I’m so done with you, Santa

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:19-20

 

Here we are in the middle of Christmas season, and Santa, I am angry with you. Last year I spilled the beans about you and ridiculously as it sounds, it been has been one of the most ostracizing decisions I have made as a Christian.

It’s made me lose sleep, it’s made people look at me funny, it’s made me feel dogmatic. I’ve often looked down through the years at my kids’ futures and the idea that they will hate me for it one day has haunted me.

I lay in bed just here tonight wiping tears because I had another ‘what have I done’ moment after reading an article in Christianity Today for pete’s sake:

“In fact I’d like to propose that teaching children about Santa Claus does not conflict with teaching them about Jesus. I propose that the Nativity story and Santa myth may have more in common than we’re prone to believe…. And we steal something precious from our children when we deny them the opportunity to believe in fairy tales and learn how to glean truth from a made-up story.” Keri Wyatt Kent

What is wrong with this picture? Why is it more difficult for me to teach my children the truth than it is to tell them a lie?

I mean good grief, Santa- you have REALLY confused their little minds.

Hannah Grace, you are a child who questions everything- Are the people on the radio really singing? Where are they? How does a microphone work? How do the Storybots talk to real people on the tv? These are just from any given day. Often times I have to tell you honestly- I just don’t know, or you’re too young to understand. And you know what? You trust my answer.

Will- you want to know the truth, but your precious mind can’t understand. Mommy tells you Santa is pretend and then you see him everywhere in the stores and hear about him on the radio and then he comes walking in at Daddy’s Christmas party and you don’t know what to do with this conflicting information. How can he be pretend when he’s right in front of you?

I have to train you not to correct everyone you meet in the month of December that asks you what is Santa bringing you. I have to coach you not to argue with other children who say he is real. And your little minds don’t know how to handle this. I see you struggle and it breaks my heart.

And it angers me. And it kindles the spirit within me, now more than ever because I see it effecting the loves of my life. And I’m angry with myself because I’ve tried to quench the Spirit within me on this, for fear of coming across as dogmatic.

I see a Santa gift bag and it bothers me. I secretly threw away a Santa book I saw yesterday before either of you saw it on the shelf. I hear Santa Claus is Coming to Town coming on and I switch to a cd.

And then I wrestle constantly with myself. Should I have done that? Doesn’t every kid need to know the words to Rudolph? My kids wouldn’t have a clue who the reindeer are or what is so special about the North Pole or that Elf on the Shelf. What am I doing to them?

These things are natural to me you see, I’ve recently (as in, before writing this post) come to realize this is evidence of the Spirit within me. It’s nothing of my own doing, and easily, oh so easily, these convictions can and will fade the more I quench Him.

But here’s what I want you to glean from this kids. I do these things to protect you and your innocent minds that are struggling with this Santa thing already. I fill you up with the truth as much as I can all day and each night as we choose a different Christmas Story to read. We have discussions about real things, like, since we know that Santa is not truth, what does that mean for kids who don’t have enough money to celebrate Christmas? They do not just magically receive a gift- they need help, and it’s our job to give it. And then I watched as you both cleaned your toys out, and said things like….. “I think another little boy would like to play with a PJ Mask Mommy, let me put it in the bag.”

Sure, there will come a day when you are older and can understand the game of Santa and I won’t have to protect the integrity of your minds so much. But I feel very strongly right now at 3 and 5 years of age, it is something that I am called to do.

Look at the verse above… I’ve always loved this verse. I can just see Mary there, adoring her newborn Son, hearing the things everyone is saying about Him, and storing them up as treasures in her heart. There’s nothing like the love of a mother and her child.

But pay attention to the end also kids- the shepherds were celebrating. And I mean, singing-shouting-praising God to everyone they met in the streets on their way back home. You know what they were celebrating? TRUTH. Everything they had seen, which was exactly as they had been told. They were celebrating Truth. Just like we are.

Wow, what comfort and peace that brings my soul.

