I’m pretty sure that all 3 of my children still believe in Santa Claus. I say “pretty sure” because I recognize that there is a very distinct possibility that my oldest knows the truth but is afraid to admit it for fear of losing out on the presents that come along with the belief. He’s 10, ridiculously intelligent, and a freaking sneaky ninja so I can’t imagine that he’s not unearthed the facts yet. What I can imagine, though, is that he is terrified that not believing = not getting so he’s just going to ride this Santa train for as long as he can.
My other two, though, are in prime “santa believing” years. Christmas is still magical to them, and their excitement at this time of year is absolutely palpable. And nowhere is this excitement more apparent than in the very specific, very detailed and very lengthy process of creating their Christmas lists. The moment that annual Target toy catalog graces our mailbox papers come out, pencils get sharpened and wishes get put to paper.
And here, friends, is where we see the payoff of the $17 billion that companies pay to specifically advertise to our children each year. Because my children, who are not typically spoiled or entitled (which I take no credit for, this is all thanks to my exceedingly practical and level headed husband) become little consumerist maniacs producing double-sided, single-spaced, tiniest writing possible Christmas lists that would make even billionaire parents cringe. It’s mind bending.
And when I, in the interest of good parenting attempt to protect both our wallets and their expectations, mention that they may want to dial it back just a notch because Santa has many children to buy for each year, they stare at me with unblinking eyes full of innocence and confusion. And without a second thought they say:
“But mommy, Santa is magic. And he makes our toys, he doesn’t buy them. And we’ve been good this year. And Santa loves us so he’s going to get us what we want because when you love someone you want to make them happy, right?”
Well played, children. Well played.
And as much as I would love to dismiss this childlike knowledge as nonsense created by bad parenting and greedy advertisers, it’s not really nonsense; is it? Because that’s exactly how I approached God for a very, very, very long time.
For the majority of my life, when I prayed, for different things at different times mind you, I would pray with complete faith. And if I’m honest right here and right now, I would say that my faith was not necessarily in the goodness of God and His plan for me, but rather my faith was in the expectation that God would deliver on what I was asking. After all, I’m a good person and God loves me. And when you love someone, you want to see them happy, right?
And what do you think happened to those prayers? Sure, some of them were answered. But quite a few, they were not. At least not in the way I wanted them to be.
And because of this I spent a large hunk of my time disillusioned with God. And maybe just a little bit angry with him, too. Because clearly I felt that I knew what was needed for my life to be what it was supposed to be, what I wanted it to be. So how dare He not come through? Clearly God isn’t loving. Or maybe just not loving to me. Because if He did love me, He would do what I was asking Him to do. Because clearly I know better than Him.
But that’s not how God works, is it? He’s not here to be at our beck and call. And sometimes that which we ask for is not that which is best for us. And like a good father that loves us more than we could ever understand, He knows this. And His non-answer to your prayer may be the best answer you could get. And faith is trusting in this and trusting in Him. And that’s really really hard.
It’s really hard when you’re out of work and praying that this seemingly perfect opportunity will finally pan out.
It’s really hard when you sit next to your sick child and pray that the test results are clear.
It’s really hard when your marriage feels like it’s falling apart and you pray for it to get better.
This is when faith in God’s love and God’s timing is so very hard. And faith to praise God no matter the outcome is even harder.
One of my favorite bible stories is tucked away in the shadows of the amazing story of Daniel and the Lions den. It’s about these 3 guys, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were, by all accounts, 3 normal men under the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar in Israel. But these three normal guys, they did not want to bow down and worship the king as he had declared was law. Respect him and his rule, yes. Worship, absolutely not. Worship was reserved for their God. And even when the king threatened to throw them in a furnace for their defiance, their response was strong and resolute:
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it and He will deliver us from your Majesty’s hand. But EVEN IF he does not, we want you to know, Your majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3: 17-18
Now the miracle of this story is that they do get thrown into the furnace. And the God they worship does save them, thus opening the kings heart to praise the one true God. But the miracle of the story for me is the simple and honest phrase: But even if he does not…
Oh how I long for this faith in all areas of my life. It’s simple to know, harder to put into action. Yes, I know that God is working all things for my good. But I also think I know what my good is better than Him sometimes. And the faith to ask for something that is my hearts desire but know that “even if He does not” He still loves me is beautiful. It creates peace. It reminds me of God’s sovereignty over my life. And it reminds me to humble myself and place Him where He belongs in my life, front and center.
So, as I look back at my children staring up at me incredulously, I can say with total confidence:
“yes, babies, Santa loves you. But love sometimes means saying no, or not now, or this is not the best thing for you. And that’s sad and hard, especially when we really want that $300 lego set. But love means doing what’s best for you, and that isn’t always getting everything we want.”
So tonight, with complete faith that this dinner is the best thing for us, I am giving my family my very simple Mushroom Rosemary Chicken. A grandchild to my mom’s Lemon Chicken (recipe can be found here) this version is suited more towards the colder weather of fall and winter. The warm flavors or rosemary and mushroom create a comforting base for a simple sauteed chicken. Add a little wine for some tang (hey, and some good cheer) and you have a very simple yet elegant meal to put on your family table in 30 minutes.
Now if you need me I’ll be over here desperately searching for Star Wars lego sets and Hatchimals.
Mushroom Rosemary Chicken
- 8 ounce package of mushrooms
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 3 tablespoons flour
- salt and pepper
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 16 ounce package egg noodles
- Step 1 Prepare egg noodle according to package directions, cooking until just al dente but slightly firm.
- Step 2 In a large gallon size ziploc bag combine flour and salt and pepper to taste. Add chicken and shake to coat.
- Step 3 In a large saute pan, heat one tablespoon olive oil. Add chicken, reserving the remaining flour, and cook until just browned, adding more oil if pan seems to dry.
- Step 4 Remove chicken and set aside to keep warm. Do not wipe out the pan.
- Step 5 Over medium high heat, melt the butter and add one more tablespoon of oil. Add mushrooms, onions and rosemary (rubbing in your hands just a bit before putting in the pan to release the flavor). Cook until just translucent.
- Step 6 Add leftover flour to the pan and stir until combined.
- Step 7 Add in wine and chicken stock, be careful as the liquid may splatter when added to the pan.
- Step 8 Cook, stirring until combined.
- Step 9 Add the chicken back to the pan and cook thoroughly.
- Step 10 Add in noodles and stir to thoroughly combine.
- Step 11 Serve, garnishing with leftover rosemary if desired.