The Case For No Santa

 

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Every year I have a few conversations about this whole no Santa thing. I’m happy to write about it because I think it’s a conversation worth having. Lots of people agree, lots of people disagree, lots of people “understand”. For us, this was an easy choice as soon as we put some actual thought towards it.

I used to not question things. I used to just do what was considered normal, without consideration. There was a time when I assumed my kids would believe in Santa; that it would be a normal part of our Christmas. Like I said, I actually didn’t even think about it…it was just stored somewhere in my brain, and any envisioning my family at Christmastime included Santa. He was just there, because that’s what I knew, and what everyone else did. As I’ve grown and realized not everything that is “normal” is good, I’ve learned to question things. To stop and evaluate why we are making the choices we make. This is a decision we made well before having kids, and one we would hope other people would respect.

Jones is 3. He doesn’t know who Santa is. Sometimes we pass by a gift bag with that bearded face on it, and I ask him if he knows who it is…just to see if he’s picked it up somewhere. He hasn’t yet. Not because Santa is voodoo, but because we just don’t talk about him. But let me tell you what he does know about. Presents. I realize this is partly my fault, and I haven’t focused enough on celebrating the miracle of Jesus coming to Earth, to dwell with His people, and perfectly atone for our sin in His death on the cross. But let’s be honest. That isn’t super interesting to my 3 year old. I mean he can hold like a 3 minute conversation about it before changing the subject. But presents. He remembers that part. He remembers the Christmas trees, the lights, and the presents. And he really loves and enjoys each of those things. On Christmas morning, when he is surrounded by 15 gift bags (he has lots of loving aunts and uncles), he is not missing out on the “magic of Christmas” or whatever. I promise. He does not need Santa to get excited about Christmas, and he doesn’t need Santa to distract him from Jesus. He is plenty distracted as it is. I understand, because I’m just as easily distracted, even though it has nothing to do with a man in a red suit. My point is that it is difficult enough in this season of gifts, family, traditions, busyness, hustle and bustle to “remember the reason for the season”. We do not need another distraction. For myself or my kids. I hear all the time “we do Santa, but we teach our kids that Christmas is about Jesus” in some form or another. But I think we should know as adults, that Santa is a bit more appealing to children. That if that is part of our Christmas, that is where the focus will be for our kids.

As a Christian, I am called to honor the Lord with my life, and to point others toward Him. It is my responsibility to raise my kids in knowledge of truth and love for the Lord. The most basic reason my kids won’t believe in Santa is because we will never tell them that he is real. Because he isn’t, and we will not lie to our kids. Can we all just admit that telling our kids Santa is real is a lie? Sure we could go into all the history about St. Nick and where the whole idea came from, but Santa has been hijacked and he and St. Nick are not the same guy. We aren’t so attached to Santa that we need to look for a reason to make him okay to include in our holiday. Lying to our kids isn’t honoring the Lord, and it isn’t teaching them what is good and true. Lying isn’t something I want to model for my kids. Kids don’t intrinsically know who Santa is, they are taught to believe in him. Santa is talked about and treated as though he is a real person. We won’t encourage our kids to believe something is real when it isn’t. We don’t do that with any other fictional characters, why would we with Santa?

I know people say it’s harmless, but I disagree. And maybe some people never actually tell their kids Santa is real, but I don’t think there is much of a difference in saying it and leading them to believe it. A lot of it has to do with the kind of relationship we want to have with our kids. We want them to trust us in everything, but most importantly, when we tell them who Jesus is and what He has done for us in dying a death that we deserve, allowing us to be in right relationship with the Father, and spend eternity with Him, we want them to believe us!

We aren’t like super-spiritual, or think we’re better than everyone else because we REALLY love Jesus, and we’re really gonna focus on the true meaning of Christmas, and everyone who does Santa says they love Jesus but really they don’t love Jesus that much. We know there are godly people that do the Santa thing. I can’t say I understand it, but I know that my way isn’t the only way. We aren’t searching for some deep purpose in everything we do (not to say that we shouldn’t). We have a Christmas tree for the first time this year (because it didn’t quite fit in the budget other years, and this year my father-in-law bought us one), we do presents, we drive around looking at Christmas lights. We do all of those things because we enjoy them, and think it is beneficial to enjoy this holiday season, but we can’t say the same for Santa.

