What to do About Santa

I believed in Santa. 

My husband believed in Santa. 

We turned out okay. We didn’t walk away from the Lord or resent our parents because of it. Before we had kids we figured we would do the whole Santa thing. We wanted Christmas to be as special for them as it was for us. But then we actually had kids and we had a big problem. 

Santa wasn’t going to work. 

First let me say I’m a huge proponent of fostering imagination in kids. My kids’ all time favorite activity is pretending. All day long I have pirates, super heroes, and exotic animals flying through my house. I love it. 

I also want to point out that when I talk about Santa in this post I am specifically referring to believing in Santa, not whether or not he should be banished altogether. My husband wears a Santa hat while we bake cookies. My kids sing along to Christmas songs on the radio and they don’t skip over Santa’s name like a cuss word. 

But we have decided not to tell our kids Santa is real. More specifically, we purposely tell them he is not. 

If you’ve been reading this blog for long you know that the whole point is to direct us moms and our kids into living out the gospel. I tried and tried to fit Santa into that plan, but it didn’t work. It was like trying to stuff a giant man down a chimney…

There are four reasons Santa didn’t make the Wallace team. 

1. Santa promotes works righteousness. That might sound harsh, but keep in mind the aforementioned goal.The heart of the gospel is the glorious trade of our sin for Christ’s righteousness. It is a difficult concept to teach because kids are legalistic by nature. It takes a lot of time, prayer, and thoughtful conversations to help them understand that God loves us because of Christ’s good works, not ours. 

Then along comes Santa. 


He’s jolly, sparkly, magical, and he promises gifts to children who are good. One of my sons in particular is very sensitive to the damage this causes. He would be so stressed if Christmas rested on his good deeds. Each time he messed up he would buckle down and double up on his good deeds to make up for it. I already have to work with him on accepting Christ’s free forgiveness instead of trying to work for it. Thanks, but no thanks, Santa. 

2. Santa blurs the lines between fact and fantasy. So precious are the moments when the kids climb onto our laps for a Bible story. We talk about Jesus and how He lived a perfect life and died for our sins. We talk about the mighty power of God who created the world, parted the Red Sea, and closed the mouths of lions. They listen intently. 

And they believe me

Sometimes my heart aches when I look into their wide eyes and innocent faces and think, “They trust me implicitly. I want so dearly to lead them in the truth.” If my husband and I throw Santa into the mix of “true” stories, what will they think later when they find out Santa is not real? How about Noah’s ark? How about the ten plagues? How about that Jesus guy who was kind of like a religious magician? We want the categories of true and fantasy to be clearly divided. Characters don’t get to jump back and forth from one category to the other.  

3. Santa is a type of god. Some of my readers might be rolling their eyes. But think about it. He is omnipotent (all powerful – makes toys, rides a magical sleigh, goes up and down chimneys). He is omnipresent (everywhere at once – how else could he deliver the presents?). He is omniscient (all knowing – he knows who is bad and who is good). He is eternal. He is perfect. He is the whole package. I can’t think of another mythical creature that encapsulates so many characteristics reserved for God alone. When we describe God to our kids I don’t want them thinking, “Oh yeah, kind of like Santa.” No. God is not like anybody. We want to keep it that way. 

4. It’s hard to compete with Santa. Who cares about a baby in a manger when there’s a huge man in a shiny red coat throwing presents and candy around like it’s going out of style? Kids spend the entire Christmas season looking for signs of Santa. They write him letters. They bake him cookies. And that’s just the kids. Playing make-believe takes a lot of work for us grown-ups. We are on the other end of it trying to hide the evidence and figure out how to field all of their questions. All the time and energy we put into keeping up the Santa myth could be spent focusing on Christ’s birth. 

Some parents call the Santa myth a lie while others call it pretending. I’m going to call it a huge distraction. My five-year-old asks me questions about God all the time: What does it mean to be a spirit? If God doesn’t have a heart how can He love people? If there is only one God why do we call Jesus God? Whew! Talk about tough questions. If I told my son Santa was real I would get all the same kinds of questions. Hundreds of them. Do I really want to take the time to thoughtfully answer my son’s genuine curiosity with answers that aren’t even true? Do I want Santa to become the focal point of every conversation? 

