Thursday, March 26, 2009

Christmas Sanity Plan - Part 3

I can’t believe that March is almost over. I’m glad though, really glad. Once March is over in Minnesota we can be sure that spring is ALMOST here. This year we’ve had days that tease us into thinking that spring is here and then *poof* it’s below freezing again. Spring WILL come, though, it always does.

BUT, I’ve gone through most of March with no idea of what I was going to do to achieve my goal of sanity come Christmastime. In fact, I wanted to do nothing, but I did commit to doing something every month and a promise is a promise.

Just as I was ready to give up on the whole idea of a Christmas Sanity Plan an opportunity fell right in my lap. I received an email from Children’s Cup, the organization that John and I worked with on our first mission trip to Africa. They are in the midst of taking kids to camp. (Remember, it’s the end of summer in Africa.) These kids live in some of the worst conditions, have had at least one parent die from AIDS, and would never have the joy of going to summer camp were it not for organizations like Children’s Cup. For only $13.50 I have the privilege of sponsoring a kid for a weekend of fun, great food, games, and the chance to just be a kid. You can read all about it on the Children’s Cup website.

Every year we exchange “gifts” with another family taking the money that we’d normally spend on each other and using it to do something for someone in need. We started this practice many years ago and it’s been fun to find creative ways to bless each other. This year, my gift to our friends will be to send two kids in Swaziland to camp. In their card I’ll enclose the picture below as a visual reminder of the gift, and as a reminder to pray for the kids who will benefit from it. I hope they like my gift. If they read my blog, it won’t be much of a surprise, of course, but I don’t think they’ll mind.
If you are participating in my Christmas Sanity Plan this would be a good time to find an organization to support instead of buying another tie for Uncle Mike. I’m sure he won’t mind. Children’s Cup is only one of the many great organizations from which to choose.
In addition to getting this “gift” for our friends I also did ONE other thing today in pursuit of Christmas sanity. Each year our church donates gifts to Inner City Christian Ministries. These gifts are given out in the community to people who would otherwise not have much of a Christmas. This year, after Christmas, I found some great deals on some fabulous gifts, including a $69 watch, with interchangeable straps, for only $6.00! So, on this cold, windy, March afternoon I sat down and wrapped gifts. Everything is now ready to go, covered in plastic to keep them fresh looking, and stored in a safe place until it’s time to deliver them.

If you’ve got gifts already purchased for next year, why not wrap a few this month? You can even watch a Christmas DVD while doing it. Oh, and if you don’t have any Christmas wrapping paper, try using plain brown mailing paper tied with a red bow for a gorgeous, simple look. If you are really crafty you can even stamp some fun images onto the paper. The important thing, of course, is not to forget where you store them once they are wrapped! Be sure to tell someone. Two heads are always better than one!

I am excited to tell you about my plan for next month. It’s a fun one!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

. . . and a little child shall lead them

Tonight John and I went to a believer’s baptism service at which nine people from our church were baptized. We didn’t really know who had made the decision to be baptized but we just wanted to go and support whoever they were. Our church is large and it’s likely that we might not have personally known any of them, but as it turns out we knew one couple.

Being as there were relatively few people who were baptized, there was time for each of them to say a little something before their baptism. A little girl, who I would guess is eleven or twelve years old, went first. Pastor Rob asked her if she’d accepted Jesus as her savior; she said yes. Then, he asked her if she desired to be baptized; again, she said yes. After that she was asked if she had anything to share. She did and it was profound; at least in my mind. She said, “I used to wake up in the morning and feel like I was missing out on something. Since I asked Jesus into my heart, I haven’t felt that way again.”

So sweet, so pure, so true! We all have a “God-sized” hole in our heart. Only Jesus can fill it. That sweet little girl has that figured out at a very early age. I love it!

Thursday, March 19, 2009


If you’ve read my last two blogs you know that I’ve been visiting my parents. They are huge Jeopardy fans and record it every night to watch at their leisure. The actually have a DVR program similar to Tivo. At the Holte home we still use a VCR (that’s a video cassette recorder for those of you under the age of 30.) It’s a sad day when your parents are more technologically advanced than you are, but at least I know how to text message. Oh sorry, I digress.

