the messy, salty glory: on holding my breath during the holidays.

December 17, 2014, Michaela Evanow, 21 Comments

AppleBlossomFamilies-1It comes around every holiday or big event. The dread. The crackle of electricity in the air. The cough mask wearing and obsessive hand washing. The bulging eyes as someone coughs all over the apples at the grocery store. I’m never buying apples again!

Christmas is coming. And I’m holding my breath. I try not to, I really do. But every year it’s a game I play. Just let us get through Christmas. Then New Year’s. And then, her birthday rounds the corner in March. Just let us get through her birthday. I hit these turbulent pockets around every major holiday.

I picture us in the ICU on Christmas Day, or waking up with a cold a few days before Christmas. It is a luxury—to have a cold and get the sniffles and spread germs without fear of the consequences. Thank God I have amazing, cautious, caring friends and family. 

This year, I’m really feeling the pressure that Christmas puts on those that are hurting, struggling and fighting for something. We all want to get through Christmas unscathed. 

And so, in the Advent season, I find I’m also holding my breath for different reasons. Come Lord Jesus, come. And hurry.

Around me, friends are receiving hospice care, others are calling 9-11, and some are receiving troubling diagnosis.

It never ends.

I suppose the facade of ornamental cardboard cutouts, red velvet clad Santas and gingerbread lattes aren’t cutting it this year. Just what am I celebrating? It’s more than these things.

I’m no Debbie downer. I love to celebrate. I love the little things. The pick me ups. I love baking and sprinkles and Nat King Cole. I love stocking stuffers and Nordic reindeer socks and peppermint sticks in milk.

But I don’t love greedily swallowing these things to bury the pain. I can see right through them. 

My family’s story has taught me that I can celebrate and lament all in one day.

I can make time to pray and sit with those that grieve.

I can acknowledge my own sorrow and also raise a glass of bubbly to a year of hard work at my husband’s Christmas work party. 

Right before this said Christmas party, I discovered a friend I follow on Instagram lost her child. She has lost two children in the last two months to the same genetic condition. She is left with two healthy children to hold close this season and in the midst of her weeping, she sees hope and Jesus standing in the gaping places of her story. Moments later, I read that another friend came home to red and blue lights, sirens, paramedics, praying that her fragile daughter was alive. 

I put my phone down and exhaled. I slipped on my boots and spritzed perfume on my wrists, barely relishing the fact that I had two sleeping babies, grandpa and a nurse to watch them, and a night out with my disarmingly handsome husband. I just wasn’t in the mood.

But he was, and life still beckons.

I’m learning to walk with sorrow and pray big in the silence of the car. 

I can live life in all it’s messy, salty glory because of God’s grace, because of fellow comrades that just keep on walking through their valleys.

Last year, when I scanned the toy aisle for something appropriate for Florence, I would break down into shoulder shaking sobs, aching all the way to my fingertips, and feeling as though my heart would never mend.

This year, I’m learning that it’s okay to cry in Home Sense, to stand there and have my moment, while shoppers mill around me. I’m not embarrassed by my tears. I’m living and my life doesn’t come in a neat, bow topped package. I can mourn over the fact that my little girl can’t play with a pretend kitchen or felt veggies or baby dolls or the toys I saved from my childhood. And, when I’m done wiping my eyes and swallowing the lump, I can accept the warm embrace from Peace. 

Christmas will pass and we will somehow be okay and maybe, one day, Theodore will love playing with dolls and the pretend enamel cookware set I’ve had stashed away for years.

We will take time to grieve. We will venture into the dark places where others hurt. We will tell their stories even if it feels “seasonally incorrect.” You might think this isn’t a “thing”, but it is. Not everyone wants to hear about the sadness or the full, hard stories during the holiday season. But it’s not a time to push aside these people. It’s a time to embrace them, with bigger, wider arms. It’s a time for shedding some tears around the Christmas tree and raising a toast to the ones that carry on, that share their struggles, however beaten down they feel. I want to create a safe place for those that ache and hurt, don’t you? They…we, don’t magically mend over the holidays. We often get ripped wide open.

But, we will take time to celebrate.

We will open up and tell of the damp, sad places in our hearts. And we will drink hot cocoa and have bake-offs and Keep. On. Living. 

If you or a loved one are looking for a wonderful devotional specifically for those that struggle during the holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, anniversaries, etc), I suggest checking out my friend Bo Stern’s book, When Holidays Hurt: Finding Hidden Hope Amid Pain and Loss.


