Why you need to send out fat Christmas cards.

I love getting Christmas cards in the mail.

All the time I wish that for the month of December the mailman would only deliver packages and Christmas cards. He could hold onto all of the bills until February, because if I am honest that is when I will pay them anyways.

I string the cards up across the walkways of our living room with clothespins and twine. I like to think of it as a display of those from near and far that have carried us as a family. And that we vow to carry too. A tangible glittery display of our village.

One thing that that bothers me or just stirs my heart when I get cards though is when the whole family is not in them.  It is just a picture of a perfectly behaved GAP dressed child/children.

I used to do this. I would send out a picture of my angelic, straight “A”, prodigy children to all of my family and friends. After skimming through dozens of photos where the kids would look their best and no one was picking their nose I would put a stamp on it send it out. I purposely did not include a picture of my husband and I. Telling myself year after year that when I lost weight or had my hair a better color, then I would consider putting myself in the Christmas card. When in reality the reason we were not in the card is because we were sending a picture out of what our family really was. It was our kids.  Our children were holding our family together. Our children were the center of our world. And if we were honest if it wasn’t for our kids we would not be together.

And I thought no one wanted to get that Christmas card.

No one wants to know that you can’t stand the site of yourself and you are embarrassed to show the world. No one wants to know that you’ve put on thirty pounds and you’ve never felt so empty.

But the thing I am understanding. They already know. If you have a village of people around, a healthy village, they want your picture. They want to see your people and YOU. Your village does not care what the scale says. They do not even care what your therapist says. They want to see you. They want to cover their walls and their doorways with you. They want to pray for you. The not happy with yourself you. The your marriage is falling apart you. The you are in so much debt you can’t afford Christmas you. The your spouse is struggling to get out of bed you. The your child has been in and out of rehab you. The you are not sure you even believe in the church you.

I think that if your village only wants to see your kids and your perfect marriage then you need a new village. It took me years to find my village. It has wavered very little in the last eight years though. When we were first married I had no idea we needed people. No idea we needed a village. I just looked in from the outside at the Christmas cards people were presenting to the world and I thought that we must be the only ones who wanted to tear each other apart. We must have been the only ones who looked up the cost of divorce lawyers and cried themselves to sleep.

We were not alone and neither are you.

Your village wants the truth. They want to know that they are not alone and want to help carry you.

It wasn’t until later that I realized that our village is what heals us or destroys us.

Be a village of truth and healing.

So when I open the cards and see that only the kids are on them I think….sweet one, they are not your world. Your world needs to be bigger than what you brought into it. I learned this the hard way and many therapists later. I learned that I my schedule and my days revolved around my kids. I learned that I forgot who I walked down the aisle to. I learned that my marriage was and is hard and is a daily decision to choose my spouse OVER my kids. I learned that the truth I present to the world is the same truth I am presenting to my kids. If I show the world that my world is my kids I am showing my kids that they are the world.

I don’t want that for my kids. I want more. I want to show them that their dad is what matters. That our marriage is the most important thing under our roof. I want them to know that their dad comes before them in every moment. To show them that our family means all seven of us. I mess this up all the time. I get wrapped up in five kids with five different schedules and then wonder why my marriage is struggling. I spend money on their activities and making sure they have everything they need rather than saving it so the husband and I could go on vacation together. I make these mistakes all the time. I still do. But I want to do better. I need to do better.

I want to hang truth over my doorway this year. In turn I want to send truth out to the world. Even if my truth is messy and a little pudgy this year

 

I am addicted to Jen Hatmaker- and I think you are too.

I feel like it is time I come clean.

I have been hiding this too long and personally it is getting too heaving to carry around anymore.

My name is Sheli Massie and I am addicted to all things Jen Hatmaker.

There I said it. I will consume everything Jen Hatmaker throws at me like a ravenous hyena in the savannahs of Africa. I devour it. I am not lying. I stayed up all night to finish her last book. I should not be staying up all night unless a child is puking or I am on a Netflix binge of House of Cards with my husband. I ate only seven foods for month a couple of years ago because I thought it would somehow make me more like Jen and forgot about what the purpose of the exercise was in the first place. If there was a Hatmaker sticker for my car you know I would have it on there. I know I have an issue. My children know I have an issue. They took me last Mother’s Day over and hour away for a normal Sunday morning service in a car full of screaming children so I could see her speak. I may have ugly cried my way through the service and wondered where she got her gorgeous skirt and sassy belt. I had a Jen perma smile on the whole way home. My children clearly knew the way to my heart.

