5 Keys to Recovery. Key #3 – Empty Your Pockets

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

Imagine this scenario, a couple is married and they turn and announce themselves to the audience as husband and wife. They are a union, together as one. The woman standing at the altar, holds up her hand to stop the clapping, and she says, “Oh well I am committing to this. Yes I am committing, but just so you know, I have another option for just in case. A second option, another guy who if you can’t fulfill my needs. He will.”

As a guest at the wedding, you would be dumbfounded and shocked by her proclamation.

Everyone knows when you enter into a marriage, it is a covenant; a commitment. You are vowing to be with this one person, not with two people. You don’t keep an old boyfriend in your back pocket for just in case.

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Then why, when entering recovery do so many keep the eating disorder or addiction in their back pocket for just in case?
Because then you don’t have to commit 100%. You don’t have to really give of your whole self.

You have a backup plan.

Something to rescue you, an exit door.

I did this many times with my eating disorder. Of course, I wouldn’t admit it. I wouldn’t tell my family, friends or those who believed in the work I was doing, that I had an out; someone waiting in the wings.

And it destroyed my ability to fully commit to doing what I needed to do. Sure I could eat the food, I could share my feelings, and I could try to do what was expected of me. But in my mind I romanced around with ED…I will eat this, but not this. I will share this, but not this. I will sometimes take my meds, but not forever.

Before life even had a chance to show me that recovery was possible, I was already flirting with the other man. Ed. He was my exit plan, my annulment.

I can promise you, if you keep an eating disorder in your back pocket, for just in case. You can’t full commit to recovery.

You have to break up with ED.

End the relationship. Cease all communication with him.

When the thoughts come back in your head, you tell him to go away. To leave you alone. Of course you don’t know what it will look like without him, just like you don’t know what life will actually be like when you marry someone. But you commit to it. You trust the adventure. The same is true with recovery. Trust those that have gone before you and proclaim, life without Ed is worth it! 

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What worked for me, as tempting and romanticizing the eating disorder tried to make coming back look, I put a stake in the ground and said, “NO. Not an option.”

I had to choose another option. When you make Ed, NOT AN OPTION, you are forced to use your coping skills, your community, and your support system. And you are kicking him out of your back pocket. Don’t keep him there. He doesn’t belong.

Xo

Lee

Recovery key #1

Recovery key #2

5 Keys to Recovery. Key #2 – Speak Your Shame

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

January in Minnesota is bitter, cold and dark. Not your everyday cold, but a bone-chilling, nose-hair-freezing cold that shivers your every cell. That is what last winter in Minnesota felt like.

I was asked to speak at an event on one of the coldest nights of the year, not speak actually, but read an excerpt from my book. The theme was something along the lines of “darkness”. I stood on the stage and read the most depressing pages of my book. No hopeful piece to inspire, no feel good message, just a dark reading from a morose time in my life.

That is what I was asked to do.

What I wasn’t expecting was the feelings that flooded me after. I stood at my book table alone. Not a single person spoke to me or even glanced my way.

I felt like a fool, I had no idea why, I just did.

The negative tapes began to berate me with old messages of, you are such an idot. Who do you think you are? Nobody gives a crap what you think. They all think you are crazy. I stood there for a few minutes and then quickly packed up my box of books, having sold none, zipped up my enormous Michelin man winter coat and rushed out of the building as fast as I could. With my box of books in hand, I schlepped back to the car cursing myself the entire way. You idiot. So stupid. Why would you think anyone cared what you thought?

Normally these tapes don’t run off like a racehorse, because they are old tapes. Tapes that live from the past. Shame tapes that relish in eating me up when I am feeling overly sensitive and insecure. This night, they beat me up profusely.

I drove home crying, wanting to hide.

Shame makes you do that. Makes you hide. And then it will just continue to beat on you.

Unless, you speak it.

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Recovery tip #2 is: Speak Your Shame.

(Click here to read Recovery Tip #1.)

Many think guilt and shame are the same. They aren’t.

