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.

Coulda…Shoulda…Woulda…

Scan_48“Maybe you aren’t supposed to – this year.”
Through a knowing smile her gentle words permeated my heart.

It was Christmas Eve. Our family had just enjoyed dinner with friends. As we’re leaving, she quietly handed me a gift. Thanking her, I sighed with frustration, “Ughhh, I wasn’t able to bake cookies for friends this season. I’m so frustrated!”

Her response has lingered….
Does that ever happened to you? Someone’s words, linger.

Unbeknownst to her, this theme had recurred to me through an assortment of circumstances over the past few months.

I seemed to bounce back and forth between “I’m so frustrated! I REALLY WANTED to do that,” and “I feel like I SHOULD be doing that!”  In my mind, I was talking to myself. In my heart, I knew I was indirectly complaining to God.

When I’d think on my diffused effort, I consistently concluded, “I’m obviously not to do this.” Predictably, frustration, sometimes anger, fretting, or feeling sorry for myself followed. I wish it didn’t take me so long to recognize ‘obvious’ …

Sometimes I moved on and prayed… (Ahh, to remember to do this in the first place!)

Scan_49We moved to our new home in a new city on December 10. I hurried to unpack and settle our home, wanting all to be “just right” for our children as they came home. Then, on to decorating for Christmas… and on to Christmas shopping. Hurrying in my heart, while trying not to look like it on the outside to them.

I need to…  I want to… I should… played countless times in my mind.  Physically exhausted, I was mentally exhausting myself, too.

And then I got sick. Forced rest. Well, as much as a mom can rest in the days before Christmas.  I don’t like admitting that I rested only because I was sick…

“Maybe you aren’t supposed to…”

Upon reflection, I see how voids in my heart are exposed through the WANT’s and SHOULD-DO’s I entertain. Voids that can only be filled by HIS LOVE. Yearning that can only be satisfied through His peace.

Scan_50Do you ever toil like me, pushing yourself or your own agenda?  Rather than following His lead, taking on His yoke.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11.28-30)

On this last day of 2012, I pray for all of us that we will first seek Christ in all things. Inviting Him into our wants, releasing to Him the burden of the should-do’s, and embracing His will, with faith. Realizing how deeply He loves us, wants to take care of us, and yearns to show us how to walk through each day He gives us on this earth.

Dear friends, I am very grateful to Him for you. Your readership and comments encourage me. I hope and pray this blog is an encouragement to you.
I cherish praying for you daily.

Teresa