My eight year old is one who likes to “keep it real” If you want to know the blatant truth she is your girl. What she lacks in social filters she makes up for with empathy abounding.

But she is also the one who reminds me of who I am.

Last night she asked for school lunch and I eagerly said yes. Of course you can have fish sticks, canned peaches and chocolate milk. If it means that I only have to make five lunches in the morning I will ignore the “running to the bathroom” it gives you.

She quickly added though.

But can you still write me a love note, so I can put it in my pocket? I like to read them in the afternoon to remind me what you said.

You see sweet one. We all need to be reminded of who we are. Of what really matters. I forget daily that I am not who social media deems as important. I am not close to who the writing world thinks is imperative. And I am not even close to who the world thinks is essential.

But I am important to six other people living under this roof. Even when they are rolling their eyes at me or slamming doors, I am still someone.

When I measure the worth of who I am next to the fame of someone else I will always come up a thousand miles short.

I would never compare my fifteen year old daughter on the basketball court with an NBA player. I wouldn’t tell her after the game, where she left it all out on the court, that she was ok but not even close to being good enough.

I would never dream of telling my son that he played a horrible game and should have scored that goal.

Somebody kick me in the teeth if I compare the education feats of one child to another. The comparison of one sibling to the next is such a confining place to live and if we are confined we never have space to grow into who we are called to be.

Yet this is what I do to myself every day.

I confine myself with comparison.

I measure the worth of the words I write and hold them next to award winning authors. I compare myself to the crunchy mom whose child has never consumed a preservative and shame myself for my lack of child raising skills.

I believe that I am not enough so why even try. Why try when I will never be Jen Hatmaker.

DUH.

God never called me to be Jen Hatmaker. He never called me to be Kristen Howerton. He never called me to Glennon Doyle Melton. He never called me to be Sarah Bessey. He never called me to be Beth Moore (although that would be fun to be so cute).

I hold these women to the highest respect and may have a writer crush on them. ( It’s a thing.) Although we can read and consume their beautiful work we cannot let it paralyze us into a creative coma.

Creative consuming coma’s do not create.

It happens all the time. A new book will come out. And then there is the blog reading. And the tweeting. Oh the tweeting. It will consume me. I will set myself up and think that if this is the measurement of success, then I will be over in the corner crying in my yoga pants.

It’s as if we are telling God. What you are breathing in me to create is not enough.

And here I am paralyzed like I imagine others are too. Jesus did not call you to be Jen. He called you to be brave enough to be you.

We need you in the world. We need your words. We need your stories. We need your triumphs and your pain. We need it all.

Because I promise you this. When you begin to speak your truth there is another sweet one who realizes that she is not alone. She is not the only one. Her voice through you can be heard.

And this is so much better than any tweet could accomplish.

 

*Know I have a nothing but the highest respect for these authors and speakers. They are the brave ones who go before and are a voice for so many.

Dear parents, stop being your child’s redeemer.

When we were younger we were thrown into the lake and told to paddle. It was more of a “sink or swim” literally type of parenting. With waves hitting us in the face and bathing suits filled with sand this is how we were brought up. Either you learned how to swim or you sat on the beach and made sandcastles with your grandma. Both things were great, but how many times can you trickle sand on top of a pile before you want to eat the sand or take your chances at drowning? My youngest sister was thrown into a pool off the diving board and we watched her struggle to the top. Yes, I understand this is dangerous and not recommended by anyone. But we grew up in West Michigan where not knowing how to swim was as taboo as not having your hunting license. Here we were blonde haired sun kissed kids who knew we had to learn to do things on our own if we didn’t want to be left at shore.

I am not saying that my dad wouldn’t have dove into the water to save us and called in the coast guard in a moment’s notice. I am saying that my parents taught us to swim but they also let us fail.

They did not do our homework. They did not call the coach or teacher when we didn’t make the team. They didn’t call the director or gossip to other mom’s when we didn’t make the play. They didn’t run to the store in the middle of night to get a poster board because we forgot to do our project. They did not bring our work to school if we left it at home. They did not run a taxi service for us and our friends. They lived their lives and we were a part of it. Not all of it.

