Do Your Kids Believe in Santa?

It’s the question we get asked over and over again this time of year. Here’s my answer typed out from a couple years ago. I hope you’ll find lots of grace in these words, as we focus on the greatest Gift of Christmas.

Eyes aglow and face full of excitement, my little boy jumped up and down exclaiming, “There’s Santa!! There’s Santa!! That’s the REAL Santa Claus, Mommy! Isn’t it!?”

Wrapped in the whimsical beauty of the cold night, we sat clapping and waving and hovering together under coats and blankets at the Christmas parade. From the moment those first fire trucks went driving by, Isaiah was enthralled. The lights. The bands. The baton twirlers. The candy. The precious living and walking nativity.

And then the sleigh came into sight. A jolly old man with a gleaming red coat and a glorious display, waved and gazed right at us as he said, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

the Greatest Gift

The exuberance and wonder and questions came spilling out as fast as they could from my four year-old boy.

And I felt baffled as to what to do in the surprise of that moment.

Do I proclaim Santa real, against all that is true?
Do I encourage the wonderful creative imagination that God gave my little boy?
Do I crush his excitement
(and the excitement of every other little boy and girl within hearing distance) as I point out the cotton fake beard and the wooden reindeer?
Do I pull him from the magic to remind him what Christmas is really and truly about?

As I quietly sat smiling, not knowing exactly what to say, I pondered just hiding right there under the covers. For I don’t want Santa to be dancing in the eyes and hearts of my children – Jesus, only Jesus, should reign there as King!

I let the moment pass, but as soon as we got into the car I could hear the conversations going on in the backseats. With unbelieving sisters, Isaiah continued to exclaim, “But I saw him! It was Santa! He was riding on his sleigh!”

Santa Claus

Now, typing it out, I see things more clearly. But in those moments of glistening joy lighting up his sweet face, besides for wondering why we hadn’t had this conversation already, all I could think of was one precious Christmas morning when I was a little girl with eyes sparkling.

As I recall – my brother and I woke up, ruffled hair, rumpled jammies, and excitedly took a peek under the tree to find no presents… NO presents! Had Santa missed our house entirely? Maybe we’d been too naughty? All of a sudden we heard footsteps in the attic. We ran up the stairs as fast as we could and searched between boxes and behind each and every thing. Finally, when we declared our pursuit a failure, we went back downstairs slouching in defeat. We closed the door and walked sadly around, until we heard jingle bells fill the air and the rumblings upstairs once again. We dashed to the door but couldn’t get it open. We pushed and tugged, until with eyes peeping out- saw boxes and boxes and boxes of presents. It was so much fun and incredibly enchanting!

Years later, as Santa in his jolly red suit continued to be a part of our Christmas celebration, I heard of what had really happened. I wasn’t angry with my parents for not telling me the truth. Although they had told a fib, I had thought it great fun to outsmart the adults as I figured it out for myself. Believing in Santa Claus (the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy) as a child did not stop me from believing the truth about Jesus.

the greatest Gift this Christmas

And so I understand the moms and dads who love God with all their hearts and still follow in these magical fantasy-based traditions!

But, for our family, we have prayerfully chosen to be different!

Our kids know of Santa Claus and how he is mostly fiction. They also now know of the historical Christian figure, Saint Nicholas (pronounced Sinter Klaas by the Dutch), the man who many years ago, as tradition has it, was kind-hearted and faith-loving and spent much of his time (when outside of prison) giving. I enjoy sharing the legends of this great example of a man, how he loved children and giving and most likely pointed others to Jesus. But, I also feel it’s right for our family, to tell them that he is no longer living. And to declare that just like each one of us, St. Nicholas will one day bow before the true Father of Christmas.

We still hang our stockings, have (too many) presents under our tree, watch “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and eat Santa-shaped cookies, but we are clear about the difference between truth and fantasy.

thoughts on Santa

what to believe at Christmas

It was so much fun for me as a child to believe in something that was not real, but my stomach gets twisted in knots now thinking of lying to these kids that God has entrusted to us (and breaking His commandment in the process). What if this one little lie, when they realize it is not true, causes them to stop believing in God too!?