I do think the fact that many people can’t separate Santa from Christmas is pretty telling. Santa equals fun for so many. Santa equals a special part of childhood and fond memories. Literally, people have made comments to the effect of “Christmas must be so boring for y’all.” Some people actually go so far as to say it is beneficial for kids to believe in Santa. All that mumbo-jumbo about teaching them to believe in something they can’t see. But it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me to teach that lesson using someone who is not real, when we can teach them about God, who they can’t see, who is real. There won’t be disappointments at age 8 or 9 (or whenever kids learn the truth about Santa), because God will still be real.

Some people use their parents/families as a case for doing Santa. My family probably thinks I’m pretty weird at this point, so they probably weren’t too surprised when I mentioned this decision. But opinions of my family members are not enough to cause me do something that I believe is not beneficial.

“Well, what about if they ruin it for other kids?” you ask.

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t really care. I’ll probably lose friends for saying that. Of course, I will do my best to teach them to not talk about it with other children, duh. Unfortunately, they will be 4 and then 5 and then 6 and they probably will still not do everything I say. But I think we have to understand something. If our kids believe in Santa, who is not real…at some point, someone is going to ruin it for them. At some point, the truth comes out. So it seems to me that if someone ruins it for your child, you should be mad at the person who made them believe something that wasn’t true in the first place. (I know, do I even want people to read my blog anymore?!?!) Because they wouldn’t be upset that Santa isn’t real, if they hadn’t ever believed he was. We are so used to blame-shifting that we’ve found a way to fault others for a mess we got ourselves into. I find it extremely backwards that we would take our anger out on someone who tells the truth, be it parent or child, when we’re the ones who set them up to be disappointed. Unfortunately, I cannot control that anger, so again, believe me, I don’t want my kids to be the ones running around yelling “Santa isn’t real!” so we’ll do our best, but we made this decision knowing we can’t control everything that comes out of our kids’ mouths. And if you are making the decision to teach your child that Santa is real, then I think you should accept that with it comes a risk that they will find out the truth, and that there are people in the world that are not going to cover for you, and even that there are people that will accidentally say something in front of your child that gives it away. Of course, for some parents it’s not about their kids being upset, but about the death of Santa in their house. Sometimes, the parents are more attached to the whole idea, and more upset about them realizing he isn’t real, than the kids are.

I grew up with Santa. I wasn’t upset when a friend told me their parents had said he wasn’t real. I don’t think kids who grow up believing in Santa will be scarred for life when their little hearts are crushed. They will get over it. Of course, people can say we’re making this big deal out of something that isn’t really a big deal. But if it isn’t pushing us towards Christ, isn’t it pulling us away? Is an added hindrance really worth it? If we can’t imagine Christmas without Santa, aren’t we proving the point that celebrating the birth of Christ is not our supreme focus?

It feels like there is this immediate backlash towards those of us who have chosen to leave Santa out of our Christmas. There is this immediate justification of why Santa is okay and even good. But I hope we can stop defending our stance long enough to actually consider whether it really is the most beneficial thing for our kids. If we come away deciding Santa is essential to celebrating Christmas, then at least we’ll have taken the time to think about it, and can incorporate him into the holiday with a clear conscience.

Photo credit: pipnstuff / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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To The One Who Bails

I’m not sure when it started, or if it’s always been this way, but we have a problem.

Flakiness.

Flaky Christians. Christians who don’t keep their commitments.

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We’ve all been there. Waiting for that person to show.  Or been the one cancelling last minute.

This weekend, my kind sister was hosting a meal in her home for some friends. Several people, a couple weeks in advance, committed to coming by saying “Yes, I will be there.” In the days leading up to the event someone dropped out, someone else cancelled, another person bailed. You see where this is going. What was supposed to be a big meal for several friends turned into a bunch of leftovers. My sister went to the grocery store, bought groceries with money, spent her whole day cooking and cleaning, and then had almost every person flake out. She’d invested her time and money into this thing. She spent the day preparing when she could’ve been spending valuable time with her son, or catching up on her own to-do list.

I understand things come up; legitimate things come up all the time. But we all know, typically, our excuses for not keeping our commitments are not legitimate. Often times, we break our commitments because we didn’t plan well. We didn’t spend time earlier in the week doing all the things we needed to do…the laundry, alone time with our spouse, studying for that test, preparing for that deadline…in order to make sure we had time to show up to that thing we committed to a few weeks ago. Other times, we cancel because another option opened up that we liked better, whether it was a different gathering, or sitting at home on the couch.

