Where’s Santa?

It’s incredible how upset people get when I mention, I don’t celebrate Santa.

In all the years, Mike has been decorating our front yard with snowmen and penguins, and Christmas trees and Snoopys, and Star Wars and gingerbread men, not even once has a child asked us, “Where’s Santa?”

But you better believe, that adults do. Not all, but there are quite a few.

Even after explaining my reasoning I get,

“Oh, so you don’t believe in Santa, but you believe in a great big snowman, instead?”

I want to say, “Don’t be dumb.”

But I don’t. I hold my tongue.

Believing in Christ offends people. Not celebrating Santa, during Christmas, offends people too, I suppose.

Who knew?

But I’m not standing out in my front yard, holding signs and yelling through a blow horn that anyone is going to hell for putting a Santa in their front yard.

I’m not.

I’m not condemning anyone who does.

Regrettably, I have several pictures of my kids sitting on some strange man, wearing a red suit’s, lap.

Each one of my kids received at least one present from me, but addressed from Santa, until they were at least 8 years old.

So Santa celebrating went on for a good sixteen years under my roof.

Most of those years, I was a single mom just trying to make ends meet.

God provided for everyone of those years, and yet I gave credit to Santa.

I’m so ashamed now.

So no, I don’t celebrate Santa.

But I do celebrate Christmas with snowmen and penguins, and Christmas trees and Snoopys, and Star Wars and gingerbread men, because they’re fun, and they’re cute and they don’t promise my kids anything, and they don’t take credit for making them happy or giving them anything.

Not everyone has walked in my shoes. Not everyone has experienced the heartache of a Santa, year after year. Not everyone has gone through what I have.

It’s why my relationship with Jesus is a personal one. Everyone’s is personal. Having a relationship with him is a unique one, unlike anyone elses.

So, I’m not asking anyone to change.

I’m just over here celebrating Christmas the way I do. With inflatables and lights, and presents and music, with neighbors and strangers, and with kids and sometimes with those offended adults.

And if I’m lucky, I get to share my relationship with Christ, with someone who asks,

“Where’s Santa?”

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One Curious Encounter

I started crocheting homeless mats while I’m waiting for assignments to start, again. I’d like to be able to donate another 22 mats to Church on the Street again this year, for Christmas. With help from my friends I’m confident we’ll be able to.

Today, as I was waiting for my first job to start, my client’s husband noticed what I was working on. He asked me why I would make a mat for anyone who was homeless.

I told him about my son and his mental illness, then told him God calls us to love him and to love others. This is how I love.

“So what are you? Are you Jewish? Catholic?”, he asks.

“Oh no, I’m just a Christian.”

He gave me a look.

With ASL, looks are apart of the language but I couldn’t read what his look meant. He tapped on his wife’s shoulder and told her, “She’s a Christian.”

“Oh”, is all she said.

He looked back at me, “I’m just curious…”

I started to panic. What was about to happen? Am I going to hear how stupid I am? Or have to explain why God allows such evil things in the world? Or have to listen to him rattle off a bunch of untruths about who he think God is and not really be able to say anything about it because, well, I’m working and this could really make things awkward.

“Why would you sacrifice your life and the things you want to do, to do the things God wants you to do, instead?”

Well, didn’t see that coming.

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. – 1 Peter 3:15

This was it. This was my moment.

Will I be faithful? Will I be obedient? Will I have an answer that makes sense?

I’m debating if I want to tell you what I said.

The only reason is because we are all told that we need to be able to explain why we do, what we do.

This isn’t a cookie cutter answer. It’s from your heart.

Do YOU sacrifice your will, for the will of God’s? Do YOU know why?

Is it your choice, or are you doing it because you are told to by a parent or a spouse? Your answer should be personal. It should be real.

I gave my answer, and waited to see how it would stick.

Would he have more questions? Would he tell me I’m an idiot? Was he only making small talk, or did he really care?

Almost immediately, his wife was called to a window. I got up to follow her.

Once we returned to our seats, he told me,

“While you were gone, I prayed for. What you are doing is really great. God bless you.”

Now around Christians, you may hear “God bless you”, a thousand times, but coming from this one man, it really meant something to me. I felt like he really meant it.

And you know what? He does!

God blesses me.

He sacrificed his son’s life for me.

There was a time when I was a broken single mom of four. I had nothing, and I felt like nothing. But through the works of God’s people, he picked me up and made me new.

He gave me life.

A blessed life.

That is why.

That is why I do what I do.

And Then BAM, He Was There!

Christmas morning I texted my husband.

Am I crazy?

What are you talking about?

Here I am, 7:30 Christmas morning, in a park, by myself, looking for Jesus when I have six kids at home waiting on Santa.

