Our Christmas Count Down

DSC_9463ccI love the Christmas season!  The smells of cinnamon and cedar, the decorated homes so warm and inviting.  I love how the spirit of giving comes out and is evident everywhere.  It is such a beautiful time where people come together and reflect on the goodness of the season.  But there is also so much commercialism, busyness, and crazy expectations that I can get caught up in too.

A few years ago I decided I wanted to find a way to be intentional about the things that mattered most to our family.  I found that if we weren’t intentional it was easy to get caught up in being far too busy to enjoy things and spend way too much money buying things we don’t need.  I searched Pinterest for ideas and found so many great ones but nothing exactly like what I wanted, (it may be out there but I didn’t find it then!) so I created something for my family!

Before I dive into the details, I want to say this- I created this for my family and I am sharing it because it has been a blessing for us.  What works for us may not work of you, so if you read this and have any kind of guilt about what you are not doing, just stop!  I have done that to myself so many times and it is not worth it.  You loose too much feeling guilty and miss out on all the goodness that is right in front of you.  And if you read to the end, you will see we don’t do this perfectly!

When we talked about what was most important to us in the Christmas season we decided it was Jesus, family, & giving.  Each day there is something in our envelopes that reflect those things.

DSC_9413ccInside each envelope there is a piece to the Christmas story.  We read it, reflect on it and discuss what it means.  I love hearing what my kids have to say about it and reading it in sections really helps us focus on each part! I found my free printable Christmas story here.

The second part of this, is focusing on family time.  Each day we have a family fun activity.  These are things we enjoy doing together.  They range, anything from watching Christmas movies to looking at Christmas lights, minute to win it games, to decorating my Poppy’s Christmas tree for him.

And last but not least, we have an act of kindness each day.  Some of these things don’t require us leaving the house, like mailing a hug to someone or writing letters to everyone inside our home telling them what they mean to us.  These acts of kindness range in price too.  Some of the things we do are take hot drinks to people working outside, leave an extra big tip, donate blankets, and shop for the angel tree.

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When I plan our December and the count down, I look at all I know we have going on and I try to plan each days activities on that.  I know we will go out to eat after church, so I plan to leave a big tip on a Sunday.  Our church does a gingerbread house competition so I made sure that I made that our family fun activity that day.  Although when I plan it I don’t know everything that will come up so we are flexible  with it.

Our kids get so excited to open the envelope and see what we are doing that day.  They love the surprise!

We go into this knowing we will not fulfill each act of kindness and every family activity.  We set the expectations for this up front, letting the kids know that we will not be perfect in this.  Some days we end up doubling up on acts of kindness because we missed the day before and sometimes we just don’t do it at all.  The last thing I want to do is add unneeded stress to a busy season, so we do our best and don’t worry too much if we miss it.

I know that this is not for everyone but if you want to know more, feel free to ask!  This is something you can modify to meet your families needs/desires/schedules.

Let the count down begin- 24 days until CHRISTMAS!  We are excited to celebrate the birth of Jesus! Merry Christmas!

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Suicide still hurts

dadToday is an anniversary I wish I didn’t have to remember.  It has been 3 years since I walked up to my dads door, waited for him to answer, but he never did.  3 years since my sweet husband bravely walked inside to find him.  3 years since he walked outside to tell me the heartbreaking news.  “He’s gone.  He took his life.”

It is still crushing to even think about it all.  To remember the pain of the day and wonder what happened.  Suicide leaves questions that will never be answered.  I can’t wrap my mind around it.  I am someone who always looks for answers.  I want to understand everything.  But this one, no matter how much information I seek, I will never fully understand it.

Suicide leaves behind so much.  It leaves pain and what if’s for all of those left here.  It leaves grief and tears.  Sometimes it leaves anger, hurt, or frustration.  3 years later, and although I have done so much healing, there is still healing to be done.  I don’t get anxiety when I drive past the community where he lived any more.  I don’t cry about my dads death every day.  But there are days that the grief just comes out of no where.  Days where I am just sad he isn’t here.

This topic is still something that not everyone is comfortable talking about, but it is one we need to talk about.  I have learned of 2 suicides this week and even though I din’t know either person, I have mourned over them.  My heart is broken for them.  For the pain they were in.  For the hurt they felt.  For the fight they fought.  My heart hurst for the their friends and family as they wrestle with all of the emotions that come with suicide.  My prayers for them are pleas with God to hold them together as they process.

