The Brutally Honest Christmas Card

One of my favorite writers, D.L. Mayfield, shared an older post of hers a few weeks ago on Instagram. It was her Brutally Honest Christmas Card, and it struck a chord with me this holiday season because all things are not merry and bright under our roof. As a writing exercise, I decided to make my own Brutally Honest Christmas Card using Mayfield's as a model for mine. We are not Christmas letter people or even Christmas card people, but it felt good to write this. It felt genuine. Perhaps if you've have had a hard year, it might be a helpful exercise for you to draft your own honest Christmas letter. One final note: the phrases in italics are her words. I decided not to change them because they fit so well, but I want to give credit where credit is due.
Seasons greetings from the Helzers.

My fave photo of us from 2017 even though you can see all the fillings in my enormous mouth.

2017 has been a terrible year, and we're happy it's almost over. In the last year, we...

had to replace two of our kitchen appliances in the same week that our dog of ten years, Sam, died. We continued to help our kids through tough traumas and losses. Trump is still president. White supremacists are emboldened, and our daughter is grappling with being one of a few black children in a sea of white children at school. Our son's trauma has twisted his brain so much that he believes if he is bad enough at home, then he will get to live with his birth parents again. This manifests itself in the form of constant sneaky behaviors. We've installed alarms on bedroom doors, locked up the medicines/knives/garage, and monitor the kids at all times.

Consequently, we've all started attending therapy. Some families fill their free time with extracurricular activities; we fill ours with therapy appointments! I started in on a regimen of anxiety medications to help settle my brain down. We have lived in a constant state of hyper-vigilance and anxiety since August, so we stay cloistered in our home where it's safe to cry and scream and throw things. Some of our friends and family send prayers, and others have sent meals; we are grateful for their support. But for the most part, we remain isolated from the world--our struggles tucked away like an emergency spare key. It was the year of hard things. We are surprised we are still standing.

But the other day when we were serving folks in need at a local church, my daughter saw a girl from school in line for food with her family. She left her post serving green beans and jumped in line so she could eat with her friend. She had no reservations about being on the other side of the table. My son dried dishes in the back and chatted it up with the church ladies like it was nothing for him. It wasn't a huge moment--just one Saturday in our lives, but I can't tell you how grateful I am for that moment.


Submission is not a four-letter word

My husband and I are in a small Bible study, and together, our group has been working our way through Ephesians. This week we studied Ephesians 5, which contains the often misinterpreted submission verses. You know..."Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands..." (Eph. 5:22*).

I've heard more than one sermon in which pastors have encouraged men to quite literally rule over their wives. I've heard many evangelical men joke about "wives knowing their places" using Eph. 5:22 as the punchline thus turning the word 'submit' into a four-letter word for many women. But...I think those pastors and men got it all wrong.

This woman appears to be unhappy. Maybe she just heard a sermon about Eph. 5:22 where the pastor gave her husband permission to be a jackwagon and silence her. ..


Not Today

Yesterday morning I woke up sad with an emptiness in my heart. My kids are struggling with trauma--it's been an ongoing battle for the last four years, but these past four months have been intense and exhausting and emotionally depleting. It will be a year on Thursday that the mother of one of my oldest friends died unexpectedly. Another mass shooting over the weekend. Fractured relationships.

There really is so much brokenness in the world. So much that I'm finding it difficult to live mercifully lately. To live purposefully lately.

Yesterday I had a spare 20 minutes between school drop off and work, so I went for a walk at a little lake even though I just wanted to pull into a nearby park, let my seat down, and sleep. It was cold outside, 29 degrees, but the sun was shining, and save for a pair of Mallards, I was the only living being at the lake. I walked along the bike path that meanders through the park. I shoved my cold hands deep into my pockets and let my shoulders sag so I could nuzzle my neck and chin into my coat away from the morning wind.

As I walked, I wanted to be awestruck by the beauty of a cold, Nebraska morning. I tried to savor the soft crunch of nearly dried leaves beneath my feet. I stopped to take a few photos of the sun shining through some bare branches, the waves slapping against the rocks on the beach. I feel most at home in this world when I'm outside, so usually, nature has a way of pulling me out of whatever slump I'm in. Not today, I thought.

I wanted to confidently prayer walk around that lake, stomp out the grief with every step and hallelujah. I couldn't even whisper a prayer yesterday morning. Not today.