And by the way, if you’re wondering- I called hogwash on that article from Christianity Today. And I found my own article from Desiring God- a real good one:

“If being Jesus-focused is a killjoy for your Christmas, you don’t know Him well…. I cannot see why a parent, if they know and love Jesus, if they have found Jesus to be the greatest treasure in the world, why they would bring Jesus out of the celebration and Santa into the celebration at all- I mean, he is just irrelevant. He has nothing to do with it. Zero.” Tony Reinke

 

Dear Lord, I love You so much. Forgive me when I seek the approval of men rather than You. Forgive me when my faith is so small and fragile. Thank You for showing up in moments like these, reminding me Whose I am, and Who lays claim inside my heart. Guide my children in Truth and Love, always giving them sensitivity to Your high calling.

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Don’t Follow Your Heart

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jer 17:10

I used to have a sign hanging in the kitchen that read “Follow Your Heart.” It was the cutest little thing, and I know Hobby Lobby had the best intentions in selling it. But every time I saw the sign, this verse stirred in my mind and vexed my spirit, so I finally took my cute little decoration down.

That sounds silly but for some reason, this verse really resonates in my soul. Maybe it’s because I have been known to be a wee bit sensitive. Maybe it’s because my heart breaks over various injustices pretty frequently…. Things such as children around the world standing in need of the essentials to live, or the children in my own community reaping the consequences of a broken foster system that consistently fails them.

Or like the one time I saw a dog get run over and the culprit get out of his truck and kick it off the road, or the time I hit a turkey driving home one night…. It doesn’t take much. (Side note: We recently walked up on a caterpillar being ate by ants and Hannah Grace legitimately started crying. To the point where I had to pull all the ants off and relocate the caterpillar, in the off chance that it may still have been alive. I’m pretttty sure the apple didn’t fall far from the tree in this area)

OR, MAYBE, just maybe, it’s because the whimsical wish to follow your heart contradicts what the Bible teaches about the heart altogether. I dare say many people have fallen victim to sin in the name of following their heart, myself included.

Now, I know, I know…. I’m really sounding like a fuddy dud. It’s just a saying, meant to be inspirational, to promote confidence, kind of a wish-you-well of sorts. It’s written in many a graduation speech and Hallmark card, I’ve seen it on bumpers and tee shirts alike. The mindset of following your heart abounds… nonetheless, it still rubs me in a real bothersome way.

Here’s why.

The Bible tells us differently. The Lord says a lot about your heart, in fact, He tells Moses to “remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart….” (Numbers 15:39)

He also warns us that “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander.” (Matthew 15:19)

Elsewhere he tells us to “guard your heart” (Pro 4:23), to “trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Pro 3:5) to “seek the Lord with all your heart” (Jer 29:13) and to “love the Lord with all your heart” (Mark 12:30)

But never. NEVER. To follow your heart.

And my dear kids, I pray you never fall prey to this worldly mantra of following your heart, no matter how well-meaning it seems to be, because it’s false.

Dear Lord,

May my children always have a heart that is sensitive to Truth. May they keep their heart with all diligence, as Your Word commands. May they continually offer it up to you to be searched. When they face difficult decisions in life, may they come to You for wisdom, may they search Your word for answers, knowing that there is nothing new under the sun, and that You are the God that never changes.

Disqualified

“I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)


 

Sometimes I feel like if I could record a few key phrases and put them on auto repeat each morning, I wouldn’t have to speak at all. Phrases like….

Use kind words, make wise choices, no, love one another, be good sheep, no, stop scratching your goob, wipe it on a tissue, no….

I say these things so much, I often wonder… when will it sink in? Will it ever?

I say them so much that I hear myself again and consciously think, am I making a difference in your little hearts? Am I pointing you to the Graceful Shepherd that I so desperately want you to follow?

Most of the time when I settle on this question, I remember the things I am doing to guide you to Jesus. Things like our morning time devotions, our night time Bible stories and songs, our Verse of the Week, or Veggie Tale movies. These are all wonderful things that we do

But sometimes, my heart settles on this question, and I remember the ways that I live that contradict the things that we do.