Friends, our country needs support, encouragement and love for those who are hurting.  Depression is real.  Emotional pain is real.  Lets search our hearts and find compassion to see others.  To really see them.  We are all human and we all struggle!  If your struggles don’t look like someone else’s, thank God, then ask Him to help guide you as you reach out to those in your life who you know are hurting.

Be a friend.  Ask questions.  Offer your shoulder to cry on.  Don’t judge.  Just love.

And if you need a friend, let me know.  If you are looking for community to love you through your pain, Celebrate Recovery is the most incredible place to find people who truly love and accept folks just as they are!  I would love to help connect you!

1-800-273-8255 is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Call them if you need them.

Other posts on this topic:

My Truths about Suicide & Depression

When God Fulfills His Promises

Excuse this work in progress

IMG_4780 copyIt started with a text from a friend letting me know she would be in town and wanted to grab lunch.  I glanced over at my 3 year old who is still just a week post op- tonsillectomy.  He is a little unpredictable generally, but recovery has left me not knowing moment to moment his mood.  It has been over a week since I did anything that resembled fun and lunch with adults sounded wonderful but I knew I couldn’t load up 5 kids and go.

I looked around at all the unfinished things at my house.  I have no kitchen faucet, the island is without a counter top, trim isn’t finished, light fixtures need to be installed, closets aren’t done…. The list is long.  But I really wanted this opportunity to visit.  I responded  “I can’t got out for lunch but you are welcome to come here!”  She responded with excitement to see the new place but I felt the need to disclose, “just so you know, it is a work in progress, excuse the mess and unfinished state!”

I couldn’t help but feel like that could be my life hashtag #excusethishotmessimaworkinprogress

Jesus is still working on me y’all!  I mean it!  Everyday I feel like I discover a ways I need to do better.  I can want to hide my face and run away at some of the mistakes I make.  I get embarrassed and insecure knowing I have so much to work on.  I can easily let my work in progress state keep me from things, knowing I am flawed and imperfect.

Today I made lunch for friends in my unfinished, work in progress, no where close to perfect house.  We laughed, dreamed, and enjoyed our few hours together. I could have missed out on this chance if I let the fact that we are still working on it bother me.

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The truth is, we are all a work in progress.  There isn’t one of us that will ever arrive at perfection and be able to say “I do not need to work on me any more!”  But how often do we let the work in progress state we are in keep us from things?  From my own experiences, I have found that perfection isn’t always inviting.  Sometimes it is down right intimidating.  When we allow ourselves to embrace the work in progress, knowing it won’t always be this way, we can lovingly invite others into our story, on our journey, and share our life!

Lets be brave enough to show our real, imperfect, work-in-progress lives to each other, so when Jesus makes new of what is a mess, others get to see that transformation too!  Can we all love and extend grace to one another so can be a community of brave women, sharing our journey?  Join me friends!

What’s with Sundays?

This morning I woke up positive that today was going to be good.  The past 3 or 4 Sunday’s have just not been fabulous so I went to bed feeling a little bit dreadful but woke up feeling great! I was able to drink my entire cup of coffee while it was hot, got myself and the kids all ready for church- on time, and was about ready to head out the door when it started.  “those shoes are too tight!”  I know they are not.  I just bought them a few days ago and they fit great.  but I couldn’t convince her.  So I quickly decided it wasn’t worth the fight.  I offered a different pair of shoes- tears and crying…… “I want to wear those!”  Wait, what?  The ones you just screamed were too tight?  The tears and crying continued and I threw my hands up, taking both pairs of shoes and the child to the car where everyone else was already waiting.

Phew!  We are still on time! I silently celebrated as I put the car in reverse.  It sounded funny as I backed up, but our driveway is gravel so I put it in drive and started out, only to quickly realize that funny sound was my wheel grinding into the gravel.  Flat tire.  I put the car in park and jump out as I call my husband- who is at work (ask any firefighters wife, it all happens on their shift!) I have never changed a tire.  I go back and forth about how i feel about it.  On one hand I don’t want to be the damsel in distress calling for help over a flat.  On the other hand I don’t really feel like I have missed out on life by never changing a flat tire.  But suddenly, I had this deep desire to take care of it myself.  As Joel insisted he would come change it, I insisted I could handle it.