Guilt is when you have done something wrong.

Shame says, I am wrong.

Shame is the underlying belief that one is somehow defective or unacceptable.”Brene Brown

From an early age I grappled with this intense feeling of being “not good enough”. Never measuring up. Always being defective.

This core belief led me right into the arms of the eating disorder.

It has taken me years to destroy the tapes and the messages that berated and consumed me; shame has only dissipated by speaking it out.

If we don’t talk about our shame, if we don’t speak it, it only feeds the eating disorder, self-loathing or addiction.

When you are closed off by shame, there is no way anyone else can get in. That means your hard encased and self-imposed mangle of guilt and shame simply won’t permit you to let anyone get close to you. Not even a friend.”Brene Brown

So what did I do as I began to wither in my shame that evening?

I called a friend. Right away.

I called a dear friend and told her about my experience. Shared with her how my shoulders folded in, my head hung low, and how miserable I felt.

The best ways to overcome shame is to talk about it. To get it out.

After that phone call, after my friend brought me perspective and clarity, it had nowhere to live. Not in my mind. Not in my cells. Not in my relationship with myself or with her. We threw it out there, the two of us, the yucky stuff, we looked at it; we tore it apart and tossed it away.

Garbage that shame. Pure garbage.

It only destroys and beats you up. Shame is a meany.

It isn’t easy, this speaking your shame, but it is crucial. In the first days of recovery from my eating disorder I learned how to do this. I did it with my boyfriend, my therapist, and my close friends. I spoke my shame in prayer and in relationships. I didn’t let it live in my body. And I continue to speak it.

The only way we can release shame stored in our cells, shame that makes us sad, and worse, sick, is to speak it.

I tell on shame. The shame I carry around can lock into my cells and keep me in the abusive pattern. Telling on ourselves has the effect of releasing the shame and allowing that pattern to disappear.

Tell on shame. Be released.

Speak your shame!

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XO

Lee Blum

5 Keys to Recovery. Key #1 – Raw Vulnerability

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

Last week I had great fun speaking to the Finding Balance groups in a podcast-like forum. I don’t believe it will be available to the public, so this week I want to share with you 5 Keys to Recovery that I have experienced in my own life.

Here is key #1.

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“I don’t cry in public!” I said to my friend before the funeral began. She laughed, knowing this was true.

I would hold myself tight, I would stand up straight, and I would not allow the unsettling emotions bubbling inside of me too emerge. No, that was not how I was supposed to behave. Not at all.

That was the old me.

The me who sat in a pew many years ago counting calories so I didn’t have to feel the extraordinary betrayal, the immense awkwardness, and the deep pain. That was the me who almost died from not allowing my emotions to flow naturally. (You can read more in my book, Table In the Darkness – A Healing Journey Through an Eating Disorder.)

A piece of me wanted the stoic old me to sit in that church above pain, immune to anguish and sorrow.

I know better now.

I know hiding emotions and not allowing myself to be who I am in the moment destroys me while also doesn’t allow God to shine through.

The tears, the sorrow for a friend who lost her father, for her children who lost their grandfather, the sorrow for life so brief and pain so palpable flowed through me and I let it. I let it rush out with the snot and the ugly cry.

In public.

With friends.

Because vulnerability is ok.

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Vulnerability is not weakness, it is being human, and it is living. And I prefer living to hiding as I spent so many years of my life hiding.

Raw vulnerability.

What is it?

Is it sharing your heart with everyone, is it being 100% real all the time?  No. What is it really and what does it mean?

I know for me, raw vulnerability was one (of the many) things I had to learn to do in order to not need my eating disorder for protection.

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Rawness evokes a tender and fragile image, like a scar without a bandage, bleeding and oozing. Raw vulnerability is just that, an open wound.

A very key lesson in this type of vulnerability is learning to have discernment in who to open those wounds too.

This was crucial for me and is something that differentiates patients I work with from those who will move into recovery and those who won’t.

