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  • Writer's pictureJessica Strike

Our real Christmas card

This is what our Christmas card said this year:

"This year we sold our house in suburbia...and moved to Doty Island! We love "island life" and have made so many memories as a family in new favorite places. We bike everywhere, including downtown Neenah or Menasha, where we have discovered a favorite coffee shop, breakfast restaurant, farmer's market, live music, story time at the library, & can even bike across the "ocean" to school! We spend lots of time at "Sniffy" (Smith Park), playing mostly on the swings. We also have fun projects planned for our new house & are enjoying dreaming together & making our cozy, quirky old house a home!"

...but if I'm being completely honest, it should have said all of this.

2017 started off pretty well, with a fun family vacation to Mexico, and the big and exciting decision to sell our house and make a big change! We decided we'd "cash out" on our brand new house and buy something cheap and temporary to get our mortgage paid off and feel less tied down in life. The goal being mortgage free in 2-3 years! So exciting!

We found a quirky but pretty amazing on the inside house on adorable Doty Island. A house we actually thought we could stay at indefinitely (ask Greg about his garage!). We closed July 21st.

And I had a massive panic attack the next morning. What were we thinking?! Moving from our totally safe, resort-like neighborhood with a big lot for the girls to play and run, to a very different neighborhood and no yard at all. Would they be safe? Happy? Is it worth the sacrifice they might be making for our financial freedom?

We spent the summer owning two houses and packing the old house, it got to the point that Melody and Vivian played with two by fours in the garage because they had nothing else and we were unavailable. They are amazing kids and we realized just how few things kids really "need!" Though I desperately wanted to just be more present with them. When we did have time together, we loved biking all around Doty Island and exploring downtown Neenah and Menasha.

But owning two houses indefinitely was a bit scary so I filled my schedule for an extra safety net. We are so thankful our old house sold in the end of August! But between packing for the October closing date and the super amped up busyness of fall I created with my schedule, I missed the joy I find in Autumn. Stress and overwhelm made me a really cranky, dysfunctional wife, mom, and person. I slipped into depression, not for the first time, always triggered when I take on too much. I'm a slow learner!

My very dear Nana passed away in late August, Greg's grandmother just a few weeks later, after numerous trips with his Mom to Milwaukee, uncertain if it was the final goodbye.

Huge bombshells dropped in extended family, none of it happy news.

In December, our longtime pastor in the church we grew up and started our marriage, took his life. If a man of such strong faith can lose a fight to depression, how do we stand a chance? Where does our hope and strength come from?

Of course we've found joy between the sorrow and the stress, we are a happy family, we do love each other SO much! But this year has wiped us. I feel like every December for the last few years I sigh and say, "I hope 201X is a fresh start, a better year."

But I've come to realize something, a day on the calendar isn't suddenly going to make life better. I've realized I've been trying to fan the fading light in my soul and that the fuel is nearly burned out. In all of this, I've realized I need to come back to my savior, Jesus. I'm so weak and depleted having tried to work hard enough, social media enough, be kind enough, be happy enough, wife enough, Mom enough, friend enough...that, having failed on every front on my own, I am now literally crawling back to His feet, empty and just not enough. He is where "enough" comes from, where hope comes from.

"Even youths grow tired and weary,

and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint."

Isaiah 40:30-31

So this year instead of brushing the tears of regret off my cheeks and hoping a new year miraculously brings me joy, I'm instead laying my dreams, my family, my hopes, my ambitions in the hands of the One who is so much more capable than me.

Closing with some hope and encouragement for you, a favorite verse, and maybe, hopefully, it touches your heart if you're weary, dragging, and hoping for the fresh start that won't come wrapped in a Christmas box or by checking a goal off your resolution list.

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord,

they are plans for good, and not for disaster,

to give you a future and a hope."

Jeremiah 29:11

Sending so much love,


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