The Santa Issue

When I was around eight years old, a neighbor asked me what I asked Santa for Christmas, to which I promptly replied, “I don’t believe in Santa. My mom and dad buy my gifts.”

Her frosted blond hair curled in horror and she quickly recovered with, “Well, just because you can’t see him doesn’t mean he’s not real. He lives in your heart.”

Jesus lives in my heart,” I shot back.

This little exchange was, I believe, the seed of the bad blood that continued over the years. It was obvious she never liked my know-it-all confidence and clearly preferred my cute little sister.

My parents were of the opinion that lying is always wrong and taught us the stern truth about Santa: there was indeed a gift-giver named Saint Nick, but never the portly intruder in red that invades homes worldwide via chimney every Christmas Eve, eating our cookies and stuffing our socks.

Besides offending my middle-aged neighbor, I don’t know if I ruined anybody else’s Christmas that year.

It’s the last part that has kept me from telling my son the absolute truth right away.

Kids are natural town criers. I’ve never met a little kid that knew the truth about Santa that didn’t crow about it to everyone they met. Telling kids about Santa too soon is like telling them about sex before they’re ready – everyone will hear about it and squirm. Some just cry.

My son is four and has asked if Santa is real and I just ask what he thinks and listen to him reason out what he believes is true. Right now, he is of the opinion that because reindeer are real, Santa must also be real. I’ll just let him go with that for now. I don’t want him going around telling all his little friends that Santa is a fake and be responsible for crushing their candy-coated dreams.

How we deal truth is important. We can treat it like a gift or a closed fist.

I won’t lie to my son about Santa, but there are a couple of reasons I’m not in a hurry to stamp out his budding faith with one reality-infused whump.

First of all, I want to help my son be sensitive towards the kids whose families have built up visions of Santa with jingling bells and reindeer hoof prints. For him, this is just the beginning of learning to respect what others believe. I don’t ever want him thumping heads with truth, but to reach hearts with kindness.

Secondly, I don’t want to disrupt his current understanding of faith.

I don’t want him to quickly dismiss anything he can’t see as false and unlikely. As he’s starting to weigh out the signs of what could make Santa “real”, I want to take his search for evidence of this “other” even further and point it to Jesus. Eventually he will learn that the signs do not point to the North Pole but to a very real Jesus that compels us to celebrate.

For me, Santa is just the beginning of the conversation. It’s the opportunity to talk about love and truth, faith and the unseen. But rather than pump him with the belief that there is a kindhearted Santa with gifts for him once a year, I choose to redirect his hope towards a grace-filled Savior that has blessings in store for him all of his life.

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Another One Slipped Through

I was at the grocery store the other day when I was surprised to be welcomed by a young man sitting by the door. He was a greeter for the store and was surprisingly young and attractive. He looked like he should have been working in a trendy shop at the mall instead of sitting in the corner of a grocery store surrounded by carts and holiday fliers.

But when he opened his mouth, it was clear that he was different. He talked to my son about his dragon toy and how much he liked the movie, “How to Train Your Dragon” and was clearly not just being kind to my young son. There was something less developed about him, less sophisticated than a man his age should have been.

Immediately I felt twinges of fear and sadness for him.

In a world that is always looking out for number one, people like this are often overlooked or ostracized.

Then I thought of how many kids I knew in my teen years that needed a buddy and some that desperately needed professional help. I thought of kids I spend time with every Sunday at church or have met at camps that are clearly struggling but don’t have the skills or support to deal with life and end up repelling the friends they need with their anger and brooding.

And now, I think of the Sandy Hook massacre. From Columbine to now, these tragedies have continued to crash upon us like a relentlessly whipping wave, each rushing wave pulling back only to gather more strength and more fury to sweep away more innocent lives.

Whatever you feel about gun control or mental illness, I think we can all agree that this world is hurting.

While I understand the need for creating laws and procedures to protect our citizens, no law no matter how complete or perfect will heal a hurting soul.

These horrific events should be a wakeup call to people everywhere, especially Christians. To not just surround and protect your own with love, but to be on the lookout for others that need help and encouragement.  As Christians, we must be a safety net for those teetering on the edge and the hand that swiftly grasps those about to fall into the cracks.

We need to tirelessly pursue others with the message of the love of Jesus and His saving grace. We must show that God desires wholeness – body, mind and soul.  And above all we must share our hope: we are not doomed to destruction and defeat because Jesus has conquered it all.

Let us be quick to respond to others with genuine friendship and pray for God to move our hearts with true compassion for those around us. Let our words be saturated in godly love and intention before it’s too late. Let’s not wait until the hurt is so deep that our words can’t be heard over wailing grief.

