When This Isn’t “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you were drawn in by the title, either because you are feeling bombarded with all the “cheer” while not feeling the happiness that others expect you to feel during this time of year, or because you are curious as to why anyone would not see this as the best month of all 12.

No matter which position I have found you in, I’m asking that you relinquish all expectation of what this post is about and be present as your eyes scroll the words and your brain processes the thoughts.

It’s everywhere. The way we “should” be feeling. How we “should” be thinking. What we “should” be buying…

So what do we do when none of our feelings encompass all of the “should(s)” placed on us, and the last thing we feel is “cheerful“?

I have been given the gift of “burden bearing.” I haven’t always thought it a gift and at times tried to mask or ignore it all together. It has only been recently that I’m learning to embrace it and see it as a blessing rather than a curse.

The transformation started several years ago when Katie was 14 weeks pregnant with her 3rd child. Her baby was given the fatal diagnosis of Trisomy 13. On December 19, 2011, at 10:45 a.m., Hallie Lynn Green was born. Weighing in at 4 lbs.15 oz. and stretching 18.75 inches long.

On December 24, 2014, Hallie passed from her mama’s arms back into the arms of Jesus. Katie wrote on her blog that day, “Thank you, God, for allowing me to be Hallie’s mother. Although losing you, Hallie, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I would carry you and love you all over again in a heartbeat. I feel like the luckiest mom in the world. I love you.”

It is Hallie’s life and Katie’s willingness to learn how to walk in the dark that moved me from a place of empathy to action. In 2012 I began my journey, through my lens, into other people’s pain. That’s a strange way of wording it, I know, but it’s the only wording that makes sense to me.

I have been invited to document the sacred moments between life and death. There are days when I will experience the beauty of life and the gnawing sorrow of death, all within a matter of hours. I stand witness to a wide spectrum of emotions, at times, with people I’ve only just met.

The way to deal with painful emotions is not to get rid of them, it’s to sit with and in them, making the darkness conscious. Knowing that there will once again be light. Being able to experience emotion is key to paving a path to peace. To suppress it is toxic. The further we push it down, the more it festers until one day we can no longer bandage the gaping wound. Some cannot believe that the light will ever return. But it will. Healing is possible. I’ve watched it happen. However, to come to that place, one must be willing to wrestle the angel of darkness.

It is helpful to remember that grief is unpredictable. It shows up at the most inopportune times. It often comes without warning, when there are no Kleenex anywhere to be found and you didn’t apply waterproof mascara. It’s presence is often uncomfortable and frustrating. Even so, each time it appears there is something to be learned. Though the uninvited teacher, pain is not our enemy.

For those friends and family feeling helpless, may I offer some encouragement? There are 3 things you can do to help the one you love.
~ Be Present (Don’t avoid reaching out or taking something by and leaving it on their doorstep or in their mailbox)
~ Listen (I wish we could be more comfortable listening than speaking. It is a learned behavior. When wanting to make someone feel important, listen intently to them.)
~ Be okay with “uncomfortable silence.” (Silence is beautiful when we consciously befriend it.)

If you are currently learning to walk through the darkness, may I speak these truths into your heart?
~ You are not alone.
~ The Creator of the Universe knows you by name. He formed you, piece by piece and therefore sees you and hears your cries.
~ Jesus himself promises that those who mourn will be comforted. (Matthew 5:1-14)
~ You have permission to lower the bar.
If you don’t want to go to that holiday party, don’t go.
If you find your eyes welling with tears while walking down the grocery store isle, it’s okay to walk away from your cart and leave the store.

We must embrace the seasons of darkness just as we long for the seasons of light. To have one without the other leaves us lacking perspective and appreciation for either.


Was this post helpful? Do you have anything to add about seasons of grief? How can we pray for you? How have you been encouraged through pain? Feel free to leave a comment and we will respond.

If you’re in need of encouragement, click here for a fantastic message from Joel Thomas.
To hear the song inspired by Hallie’s life, written by Casey Darnell, click here

The Shame Game

“Y’all, the holidays are rapidly approaching. Are you ready for this…there are 9 more Saturdays until Christmas. We are being plunged into that time of year when patience is low, demands are high and sleep doesn’t fit on our to-do list.

There’s a reason why multiple case studies show that addiction is the highest during the holiday season. It’s the most difficult time to stay sober. I think in part because we’re surrounded by people who trigger all kinds of emotions. It’s also a time when everything around us says we should be feeling a certain way. For those of us who have always bucked up against conformity, we don’t like for people or things to tell us how to feel.

