Monday, December 24, 2012

Simply Jesus

Like many of you, I have spent a lot of time thinking... praying... reading... pondering, particularly this Christmas season since Eliana understands a lot more, about how as a family we should handle Santa. And Elf on the Shelf... I mean, he is a cute little fella, don't you think?

What you are about to read are my thoughts and opinions, and are in no way a judgement on how your family has tackled the questions surrounding these Christmastime characters. I recognize, though, that this topic can become very contentious, and for this reason, have disabled comments on this post. Should you desire to share your thoughts with me, you are welcome to email me at the address on the right side of my blog. That said, I hope you'll read on.

As children, both Spencer and I grew up in homes that "did Santa." I remember fondly writing him letters, listening to a message he left me on a cassette tape, leaving out cookies and milk and being amazed at how they were gone in the morning. As I got older, I started realizing that some Santas looked a lot more real than others, and eventually, as Santa would make his rounds through our neighborhood, I remember trying to guess whose Dad was dressed up as Santa that particular year. We would wait in line to sit on Santa's lap, run into Santa in various places as we completed all of our Chistmas-y tasks, and I remember singing all kinds of Christmas carols, including "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

And now as a mother, this is where I stumble.

Some in the Christian community would argue that by "doing Santa" and allowing your children to believe in him only sets them up to later doubt you about the truth of God's existence when you share with them that Santa Claus's existence isn't real. And for some, that may be true; and if so, it is a good reason to avoid Santa as "the guy who rides on a sleigh and brings gifts to all of the good boys and girls."

But for me, it's more than that.

As a mother, I want nothing more than to instill the truth of the Gospel and the love of Jesus in the hearts of my children. And I believe our society's modern-day inclusion of Santa is completely counter to that goal.

Let me explain.

Did you catch what I shared a few paragraphs back? That Santa is the guy who brings gifts to all of the good boys and girls.

Think about the words to the much-beloved song "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"...

You better watch out, you better not cry
You better not pout, I'm telling you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town.
He's making a list, checking it twice
Gonna find out who's naughty or nice
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you're sleeping,
He knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake.

Truly, I loved this song growing up. It was cheery, and joyful, and I was always convinced that I had been on the "good" list... or at least, I had been good enough. I remember, though, being legitimately afraid that if I missed up, Santa wouldn't come to my house. And while I was sad at the thought of him not bringing me presents, I was more worried about the fact that Santa would have been disappointed and that I wouldn't have measured up. I wouldn't have earned his visit.

Do you see the flaw here?

Our culture "does Santa" in such a way that children believe the gifts that they receive from him are based on their good behavior. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth of the Gospel.

Scripture tells us in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We can never be good enough to earn God's favor. The second half of Romans 6:23 says, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You see, Santa says, "Be good to earn the gifts I bring;" Jesus says, "You can never be good enough; the gift of eternal life that I give is free."

I don't want my children to grow up in a home where they think that gifts on Christmas or birthdays, the love of their parents, or most importantly, the love of God and offer of salvation is based on their behavior or works. I want them to know the Gospel and the love of Christ, and I want the decisions that we make as parents to be those that help foster their understanding of it.

So for us, our focus for Christmas is one thing: Jesus. Simply Jesus.

You may be wondering, then, how we handle the fact that Santa is everywhere, and that many families we know do the whole Elf on the Shelf thing. Foremost, we don't ignore Santa. To our kids, Santa is a fun, fictional character with made-up stories about him that we read around Christmas time. They liken Santa to Elmo, Mickey Mouse, or Dora. We have done the Santa train and breakfast with Santa, but it is treated the same way as meeting Bob the Tomato at the bookstore, or Clifford at Port Discovery.

Secondly, we have started to talk to Eliana (who will be 3 in March) about the real Saint Nicholas. In the spirit of that discussion, we have started to ask Eliana to look through her toys and pick out some that she no longer plays with for us to give away to other children whose parents may not be able to afford to but them toys. We have explained to her that God is generous and has given us more than enough; and so, we need to be generous as well... not keeping everything for ourselves, but as we are fortunate to get new toys, to then pass along those we no longer use. {As she gets older, we may change this some and have it make more of an impact by asking her to give more sacrificially; for now, though, in the mind of a 2-year-old, giving away ANY toy is sacrificial.}

Lastly, we tell the truth to our kids about who the gifts are from. We do give gifts to them on Christmas, and do so as a tangible reminder of the gift of Jesus that God has given us because He loves us. We tell them that we give them gifts because we love them, too. I grew up in a home where gift giving was extravagant... I mean, really extravagant. That is not the direction we have chosen to take with our own children. Of course I loved and appreciated the generosity of my parents; but if I am to be honest, for most of my childhood and teenage life, I looked forward to Christmas because of what I would receive and overlooked that One who as already given me everything I have ever needed. I focused on what I would get, rather than the gift that had already been given: Jesus. And so we are careful about how much we buy {many of which were second-hand this year} because we would never, ever want it to be about the gifts. We want it to be about Jesus. Simply Jesus.