What Do You Do When You’re Put On the Spot?

I was recently asked an interview question that was intended to test my prioritizing and organizing prowess, but when I first heard the question it felt needlessly random and diabolically complex. It was like: “You’ve got a pizza in the oven, a one-eyed bandit is at the door and three bears are on the roof. So which raccoon gets a cookie?”

Well, that’s not really what they asked, but for a second, it felt like it. I sort of froze for a moment. I’m sure I looked calm, but inside I was like, “Whaaa?!?”

I did manage to pull myself together pretty quickly and answered the question.

The questions in this interview were actually really good ones. And they didn’t ask odd questions just to watch me squirm, I just felt put on the spot.

It reminded me of how I’ve felt so many times when my faith is being tested. Someone asks me a difficult question about God, or I have to make a decision for my family where the outcome is uncertain, or maybe I just am not sure what my response to something should be because there isn’t a commandment or clear scripture to tell me what to do.

Faith has this now-or-never kind of feel. It’s like when you were a kid getting ready to jump on the merry-go-round at the park. You’re giddy and nervous hoping that you’ve timed the moment and the trajectory perfectly to hurl your body onto the whirling platform.

When you do, it’s exhilarating. I remember loving the feeling of spinning until the lines between nausea and delirious laughter were as blurry as my view.

But you have to stick the landing. Because if you don’t, then you are in for a collision that will most certainly result in an ungraceful splat.

In my experience, faith in God often feels the same way. You see what looks like a hurricane of questions, obstacles and emotions spinning before you. And even though your mind and body are telling you to wait for something safe, your heart is telling you to run towards it.

It’s that on-the-spot moment. Do you freeze or do you jump? Faith in God makes that leap trusting that in the middle of the chaos He has provided a place to land. It trusts that he has the right words, a good answer, and a perfect plan for you. Yes, it’s frightening. No, you don’t know how banged up your knees might get.

But in the end it’ll be worth it and you’ll be that friend on the twirling merry-go-round that is happily shouting, reaching out your hand for others to make the leap and join you.

Angie Derrick 9/21/12 ©

50 Shades of Red

I’m not as easily embarrassed as I used to be. I’m not exactly a devil-may-care type either, but I’ve come a long way. When I was a little kid, I didn’t learn to swim because I was so self-conscious of my portly figure, I refused to go to lessons. I cried and cried until my parents gave up because it was too stressful and frankly too difficult to heft my chunky body into the car without my consent. Now that I’m an adult, I will wear a tankini and boy shorts even though my legs still have that puffy, stuck together look that cookies get when you greedily scoop bigger spoonfuls of dough than you’re supposed to because one inch balls sound like woefully undersized cookies.

My mother, on the other hand is an open book – well, maybe more like an open library where no subject is declined or off limits. She feels no shame or inhibitions about sharing anything about herself. Whether it’s announcing to the worship team at church that she may or may not feel up to being at the next practice because she is scheduled for a colonoscopy that day, or laughing at herself uproariously while telling everyone that she accidentally walked into the men’s room last Sunday, she doesn’t hesitate to bare all. My mother is not afraid that people will shun her. She doesn’t fear rejection because she believes she is lovable and truly liked.

The love that God, friends and family have invested in my mother have erased any self-doubt and compels her to live out loud and as herself. I too have the support and love of God, friends and family. But if I am honest, any hesitation on my part is my refusal at times to believe in the love that’s been offered.

It’s not without reason that I’ve been reluctant: kids made fun of my chubbiness, people that said they’d be there for me when my dad died weren’t, people that promised to keep my secrets when my first husband was cheating on me didn’t. I have felt many times in my life that my personal garbage was set on the roadside with a “free” sign.

People failed me and caused a lot of distrust, made me guarded. I know I’m not the only one. Who knows your oldest, deepest secrets? Who do you share your happy moments and vulnerable feelings with? Don’t be the friend that no one really knows. Don’t let your favorite color, coffee drink and benign little tidbits of your life be the only parts of your life you’ll share.

When you hold back your true self from people, you will get the same in return. It makes for very shallow, brief relationships. Be yourself, share your heart.  I can’t guarantee that it won’t include some heartache; even Jesus was betrayed by a friend in his inner circle and other friends and family failed him as well. But I don’t see any evidence in the bible to support allowing past hurts to justify cynicism and holding people at arm’s length.

Quite the contrary, the bible holds nothing back. There is no detail too personal or too gritty. The scandals that stain the pages of God’s Word have been penned in the blackest, most permanent ink. Yet the miracles and hope that leap from the words will live on for eternity. Everything we want to know about the character and personality of the God who is our father, friend and Lord is laid out without apology or hesitation – He wants to be known and know us in return.

