even explain why this blog about the number of fish in a net made me sob. They'd think I was weird anyway. They probably have all kinds of folks leaving comments.

And really...

...what can my words mean to them?

 
They just wrote this amazing thing that was clearly God speaking through them to me. Surely they hear God...surely they know...

...They know the fatigue of standing when the assault is relentless...

Sometimes they see only the hoard getting closer...without realizing it is because of the ground they are taking.

Sometimes they are so focused on what is coming at them, they do not see the people they are defending standing safely behind them.

And sometimes...they get tired...sometimes the blood loss feels greater than the victory gained...if there is victory gained. Sometimes they don't know.
Dear ones, warriors know the battle. They see the onslaught. They see the enemy. They hear the shrill whistles of incoming. They feel the hits. They know the fatigue of standing when the assault is relentless.

Sometimes even warriors need the Cavalry.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

And Then What Happened? Part 2--When I Know It Isn't Just About Me

A few blogs ago I started to explain the interim of "I'm closing my blog" to "Guess what! I didn't." Then life got a bit busy...which is really just a trying-to-not-look-like-a-dork way of saying I was looking for words. I was trying to sort through it in my brain and put it in a reasonable sequence and explain things so they make sense. The fact is, not all things in life fit into a reasonably sequence. Sometimes life is a scatter shot, and sometimes, if you haven't been there, no explaining will make sense, and if you have been there, you don't need me to explain.

Even with this blog, I am writing this AFTER the blog is done. The way I started it is not the way it went, but a lot of my life is like that, and I trust God will take it where it needs to go to speak to the folks who need to hear it. He is just groovy like that.

But...about that interim space...

Honestly, when I said I was planning to close the blog, it wasn't so folks would come to the rescue. Honestly, I was at a mental place where I didn't expect anyone to care. The reason I didn't just close it is because the Lord spoke clearly to my spirit:
"You cannot just close it. There are people who find a place there, and if you just close it, it only feeds the sense of abandonment and rejection. You have to give them a warning, and you have to make sure they understand it is about where YOU are in your struggle."
I don't know about you, but I've been in places where non-personal things were hugely personal. I remember one day after my dad had died I went to buy makeup. I've used the same brand, same everything since high school, so fifteen or so years at the time.

They had quit making it.

Now, I know it is only makeup. Seriously. It is ONLY makeup, but at that moment, it felt like a punch in the stomach, and although this large makeup company has no clue who Jerri Kelley Phillips is, it felt like a personal hit. Except, I didn't feel personally dumped or dismissed by the makeup company.

I felt dismissed by God.

I mean, really? How hard was this? I had just gone through a hard end of illness time with my dad. He had died. My marriage was rocky, and how hard is it for God to provide my makeup?! It is JUST makeup! How hard would it be for God to simply make sure they made it long enough to get me through this?!

Some of you are staring at your screen as though you just read a lost chapter from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Some of you are laughing because you've had that moment. Some of you are misty-eyed because, "Thank God someone gets it!"

Yep.

Sometimes the little things are not little. Sometimes the little things speak volumes.

I didn't want my closing my blog to speak the wrong thing.

When I was going to close my blog, I didn't want anyone to feel like God had dismissed them.

As I said, at that point, I didn't see why anyone would miss my blog, BUT I knew what I had heard from God, and I didn't want anyone to feel abandoned. I didn't want anyone trying to find it and wondering why God let it get pulled down TODAY OF ALL DAYS! I didn't want anyone to feel like they had found some place to stand or something they could at least partially depend on, some semblance of normal when too much was changing too fast or they were just having a bad day, and then, POOF! It be gone.

So, I did what I felt like God told me to do. I gave a heads up.

"This isn't personal. It isn't God forgetting you. YOU are fine. I am not."

Really, that is all it was--my attempt to close the door quietly instead of jarring someone with a resounding thud.

And then what I never expected...happened.

God took these precious people whom I didn't want to feel abandoned or lost and created a search party to find me in my own darkness.

And then the Cavalry came.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

And Then What Happened--The Whole Story

Last week I posted part one of the explanation of what happened between my wanting to close my blog and my decision not to close it. I have finally finished the explanation, and starting tomorrow, I will post a series of five more entries that explain what happened.

I hope you will join me.

I hope you see the faithfulness of God in my journey...
...especially in my dark place...
...and I pray my story helps you see Him more clearly in yours.


With humbled awe of all He is and does,
Jerri

If I could give you anything...Freedom from Jealousy and Envy

If I could give you anything today...

it would be freedom from jealousy and the dead places that come from envying others.

Envy and jealousy are merely weight that
keep you where you are
instead of your moving forward
with courage, expectancy, and enthusiasm
into
who you are supposed to be
 and
what you are supposed to do.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Prayer for Today

This morning I was praying for a precious, precious lady, and the Lord spoke the neatest thing over her. He said,

"You are a life pitcher.
You spill it out and slosh it out all over the place."
Isn't that a fabulous way for God to describe a person?!
Have to confess, today, I'm praying to be a life pitcher, sloshing and spilling all over the place.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

And Then What Happened? Part 1

Last we left our author, she was struggling with what God is doing in her life, where she fits, what role she plays, and how to handle the rocking boat.

Lousy place to leave folks...especially loving folks who have hearts of gold and words of encouragement that bless deep.

