Friday, December 07, 2007

The 12 Autors of Christmas, Terri Blackstock!

Today we're hearing from my friend and award winning author, Terri Blackstock. And, as a bonus, today is Terri's birthday. Be sure to send her birthday greetings.

The picture to the left is Terri as Celebrity Grand Marshall of the Clinton, Mississippi Christmas Parade in 2006.

"I was riding with the Grand Marshall and his granddaughter. Notice how excited the people are as we drive by! I was upstaged by Santa who rode on a fire truck behind us. The comments from people we passed were something like this: "Who is that lady and why isn't she throwing candy?"
"I don’t know, but look, there’s Santa!"

(rh: Funny, Terri. We're all legends in our minds, anyway, I say.)

Tell us about your first Christmas memory?

I think my first Christmas memory was when I was about six years old and we lived in the Netherlands. My father was in the Air Force, and we lived there from the time I was five until I was nine.

My best friends were Dutch because we lived in a Dutch neighborhood. In Holland, they have two Christmas celebrations - the commercial one where presents are given on December 5th, and the religious one on December 25-26.

Because Sinterklaas (the Dutch version of Santa) came to the Dutch children on the 5th, my parents let us play along. They didn't give us gifts on that day, but they allowed us to put out wooden shoes, which Sinterklaas allegedly filled with candy.

I'll never forget going to the parade a few days before and seeing Sinterklaas dressed differently than the American version of Santa. He wore bishops' robes and was skinny, but he still had a white beard. How confusing!

(rh: Terri, how interesting. And funny too how our Santa Claus is round and chubby, and people say America is the biggest nation in the world.)

Growing up, did your family have Christmas traditions? Tell us how you incorporated them into your family life. Or, how you created new ones.

My family always exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve, making that a very special time for the family to be together. Then on Christmas morning, we had our surprise Santa gifts.

I continued to do this until I married Ken. The blending of our families - my two girls and his son - created a lot of clashing traditions. So we decided to create some important traditions of our own.

We don't exchange gifts until Christmas morning, but on Christmas Eve, we make a “Happy Birthday Jesus” video. Like the little drummer boy, we each try to bring a talent to the Lord to place on the video.

My son usually plays guitar as the girls sing, or my daughter Marie plays piano, or the whole family tries to sing a Christmas song in harmony - which usually winds up with our collapsing in laughter.

At some point in the video, one of the children reads the Christmas story from scripture. We end by saying, "Happy Birthday, Jesus!" It's a way of focusing on Christ and having fun with the family. We have a blast watching previous years.

After the video, we usually play some kind of board game with the kids. It's a great time together, without the distraction of gifts.

(rh: Terri, what a great idea. I can remember playing games with my brothers and sister, laughing so hard my sides hurt and I couldn't breath.)

When do you put up your tree? At my house, it goes up right after Thanksgiving. My husband works assembly and outside lights. I do the rest. Describe the decorating at your house.

We try to put up our tree the first week of December. The decorations I do in our house are exhausting, and outside is more exhausting.

We live in a subdivisions known for its decorations. We don't want to be the weak link in the neighborhood, so we try to be among the first to get ours up.

One of the highlights of our decoration is that we put a cross and a manger in our front yard, with a sign that says, "For this purpose I came..." from John 12:27.

(rh: I love that...)

We light up the front of our house with wreaths in every window, and white lights all over our trees and bushes. I focus on the front door, framing it with thick garland and lights.

What is your favorite Christmas song or album? I grew up with a Johnny Mathis Christmas CD and it's still one of my favorites. My other is a copy of Mel Torme singing his "Christmas Song."

I don't have a favorite, but this year I've downloaded Josh Groban's new Christmas CD, which has all the traditional Christmas songs. One of the highlights of our Christmas season each year is my church's "Carols by Candlelight."

It's a huge production that takes months of preparation. Once we go to see that, we feel that we've really started the Christmas season.

Christmas morning, my parents didn't want us in the living room until the tree was plugged in. So, we'd wake up early, five a.m. or so, and bang on the floor to stir my parents awake. Relive your childhood Christmas mornings for us.

We would go wake our parents up at the crack of dawn. I was the oldest, so I remember enjoying my little sister's and brother's faces as they saw what Santa brought.

After my parents were divorced, I remember that my mother had a budget of something like $26 for each of us for Santa. Somehow she made that stretch far enough to get us the desires of our heart each year.

(rh: Mom's are amazing that way.)

Seems to me snow and Christmas go together, but I've been a Florida girl for 33 years! Tell us about your Christmas setting?

