Thursday, December 27, 2018

In the noise and happy messiness of Christmas, “Remember Me”

Whew! I don’t know about you but, for me, the past few days have been busy, busy, busy! And fun. And full of laughter. And love.

When the dust began to settle, I saw award-winning singer Rory Feek sing “Remember Me”—both he and his song were new to me—which cut through the noise and happy messiness of the Christmas season.

The words go something like this:

When you’re tearing open Christmas gifts, “Remember Me.”

When you’re enjoying your favorite Christmas meals and snacks, “Remember Me.”

When you’re putting up your sparkly lights, “Remember Me.”

And He sang about the birth of Jesus and all he did—through his life, ministry, death, forgiveness, and the hope for the future.

It was a powerful experience for me to sit quietly and listen to the song, to take in the message, to readjust my focus on the real reason for our Christmas celebrations.

And the song made me think of you and your memoir. It’s fine and good to write about the fun of Christmas decorations and gatherings and gifts and caroling and food—but within those stories, include messages about what Christmas is really about. “Remember Me,” he said. 

Write charming stories, funny stories, sentimental stories, surprising stories, quirky stories, just "Remember Me," too.

For inspiration, take three minutes to listen to Rory Feek sing his song, "Remember Me."

You don’t know who will read your memoir—
maybe years from now,
maybe after you no longer walk the earth—
but your message about the real Christmas
could significantly impact your readers,
maybe for eternity.

Don’t miss this great opportunity!
Your story is important!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Too busy to write? No worries.

Life is busy, busy, busy for most of us this week. We just don’t have time to write our stories.

But that’s not a problem. Really.

Why not?

Because your brain and your heart are working even when you don’t have time to sit down and get serious about working on your memoir.

Christmas is a time of remembering. So many memories pop into our heads as we set out Christmas decorations.

Our daughter invited us to help decorate their tree recently and—oh, what memories those decorations stirred up! We sorted through a big box of decorations that had belonged to her great-grandma, her grandma, and even decorations I’d made when she was an infant. As we placed each on their tree, we shared so many snippets of memories.

No doubt the same happened to you when you decorated your tree—or when you sang Christmas songs at church, or when you watched your favorite old Christmas movie, or baked a special recipe from your childhood, or watched kids or grandkids perform in a Christmas play. Such precious memories!

When you have a spare moment, jot down a few key words that will help you remember those stories later.

For now, don’t worry about 
composing a well-written vignette for your memoir. 
A few hurried notes to yourself is all you need.

Later you can use those notes 
to compose your detailed, polished stories. 

For now, enjoy yourself, your family, friends, 
and the Real Reason for This Season.

Illustration in public domain

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: A must for your memoir—Christmas details

You want people to read your memoir, right? But how do you motivate them to keep reading all the way to the end?  

One way is to include plenty of sensory detailsdetails readers can relate to—the smells, sounds, textures, sights, and tastes that were part of your story.

Let’s think about stories that took place during the Christmas season.

If you lived on the equator, your sensory details will be different from those of someone who lived in the Yukon Territory.

If your family is Scandinavian, your sensory details will be different from those of someone whose family is Italian.

So ask yourself:

What smells and fragrances do you associate with Christmas?

What sounds remind you of Christmas?

What feels and textures signify Christmas to you?

What sights do you connect with Christmas?

What tastes go along with Christmas?

When you write your stories, include specific sensory details—because they will add depth, fullness, and vibrancy. They’ll make your stories come alive.

If you’ll include sensory details, your readers will thank you!

Let your readers experience
what you smelled, heard, felt, saw, and tasted.
That way they can relive your story with you.
Readers love that!

There you have it, your Tuesday Tidbit.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The better thing: Keeping Christmas

Here’s a brief Christmas meditation for you. May you find within it blessings for your life and inspiration for your memoir.

Keeping Christmas
by Henry Van Dyke (1852 – 1933)

Roman, xiv, 6: He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord.
[“He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.” Romans 14:6, NIV]

It is a good thing to observe Christmas day. The mere marking of times and seasons, when men agree to stop work and make merry together, is a wise and wholesome custom. It helps one to feel the supremacy of the common life over the individual life. It reminds man to set his own little watch, now and then, by the great clock of humanity which runs on sun time.

But there is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping Christmas.

Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that your fellow-men are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; to own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness—are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Illustration in public domain
Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and the desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how  much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open—are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world—stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death—and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas.

And if you keep it for a day, why not always?

But you can never keep it alone.

(From The Spirit of Christmas by Henry Van Dyke, in the public domain, courtesy of; emphasis mine.)

After this busy, busy season,
write your Christmas stories
make them fun and sentimental and charming
but also ask yourself:
"How can I include the meatier, deeper, truer
messages and applications of Christmas?"

