Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Break & National Call to Prayer

As the days draw closer and closer to Christmas, I'm finding myself getting more and more excited to celebrate this beautiful season. In light of the tragedies last week in Connecticut, I have a feeling this Christmas may be more special than most, if that's possible. Though our country grieves, I believe this year, more than others, we'll hold our loved ones a little closer and embrace each moment we're given. I think it will cause all of us to pause and really contemplate the great gift the Babe in the manger has brought us.

On Wednesday, December 19th at 9:45 am CST MOPS, International is asking for a  National Call to Prayer for those affected by the shooting in Sandy Hook, and also for all the parents across our country who have become attacked with fear for our children. Please join me in lifting our voices as one.

I will be taking a blogging break to celebrate and prepare for Christmas. I will return on Wednesday, January 2nd. On that day I will also be a guest on my good friend Melissa Tagg's blog! I'm excited to talk about all things new.

Today I will close with the prayer I say for my children before bed each night and as I drop them off at school every morning:

"May God bless and keep you, may God's face shine on you and may God be kind to you and give you peace." Numbers 6:24-26

Merry Christmas from our family to yours. May the joy and wonder of this blessed holiday season fill you with hope as you remember and celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Different Kind of Gift for Christmas

My daughter busting a move with
my husband at a family wedding.
She's a gifted dancer!
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights..." James 1:17

I have three siblings and all of us are married with children. When we get together for Christmas there are twenty-one people just in our immediate little circle. A few years ago we decided to stop buying gifts for one another, instead we spend Christmas visiting, playing games and watching the grandchildren perform their annual Nativity Play.

In lieu of material gifts this year, I suggested we do something a little different. Instead of buying something from the store, I thought it would be fun to share the gift that God has given us.

I firmly believe that God has placed inside each of us special talents, skills and abilities that we're supposed to share with the world.

My husband is an amazing singer. It's so much fun to listen to him sing praise and worship in church. But, it's even more fulfilling when others come up and tell him how much his singing blesses them.

My sister is gifted in designing. It can be a room or a wardrobe. She's always the first person I call when I'm picking out wall colors or trying to put together the perfect outfit.

My mom is gifted in encouraging and propelling people to action. It's no wonder that she's serving in her second term as mayor of our town.

My dad is gifted in spacial concepts. He has built four of my parents' homes (while maintaining a day job that has nothing to do with building) and the way he can take lines on a blueprint and make it into a structure astounds me.

I realize my family can't share some of these gifts in my parents' living room, but thankfully God doesn't stop with one gift. There are so many to choose from.

My oldest daughter loves to tell jokes, so she's been practicing her best jokes for Christmas Eve. My second daughter loves to dance, so she and a cousin have been choreographing a dance for us and another cousin will sing the song they're dancing to. My brother-in-law has a top-secret gift he's planning on sharing, but none of us know what it is!

As for me, I haven't quite figured out what gift I'll share. I have a few ideas in the back of my head, but I think I'll also keep it a secret until Christmas Eve.

It's so much fun watching the grandchildren, who range in age from nine months to eleven years old, get more excited for this talent show than anything else this Christmas Season. But the best part is knowing we'll make memories together that will far outlast any toy we could ever give.

What about you? Do you have any unique ideas for Christmas this year? What is your favorite memory from a childhood Christmas?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Our Favorite Christmas Tradition

I've said it before, but I'll say it again, I'm married to Mr. Christmas. He loves all aspects of this holiday season and, according to his mom, he's been that way since he was a little boy.

The first Christmas after we started dating we were just seventeen and I wasn't sure what to get him for a present, so when I found this cute little Santa Claus ornament I knew it was perfect for him. He loved it.

The following Christmas we went on a school trip to London and I came across this Santa Claus.

As we walked the streets of London, with this tin Santa in my backpack, a tradition was birthed - one that has lasted more than fourteen years. We decided that wherever we go we will find a Santa Claus ornament to remember the trip and add to our tree.

