Life Lesson #8: Holiday Traditions

It’s that time of year again!

Thanksgiving has just ended and the Christmas decorating has started. (For some, it started weeks ago!)

This is my favorite time of the year for many reasons: My wife and I were married in December of 2010, people seem to be more compassionate and generous, magical lights illuminate streets and homes all across town, and its a major opportunity to share the true story about the birth of our Savior – to the world.

But one of the main reason why this is “the most wonderful time of the year” for my family and I, is our holiday traditions.

And that brings me to today’s Life Lesson…

holiday-traditions

Most families have holiday traditions. Rather you experienced them when you were a kid or you’re just now experiencing some traditions as an adult, the memories are timeless.

New or old, holiday traditions are saved in a special place in our hearts. They are what make our memories worth remembering. They are what bond us together as families, regardless of how silly they may seem.

This year, I get to introduce my little girl to the new holiday traditions my wife and I made when we got married in 2010. Christmas in it of itself is a magical time of year. As a kid, I was enamored by all the lights, sounds, smells, food, family, and fun. Now that I’m an adult (aka – a big kid) I get to relive those magical moments in the eyes of my daughter as I watch her grow up and enjoy this Christmas season too.

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WHY ARE HOLIDAY TRADITIONS SO IMPORTANT? 

Studies have shown that holiday traditions help connect us to our history and generations of family. They keep the memories of the past alive and help us share them with newer generations.

Although holiday traditions are usually the fist thing people think of when you mention traditions, they are not the only ones families have. Whether it’s stringing popcorn for the Christmas tree, watching the Thanksgiving Day parade while the turkey cooks, building sand castles every summer or regularly having family movie night, they are family rituals that brings children and parents closer. These moments create positive memories for children and provide positive events for everyone to anticipate! Children crave the comfort and security that comes with traditions and predictability. This takes away the anxiety of the unknown and unpredictable. Traditions are a wonderful way to anchor family members to each other, providing a sense of unity and belonging.

Not every family is lucky enough to have traditions, but that’s ok. That just gives you the freedom to start creating your own! With the holidays coming, it is the perfect excuse to start trying new things! It can really be anything you think is fun. Perhaps it could be playing TBS’s 24 hours of the Christmas Story in the background while the family spends time together, cooks dinner, and plays with their new toys. Going to a Christmas candlelight communion service at church. Reading the Night Before Christmas or The TRUE Christmas Story from the Bible on Christmas Eve is popular, or perhaps reading A Christmas Carol throughout the season and learning its history and meaning.

Once you get started making traditions during the holidays, you can start branching out to make new traditions throughout the year. Start a pizza night, a movie night, or even board game night. Make birthdays a special time for the celebrant to pick the cake and their favorite dinner. If these things aren’t what you had in mind, traditions can be the annual family vacation where you spend time together every year.

If there is a simple take away message here, it’s that traditions nurture our spirit and are an important part of family bonding. They can be anything fun you and your family already enjoy doing, or you can have fun starting your own. Don’t get caught up in instituting the perfect family tradition, because it’s not about being perfect. It’s about the experience you share with your family.

So, here are some of the Christmas traditions my wife and I created and do each year together! Feel free to use any of them for your family! Start building lasting memories and a solid relationship as a family this year!

MY FAMIY’S HOLIDAY TRADITIONS:

  1. Each year, when we set up our Christmas tree and decorations (after Thanksgiving), we either play Christmas music or the Christmas classic movies (Rudolph, Frosty, etc.) in the background as we pop cookies in the oven and make peppermint mocha coffee or fresh made hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and cinnamon.
  2. Each year, when all the decorating is done, we turn the lights off and as our home is intimately lit by our Christmas lights, we dance slowly together to Jeremy Camp’s version of “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” (This year, we got to hold our daughter between us as we danced in the living room together.)
  3. Each year, we like to decorate a gingerbread house together and/or make Christmas cutout cookies and decorate them with frosting and sprinkles. Then, when we’ve had our fill and simply can not eat anymore, we share them with family and friends at Christmas parties!
  4. Each year, we LOVE opening our home and hosting Christmas parties for our church small group or close friends!
  5. Each year, we send out a family Christmas photo and/or a Christmas letter to our family and friends wishing them warm Christmas cheer!
  6. Each year, I enjoy making my popular dessert, “Chris’ Christmas Rice Crispy Treats!”
  7. Each year, my wife and I look forward to celebrating Christmas with our church family by participating in their Christmas service. Normally these services are soft, warm, and intimate. Its a great time to slow down during the holiday rush and remember the TRUE meaning of Christmas. At most church services during this time of year, they partake in communion and also remember the sacrifice of our Lord, as well as His birth.
  8. Each year, we LOVE to take an evening and go drive around (with a Christmas Starbucks in hand) and go Christmas light looking. Its even more fun with these AWESOME Christmas light glasses from Lowe’s. 
  9. Each year, we love attending Christmas parties with either family or friends. This really helps build relationships!
  10. Each year, we watch a Christmas movie together each week as a family – complete with popcorn.
  11. Each year, we take communion together as a family after reading the Christmas Story from the Bible.
  12. Each year, we love to only listen to Christmas music after Thanksgiving and all throughout the month of December – especially Michael Buble Christmas and the classics.
  13. Something NEW we’re trying this year (and onward) is buying only 3 gifts for each other in order to help save money, inspire giving over getting and learning to be satisfied, and in honor of our Savior  -who at His birthday celebration received 3 gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh.) One gift is meant to meet a desire (such as a video game or toy), one gift to meet a need (new clothes or shoes), and one gift to help deepen our relationship with the Lord (devotional, worship cd, book, etc.)
  14. In the future (as our daughter and kids get older) we want to start a NEW tradition of opening ONE present on Christmas Eve which will always be new Pajamas and a Christmas basket filled with popcorn, candy, hot cocoa, and a new Christmas movie! Then, we’ll change into our new pajamas, pop the corn, and watch the movie together. Great movies for this time of year are ones such as Home Alone(s), Elf, The Santa Clause(s), The Christmas Classics, Charlie Brown, Jingle All The Way, It’s a Wonderful Life, and more!
  15. In the future (as our daughter and kids get older) I  want to dress up as Santa on Christmas Eve and “get caught” by my kids putting presents under the tree. Then, sit them down on “Santa’s knee” and read them an original Christmas story I wrote called “That Special Night.” It’s a story told from Santa’s perspective on a Christmas Eve night as he tells kids the true meaning of Christmas, and one I hope to have published as a fully illustrated book in the near future!
  16. In the future (as our daughter and kids get older) we want to make a small birthday cake and celebrate Jesus’ birthday (even though Christmas day isn’t the official day). It’ll be fun singing “Happy Birthday Jesus” together as it serves as a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas.
  17. In the future (as our daughter and kids get older) we want to have a white stocking meant for Jesus. Each year we want to write personal notes to Jesus thanking Him (and the Father) for all the blessings He gave us during the year, and what we want to give to Him in the new year (loving people like He does, working on our anger, working on extending grace to others, serving without being asked because Jesus served us, etc.)

I told you this was our favorite time of year!

Even though this may seem like a lot, and even though we may not get to do all our family’s traditions in one month’s time, we still enjoy it and make the most of every moment together.

So, lets hear it! What are some of your family holiday traditions?

Don’t have any? Start some of your own this year!

Merry, Merry Christmas ~ from our family to yours!

-Christopher Meek-

 

Chris’ Christmas Rice Crispy Treats!

Get ready for a dessert that will be asked for again and again each year by all your family and friends!

Chris’ Christmas Rice Crispy Treats!

INGREDIENTS

DIRECTIONS

  1. Melt margarine in large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
  2. Add Fruity Pebbles. Stir until well coated.
  3. Using buttered spatula or waxed paper, press mixture evenly into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray.
  4. Drizzle your choice of melted chocolate bark on the top.
  5. Cut into 2-inch squares when cool or use Christmas cookie cutters for fun shapes.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

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Beloved: By Christopher Meek

“I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine.” Song of Solomon 6:3

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This book is the first book that my wife and I have partnered together on.                     Beloved was inspired by the 40 Blog Post that were written each week as our daughter (our firstborn) grew in the womb. These short stories are now a collection built into one  book as a chance for each new parent to be to experience a beautiful relationship unfold between the Creator and His creation ~ nine months in the making. ~

Each weekly chapter is filled with a short story where baby and God are conversing back and forth, encouraging scriptures that can be used as short devotionals, and there will also be a place where each parent can journal their thoughts to God and/or to their baby.