When my oldest was in elementary school I did her homework. I admit it. I did it all the time. Of course I let her write it, but essentially I redid grade school. (And I don’t want to brag but I totally rocked it the second time around.) This past weekend we were looking at pictures of some of those years. My eldest was pointing out to me how amazing “her” story boards and science displays were. How precise and clean. I was so determined that she would be a good student and admired by her teachers that I “helped” her on more than one occasion. If I am honest I was there was a direct correlation between my pride and others perception of me as a parent than her actual academic achievements. Somehow her succeeding was more important to my ego than letting her swim.

If you look at pictures of my second child’s projects you can see that I had obviously learned my lesson. I had discovered that I didn’t want to be “that mom”. I didn’t want to redo elementary school again. I didn’t have time to make sure things were perfect. I had learned that I needed to teach her how to make decisions and choices and not make them for her. I could not go with her to college and if I did then we had major issues to deal with besides homework.

By the time the fifth child came around we were just lucky to remember to bathe him once a week much less fill out any homework on time. Sorry Michelle Duggar I totally fail at big family parenting 101.

When one of the kids got into a lot of trouble with technology I wanted to fix it. Yes I was angry. I was angry at myself for not catching it earlier. I was angry at the people involved. I was angry at the child for not telling us what was going on. I was embarrassed and ashamed that this was happening under my roof and I didn’t know. I was upset that I had just spent hours at a seminar on parenting and now I was actually going to have to apply it. I was just angry I could not control it. I wanted to save her. And the truth was I was angry that I couldn’t.

I met with a friend later that morning. I cried over coffee and some sweet pastry I shouldn’t have been eating. She reminded me of something I had forgotten.

You are not her Redeemer.

She will never know who her Redeemer is if you keep saving her.

If we keep saving our kids. If we keep doing their homework. If we keep waiting on them hand and foot. If we keeping rescuing them they will never need the Rescuer.

I needed to. I need to let all of my kids fail. I need to let them learn to swim on their own.

This past week I watched her win another track meet. I watched her strong muscular legs strike the pavement and cross the finish line. She did this. On her own. She learned to run on her own. She learned to win on her own. By the scars on her legs and arms she has fallen many times. I didn’t make her stop running or run the race for her. I let her run. I let her fail.

But in the end she will know I am not her redeemer.

There is only ONE who can save her.

 

Yellow Ceiling Spots

There is a yellow spot on my ceiling in my living room. No it’s not from smoking. Although that would be a better story. Have you ever seen the episode of Modern family where Phil finds a yellow burn on the couch on Christmas morning? Netflix it now. He cancels Christmas until someone fesses up to smoking on the couch. He literally drags the tree out the sliding door onto the porch, while the kids cry and try to take responsibility, even though none of them did it. It is hilarious and true. (You don’t need to write me and tell me I shouldn’t be watching Modern Family, I watch it to know we are not alone on the crazy train.)

We all see things and assume the worst. I look up at ceiling from my couch and I assume that the yellow mark on the ceiling means that our ceiling is falling in and that one day I will be crushed by a bathtub from the second floor. I know. It’s morbid and crazy. Or perhaps I watch too much Rehab Addict or Modern Family. Either way I assume things that may or may not be true. Or I avoid what I know is true.

And what I know to be true today is that I suck at forgiving. Maybe there is a better word, but the thesaurus wanted me to say slurp. And forgiving doesn’t slurp anything. I am just not good at it. I am better at forgiving someone that did something to someone else. But when I have to forgive someone that hurt me, it feels insurmountable.  I want to dig my first grade heals in the playground and justify why I don’t need to forgive them. I want to shout it from the mountaintops or at least a very tall building, because who am I kidding I have never been to a mountain top and I am in no shape to climb one. Anyways, I want to shout it from a very high elevation the list of things this person did to me. How I was wounded so deeply by things that were said and the “sorry’s” that never came. I want others to turn their backs on this person and join me by digging their heels in the playground with me.

But this unforgiveness is heavy. Not like the “winter weight” I have put on. But more like the weighted blanket that my littlest girl sleeps under very night. Except this doesn’t calm me down, it tears at my bones and makes the most inner parts of me afraid and alone. It makes me brittle and broken.