An ability to dig into the places where our deepest wounds lie, to ask someone to enter that place with us, holding our hand and them being able to say, Ouch. Yes, I can see how horrible and hurtful that must be for you.

Not someone to fix the wound, but someone to explore the pain with us.

For me, it started first with my therapist. It didn’t happen upon our first session, it happened over time. As we built the foundation and the safety in her office to be able to trust that she was someone I could take the mask off with.

Therapeutic relationships, built over time, can be incredibly healing.

They are practice rooms for life. If I could share with her, maybe I could share with others. So slowly I began to allow myself to come alive again, the me that was underneath the trying and performing and posturing, I could allow her to emerge.

The more I stripped the layers off, embraced this raw vulnerability, the more I was able to feel a congruency within the person inside and the person outside. This is not something that happens overnight, and it is also something that takes practice. You must be prepared to understand that not everyone likes vulnerability, and not every relationship will embrace this expression of life. But, in the confines of a safe relationship and another person who is capable of holding true to who they are and allowing you to be who you are, it can happen.

I thought vulnerability was weakness, thought it was something I was supposed to hide so no one else could see it. I have found, and I hope you find too, that vulnerability is not synonymous with weakness.

When we are fully open to all kinds of experiences including the painful ones, we can live as fully as possible. By being vulnerable you are taking life seriously and going for what you want without reservation.”- Psychologist Robert Firestone.

It isn’t easy to allow yourself to be vulnerable, which is why I think it starts FIRST in a safe space like a therapist’s office. And from there, little by little you walk into vulnerability into your everyday life.

I have found such freedom in this piece of recovery. I hope you will find it too.

XO

Lee

 

Are You Longing For Balance?

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

The gymnastics unit was a favorite in my seventh grade gym class. To stand on those long narrow beams and pretend we were all Mary Lou Retton was our version of feeling so awesome.

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The thing is though, in my head I was Mary Lou Retton, but in reality, I couldn’t stand on the stupid thing. My arms would flail around and my feet would slip off. The times when I could stand upright with my hands held high, I would realize my underwear was somewhere deep in a place it wasn’t supposed to be, (we wore leotards back then, and you ALWAYS got a wedgie) I would reach down to fix it, and splat, I would be sprawled out on the smelly blue mat. Again.

Dang, Mary Lou made it look so effortless.

Mrs. Zerbel, my gym teacher, was constantly aggravated by my incessant need to yank on my leotard.

And the same is true now, not the underwear, but other women, who make it all look so effortless. Make it look like the juggling of the children, the job, the house, and the budget. It all just comes naturally as they breeze through life effortlessly going about their way, frolicking in the ease to which it all occurs.

While I am flat on the mat. Again.

But you know what?

It isn’t true, this balance thing.

Doing a flip on a balance beam is really really hard. And juggling motherhood, parenthood, career, and… just life… is also hard.

So I have made a declaration.

There is no such thing as balance!

It isn’t possible. Maybe for a brief fleeting moment life lines up and you are in a groove and you feel like you got this. You feel like, Hey I want to raise my hands high in the sky for my applause. I am doing it, all this balancing and juggling. The laundry is put away, the house is clean, the emails and voice mails are answered…and then…the dog barfs on the couch, a kid breaks a bone, and then the school calls and your other kid is sick. Plans out the window, again.

It is inevitable people. It happens just like that. Because really, if we are telling the truth, none of us really have this balance thing nailed.

We are all trying to do our best and we need each other! 

And sometimes when I am not doing my best, I am muttering this to myself, “Don’t make the situation worse Lee.”

Balance. Phewey. Why? Why do we need this sense of security that life is going to go smoothly and easily?

It isn’t. It never does.

This “living a balanced” life is kind of like when people say, “I am going to be financially stable and then have a baby.” Or, “When my kids leave the house, then I will start writing.” Or, “I will start taking care of myself when I am not so stressed.” How about this one, “When I lose that weight, then I will socialize.”

I am not saying you can’t reach goals and have aspirations, it is just this “balance” thing I am grappling with.