I felt so sad and mad for my sister. Because I knew exactly how she felt. I’ve had friends cancel on me. I’ve had people that I was relying on for one thing or another, not show up. I’ve had people commit to volunteering for events, or say they would help me with something, and then “not be able to make it”.

The thing is, we all have the same amount of hours in a week. Most people don’t show up because they have extra time, or because they just happened to finish everything else they needed to do. They show up because that was the plan, regardless of what other plans didn’t work out just right.

I work at a school, and I can tell you, this idea starts early. This idea that we can just change our mind if it suits us. I guess there’s this idea that you can’t be held accountable for things when you’re in high school, because maybe you can’t drive, or you can blame your parents whose plans don’t exactly line up with yours (I’m merely stating the way it is, not that it should be this way). But somewhere around going to college/turning 18, you become an adult whether you want to or not. And as adults, we should know our decisions affect other people. I’m so thankful that early on in my adult life someone explained to me that it’s not ok to break your word.

James 5:12 says “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”

Christians, we are called to be reliable. We are called to keep our word. We should be people of good character, people that honor the Lord, and others with the way we live. We should be considerate, humbly counting others more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).  When we say “yes”, it should mean yes! Not that we will change our mind in a few days.

I want people to believe me when I tell them I will see them Tuesday, or whenever. I hope that I am that trustworthy. That when I tell you I will be there, you don’t doubt it at all, because here’s the problem. When we aren’t reliable, we aren’t representing Jesus very well. Jesus, the reliable, unfailing, trustworthy Savior of the world. The One whose life, death, and resurrection we can count on. The One whose steadfast love endures forever, whose grace abounds always, whose mercies never cease.  If we want others to think well of Jesus, they need to think well of us. The world is watching us, y’all, and flakiness is not godly.

When Thriving Feels Far Off

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As a mom to 2 little boys, I read a lot of blogs and things that seem relative to my life. I think that’s normal? I’m attracted to headlines that 1) offer me help, 2) commiserate with me (just being real here), or 3) encourage me. I’m not sure if it’s a new trend, or what, but it seems there’s a lot of talk lately about how we as moms of little children should thrive, or flourish. Those two words, I’ve heard a lot recently. And it seems to me like all of a sudden moms everywhere woke up and realized we’ve been doing things all wrong. All these moms are experiencing this unanimous epiphany about how merely surviving is not enough, while I’m still over here sleeping. I’ll be the first to admit parenting is HARD, I’m probably doing it all wrong, and I need all the help I can get, but it somehow feels like an added burden, a reminder of another area in which I fall short.

Making it through the day with just enough energy after laying the kids down to throw yourself onto your own bed? That’s not good enough. Barely getting through that conversation with your 3 year old without screaming your head off? Nope, not good enough.  You may only be getting a few hours of sleep per night, you may not have eaten a real meal in a week, you might be trying to balance mom, wife, and career duties, but you better be kicking tail while you’re doing it!

Initially, when I think of what it looks like to be a thriving mom, I think of someone who shows up everywhere on time, hair and make-up done, with kids who don’t have snot all over their face or dirt under their fingernails. Someone who has time and energy to cook dinner for other people, host parties, volunteer in ministry. I think of someone who has it all together. And y’all. That ain’t me.

Isn’t it funny how we can twist something that’s meant completely for good, and find fault in it? Take something that’s meant to offer freedom and grace, and allow it to hold us captive? The thing is, this call to thrive, to flourish, it’s not meant to be a burden.

Jesus says in John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

In the very offer of abundant life, the thief is busy trying to rob us. The enemy loves when we’re tired, worn down, defeated. He wants me to believe that thriving is out of reach, that life to the full is unattainable, to settle for less than.

This year has been a little hectic for my family. My husband changed jobs, and then changed careers. We’ve moved 3 times, living in someone else’s space for the past 7 months, 3 of those consisting of me and the boys living in one city and my husband in another. Let me say, we have some AMAZING friends and family that have housed us over this time. Hospitable, gracious, selfless people. We are so, so, so thankful to have such wonderful people in our lives. But the year has been full of transitions and unknowns. I wouldn’t for a second try to convince anyone that I’ve been soaking up every precious moment, cherishing each day, relishing the season we’ve been in. It has been hard, and really, really unpleasant at times.