I was a chaperone a few summers ago for my eldest high school camp. (I know, could I be any more of a helicopter parent?) (Actually, I had no idea where she was 95% of the time, so I am really good at keeping track of kids) I was there and heard this for the first time. Or maybe just HEARD it for the first time- that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Okay, maybe they didn’t say “die” at church camp but that is what my heart heard.

I want the people that have hurt me deeply to feel the humiliation and weight of what I feel. Of what I wake up every day and carry around. I want my pain to be justified. I want freedom. But if I am honest I want it to come by someone else carrying the shame that I carry every morning when I wake up.

Yet I am learning. Slowly. This isn’t about this person. Or people. It is about me. It is about the sin in my own heart that I can’t let go of. It’s about the years of shame built up in my own lesions that this just reopens like wounds that are still healing.

That is what this is about. It is about taking ownership of your own crap before mulling around in someone else’s. It is about claiming your own baggage at the airport and not trying to make others take their own. They are not ready yet. They are not ready to open up what you are already dealing with. And that it ok. It is ok to begin to heal and to walk away. You don’t. I don’t, need everyone to understand me or like me to be ok. I need to be ok because I know that I am a messy work in progress just trying to figure out my truth.

Gerbils and Golden Grahams – When we realize what we are slaves to.

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I opened up Pandora’s box last night and now I am regretting I ever did it. I am sitting here and my stomach is turning.

I should eat something.

I should eat cereal. Boxes of it. Cause boxes of cereal will make everything ok.

I asked a few of my people to give me some feedback. I asked them to help me with a writing project I thought I was working on. And so I put it out there.

And then….crickets.

Crickets. And so I will eat a box of cereal and make it all better.

I will stuff my anxiety with golden goodness of Golden Grahams.

Because somehow me consuming thousands of calories will show them.

I did not expect this.

I did not expect my anxiety to reel its ugly head over this. I walk back and forth to the computer checking it like 745 times just to make sure that it is still working. I turn my phone on and off to see if I still have a connection. And then I think oh crap they are all talking behind my back and wondering how to break it to me that I am just a mess. Wait? They are talking behind my back? I hate that. I hate being talked about and not to. I hate that more than anything. Like way more than I hate cats. SO if they are talking about me and deciding that I am a mess then when are they going to confront me? Are they going to do it in person or gang up on me?

Do you see how logical I am being?

But I did this. I opened the box. I asked for feedback. I asked for help. And now I feel like a gerbil on a spinning wheel. And I really don’t like gerbils either. ( I mean really? A tiny squirrel in your house?)

And then it hits me. I am a slave. I wake up every morning and carefully put the chains back on my wrists. I make sure that I have locked them around my ankles and try to walk through the day. I am a slave every day to what controls me. And today. Today I choose to let approval control me. I decided that I needed the approval of my people to continue my day.

Yesterday I woke up and decided that I would be ruled by jealousy. It reeled its ugly head when a friend got amazing news and all of a sudden instead of rejoicing with her I decided that it wasn’t fair. That I work so hard. That I don’t have all the benefits that she does. That somehow the “kingdom of I” was not being served and my self -righteous attitude was justified.

Some days I decide to be a slave to multiple things. Anger, fear, anxiety, food, my past, and the list could go on and on.

And I put myself on the gerbil wheel again. But I knowingly placed myself there. It has nothing to do with my friends and how quickly they get back to me. It has nothing even with the words that they will say. It has to do with where my eyes are focused. My eyes are focused on me.

And when my eyes are focused on me I forget whose Kingdom I am living in.

Because my kingdom is exhausting. It’s exhausting to carry around the chains every day and expect others to know and unlock those them.

In my kingdom I just sit with my chains and eat Golden Grahams. And Golden Grahams are not going to break anything.

When I lift my eyes and focus on the Creator all else goes away. The chains are broken. HE does not put them on me. HE breaks them. It is me who decides to solder them back together.

And with patience He reminds me I am free. Free from the slavery of sin. Free from the slavery of acceptance. Free from jealousy. Free from anger. Free from anxiety.

I am free.

SO today.

Right now.

I choose. I choose to get off the gerbil wheel. I choose to accept what comes to me.

