The Death of Santa

Before Michael and I had children, we always said we wouldn’t do the “Santa thing”. Didn’t want to lie, of course. Then, after we had Lilla, and we began to remember the magic and wonder it created in our lives as children, we decided to do one present a year from Santa. We try not to make it that big of a deal, the books we read and the stories we tell around this time of year have much more to do with the actual Christmas story than the North Pole and flying deer.

Of course, Lilla is a child and children are enamored by the whole idea of this big guy in red who gives presents and slides down people’s chimneys to eat all their cookies. Most kids pretty much leave it at that though, I think. Not my Lilla though. With Lilla, things are never quite that easy.
I was cleaning out the storage room yesterday when she wandered in and starting talking about Santa. I think she had been watching Rudolph. So she starts saying things about how nice he is, what kind of things he might bring, how we need to leave cookies, you know, the usual childhood concerns.

Then, out of nowhere she asks, “Does Santa ever die?” This, of course, floored me for a second. I don’t like lying to my children, I teach them it’s a commandment and it’s pretty serious according to Revelation 21:8. So, I took a deep breath and said, “Lilla, is there anyone who never dies?” She thought for a moment and said, “God.” I responded, “Right, and is Santa God?” She said, “No.” I then asked her if Santa ever sinned. She said that he did and we discussed how our sin is what causes us to die and so Santa would have to die too.
I then talked with her about how Santa is more about showing love and kindness to others. He is just
a guy who likes to give presents to people. And, in the end, that is something we should do too, think of others. Thinking about others before ourselves is in the Christmas spirit and what God wants us to do too. So, it’s not about what Santa brings but showing others kindness. We then talked about how truly the greatest Christmas gift was not brought by Santa but by given by God in the form of a baby.
She then went back to playing and what not and I was left there to consider how my own life in this busy Christmas time was revealing this story. And it made me grateful, grateful for a child that challenges me and reminds me what Christmas, and life for that matter, is truly about.
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Ah Chooooooo

Today is one of those days. One of those days when everyone in our house is sick. We haven’t been all summer, and it has been very nice. Last week was VBS though, and you can bet that the nursery had the germies. Doesn’t it always? My friend, who’s son now has bronchitis due to this same VBS nursery, was speaking to me today and said, “I’m thinking, Lord, I just served you all week at VBS, shouldn’t that at least get me a healthy kid for the week?”

Cute. And you know I’d already thought of that too, but of course it doesn’t work that way. We are never promised any special treatment or favors or healthy kids when we are serving.

My old pastor contracted podoconiosis while on a mission trip in Asia. That was some 20 years ago I think, and he still suffers with the side effects today. Corrie ten Boom, a strong Christian woman who saved many Jews, suffered in a prison camp in Germany during the Holocaust, where her sister then died. On July 5, Behnam Sabti, a Christian, died instantly when a bomb exploded under his car in Mosul, Iraq, according to VOM Canada and Asia News. According to local reports, Behnam was killed because of his “religious identity.”

Does any of that mean that God loves Corrie or my pastor or Behnam or my own daughter for that matter, any less? No, of course not. Does Jesus death on the cross mean that God loved Jesus any less? No, of course not.

I like how Corrie ten Boom, who I mentioned earlier and whose book, The Hiding Place, you should really read if you have not before, put it, “God does not have problems. Only plans.” And her sister? Who died inside the camp? Before she died she is quoted as saying to Corrie, ““There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

And those, those are words to live by.


The journey begins

There were crafts.

There were friends.

There was praise.

There were snacks.

There was teaching.

There were games.

There was water.

There were big fuzzy guys.

There was drama.

There was dancing.

And there was another year of VBS.

A true blessing

Yesterday, on my way into Wal-Mart, I was carrying Anna in one arm and pulling Lilla through the parking lot with the other, my big old purse dangling all the while. A kind gentleman walking beside me hurried in front of me to open the door.

He then said, “Wow, you’ve got quite the load there!”

I replied, “I sure DO!”

He shot back, “It’s not a bad thing though.”

Thoughtfully I said, “No, it’s a blessing.”

I could hear he and his companion behind me making Awe noises, to which I smiled. We then went our separate ways.

But as I placed the girls in their seats and started walking the massive aisles, the girls started arguing about this, whimpering about that and, of course, I became frustrated. My blood pressure is rising as I’m trying to cajole them into behaving, which, of course, is not working, which is making me even more upset. (Shhhh…don’t tell anyone but the only thing that works for us is Pringles. Another story altogether!)

Anyway, as I was rushing through the store, my voice raising and with my two little ones in tow, I suddenly remembered that simple exchange with the man at the door. These babies are blessings I said, but was I really treating them that way? Was I loving them with all my heart? Was I showing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control with these gifts I had been given?

No, I sure wasn’t. I was thinking selfishly of what I needed to get done, my own agenda, my own wants. I think back to the verse, “Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3

I’m going to be asking the Lord to write that verse on my heart and never let me forget what my babies are.

Nothing short of a blessing.


And so, my prayer today is, Thank you Lord for these blessings you have put in my life. Please help me not to take them for granted. Help me to love as you love, to show kindness, gentleness, peace, patience and self control, just as you would want me to. Thank you for loving me and showing me how to love others. Help me to love well. Amen.

Weeding

I love to garden. I love the fresh fruit and vegetables, the smell of the growing plants and I even enjoy pulling the weeds out. There is something healing about working your hands in the dirt and in the end having a bounty of food to enjoy the whole winter through. We still have mounds of peppers in our freezer just waiting for us to enjoy!