As if it is some transcendent state we are supposed to strive for. I give up. I call UNCLE!

Later never comes people. Balance never magically appears.

You have now. Only now.

Balance suggests a perfect equilibrium. There is no such thing. That is a false expectation…There are goign to be priorities and dimensions of your life, how you integrate them is how you find your true happiness.” – Denise Morrison (CEO of Campbell soup)

So this year I am declaring it no longer the year of searching for balance, but the year of living. No, not only living, accepting and being present.

Present often means you leave the mess, you throw the agenda out the window, and you scratch the to-do list. Yes.

Present over perfect. (Thank you for that Shauna Niequist!)

Not balance.

Because often times your underwear does need to be picked out, or your kids need you to get off the computer and give you hug, or you need to say, “NO” so you can say, “YES!”

No more balance. Lots more living.

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And hey, I bought this for myself for Christmas and I love it! Here is the link if you want one :).

SN01-2T

Xo

Lee

You Matter!

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

There is a cashier at Target that brightens my day. I look for her every time I am there, even if her aisle is lined up with people. I choose to stay.

She matters to me. She may not know it, but she does.

There is a cute young girl who works at the gas station down the street. She usually has a frown on her face, but I can tell she has a dry sense of humor. And she smiles so kindly when my kids pick donuts without the wax paper. She matters to me. She may not know it, but she does.

You matter.

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I know you think you don’t. You think you are a burden and people are tired of you, and your problems are too much. They aren’t. Just by existing you touch lives, even when you are deep in your pit.

You matter. To someone.

Maybe a lot of people.

Why do you think you don’t? Why do you think if you are going through a hard time, or maybe you have lost a relationship, or maybe no one is calling that you don’t matter.

You do.

This is heavy on my heart today. It has been a tough week. A tough few weeks. And writing has been the last thing I have wanted to do, and yet this morning as awoke, I knew this is what I wanted to write. Not with any outline or any real “writing structure” but just the simple message of your worth. You need to hear that. I need to hear that, even though I often don’t believe it. I often back up, and sometimes curl in like a snail when I feel as if someone might need me. But, it is a true statement.

And depression and mental illness, they steal you.

They steal you from this world.

The guise of the happy face, the guise of the “have it all together”, masking the truth of the pain underneath, it leaves you alone.

Thinking you are alone, and feel as if no one cares, breaks my heart. Because someone does. Always.

Often at work patients will tentatively say, “Hi”, as if I don’t remember them. As if they are strangers even if I have worked with them for years. What they don’t realize is I remember. I have a memory that is a gift and a thorn sometimes. I can remember who gave us what gifts for our wedding, (it has been 18 years), and I can remember tiny details about events and situations from years ago. Unfortunately I also can carry a suitcase full of hurt words and painful looks. My memory served me well in theatre for memorizing lines, it hurts me in my memory sometimes, but I choose to believe it is God saying…Remember…they are my children. Remember their pain, their story, and their words. Remember the look in their eye and the ache in their soul…because they matter. Even when they think they don’t.

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How can I explain this to you? How can I convince you of your worth? While God says it so, so many don’t believe it. I didn’t and still sometimes wonder, “Who cares what I do. Who gives a crap if I even get out of bed?” And then I think about all the people I care about, that matter to me, and I know someone believes I matter.

Depression tells you to give up. To quit. That you would be better off gone.

Don’t believe the lies. Don’t believe that just because you haven’t spoken to someone or seen someone that you don’t matter to them. You do.

You matter. Not because of anything you have done, not because of what number you are on the scale. You matter because God made you. That is it. That is enough.

Live out of that.

All of us, every single one of us deserves to live.

So if you are hiding behind a mask, hiding behind some deep pain and secrecy, please believe me in this, you matter to so many people. So many (including treatment professionals) that WANT to help. Reach out. Make that phone call. Please.

Xo

Lee

 

 

My Year Of Naked

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

I haven’t been writing.

Haven’t parked my behind in my writing chair once since the holiday break.