I choose to walk away from the Golden Grahams and be free.

Leggings & Superheroes – hills not to die on moms

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When I was younger. Much younger. Like I had a crush on Richard Marx younger, I shaved my head. Not my whole head cause that wouldn’t be cool. But only half of my head because apparently that was way cooler. I decided one day that I would feel better about myself if not only I had bleached blonde hair but I also willing took half of my hair away. Now don’t go thinking I went all crazy. I was conservative enough to only shave underneath all the bleach blonde Drew Barrymore hair. Yes, in my eyes I was fitting in. I was edgy. If I even knew what edgy was. Because when you grow up in Catholic schools it can be considered edgy if you hike your plaid skirt above the knees some days.

So when my second oldest decided that she wanted half of her gorgeous hair shaved off or when my youngest decided that he wanted The Flash symbol into the side of his head I said okay. But I didn’t say okay because I had done it before. Lord knows if I said okay to everything I did when I was younger I would basically be running a juvenile detention center. And since I don’t really look good in orange I do have some boundaries. Yet I have learned after being a mom for 17 years I choose to not die on every hill.

When I was a very young and new mom my girls dressed alike and always matched. They also always had brand new clothes. The staff at baby GAP knew me by name. I had retail issues. I admit it. I equated dressing perfectly with good parenting. I honestly thought when seeing other moms that this is what we did. We played dress up with our kids, went to story time, provided crafts for every moment, and made sure they only ate organic cookies. Well many years and children later I figured out that if I can just get them to brush their teeth a few times a week and actually change their underwear I am hitting it out of the park. I decided that I was not going to argue with a seven year old why she could not wear the same sweatpants every day. It was more important for me to connect than me to correct fashion choices. I decided that I was not going to live under the rule of Gymboree but by the peace in my home.

As my children have gotten older I have begun to hear that if I let my teenage daughters wear leggings then I am letting her look like a streetwalker. Um. Seriously? I am just wondering how we got from comfy leggings to streetwalker in the matter of one clothing change. This too is not a hill I am going to die on. My girls have extremely long legs and they are growing at rapid speed. Jeans are expensive. Jeans are uncomfortable for them. And let’s just face it leggings are so comfy. Yes they cover themselves and no I do not let them walk the streets. I have some standards. But I have chosen to not die on the hill of leggings.

I choose to die on the hill of character, and honesty, and strength, and family, and loyalty, and health, and laughter, and kindness, and empathy, and courage, and faith. I choose to die on hills that matter not hills that others think determine our worth.

I choose to decide to be a mom who cares about what is going on in my children’s hearts and souls. I choose to discover the reasoning behind their fashion and hair choices. I choose to be a mom of superheros and leggings.

 

Bumper Sticker Christian – She Shares Truth

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I have always wondered if anyone came to Christ from a bumper sticker? If they were riding along on their way to Trader Joe’s and had a ”come to Jesus” moment while at a stop sign. While sitting at red light, all of a sudden seeing a fish sticker or “choosy moms chose Jesus”   made one make a highway conversion to Christianity. If anything bumper stickers make me more uncomfortable as a Christian than inspired. While I understand and am sure some have the purest of intentions with sticker evangelism, I am wondering if we are as bold outside of our vehicles. If Jesus called us to go and make disciples I am not sure that hiding safe in our cars with a latte  all the while “being bold” on our bumpers is what He envisioned.

 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,f baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,g20 and teachingh them to obey everything I have commanded you.  Matthew 28:19 -20a

I am the first to admit that I have no problem telling my story of redemption through the stories I tell or the words I write. But get me on the other side of my computer screen and I hover back into my introvert self.  To look someone in the eye and tell them how broken I have been and the only complete healing I have found is in the blood of Christ poured over me, makes my break out in hives.

 I wonder too if we are as bold inside the car as we are outside of it. That if we have it on our souls to reach across the seat and hold the hand of our teenager silent with secrets. If we can look our spouse in the eye and confess that we are as scared as he is. If we can ignore the traffic around us long enough to tell our sons that Jesus changed our lives. I wonder if we let our lives tell the story of redemption without ever crawling into the darkest crevices of pain around us, if we are really making disciples or just living our own story?