I feel like our culture is so caught up in the "I know what I want, and I want it now" (remember that song?) mentality, and it is so easy to let that permeate every aspect of our lives, including the ones we had intended hold sacred. Black Friday starts earlier and earlier, and at this point, poses an interruption to family gatherings on Thanksgiving. Parents map out a black Friday strategy so that they are able to get everything their kids want {or they want to get them} from each store. Gifts upon gifts upon gifts pour out so far from under the Christmas tree that they may end up needing their own zip code. And when others see the enormous pile of gifts they remark, "Wow! Santa must have known you were really, REALLY good this year!"

I wonder if that's how the parents in Uganda, where a good friend of mine moved to establish a nurse-managed health clinic, think of Christmas. I wonder if they do black Friday. If we were to zoom out on our perspective a bit, I wonder how ridiculous this might just all seem.

Oh, how I long for more for my children. Not more gifts, more stuff, or more make-believe. I long for them to know Jesus and to think that He is the greatest thing. I long for them to know the joy in giving... generously giving... and how it is so much better than anything in this world they could receive.  I long for them to know that they have already been offered the greatest gift given: salvation through the One who came as a baby, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross for their sin... because they could never, ever be good enough to earn it.

So after a lot of thinking, praying, and talking with other Christian moms, this is where we have landed as a family. We have been asked many questions and have been countered with many arguments about why believing in Santa won't hinder their faith; why we need to let them believe in the "magic" of Santa at Christmastime; and how our kids better not ruin it for the ones who do believe in Santa {don't worry... we're working on that and I think we've got it covered :) }. The truth remains that when our children think of Christmas, they remember one thing: Jesus. Simply Jesus.  And we want all that we do to point to Him and His great love for us.

Some resources I have found helpful with this take on Christmas:

From our family to yours, we wish you the merriest of Christmases... praying that you can rejoice in the hope of our Savior.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Why I Didn't "Just Take Care of It"

It's been a while, hasn't it?

This post has been about four years in the making. I have started to write it several times, and have probably written it, in my head, from start to finish more times than I can count. I am not sure why now seems like the time to finally publish this... I know it is the Lord's prompting... but other than that, I don't know.

I starting crafting this post, at least mentally, shortly after we first learned of Isaac's complications in 2008. Upon tearily {or in reality, more like sobbingly} sharing the news with several people, some of them asked me point blank: "Why don't you just take care of it?"

Take care of it? Take care of IT??

To be honest, I was so stunned by the question, I didn't even know how to respond. Eventually, I did respond to each of the people who asked; but still, the question has sort of haunted me because it seems to make a statement about a very widely accepted view in our culture about the life of the unborn: "They aren't really people yet." "Children who are developing less than perfectly are expendable." "If the child won't live long anyway, why not just end it now?"

Let me be clear: This world view is completely counter to the word of God, and is, quite simply, untrue.

I didn't "just take care of it" because from the moment of conception, my child had value, dignity, and worth. He was not expendable.

 I didn't "just take care of it" because choosing to end the life of an unborn, yet fully alive child, is still killing a child.

I didn't "just take care of it" because by the time we had been given Isaac's diagnosis, his heart had been beating for weeks. He had fingers, and toes, and many of his major organs had already formed.

I didn't "just take care of it" because God is bigger than a diagnosis, and He is in the business of miracles.

I didn't "just take care of it" because I knew that any time I had with Isaac was better than none at all.

I didn't "just take care of it" because I knew that God would prove faithful, even if I didn't understand how.

I didn't "just take care of it" because Isaac wasn't an "it." Isaac was a "he".... my son.

But even still, some countered: "But it would be so much easier this way." "If he does live for a while, think about how hard that would be on your family." and even, "It is really hard for doctors to deliver a 'baby like that.""

It just didn't seem to end. From the moment of Isaac's diagnosis up until I was about eight months pregnant, there were questions... looks of surprise when I shared that I wasn't going to terminte the pregnancy... and even being chastised by some in the medical field for our decision to carry Isaac to term.

And all I could think was, "Really? Are they serious?" You see, I never knew Isaac to be a "ball of tissue." I never knew him to be a "fetus." I only knew him to be who he really is: My baby. My child. My son.

And really, that's why I didn't "just take care of it." He's my son. He has never been anything else. He was fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, and ALL the days of Isaac's life had been ordained before one of them came to be (Psalm 139). From the beginning of time, the Lord knew... He knew how Isaac would develop in the womb; He knew that his life would be 36 weeks 6 days in utero and 16 minutes outside of the womb.