Like when Will can’t control his 2 year old temper, and I meet him head-on with my temper, screaming at him all the way to time-out. Is that teaching him the self-control that I read to him about?

Or, when we’re on our way to Dunkin Donuts and we see a fire station and I hear the 53rd question about what happens to fire fighters if they get lost in a house when they try to save people or what if their clothes come off that are supposed to protect them or what if they don’t know the way to the house or what if they don’t know the names of the people they are trying to save….. And I finally hush your inquisitive little mind with something like….

Just stop worrying about all of that, okay???!

Is that teaching her the kindness and patience that we talk about every day?

My favorite one came up in the middle of a conversation with Daddy while I was complaining about the size of our closet. Nothing disqualifies you more than when a five year old interrupts you to remind you that you already have a nice closet and you should be thankful. Ouch.

One would think that all the good things we do might balance out these heat-of-the-moment reactions, but I would argue that. These are the times when you learn the most! I know this to be true because I hear my frustration and anger coming through your words time and time again…. And hearing them come from you shows me the ugliness of them in a new light. And I taught you most of the ugly! And we didn’t have to read books about it or sing songs about it, you simply watched me- and learned- For better or worse.

Times like this, I realize…. Man, am I disqualified or what?

This verse is a swift kick in the pants to me. It sums up the Christian walk so simply if we’d only take it to heart. It’s so much more than a “practice what you preach” mentality….

It’s living in discipline, it’s denying the reactions you are naturally prone to, and it’s making a decision to control your words, actions, and body language in a way that subjects it to the Truth that you tell others about.

How that stirs my heart to change!

So I think I’ll put the tape recorder idea on the backburner and focus my heart on building up my qualifications in Christ, and working hard to live the life and the Truth that I tell you about each day.

Dear Lord,

I find myself being disqualified a lot. Thank you for your grace that always forgives me and your mercies that are new each morning. I pray that my children would take this verse to heart, and live it in their own lives, much better than I have in mine. In the mundane days of parenting, and when frustration rises and tempers flare, take me to this verse and give me strength to control my reactions and measure them against Your word.

The Good Works of a Good God

” Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.”

(Deuteronomy 11:19)

It all started with a youtube sermon. I felt a strong urging one night to listen to The Word rather than read my normal set of books I’m going through. So, I searched for Francis Chan, and listened to the first sermon that popped up.

It was about the story of the rich man who asks Jesus how to get to Heaven, and when Jesus tells him to sell everything He has and give it to the poor, the rich man walks away sad. He’s too in love with his earthly spoils to give them up for the Kingdom’s sake.

That story resonated with me all week long. I really questioned God, what does it mean to sell everything and give it to the poor? What are you showing me through this conviction in my heart?

Then Sunday came, and guess what the preacher read?

The story of the rich man.

So I went home and went knee deep into our budget. I saw so many ways that I had spent frivolously, Hobby Lobby here, Lowe’s there, Ollie’s here and there….. it all amounted to $1,200 worth of STUFF. I couldn’t believe it!!

Then I began to add up our giving, and it didn’t take long. Other than our weekly tithe, and monthly Compassion sponsors (what I like to call our “regulars”) it was $0. ZERO DOLLARS.

I immediately went on to the Compassion website and sent $75 to both of our sponsored kids. Not much in light of what I had so easily and fruitlessly given to the stores, but enough to make me feel a little better in the here and now, while I worked on the then and there of the budget.

That was Sunday.

Tuesday, I received a letter from Indonesia. Reno’s brother was writing to let me know that Reno had been badly burned and had been in the hospital for 14 days. He was asking for our prayers for his healing. And that’s all he was asking for.

Now, that’s a long intro, and you would think that this entry is going to be about giving and spending wisely. But you’d be wrong.

As I read the letter from Reno’s family, I was awestruck at seeing God’s hand play out in my life and in Reno’s life simultaneously. God began a work in my heart a week before, only to prod me to send perfectly timed money to a family across the world who needed it at that exact moment.

