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.

In Hard Times, Surprised by Peace

dsc01397As I turned the calendar page to December, I packed for a quick trip to see my Mom in South Carolina. Christmas decorating, shopping, and baking would need to wait until I returned to Houston. My birthday would fall within our visit, so I was particularly grateful for the timing of this trip. My sweet momma has Alzheimer’s. Thank God, she still knows me; she still knows my voice when I call. But the beautiful way that she celebrated her family on our birthdays is now a treasured memory in our hearts. My best gift this year would be her company.

Hours before my flight, I learned that Mom was not well. Of all the dates I could have chosen to visit, He secured this one in my heart weeks earlier. From that moment forward, awe:  You, God, are so good.

dsc01407So what do we do when our plan turns upside down and then spirals downward?
Sometimes a Plan B quickly emerges and all is well. Sometimes we have a pity party or a temper tantrum. And sometimes, we aren’t sure what to do. . . . Emotions stir, yet they don’t lead. Thoughts amass, but order is evasive. Then, whether we have prayed or not, God is faithful. He moves. He moves, for he was present in this moment before we came into it. He carries us THROUGH the hard minutes and hours and circumstances such that often we don’t realize this until much later—in awe and wonder of his tender care and provision in the unexpected hard.

dsc01389As I spent time with Mom in the hospital and later settled her back into her residence, God gave me an Advent gift that I’ll treasure always. Leaning against pillows, Mom and I sat on her bed and I offered, “Mom, it’s Advent. Let’s read the gospel stories of Jesus’ birth.” As I read, I glanced at Mom. Awe covered her face and two soft, child-like gasps of wonder made my heart pause…..O God, this holy moment with You . . . with Mom. Thank You.

God with us. Immanuel.

dsc01406Not long after I returned to Houston, Mom’s condition worsened, so I flew back. Every day was heartbreaking. By GRACE, she seems to be recovering slowly. . . What a different December. . . But, isn’t every December different? Our life and the lives of those we love unfold, and these experiences bring joy, laughter, grief, tears, healing, heartache, hope, and deepening faith in the One who remains the same and loves us the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow—Jesus, Immanuel.

dsc01401“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name ‘Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1.23)  Mary held the Prince of Peace, though her life circumstances were anything but peaceful. And God held her.

I reflect on this December and the depth of God’s peace that I experienced surprises me—in a very good way. So many emotions wrestled in my heart and often wore me down. Yet, Jesus lives there victorious over every hard time I’ll endure.  Immanuel.

dsc01409For all of us and every hard time that comes—May God’s peace that passes all understanding REIGN in our hearts.

My Advent Calendar

Happy Thanksgiving!  I pray that this week is a blessed one for you and your loved ones.

I want to share something with you. It is our family Advent Calendar.

Click here to print it out or view it.

When our children were little, they could answer the typical questions about the birth of Jesus, but beyond that and what they learned at church on Sunday, their focus was pretty much their Christmas list.

The countdown in our house was the same as it was when I was a little girl…  Just 20 more days til Christmas! (Til I get to open my presents!) …15…10…5…1!

I knew I couldn’t replace that anticipation. But, I could enrich it – the OTHER anticipation.  Anticipating JESUS.

So I designed this Advent Calendar.  Our family has enjoyed using it over the years as a means to maintain (or gain) focus on Christ in preparation for Christmas.

This is how we use it:

1. Before Advent begins, fill in the “Pray for” as a family. Then explain how the calendar works. Share that the whole family is participating, but the only thing you’ll do together is the Bible verses.

2. On the first day of Advent (This year it’s December 2.), at the beginning of the day, read (or a child can) who to pray for that day. Agree to try to remember to pray for that person throughout the day. Give ideas for what to pray: God bless Nana. Help her have a good day… Heal __ … Help __ …

3. Also, announce the “kind deed”. At the end of the day, everyone can share how they “accomplished” the kind deed.

4. Bible verses: Do this at a time and in a way that suits your family!

Our family read the verses toward the end of supper (A couple of cookies after the meal helps!). Ask a couple of simple questions. Depending on their ages and the amount of time you have, attempt to enter into brief conversation about the verses.

5. Keep the calendar in a central place – like the refrigerator. As our kids got in a rhythm about it – or could read – they would check it themselves or ask “Who do we pray for today?” and “What do we do today?”

6. We made an Advent wreath and the children took turns lighting it at supper. (optional)

Throughout the month pray for God’s help:
for the children’s participation
for the devotional time
FOR ALL OF US TO PREPARE OUR HEARTS FOR JESUS.

Relax and have fun with this as a family. I pray that it will a sweet time to encourage, laugh and grow together in Christ.

Have a blessed Advent!