Most moms will tell you, we are tired. This season of raising little kids is tough. Exhausting on many levels. And life has a way of forgetting that you’ve got little kids and you’re already tired from keeping these little humans alive, all the while trying to nourish their little brains and spirits, and sometimes it tosses something else your way when you’re already at the end of your rope. Sometimes, when it rains, it pours, you know? To be honest, surviving is just about my only goal some days. Thriving? Maximizing opportunities and delighting in every experience offered to me? Not so much.

So, how do I experience abundant life, when my circumstances are undesirable? How do I live life to the full, when it feels like life is throwing punches?

I’m sometimes tempted to believe that “life to the full” is lived out in the form of nice vacations, lots of friends, a good reputation, comfort, ease, fun. But a quick look around, and I know that’s not true. I have seen people with much less than I living rich lives. I have been in houses made of mud and witnessed life to the full within those very walls. Everywhere you look there are people going through really hard things. And I know that Jesus’ offer for them is the same.  Abundant life is attainable. It isn’t limited to those with favorable circumstances, or money in the bank. It is for the broken, the lowly, the hurting, the sick. It’s for the beggar, the blind man, the woman at the well, the widow, the orphan, the refugee, the single mom, the outcast. This offer is there for the taking, despite where we find ourselves. And it is found in relationship with Jesus. It is in those quiet moments when He speaks straight to my heart. It is in the encouragement and prayers of dear friends. It is in soul-filling conversations. It’s in communion and intimacy with the Father, that transcends circumstance, and in the truth that HE is so, so much better than anything this world has to offer.  It is not something so fleeting as happiness, success, financial security. It is HIM. Getting to walk through this life here and now, with Him, and the promise of eternity, with Him.

So often, I believe the lie that life to the full is somewhere off in the future. When we get out of debt, or finally own a home, when my marriage is better, or my kids are older. But I’m so thankful that the Lord’s promises are not dependent on me having my crap together or what stage of life I’m in.  I’m also thankful that on those days when it is all I can do to make it through, those days that I’m already completely spent by 8 am, those days when surviving is all I can muster up, He will meet me there with his big, deep grace, and love me through. That He is faithful through it all, in times of plenty and of want, joy and sorrow, good times and bad.

“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

To Engaged And Newly Married Couples Everywhere

My husband and I recently celebrated 4 years of marriage, and by celebrated I mean said “Happy Anniversary” over the phone from different cities. With just a few years under my belt, I am hardly an expert on the topic.

There’s something I’ve noticed recently. I’ve seen and heard it a lot from engaged/newly married couples. The complaints about people complaining about marriage. I know exactly what they are talking about. I felt that way once, too. I even added to the noise. The warnings grow old, you get annoyed. Everyone hears it at some point. If you’re engaged or happily married, undoubtedly, someone will warn you about the doom you are facing. Many will talk about marriage as though it’s a death sentence. Talk about “the ol’ ball and chain” or signing your life away, or all the freedoms you are giving up. And it makes you want to scream about how your marriage will never be like that. How you will always be happy and you will love and cherish your spouse forever. I get it.

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I’m at the age where a lot of my friends are married, and a lot of them aren’t. With a million articles running across my Facebook news feed each day about “Mr. Right” or “How You Know You’ve Found The One” I think it’s obvious that many people are really confused about the realities of marriage. The way people post on social media makes it sound like marriage is one long romantic date. Or that even the mundane “sittin’ at home watching a movie” is always awesome when you have the one you love by your side. Don’t get me wrong, I mean I would much rather wash the dishes with Johnathan in the room…or even in the other room for that matter…than not at home at all. But that idea that everything is wonderful all the time when you’re in love paints a pretty incomplete picture.

There’s this idea that the emotional high you’re on when you’re dating/engaged/newly married should never die. Which is appealing enough when everywhere you turn there are married couples that don’t even seem to like each other. But I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think that kind of emotion is sustainable between work and laundry and taking out the trash. Throw kids in the mix, and there is nothing exhilarating about dirty diapers. Some people say the first year is the hardest, but in my experience, the first year was the easiest. Not without it’s challenges, for sure, but in comparison, the old expression “the Honeymoon Stage” sure fits. The euphoria fades. But love, like people, evolves. It changes over time. It grows deeper than emotion and much more intentional. After a while, it’s less of something you’re in, but more something you choose.