Kids, as the verse says, let’s talk about the works of God all day long!

Sometimes I worry that I talk about God too much with y’all, that I spiritualize too many things. But then I read what God says here, and I think…. that’s A LOT of talking about God’s word….. When you wake up, when you lie down, when you walk on the road, when you’re taking a rest…and then I realize,  I’ve got some catching up to do!!

If you look for it kids, you’ll see God in everything.

Like just yesterday Will, you unknowingly picked up a sand bucket with a black widow under the brim of it, and you didn’t get bit. Thank you, Lord.

Or Hannah Grace, the fact that you are even here. You came into this world blue and with no breath. NO BREATH. And I watched as nurses revived you, knowing that it was only God’s grace that gave you life. Thank you, Lord.

There are no coincidences in this life. There is no luck. Every blessing we receive, every mercy we are granted is from God, according to His good plan for us. And He loves to give to us so freely.

As I walked tonight, the sun was going down, the crickets were chirping, and the skyline was so beautifully showing off the details of each and every different tree. I just stopped to take it all in, to try and comprehend the God that spoke all of this into being. The same God that restores us every morning with his new mercies.

And then I giggled, thinking of how silly I am. There’s no way I could talk about this God too much.

God, You are so high above us. We could never comprehend you. You are unimaginable. And You have surely been good to me. You’ve given me so much more than I deserve, and You continue to pour Your grace out on me every day. May I never tire of talking about You. And may my children always have a longing to hear about Your good works.

 

 

A True Love Story

There once was girl who lived in a beautiful kingdom. The grass was emerald green, the sky a brilliant blue. The piece of land her house dwelled on was overflowing with beautiful trees, and in the mornings you could sit outside and listen to the birds chirp and squirrels scurry about.

But the girl never knew this.

Every day, she would stay in her room, in the safety of the walls. You see, this girl was healthy and strong, but she was crippled. Each night she’d go to sleep counting the worries of the day like sheep, and each morning they would greet her when she awoke. The fear and anxiety she lived in was certainly crippling.

But the girl never realized this.

The girl had a loving father. He was so patient with her. Every morning he would come into her room and ask her to step outside and see the beauty that surrounds her; to experience life. He promised to protect her, to always be by her side, and never allow her to be overcome.

But the girl never believed him.

Over and over, he would tell her… My daughter, cast your anxieties on me, because I care for you. He would tell her that worrying won’t accomplish anything, and he would urge her to never be anxious, but instead, talk to him about her fears, because he was always there. He encouraged her to look at the birds in the sky and the flowers in the field, and see how well they are cared for. Did she not know her value was infinitely more than these? That he loved her more than life itself?

But the girl wouldn’t trust him.

She would tell him….Father, I love you, but this is just who I am. As long as I stay in these walls, I can protect myself. There’s too much that can happen outside, elements beyond my control. I would be too vulnerable. So, she chose to stay inside her tiny room, day in and day out, and dwell in anxiety.
The life that bustled around her, right outside her window, she never got to experience. She was capable of so much, she could do such great things with the help of her father, if only she would trust him. If only she would lay her worries in his lap, and let him carry them for her, just as he promised he would. And he never broke his promises.

But the girl couldn’t let go of her crutch.

Day by day, this healthy and strong girl would succumb a little more to her handicap. Yes, she certainly was crippled. This debilitating disease called fear would eat away at her, little by little, piece by piece, until she could no longer walk, for fear of falling. She could no longer open her eyes, for fear of the light.

But her father still pursued her.

One day, he found her all balled up in the corner, looking more sickly and weak than ever. He picked her tired body up, and carried her outside. Her eyes were weary from the tears her sickness brought, but when the rays of the Sun hit them, she was enveloped in a healing warmth.
He held her in his arms and carried her to a river. She cupped her hand in the Water and with each taste she drew, she felt the life within her coming back. He stayed with her there, promising that if she would only trust him, she would never thirst again.

And her father rescued her.