Available now from Lulu

Available now from Lulu

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Million Dollar Spaghetti

So it’s been a while since we have cooked a meal in our home. (Frozen meals don’t count.)

Ever since we had our baby girl, moved to a new state, moved into a new home, a new church, a new job, and getting to know new friends, things have been a bit busy for the Meek household to say the least.

Tonight we tried a recipe that is “Trim Healthy Momma” approved!

When served with a fresh salad topped with Olive Garden Dressing, purchased at your friendly neighborhood Walmart, this is a meal the whole family can enjoy!

Million Dollar Spaghetti:

What you’ll need:

  • 1 (8 ounce) package spaghetti
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1 (16 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1/2 cup butter, sliced – divided
  • 1 (8 ounce) container cottage cheese
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 (8 ounce) package shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti in the boiling water, stirring occasionally until cooked through but firm to the bite, about 12 minutes. Drain.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir beef in the hot skillet until browned and crumbly, 5 to 7 minutes; drain and discard grease. Transfer to a bowl and mix spaghetti sauce into ground beef.
  • Place half the slices of butter into the bottom of a 9×13-inch casserole dish. Spread half the spaghetti into the dish. Mix cottage cheese, cream cheese, and sour cream together in a bowl; spread mixture over spaghetti. Layer remaining spaghetti over creamy mixture. Top with remaining pats of butter.
  • Pour ground beef/turkey mixture over spaghetti and spread to cover casserole.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Spread Cheddar cheese over casserole and continue baking until cheese has melted and is lightly browned, about 15 more minutes.

Tip:

  • Aluminum foil can be used to keep food moist, cook it evenly, and make clean-up easier.

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Life Lesson #7: Who’s To Blame; My Church or Me?

“Who’s to blame; my church or me?”  their-fault

Here is a question we all need to ask ourselves, and one that leads us to today’s Life Lesson.

“Who’s to blame; my church or me?” (Regarding our spiritual growth.)

To answer that question, we need to ask a few others:

When did you become a Christian?

To better define that question let me ask it in another way:

When was the first time you invited Jesus Christ to be the Lord (boss) and Savior of your life?

Since that time of Salvation, can you honestly say that you have pursued Jesus, the Holy Spirit,and God in a relationship that by simply living your everyday life, you and others around you, have noticed a difference from who you once were?

If yes, then can you look back at this time last year, and see if you have grown in your relationship with Him since then?

  • What about this time last week?
  • Have you grown deeper in your relationship with God since yesterday?

We live in a world that is all about promoting “Me-ism.” (Everything is all about me.) And sadly enough, we have taken this concept into our churches.

  • Was the pastor funny enough to keep me off Facebook though the sermon?
  • Was there free childcare?
  • Did my kids get entertained with the latest and greatest?
  • Did the worship music sound pleasing to my ears and was it too loud?
  • Did I get a close parking spot?
  • Was the seat comfortable enough?
  • Was it to dark or too bright?
  • And did I get what I needed form either the pastor or someone else?

We enter the church as a Consumer instead of a Server. This kind of thinking has led us to our personal spiritual destruction. The church (building) is NOT meant to create you to be a Super Christian.

I’m sure you’ve heard the famous quote; “Going to church does NOT make you any more of a Christian than walking into a garage makes you a car.”

The purpose of the church is for worship and spiritual edification. It is YOUR responsibility and YOURS alone to take what the church amplifies from God’s Word and apply it to every area of your life.(Example: Finances,marriage, parenting, work, ect.) THEN, it falls on YOU and YOU alone to share that life changing information with those around you.

If we simply enter into a relationship with God at the moment of Salvation, and never take the matter of spiritual discipline and growth into our own hands, we remain as spiritual babies and can never grow past the elementary stages of a Christian.        (1 Cor. 3:2, Hebrews 5:12, 1 Peter 2:2)

Yes, the church does play a huge role in your spiritual development. And all that depends on how healthy your church is according to the Bible’s standards (Example: It is run by a board of elders, deacons and pastors; and not a “one-man-band-show”,  it acknowledges and teaches the existence of the Holy Spirit and the active gifts He provides and how to operate in them, etc.)

Again, it falls on YOU to find a church that is healthy (physically and spiritually) according to God’s standards and not man’s. Do you see how YOU play the main role of spiritual growth in your life?