Since then we've bought many fun Santas and we try to find ones that represent the place we're visiting. Sometimes the best memories come from the hunt for the ornament - and then discovering a perfect one. Here are just a few.

This beautiful blown glass Santa
is one of my favorite. It came from
New York City in 2000 and sits
at the WAYYYYY top of the tree
where my little people can't reach!
It's actually the second one. The original
fell out of my bag in Central Park
and David went all the way back
to the store for a second one.

This Santa came from Decorah,
Iowa in 2000 and reminded us of
the strong Norwegian influence
in the city and region
A rodeo Santa from one of our many
trips to Colorado to visit my sister
From Washington, D.C. in 2001

From a Caribbean Cruise in 2006
This Santa is made out of sea shells
from Barbados in 2004

Sometimes we've gone to places that don't have Santas and so we've become creative. That was how this Santa came to be on our tree.

I carved it from a piece of pine that we  found when we went to Quetico Provincial Park on a camping trip in 2000. I colored his hat and cheeks with berries. For 13 years I've wanted to take a wood carving class, but I haven't had time!

Over the years we've been blessed to travel to many fun places, but we aren't always successful in finding a Santa, so we've bought other ornaments, instead.

This is an acorn from The Breakers
Mansion in Newport, RI in 2006.
The Breakers is decorated with
acorns because they represent
good luck & prosperity

Other times Dave or I have gone on a trip alone, but even if we're not together we still buy a Santa or an ornament that represents the place.

Dave bought this charming doll
during a mission trip to Burkina
Faso, Africa in 2008 and we turned
it into an ornament
I think you can guess where
this one came from! My trip
to Paris in 2009.
Every year, as we decorate the tree, we reminisce about the places we have gone and the things we have done - and dream about where we will go next.

What about you? What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Do you collect ornaments from the places you travel? 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Preparations

I can't believe we're less than two weeks away from Christmas!

A few nights ago we had a big snow storm, with about ten inches of snow, so we're ready to celebrate the holidays in style. We plan to go sledding this weekend, bake cookies and deliver them to neighbors next week, and wrap all the fun presents we've bought or made for friends and family.

We've already had fun preparing for Christmas in many different ways, including decorating our Christmas Tree, as well as my parents' and Dave's parents' trees. My children are pros at hanging decorations!

Here are a few pictures of us preparing for Christmas...

We've already made three batches of Monster Cookies
with many more to come!
We've gone out and picked the perfect tree

Watched some of our favorite Christmas movies
(popcorn included!)

And marveled at the wonder of Christmas...

In what ways have you prepared for Christmas? What do you plan to do in the next two weeks?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Character Motivation

I've been writing my blog for about ten months now and I haven't ventured into talking about the craft of storytelling, until now.

One of the reasons I've shied away from the topic is because there are so many amazing blogs out there dedicated to writing. I've also stayed away from the topic because I'm still in the learning stage myself and I didn't feel that I'd have anything to teach. But I realized I'll forever be in the learning stage - when do we ever stop learning? Why wait to share what I've learned?

Since I've started studying the craft of storytelling, something has happened to me. I can no longer watch a movie, or read a book, and NOT dissect it to discover all the little nuances of storytelling in it. 

Some stories are stellar and I'm left in awe of the skill and talent of the author. But some are not-so-stellar, and I'm left feeling a little cheated by wasting my time. Okay, "wasting" my time is a little harsh - as long as I learn something from the poorly written story, then it wasn't a waste of time, right?

Two weeks ago I watched a pre-WWII era movie called "Five Little Peppers In Trouble." I don't know if you're familiar with "The Five Little Peppers," but they were a series of feature films created in 1939 and 1940, based on books by Margaret Sidney, about five children who grew up under the care of their widowed mother and were "rescued" by a wealthy gentlemen who took an interest in their well-being. The films are very cute and leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

This particular movie is about the time the Five Little Peppers go to boarding school, and their trouble while there. The whole movie is based on this premise. The only problem is - there's no legitimate need or motivation for the Peppers to go to the boarding school. The young boy who lives with them (the grandson of the wealthy gentleman who cares for them) has a legitimate reason for going, but there's no reason the Peppers need to go - and it bothered me!

