The Estuary of Life where Faith, Gratitude, and Devastation Comingle

January 2023 has been brutal.

I can’t go into all the details, but multiple families I love dearly have endured…indescribable tragedies, and I confess to you, my body is feeling it. For three days my head and body have ached. I have not had an appetite, and yet, I want to eat ALL the moon pies, and not those mini moons either. I want the full moon moon pies. I have cried more days this month than I haven’t. And if I am honest with you, I am beyond having words. The loss, the pain, the tragedy, the…all of it…is bigger than my words.

Today my friend Iona Hoeppner shared some personal things on a post by another friend of ours, and she asked how she could confess she saw the miracles of a situation and still be devastated?

She wasn’t asking for advice or for some psychological explanation or even a theological one. She was expressing the dichotomy of being a human with faith. It’s a fiercely brave question in my opinion.

I responded with the following, and I share both her question and my response because it is something we need to talk about. It is a burden we need to lay down. It is…an honesty…we need to be able to rest in and know we are safe there.

So I offer this estuary life place where faith, gratitude, and devastation commingle honestly to anyone who needs a place to rest.

(My response)

Iona Hoeppner, isn’t it funny, sad funny, that we put so much pressure on ourselves to be something God never called us to be. He never once said grief negates faith. He never once said being devastated negates being grateful. He never once said our being human makes us believe less that He is God. On the contrary, He implores us to bring our anguish and devastation to Him. He longs to hold us and comfort us and take in all we are…even when we are shattered. Being shattered is not a lack of faith or hope. It is the reality of a life change so immense that we have to stop, catch our breath and get our bearings to decide how to imagine something so heartbreakingly different. Faith keeps us moving forward. Gratitude keeps us buoyant, but neither keep us from being devastated.


To those feeling the devastation among the miraculous…

Both are real, and you are doing beautiful.

My heart and prayers,

Jerri Kelley

Because Sometimes Survival is Enough

We are now three days before Christmas Day, and we are so deep in the holidays they are like the pile of blankets we can’t find our way out of. For some, that isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I thing for most people, the holidays are the blankets they want to wrap up in and stay because they feel good. They feel like home. Who doesn’t want that?

I’ll tell you who.

People who are dealing with a home that has been shattered for some reason.

This year I know three families that have lost children. I know four partners and spouses who have lost their loves. I know multiple friends who have lost parents. I know others who have lost marriages.

For those folks, this holiday season may not look like home at all.

In 2010, my marriage came apart. My mom passed from cancer. My stepfather blamed me. My brother had his own sadness and depression, and then in early 2011, my husband died of a heart attack. Family, friends, and church associates disappeared.

The holidays looked NOTHING like home or family or joy.

They looked empty and hard, and when my two kids and I sat at the table to eat Christmas Day, all I saw were empty chairs, and it was all I could do to pull myself together to have a conversation with my 10- and 13-year olds instead of sobbing in my bedroom floor.

The first two years we didn’t have a Christmas tree. We didn’t buy presents. We didn’t eat the usual food, and we didn’t watch our traditional movies. In fact, if you came to our house, it didn’t look much like Christmas at all. It looked like what it was. Three people trying to figure out how to get through a lot of empty in a place and holiday that used to be so full.

In time, we found our new normal, filled the tree with new ornaments, lit the yard with Christmas lights, and gave up movies for games. We found our joy and laughter and delicious food. We found our full and whole. In time.

This Christmas I want you to know if your Christmas looks like ours did and you see so much empty where there used to be full and you feel like it is taking everything you’ve got just to breathe…then just breathe. That’s enough.

Just don’t quit breathing.

Go to the dinners and lunches…or don’t.
Go to mass…or stand outside the church and let the tears pray for you because walking in is too hard right now.
Buy gifts…or let time together be the gift.
Put up a tree…or don’t.
Eat turkey and ham…or pizza and Big Macs.
Go to the cemetery…or don’t.

There is no one right answer for getting through joyous holidays that carry a hellish edge. The big thing is simply to get through.

And frankly, some years, that’s enough.

For each of you walking through hard this year and feeling the heavy emptiness of the holidays, my heart and prayers are with you because I know prayers are sometimes the only thing that gets us through.

May the Lord God be with you, and may the Prince of Peace be your comfort.

Blessings, Lovelies,



A friend of mine is a college professor, and the college where he works asked each teacher to write his or her  mission statement. My friend asked me what I thought his is. 

His mission as a teacher, I said, was to see his students succeed in their goals and be what they dreamed and more. He wants to see young women engage as often and confidently as young men. He wants his students to build a strong foundation for the medical careers they are pursuing.

I was very proud of this assessment and asked him what he thought. He replied,
“This is what I turned in:

My mission as a professor is to
encourage my students

I read it and smiled.

My friend is right. 

All the knowledge, confidence, and boldness in the world can only take you so far…


You believe in the possibilities.