Maybe Jesus is here…just sayin’.

We were successful in making not 20, but 22 sleeping mats for those who are homeless and I really, really wanted to watch them being passed out. I wanted to see Jesus. Now, I don’t know what that means, because I didn’t get to see it happen.

There I was…alone. Maybe there was a misunderstanding. Maybe something came up. Maybe my contact person didn’t think I was serious. Our maybe I am just crazy and I imagined the whole conversation.

I went home, disappointed.

I had decided that maybe I don’t get to see the people I impact. Maybe that’s apart of God’s plan. Maybe He wants to see how committed I am if I don’t see the payoff.

Boy, I’m sure using a lot of maybes.

You know what I’m certain of? God is faithful. All over the Bible I am told that He loves me. That He wants what’s best for me. That He has a plan for me. That I am blessed. And I am told, if I search for Him, I will find Him.

Have you felt the presence of God? Have you seen him? His work is amazing. Things that shouldn’t happen, happen.

We live in a dark, dark world, and through Jesus, He gives hope. He gives hope this world can never give.

So I search for Him. Like a crazy woman, I suppose.

Yeah, I was disappointed I didn’t get to see Jesus,  Christmas morning. But you know what I saw today?

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BAM! Right there on my Facebook news feed was this picture. JESUS!

A friend posted this picture after seeing someone ride off on their bike with his mat. I’m guessing she needed to see Jesus more than I did, today.

And that specific mat? We could instantly identify who made it by the pink stripe. She needed to see Jesus too.

I love getting to share my Jesus! I think maybe this was His whole plan from the beginning. This is so much more fun! After all, what good is it to have such a treasure, and not share it with your friends?

I had another girlfriend text me this evening asking if I wanted to go searching for Jesus again.

Ok, maybe those weren’t her exact words. It sounded more like, “Hey, are you ready to start making more mats?”

So yeah, I think I am. And I think I’m going to look for a few more friends too. You know, so I can share my Jesus.

Who’s in?

A Christmas Gift

Do you know what I love, love about the sleeping mats we just made for those who are homeless?

They were made from grocery bags that have been used once, and then tossed away. Even all the new bags we received from Target had a defect and were considered to be of no value.

So we took those tossed away bags and gave them worth. We made them invaluable to someone who needs them and will appreciate them.

Plastic bags becoming a bed. Can you imagine?

They are given a new life, a second chance.

And the people who received them? These are people who have been tossed aside. Maybe they have a defect. Maybe someone has considered them to be of no value. Maybe they consider themselves of having no worth.

These people are Jesus’ favorite kinds of people!

Noah was a drunk. Abraham and Isaac sold their wives. Jacob was a liar. Joseph was abused. Moses stuttered. Gideon was afraid. Rehab was a prostitute. David was a murderer. Elijah was depressed. Isaiah walked around naked. Jonah was a coward. John the Baptist was weird. Peter had ADHD. Martha was neurotic. And Paul was just mean.

Jesus is in the business of second chances!

For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. – 2 Corinthians 6:2

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. – John 3:17

Jesus loves these people. Jesus sees their worth. They are precious to Him. They are His children.

This Christmas, Jesus said, “I have a gift for you.”

And He chose someone to collect some rejected bags that were of no good for anyone, and he found someone else to cut them in such a way that removed their defect. He selected someone who looped the plastic into a new form. And finally inspired someone to weave the new form into a new creation….

From a plastic bag to a bed!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

These mats are so brilliant because His message to those people who will lay their heads on these is this….

You have value. But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

You are important to me. For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in. – Psalm 27:10

I have given you a purpose. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. – John 15:16

You can do all things. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:13

You are loved! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

MERRY CHRISTMAS, FRIENDS!

Our gift to you is the Good News of Jesus Christ, presented in the form of a plastic sleeping mat.

God Bless!

Why I Don’t Believe

In our front yard we have snowmen, and polar bears. We have penguins and snow hills. We have Snoopy and SpongeBob and R2-D2. We have packages, and presents and lights. But one thing you won’t see in our front yard is Santa Claus.

I don’t believe in Santa.

Years ago, I was a single parent…well, for years. And you know what Santa brought me those years?

He brought expectations that I couldn’t meet. He reminded me of how little I had for my kids. He made me feel bad about myself. He took my Christmas joy.

But one year, in the midst of all those years, a friend had invited me to her church. I came and sat in the back all by myself and cried. I cried because every single message was written specifically for me.

There were tears of guilt. Tears of sorrow. Tears of happiness. Tears of relief. And tears of an overwhelming Father’s love for His daughter.

