What I Learned As A Mom About Sharing Two Stories: Savior and Santa

When I was a little girl, my parents shared the story of Santa, and my brothers and I were all caught up in the seemingly magical event—so much so, that before our home had a real fireplace, Mom and Dad would set up a 5-foot-tall cardboard fireplace for Santa to come down and none of us doubted that this would happen. Yeah, I know, really? And then, eventually, each of us ‘didn’t believe’ any more. My conclusive clue was the price tag dangling on my new bike. . .

Thankfully, Mom and Dad also shared  the story of Jesus’ birth in their best way.  We didn’t have a Bible or videos or colorful books, but we had them. They told us the story, played Christmas hymns (along with songs about Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty), marked the Sundays of Advent with us, and took us to church.

Moms share with me their wrestlings regarding Santa. I had them, too, when our children were little.  The Santa story is an option. It’s not a parental command performance.

Telling our children about Jesus is a responsibility.

Santa is like Mickey Mouse or Cinderella. He’s a character in books and movies and seems to be real when someone dons the character costume. He’s an option for enjoyment as we enjoy escaping into our imagination. He only becomes more if we make him more. Pray. Discern God’s leading for you and your family and go with this.

The most important story to us is the one we will talk about the most, the one that our home reflects, and the one that we are most strategic about for our children.

Terrell and I did tell the Santa story as a small part of our children’s home experience of Christmas. They had their picture taken on Santa’s lap, just like they had their picture taken with Disney characters in Disney World. When they came home talking about Santa-related events from school, I focused to be interested in them—and not the message of the activity. We made Christmas lists, baked cookies, sang carols, and watched some of the same Christmas classics on television that Terrell and I watched when we were kids. We read stories about Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty the Snowman—and we read storybooks about Jesus being born.

Our central, overarching emphasis was the story of Jesus’ birth and God’s love for us. We made an Advent wreath, lit it’s candle most nights, and shared devotionals at supper to build up to marking the birth of Jesus. Some days I used my parents’ old plastic manger scene to act out the story with the children, and then I let them play with it. In time, they wanted to show and tell me the story. Cute memories remind me of how much they absorbed. 

Yet, in my heart, I wrestled with the largeness of the secularization of Christmas and how to raise our children as we lived in the middle of it. My prayers were a mixture of vents of overwhelm and whispers of trust–God, draw their hearts to You. God helped me see that this challenge wasn’t something for me to win. Rather, it was a challenge to persevere through— to follow God’s lead, pray for each child’s heart and mine, and trust Him—that He is at work in all of us and that He is bigger than all of this.
We get to set tone and direction for our home, and the bent of our heart inspires this.
I had no idea of this at the time, but those years prepared me to realize that I would need strategy for our children regarding every worldly challenge that would come.
As our children grew and out grew Santa, the main challenge still presented:  How do I lead and influence our children to recognize the significance of learning about and contemplating the birth of Jesus … while at the same time participating in the glittery holiday atmosphere of decorations, parties, and exchanging gifts?

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for coming to earth for me, for my family, for this world. Fan into flame love and awe for you in my heart. Teach me how to share you, both boldly and gently. And may your love in me bend my heart to set tone and direction for our home. Amen.

Counsel That Leads Us Forward

“I don’t know what to give her.”
“I can’t decide whether I should let him go to that–or not.”
“I don’t know how to have this conversation.”
“I not sure how to handle this situation.”

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9.6)

Wonderful Counselor.
God desires that we know Him as Counselor—and He doesn’t specify ‘only for the big stuff.’

Any time of year, we have decisions to make, circumstances to deal with. Some are big; others are small. Yet sometimes the smallest matters stress us out or keep us up at night. Or, we think about it so much, that mental exhaustion plagues us.

Maybe we unintentionally categorize things that warrant prayer and things that are too trivial to ask God?

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4.5b-6)

“In everything” includes the trivial and every category of life. When we talk and listen to God, we practice having relationship with Him. We draw nearer to our Shepherd and learn to discern His voice. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10.27)  Relationship.