Last year we started out with seeds, most of which were not successful, so we wound up spending a fortune in plants. Of course that small fortune saved us money in the long run, but still, it was a bit pricey all at once. So, this year we decided to grow our own in one of those Jiffy professional greenhouse kits. Really, it’s just a plastic box with a plastic lid and a ton of dirt pellets inside, but it seriously works good! We couldn’t believe when we planted a seed and a week later, this is what we saw…
Amazing!

So how this works is that you plant several seeds in each pod and they just begin to grow. When they are big enough you widdle them down so there is only one plant in each pod. Clearly so they don’t kill each other trying to get the nutrients and water they need.

Well, it did not take long before we had to start weeding out the weakest links. Problem was, it was hard to tell the weakest from the strongest, they all looked the same! It was so hard for me to choose and difficult to say who gets to stay and who gets forever removed.
As I began doing the work of separation I started pondering how God does this in my life. Only, instead of the shared soil of greenhouse pods, it’s the shared soil of life. So many people and things that stand next to me look and seem healthy, they seem to be growing right along side of me, happily going about life together, and suddenly they are pulled right out. How sad it is as a shared life is suddenly removed and abruptly everything is different. So many people who I walked with in ministry and life, that I believed truly healthy, were not healthy at all. So surprising to me. But, of course, God is never surprised. Never has an A-HA moment.

So, I return to God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” As I look out over the soil of my life, I see how much healthier I am because certain things were removed, how much stronger I am because I was allowed to gain water and nutrients I wouldn’t have if others were taking from the same pod, and how grateful I am to be standing so much stronger as a result of God’s pruning and development in my life.
And so, my prayer today is: Lord, thank you for being so loving to me to care enough to weed out the bad things. Help me to be willing to let things go, to be obedient to your lead and to only bask in the light of your presence, as you are all I need today.

First

For as long as Lilla can remember I have been quoting the verse, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourself.” (Phil 2:3) Even before she could walk, I have tried to press it into her that when we think of others before ourselves, we are choosing the Godly path. Even more recently I’ve been quoting the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Luke 6:31)

So, it was no surprise the other night at the dinner table when I pulled some bacon off of my burger and handed it to her, she said, “Thank you mommy. You were thinking of me before yourself.”

Of course it was a bit of a proud moment as I thought, “Wow, she is really ‘getting’ it!” And, maybe a bit of a pat on the back as I thought, “Yeah, I sure was.”

But then, as I thought it over, I was almost embaressed at all the times I don’t think of others before myself. I gobble up all the Samoa cookies before anyone else can get them, I complain that my husband left the lights on so I have to turn them off, or worse, I don’t talk to others about Christ because it is inconvenient or time consuming.

Then I thought about how Lilla sees this too. How she sees me get frustrated over teaching her to ride a bicycle, watches as I leave dishes in the sink for days or tell her impatiently that she needs to wait while I finish writing my blog post. In all of those things, does she see me walking the path of sacrifice and real love? No, of course not. I’m not thinking of others before myself at all. And, a little bacon off my burger doesn’t make up for all those other “moments”.

So, my prayer today is…Lord, thank you for being the most perfect example of thinking of others before yourself for my children and I. You gave us your everything when you gave us Calvary Love. Help me to show Calvary Love today too.

Soap

For nearly three years, our first child, Lilla, was, to say the least, the sun and moon in our lives. It seemed nearly every thing revolved around this child. Since I was a stay at home mom, all my time seemed to be devoted to the care and love of this little girl. My attention was fully hers…and she loved it!

Two years ago, we were trying for our second child. We thought it would be great for Lilla to have a friend, but also wanted her to really realize that she was not first in the world. That she would need to share with others and begin to put others first. When we got pregnant, we knew the transition would be hard, but hadn’t quite planned for what would happen next.

Our once sweet child turned into a tantrum throwing, yelling, crying, disrespectful one. We were shocked at the way she was suddenly behaving. At first we coddled her, knowing she was hurt and upset, but then we started to get mad, which changed to concern for her heart. We obviously couldn’t let her be so disrespectful to us as we really believe she will treat all authority, including God, this way.

As we do believe in biblical discipline, we spanked, which did work somewhat for a time. The other night though she just began yelling at my husband because she didn’t want to go to bed. I could tell he was losing his patience with her and so I told him we need to try a different approach. We decided to deal with her mouth as that was where the problems were stemming and so he put the smallest drop of soap on her tongue. She gagged a little and after she was cleaned up she said to him, “Daddy, why did you make me vomit?”

Michael sat her down and said, “Lilla, Daddy didn’t make you vomit, YOU chose to be disrespectful, to not honor Daddy or God, to yell at me instead of obey. Daddy had to choose to obey God and discipline you in order to train you that you need to be respectful and obedient to Daddy and to God. You chose to not be loving and Daddy needs to train your heart to make good choices.”

She said, “OK.” And then she went to bed.

As I listened to this whole situation taking place, I was reminded of my relationship with God. How often He has to discipline me and put soap in my mouth. I do not enjoy the after taste, being disciplined stinks, to say the least. But, I surely continue to disobey, and so God continues to discipline. He does it because He loves me and He wants me to be loving to Him and to others, to make good choices. What a loving God to want to train me to make good choices and to ultimately be more like Him. To take time with Amy, who does not deserve His love or His grace. So grateful for my Saviour today…He loves even me.

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