My oldest child and I got the tire out and started the process.  I watched a quick youtube video and up the car went.  I worked on the lug nuts and I got all but one off.  The last one was not wanting to come off.  As I was about ready to give up, our good friend showed up to help!  I didn’t know it, but Joel had already called him and asked if he could stop by since he was just a few minutes away.  He helped us finish changing the tire and off we went to church, 30 minutes late!

I get there and realize Harvey fell asleep.  A 3 year old with a 20 minute nap is no good.  I took a very cranky boy in the church.  Melt down. Nothing was right.  He was just mad.  I finally got him to stay in his class just in time to hear the sermon.  As I sat down I realized that in the madness Harvey had wiped his glazed donut all over my black shirt- oh well, I was just glad to be hearing the sermon!  The final song was about to wrap up when someone taps my shoulder “Harvey pooped in his pants” WHY?  Harvey….. Why?  He does so good, until he doesn’t.  Any way, potty training is stupid. the end.

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If we go back to when I got in the van this morning, there was a smell.  I addressed it- told the husband what I thought it was and he said to come by after church and we would take the seats out and find the source.  So that is what we did.  He pulled the seats out, vacuumed and found nothing.  I got in with some cleaner to really detail it since the seats were out.  I had already told him I was sure I knew what the smell was, but as I cleaned, it was confirmed.  I found mouse poop.  IN MY VAN.  Are you kidding me?  Where have we moved?  We have lived a lot of places and I have never in my life had so many mouse issues.  Is moving an option? I mean before we buy land again can I get a mouse survey?

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So, after taking off panels, finding a LIVE baby mouse IN MY VAN, taking off my wheel, 3 hours of searching, the dead mouse is still in there somewhere.  Why?  I mean seriously?  Who has mice living in the panel in their car?  Of course, I do!  UGH!  I don’t even know what to say.  My little kids loved the baby mouse and wanted to bring it home as a pet.  They squealed with excitement and kept saying “mommy its so cute!”  As I die inside just a little.  At what point will they both loose the “its so cute” attitude and turn into “oh my gosh there is a LIVE mouse in my car”?

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Just a few short weeks ago, I had a similar Sunday with all kinds of crazy things.  Honestly, that Sunday had a Harvey poop incident, a dead mouse (in the camper), and a flooding situation.  The Sunday’s in between have been crazy too.  I use to love Sundays.  Jesus, friends, family, food….. But now it seems like Sundays are more like poop, mice, and madness…..

Friends, I don’t know if my life is just that crazy, or maybe It is just that I don’t know the right people and others have just as many crazy things happen,  But here is my plea- if your life is full of crazy “incidents” that when you tell others they all look at you crazy and laugh, asking why weird things are always happening to you, please raise your hand, leave a comment, something!  We can start some sort of support group.  I keep wondering if maybe God is like “Hello, Mrs. Meinardus, I am obviously giving you really good material to work with!  Write it down, make lots of money with these crazy stories!” Or maybe He just likes to laugh!  If it wasn’t my life, I would totally be laughing!

Home Sweet Home: part 3

Here we are, a little over a month from my last update.  I feel like things are getting so exciting!  All the planning and decision making is coming to life!  So many people ask if we know when we will be finished.  Nope!  Joel is pretty much doing all of the work from here on out and so it is a little bit slower than if we were to pay someone.  We are so close to the end, but all these last few things take a lot of time.

Since I last blogged the progress, we have finished sheetrock!  This process took about a week and a half total time.  img_8718img_8727

Harvey was all about helping with all the things!

The front doors were stained.

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Joel sprayed primer on all the walls and ceilings.  I think he did 2 coats of primer. As you can see, it is a messy job!

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In our main living area, we wanted to use wood on the walls.  We had reclaimed pine tongue and groove that we got from an old house and decided to use it.  This room took a long time- everything we do in this room takes a long time because it is huge, 29×32! img_9132img_9123

I was not prepared for how much I would love the raw wood on the walls.  The plan was always to paint the wood white but it was gorgeous raw.  After a few days of debate, we decided we would still paint it and leave one accent wall.  We felt like we wouldn’t love it raw once the wood floors were laid.