The girl looked around at all the good things her father had shown her since he found her in her room, so worn down and haggard. She couldn’t believe all the goodness that she had missed out on by choosing to live in fear. All the intentions her father had for her, she had wasted so much time.

But her father understood, and forgave her, and he told her he always would.

He reminded her of the promises he had given her throughout her life, the ones she once wouldn’t let herself believe, now surrounded her with peace, just as he had promised her.
And he never broke his promises.

Lord,
I’ve lived in fear my whole life. I’ve allowed anxiety to rob me of so much joy. Many times, I’ve traded in the peace of your presence for the fleeting feeling of control I have when I try to handle things on my own. Forgive me, and be patient with me, as I try, every day, to hand my life and the life of my children over to you. I know you have such good plans for them. Plans to give them a future and hope. Plans to grow them in righteousness, and continue in them the good work you have started. Break these chains of fear with me, I pray they don’t bind my children the way I’ve allowed them to bind me. Thank you Lord, for bringing me up from my bottom, and rescuing me. For drawing up beauty from ashes. Allow me to live in the freedom that comes with being your child. Thank you for loving me,

Dear Santa, I spilled the beans on you…

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—  and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works— and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” (Psalm 145: 3-7)

Dear kids,

This week we put up the Christmas tree. I bought a new one, a slim version so it would fit just perfectly in the nook beside the kitchen. I let y’all pick out some ornaments to put on, and we listened joyfully to Christmas music as we decorated. I made sure to show you the new manger scenes I bought, and I even found a big whale that I had to throw in the mix because it reminded me of one of our favorite stories to read…. Jonah. When we finished, we all stood back and admired our work. So full of joy, you both ran to the tree and gave it a big hug…..

OH, I LOVE YOU SANTA TREE!!

Those words, so innocently spoken from a 4 year old. Yet, they pierced my heart.

I’ve struggled this year with how to handle this holiday season. I’ve really felt God tug at my heartstrings, but I’ve also allowed Fear and Doubt to interfere. But at that moment of truth, when you poured out all of your excitement and joy for Christmas upon Santa, I understood the truth about cultural Christmas. The heaviness of just how much Santa competes with Jesus for the spotlight of the season weighed on my heart.

You see, that’s why 2 year olds know that Santa Claus is comin to town, but have to be reminded that ‘Jesus is the Reason for the Season.’ That’s why countless efforts are put into making sure that elf on the shelf is getting into new trouble each day, all the while making a mental note to put it somewhere near the Nativity Set one morning, so the kids will see that even an elf prays. That’s why there are countless resources out there that give new ideas on how to incorporate Christ in your child’s Christmas.

Ha!! I laugh in the face of that very definition of irony!

Where’s the articles on how to incorporate Santa and the Elf and his reindeer pal? You won’t find any, and you know why? Because that’s what comes natural to our worldly state of minds this time of year. And we have to consciously make an effort to see past the hustle and bustle to remember Who Christmas is.

You can sugarcoat it with all the candies and mistletoes, sugar plums and stockings that you want, but the ugly truth of the matter is this….

In our world, Santa competes with Jesus for the spotlight, and Santa is winning.

Kids, I have to take a stand. You just read those verses above about the magnificence of our Savior. Savor them for a moment….

………………………………………….

Now you tell me, why do we need anything more?

How could I purposefully teach you about a man that lives in a snowy wonderland, surrounded by all things good, and brings you every toy and treat you wrote on your gift list, and then expect you to focus on the Real Reason of Christmas?

Why would I, for one second, think that reading the story of Jesus, our King, our Savior, being born in a lowly stable would imprint your heart, when all you’re thinking about is if you’ve been nice enough to earn the visit from Jolly Ol’ St. Nick?

So that’s why today, I made the decision to set the record straight. I corrected your err and told you that this tree is not for Santa, and in a loving way, I taught you that the Spirit of Christmas doesn’t live in the North Pole.

And I pray you love me for it when you’re grown and reading this.