Yesterday, October 19th, by the grace of God, I reached my 12th year of sobriety. I am now a productive member of society (most days). The road was long and filled with twists, turns and dead ends. There were a lot of tears and pleading with my Higher Power. There was uncertainty among the rubble of my indiscretion. There were times when I felt hopeless.

And then something changed. Have you noticed how everything starts with a decision?”

Join me to read the rest of this post at The Shame Game continued…
Love filled Hands

Seasonal Addiction

There’s a reason why multiple case studies show that addiction is the highest during the holiday season. It’s the most difficult time to stay sober. I think in part because we’re surrounded by family that trigger all kinds of emotions. It’s also a time when everything around us says we should be feeling a certain way. For those of us who have always bucked up against conformity, we don’t like for people or things to tell us we should feel a certain way. Our natural response is rebellion.

This past October, by the grace of God, I celebrated 10 years of sobriety. I am now a productive member of society. The road was long and filled with twists, turns and dead ends. There were a lot of tears and pleading with my Higher Power. There was uncertainty among the rubble of my indiscretion. There were times when I felt hopeless. And then something changed.

I made a conscious decision to fill my mind with truth and courage. I stopped entertaining deception and falsehood. When I didn’t believe the truth of who I am and that I’m made in the image of God, I would repeat it over and over throughout the day, “God, I belong to you. Thank you that I belong to you. Thank you that darkness has no power over my mind, heart, body and soul. Protect me from evil and all who promote it.”

So if you are new to recovery or are exploring the possibility that you may have a problem with alcohol, food, drugs, pornography, sex, money… anything that is hindering you from living out your purpose, this post was written for you. If nothing else, please know that you’re not alone in your struggle. There are literally thousands of us within one city.

My prayer, in this moment, is that God will intervene and direct your thinking. I pray that you will find purpose in this season of busyness and overspending. When you are looking around for the most convenient numbing aid, I pray that you will see someone who needs your help. My hope is that you will become so caught up in helping others that you don’t have time to entertain the lies that blind. For me, helping others is key to avoid falling back into the snare of darkness.

If you’re an “old-timer” in recovery, a “newcomer” or something in-between and you’re feeling irritable and discontent (as I have been), may I encourage you take a moment and ask yourself why you’re so frustrated. Ask yourself why you cannot or will not find contentment in the current circumstances, and go from there. You don’t have to have any definitive answers, you just need to take the first step.

Are you planning your escape? What vice will you use to “check out?” Please talk to someone you can trust and remove all the power behind the lies. The first sign that I’m headed in a bad direction is when I’m conjuring things up in my mind and do not want to tell anyone. Can you relate? If so, please comment below. So many of us out there need to know we’re not alone.

Two excellent resources involving one of my favorite communicators on the planet, Jud Wilhite, are People of the Second Chance (@POTSC on Twitter) and Central Online. Check it out. You have nothing to lose.

Love and Light,


When darkness attempts to shadow the Son

For those who have been around the blog for a while, you know my belief is that something bigger than myself is protecting and guiding me. When you’ve lived within the grip of addiction (or most anything for that matter) you know that you are not in control and you’re thankful for that fact.

Still, we all have those days, right? The ones where we wake up feeling heavy with the sense of impending doom. We start believing the lies that we’re not good enough, we don’t have what it takes and we won’t reach the goal we’ve focused on. There are a variety of reasons for this.

Maybe it was a nightmare. Maybe its boredom or not recognizing the blessings. Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s regret. The challenge lies not in figuring out what it is necessarily, but how to confront it, change what can be changed and let go of the rest.

For some of us the holidays trigger all sorts of emotions. Not everyone is feeling as if it’s the “most wonderful time of the year.” For them, the last twelve months have been painful and filled with loss.

I want to encourage you, in whatever place this season finds you, surrender to where you are. Feel it without allowing it to penetrate your heart. For this girl, it’s the only way to move past it. Don’t drowned it in alcohol or stuff it down with food. Don’t try to throw it up or numb it through a variety of mind altering substances. Just be. Be in the moment without letting it consume you. I promise, when you do this, you will gain a better understanding of who God is and the purpose he has for your life.

These are the steps I use when needing to shift my emotional reality.

  • Find a quiet place and be still.
  • Acknowledge where you are mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
  • Focus on the cleansing breath going in through the nose, filling the lungs and entering each cell of the body, bringing with it healing and life.
  • Find one word or sentence to meditate on and if needed continue to repeat it in your mind or out loud, over and over throughout the day. It can be as simple as, “God, direct my thinking.” or “Forgiven.” or “Child of the King.” Whatever your word or phrase is, it must focus on the positive.