Everything else has taken precedence, everything else seems more important than writing.

Like sleeping, watching Parenthood, Downton Abbey and the Bachelor (shhh no judgement). Oh and listening to podcasts and reading books. Then I begin comparing my writing and the doubt washes over, drowning me.

In my head I have started questioning all that time, all those words, all that pouring out of the soul onto the page. The book happened, it really did, and now it is there for anyone to read.

All that nakedness.

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Yes, these past few weeks I realized what 2014 felt like.

It felt like I took off my clothes and ran through the streets, conference centers, and churches. Naked. Not naked like Victoria’- secret-runway-naked, but naked like;  here-is-my-flawed-and- messy-and-unshaved-parts naked. Here is the not-so-pretty stuff. And while running around naked I smiled and held my head up high like it was no big deal.

Because me showing you myself naked, raw and vulnerable, hopefully helped you to do the same.

I can tell you though, it comes at a price. Not an expensive price, but an emotional one. It is frightening and exhausting. Because although it might seem like it is easy and natural for me to do so. It is not.

Not at all.

With it comes rejection,criticism and funny looks. There are people who don’t like it and people who it makes uncomfortable.

It makes me uncomfortable too.

When I am being most naked and vulnerable I, despite how hot a room is, find myself shivering. My body reacting inside to what I am doing. There has been a lot of shivering this past year.

Of course I chose to do this. I chose to write a book, and put it all out there, and then go speak and write and go on radio shows and tell my story over and over again.

Was it worth it? Yes.

Am I exhausted beyond anything I have ever experienced? Yes.More emotionally than physically.

Yesterday I was speaking with a young woman who is fighting like hell to get to the other side of her eating disorder. I told her about my last month, how I couldn’t seem to get myself to write again, how I might have to stop. How I might want to quit. And her encouragement is the only reason I sat and the computer today.

“You need to do it. It fills up your soul. Your soul needs it.” She said sweetly.

Yes, she is exactly right.

My soul hungers for this now and always, my soul has been made by God to be creative. Even as a 5-year-old I was writing stories, writing my soul on the page. And although I am shivering right now writing, as I feel the vulnerableness coming back (even though I have a blanket covering me) I continue to desire to do this.

To spread hope in any way I can. Un-perfectly at times.

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To share with you that life is amazing and wonderful and hard.

That people can recover from addictions. That people can survive mental illness.

I don’t know how it will look this year. The writing & the speaking. I don’t know if I will feel as if I ran naked through the world at the end of it. I hope not.

But either way, I refuse to give up.

I hope you refuse to give up too!

Oh Dear Reader, I need you. You are the reason I keep going. And I hope more than anything that you will read this and go fill up your soul, go fight for what you want, and be hungry for life.

It is worth it.

I will try to dothe same.

Thank you,

Lee Blum

Do You Need A Permission Slip?

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

Last January I enrolled in an on-line Brene Brown class. Kicked off the New Year with a bang!

Sorduv.

I only took part in one class, even though I enrolled in the entire course. But, I did learn something!

Brene talked about writing yourself “permission slips”.  (Click here to read her take on it.) Not permission slips to skip school or skip work, but what I like to call “slips of GRACE!”

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And as I end this year feeling exhausted, worn out, and utterly spent…I am offering myself a permission slip. I know, most people don’t need a permission slip, but I do. I tend to go without stopping and am not the best at allowing myself down time. Everyone needs down time!

Persmission to rest. To turn off the “devices” and to just BE.

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To do whatever it is that fills up my soul. I hope you will be doing the same.

You won’t be hearing from me until after the New Year. My hope is you will write yourself a little “permission slip” or “grace slip” too.

I would love to hear how it goes!

Happy New Year! I am grateful for you, dear reader! 

xo

Lee

My Favorite Things – 10 Gifts That Inspire!

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

Here are some of my favorite inspirational gifts! Enjoy! Merry Merry Christmas!

XO

Lee

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1. Beautiful Wrap Bracelet

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2. Customize this ring with an inspirational message or word!