The church is not meant to “hold your hand” as you walk through your WHOLE life. A child learns to walk as they fall down multiple times. It’s the same concept for us as Christians. How foolish would we look if we grew up into adults still needing assistance to walk from our parents, simply because of our laziness?

As a Kid’s Pastor, (and now a parent myself) I sometimes need to remind parents of what God’s Word says in Deut. 6:5-6, that they are the primary teachers and disciples of their children’s spiritual growth, NOT the church and it’s leaders. As an adult, it is also our choice to either grow in our own spiritual growth or choose to remain the same and NOT grow at all. It is NOT your pastor’s job for you to grow spiritually.

Can you imagine how the church would be if every single Christian adult chose to never grow up in their walk with God?  It would be a chaotic place of whiners and complainers……

(oh wait…. most churches are like that already.)

    “MESSAGE!”

no-excusesThis is a wake up call to all my fellow believers. No more excuses! It’s time to grow up! Take responsibility over your own life (and your families). Don’t be a consumer. Be a server. Find a healthy local church. Grow in it and serve in it to reach others for God’s Kingdom. To learn more of what a healthy church looks like you need to read: “The Purpose Driven Church” by Rick Warren, and this AMAZING article of truth http://www.creationliberty.com/articles/onepastor.php showing the biblical standpoint of leadership in the church.

Get in the Word of God daily. Worship Him through your actions, your words, your thoughts, your entertainment and friends. Choose today to start the growing process. It’s not about a list of do’s and don’ts. It’s about a relationship with the God of the universe, His Son and sweet Spirit. Will it be easy? No. Jesus even said in John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Through the “Growing Pains” we rest and fall on Jesus.

It’s time to grow up. It’s time to mature. So….. ask yourself again….  “Who’s to blame; my church or me?”

What actions will you take today, right now, to GROW?

Christopher Meek

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Life Lesson #6: There is NEWNESS for me in 2015

At the start of 2015, someone encouraged me to take some time to pray and write out a “year theme” for my life. Its purpose was to serve as a daily reminder as I looked upon it. In order to make the best of this challenge, I typed it up and hung it in a place where I would see it multiple times a day. I was informed that there is a greater probability of completion and success if one is to physically write out one’s goals, and speak them over oneself out loud daily.

So, I did. And that brings me to today’s Life Lesson…

“There is NEWNESS for me in 2015.”

New year 2015 wallpaper grunge effect on black.

That was my “year theme” which I felt the Lord speaking over me and my life during this new year.

  • Newness in my walk with the Lord and intimacy with His Holy Spirit.
  • Newness in my relationship with my wife and future baby.
  • Newness in my calling as a Kid’s Pastor.
  • Newness in my creativity as a writer/director.
  • Newness in my home life.
  • Newness in my church life.
  • Newness in my family life.

One day I looked down and noticed that we are already halfway through this new year. Time does fly.

I saw my “year theme” so much that I soon forgot it was there. As I forgot about its powerful words and constant presence, I also forgot to take notice of the changes going on in my life. Could it be that the changes in my life were connected to this “year theme” I had been praying and speaking over my life?

1) Newness in my walk with the Lord and intimacy with His Holy Spirit.

Even though I have not had face to face encounters with God, I have noticed that my dependability on Him has increased over the past several months. I may not sit in a chair in utter silence reading the Bible or  I may not be on my knees in prayer, as worship music plays in the background, for hours on end, but I have been receiving more words of LIFE from God’s Word as I meditate in small portions. I may not be taking 40 day fasts, but I have been seeing God move on my behalf as I simply stay in constant communication with Him as I go about my day.

2) Newness in my relationship with my wife and future baby, and family life.

In case you have not been following my blog or Facebook, my wife and I are expecting our first baby late July 2015! We have been happily married for a little over 4 years now and were greatly anticipating the start of this new chapter as we add a new member to Team Meek. God saw to it that we were ready to accept the giant responsibility of being parents, and my wife and I are so blessed to be surrounded by family and friends who care enough about us to cover us in love, prayers, and support as we welcome our little girl, Harmony Dawn Meek, into the world. My relationship with my wife has only gotten closer and closer with each passing day as we work hard together getting ready for the arrival of this new person that was created out of our love for one another.

3) Newness in my calling as a Kid’s Pastor and church life and home life.