So where does that leave us with Santa? He’s everywhere we go. We can’t exactly hide from him. And we don’t want to. We treat Santa like any other part of life. We explain him. We use him as an opportunity to teach our kids how to think. We don’t want them to run and hide in fear or to venture out on their own to find the answers their parents wouldn’t give them. We have open and honest conversations about it. 

When we see Santa ringing a bell outside the grocery store my kids smile and say, “Merry Christmas, Santa!” They giggle and get a big kick out of it. But they don’t think he’s real. He’s not watching them while they’re sleeping or keeping track of their good deeds. To them it’s just like seeing a guy dressed up like batman. 

And they are having a great Christmas. 

(NEW note: I am so thankful for the great discussion this post has encouraged. One question that has been tossed around is, “How do you keep your kids from spoiling it for other kids?” It’s definitely something to address with your family. BUT – it shouldn’t be a motivating factor for teaching your kids to believe in Santa. For example, we wouldn’t say, “Well, we don’t want our kids to be party poopers so I guess we’ll have to go along with the Santa thing.” From the time our kids are really little they think of Santa as a game. That shouldn’t spoil it for anyone. By the time they are old enough to spill the beans we have the talk about some kids believing in Santa. We don’t make those kids sound silly or less spiritual. We just say it’s a family decision and every family is different. It’s a great way to help them put different family decisions in perspective. At some peoples’ houses we can eat food in the living room, some let us run in the house, some say take shoes off at the door….and some believe in Santa. It helps our kids learn thoughtfulness and respect for different ways of doing things.) 


Don’t forget the special moms on your shopping list! Books by Sara Wallace:

“Just Breastfeed” – How Not to Encourage Moms During the Formula Crisis

I had an awkward conversation with a grandma when I was a new mom. I was nursing my baby on my friend’s couch when her grandma smiled at me and said, “It’s so good to see a mom nursing her baby! So many moms use formula these days. Breast milk is much better.”

I smiled and continued to feed my baby. When I had nursed him all I could, I did what I always did. I pulled a bottle of prepared formula out of my diaper bag and finished his feeding. The look on the grandma’s face suddenly changed. She was obviously confused. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t feel the need to explain that I didn’t produce enough milk for my baby. I didn’t explain that for the last five months I had tried supplements, lactation groups, extra water and food intake, lactation teas, extra feeds, and tons of prayer. I didn’t explain how thankful I was that formula could pick up where I left off after every feed. I simply fed my baby.

A Desperate Situation  

Isn’t that our most basic job as moms – feeding our babies? Yet thousands of moms across the country are struggling to feed their babies right now. We are in crisis mode.

In February of this year, Abbott Laboratories, the largest producer of powdered infant formula initiated a recall after life-threatening bacteria was found in four infants who used their products. Combined with Covid related supply chain interruptions and the war in Ukraine (a major supplier of an ingredient in formula), grocery store shelves are empty. Think toilet paper in 2020, but with much more serious consequences.

It’s a nightmare for moms. They are searching high and low for different options for purchasing formula. It could be weeks or months before we see it back on store shelves.

A Compounded Problem

Amid the fear of not being able to feed their babies, there is an added pressure weighing on formula feeding moms: breastfeeding moms. Many in the “Breast is Best” community are asking, “Why don’t you just breastfeed?” There is an assumption that now all the formula feeding moms will finally do it “right.” Mamas are jumping on social media to offer advice such as, “Uhhh, maybe it’s time to breastfeed. It’s work, but it’s free.”

This doesn’t help the anxious mom who mixes her baby’s bottle, carefully counting how many more she can make before she runs out. It doesn’t help the mom who is scouring the internet and calling grocery stores to locate one more can of formula just to get through the next few days. These moms aren’t looking for breastfeeding advice. They are looking for food for their babies.

There are many reasons a mom might not breastfeed. Medications, poor latch, low supply, and adoption are just a few. There are moms who choose to use formula so they can go to work. Breastfeeding mamas are confusing the real issue. It’s as though the real problem is not Covid, a recall, or the war with Ukraine, but a mom’s decision to feed her baby formula. This only heaps more negativity on moms who are already in an extremely distressing situation. Yes, we have a formula problem. But we also have a major attitude problem in the mom community.

