Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Doing Christmas Differently

I was lying in bed last night thinking about Christmas. On Saturday our family - the kids, their spouses, John and I, celebrated Christmas together. It was a fabulous day filled with food, fun, gifts, games and laughter. It couldn’t have been a better day. Even the days leading up to Christmas were good. Well, not the day I had the kidney stone, but the rest of them, were fairly stress free. It could have been the drugs, of course, but once I determined I wasn’t going to get it all done, I quit trying to be super-woman and enjoy the season. My cards have yet to go out, but they will. I didn’t get gifts to everyone I wanted to, but I will. Due to some ill-timed consumption of caffeine last night, I had plenty of time to lie in bed and think about ways to do Christmas differently.

Doing Christmas differently has been on my heart for years. I always seem to get crazy in December, and why? I mean is that what God had in mind when He sent his Son to earth? I don’t think so. But, I’m a traditionalist and it’s hard for me to change something as huge as Christmas. Last year we changed how we give gifts within our family. Less wrapped gifts and things like gift cards in the stockings made for a FAR easier time of shopping and wrapping. And, no one died from the shock. But, because I love Christmas so much I always want to do more. I have friends to whom I love to give gifts. And then there are neighbors that I love to bless at Christmas, and people I work with that I love. But my intentions and my time don’t always come out evenly.

So, as I was thinking the other night, here is what came to mind. I need to radically change the way I do things. Where is it written that we can only give gifts at Christmas? What if, instead of taking pumpkin bread or fudge to the neighbors in December, I gave it to them in March? Does it not taste just as good then? In fact, wouldn’t it be more fun to have them all in for tea and send each person home with a loaf of bread? And, wouldn’t Feed My Starving Children (or any charity for that matter) appreciate my help just as much in September as in December? I know the food shelf is desperately in need of food in the summer so why not give then instead of at Christmas? Why do we, as Americans, suddenly become so benevolent in December? Is it to make up for our lack during the rest of the year? I say, let’s change things up!

My new plan is to do Christmas all year. I’m making this public so I’ll be sure to follow through on my plan. And, I want to invite you to join me. Every month I will tell you what it is I’m doing “for Christmas.” Some of what I do will be in preparation for December. My goal this year is to be done with all major Christmas stuff by December 1. That way I can actually enjoy the Christmas season - the parties, the lights, the music, and even the television specials. Plus, it will eliminate last minute panic caused by snowstorms and kidney stones. The other thing I’m going to do is re-think how I do gifts for friends. I’ll let you know about that as 2009 progresses.

This blog is getting long but I want to give you some ideas to start you thinking about next year. One of the things I liked best about our Christmas this year was the creative gifts our kids gave. Paul and Erin, knowing that I love to write, gave me some books specifically designed for writers. It showed some real thought to come up with such a creative idea and I loved the thought as much as the books. We got a most interesting gift from Adam and Heidi. They gave us a goat and two chickens! Well, we actually got plastic figurines of said goat and chickens (phew!) and the real animals went to a needy family in another country. The figurines are to remind us to pray for that family who will now have access to goat milk and eggs, which will provide not only food, but additional income. Both of those gifts were a huge blessing to me!

So put your thinking cap on and join me in 2009 as I “do Christmas differently.” Feel free to share your ideas with me, too!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jesus

Merry Christmas! There isn’t much time for blog writing on Christmas day so I thought I’d share with you the lyrics from a song I’ve been hearing on the radio for the past month. It’s by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, but the primary voice is that of a little girl, with a bit of a lisp. So cute! Here are some of the words:

Happy Birthday, Jesus
I’m so glad it’s Christmas
All the tinsel and lights
And the presents are nice
But the real gift is you

Happy Birthday, Jesus
I’m so glad it’s Christmas
All the carols and bells
Make the holidays swell
And it’s all about you

Happy Birthday, Jesus
Jesus, I love you

What more is there to say? Enjoy the day celebrating His birth!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Too Cold for Christmas?

I doubt I’ll ever forget a moment that happened on Christmas Eve nearly 25 years ago. The temperature outside was 20° below zero. I can’t remember if that was the wind chill or the actual temperature, but seriously, does it really matter? It was just a comment, really, nothing worthy of noting, but sometimes a funny comment just refuses to leave your mind. It was close to 10:00 p.m. as our choir gathered in the church basement to get ready for the Christmas Eve service. We were all standing around putting on our choir robes (which are truly the ONLY one size fits all garment) when Ken walked in to join us. His wife, Char, who also sang in the choir, seemed to be missing. When asked where she was Ken quipped, “Char doesn’t do Christmas when it’s 20 below.” It just cracked me up, I don’t know why.