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For myself, I thought the easy times would outweigh the hard times, but when the hard times came…because I knew there would be some…that I would be prepared, that I would know how to work through it. For Christians, I think as young, passionate, college kids, we romanticize what our marriages will be like. How we’ll pray together all the time, always communicate well, put our phones down and spend time together, how we’ll do ministry together, and “keep dating your spouse”, and always give grace when it’s needed, always putting each other before ourselves. It’s like before I got married I imagined this heroic version of myself. I knew in my head what it would take to be a good wife, and therefore thought I would have the…I don’t know…willpower to apply my knowledge. For me, in dating, it was always pretty easy to be gracious and selfless. As a friend said the other day, “I was a real good Christian before I got married.” But something I’ve found now, is that marriage forges a much deeper connection. Sure, when your boyfriend or girlfriend does something crappy when you’re dating, it feels personal and it hurts. But when you’re married, it is a whole other level. Something about the oneness of marriage makes everything more personal, makes everything feel more. The good and the bad. And when everything feels so personal and so painful, being gracious isn’t as easy as it sounds. Of course, the Holy Spirit is powerful and fully capable of equipping me in the tough moments, the problem is I get in the way. That’s how being human works. A LOT of the time, I fail. Hero Me doesn’t show grace, love, patience, or whatever is needed in that moment, and things get messy. Oh, and not to mention, my husband fails, too. He isn’t always patient. He isn’t always kind. Even though “Mr. Right” is always patient and kind, and tells me I’m beautiful in my sweatpants.

So I empathize with those who make these complaints. Those who don’t understand where the old(er) married couples are coming from. I had no clue.

The truth is marriage should be wonderful. It should be God honoring. It should be deep connection and intimacy. It should be a picture of Christ’s relationship with the Church. It should be iron sharpening iron, mutual encouragement, pressing on toward the goal, together, for the rest of your lives. But for a lot of people, it isn’t. And yes, it happens to Christians, too. And for others, it just isn’t like that all the time. At this point, I wouldn’t be one of those people to discourage you and warn you about how your life is about to end. But, I also wouldn’t be all marriage is love and bliss and we’re best friends all the time and everything is great. Because, it is not. I would tell you that some conflicts never get resolved, that my husband and I don’t see eye to eye on so.many.things. That there will be moments that leave one or both of you ready to get a divorce right then and there. That there will be times you will look at the person you love more than anyone else, and be more angry than you have ever been before. There will be times when you can’t express what you need to, and there will be times of deep pain, and times when you’re at a loss for how to move forward. Maybe I sound negative, but I don’t think I need to convince anyone that there are tons of amazing things about marriage, too. If you don’t already believe that, then you probably aren’t getting married anytime soon.

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I’ve learned over the past 4 years that Johnathan and I aren’t nearly as alike as I originally thought. We have some similarities, but we have some huge differences. Really, if we’re honest, we aren’t all that compatible, something that’s seen as a necessity in our culture. As we begin year 5, there is still a lot about our marriage that is really hard. We haven’t overcome all of our struggles, and most days it seems like we haven’t moved an inch. It doesn’t make marriage a death sentence, but it does make it hard lots of days.

So when someone is negative about your engagement or marriage, you don’t have to get angry and self-righteous. Again, believe me, I really do know what it’s like to feel the way you do, and I say this with the most care. Try to see through their warnings, and recognize that marriage is truly hard. That it takes a lot of work. That if you don’t fight for your marriage when it gets tough, it will go to crap. Those people who get to the place where they say “oh, just give it a couple years” got there because they are human. They were in your shoes once. So, you may think you are better than them, because in your inexperience you think you know what it takes to have a good marriage, but you aren’t. You’re human, too. And if you don’t take serious consideration to the fact that almost half of marriages end in divorce, and many of the people who remain married are miserable, then it’s possible you will find yourself in their shoes one day. You should resolve to not end up like them. But know that it takes a tremendous amount of grace, patience, love (the action kind), self-control. It takes A LOT of dying to yourself, A LOT of laying down your pride, your need to be right, your everything. It takes a lot more than affection, compromise, compatibility. Those things aren’t enough. But thankfully, Jesus is. Even in marriage, He is our only hope, the only thing that is ever truly enough. Cling to Him, and He will give you what you need.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Photos by Erin Drago Photography