I wish snow was a part of our Christmas in Mississippi, but it rarely is. One year it snowed a few days after Christmas, and decorations were still up. That was so beautiful.

But mostly it's in the 50's or 60's (sometimes the 70's), and sunny. It's great weather for children to try out their new bicycles.

It’s Christmas Eve, describe your day and evening.

I do not go shopping on Christmas Eve. That's against everything I believe in. It would ruin my day to stand in lines on that day. That day is usually spent in a mad rush to finish wrapping gifts and get them under the tree.

Around five p.m., we go to church for our Christmas Eve service. It's a wonderful candlelight service that focuses our hearts on Christ.

Then we come home and have a light dinner together, then begin making our video. My children are grown now, so it’s growing more difficult to get everyone home at the same time.

We're trying to be flexible with the making of the video these days, but I know that when we have grandchildren that tradition will take on new life.

(rh: Oh, yes, and how fun to watch them join the tradition. Little ones are so funny!)

Confession time. Shop on line or at the mall?

Mostly online. Shopping is not one of my favorite things. I no longer mail anything out. I buy out-of-towners' gifts online and let them ship. Isn't the internet great?

Christmas grows more and more commercial every year. Setting the hustle and bustle aside, what does Christmas really mean to you?

To me, Christmas is a time of remembering the amazing gift that God gave us when He sent His Son to earth. It's a time of celebrating our blessings as our family members all return home and honor each other with gifts.

I love Christmas, even though it’s easy to get caught up in the madness.

It's Christmas day, what's for dinner? Do you make cookies or other traditional foods?

Last year my girls and I made gingerbread houses. For Christmas dinner, we usually go to my mother's for turkey and the works.

Tell us about your favorite Christmas memory.

I think my favorite Christmas memories were when each of my girls were preschoolers, experiencing the joy of Christmas for the first time.

I remember when my younger daughter was in her first preschool Christmas program. The teacher had told them all to sing really loudly, so they bent at the waists and yelled their song out. I've never laughed so hard.

The children were completely distracted by Santa who sat on the front row. I would kill for a video of that, but unfortunately, my battery in my camcorder died before they started. That memory is still in my mind, though.

(rh: I can imagine that image being hard to forget. How funny and sweet.)

What are you plans for this season?

I'm going to try something new this year. My family is going to set aside some money, and we're going to go to a grocery store parking lot in a poorer area of our town.

We're giving each family member a hundred dollars. We're going to have them pick out one person that they'd like to bless with that gift, and we'll all watch from the car as they give them the money.

I think this will be fun and will bless everyone involved. I can't wait to do it.

(rh: What a great idea. I pray the Lord leads you all to the one who really needs that touch and attention.)

Any final thoughts on Christmas?

I would just encourage families of young children to try harder to make their children learn the blessing of giving.

Too often we moms try to make it easy on everyone by buying all the gifts ourselves. I would buy the gifts I was giving, the gifts the children were giving to each other, the gifts my husband was giving, and sometimes even the gifts that they were giving me! If I had it to do over, I would do a lot of things differently.

(rh: Great point, Terri. One year my dear husband took my list and bought everything on it. While I was blessed and grateful, we talked coming up with gift ideas of his own and I stopped being so particular.)

The official word on Terri Blackstock

Terri Blackstock has written over thirty Christian titles, many of which have been number one best-sellers. Her latest book, "True Light," reached number one on the Top 50 of all Christian books the first full month it was in stores.

"Night Light" was the winner of the 2007 Retailer's Choice Award for General Fiction.

Both books are part of her popular Restoration Series which began with "Last Light."

Other reader favorites include her "Cape Refuge" Series, her "Newpointe 911" Series, her SunCoast Chronicles Series and her "Seasons" books written with co-author Beverly LaHaye.

(Terri, thank you so much for stopping by! You're a blessing. Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas!)


Cherie J said...

Enjoyed the interview! Happy Birthday Terri!

Ausjenny said...

Firstly Happy Birthday Terri.
I hope you are having a wonderful day.

I love the idea of a video for Jesus I bet they are so much fun to watch.
Christmas in The Netherlands would be different. I had heard of the gifts on the 5th but didn't remember which countries.
Your house sounds wonderful.
The idea of giving $100 to a needy person christmas eve is wonderful. Praying The right people will be blessed. We give gifts for the wishing trees here but to see peoples reactions would be amazing.
Thanks Terri for participating. i have loved reading these interviews.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Terri, did Rachel tell you it is her birthday too? Very nice post, I enjoyed it.

Rachel's Mom

Ausjenny said...

Happy Belated birthday Rachel I hope you also had a wonderful day