Each Christmas season is so full already, running around frazzled and dazzled and jellied. To stop and appreciate the warmth and the beauty of the gift God has given, I realize now that we’ve had to pick and choose between what is important to our family, and which traditions to pour our time and lives into.

Even more than that, is the deep longing in my heart of hearts, to stop making Christmas about Santa Claus or St. Nicholas or anyone or anything else, and instead make Jesus shine above everything.

The story of this God become babe is already precious enough. The beauty and glory, anticipation and miraculous wonder can not be topped by a man with a pillow stuffed under his red suit, no matter how jolly, giving and enchanting.

Jesus is enough! He’s much more than enough!

And what I love, love, love to behold (especially when I’m feeling much like a Scrooge) is that our kids are even more enthralled with the miraculous beauty of the true story of Christmas! Each day they are completely wrapped up in which part of the Christmas story we get to read about. Their little eyes sparkle and they jump up and down when they finally get to give presents, even more so than receiving. And the glistening eyes, the joy brought to their hearts, the fun and the magic of this holiday season is all about Jesus!

There’s no greater story ever told. Full of passion, love, forgiveness, grace, and redemption. The man in the red suit can’t even compare. In fact he most often stands in stark contradiction.

For just in the custom of Santa’s list – the one where he checks who’s naughty or nice – our kids see the message that if they work hard enough to be good, without pouting or crying, and if they behave just as they should, then they will be rewarded with gifts from Santa. It’s legalism in it’s sneakiest form, where we try and we try and we try to be righteous. And the sad part with this tale is that we can never ever be good enough.

But the Gospel, the truly Good News story, is that Jesus took our punishment, that coal in our stocking – because that’s certainly what would be there if we’re honest. God sent His Son to a world so undeserving, in order to save us. A gift given freely; one that we could not earn – a most precious, eternal gift found not in a stocking! And that’s the most beautiful, wonderful drama I want my children to experience this Christmas. How beautiful that it all began with a virgin, and a manger, and a baby born to die as our Savior.

Do your kids believe in Santa

And my sweet Isaiah, whose beautiful blue eyes lit up for the man in the puffy suit with a fluffy white beard? (And now his little sisters who are right there along with him?)

The moment has passed, and we’ve had some heart-warming discussions – of Jesus and truth and of fun dressed-up people. I’ll ask him what Christmas is really about. He jumps up and exclaims, “It’s about Jesus being born to save us!” Usually no mention of Santa Claus crosses his lips, but every once in a while, with a quiet little smile, he’ll tell how he’s been thinking- that the kind man in the parade just maybe, just might be, the “real” Santa Claus.

How amazing to watch his little mind working. For here, as he wonders and ponders, he reminds me we all have a choice as to what to believe! I do not need to worry – for this is my boy that declares Iron Man his hero, finds the words “stinky diaper” hilarious, uses a ruler as a sword, sheds loud, big tears when his fire-fighter hat gets broken, wonders at Santa, and would easily join the rest of us on the “naughty list,” yet knows and can tell the true story of Christmas, as he makes his little toy knights and heroes and every little figurine bow before Jesus! I do believe there is hope for him yet!!! :)

Oh, how I know this is another tough subject! Where people who stand on both sides waste their time judging the other. Yet, I’ve been asked quite a bit about our family’s view on Santa. Although knowing that many will not agree, while others are shouting, “Amen!” I wanted to share just a glimpse into some of where God has led us – hopefully to shed a light without ANY judgment on the topic to those of you who do not agree or are just now trying to make a decision – and to encourage those of you that have chosen to tell the truth about Santa Claus too – that your Christmas can be just as special and whimsical (if not much more so) without him!

Yes, our children get asked by neighbors and friends, loving grandparents, friendly nurses, and strangers at the store what they would like Santa to bring them for Christmas… they either look puzzled as if to say, “Who’s Santa? I thought Christmas was about Jesus.” -or- they smile and wink and list off some things that they are hoping to get that morning. For while Santa Claus is mostly a myth in their eyes, we’ve tried to be respectful that others believe differently. Maybe it’s their age, and maybe it is the fact that they are homeschooled, or maybe something different, but so far we haven’t had any issues letting friends in on the secret. For although we feel quite strongly that Jesus should be the focus, we also want to be careful not to crush others’ dreams and traditions.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, as tip-toeing around this subject can be tricky, and I’d love to help my kids be prepared if one of their friends DOES ask them what they believe about Santa.