It’s a false notion that every mom can breastfeed, yet this was what was communicated to me many times when I was struggling to feed my baby. Even well-meaning Christian moms would try to encourage me by saying, “God made your body to do this, so you can.” All that meant was that something was wrong with me.  And yes, something was wrong with me: I was living in a fallen world with a fallen body. As Christians, we know that all of creation groans with the weight of the curse (Romans 8:22). Sometimes nature works against us. This insight should fuel our humility and our compassion. The ability to breastfeed is a gift. Gifts aren’t meant to be used to guilt-trip other moms.

Formula can also be a gift. Before it’s invention in 1865, moms who couldn’t breastfeed were limited in safe ways to feed their babies. Formula has provided nutrition for countless babies who might not have had nutrition otherwise, yet it has become an object of criticism instead of thankfulness. How can we get past this negativity and help our fellow moms?

A Better Way to Help

At a time when moms should come together more than ever, the lines are becoming deeper. The Christian mom community should be the first to erase the lines. Instead of burdening formula feeding mamas, we can come alongside them and ask, “What do you need?” They will probably say, “FORMULA.” But they might also need a sympathetic ear, encouragement if they do decide to tackle breastfeeding, and an extra pair of eyes on grocery store shelves.

Just as we should not assume every mom can nurse, we also shouldn’t assume that every mom wants to nurse. Even if you are convinced that breastmilk is best, this is an issue you can hold loosely. Why? Because it’s not a gospel issue. The Bible does not tell us what kind of milk to give our babies. It does tell us that if we see our brothers or sisters in need, we should not close our hearts to them (1 John 3:17). This could be as simple as offering compassion instead of advice or holding our tongues on social media.

Do you want to help formula feeding mamas? Don’t participate in the guilt trip. Protect them. Defend them. There might be many mamas who turn to breastfeeding as a result of the formula shortage, but that is not the goal. The goal is that the most vulnerable among us are fed. Our hearts should break for these babies and for their mamas who desperately want to feed them. We are all on the same team. It’s not the breastmilk team or the formula team. It’s the “Feed the Babies” team.

If you are a mama in need of food for your baby, check out this list of resources. If you’re a mama looking to help, check out milk banking.

Books by Sara Wallace:

Created to Care
“The gospel is the foundation for what it means to be a mother. It is always through this lens that Sara’s wisdom comes shining into our daily lives where joining all the dots can be tricky.” – Kristyn Getty, soloist; composer; hymnwriter; coauthor of Sing!
For the Love of Discipline
“The culmination of 30 years of evangelical thinking about parenting. Clear guidelines, great illustrations, and very practical.” – Pastor Steve, Atlanta
The Gospel-Centered Mom
“The Gospel-Centered Mom is a huge gulp of refreshing air for moms who are in the thick of raising kids. It takes your eyes off of your performance and places them on the one who performed perfectly for us.” – Jessica Thompson, co-author of Give Them Grace

Follow me on Instagram! gospelcenteredmomsarawallace

Shame Culture and the Gospel

“Shame on you!”

“I’m ashamed of you.”

Sound familiar? Maybe these words take you back to your childhood. Maybe you hear them coming from your own mouth. 

You might have noticed that shame is not a popular concept in our culture. I recently watched a video on evangelism. As the pastor spoke with a wide range of students on a college campus, there was a consistent response: the avoidance of shame. “I’m a good person.” “It’s not my place to judge.” The world has made a religion out of avoiding shame. Shame is the ultimate enemy. 

The other day my 9-year-old tattled on his little brother. “He’s being stubborn!” The 5-year-old immediately defended himself. “It was an accident!” (Is that even possible? The questions that keep me up at night…) 

It’s hard for us – and our kids – to own up to our sinfulness. Nobody wants to feel bad.  How can we be gospel-centered parents in an anti-shame culture? 

If we took our cue from the world, we could treat shame as the ultimate enemy. We don’t want our kids to feel bad, do we? Why not protect them from that horrible feeling? We could call their sin an accident (like my 5-year-old did), or we could call it a “phase.” We could say it’s just their personality. We could blame ourselves for their sin: “I shouldn’t have made him angry.” “I should have given her more choices.”