If you want to know how to befriend and love purely and willingly, be His friend. If you want to live honestly and unmasked, follow His example. If you need faith to accept that it will all turn out ok, read His Word. God is not easily shocked or embarrassed by anything we do and he’s seen it all. Don’t let your hang-ups and past hold you back from enjoying your life, relationships or who God created you to be.

Angie D 6/15/12 ©

Learning From My Deeply Flawed Mother

My mom would be the first to tell you that she’s made a lot of mistakes as a mother.

There have been many times in my life I wondered why she didn’t protect me, encourage me, comfort me or know me. I think we all ask our moms those pointed questions, whether it’s whispered in the back of our minds or voiced aloud in strained tones.

I fully expect that my kids will have lots of hard questions for me and try as I may to be the perfect mom, I will fail them many times.

But while imperfection is the lot of all humans, letting God’s light shine through the cracks in our character is an opportunity we all share.

When my dad was sick with cancer, I watched my mother transform. Normally indecisive, light-hearted and a most bubbly extrovert, my mother became our rock.

Strength doesn’t come naturally to my mom. That was my dad’s job; he was the firm one, he was the decision-maker, the unwavering one. His confidence made my siblings and I believe that no villain, disease or calamity would ever dare to darken our doorstep.

But then dad got sick and it became mom’s turn to make us feel safe, and honestly, she didn’t have it in her. Ask her and she will tell you that the strength she had to care for five kids and a sick husband for three and a half years took supernatural power from God.

It took supernatural energy to bathe and dress my father, to administer his round-the-clock doses of medication and still be a mother to four kids and a newborn.

It took incredible strength to watch my dad suffer excruciating pain and keep praying.

It took profound reliance on God to be her source of love and security. Cancer didn’t just destroy my father’s body, it stole his spirit. I can’t imagine how especially difficult that must have been for my mom.

You see, my dad absolutely adored my mother. He showered her with gifts every occasion that called for it and was extravagant with his compliments, always telling us that we had the most beautiful mother in the world. I can’t fathom how heart-wrenching it must have been to care for a man that could no longer give that kind of love to her and often forgot who she was.

Despite her painful and lonely circumstances, I remember my mother’s joy. She wasn’t falling apart or filling the gaping holes in her life with quick fixes. She let God be her everything: father, husband, friend and savior – and in Him she lacked nothing.

I’ve known people in similar situations that felt so tired and alone that they had affairs or turned to drugs and destructive behavior to find relief from their misery. But mom never did that, even though she could have done all those things and my dad would have never known because his mind and body were so helpless and deteriorated.

While I could easily make a list of my mom’s faults, nothing compares to her example of whole-hearted faith and explicit trust in God. When I think of my mother, I think of how God took a deeply flawed woman, riddled with holes and cracks from the blows life has dealt, and shined his light through her. She didn’t patch those holes or seal any visible cracks, she gave it all to God and he made her a beacon.

I am so thankful for my mother’s example. My prayer is that I too would have that kind of faith in my savior so that when my kids see brokenness in my life, they will just watch for God’s light to burst through.

 

Angie D 5/21/12 ©

Modern-Day Leper

My mother has a form of an autoimmune disease called Lupus that affects her skin in a very public way. When she is exposed to sunlight she breaks out into sores all over her body that look like large scabs. Then when her breakouts heal, she is left with tan patches on her fair skin, especially on her arms and hands that have the spacing and pattern of a giraffe’s hide. So far only her face has been spared.

She has dealt with it like a real trooper. She often jokes that she is a “leper” and takes it very well when little kids ask why her skin looks weird and when tactless adults bluntly ask what’s wrong with her.  

I know she has days that her condition can be very painful and has serious symptoms that are steadily encroaching on her daily comfort. But she is more bubbly and happy than anyone I know, sick or not. You would never know that her prognosis is not good: doctors tell her to expect further deterioration of her immune system, arthritis, possible kidney failure and more and more discomfort. Worst of all there is no cure and many of her prescriptions border on experimental.

I try not to think about it too much. I lost my dad to cancer when I was sixteen and I don’t want to think about losing my mom. And it’s not so much the number of years left that worries me; it’s the quality of her life. How much longer can she stand being a freak?

In church we’ve been talking about the leper in Luke chapter five that against biblical rules and tradition, Jesus touched before he was healed. In that account there was very little time that passed between when he was touched and when he was healed.

But what about when a lifetime passes between when Jesus touches and when Jesus heals a person? What about the awkwardness in between?