Instead of only thinking about something, ask God and learn to listen for His guidance. This season can be extra-busy.  Pause to practice prayer—to seek God’s counsel—as you drive to work, take a walk or jog, wash the dishes, shower, wait in line, sit on hold on the phone . . .

Practice with the small stuff. Consider this:  Your friend or child seeks your counsel or advice for a small matter like: Which shirt should I wear?  Do you think I should go to that? What should I give him for Christmas? Your availability communicates value, support, faithfulness. How much more does God desire that we experience His steadfastness?

The simplest of counsel is sorta like a recommendation: Lord, which would be the best appointment date? . . . Please show me who I should ask to lead this committee? . . . When is the best time to tell them the news?

When I began to practice praying about the small or trivial, God grew my confidence that He really is with me all day and all night. Plenty of times I didn’t receive a clear answer, but His peace guarded my heart from worry as I made decisions or moved through a long hour. He became my Wonderful Counselor, sometimes providing a person as His tangible vessel for me to talk with at just the right moment. He grew my understanding of his love as Father—He doesn’t grade what we seek His counsel about; rather, He delights that He is the One whose counsel we seek.

Practice. Then, when the big decisions or circumstances come, discover that God has built a solid foundation of faith in your heart. Your relationship is intimate, and your dependence is strong.

When we seek God, we decide to believe that God’s way is the wise way. And even if we aren’t sure of his answer, we trust that He is with us and leading. He grows us to know Him as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Dear God,

You know our need before we ask. Thank you for counselors that you provide in our life—professionals, family, friends, acquaintances—who seek you and serve as tangible vessels of your counsel and point us to you. Especially, prompt us to pray as we move through our day, to trust that you want us to come to you in everything, that we will know you personally as our Wonderful Counselor. Amen.

How To Pray When Our Mind Is Spinning

Sometimes my mind spins in so many directions that I stress my self out. I can’t focus or settle inside. Then I get frustrated, which seems to fuel my spin pace . . . and I just wanna scream or cry or run away for the day.

. . . There’s that project I need to tackle, but I’m not sure how best to approach it, so I just keep putting it off. There are calls I want or need to make, only I can’t seem to find the right time when there’s enough time to talk. Always, there’s that pile on the counter that I need to just deal with—but, y’all, every time I remove two items, at least four more materialize. What’s with that? And then there are those matters that I simply need to think through, process, and weigh, yet allotting time for those seems to require that I sacrifice  time earmarked for something else. Do you ever feel like this, or is it just me?

So the other day, when I was having one of those days, I vented, God help me! I guess I halfway expected Him to transform everything right there on the spot—which He can do, because He’s God. But that didn’t happen.

What did happen is God got my attention. All along He was with me . . . I just wasn’t with Him. My mind dwelt on the pile of things I needed to do and how inadequate I felt to accomplish most of it.

God waited for me to turn to Him—to take my thoughts and feelings to Him and dwell in Him. All along, He was right there, holding me. Our loving God holds you and me. Do we talk with Him as though He’s holding us? You and I are His Beloved. BELOVED. When this is my approach, I feel secure.
Try it.

When we turn to God, we practice trusting Him. We decide to rely on Him. Instead of leading our way, we ask for His.

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5.3)

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (Psalm 56.3)

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62.8)

Welcome God in to your thoughts—as you drive, wait in a line, take a walk, vacuum, shower, or stare at that pile on the counter.

God, I commit this day to you. Help me be present to your presence today.
God, I am overwhelmed. Please help me unload all this to you.
You are faithful. You are with me. I am your Beloved.

Invite Him to join that conversation. Better yet, ask Him to lead you through—with your boss, a co-worker, your husband, child, a friend.

God, help me only say what you want me to say.
Give me understanding, insight, and grace.
Please heal, strengthen, and grow this relationship your way. 

Include Him as you think through that project or assignment, ponder that looming decision, or consider the best way forward in a challenging relationship.

God, I don’t know how to go forward. I need your wisdom and guidance.
Please protect me.
Help me trust you, discern your will, and follow you.

Live like a lifelong learner. Every day we learn and practice. When we pray, we practice relying on God. We draw near.  Try it.