December Holiday Moments

Date: December 1, 2011
Location: Lake Jackson, TX

The holiday season of 2011 is here.  In spite of the Christmas music that has pervaded store fronts and media since the end of October, we were able to keep Christmas at bay until December 1.  After all, December is our Christmas month.  As part of our celebration this year, I have prepared the following posts on this blog.  Feel free to browse through them at your leisure.

Feel free to browse the site to find out about:

1) A New Christmas Tradition: Skype Christmas Caroling
2) The adoption of Li-Rose Cobb
3) A December Wedding in Costa Rica
4) Learning about Christmas Traditions at BCS
5) The Things we do to make Christmas special for our kids
6) What makes the Chick-fil-a of Lake Jackson, TX unique
7) A memoir/poem to a belated grandmother

Although we are spending Christmas in Lake Jackson, Texas, away from our families and friends in other parts of the country and the world, we want you all to know that we are thinking of you this Christmas.

Thank you for being part of our lives this year.  Be blessed in this holiday season and the year to come.

Cristina Meier

A Caroling (on Skype) we will go…


Jared in the park with the Awana Club of Clute, Texas

In an earlier post, I was discussing the things that we are doing to make the Christmas holiday special for our kids.  The focus is mostly on Jared and Luke right now, because Grace doesn’t really understand what is going on right now at eight and a half months of age.  However, Christmas in the life of a boy who is nearly four and a half, and a boy who is almost three, is quite the exciting time of year.

I have been practicing a lot of Christmas carols with them, because Jared became involved in a Christmas caroling event with his Awana Cubbies group.  As we sang the songs, I got a great idea for a Christmas Tradition that I would like to start with my friends and family.

Here’s the idea:  We will find out how many of our friends and family have Skype addresses (if we don’t have that contact information).  Then we will schedule a time in which we will “visit” by “knocking” on the Skype doors of your homes and singing some Christmas carols for about five minutes and wish you a merry Christmas.

For those of you who are interested in our Skype Caroling Event, please e-mail me ( the following information:

Your Name
Your Skype Name
Date for Skyping (Choose between December 22, December 23, December 24, December 25)
Time for Skyping (Between 9am-12pm or Between 4pm-9pm, CENTRAL STANDARD TIME)

It will only be five minutes of your time and it would be fun to go Skype caroling to your home across the virtual spaces of our computers.

All I Really Want for Christmas

I love listening to Christmas music during this time of year.  I have some of the classics, but I also have a lot of albums made by Christian contemporary artists.  In 2005, Stephen Curtis Chapman wrote a song called “All I Really Want” describing what an orphan would really want for Christmas.  I thought the song was sweet, but the words never hit so close to home as they have this year. These words have taken a new meaning for me:

“All I really want for Christmas is someone to tuck me in
A shoulder to cry on if I lose, shoulders to ride on if I win
There’s so much I could ask for, but there’s just one thing I need
All I really want for Christmas is a family.”

© By Stephen Curtis Chapman

This Christmas a little girl is getting that Christmas wish.  She may be too young to understand it.  After all, she’s only nineteen months old.  But one day she will understand.  She’ll find out how her parents, Philip and Chrissy Cobb, began praying for direction in adopting a child.  When the door closed for them to adopt a child from Ethiopia, they didn’t give up.  They moved on to another adoption agency and were introduced to a little girl in China who was in need of a permanent family.

They first announced to the world that they were looking at adopting a little girl in China in early May of 2011.  Although they had been told the process could take well over a year, they were able to fly to China on December 8 of this year and are now finalizing the paperwork in order to fly back to Florida in time to spend Christmas together with their new daughter, Li Rose.  They are due to arrive in Gainesville on December 21.

It has been quite an adventure.  Find out more about their story by visiting their blog:

Philip with Josh, Chrissy with Li Rose

I heard the bells on Christmas Day…

Bells are ringing this Christmas, but they aren’t Christmas bells.  Actually, they rang eight days before Christmas and I didn’t even hear them, because they were ringing in Costa Rica while I was in Texas.

The wedding that took place on December 17, 2011, all began with one of those stories where boy meets girl.  Only in this story, boy and girl weren’t that interested in each other until they had parted ways for several years and then found each other again on Facebook.  They had attended the same high school together in Guatemala and shared the common factor of being third culture kids (TCKs).

He had been born in Honduras, lived in Ecuador and Guatemala all his teen years, spent a year in Iraq as part of the National Guard and spent most of the rest of his time in and around Gainesville, Florida.  His parents were both from the U.S. but had been missionaries in Latin American countries his entire life.