I know Jesus has touched my mother. I know without a doubt that he gave her all the faith, energy and strength she needed to get through the heartache of being a young widow and the challenges of being a single mother of five. I know she wants to be healed and still believes, even though she stood in faith for my father’s healing and watched him die, that Jesus can heal her. Jesus has given her so much proof of his love and character that despite her losses, she still waits for her own healing.

My mom isn’t the only life Jesus has touched that is still waiting for healing and change. I know people marked by severe acne, disease, depression, loneliness and many other conditions that could threaten to become our identity when we become weary of waiting for a cure. It would be very easy to take on the identity of an outcast rather than a child of God.

I believe what’s kept my mother from giving up and walking away is that she’s not concerned about when her healing happens; whether it’s in this life or the life to come. She is not occupying her time with self-pity or anger she is enjoying her status as a child of God. She knows even though the world sees a “leper” and she has pain and scars that could cause deep embarrassment, she gladly worships the one that was bruised and crushed for her sins and shame. Unlike the lepers of the past, she is free to receive Jesus’ touch, worship him and fellowship with him uncovered and unashamed. She will let nothing, not even her skin, be a barrier.

Angie Derrick 11/11/11 ©

A Dose of Pain

When it comes to pain, I think most of us want it to have an explanation or a sensible purpose. At times, we glorify it as the bread and inspiration of the starving artist. In other instances we rationalize it as the logical and well-deserved consequence of idiotic behavior. Or sometimes we accept it like a dreaded routine immunization; just the necessary and proper dosage of discomfort to keep us from serious trouble in the future. As though pain should always make sense and have a reasonable ceiling.

But most of us have experienced or know someone that has experienced pain that makes no sense at all and causes us to feel like some unlucky lab rat chosen for a battery of deranged experiments.

I know it’s not rational, but I have often felt like I have received my lifetime allowance of pain and that I shouldn’t have to endure any more. Though I cling to the biblical principle that trials will refine me, I must admit that my natural inclination is to be left as I am, even if it’s a little rough around the edges.

I don’t believe that God is in heaven twirling his mustache thinking up all kinds of maniacal and complicated ways to fabricate difficult life lessons for us to learn from. But I do believe that there are times we aren’t spared pain so we can watch him work wonders from our twisted mess and grow in our faith.

I haven’t had it as bad as some, but I’ve had some pretty tough experiences:

I was a fat little kid that felt so ugly and insecure that I didn’t learn to swim because wearing a bathing suit was so humiliating. All I could think of was how exposed I felt. I knew all the skinny little kids in my class would be staring at the black hair on my thunderous legs and the lolling mound that was my belly.

Later, when I was sixteen, my father died of cancer. I was homeschooled during the three years that he was ill so our family could be together. This meant I had lots of credits to catch up on when I returned to school. I had to cram four years of school into two and a half, so my high school experience included zero hour, after school and summer school classes – without breaks. Grief, plain and simple, was a setback to my cracked-out schedule. The only viable option was to push through the pain, so I was back in school just a few days after his funeral.

Then after high school I was involved with a guy that cheated on me numerous times………That’s all I’m going to say about that.

There are so many more pathetic stories I could share, unfortunately.

Am I a masochist that enjoys reliving the relics of my most painful moments? No, but these memories remind me of where I’ve been and the many hurts that Jesus has healed in my life. I don’t want to forget my past and pretend that I’ve lived a spotless, simple life. I want to revel in the breath-taking wonder of how Jesus could take the tangled mess that was my life and create something fluid and beautiful.

I have had many painful times in my life that made me feel singled out and left me wondering what the point was. I still don’t know why some people suffer great losses and others seem to go through life unscathed. I think that pain is just a fact of life and is not bound to a merit system or swayed by notions of justice or mercy; it just is what it is.

One thing I am certain of is this: if the pain I went through was what it had to take to get me to where I am now, then it was worth it. Not because I found my strength or realized my mettle, but because I finally saw Jesus for what he is: my champion.

Jesus took my pitiable story and gave me a testimony. My confidence is found in Christ, not in what others think of me. My dad is dead and gone, but my Heavenly Father is alive forever and will never leave me or forsake me. Men are fickle, but Jesus is forever faithful. He forgives our sins, heals our pain, takes us just as we are and creates something amazing. Though our sins are erased from his memory, not a single moment is removed from our history but is remade because he truly works all things out, even pain, for the good of those who love him.

Angie 9/9/10 ©


  • I believe in Jesus, loving people, living fully and creating good things. Whether it's art, food or finding solutions, I am always in "creative mode". With this blog I hope to encourage and help others to live in whatever "mode" God has called them to.

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