I’d love to hear where God has led your family and what you have chosen!

Hearts on Christ this Christmas!

Love to you all!

~Jessica

When Christmas Feels a Bit Like a Mess

Because sometimes maybe we all feel like a Christmas mess…

Maybe I shouldn’t have taken that quick glance at Facebook.

At that post by the mom who has all her Christmas shopping and wrapping and bow-tying done. And there were gingerbread cookies baking in the oven, and she managed to sneak out to Starbucks and was now pleasantly enjoying her Peppermint Mocha while she waited for the timer to ding. Oh, and her kids were the ones all smiling in the Christmas card that wasn’t all blurry and was sent in the mail the week after Thanksgiving.

our Christmas kids

And down I went scrolling through complaints and laundry lists of griping about the weather and the post office and those popcorn kernels that get stuck in your teeth.

The two newborn babies I got to see from afar redeemed my time just a bit.

But I couldn’t help but think that here we are all boastful or complaining – two different sides to the same coin.  And maybe Ms. Peppermint Mocha Mommy had a screaming child in the background, or maybe the gingerbread cookies got burnt because the battery on the timer died (ask me how I know), or maybe this was her only two point five minutes of bliss in the last week and I simply needed to rejoice with her. And Ms. Popcorn in Teeth Mommy!? Maybe she was going on four hours of broken sleep and hadn’t communicated with someone over three feet tall for the past two weeks since her husband was deployed – and, well, that’s all she could think of to type after attempting to string popcorn garland for their Christmas tree only to end up devouring the kernels when she didn’t have the energy to drag herself and the little ones along with her to the store for groceries.

Maybe we’re all just trying to hold on through the beauty, the glory, the wonder, the chaos, the tangled up mess of it all.

our kids

And so here I sit wondering if I am not the only mommy that feels like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree!? I’m fragile and frail and trying to raise my arms to the King. Yet with one glistening ornament, I bend and I break from the weight of just one small thing.

Though adorned with food-color-stained hands and embellished with an extra amount of glitter on face, on hair, in ears – the mothering and feeding and disciplining and scrubbing and teaching and loving – all continue and ring louder in my ears.

There’s giving and thankfulness and sharing and obedience to-not-touch-that-enticingly-beautiful-ornament-on-the-tree to be taught. And although always feeling a few steps behind, deep down there’s a longing, longing, longing to NOT make it all about the presents and the tree, but instead about the greatest gift of all – the baby who grew to one day die on a tree.

And maybe that’s where the tangles of my heart get pulled a bit tighter, for I truly want Him to shine the brightest. Yet in so many ways, if I am honest, I still see Jesus as a little perfectly wrapped baby in a manger with the cutest cows and donkeys gazing lovingly on.

a family celebration of Christmas

unwrapping greatest gift

There’s no doubt that the night Jesus was born was a beautiful, holy, miraculous night.

A night full of wonder and glory and brilliant adoration.

A night like none other.

Where a tired, young mother having traveled for days, found no place to rest for the birth of her baby.

Where the Christ child, the King of kings, the Son of God – was born – God became man. Laid not on a throne or a comfortable cradle, but a trough that had been made for the animals.

Where angels lit up the night out in a field, proclaiming the greatest news ever – that a Savior was born who came to change this world forever.

Where lowly shepherds, the outcasts of the day, came to the manger and knelt and bowed down. They adored Him and they praised Him as they went on their way.

advent book

the greatest gift

unwrapping the greatest gift

If I take a look closer, past the storybook pictures- the intricate, perplexing details of that night, seem to be twisted backwards and inside out. The sights and the sounds and the smells, many could not have been pleasant. Yet God showed us in the most precious way, that this little baby wrapped up in cloth was truly “God with us.”

Amidst the darkness and the mess and the conundrum He came – to the stinky, tattered, broken, hurting, tired, and shamed.