Chances are you will interact with someone who is not in the “holiday spirit.” What will your response be? Step out of yourself and be the light for someone else. In order to do that you must first invite the light in.

So tell me, are you in that place right now? Did you wake up nauseated by the thought of tinsel toppers, reindeer SUVs and red bucket ringers? How will you fill your mind today?

‘Tis the Season to…

stop judging.

I mean it. Stop it!

For many of us the holidays are a wonderful time of the year.
It’s a time for celebration and togetherness.
For others of us it’s a time of survival.
A time of trying to get out of bed in the morning and put one foot in front of the other.
A time that we long to end.

I don’t know what place you are in today.
I know where I am. I know from whence I came.
Therefore I can tell you that I have experienced both extremes.
The pain of uncertainty and the joy of security.

My prayer for you today is peace and rest, contentment and delight, meet you right where you are. For an overwhelming sense of well-being to fill your soul. Tangible evidence of love so deep and wide and unconditional that you can’t help but give thanks for the moment.

For my friend who is facing the holidays without her mother for the first time, I pray for the kind of comfort that only a mother can give. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to document a day in the last few weeks of her life. What an incredible honor.

For my friend who’s husband left her a single mother by choice, I pray for God’s provision and protection in the coming year in a way that no earthly man could provide. Thank you for sharing your story with others in hopes of being a light in a dark time. I know that in time, your heart will heal.

For my friend who is explaining thankfulness to his two children who lost their mother six months ago, I pray for words of wisdom to flow from your lips into little ears of understanding. Thank you for accepting “Happy’s” from me wrapped in crazy patterned duct tape and filled with things like “happy hearts” with arms for hugging. I will never forget how during one of the darkest moments in your life, you took the time to tell me about her love of the clinging cross, helping me feel like I was there with her during the agonizing pain even when my physical presence was not.

For my friend who would be less than a month away from celebrating her baby girl’s 1st birthday, I pray for peace as memories of the days that she had in your arms are relived. Thank you for allowing me to be one of the incredibly fortunate ones who got to meet her during her short time on earth. What a gift!

For my friend with a heart aching for the man she loves who was taken too soon. My prayer for you, dearly loved, is that you will dream big! That the purpose in your sorrow would be made known as I believe it is unfolding before us now. I pray that your story would impact others in a way that no one else can. I pray that you will love again and have a long, passion filled, beautiful life. Thank you for letting me come alongside you on this journey. You are teaching me so much about what true strength is and what faith really means.

There are more of you. Please know that you are loved. You are prayed over, you are lifted up, you are thought of.

For those who will be making mad dashes to cash in on the black Friday sales, good luck.
For each of us, may we remember to stop and think before cutting our eyes at the lady with the screaming child or cutting in front of the driver going too seemingly slow. This is a time of reflection. It’s a time to look to the left and the right and ask what we can do for someone other than ourselves. In the end Darling, it’s really all that matters anyway. What we do for others, I mean. Next year you won’t remember what you purchased at the “sale.” For me, I always remember the feeling of doing something for someone else. There is nothing better.

Blessings to you in this coming season and the new year that will follow. May all that is good and true and beautiful be yours.


A Letter to our Troops

Dear Service Hero,

Thank you! It hardly seems enough. A simple “thank you” isn’t enough, but it’s what I have to bring to you in this moment.

I could lie and say that I know how you feel, but I don’t. I can’t even begin to imagine what you’re feeling so far from home and in the midst of such uncertainty. I’m sorry that I do not appreciate you more. I’m sorry that it takes a letter writing initiative to cause me to pause long enough to recognize that my freedom isn’t free at all. Please forgive me when I take for granted all of the luxuries I am afforded because of your sacrifice. I am so blessed because of you and the work you do everyday.

As I put pen to paper (or finger to keys), in an effort to offer my sincere thanks, my heart swells with gratitude. Thank you. Thank you. A thousand times, Thank you. For protecting the life of a girl like me who has done absolutely nothing to deserve it. I am overcome with thanksgiving.

I pray that God’s hand will be upon you. That he will guide your steps and bring you home, safely and quickly. May the Lord bless you and keep you, my brave friend. May he make his face shine upon you and grant you peace, evermore.

Love and Light,

Just as James Freeman prayed this for all soldiers in World War II, I pray this for you.
This is my second year participating in The Bert Show‘s Big Thank You! They make it really easy by giving step by step instructions on letter format, drop-off locations and deadline. Last year I wrote letters because I felt it was the “right” thing to do. This year, as I began writing, it was different. I connected to the person who would be reading my words. I saw them as a human being who was far from home and missing their family. It made all the difference in the world.