I’m Becoming A Morning Person

Anyone who has known me for any amount of time is thinking right now that I’ve lost my mind and seriously forgotten who I am. Maybe they’re right. I am the epitome of a night owl. I am most alert and energized around 8:00-11:30pm. If I go to bed “early” it could take me hours to wind down and just.stop.thinking. And eventually fall asleep. It takes me a looong time to feel awake in the morning. Getting out of bed in the morning has been a lifelong struggle. I can’t recall a day in my life, ever, where I felt rested when I woke up. Each and every single morning, the only thing I want to do is close my eyes again. I sleep most soundly in the early morning hours. I’m not exaggerating. It is very difficult to put my feet on the floor at any time of day, 6am, 10am, 12pm (those college days, though…). It doesn’t matter whether I slept 7, 8, or 12 hours. It never feels like enough.

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Most of my life I’ve had to wake up relatively early. Starting with elementary school, walking to the bus stop before the sun came up (literally), through working early mornings at hotels and restaurants, to having 2 babies that are the worst of the early-birds. I mean wide awake, chipper, ready-to-take-on-the-world kind of early-birds. 5am early-birds. You would think at some point I would get a little used to it. I’ve told myself a million times I would change my ways, been jealous of every “morning person” out there, and resigned myself to the idea that I am cursed and it will never get any easier. I’ve tried a couple tricks, none of which have worked. For the past 9 months or so, except for the brief stint where my husband and I lived in different cities for 3 months, Johnathan has been very gracious to let me sleep-in in the mornings, until he leaves to go to work. He will never understand what it means to me (because he’s one of those morning people, and couldn’t possibly understand the torture I endure every morning between opening my eyes and….I don’t know, 9am), but I will forever be grateful for the extra minutes of sleep he’s provided in the most tired season of my life.

I wish I could say I’m good once I’m up, but no. I’m not. I will crawl back into that bed in a heartbeat. Say I am somewhere that for some reason I have to get dressed before walking out of the bedroom, I have no shame in going back to said bedroom, getting back into my pj’s, and laying right back down under comfy covers. That whole “put the alarm clock on the other side of the room” thing? Yeah, it’s never done a thing for me.

I explain all this to say, it feels pretty impossible to me. Unimaginable that I could change, that I could enjoy mornings, or even get out of the bed with ease. But y’all, I’m gonna do it. I am putting it out there, for the world to see. Maybe I’ll fail, but maybe I won’t. And I wholeheartedly believe, if I can become a morning person, anyone can.

Usually whenever I resolve to change something, or take on something new, I don’t talk about it, and I definitely don’t tell my husband (anyone else?!?). That way, if I change my mind about changing my ways, I can just go back to whatever I was doing before and no one will give me a hard time about it. I mean, I can’t have anyone pointing out how awful I’m doing at something I thought up myself, right? “Setting Yourself Up For Failure” should be the official name of this practice.

So….I’m enlisting Johnathan’s help, and the help of anyone else who is interested in holding me accountable. I don’t have a real plan yet, so I’ll need to figure that out quick. I would love any tips from lifelong morning persons, or night owl converts. I’m also happy to have anyone join me on my quest to not hate mornings (maybe one day I’ll love them, but baby steps). Please, feel free to ask me how it’s going!

Photo credit: matsuyuki / Foter / CC BY-SA

Don’t Judge Me

Photo credit: miss pupik / Foter / CC BY
Photo credit: miss pupik / Foter / CC BY

I read this Ann Voskamp blog the other day on “how women can stop judging each other: a movement of key women“. It was exactly as it sounds, encouraging us to be women that allow others the freedom not to be perfect. It was good. You should check out the link and read the whole thing, because everything sounds better coming from Ann Voskamp…but here’s an excerpt that sums it up, I think:

“There could be Key Women who turn to their sisters and unlock everything with their own anthem coming like a freedom song:

I won’t judge you for dishes in your sink and shoes over your floor and laundry on your couch.

I won’t judge you for choosing not to spend your one life weeding the garden or washing the windows or working on organizing the pantry.