She was born with dual citizenship as well.  Her father was from Costa Rica and her mom was from Canada.  They had been missionaries in Guatemala until they moved back to Costa Rica.  She had moved back to Canada.

As their relationship bloomed, there were many visits back and forth.  He visited Canada.  She made a trip to Florida.  Then the engagement and preparations for a wedding took place.  Where to wed?  The answer seemed simple enough.  Her family was in Costa Rica, so that was where she wanted to get married.

Briana Flores arrived in Florida early in December so that she could become Mrs. Timothy Cobb legally in the U.S.  Then they had the ceremony in Costa Rica a short time after that.  After their honeymoon, they will return to the U.S. and Briana will begin the process of becoming an official U.S. citizen.

Tim Cobb kisses his new bride, Briana Flores.

Recently, a Canadian friend of mine who married a Texan, explained to me some of the complications she was going through just to get a green card so that she could start working in the U.S.  Even though she had legally gotten married to an American husband in the U.S., she is not allowed to get a job until she has that green card.

“It’s no wonder there are so many illegal immigrants!” she told me.  “They make it so difficult for people to become legal citizens.”

She had to visit a specialist doctor whose office was more than an hour away from home to verify that she is healthy.  I guess if you are going to have immigrants, you might as well have healthy ones.  There are blood tests and fingerprints and paperwork upon paperwork to legalize and notarize.  And when that is all done, you have to sit and wait and wait until everything gets processed by an immigration office.  Then there will be a special interview scheduled with both my friend and her husband to verify that they really did get married to each other.

When will she be able to apply for actual citizenship after she gets her green card?  According to my friend, it could be about seven years.

Now my youngest brother, Tim, and his lovely bride, Briana, will begin this adventure together.  Will they be able to handle it?  Oh, yeah.  They are TCKs.  Forging the world of multiple cultures is engrained into their nature.  They may not have a lot to start off with, but they’ll have each other.  And they have “Emmanuel” God with them, walking beside them through every step of the journey.

Merry Christmas, Mr. and Mrs. Tim Cobb!  Here’s hoping “ya’ll” might come over to Texas to visit a spell with the MK Meier family someday.  Ya hear? Yi-haw!

Deck the Halls

Every new job situation had provided us with the opportunities to learn how the staff celebrates the holiday season at the end of the year.  Although some things are universal, there are many things that make each place unique.

As Stephen becomes more integrated into the culture of Brazosport Christian School, he also learns what they do to make Christmas special around the school.  One tradition they have is a special door decorating contest.  Each teacher and staff will decorate their classroom (or office) door and a special panel of judges gets to decide which door is the best decorated door.  On the day of the Christmas chapel, the winner is announced.  Stephen didn’t decorate his door, but his secretary made sure he didn’t miss out by decorating it for him.

Notice the little running shoe in the bow.

Jared and Luke pose proudly outside of "Daddy's office."

Another tradition is to have a special Christmas chapel on the Wednesday before Christmas break.  Stephen got a chance to speak a few words at the end of the chapel.  So, he decided to read one of the Christmas stories that he had been reading to the kids from the Christmas devotional.  Stephen tells me that the school purposefully avoids mention of the secular figures and symbols of Christmas (Santa Claus, Frosty, etc.) so that they can focus on the story of Jesus coming to earth as a baby to become the Savior of all man-kind.

The message given by the teacher was on the gifts of the Maggi and explaining the spiritual significance of each.

Gift-giving is a big part of the BCS traditions.  Each staff member who wished to be involved could become a “secret angel” and give gifts to each other anonymously until they reveal themselves to each other a few days before Christmas break.  Stephen decided to be involved and I was quickly drafted to find some Christmas gifts around $1 each and then one nice gift to give the person on the final revelation day.

The staff "fireplace" where they hung their stockings for their secret angels to deposit gifts.

Stephen received gifts from his “secret angel” but he also got many gifts from staff, students and parents.  Gift cards appear to be a very popular item this time of year.  Perhaps this is not a new observation to many of my readers, but it is something I had not discovered before in the few years that I had celebrated Christmas within the U.S. borders.

We now have gift cards of various values for Wal-Mart, Chick-fil-a, and other local shopping locations.

My favorite tradition so far is the two week vacation that comes to those who work within the system of education.  Now Stephen doesn’t have to work until the Monday after Christmas and we can enjoy some time together as a family.