After the year of some healing tears, I decided I wanted to be in my Father’s presence whenever I could. If the church was doing something, I was there. I took classes on finance, on healing and outreach.

I also joined a life group. A life group is a small group of people who meet outside of the church and try to figure this whole Bible reading and Jesus living, thing together.

You get pretty close. You get to know their families, their struggles, their concerns, their life.

They started to get to know mine.

Within weeks they had put my family on the church’s Christmas Angel tree. I didn’t know it until someone from the office called me to get my kids’ Christmas list, that I could never fill. I cried.

She also told me about a bank, who every year selects families to adopt and have a Christmas party for. She asked if it was okay for the bank to sponsor my family. I cried.

A woman from the bank called me to give me details about the party as well as ask questions about how many kids I had and their ages and sizes. I cried.

She asked me if I was okay. I told her I wasn’t.

I told her I hated being on this side. I told her there was a time if you needed money you talked to me. If you needed a ride, you talked to me. If you needed a place to stay, you talked to me. I hated being so needy. I was ashamed of who I had become.

She was quiet for a second. And then she said, “I’m sure some of those tears are tears of gratefulness.”

I shut my mouth.

I had never been so God Smacked in all my life. Just shut up, Kim. Do not let one more word leave your mouth that does not show your gratitude.

It was in this moment that I realized that I was completely nothing without my Savior. Here I was, a poor girl with kids coming out of her ears, with barely a place to live and a car that constantly broke down, holding onto her pride with two hands, refusing to let go, when this woman, not knowingly told me to just.let.go.

Let go. You will be caught. You will be safe. You will be loved. Just let go.

I cried.

We had an amazing Christmas that year. We had never had a year like it and has never had one like it since. The kids had every one of their Christmas wishes met and then more.

And the bank? Well I thought, considering it was a pretty big bank, we would be one of several families attending the party. Oh, no. No, we weren’t. WE WERE THE ONLY FAMILY AT THE PARTY.

I can’t express how overwhelmingly blessed we felt that Christmas.

There was no Santa that year. There was only God and his angels who dressed and looked like many members of my church and that bank.

No, I don’t believe in Santa. I believe in someone much, much higher.

I believe in someone who doesn’t give me what I want, but what I need. And I’ve learned, what I need is so much better than what I think I want.

I believe in an almighty God who never stopped pursuing me even though time and time again, I turned my back on Him, and tried to play God myself.

I believe. I believe in a Heavenly Father who loves no matter how much money I have, and no matter if I’ve been naughty or nice.

That Christmas so many years ago, Jesus took away my shame and he showed me grace. He showed a poor girl with kids coming out of her ears, with barely a place to live and a car that constantly broke down, that she was most beautiful, when she was most broken.

So Him! I believe in Him!

I Saw Jesus Today

I saw Jesus today. Actually I saw Him this weekend at Glendale Glitters. Sometimes I have to look really hard for him, and other times His presence is so strong I start to cry.

Friday night, I was encouraged to go check out a booth sponsored by Operation Marshmallow.

Jesus was there!

Operation Marshmallow is a non-profit organization that works with recruiting volunteers and sending different kinds of care packages to solders overseas.

Anyway, after one of their organizers filled me in on what they do, and I filled her in on what Girls’ Club does, it was all we could do to not cry.

She’s coming to one of our first Club nights, in January to tell the girls how we can help our troops. Do you know how exciting that is!? Do you know how excited they’ll be!? I’M SO EXCITED!

Yep, it was Jesus.

Later in the weekend I took a step back to look around. There was SO MANY people. It was crazy just trying to walk around.

I found a corner, back in the craft tent where I just hung out and watched.

Where are you God? I know you’re here. I can feel you.

And then I saw Him.

We had strategically tried to place our trash boxes in such a way that would keep parents and their strollers from coming all the way up to our tables. You see when they did, they would take up so much room, the other kids couldn’t get in too.

It didn’t matter where we stuck those boxes. Those parents wanted in. At first I was annoyed but then I saw it.

It was their love. Their love for their kids kept them from seeing they were blocking other kids. They weren’t doing it to be mean. They wanted their kid to be apart of something. And they didn’t want to miss seeing their kids apart of something!

I stood there wondering, why on earth would someone wait in such a long line? It was for their kid. It sure wasn’t for the paper cup, bell Christmas tree ornament made out of paint and pipe cleaners.

Seriously, this confused me. I love my kids, but never would I stand in a line, such as this.

It was Jesus.

And these kids! Oh my gosh. What cuties. These kids where so into painting these ornaments. I mean they painted the heck out of them. They were offered two colors, red and green. A lot of these kids walked away with nothing but brown paper cups.

I saw Him again.