I won’t judge you for the size of your waist, the flatness, bigness, cut or color of your hair, the hipness or the matronliness of your clothes, and I won’t judge whether you work at a stove, a screen, a store, a steering wheel, a sink or a stage.

I won’t judge you for where you are on your road, won’t belittle your offering, your creativity, your battle, your work.

The key to the future of our communities, our culture, the church is whether there are Key People — people who will not imprison with labels and boxes but will unlock with key words, with key acts of freeing.

There could be Key Women who link arms with their sisters and say we will be the few Key Women: Key Women release you by not judging your mothering, your cooking, your cleaning, your clothing, your kids.

It’s a beautiful picture, this ceasing of judgement. I think a lot of us need to hear her words and resolve to be the kind of person she is talking about. Although, I think the solution is twofold. I’m not taking anything away from what she is saying. I’m just continuing the conversation.

It seems to me like we women feel judged by just about everyone concerning everything, and often times, we want to place the blame on them. The judges. Maybe my perception is off, but I’m going to say that I think (we) the offended are equally at fault.

In certain areas I fit the “judgy mom” bill. I had 2 natural births, we don’t vaccinate, we don’t give our kids sweets, we are very particular about the products we use in our home and on our bodies. I have heard moms that don’t do any of those things I just mentioned say a million and one times that they felt judged by someone who does do those things. I know that those people exist, the people that think others are beneath them when they make a different choice, the people who are all self-righteous and think everything they do is what makes them a good mom. But I am here to tell you, I am not one of them. Of course, we use natural sunscreen because we don’t think the chemical filled stuff is good for you. Obviously. But just because we use natural sunscreen doesn’t mean I think those who don’t are crappy people. I’m not assuming that the mom on Instagram doesn’t care about what’s best for her child because she let them eat ice cream for dinner. I’m not.

But all my not being judgmental doesn’t do any good when others assume I’m judging them anyway.

The fact that I am picky about what kind of shampoo we use on our kids does not mean I have a problem with someone else’s anything-goes attitude. The mere mentioning of “my midwife” doesn’t mean I think those who have a doctor are weird (I had one, too). Will any of us ever be able to talk about the choices we make without coming off as judgmental? Can I say that I breastfed my children without someone assuming that means I am elevating myself above those that use formula? Since when did simply talking about things become looking down on everyone, everywhere, for everything?

I’m guilty, too. I know the feeling. Because let me tell you where I don’t fit the judgy mom bill…is in the clean house arena. If you have ever been in my house, you know it looks like crap 99% of the time. I know that some people do actually keep clean houses. For some people it’s easy, or they like cleaning, or messiness drives them crazy or whatever. Apparently, I can live with the mess. I don’t like it…but it’s not the highest thing on my priority list, every day. Some days it is. But my point is that most of the time my house looks like a tornado went through it, and I know plenty of people that can vouch for me here. I have done my share of explaining and apologizing for the dishes in the sink, the crusty pots left on the stove, the crumbs on the floor…I could go on. But I know, when I let someone in my messy house, it is not the look on their horrified face that makes me feel judged. Because there is no look of horror. It is simply me. Me feeling like I should have a clean house, that makes me assume they think less of me because I don’t. I’m sure somewhere along the way there’s been a few people that actually did care. But I’m going to bet that most of them don’t. Because there are probably dishes in their sink, too. They get it. I get it.

In some ways I’m a bit impervious to judgment. Sometimes I honestly don’t care if someone else doesn’t like what I’m doing. But there are those times when a friend shows up and I haven’t showered in days, or my kid is screaming bloody murder in the middle of Target, or the zoo, or the restaurant, or anywhere and everywhere we go, that get me feeling all sheepish and wishing I could disappear.

But I think it’s time that we start accepting some of the responsibility for the judgment we feel. Because it really isn’t about the decisions we make. It’s not about how much TV our kids watch, or whether we work inside or outside the home. At the heart of it, it’s about how others view us in light of those things. It’s the idea that someone else thinks little of us, looks down on us, that we find offensive.

When faced with our shortcomings, the problem is not always the judgement from others. It is the judgement of ourselves. We are the ones holding ourselves captive. We are the ones making ourselves feel like we don’t measure up. It’s not the mom across the playground, it’s us.