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: Your Christmas stories, part of God’s bigger stories

You have Christmas stories to tell. Oh, yes, I know you do!

And telling them might be more important than you realize.

“It is our personal stories that bring context to God’s bigger story,” state the good folks at Christian Grandparenting Network. “And part of the telling of those stories involves writing them down.”

Illustration in public domain
How true! Think about it:

Until you put your Christmas stories in writing, they are merely your memories,
your thoughts, your experiences.

Someone needs to know your Christmas stories—the sad ones, the happy ones; the normal ones, the unusual ones; the discouraging ones, the encouraging ones; the boring ones, the surprising ones—all part of “God’s bigger story.

This is a busy time of year so I’m not suggesting you sit down and write. Instead, as memories of Christmases past pop into your mind, jot down ideas and promise yourself you’ll write them as stories in the new year!

Your stories are important! 
God can use them as part of His bigger story 
to teach, inspire, and offer hope.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Of Sears catalogs and Bing Crosby and aluminum Christmas trees

If you stop to think about it, your childhood Christmases were significantly different from that of your kids and grandkids.

So, make time to search your memory for specifics so your words and scenes invite readers into your story with you.

Did you spend hours looking through the Sears Roebuck Christmas catalog?

Did you ask Santa for a cap gun? Or a transistor radio? Or a poodle skirt?

I remember asking Santa for a walking doll. (Do you remember walking dolls?) And my little brother asked for, and received, a Howdy Doody doll. He treasured it for years.

If someone in your family got sick on Christmas, did the doctor make a house call?

Did you have a real Christmas tree or one of those new-fangled aluminum ones?

What unique Christmas traditions did your family carry out?

What were your favorite Christmas movies?

If you had a TV, did you watch Christmas specials? Andy Williams, Perry Como, and Pat Boone come to mind. To change TV channels, did you have to get out of your chair and walk over and turn a dial? Did you have a rabbit-ear antenna on top of your TV?

And don’t miss this blast from the past: Click on Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby’s 1957 TV Christmas special.

What were your favorite Christmas songs? Did you play 45s on an old record player? (Just curious: Do you remember Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer?) Because I grew up surrounded by Scandinavians, I have fond memories of one of them, TV personality Stan Boreson, and his classic performance of Vinter Undervare. Don’t miss this video clip! 

Did you and your family dress up in fancy clothes and go to church on Christmas Eve? Did your mother sew you a new Christmas dress each year? 

Or, if you’re a man, think back: Did your parents make you wear a tie to the Christmas Eve service? And did you use Butch Wax to keep your flat-top hair in place?

Did Santa leave a pack of Black Jack chewing gum in your stocking? Or candy cigarettes?

Did you usually stay home for Christmas, or did you join someone else—grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, or ….?

What was likely on your Christmas Day dinner menu? What did you or your mother or grandmother do with leftovers? If plastic wrap had not yet been invented, what did you use instead? And before plastic garbage bags were invented, what did you use?

When I was a kid, no one had a dishwasher. Do you remember helping mom, grandma, aunts, and cousins wash and dry dishes for hours after Christmas dinner?

Did your family take photos with a camera that used flashbulbs, or maybe flash cubes? The kind that left you with a glaring blind spot for half a minute or so? Were the photos black and white?

Because your childhood was so different 
from that of your kids and grandkids, 
such details will invite readers to a rich experience 
of your Christmases past.

Have fun!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: Let’s not miss the true joy of Christmas

Have you put up Christmas decorations yet? I’ve begun to set ours up and hope that tomorrow I’ll find another couple of hours to finish. For the past few years, I’ve minimized our decorations but this year I’m looking forward to getting out old family favorites and enjoying them.

And I’m listening to lots of Christmas music—and my husband plays many of my favorites on his guitar, too—and I sing along as I putter around the house.

And yet, and yet. . . . Christmas is about so much more than decorations and songs.

Like Lloyd Ogilvie, I pray, “Dear Father, I don’t want to miss the true joy of Christmas. I long for the authentic quality of joy that’s an outward expression of an inner experience of Your grace.”

Ogilvie goes on to pray this Christmas prayer: “Help me to receive the full measure of Your unqualified love that will result in a day bursting with joy.

“I hear the words of the angel . . . ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, among men in whom He is well pleased’ (Luke 2:14).

“ . . . ‘For You did not send Your Son into the world to condemn me, but that through Him I might be saved’ (John 3:17).

“My heart leaps. Joy is the ecstasy of heaven for those who know they are loved and forgiven.” (Lloyd John Ogilvie, Quiet Moments with God)

If your memoir includes stories about Christmas,
how can you pass on to your kids, grandkids,
great-grands, and other readers the true joy of Christmas?

Be intentional.
You can’t likely imagine how many years
your stories will live in the minds and hearts of your readers.

There you have it, your Tuesday Tidbit.