I not only want my life to scream brokenness and redemption but I want my words to point to the only One who saved me. For there to be no doubt for those around me to know who I belong to and how I came to believe it.  I ache for the courage to tell the truth and not rely on a sticker to tell my story. To tell His story.

. And surely I am with youi always, to the very end of the age.”j Matthew 28:20b

#SheReadsTruth

prego at summer camp….and what my mother taught me.

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the best me.

Image I secretly love watching people post all of the amazing things that they are going to do each year. I do the same thing. I start out determined that no carb will ever touch my lips again. That this will be the year that I will run a marathon. That this will be my best year. I place these outrageous expectations and goals on myself without seriously thinking how long it took me to get this far. I forget how many times I needed to fall flat on my face before I realized that I was worth the fight. The fight of being a better version of myself.

And if I were being honest.  I believed that the better version was always thinner with great skin. I believed that the better me would never have to deal with anxiety and depression again. The better me would do crafts with her kids. The better me would be published and accomplished by now. The better me would have enough money to not have to worry month to month. The better me would not lose her temper and want to run away. The better me is strong and can hold it all together. The better me would have the energy and the capacity to homeschool her children. The better me would be comfortable in her own skin. The better me would be able to balance life with a perfect looking home. The better me would be an amazing wife full of patience and encouragement.

The better version of me though is the forgiven me. The forgiven me doesn’t care what size jeans I wear or what you wear. The forgiven me knows that anxiety is crippling but is where I feel the most protected by my Savior. The forgiven me knows that I will constantly struggle with sticking my finger down my throat and that this reality is ugly. The forgiven me knows that there is a better way to health and is fighting daily for it. The forgiven me craves scripture but at times forgets to even say hello to God some days. The forgiven me knows what it is like to confess my sins to a friend and they just be held closer. The forgiven me knows that to admit that every day I wake up scared that I won’t be a good person much less a good mom is humiliating. In reality I know the forgiven me is flat on my face broken at the feet of Jesus. The forgiven me feels loneliest in a room full of people but understands that it is just  another issue that is just being kneaded out of me. The forgiven me knows that being a wife is something that I wrestle with every day. The forgiven me knows that I wrestle because of the choices that I made in my past. And the shame I carry haunts me.

And the forgiven me. The best me, knows that this is all being worked out. Worked out not for my best. But for His best. So whatever I need to wrestle with, or fight for, or cry myself to sleep for is sufficient. It’s for the best. He will make all things new this year.

when Christmas sucked.

When all I could do was breathe. And breathing even hurt.

Last Christmas sucked. Just sucked. From the outside I am sure I gave the impression that everything was amazing. I had just returned home from Uganda with our newest son and we were one happy, send out Christmas cards to pretend we were, happy family. We lied. I lied. It was me. I lied to save myself. To save myself from all of you knowing that we were falling apart. And by we, I mean me. I was falling apart. I couldn’t breathe. It hurt too much. I cancelled Christmas. I literally cancelled going home for the holiday. I could not imagine being in a room full of people that wanted to love me. When I could not even stand the thought of a person hugging me much less wanting to talk to me. I could barely get dressed. I felt like if I brushed my hair and my teeth it was a productive day. People wanted to visit. It was torture. Torture to pretend that life inside our house wasn’t falling apart. Torture to pretend that I wasn’t broken. A broken mess of a mom not even trying to be a wife. I could not tolerate who I was or who I was pretending to be. It felt like my skin was crawling and I wanted to run away. But I was too afraid to even leave my own home. I became obsessed that something horrible was going to happen to me and my kids. And I thought that if I just removed myself from the equation that everyone would be better.

That is just the tip of the Christmas package of pain last year. Under many more months and layers of therapy we uncovered deep fears and anxiety that suffocated who I was for months.

So sweet one….I get it. I get that Christmas may be excruciating for you. That you just want to wake up and it all be gone. The expectations that others place on you or worse yet, those that you put on yourself will never be met. And it’s ok. It’s ok to be in pain. It’s ok to be lonely. It’s ok to say out loud that it sucks. That is hurts. That you can’t find the joy. That it hurts to breathe.

Just know that you are not alone. I get it. And I am sure if we were all more honest and didn’t send out “everything is sunshine and my life looks like Pinterest” Christmas cards, we could all start to breathe. We could all start to heal. And give each other grace that where you are this Christmas is enough.