Have you ever watched a movie, or read a book, and suddenly a character is doing something that makes no sense? It tears you out of the story world. You find yourself frustrated because the story no longer holds believability.

Everything that happened to the Peppers at the boarding school was unbelievable, because there was no reason they needed to be there! I kept asking myself: why don't they just go home? They don't have to stay! I didn't get emotionally invested in the story because there was no proper motivation for the characters and it left me frustrated and telling myself: it serves them right, if they'd just go home none of this would be happening.

The thing is, it could have been easily dealt with. The author could have come up with a legitimate reason why the Peppers needed to go to the boarding school and I wouldn't have even thought twice about it. If there was motivation behind being there - if circumstances forced them there and they had no other choice - I would have felt sorry for them and become invested in their troubles.

As an author, it reminded me why we need legitimate motivation for the characters in our stories. We can't just pull a character out of one environment, or situation, and put them into another for no apparent reason - if we do, everything that happens to them after that point becomes unbelievable and our reader has no reason to get emotionally involved. They're left frustrated - and the last thing we want our reader to be is frustrated! Frustrated readers throw books against the wall.

As we craft our stories, it's vital that we give proper motivation to everything our characters do - and if you ever plan to send one of your characters to boarding school, please do me a favor and give them a good reason to go!

What about you? Have you ever watched a movie, or read a book, where the characters are doing something that makes no sense? Have you ever heard of the "Five Little Peppers"?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Friday Fun: Decorating the Tree

Happy Friday! December is flying by in the blink of an eye. Less than three weeks to Christmas and four weeks until the new year!

I'm married to Mr. Christmas. David's birthday is on the 27th and he's always felt a fondness for sharing his birthday with this holiday. He loves to decorate, watch Christmas movies, make cookies and generally listen to Christmas music every chance he can. He always sings during the Christmas Eve service at church - which is one of my favorite moments of the season.

The past few Christmases have been a little hectic for us because of the twins being so little, but this year has been a lot different. They are finally leaving the tree alone (sort of) and they are noticing little bits of Christmas here and there as we drive through town, go shopping, watch Christmas movies, etc. The girls are enjoying the fact that none of their ornaments have been broken this year!

We decorated the tree on Sunday evening and I thought I'd share a couple of pictures of what it looks like to decorate the tree in our house.

Next Friday I plan to share one of our traditions with you - it's one of my favorite things, no matter what time of year it is.

Daddy took a break and demonstrated juggling
(these are plastic ball ornaments!)

My oldest holding the beads

He's trying to juggle like Daddy - he always sticks
his tongue out when he's concentrating
She had high hopes to juggle six at a time!

Helping Daddy string lights (notice Dave's pajama
bottoms are Christmas lights...)
Sad that he couldn't do it by himself

My oldest wanted to take a picture of me

Our oldest hanging the first ornament

What about you? Have you decorated a tree this year?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Big Splash

David and I shortly after the canoe incident ~ 1997

My husband David and I started dating when we were seventeen. He was my first serious boyfriend. The first boy I kissed. The first boy who brought me home to his parents' house. The first and only boy who I've ever loved. I look back on all those first and I still smile.

One of the big firsts for us took place two months after we started dating. I was invited to David's house to meet all of his aunts, uncles and cousins for a little family reunion. I love meeting new people and I enjoyed them even more because they were David's family.

Everything was going well, but David and I wanted to get away for a little while to be alone. His parents live on a lake, so he asked me if I'd like to take a canoe out to a beautiful island not too far from their house. I readily agreed, having very little canoeing experience, but he had practically grown up in a canoe, so I knew we were safe.