As I was out Christmas shopping today in temperatures hovering around zero, I couldn’t help but think of Ken and Char. Ken died two years ago, but I do wonder if Char is “doing Christmas” this year. I might just give her a call.

As for the shopping, I don’t remember when the last time was that I went shopping this close to Christmas. I walked into Kohl’s and figured, by the number of people standing in line, that they were surely giving something away for free today! It’s hard to believe the economy is poor when you see all those people spending money! There was only a shortage of one thing that I could see, and that was crabby people. People were polite and patient as they made their way through long lines to pick up their last minute gifts. Maybe faces really do freeze in this weather, but at least they were frozen in the happy position. It was indeed, a Christmas miracle!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Celebrating a "Half-Birthday"

I’m not sure our son, Adam, is aware of this yet, but today is his half birthday. Twenty-six and a half years ago, just four days after I turned, um, older, Adam was born. And yes, ever since that time, we’ve had two birthday cakes in one week. It’s the best week of the year! This year I must have been busy eating cake because I forgot to blog about our wonderful son on his actual birthday, thus, a half-birthday blog.

Adam has pretty much been smiling since the day he was born. He even has a pretty good fake smile that he can plaster on his face when he is sad. It doesn’t fool me, but I’m sure he’s used it well on those less wise than his mother. When he was a kid even his teachers would comment on his persistent smile. Now that he is grown and moved away, I miss seeing that smile every day.

Adam does not take after me in the financial areas of his life. He’s way more disciplined with a budget than I could ever hope to be. Let’s just say that all of our children have learned how to budget on their own. I think we did a pretty decent job of parenting, but accidently skipped this one important lesson. Perhaps it’s because John’s financial plan was to save everything we made and mine was to spend it all.

Adam is also an amazing photographer. Gifted with a digital camera for college graduation, he spent many hours reading the manual, and other photography books, to learn about his new interest. This must take the same kind of discipline that is required for budgeting, as it would drive me nuts. Whenever I buy anything new and electronic, I usually wait for him to come home, read my manual, and explain it to me. Anyway, after he’d read about his camera, he’d leave the house to go out and take some pictures, come home, load them on the computer, and analyze what he’d done right and what he’d done wrong. He ended up with some pretty cool shots. You can see his work on his website.

In just a few days, Adam will celebrate the first anniversary of his marriage to Heidi, the love of his life. That’s why I’m fairly certain he hasn’t remembered his half-birthday. So happy 26½ years of life, Adam! We love you!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

We Interrupt this Christmas Season . . .

This was to be my week. My week to finish up the Christmas shopping, get the presents wrapped, write our Christmas letter, and take care of all of the other things that make Christmas happen. Then, of course, there is the laundry that is falling out of the hamper, the grocery shopping, some work to complete, and the regularly scheduled appointments, etc. I even had some blog writing time in mind. But, there was an interruption in the regularly scheduled programming.

Monday was my day to wrap the gifts that need to be mailed. It didn’t get done as quickly as I’d hoped but at least when the day came to a close, they were sitting by the back door waiting to go to the post office. As I finished this project around 11:00 PM, I noticed a sudden, excruciating pain in the lower right region of my back. I’ve had pain there in the past, usually due to muscle strain, so I took some ibuprofen, grabbed an ice pack and went to bed. It didn’t help. By midnight I was considering a trip to the ER, but seriously, it was 9° below zero in our neck of the woods, and who in their right mind would want to go out? By 2:00 AM, I cried “UNCLE!”, and proceeded to drag my husband, the doctor, and as it turned out, the x-ray tech and lab tech out of bed in the sub-zero temps for a little “please make me better party” at the hospital. The doctor is my new best friend. Within five minutes of her assessment of my condition she said “let’s get her some pain meds.” I’m fairly certain I proclaimed an undying love and debt of gratitude at this point, but I can’t be sure.

After two and a half hours, four x-rays, numerous lab tests, a CT scan, and another shot of some wonderful pain medication, it was determined I had a kidney stone. And yes, they are as painful as people describe them. I left the hospital with prescriptions, a handful of pain killers for the next day, and a few other items that probably fall into the category of “too much information.”

