I've seen a few comments today that I thought were weird....rather despising comments about those that choose to participate in Elf on the Shelf with their children. That it sends the wrong message, isn't a good way to parent, it manipulates children, etc.
I have to be honest, I did take offense at the words of strangers. Silly, I know.
If you Google a bit, you'll also find way too many blogs about how totally evil the elves are and how scandalous and secular those families that have an elf must be.
On October 25th, 2011, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer. On December 24th, 2011, my brother-in-law Jim suddenly, and totally unexpectedly, passed away. Yes, you read that right- on Christmas Eve. It was beyond heart breaking for all of us, especially my dear sister-in-law. The combination of those two events placed this very weird darkness over the holidays for us. Thanksgiving was weird because we knew somehow it would be my MIL's last Thanksgiving and she was spending it sick in the hospital. November and December were spent on the phone for me, trying hard to keep my MIL's life back home going on while she tried to get treatment in Seattle, as well as trying to get answers about her treatment and dealing with her many surgeons. Then Jim passed and it just felt like, "Really, God??? NOW???" A family can only take so much, right? Craig and I tried to put on a smile and somehow strike a balance with the children about dealing with death and losing Uncle Jim and still allowing them to enjoy Christmas. We didn't tell the girls much. We knew they were too young to get it at 1 and 3. We did tell Jacob. His eyes immediately welled up with tears and I felt so deeply sorrowful that he had to go through losing a close relative so young and on Christmas Eve. My heart broke every minute for my sister-in-law and what the loss meant for her.
The holidays were heavy. Christmas didn't feel like Christmas. How do you celebrate with gifts and laughter when all you want to do is cry?
The new year, 2012, came and we were still muddling through....Jim's wake, more treatment and hospital visits to my MIL, and then she passed away in June, a couple weeks before her 57th birthday. It was like we were living under a dark cloud with no end in sight. Then it was a memorial service in June and July came only to find me diagnosed with an ovarian tumor. The next month I had surgery. Again, "really, God? NOW???"
So, what does our dark shadow have to do with the Elf on the Shelf????
I want my kids to just be kids. I don't want them finding mom in tears every time they walk in the room or finding dad there physically but not really there mentally because he's exhausted and trying to find the time to grieve amongst work and being a father. I don't want them worrying about money or food or who will die next. That was our life for 9 long months. Our sweet little elf, Holly, is about fun, fantasy, and a new excitement every morning when they wake. Eventually they'll understand that certain magical things don't exist in our world and that life is often shadowed by dark clouds, but it won't be this Christmas. I'm not manipulating them or neglecting them, I'm not teaching them that getting to heaven is about "being nice" or that God is only the Eyes in the Sky. I'm giving them fun and a childhood and in this particular moment in time, the Elf is fun.
Christianity is far too often full of Judgy-Judgerson's. They are oh so quickly pointing fingers and ready to tell anyone what they're doing wrong and how evil their behavior is. Here's the interesting thing....who were the Judgy-Judgerson's of the Bible??? Yup. The Pharisees. They were jealous of Jesus and His gifts. They were unable to applaud Him and so only chose to attack him. They judged Him harshly and anyone else that so brazenly dared to call themselves a Jesus-follower. I'm only 29....I'm not a pastor or a Bible scholar, I have a lot of life and wisdom still to live and learn. But I know this, the voice that comes and judges us with no grace or love and only seeks to make us feel guilt and feel poorly about ourselves is not Jesus. It's not His voice that condemns us and belittles us. He comes with Truth AND Grace. He speaks with clarity AND gentleness. Sure, He can be a lightening bolt if He wants. But most of the time in my own life, He's a small gentle voice that stops me in my tracks. I would never dare to be so clear and yet loving to myself as He is. My problem with the Judgy-Judgerson's is how totally opposite that worldview is from the way Jesus treats us. Judgy-Judgerson's stomp around carrying flashlights and hoping to shine their oh-so-wise bright light on the problem so that all the heathens will see the truth!!! But wait....isn't Jesus the bright light? Isn't it He that illuminates the problems and changes our hearts?
So yeah, maybe this isn't really about any of our little elf friends...it's about the bigger picture. Our judging doesn't show Jesus. And like we talked about in my awesome mommy book group this week; we ALL have a story. A history. Pain we've lived through. We can so easily judge another person thinking our own problems have relevance and importance while theirs are just 'Meh, made up and not that big of a deal'.
People can't understand what last Christmas was like for us. Heck, sometimes I don't even understand it. All I know is that it was hard and this year, as always, we're celebrating Jesus birthday and that He was born in a manger and came to save us. We're also enjoying how Santa fills our stockings and that our elf, Holly, likes to surprise us every morning with silliness. Both offer opportunities to talk about how the gifts of God and the love of God are free and come with no strings attached. Both are OK.