But, if we constantly protect our kids from shame, they won’t recognize their sin. If they don’t recognize their sin, they won’t know their need for a Savior. Shame serves a valuable purpose in gospel-centered parenting. 

But shame-based parenting is not the answer. Shame-based parenting uses shame as a weapon. It says, “If you don’t do what I say, I will make sure you feel miserable.” It might get the reaction you’re looking for (crying, apologizing, complying), but shame alone doesn’t change the heart. In fact, it can harden our kids’ hearts. Kids will do whatever it takes to avoid that feeling – including hiding, lying, appeasing, and eventually running away from it as fast and as far as they can.

Many people raised in the church can look back on their childhoods and identify shame culture. Shame culture is used to control outward behavior. It is fueled by fear of what others think: What does the church think of me? What do my parents think of me? What do my peers think of me? It teaches us to conform to a standard set by others and to look inward for goodness. It is great at creating Pharisees, but bad at cultivating Christ-followers – and terrible at producing hope.

In his book “God of the Garden,” Andrew Peterson describes shame as a haunted wood: “If he (the little boy) could run fast enough, or hop the train, or disappear into a book, maybe he can find refuge, or at least forget for a little while that he is doomed. I wish I could tell him what I know now: there is a presence in the woods that is older and stronger and kinder than the ghost that harries him…a presence that can transform the dark forest into a garden of wonders.”

What an amazing opportunity – to lead our kids from the darkness of their shame to the glory of the cross. Kids don’t naturally know what to do with their shame. They will wear it like a burden. Jesus said, “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest…for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) It’s easy to point out our kids’ sin because it’s in our faces all the time. But how often do we point them to the only true rest for their souls?

Forced shame will always backfire. We can’t manufacture shame that leads to repentance. We can only show our kids where shame comes from and what to do with it. We can say,  “What you did was sin. We all sin. That’s why we need Jesus to forgive us.” We can show them that our sin is real, but there is a real solution. We can take our shame to Christ and exchange it for His glorious robes of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). 

As our kids get older, they will eventually have to look their shame in the face. It is sobering and scary when we realize we are not as good as we thought we were – when we realize that “bad” is on the inside, not just in the world around us. But we can prepare our kids now to answer their shame with the gospel. We can help them say with John Newton, “I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” Our shame does not have the final say. The answer to our shame has been recorded for all eternity: “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

I’m not on Facebook anymore! Please follow me on Instagram! gospelcenteredmomsarawallace

Books by Sara Wallace:

Created to Care
“The gospel is the foundation for what it means to be a mother. It is always through this lens that Sara’s wisdom comes shining into our daily lives where joining all the dots can be tricky.” – Kristyn Getty, soloist; composer; hymnwriter; coauthor of Sing!
For the Love of Discipline
“The culmination of 30 years of evangelical thinking about parenting. Clear guidelines, great illustrations, and very practical.” – Pastor Steve, Atlanta
The Gospel-Centered Mom
“The Gospel-Centered Mom is a huge gulp of refreshing air for moms who are in the thick of raising kids. It takes your eyes off of your performance and places them on the one who performed perfectly for us.” – Jessica Thompson, co-author of Give Them Grace

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I’ve been Deleted – I Need Your Help!

January was a weird month.

I got Covid, my husband almost got stranded in Mexico (due to Covid restrictions), and…my Facebook account was permanently deleted.

What started as an apparent hacking ended with Facebook permanently deleting me. Forever. My appeal was denied.

My Gospel-Centered Mom page is still visible, but it is a dead page. It will be there until Facebook decides to remove it.

There is no way for me to reach my Facebook followers to let them know what happened. I feel terrible knowing that they will never see another post from me and they won’t know why.

I need your help! I just joined Instagram (I’m only a few years late, right?) Please follow me and help me spread the word to other moms! I post daily glimpses into my crazy life with five boys and gospel-centered tips for motherhood – all sprinkled with the humor that keeps me sane.

I appreciate your help! As a way of saying thank you, I am doing a giveaway of any one of my books – your choice! Please follow me on Instagram and then send me a quick message through Instagram to let me know you are entering the “Blog Contest.” I will announce a winner on Friday!