So, I’m watching Jeopardy with my parents and suddenly, I’m feeling not so smart (stupid is such a harsh word). I mean honestly, who knows this stuff? Do the contestants study before they go on the show? It’s not like they just need to know chemistry, or history. They need to know everything; literature, art, Biblical history, movies, and more. I found a few clues that I probably could have figured out, but in the form of a question? And, at lightening speed? No, I’d be the one standing there just trying to look pretty while attempting not to cry as I fell further and further behind.

I have determined that watching Jeopardy isn’t a total waste of time. I did learn this week that sunflower seeds are considered a cure for insomnia. That could be helpful someday. And, I also determined that having all that information in my brain would be dangerous. There is only so much room in my brain and I don’t want to clog it up with stuff that will only be useful should I decide to play Jeopardy. You see, not once in the past 30 years has anyone asked me the symbol for the chemical bismuth. It’s “Bi” by the way. What’s bismuth? You’ll have to look that one up.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Being as I've had a bit of a writer's block, I figured maybe some pictures would be fun. And, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then this blog should be about 8000 words long. Imagine all the reading time I'm saving you!

As I mentioned on Monday, I am in California visiting my parents. The Monterey Peninsula, where they live, is one of the most beautiful areas of the United States, at least in my humble opinion. Of course, if there weren't so many people here, it'd be even prettier, but then again, you can't blame them for wanting to enjoy the beauty with me.

I just can't get enough of this!

Every view is different. And, it changes every minute!

This place along the 17-mile drive is called Point Joe. Always a good spot for a great view!

This picture is for my friend, Lindsay, and any other golfer that might enjoy the view. For those who are curious, this is the 14th tee of the Monterey Peninsula Country Club, Dunes Course. It too, is part of the 17-mile drive.

These little guys wander ALL over the neighborhood where my parents live. They can be pretty pesky but it does keep the drivers alert and traveling at a reasonable speed. They also add some fun deposits on the local golf courses to help keep the game interesting.

And, of course, since it's already spring in California, the flowers are beautiful. For my Minnesota friends; soon, very soon, we'll be seeing some of this. I, for one, can't wait!

Tulips are one of my favorite flowers. This information will come in handy if you are looking to buy me something.

The California state wildflower is the poppy. They are blooming in abundance. Gorgeous!

I'm heading back to Minnesota tomorrow. I understand it's been a warm week so I probably won't be able to thrill you with a bunch of snow pictures. Rats! Maybe next year.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Writer’s Block

At the beginning of the year I mentioned that one of my goals this year was to blog twice a week. But, seriously, I think I’ve had writer’s block. For the past few days I’ve been thinking, I should write another blog, but about what?

I flew to California on Sunday to spend a few short days in Pacific Grove (near Carmel) visiting my parents. I thought perhaps that something would come to me on the plane. I sat between two college students, one recovering from an “opening night of spring break” party and the other a young man on his way home to visit his family and go to a job interview. He and I had a great time visiting but it didn’t really lead to any material for a blog entry.

And, there are other random things to write about. For instance, my father was telling me that he goes for a walk every morning. One day, while out walking, he went past one of those miles per hour detectors designed to alert cars of their current speed. Apparently, he registered at 4 mph. Not bad for an 80-year-old man! And, it makes you wonder how those things work. But again, not enough for an entire blog.

So, hopefully this week something amazing will come into my mind. In the mean time, my mother just walked in with a Rummikub game. Let’s see if I can beat her this time!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Memories and Ironing

This morning I was ironing a shirt for my husband to wear to work. Don’t be impressed, it’s only because there was nothing else clean and my husband was born too long ago to be domestic.

Anyway, as I was ironing, memories flooded back into my mind of my friend, Linda. Linda was our neighbor when I was growing up. I was just 11 years old when I met Linda, her husband, Ernie, and their one-year-old daughter, Alicia. A few years later, they had another beautiful daughter, Kristin. Linda was a mentor in my life, and I regularly played with and babysat her girls. Sadly, Linda died over ten years ago from metastasized breast cancer.

Why then, did my ironing make me think of Linda? It’s simple. It was Linda who taught me how to iron. My own mother avoided ironing like the plague. Now she just makes certain that her clothes are permanent press. I saw my mother iron a few times, but I don’t think she really had a method. Linda had a method; first, the yoke area (top of the shirt) all the way around, then the body of the shirt starting with the left front section, next the sleeves and lastly, the collar. The theory was that you would move it around by holding the collar thus avoiding getting everything wrinkled before you finished ironing it. I know some people have different methods of ironing shirts, but in my mind, they are just wrong.