Christmas with the MK Meier Kids

It was late summer when I picked up two bulletin boards from Wal-Mart to be hung over the beds of each of my sons.  These were to become the boys “brag boards.”  Basically, I wanted a way to showcase my kids’ creative work that they did in Sunday school and at home.  As the holidays approached, I got the idea to update the bulletin boards to reflect each celebration.

We started with Halloween and then moved on to Thanksgiving and now we are in the midst of celebrating Christmas.  I printed out a December calendar for Jared and Luke with December 25th highlighted.  Each morning, the boys paste a sticker onto the day’s date.  As they slowly fill the calendar, they can see how we are getting closer and closer to Christmas.

Besides decorating their bedroom, we also purchased a Christmas tree and placed it in our living room.  Of course, the first task was to create boundaries to ensure the survival of our five foot Douglas fir and its delicate ornaments. I told the boys that if they touched the tree, they would get a slap on the hand and then have to sit in time out for a minute.  After a few days of “timing-out” four or five times, they finally got the point.  What they really enjoy is sharing the responsibility of turning on the Christmas tree in the evenings.  Each night, they take turns doing this. It is the only time they are allowed to approach the Christmas tree before Christmas day. We are very proud at how the boys have complied with the rules, and (so far) we’ve only had one circular globe of Christmas joy shatter on the ground.

At this point, we have decided not to push our luck by leaving wrapped Christmas gifts under the tree in advance of opening them.  We keep our gifts tucked in various hidden corners and crannies of our house and slowly wrap a few when we have some spare time in the evening hours.  They will all be placed under the tree on Christmas Eve after the boys are in bed.

Besides these things, we have made special Christmas bookmarks, and assembled our own gingerbread house made from a kit we picked up at the store. At their nightly story time, we’ve also added a special Christmas story devotional and sometimes sing a Christmas song.

Jared and Luke begin to build the gingerbread house

Here is the finished creation.

The boys love to sing Christmas carols.  But that is something I will be writing about in a separate blog.

The opportunities are endless during these early years of their lives, because their young minds and hearts are open to whatever tradition we want to begin with them.  It’s exciting to think of all the creative things that we can do that will one day become treasured memories for each of our children.

The Chick-fil-a Mystique

It all began when I decided that I didn’t want to make breakfast on my birthday.  I had several coupons in my purse for different restaurants and fast food places.

Free Gifts At Chick-Fil-A in Lake Jackson, Texas

I guess I chose Chick-fil-a because I had been avoiding it all summer. My kids love restaurants with playgrounds, but their playground was outside and I just couldn’t justify letting Jared and Luke swelter within plastic walls and tubing on a day when the outside temperature was already over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (not to mention the extra heat building up inside the playground area).  But now, we were finally dropping into the more reasonable temperature range of 80 to 90 degrees, and I thought it would be fun to eat breakfast there and use some of my neglected (but still valid) coupons.

After piling the kids in the car and getting them all excited about eating some yummy Chick-fil-a breakfast food, I got quite a shock when I came to the site of the restaurant.  The entire building was gone.  All that was left was a stack of debris being moved about by a demolition vehicle.  As my visions of Chick-fil-a meals vanished before me, I saw a sign stating that a temporary Chick-fil-a was going to open soon in the Brazos port mall across the street.

Later on, I heard that Chick-fil-a was planning to rebuild their restaurant in the exact same spot, but would be available in the mall for the time being.  As the months passed by, I could see the new building slowly being built.  I took note of the fact that the new building had the playground built indoors.  They were also making room for a double drive through.  Finally, a float in a Christmas parade advertised the news that the new Chick-fil-a would open on December 15.

As that day approached, I decided it would be fun to take the kids there on their grand opening day.  Several days before the store opened, the drive thru was opened to the public.  Those first customers received a free breakfast that morning.

The night before Chick-fil-a was to open there were people camping out in tents in the new parking lot area.  Why? They wanted to be among the first 100 customers to go through the front door, because they were promised to receive a special gift of “a free meal for 365 days.”

Now, we were not among the first 100 customers.  But we were there early enough to receive a toy Chick-fil-a cow for all three of the kids.  Jared and Luke had so much fun in the new indoor playground that was so well air conditioned that I made the boys wear their sweaters.

There were so many people working that Chick-fil-a that morning.  Every few minutes, one of the employees was asking me if I was such and such a person who had ordered the tray full of fast food goodness they were carrying around.  I would smile sheepishly and say, “I haven’t ordered just yet.”