Because, I dare say, we will have the most fun of all as we celebrate Christmas each year. Daddy and I will glean with joy as we purchase presents for y’all to open in celebration of Heaven being sent to Earth. As we buy gifts for others, help others in need, decorate a fabulous tree, even bake our Christmas goodies, we’ll be doing it in the name of Jesus, the most glorious name of all.

God,

Never give up on me. Continue to pull and tug at my heart, even when I want to resist. Even when I’m scared to submit to it. Always show me Your Truth shining through the muck and mess that this world sometimes brings. Guide me as I pass Your Truth down to the next generation in the love and conviction You have planted in my heart.

 

Let the children come to Me….

“And He said: Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Today was a good day. It was one of those days that don’t come often, when I was able to just be a mom (less a few hours work during nap time…) but none-the-less…. I was really feeling the stay-at-home-mom vibe. So of course…. after I dropped my daughter off at preschool, I went to Target.

I took Will down the book aisle for him to finally decide on the ‘BIG TRUCK BOOK!!!’ and then I perused the kid’s movie section. I had this bright idea to get Hannah Grace a new movie to watch, while Will napped, and I worked. One caught my attention, and I knew she would love it….

Arthur: Brothers and Sisters.

I read the back first. I had to see what kind of time frame I was looking at here. This thing had to give me at least a solid hour of quiet time. It included 8 episodes all about brothers and sisters and new babies….. right up the ally of a little girl who has a few select baby dolls in which she cares for as if they are real. She dresses them, bandages them, feeds them. At a minimum she cares for them as well as I do my own real ones.

Cha-ching! A certain victory for Mommy. We waltzed to the car a happy pair. Will, with his BIG TRUCK BOOK! and me with the new movie that was sure to be a hit.

Fast forward to movie time……………………………………………………………………………………

She was indeed super excited about the new addition to the movie collection and couldn’t wait to watch it. I cozied her up on my bed, started the movie, and went to my desk to start a few work items that were calling my name.

An hour later, I was finishing up and so was the movie… perfect timing. We turned it off and she went to pack her a suitcase for the beach. (Which ps. is our living room rug and a blue blanket they jump on for the water….. the cheapest vacation in history…)

On a whim, as she’s pulling her pink suitcase down the hall… with every.outfit.she.owns.in.it bytheway…. she says something so unbelievable, so shocking, it took me my surprise.

“Mommy, I think we need to throw that Arthur movie away. And the books too. Cause I don’t like Arthur anymore. You know what it said-ed? It said-ed…. WHY DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO DO THE SAME THINGS I DO, DW??!!! And that wasn’t very nice and he was disobeying God.”

You could have picked my jaw and my heart off the floor.

So, like the good mother I am, I tried to talk her out of it. I mean, hello…. this child wants to throw out a brand new movie and 4 books. That’s like $50 worth of stuff!!!

And then God brought this verse to mind. And I realized. Hello… this child wants to throw out a brand new movie and 4 books. $50 worth of stuff. Stuff…. stuff that is contradictory to the Word of God.

And I saw in a whole new light what Jesus meant here. Oh the things I could learn from this innocent child who didn’t care that it was new, that it cost money, that it was a thoughtful gift. She only knew that it didn’t honor God, and she wasn’t supposed to have it.

Then, true to my nature, I started questioning myself… but should I take this opportunity to explain to her that Arthur made a bad choice, and even though other people make bad choices, we don’t have to do the same. And yes, you will see bad things on movies sometimes, but it’s not okay for you to do them….

So God brought another verse to my mind. One that was tucked away in my heart from back in my teaching days at a Christian school.

” If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a millstone hung around their neck and be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)

That’s a serious charge from our Savior, and you know what? He means what He says. After all, I am the one who put the movie in front of her eyes and ears. This charge from Jesus is often overlooked, but I see it as a vital verse to remember as parents.

So, I threw out the hogwash that was going through my mind right before we threw away the movie and the books.

And you know what? I’m praying God will show me the ‘stuff’ in my life that needs to be thrown out. Paying no attention to cost and sentiment. But focusing on the heart of the matter, in childlike faith and innocence, throwing out that which contradicts the Word of God.