The day was cool for August and the sky overhead was a brilliant blue. The sun shimmered off the lake as we skipped rocks, shared a few kisses and talked about the upcoming school year. All too soon it was time to go back to the Meyer house, so we boarded the canoe and paddled back.

As we glided up to his parents' house, a handful of David's younger cousins ran down the dock toward us. David pulled the canoe up to the edge of the dock and told me to be careful as I climbed out.

I was a bit unsure how to get from the canoe to the dock gracefully, so I stood, placed my hands on the dock and tried to pull myself up.

The canoe began to slide under the dock and I didn't have a solid handle on it, so as the canoe slipped under, I lost my balance and, with arms flailing, went backwards into the lake! The worst part was my legs were still stuck in the canoe, my head was underwater and my shirt slipped up to my neck. For a split second I didn't know what to do. I was hanging upside down in the water giving David, and his young cousins, a show. I quickly realized the only thing I could do was pull my legs out of the canoe and go completely under.

So that's what I did.

When I finally pulled myself out of the water (I considered staying there forever), I'll never forget the stunned/bewildered/sympathetic/comical look on David's face. I must have looked like a drowned rat. But I smiled. I smiled at him. I smiled at his cousins. I smiled at his parents and his aunts and uncles. There was nothing left to do, but smile and laugh at the whole situation.

David gave me an over sized sweatshirt and pajama bottoms to wear as my clothes dried - and we had another good laugh. My one consolation was that his relatives would never forget me.

And, because of how calmly and gracefully (his words) I handled the situation, I won David's heart forever.

What about you? Have you ever had an embarrassing moment on a date? Did you end up marrying that person?

Monday, December 3, 2012


"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 6:6-9

My husband and I have been blessed with two daughters who are eight and six, and twin boys who are two and a half. Now that we're confident we're done having children (unless God would move our hearts to have another), we're starting to view parenting a little differently. All of a sudden there is a time limit.

Our boys will be eighteen in fifteen and a half years, or, in other words, in fifteen and a half years, we will be empty nesters. I know that sounds like a long time to some people, but our oldest is already eight and those eight years flew by in a blink of an eye. Before we know it, she'll be graduating from high school and ready to take the next step in life and her sister and brothers will follow quickly behind her.

I don't know about you, but that makes me pause and really think about what we're doing today to prepare our children for the day they move on.

The time to lay the foundation for the rest of their lives is now.

Dave and I have been very purposeful about what we want to teach our children, and as Deuteronomy 6:6-9 tells us, we believe the most important thing we can impress upon them is our faith. To impress means "to fix deeply or firmly on the mind or memory, as ideas or facts."

We don't want our children to simply know about our faith, we want to fix it deeply into their minds and hearts. We want them to be confident in what we believe, and our prayer is that they will choose to follow in our foot steps someday. We want the legacy that we leave for our children, and our children's children, to be one of faith and hope.

So how do we impress upon them our faith? I believe that the answer is found in the second half of this verse. We are to impress it upon them when we sit at home and when we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up - at all times.

No matter what we are doing we are modeling our faith for our children. Not just on Sunday morning at church. Not just on Wednesday night at AWANA. Not just when we say our nightly prayers. We are showing our children what faith is at all times, in all ways. Our faith doesn't simply exist in a church building or in an organization. It doesn't exist on one particular day a week. Our faith exists in our hearts when we sit at home, when we leave the house, when we sleep and when we're awake. It's a living breathing thing that never ends.

Impressing our faith on our children is not only something we're instructed to do in the Bible, it's something we need to do to lay the foundation that our children will rely on for the rest of their lives. Without a foundation, the building cannot stand. Without a solid grasp on faith, their lives will be shaky and unstable. Through the strength God offers, we want to make sure we do everything we can to give them a solid start.

Before we know it, our children will be grown up. Now is the time to make a difference.

What about you? Is it easy to model your faith in front of your children? What kind of models did you have as a child?