After all, I had arrived at Chick-fil-a at 10:15 that morning so that the boys could enjoy a good long romp in the playground before ordering their lunch.  I ended up placing my order around 11:30 to avoid the lunch crowd that would be coming through after noon.  Chick-fil-a staff helped bring my order to my table and continues to come by periodically and make sure we didn’t need any refills on drinks or any other items.  One lady was carrying around helium-filled balloons and promised to give Jared and Luke a balloon if they finished all their lunch.

During our time there, I got to meet the manager of the store.  She told me with great pride that this was the first time any Chick-fil-a store had ever been completely demolished and rebuilt in the same location.  I asked her why they had demolished the building in the first place and she said that there were so many changes that needed to be made that it merited a complete make-over.

Indeed, it is a modern building that smells of new furniture and filled with enthusiastic people ready to serve anyone who comes through the front door and those who drive around the building to be served at their windows.

A Busy Grand Opening Day

Jared and Luke eat lunch with friends

Grace at Chick-fil-a

Remembering Indy

When I received a call from my younger sister early on a Tuesday morning in late November, I had a feeling that something was going on.  The feeling grew as she began to ask me if I had heard from my mom or my brother or anyone else in the family.  Then she proceeded to inform me that my grandmother on my mother’s side of the family had passed away early that morning.

Nella Dean "Indy" Whitten

It was November 29, 2011.  If she had stayed alive until December 8, she would have celebrated her 89th birthday.  Her death did not come as a shock.  She had been struggling with Alzheimer’s for over a decade and was slowly deteriorating in both mental and physical capabilities.  However, her soul remained the same.  She was that vibrant lady who loved people and wanted them to know how much God loved them too.  Her love for God and people sent her overseas as a missionary with her husband to places like Argentina, Spain and the equatorial islands off the coast of Africa.  Even in retirement, she continued to reach out to people with the love of Christ.  Even as her memories began to fade and she no longer remembered things or recognized people, she continued to seek out those who needed a little extra attention.

Stephen and I decided that we would attend her funeral, since there was less than eight hours driving distance between Lake Jackson, Texas and Jackson, Mississippi.  As I made my plans to visit, I felt a tugging in my heart to write a poem in memory of her.  As I weighed the pros and cons of taking on this creative endeavor, I began to remember all the birthdays that she would send me a personal birthday card that she had made herself, complete with her own poem.  Then, I knew I had to do it.

Once I told my mom about it, she suggested at once that I read it at the funeral.  So, without further ado, here is the poem I read for on December 2, 2011 at Nella Dean “Indy” Whitten’s funeral.

Lost and Found Memories
By Cristina Meier

I can see her now walking as she once was,
an excited girl figure on the edge of the shore
She’s young now and walks so lightly
Having recently entered the land of legend and lore

 Her hair is vibrant red, tumbling down her back
Blowing and reflecting the sunrise before her
Her eyes are dancing, full of laughter and light,
Her smile is a radiance of joy, steady and sure

 She picks up a shell lying close to her feet
It’s one of many on the sands of vast memories
Scooping up a handful, she takes a moment and
Sighing she whispers, “These are my memories.”

 Joyfully she fills the basket beside her,
digging her toes deep into the warm, moist sand.
She stops periodically to stare at each shell
turning them over gently in the palm of her hand.

 Some of them bring smiles and periodic giggles
Some bring a sigh and an occasional tear
But each memory is a treasure to her
Each moment…each hour; each day…each year.

 “Oh, yes, I remember now,” she says,
Each empty space filled to the last strand
Like long-lost treasures slowly found
Forever mysteries she can now understand

 And she finds that she is not alone here
Looking over at the person walking her way
Jumping up she runs to meet him
She’s never met a stranger in her day.

 She pauses for a brief moment, looking up
And the man smiles down at her.
His arms stretch out to share a greeting;
A gesture to quickly welcome her.

 She looks carefully down at the strong hands
Each bearing the scar of an old Roman nail.
The bruises each tell their own story
Grasping them eagerly, she knows of their tale.

 “Do you remember me, child?” he asks.
“Yes, Lord,” she says, “I do.”
“For your love has been a part of me
And part of everything that I knew.”

 “Welcome, home, my daughter!”
His voice rings loud and clear,
And that’s how the story should end
Without shame, free of pain and fear.

 Hand-in-hand with her Savior
She skips along at his side.
In her free hand hangs her basket
Collected memories gleaming inside.

 Together they pause at the edge of the shore;
Together they lift up the basket to the sea.
Tossing shells out to the oncoming waves
Sending them back to where they’re meant to be.

 For nothing is lost that has now been found.
Her treasures are far greater than we can know.
She has found them all in love everlasting
Within the arms of Him who loves her so.

© By Cristina Meier