And the beauty of the story is that it is not finished yet. It has not come to an end. And you and I are a part of it.

The baby – He grew. He lived. He died. He rose. He reigns. He saves. He is God with us still today.

This is what I don’t want my children to miss.

God became man, an infant born to die, so that He might save us.

Christmas hugs

So I come though tired and weary, when things just don’t seem right, and choose as Mary, to serve, love, obey, and bless.

Me, through my broken, tangled up mess. My glitter covered hair. Grasping sticky little fingers. Through squabbles, real life, brokenness and wonder. I come as the shepherds, with little ones in tow, to fall at the feet of the King born in a stable.

And I celebrate will the angels as loudly and as gloriously as I possibly can, proclaiming the Good News to all who will listen.

beautiful Christmas kids

Waiting in line at the store for the gift that will bless… Taking time out of our day to sing of His goodness… Working out the squabbles and hurts of the day… Trying not to rush too fast to the rehearsal for the Christmas play… Picking up pine needles that fall from the tree… Untangling and finally hanging lights for all to see… Learning when it is good to say “yes”… Realizing when saying “no” is best Savoring the time with glitter and glue… Making ornaments telling of the Good News… Living… Following… Going about our day… Worshipping… Crumbling… Falling at His feet… Each moment becoming an opportunity to display honor to the One, who as a lowly babe, proved God came to save and He is with us still today.

Me as a “Charlie Brown Christmas tree” with the sparkle of tinsel in between my toes, a humble expression of how a tiny little baby has touched my life forever.

*We’re all really loving Ann Voskamp’s, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, this Advent. And I’m treasuring my quiet moments poring over the words in The Greatest Gift.*

Words Every Mama Needs to Read Today (Christmas Version)

words every mama needs to hear today

Maybe there’s been squabbling all morning long. Maybe there’s been laughter overflowing. Maybe that babe finally fell asleep in your arms, and there ain’t nothin’ gonna move you. Maybe those beautiful Christmas cards you thought would actually be sent on time just arrived on your doorstep with half the picture missing. (I’ll let you guess […]

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When Mommy is Tired (A Favorite…)

When Mommy is Tired

There’s been this much needed quiet in this online space. As I take a little more time to rest and breathe and live right where I’m at, I thought it’d be fun to share some of your favorites. And this one? Oh, I’m needing this reminder today. (Sent to you while hiding in my room […]

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Dear Daughters – What I Want You to Know on Your 10th Birthday

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Sure, your dad teases whenever our family tries to fit into a minivan that we’ll just have to get rid of one of you. As if we could just rip the two of you apart – you who have shared a womb and a decade’s worth of memories strung together. And your eyes dazzle at […]

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Miscarriage – You’re Not Alone

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I hung up the phone and crumpled to the floor. Tears streaked all blotchy and lungs gasped fighting for one more stale breath. Eleven years. But the semblance of having a baby ripped right out from the inside still leaves its ache. It was the first time in our marriage that we had to walk […]

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School At Our House (Curriculum 2014-2015)

Preschool-2014-2015.jpg

This schooling at home. It’s so much like other motherhood feats. There’s having everyone in the house all day long with piles of books stacked high in the way of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and little ones under foot while attempting a Science experiment. There’s an English book that needs to be shared two ways […]

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When Marveling at the Days Behind (Back to School Pictures 2014-2015)

back-to-school-2014.jpg

Sometimes you don’t know where you’ve been until you turn around and marvel at the moments turned days and years behind you. At how half a dozen kids in just as many years would grow in a blink. At how the reading about history while nursing a babe and the tears and furrowed brow over […]

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Sometimes There are No Words

Ellianas-baptism.jpg

It’s been two days and I’ve still got this giant lump in my throat and joyful tears in my eyes every single time I think of it. Who would’ve known that it would be like this? – That this man I’ve loved and made babies with would get the honor of holding our daughters now […]

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It’s a Beautiful Birthday Day!

the birthday girl

Did you realize the way I held you just a little bit longer last night? How I smiled instead of sighed when your excitement kept bubbling up and over and out of your room again and again as the clock ticked into the late night hours? And how all day I’ve tried to go slow, […]

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