I’m happy to report that I only needed three of the pain pills they sent home with me, though I might need some more when the bill comes. I’m almost back to normal, but what about Christmas? As you may have guessed, nothing has been crossed off my list since Monday, and December 25 is closing in. Now it seems that snowstorms are on their way to add to the festivities.

Today, I got an email from a friend. She too has been quite sick and she wrote that instead of asking God “why?” she is asking Him to show her what she needs to learn during this trial. She is WAY more holy than I am! I’m just trying to survive, not figure out life’s lessons. But, of course, there are always lessons to be learned, and mine actually came as I started typing this blog. You see, I seem to be under the mistaken notion that Christmas will only happen at our house once I’ve wrapped the presents, made the cookies, sent the cards, etc, etc, But the truth is Christmas will happen even if none of that gets done. Christmas actually happened over 2000 years ago when a tiny babe was born, who would be the Savior of the world. That’s all that really matters; the rest is just a sweet way to remind those that we care about how much they are loved.

Which reminds me, what can I give my new best friend, the doctor?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Celebrating 177 years!

Today is Harold Holte’s 90th birthday. He is my father-in-law. This past weekend we drove to Baudette, Minnesota to celebrate his birthday and also my mother-in-law, Emily’s, 87th birthday. Between the two of them, they have lived a total of 177 years! That’s a lot of life!

Two, of our three sons, and their wives were able to join us for the celebration and we were fortunate to have a little over an hour to visit them by ourselves. It’s not that we were trying to be selfish; it was just good to have some time to visit without the crowd that can sometimes overwhelm them. It was their first chance to meet our newest daughter-in-law, Heidi, as traveling to the wedding last December wasn’t possible.

It was fun to hear Emily and Harold share stories that our kids had never heard, parts of which I didn’t even know. The told how they met in New York City while they were both serving in the Navy. Harold did clerical work during WWII and Emily was in the WAVES secretarial pool. Their first date was to a Barnum and Bailey Circus. Our kids were trying to remember what actually qualified as their first date with their spouses and were afraid that someday their grandchildren would ask them and they wouldn’t know. I’m sure by the time they reach 90 they can figure out something to make up!

Harold and Emily have been married over 60 years. (I’m not sure of the exact number but it’s close to 63.) After they got married, they moved to St. Paul, where three of their seven children were born. In 1950 they moved to Baudette and have lived there, in the same house, which has seen many additions, for 58 years! Harold grew up in Baudette, but Emily, she was a city girl, having been raised in St. Paul. Not much has been said, but I’ve gotten the feeling at times that the adjustment to small town living was a challenge for her. I can imagine!

They have been great parents for their kids, and have loved their sons-in-law and daughters-in-law as if they were their own. They’ve seen trials and heartaches, joys and triumphs. It was a joy to honor them as they celebrate a joint 177 years. Emily actually has 10 more days to make it to 87, but she’ll get there. Her 58 years in Baudette have made her one strong woman!
We didn't put 90 candles and 87 candles on their cakes. The fire Marshall wouldn't allow it.

Emily and Harold were so excited to have all seven children at their party.

Adam, Heidi, Paul, and Erin, with Grandma and Grandpa Holte

This is the farm house where Harold grew up. This home never had a well, though in later years did have a tank of water to supply the house.

The kids just had to get a picture in front of Willie Walleye, Baudette's mascot. It was -7° so there was some fast picture taking going on! When they were little this picture was taking in the summer time.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Learning to Believe in Miracles

Two weeks ago I wrote about Lacey, a young woman from our church who was fighting for her life. Her diagnosis seemed bleak, yet God told me to trust him. So, I prayed for a miracle. I have to say that a miracle seemed impossible. Of course, that would be the very definition of a miracle, now wouldn’t it?

In addition to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Lacey was fighting a very serious fungal infection in her lungs. She required a substantial amount of medical intervention and even with all of that available to her, the doctors weren’t holding out much hope. I am excited to tell you that today, Lacey is home. She is still fighting her cancer, but the lung infection is gone. You can learn more about Lacey on her Caring Bridge Site. I’m sure she’d appreciate your prayers as she continues her cancer treatments.

God has shown me a lot through this whole thing. You see, I have such a limited view of God. I make up my mind about what God can and can’t do, based on what I see in my own little world. I don’t see the big picture. It’s akin to looking at a tide pool and deciding that the whole ocean looks like this little three foot area. God has shown me that I need to quit putting Him into a box based on my limited experiences. I need to understand that His plan is WAY bigger than my capacity to grasp it. And, I need to believe in miracles. Not just believe, but ask for them and then, watch and be amazed!