As much as I hoped, prayed, and pleaded with the Lord that his life would be longer, that wasn't God's plan. It wasn't His design. My job as Isaac's mother was this: always protect him, always trust in the Lord with regard to him, always hope for God's best for him, and to always persevere through the tough stuff (1 Corinthians 13). Because, like the song "Unredeemed" by Selah beautifully explains, "When anything is shattered is layed before the Lord, just watch and see... it will not be... unredeemed."

And Isaac's life has been ANYTHING but unredeemed.

His life was redeemed thousands of years ago by the One who has saved him... when Jesus died on the cross.

His life has been redeemed by the Lord by drawing thousands of people closer to Him because of Isaac's story.

His life has been redeemed by the Lord when a few women who have written to me sharing that upon being given a fatal prenatal diagnosis, they were going to end their pregnancy.... but in hearing Isaac's story, chose otherwise.

His life has been redeemed by the Lord in using his life and story to encourage so many other women and families who have also lost a child.

His life has been redeemed by the Lord in using our wrestling for answers, grief, and heartache to cultivate hearts of compassion and sensitivity in his parents.

I could go on.

So why didn't I "just take care of it?" Because he's my son... and I love him more than words could express.

Friday, June 1, 2012

We're Back {with a few requests}

Spencer and talked a lot after so many of you contacted me asking to continue to follow my blog. First, I just would like to say that I so much appreciate your interest in our family, and all of the kinds words that were shared about how Isaac's life has impacted you and those around you.

So, because we deeply desire for the Lord to continue to use Isaac's story (and perhaps I just can't seem to make up my mind lately!) we decided that I would go ahead and keep my blog public.

However, I would like to request that for those of you who also blog:

Please respected the fact that what is shared her is deeply personal, and do not use any content on your own blog (to include post titles, parts of posts, photos, etc) without my permission. While my blog is not officially copyrighted, I would hope that those of you reading who also blog would be respectful of the fact that these are my words and thoughts, and not use them as your own. As you can imagine, it is disheartening to see others use your own content and pass it off as their own... particularly on a topic that is so sensitive and personal.

So with that.... we're "live" once again. :) I hope you will continue to join us here!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Going Private

After a lot of thought, I have decided to make my blog private for the forseeable future. Please know what we greatly appreciate the love, prayers, encouragement, and support you all have provided for us over the past few years.

If you would like to continue to keep up with this blog, please feel free to email me at Additionally, if you are looking to refer a friend who has faced a loss to my blog for encouragement, please email me as well.

This has been a difficult decision, as my greatest desire is for the Lord to continue to use Isaac's story to bring glory to Him. I hope that many of you will choose to continue to follow along with us on our journey, and that this blog will still be a place that can bring encouragement and hope to others.

Many blessings...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Long Overdue

Hello... It seems like it has been forever! I appreciate the comments and emails of concern. Truly, we have just been very busy and it has been hard to find the time to slow down enough to thoughtfully but anything about our day to day into words. But as a start, I would love to simply update you on what is happening! I am loving my time at home and not working. Well, let me rephrase that... Not leaving the house to go to work. :) As I am sure you know, staying at home to raise your children is a LOT of work... And it is the greatest job ever! I have been learning a lot about myself, and having two kids two and under definitely causes me to better prioritize the imperative versus the important...evidenced by the enormous pile of clean laundry beside me that STILL needs to be folded and put away. :) Eliana turned two in March and she is full of life and spunk. She talks all the time, and I am both impressed and amused by the things she often says. I love watching her develop a sense of empathy for others, including her stuffed animals, and to begin to devlop interests. She loves anything that requires movement, so it should come as no surprise that games of catch, running around outside, and dance parties are a typical part of our day. Eliana has learned to count to ten in Spanish and French, knows how to spell her name, and can usually accurately identify her letters and their corresponding sounds. I am amazed and what she picks up and how fast she learns. Her memory is amazing... Recalling details that in my haste, I often overlook. I love to watch her marvel at life's simplicities. Jacob is just ansolutely precious. He is incredible, amd has a smile(completebwith the sweetest dimple) that will meltm your heart. He is such an easy baby... Not a terrific sleeper, but sweet as can be even if he is tired. He just recently got over his first ear infection and is currently about to cut his bottom two teeth. He can roll from his tummy to his back, loves the bumbo seat and exersaucer, and laughs sweetly when you pull him up to a standing position and tell him how strong he is. He is captivated by the book "Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?" and is all around a complete joy. He is in diapers tnat are only one size smaller tha Eliana's, and I am pretty sure he will exceed her weight-wise by the time he turns one. He definitely takes after his Daddy! Spencer is a out to wrap up another school year and will continue to be pursuing an assistant principal position in the school system. We would appreciate your prayers that he would recei e that promotion this year. He has worked so hard to position himself for it, and I pray that God would honor his hard work and integrity. I am not writing this on my laptop where my pictures are, so I will add some updated photos at some point soon. It feels good to be back after a four month hiatus!