Be a Gentleman

Tired of chaotic family dinners? This is the list we hang in our kitchen next to our evening chore chart. It has been a valuable tool in creating peaceful family dinners. The kids enjoy identifying what number they are practicing. “Mom, I just did rule number 5!”

Be a Gentleman

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.”

Philippians 2:3

1. Don’t eat until everyone is ready

2. Chew with your mouth closed

3. Take small bites

4. Ask for food to be passed (please and thank you)

5. Take turns talking

6. Don’t play with your placemat, silverware, or food

7. Don’t complain

8. Try everything on your plate

9. Ask to be excused

10. Clear your spot

11. Wash your hands and face

12. Thank the cook

For more practical tips on creating a peaceful home environment, check out “For the Love of Discipline: Where the Gospel Meets Tantrums and Time-Outs.”

One More Thing

I discovered a great tip for raising five boys: Throw them all into the woods for a few days with a giant bag of marshmallows and some plastic swords.

We love camping. Everyone comes home tired and dirty and a little sunburned. I get to soak up time with my little men without wondering what housework I should be doing.

One of my favorite parts of camping is the prep. My friend gave me a master packing list a few years ago. I spend the days leading up to the trip checking things off. Every year I try to pack something special and different. One year it was some new digging toys. This year it was homemade pizza pockets to cook around the fire.

But no matter how good my list is I always forget something. It can be as simple as forgetting my hat or as inconvenient as forgetting the hammer. This year my son “forgot” all of his underwear…

As we drive to our campsite my brain keeps turning: “One more thing. What’s one more thing I should have brought?”

It’s the part of my mom-brain that I can’t turn off, even after camping season is over. One more thing, one more thing…

What’s one more thing I should be teaching my kids?

What’s one more way to point them to Jesus?

What’s one more way to teach them godly character?

One more book I should read to them?

One more homeschool project?

One more family outing?

One more healthy habit?

One more life skill?

One more family memory?

We moms have this never-ending list running in the backs of our minds all day and into the late hours of the night. It’s the kind of list that motivates and haunts us at the same time. It simultaneously produces creativity and anxiety.

Unlike my camping list, this list has no end. I can snap the lid on my big plastic tub of camping gear, but I can’t snap the lid on raising these boys. How do I ever know if I’m doing enough?

The good news is the “enough” doesn’t come from me. It comes from Christ. In Colossians 2:14, Christ completed the only checklist that really matters: “Having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” He took my sin and replaced it with His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

All of my motivation to do better and try harder has to start here. Christ is enough. My sin is gone. His righteousness is my righteousness. But my weakness still stares me in the face every day. What do I do with it?

2 Corinthians 12:9 shows that not only is my weakness not a hindrance to God’s plan, it is an integral part of it:

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

Be happy about my weaknesses? Then I have a lot to be happy about.

I can’t do it all – and that’s the whole point. My limitations show His limitless power. My weakness shows His strength. My sin shows His grace. And who is watching all of this? My kids. They’re not watching my checklist. They’re watching my faith. Who do I trust when things fall apart? Where do I look when I need help? Their eyes follow my gaze.

Instead of being driven by my endless mental list, I can be driven by grace. I know that I’m not trying to finish or perfect something. I’m simply walking through daily life with my kids – their weaknesses intertwined with mine – pointing them to Christ, enjoying His good gifts, and growing alongside them.

There are holes in my parenting. There are things that will never be crossed off my list. But instead of always thinking about “one more thing,” I can praise God that His grace is enough. I can enjoy each moment I’m in – each messy, imperfect, God-glorifying moment.

Books by Sara Wallace:

Created to Care
“The gospel is the foundation for what it means to be a mother. It is always through this lens that Sara’s wisdom comes shining into our daily lives where joining all the dots can be tricky.” – Kristyn Getty, soloist; composer; hymnwriter; coauthor of Sing!
For the Love of Discipline
“The culmination of 30 years of evangelical thinking about parenting. Clear guidelines, great illustrations, and very practical.” – Pastor Steve, Atlanta
The Gospel-Centered Mom
“The Gospel-Centered Mom is a huge gulp of refreshing air for moms who are in the thick of raising kids. It takes your eyes off of your performance and places them on the one who performed perfectly for us.” – Jessica Thompson, co-author of Give Them Grace