What if we found our identity in Christ and who He says we are? What if we allowed the grace of God to change us into women that are satisfied with our own quirks and idiosyncrasies, our own personalities and preferences (when they aren’t sinful, of course)? What if we started to identify the shame we feel over our dirty dishes for what it often is, an internal war with ourselves and who we hope to be? NOT who others hope us to be.

Yes, let’s be key women, but let’s realize we have to start with ourselves. Let’s stop blaming others for the pressure we feel to be perfect, when we haven’t dealt with the pressure we put on ourselves. We have to give ourselves freedom and space to be who we are, unapologetically, if we want to allow others that same freedom.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

What Being A Christian Is Like

I say all this through the lens of American Christianity. As one who has many, many freedoms to live out my faith. One who has never faced a death threat for claiming Christ. One who faces intellectual persecution in the world I live in, minor compared to what other Christians around the world are dealing with, but persecution nonetheless. At this point, there really is not much we have to give up to be a Christian in America.

Some days walking with Jesus is easy. Some days it takes every ounce of focus and energy I have in my body. Some days I am so satisfied in Him, and I feel and believe the truth that I need nothing else. Some days I succumb to worldliness and get wrapped up in caring about things that don’t matter. Sometimes it is a struggle to choose holiness, sometimes it comes naturally (through the power of the Holy Spirit). Some days there is nothing else. Only Jesus. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by how much I need Him, and filled with thankfulness that He is there. Most days it is unexciting, mundane, blind faith. Most days it is choosing to believe what I cannot see and what I cannot know.

It is not guilt. It is not shame over sins I’ve committed. It is not following rules. It is growing, changing. It is fullness, wholeness. It is disciplining my kids and trusting God to change their hearts. It is reading the Bible and praying that He will make me more like Him. It is walking in His favor, clinging to His promises.

I cannot imagine living in this world without knowing Jesus. I’ve been called a pessimist (I prefer realist, but you know, whatever). I know some people only want to see the good in the world, but the bad is so daunting. So painful and depressing. I am continually grateful for my salvation, for a faith that believes there is life after death, that the best is yet to come. I’ve heard that some people think Christianity is for the weak. That it’s a way of coping with evil, to believe there is some nice place called Heaven where nothing bad happens. However, being a Christian doesn’t allow us to escape the world we live in. We still have to deal with it. We still have to endure suffering, and hope doesn’t make pain hurt less. So, I don’t see how someone having no hope makes them any stronger than me.

One of the beautiful and mysterious things about this faith is that it’s different for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, sin is still sin, and the Bible is still the authority no matter who you are. But my relationship with the Lord is uniquely my own, my journey deeply personal. There are lots of freedoms within the confines of Christianity. I hesitate to even use that word, confines, because I think that understanding of Christianity is why many people reject it. But you should know, it’s a really big room we’re in, with lots of space to work out our own salvation. Once you are in the faith, once you have walked with Jesus for a little while, you realize the walls aren’t limiting us, they are protecting us, they are good for us. The things the world values, you realize those things don’t give life. They are not ultimately satisfying. Choosing those things again and again doesn’t fulfill. God knows that life to the full is really found inside the walls. That is where the best is. And it is worth staying inside. The outside really doesn’t compare, once you’ve experienced what’s inside. In fact, eventually, the outside isn’t even appealing anymore. Eventually, it just looks like searching. Maybe if you’re not a Christian you think that sounds arrogant, but when the emptiness comes, when you get weary, when the boredom comes, I hope you’ll consider what I’m saying. Christ really is enough.

Perhaps the even more beautiful part about it all, is that I get to share my unique, personal journey with other people. I get to walk alongside others in this faith, that are on their own journeys. We are all going to the same place. And there is a destination. That’s why we’re walking, or running, or crawling, or maybe even being carried. There is an eternal home at the end of this whole thing, where we get to forever be with Jesus.

Being a Christian is hard…really hard, but it is fresh mercies each day. Jesus is the best friend, the best everything. He knows the darkest, most ugly parts of me, and He loves me like crazy regardless. Following Christ is confidence that I am loved, accepted, known, that His grace covers my sins. That I’m never alone. He is my comfort. He is my satisfaction.

Following Jesus is worth every single thing that it costs.

 You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
 You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
 You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

 Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
  If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
  If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
  even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
  If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
  even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

  For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
  My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
  Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
  How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
  Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

  Psalm 139:1-18