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Joel also hung reclaimed wood in our bathroom.  We spent some late nights and long days painting all of the walls and ceiling.  I have loved the time we got to spend together working.  I haven’t gotten to contribute as much to the building process as I would have liked, but I help when I can!

Next up, wood floor.  We got an amazing deal on oak hardwood floors. Thank you Craigslist!  We bought it months ago and had to store it in our little storage building, so when we were ready to use it, it had to be moved.  It took several days to unload all 3000SF of flooring!  Thankful for a very sweet college student that has helped us the last two weeks!

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We spent Christmas morning inside the house.  It was dusty but we loved being able to be in there!  It is a Christmas we will never forget!

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After Christmas, the floor started being laid.  We are doing hardwood everywhere except the bathrooms which is a lot of flooring!  Joel, Kamden, and Callie (our fabulous college student helper) worked hard laying all of it.  I have been so proud of Kamden and how hard he has been working!  He has learned so much over these last few months.  img_9528img_9534img_9740

This process has been tiring.  We work long hours- and I am saying we because when Joel is working on the house, I am working trying to manage the camper life.  Some nights I go in to check on Joel and we chat for a few minutes which might be the only time we really get to talk that day. One night he was exhausted and while we were chatting he used Harvey’s new roller coaster as a bed.  I laughed because he looked so comfortable! I have to brag on him- he has worked so hard on this house and continues to do so while having a full time fire fighter career and running a business as well.  I couldn’t be more proud of him! img_9744

Most days I feel like this…. Exhausted and over it all!  But then something exciting happens and I get strength to push through to another day! img_9788

img_9856We did get snow and the house looked so pretty!  I can’t wait to see the outside finished.  Joel isn’t working on the outside until the inside is finished.

Here is the main living area before stainimg_9914

And Joel staining….. Which he finished last night at midnight!  The entire house is stained!  Today he will put a few coats of sealer on it and we will wait for it to dry completely.

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Although I do not have a time line for a finish date, I am so excited to be this close!

 

 

Love, even when its hard

img_9572My parents divorced when I was little.  My dad was not a constant in my childhood.  The older I got, the more I saw him.  I pushed for him to be in my life, especially in my early teen years.  As a kid I just saw my dad as this cool, music loving, hippy.  I didn’t understand the complicated things.  I just knew I wanted to be around him more.

When I was about 14 my dad decided to quit his job.  He walked out one night after getting upset with his boss.  He had no plan and his free spirit seemed to be leading him.  He decided he was done working for the man and I remember him vowing to never work for someone else again.  He lived off his savings and 401K that he withdrew.  Eventually that ran out.  He had no money for rent so he became homeless.  He had no money to pay for his truck, so they took it back.  I remember wanting nothing more than to help him.  I begged my mother to let him stay with us and she did- for months.

After he over stayed his welcome he started what he would keep up for the next 15 years.  He would live from place to place until he over stayed his welcome.  I was his advocate for a long time.  I would make sure he was taken care of.  I took him food and gave him some money over the years. He lived with us more times than I can count.  I wasn’t alone in this, as there were several of us who were constantly taking turns.

At some point, I started getting a little resentful.  I was always doing for him.  Each time he would come to stay with us, it came with a promise.  This promise was that it was temporary and that he would get a job and save to be on his own.  Each time his stay would end with us telling him we could no longer keep it up unless he did as he promised and each time he would leave without even looking for a job.  He bounced back and forth between several places over his last 15 years.

I don’t need to go into all the details of all the things that happened, but at some point, my heart changed from a caring concerned daughter to an irritated, inconvenienced daughter.  At some point I quit seeing my dad through loving eyes and just saw my dad as a constant irritation.  If I listed all the things, I could probably get you to say that I was justified in my feelings but I don’t want to be.

I loved my dad.  I miss my dad.  But when he was here, there were a lot of things that were a constant source of hurt for me.  I needed a dad my entire life and my dad couldn’t be what I needed.  I had slowly started to accept that I needed to view our relationship differently and morn the fact that my dad wasn’t ever going to be able to be that dad I had always wanted.  It was still hard but getting better.