I'm sorry to leave you there. I needed to have wrestle time with God to figure some things out and get through some things. I plan to tell you tons, but for now, I want to talk about YOU.

First of all, YOU rock.

As you know, one of the things I wondered is if I make a difference. If I went silent, would it matter. You had some things to say about that, and you wondrous people know how to lay out truth. So I want to share some of that truth and my thoughts with everyone.

Ready?


"The truth is I didn't want to get out of bed this morning.

The truth is I've been praying for you off and on for the past 24 hours!

The truth is that you put into words the lumps in my throat and the weight on my heart that I haven't been able to sort out enough to put into my own words.

The truth is that your words validate those of us who are feeling worthless, hopeless, guilty, forgotten, tired, broken, rejected, abandoned ... and all of the rest of the ugly mess.

The truth is that God is weaving us together for His purposes and plans and we have no idea what that is ... and it doesn't matter because His plans and purposes are always for good.

The truth is I'm glad I found your blogs.

The truth is if you keep writing, I'll keep reading, and we'll both be stronger because of it! "--Jan
 Jan, you humble me...encourage me...lift my exhausted hands up...and help me believe even as I am, He does wondrous things. Thank you, sister. You will never know...and I have no words...only heart deep gratitude...

Monday, January 16, 2012

What Can I Say?

Her name pops up in my inbox, and my heart jumps right into Happy.

She knows the hard stuff, the ugly stuff. She is the one who answers my phone calls in the middle of the night and cries tears of grief and confusion with me. She asks the hard questions, isn't afraid of the screaming rants, sees the light in the darkness.

She has walked through the darkest with me...and sees the light in it all...

She has a gift for validating the hard stuff and still believing in the great stuff.

And I love getting her emails.

Lisa Buffaloe is a writer, speaker, radio host, mom, wife...my friend, my cheerleader, my intercessor, my editor...my companion believer in the miraculous among the muck.

I have a whole file folder devoted to her emails.

And what does she say that is so profound? So heart strengthing? So...life instilling?

"Jerri, I am so excited about what God is doing in you and the children and your lives. It is so fun to be on this journey with you."

Yep. She even wrote me such things during the Year From Hell.

Change the words, but the statement is always the same--

I SEE GOD IN YOU AND YOUR LIFE.
I LOVE IT,
AND I AM THANKFUL TO BE PART OF IT.

WOW!!! Who doesn't want to hear that? Who would not want to hear that they see good things, GOD things? I would far rather have someone see me walking on water, or floating in a God-given dingy, than someone who can see nothing but the waves coming at me, the cup I'm dipping the water out with, or my sopping wet clothes.

There are times when people are so focused on the fact we are not where we used to be they cannot see where we are. They are so focused on the fact we are not "back to normal" (I could preach a whole seminar on the prison of "normal") that they can't see how better than "normal" we are, and honestly, sometimes I just want to scream...or delete email address and phone numbers, which I have done.

In the last few weeks, a few people I have chosen not to speak with in several months have emailed. The emails are the usual: "I am here if you need me. I can listen. If you need someone to encourage you, I'm here."

The rest of the emails convey how sorry this person is that the kids and I have had so much pain, grief, sorrow, and so on. The person is so sorry it has been so hard, so sorry about Rob, so sorry about my mom...so sorry my life isn't what it was...but remember God does good things despite...list all the negative things that have happened...and how my life isn't what it was.

I delete those. I don't even respond. I don't try to tell the person how inaccurate their perception is. I don't try to list the good stuff going on. I used to, but I became tired of the, "I'm so glad you are having a good day and thankful you can have a positive outlook despite everything..." Really? You want to encourage me, and I'm having to help YOU see the good stuff? Um...no.

And then there is Lisa and folks like her. She isn't the only one. She is the one who comes to mind because I received an email from her this morning, and she is excited about some travel possibilities for the children and me, some writing opportunities that have been presented, and some ministry opportunities opening up for me.

She isn't preparing invites for a pity party for me because of the roof or the garage or the computer issues or next month being February or....Nope.

She prays for all those things, asks me about all those things, but she never defines me by those things. She defines me by how she sees God working in our lives, blessing us richly, doing new and creative things.

And she is excited.

And that spills right over and dumps my heart right into Happy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Learning by Seeing

Dear God,

Please let my son watch closely. Please let him see how heavy the shelves, boxes of tile, and boxes of laminate flooring I carried are. Let him see my fatigue and notice how much my body hurts from caring and moving loads really far heavier than you made my body to carry. Let him notice that I asked members of your body for help...with no reponse.

And God, help him remember, so when he is older he has the godly wisdom to order his days for the important things, the relationship things, the God things of service, and give him wisdom to order his time so it does not center around LSU or Tide football or the World Series or the latest episode of whatever, but that it always includes time to serve you by serving your people. Help him remember tithing is more than a check. It is a lifestyle, and tithing time is one place your people fail miserably. Help him not to fail, but to ask you where you want your hands and feet that you put on his body to serve with his day, his week, his month...his lifetime.

Lord, when you called me to be his teacher, this is not what I had in mind, but if this is how you choose to teach him to be a man after your heart, then let him learn well.

Thank you, Lord.

Transition

Transition is the strangest thing,
but if you can get past the feeling of wanting to throw up when things you thought were going to happen crater
or the light-headed feeling that comes from the sudden jerk into a direction you never saw coming,
it's not so bad.