  • Reply Pick of the Clicks (December edition) | bronwyn's corner December 26, 2014 at 10:02 AM

    […] breathtaking is Michaela Evanow’s the messy, salty glory: on holding my breath during the holidays… such profound reflections on how we can experience both deep grief and also moments of joy, […]

  • Reply Diana Trautwein December 19, 2014 at 11:36 PM

    Oh.My.Goodness. This is just so, so good, Michaela. Honest, open and lovely in every way I can think of. And this line? “I’m learning to walk with sorrow and pray big in the silence of the car.” Oh, YES. In the last ten years of so, my car has become a sanctuary place. I no longer listen to the radio or play CDs. I just sit in the quiet. Sometimes I pray, sometimes I’ll sing a little. And much of that experience was triggered by ‘learning to walk with sorrow’ as we watched a much loved son-in-law slowly die. You write about this so powerfully well – and I thank you for doing it. It’s important. And it’s necessary.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow January 10, 2015 at 4:13 PM

      I’m just getting to this now, Diana. Thank you so much for your words! I am so sorry to hear of loss, but encouraged by your walking hand in hand with sorrow, and soon, peace. Thanks for being here.

  • Reply Bev Murrill December 18, 2014 at 1:02 AM

    My heart goes out to you and your family. I love your courage, but I suppose you don’t have options.

    Courage is faith because only courage will do the job you need to do. You’re strong in your weakness. You’re whole in your brokenness. You’re full, and sweet, and powerful… and your children will be the same because you show them how.

    Much much love to you, Michaela.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow December 18, 2014 at 11:37 AM

      These words…they are so kind and wonderful. Thank you, Bev. xo

  • Reply Kimg December 17, 2014 at 10:02 PM

    Hi! I am just writing to tell you that I am a new reader of your blog, and this post brought me to tears this morning. You have such a gift for writing. We have an adult family member who has lived with type 3 Spinal Muscular Atrophy and was diagnosed when he was around 10 years old. He is now 60 years old and fighting for every bit of muscle strength he can hold on to. He lost the ability to walk around 20 years ago, and now requires much help in his daily living activities. Your story has just touched my heart and your Florence is oh-so beautiful. I find myself thinking of you often and offering up a prayer for you all. I work at a place called Children’s Therapy Center down here in Kent Washington–we are a neuromuscular therapy center specializing in Speech, OT and PT for kiddos up to age 18. I have seen so much and find it an honor to work for this non-profit, a place which is committed to helping families help their special beloved ones reach their full potential. My co-worker lost her special daughter at the age of 23 last year, and after reading your post today, I went and ordered the book “When Holidays Hurt” for her. Thank you for sharing your life and your daughter’s story with us.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow December 18, 2014 at 11:39 AM

      Oh, thank you for sharing a part of your story. I LOVE reading about my readers. You sound like a lovely soul. I’m so glad you got the book. Bo’s husband, Steve, has ALS, and they are such incredible people. You should check out her blog too.

  • Reply Jamie December 17, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    Thank you, bless you

  • Reply Amy December 17, 2014 at 11:33 AM

    Oh my. What a raw post. Thank you for your honesty. You have 2 beautiful babies who light up my face every time a picture on Instagram pops up. Wishing you the blessed & joy out Christmas & New Years your sweet family deserves.

    • Reply Amy December 17, 2014 at 11:34 AM

      Joyous*** 🙂 silly typo!

    • Reply Michaela Evanow December 18, 2014 at 11:39 AM

      Thank you so much! xo

  • Reply Julie Sims December 17, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    Thank you for sharing your life with us! I am not sure if this is the right thing to say but I will be praying that you get another Christmas, another New Years, and especially another birthday with your precious baby girl!

    • Reply Michaela Evanow December 17, 2014 at 9:47 AM

      Julie, thank you for your kindness and prayers. 🙂

  • Reply Donna-Jean Brown December 17, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    Thinking of you, Michaela, in your damp, sad places – knowing God is with you there.
    Margaret Atwood wrote, “The facts of this world, seen clearly, are seen through tears.”
    One day God will wipe them all away.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow December 17, 2014 at 9:46 AM

      Wow. I love that quote, Donna-Jean. Phew. Thanks for sharing that. xo

  • Reply Kali December 17, 2014 at 8:16 AM

    I was reading Romans 15:13 last night as I pondered the same…after spending the day weeping for another. Thanks yet again for giving us glimpses, salty tastes of both the sweet and the bitter hard. So much love & grace to you this season, and always, my friend.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow December 17, 2014 at 9:45 AM

      Salty tastes…yes. Thank you for the love. Right back at you, sweet friend!

  • Reply Amy Hunt December 17, 2014 at 7:56 AM

    Amen. He came for the brokenhearted . . . the sick . . . the poor . . . the saddened . . . He came that they might have life and have it to the full . . . in the midst of the fear and the frailty. Therein lies the joy. The grace. The love. The miracle.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow December 17, 2014 at 9:44 AM

      Yes He did. Thanks for your words, Amy.

  • Reply Jan Burns December 17, 2014 at 7:48 AM

    Thank you for your post. “Hugs” to you, Jay and your sweet little ones.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow December 17, 2014 at 9:44 AM

      Thanks for the hugs!

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