But now, my dad is gone.  Our relationship will never have a chance to mend or be healthy.  Now I wish I could be inconvenienced by going to pick him up for a birthday party or holiday get together.  Each time I eat at a restaurant that he loved, I only wish I could buy him dinner, where before I would have been frustrated I had to buy his dinner because he never had money.  Now when I try a new dark chocolate, which was his favorite, I wish I could offer him some.  The list goes on and on.

The reason I am writing all of this down is to remind us all that we need to love others even when it is inconvenient.  Love others when it is difficult to love.  Extend grace and understanding even when people are frustrating.  I know we all have relationships that are hard.  We all have those people in our lives that we don’t understand and that seem impossible.  I am sure that right now you are thinking of someone who fits this description.

Here is what I would do differently if my dad was still here and I had the chance to do things over.  I would do my best to understand him.  I would spend more time trying to see his heart. I would ask hard questions to find out what has happened to land him where he is.  I would focus on him as a person rather than his actions.  I would make sure that he always felt loved and welcomed where he was.  I would make sure I stood up for him.  But I would also hold him accountable.  I would remind him of the steps he needed to take to better himself and I would encourage him along the way.  I wouldn’t do it all for him, but rather come along side him and cheer him on, lending him a hand when and how I could.  I would have set healthy boundaries sooner to ensure our relationship was healthy, even if he wasn’t.  None of these things are easy to do and hindsight is 20/20 and it is easy to see things different now, but I want to try to learn from this and apply it where I can now.

You see, Jesus loves us all.  He loves us when we are difficult.  He loves us when we are broken.  He loves us when we are at the bottom.  He loves us when we don’t deserve it.  He loves us when it is inconvenient, messy, ugly.  He loves us.  Love God and Love people.

I see my dad in every person I pass holding a sign on the side of the road asking for something- food, money, shelter.  When I stop and offer what I have to give, I want so badly to know them.  To know their story and to know what has landed them where they are.  I see my dad when I see someone hurting and in need.  I see my dad when I encounter a difficult person.  I just want to understand what has caused pain in their life.  I have learned so much after my dads death.  I see people different.  (I am a work in progress and not perfect!) I see people as more than their sin, their actions, their words.  I am working on loving deeper, extending more grace, and truly seeing people.

Today I want to urge you to love others even when it is inconvenient, messy, or difficult because that is what Jesus would do and you never know when that might be their last chance to be loved like Jesus loves.

Happy Camper Christmas

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This year just hasn’t felt like Christmas.  We didn’t have a tree up or any decorations.  Time has flown by and it doesn’t even seem like it should be 5 days until Christmas.  A few weeks ago we were discussing a tree.  Every year we go and get a live tree and love that tradition.  But this year, we live in a camper.  Our tree decorations are all in storage and not accessible at all.  I had pretty much just decided that we were not going to be able to have a tree.  We are so busy, things are crazy with building, and time was running out.

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Then one night I asked Joel if he thought there was any trees on our property that might work as a Christmas tree.  I told him I didn’t care if it was perfect, that really it could be a Charlie Brown type of tree.  We discussed how much fun it would be if we made popcorn garland and dried oranges to hang on the tree.

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So that is what we did!  We decided to make the best of what we had and guess what?   It turned out to be amazing!  So much fun and so many memories.  The kids all talked about how we should make this a new tradition.  I bought one ornament and we all agreed that we will put it on the tree each year to remind us of the time we spent Christmas in the camper!

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As we worked, Joel started crafting ornaments out of scrap wire from our house.  He even created a copper star for the tree topper!

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I love that even though this camper life isn’t ideal, some how we all encourage each other through it and find ways to be thankful.  Each of us have bad days where we are tired of being in the camper, but it never fails that someone else reminds whoever is down, just how much we have to be thankful for!

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Jesus is truly the reason for the season and without a tree or decorations that doesn’t change, but the memories made decorating this sweet little tree are irreplaceable! Camper Christmas has had many obstacles to figure out (like where do I keep all the presents until Christmas) but I sure am happy to be here with all of my family and our Charlie Brown tree!  And most of all this Christmas I am thankful for a savior who was sent to us as a baby on Christmas day!  Thank you Jesus!