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3. Start your New Year off right by joining a Finding Balance group.

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4. Recovery jewelry

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5. 31 Days of kindness notes

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6. Inspiring book (Great for little girls and grown women!)

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7. Awesome shirt

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8.”I am Enough” necklace

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9. Cool tank

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10. Word Of The Year necklace

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10. Shameless plug…my book :).

Table in the Darkness #4308

 

 

On Hiding Your Past

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

“Do you mind that people here know?”  Someone recently asked me. By “here” she meant my work, at an eating disorder facility.

“Do I mind? No!” I said. “No not at all.”

I explained to her that when I first started working here, I was told that I shouldn’t tell anyone because patients shouldn’t know that I actually had an eating disorder. Which was funny actually because for the two years prior I was coming once a month to share my story with the patients. Whatever. I complied.

Well sorduv.

Until my book came out.

Then everyone knew. Just Google my name and you know.

But, as I drove home after the day she asked me this, I found myself stewing about this question.

Do I mind if people know? Should I mind? Should I be worried what they “might” think of me, knowing I struggled with an eating disorder?

Is this something I should be ashamed of? Why does mental illness get attached with a stigma that it is somehow a moral failure? It isn’t.

No one chooses to have an eating disorder!

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If I had broken my leg, would I have cared if people knew? No. And I don’t care one lick if anyone knows I struggled with an eating disorder. I am not ashamed, I am not about hiding that my brain broke for a while, that I couldn’t cope. That I needed help.

Then I also thought… maybe I shouldn’t want people to know because then I would have to prove that I didn’t still have it. Like the flu. Like leprosy.

Come on.

I will not be ashamed of my struggles, I will not hide in fear or embarrassment of being one of 20 million women who struggle with an eating disorder.

In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervose, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or an eating disorder not otherwise specified.” – NEDA

 

I will not be ashamed.

I choose every day not to cover up my mess. I had to fight like Hell to get where I am today. I am proud of being on the other side of that horrible battle. I will not hide in shame, and neither should you!

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xo

Lee

 

Do You Let the “Shoulds” rule your Christmas?

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday. And an email box that is so full of One-Day-Only-Get-It-While-It’s-Hot, it makes me want to curl up into a fetal position and wake up when January is here. imgres But it isn’t only the shopping pressure that makes me feel prickly and anxious.

It is the Christmas “shoulds”.

You should be happy. You should be with family. You should be nice and kind and give gifts and have plenty of money to throw around for everything. You should have gobs of energy to decorate and give and invite and love. Your house should look just like the homes on Pinterest.”

And the Shoulds move into my head and take over.

And I hate them.

Because they bring me memories of Christmases where mean and drunk relatives fought until the wee hours of the morning while we smiled and pretended as if it was all lovely. Or the years of spending time and pretending with people I should be with and should like. They tell me to do things because others say so.

I don’t like that.

The Shoulds are mean and controlling and take away the desires of my heart. So I don’t listen to them. And I hope you won’t either. They can scream and whine and tell me all they want to tell me about how Christmas should be and I stick my tongue out at them and say, “nanny nanny boo boo!”

And over the years we (my hubby and boys) have left the Shoulds at the door, and together as a family decide how Christmas will be in our house.

And everyone has a voice.

We talk about the traditions that we all think are fun and how we are going to spend our day. We choose together what to eat and what kind of dinner we want to have. Sometimes it is Chinese, sometimes pasta, and this year it will be ham. We nap if we want and we let the house stay in chaos as long as we all feel necessary. We invite friends and we play, and love and enjoy.

And we celebrate the birth of our Savior without the Shoulds.

They don’t belong in our house and they don’t belong in yours either.

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May your Christmas be how you want it to be.

Not how the world tells you it should be.

Xo

 

Lee

Hey, did you read my book Table in the Darkness? If so and you liked it, will you vote for it? It is up for an award! Voting goes until December 14th. THANK YOU! VOTE HERE!