He was creating in these little hands. He was making something new. He was deliberate. He was putting everything He had into these ornaments. And boy was He proud of himself.

And they would look up at their parents beaming with excitement and looking for approval. And He’d give it to them. Each and every one.

Would you like to know where I saw Him the most?

He was in OUR children. The children of those of us who came to volunteer.

I am not kidding, there was no room for us at the tables. It was our children who was just the right size to stand up next to kids and show them what they would be doing. We simply took up too much room.

God planned it that way. Our children stood there with confidence, walking the smallest kiddos, to their great big ol’ dads, on what each step of the craft was. They didn’t need us. All we did was keep their supplies full…and stayed out of their way.

At one point in the night, there just wasn’t enough room to serve everyone. The adults were considering moving another table in, but where would we put it?

And the kids, OUR KIDS brainstormed themselves and started carrying the supplies to the kids in line so by the time they got up to the front, they were ready to start assembly, that is if they hadn’t figured it out by then.

Our kids were teaching five, seven, ten kids at a time! From there, they moved into paint, and that was a breeze.

Can’t you just see Jesus at work? Working through the children. Making the adults look like fools. It was pretty cool.

So, there I stood in the corner of our tent trying to figure out where Jesus was. And after I got over seeing through my eyes the hustle and bustle, the pushy moms and dads, the little fingers and paint prints, I saw Jesus. And as I stood there I thought, from heaven, our tent must glow. He’s everywhere! Just look at Him!

Where was Jesus?

So last night I went to serve at Glendale Glitters. It’s a big celebration that the city of Glendale puts on every weekend from the end of November until the beginning of January.

Really, serving at Glitters isn’t my favorite thing to do. Well, I really like serving at the craft tent, but I really really dislike standing on a corning passing out maps.

A lot of the time, the people are nice, take a map and say, thank you.

Most of the time people say, no thank you, then realize what you said and end up stopping and saying, Oh yeah! I’ll take one of those.

Still there are quite a few people who make eye contact with you but it is as if you are invisible and they’re looking right through you. They don’t say thank you or no thank you. They don’t say anything.

But this isn’t why I don’t like serving.

There are a TON of people! Like, they are all up in your way. Touching you, bumping into you. It is loud. And the worst is you are on your feet for five to six hours in the cold…sometimes rain.

But I go. Every year. I think this is my fourth. I went last night not feeling well. Actually not realizing how sick I was, or getting. By the time I left my throat was so sore I could barely talk. I was so cold, I couldn’t warm up. I slept in pj bottoms, socks, a sweatshirt and a coat. And I couldn’t breath. I was a mess. I’m still not feeling well today either.

The reason I still go, and the reason I will go again tonight is I’ve seen Jesus there. No really, I have! The most clearest memory I have of him there was when he gave a handful of broken Crayons to a little boy so he could finish his picture that he was going give as a present to his mom for Christmas.

I’ve seen him bring children because their parents had been in a car accident and needed a break from the the chaos in their lives.

I cried.

So even though I didn’t feel well last night, I really really wanted to go. I wanted to see Jesus again.

I went. I waited. I watched. I didn’t see Jesus. Why? Why couldn’t I see him? I knew he was there.

This morning while I was sharing with my husband my night, I keeping asking God over and over again, why didn’t I see you?

I asked Mike if he knew who Tara Hitchcock was. I grew up watching her on Channel 3 News. She was smart, beautiful and funny. Her and Patti Kirkpatrick are the only newscasters I can remember by name.

He said he did and asked why. I told him I gave her a map last night and she asked me where Kurt Warner was presenting the opening ceremonies. I directed her towards the stage.

Funny thing was, I didn’t recognize her. It wasn’t until she walked away from me and I heard a gentleman call her name, did it click who she was.

I told my husband I was surprised I didn’t recognize her. I thought I knew her.

I stopped mid stride as I heard the words leave my mouth.

Instantly I thought, what if I had seen Jesus and didn’t recognize him?!

I mean, I would think I would recognize him, but really would I? I thought I would know Tara, but honestly I haven’t watched the news in awhile. Mike says she’s not even in channel 3 anymore.

Do I really know Jesus? Would I recognize him? Do I study him enough? What is enough? I physically saw Tara everyday for years and years.

The idea of not recognizing Jesus makes me very sad and completely convicted. I need to read my Bible more. Like everyday! I need to study him. I need to learn who he is and what he looks like.

I want to see Jesus in the faces of strangers. I want to see him in the service of my friends. I want to see him the lives of those around me. I want to see him in me.

So, I gotta go. I’m hoping to serve tonight. I need to get some studying in, before I go. I don’t want to miss him AGAIN!