It also made me realize that there is really no excuse for not appreciating the men and women sacrificing every detail of their lives for us. The Bert Show thought of everything and removes all excuses. Though the deadline for letters has come and gone, I would encourage you to sit down and write a letter or several letters to a service member.

If any of you reading are in the service or have ever been in the service, this post was written for you. Thank you.

For those of you who would like one, here is the PDF version of the prayer: Prayer for Protection


And Then She’s Gone

Not too long from now, I will drive my Bella back to Alabama to the same “almost half way” point between here and there and I will tell her goodbye. As we hug I will hold on a little longer, squeezing her a tad bit tighter, communicating without words that I will miss her.

It never gets easier. I thought it would. I thought the pain would lessen and I would become accustomed to telling my child that I will see her next month. If anything it has become more difficult.

I seldom open up about this part of my life. These are not feelings that I like to stir. As I sit here, darkness all around, centering in on meditation, I had this thought, “Has any holiday ever been without that gnawing feeling of loss?

Many of you know that anytime there is a child involved in a broken relationship, holidays are usually the most fought for time. Why is that? If there is anything that I have learned over the last several years it’s that everyday has its own unique meaning. Maybe we should start making up a holiday when we have great celebrations for no reason at all?

I remember when Chris bought me my first really nice, designer handbag. I had never owned anything like it. “Purses have their own bag to be stored in when not in use? Why wouldn’t I use it all the time?” He could not wait until the actual day set to give me the gift.

It was a Tuesday. I was in the kitchen when he came around the corner with the beautiful store bag in his hand, which proudly displayed the designer logo. I stared wide-eyed, wondering what this could possibly be.

“Open it!” he exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear.
It was so beautiful. Hand stitched, not one detail missed. It smelled like the finest leather one has ever seen, because it was. I ran my hand across the side and felt the newness and quality of this extravagant gift. “This is so beautiful.” I said. “So you like it?” he replied.
I responded, “Yes, I like it very much. Thank you! Why on this random day?”

“Why not on this random Tuesday? Now it’s no longer random.” he said.

I love that. Now it’s no longer random. I still love that purse and every time I use it he smiles and says, “Look, it’s the tootsie roll!” (that’s our nickname for it.) It instantly brings back a feeling of newness and surprise. I can close my eyes and still smell the leather.

If you’re wondering where I’m going with this, don’t worry, I’m bringing it back around. I brought this into memory because today, when everyone is celebrating by eating too much, discussing arguing politics and lighting things on fire, I will be thinking about my beautiful Bella. Wondering where she is and if she’s having fun…Just as I do every “holiday” that we’re apart. I will eagerly await her return.

Hear me when I say that I have an amazing husband who I have been madly in love with since the day we met and two incredible little boys that could not be more full of life. I cannot and I will not imagine my life without them. As I look at each one of them and think of how immensely blessed I am there is an empty place at the table, a voice not heard in the halls, an absent presence that represents our family “complete.”

We will not wait for a holiday. It may be a Wednesday, Friday or Sunday, but when my Bella returns, it will be a day of celebration.

I think of the family of my beautiful friend, Elliot. Her children are entering a year of holidays without their mom. Her father so eloquently wrote that when the children and her husband, Chris were at the grandparents house for Father’s day, Bradford (her little girl) said, “Something is missing…it’s my mommy.” I’m imagining that little voice. Children are so literal. They almost never refrain from stating the obvious.

Well today, something will be missing in all of the festivities. It’s my Bella, but I will see her again in a little while. She is still very much alive and living her life. For many, their loved one will not come home again.

Maybe today, as we celebrate, we could remember this, for some it’s just a Wednesday. Not because they don’t want to celebrate freedom and all those who have so willingly sacrificed everything to provide it for us, but because the celebration occurs on a different day and in their own heart and mind. Let that be okay.

I guess what I’m asking is, instead of judgement over how someone is doing something or not doing it, choose understanding. Maybe they just lost someone they love and they are now trying to navigate a world without them. Maybe they are missing someone. Maybe they are the spouse of a deployed service member and while everyone is celebrating with food and beverages, their heart is heavy.

Maybe today, we can start living life to the fullest and learning what it means to embrace every day as if it were a day we knew we could sleep in and overeat. Maybe, going forward, Tuesday will become more than just a random Tuesday for you too.

I am more than thrilled to let you know that tomorrow’s post about body image and self-esteem is written by my daughter.