So, I received a phone call one day about a job offer as a Kid’s Pastor at an amazing church in Oklahoma. This church saw my youtube page and quickly called me up asking if I would come visit them one weekend.  My wife and I knew we would not move, especially with a new baby on the way. Still, we went to visit the church during Mother’s Day Weekend, and quickly fell in love with the kids ministry, the pastors, the heart and vision of the church, the congregation, and the people in Oklahoma. But, we still didn’t want to move, and we prayed to God asking Him to make it perfectly clear through a dream or prophetic word (from someone who knew nothing of Oklahoma) as we “counted the cost” together.

We looked into selling our house, buying a new house, moving cost, etc. Both set of parents were sad that we would be taking the first grandchild, on both sides, a little further away, but they were excited for us and the opportunity God was opening up for us as I encouraged and reminded them of Psalm 127:3-5 that says “children are arrows in the hands of each parent, and they shoot them out into the world to make a difference for God’s Kingdom.” (paraphrased)

The night of my wife’s Ordination, a pastor (who we do not personally know) prayed over her, and our lives. He prayed sweet blessings over her and her spirit, and then he started saying, “Its time to stop counting the costs. Its time to make room for the new. You’re pioneers and polished arrows in God’s quiver.”

That was it! We broke down in tears and laughter as we knew in our spirits that God was releasing us from Texas and that He was beautifully orchestrating each event behind this whole thing.

So, we’re moving! We’re selling our home and buying a new one and will be staying in Dallas until Harmony is born. I will work from home as my wife continues to work as well for insurance purposes so our baby’s birth is covered. Then, my wife gets to fulfill her dreams of being a stay at home mom taking care of her family and home. I am so proud of her and I am so happy to know that ONLY God is leading us out of Texas and into Oklahoma for bigger and better things for our family!

4) Newness in my creativity as a writer/director.

Right before the church in Oklahoma reached out to me, I was being beat down by the enemy so much that I started to believe the lies he was whispering into my head.

“You’re worthless. You’re pathetic. You’re not meant to be a kid’s pastor, let alone serving a local church on staff. You’re not doing a good job. In fact, you’re messing everything up. You didn’t go to school for this remember? You studied music. Maybe you should pursue that instead. Then again, you’re not good at that either. Just give up and go work a normal 9-5, Monday-Friday job like everyone else.”

Even though I knew it was all lies, I heard them so much that day I started to believe them. I went home feeling defeated as I unloaded it all on my wife as I began to explain to her how I was feeling that day. After our talk I checked my email and saw this:

“Hi Chris,

I just wanted to let you know that your videos on you tube have reached beyond your church.  I am the Children’s Director at a church in Okotoks, Canada.  I have enjoyed listening to your heart and seeing your enthusiasm for kids!

Thank you for encouraging me and for the work that you are doing to enrich children’s lives.

MaryAnn

I read that email out loud to my wife and instantly broke in tears as all the lies from the enemy were instantly washed away by God’s Truth. I remember many main characters in the Bible who did not go to school or prepare to be in the leadership position God placed them in, but God simply called them into the positions and led them each way through their failures AND victories. I am a David. I am a Gideon. I am a Moses. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I wrote back to this lady thanking her beyond words for taking the time to write that to me. God saw me in my battle, saw I needed His help, and chose to use a random woman clear across the continent to build me up and remind me that I am doing what I have been called to do. Even when things seem bleak and dark, God is right by my side and His Word is a light to my path!

There is NEWNESS for me in 2015! 

  • I am getting a new baby girl!
  • I am starting a new job!
  • We’re moving to a new state!
  • We’re getting a new house!
  • In a new town!
  • With new people!
  • Serving at a new church!
  • Basically…. it’s a whole new life in a whole new ADVENTURE!

I share all this with you because I want you to know that there is NEWNESS for YOU in 2015! I share all this with you today because, I want to to be an email from someone in “Canada” to you.  

No matter where you are right now, and no matter what is going tumblr_lxutqkvgkj1qz6f9yo1_r1_500on in your life,  God sees you right where you are.

If you’re going through a tough time in your life, He is right by your side, even when you don’t feel Him.

If you’re going through a great time in your life, He is rejoicing with you!

Declare over your life that there is “NEWNESS for me in 2015!”

Declare over your life that, “He who was seated on the throne has already said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Its time to make room for the new! Stop believing the lies of the devil and stand strong on God’s promises!

Christopher Meek