Of course, Linda’s patient teaching paid off for her big time. As I grew older, I babysat for them often. After I put the kids to bed I would often get kind of bored, so I’d pull out Linda’s ironing pile and iron away. By then, I’d already done the dishes and, since there wasn’t cable television, not much else was available to entertain me.

The next day, of course, I’d walk two miles, in the snow, uphill to school. Oh, wait, we didn’t have snow in Whittier, California. It just seemed like an old person type of thing to say and after the “no cable television” comment, I was feeling kind of old.

Anyway, I just think it’s kind of cool the way certain activities remind you of people who have been an important part of your life. Linda was an amazing mother, a godly woman, and a great friend who taught me so much. I miss her terribly. Occasionally, I get the opportunity to speak into her daughter’s lives they way she spoke into mine. What an incredible blessing!

Oh, by the way, I also think of Linda when I eat (or try to eat) broccoli. She told me, before she died, that broccoli would help prevent breast cancer. I wonder if it still has the same benefits once I dip it in some ranch dressing?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Spring Ahead

I love spring! The birds start singing again, the snow melts, flowers start to appear, and it just isn’t so dark all the time. Unfortunately, in Minnesota, spring doesn’t really kick into full gear until the end of April, but for now, we get more hours of daylight. And tonight, it’s time to “spring ahead” our clocks for daylight saving time.

Earlier this week, my pastor wrote a blog to remind us about the changing of the clocks on Saturday night. Pastors across the land are always particularly concerned that we not forget to change our clocks because if we do, they’ll literally be preaching to the choir on Sunday. In my pastor’s blog he linked to an article regarding the effects of daylight saving time. There is some scary information in this article.

Did you know that there is an increase in the number of heart attacks the week after the switch to daylight saving time? This might explain why they don’t make the switch in Arizona. A lot of people retire there who are probably already more prone to heart attacks. The extra number of attacks could send the local hospitals into a tailspin. They just can’t take that chance.

People who are night owls, like me, are bothered more by the switch. Well, duh, night owls, in general, like to sleep and have to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to accomplish what the rest of the world accomplishes during the day. Perhaps I’ll make the change better if I just take a couple extra naps today in preparation.

If “springing ahead” is what it takes to get spring to come, then by all means, let’s move those clocks. Spring can use all the help it can get around here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Frogs, Frogs, Frogs

At the beginning of the year our pastor taught our congregation about a form of devotions called SOAP. SOAP is an acronym for Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer. My husband, John, and I have started doing SOAP devotions every day. We each do them on our own and then spend some time discussing what we’ve learned in the process. It’s been both a great marriage builder and faith builder for us. Click here to learn more about SOAP. I could explain it better but I really need to tell you about the frog story.

Last month we read through Exodus in our SOAP devotions. I’ve read through the Bible at least a few times and I’m always totally amazed that I can continue to learn something new every time.

Anyway, if you don’t know the story from Exodus it goes something like this. Pharaoh is the leader of the Egyptians. He is not a nice guy and, in my humble opinion, not the sharpest tack in the box either. The Israelites are being held captive by Pharaoh but God has called Moses to lead them out of Egypt to the Promised Land. The problem is that Pharaoh doesn’t want to let them go. So, God tells Moses to go and speak with Pharaoh and warn him that terrible things will happen, plagues and the like, if he refuses to let the Israelites go. Pharaoh, in his stubbornness, allows the Egyptians to live through numerous plagues until eventually they basically beg the Israelites to leave.

My favorite story in the plague saga is the Plague of the Frogs. In Exodus 8, Moses tells Pharaoh that there are going to be frogs everywhere if he refuses to let the Israelites go. And, sure enough, the next day frogs were all over the place. The Israelites couldn’t take a step without landing on a frog! As Pharaoh had done before (and would do again) he calls Moses for a meeting, repents, and asks Moses to please beg God to call off the plague. To this request Moses says in verse 9, “You set the time! Tell me when you want me to pray for you, your officials, and your people. Then you and your houses will be rid of the frogs. They will remain only in the Nile River.”

And then comes the part which prompts my comment on Pharaoh's intelligence. Exodus 8:10 reads, ‘“Do it tomorrow,” Pharaoh said.'

Tomorrow? TOMORROW? Are you kidding me? The man is surrounded by frogs, he gets to choose the time of their departure, and he says tomorrow? That’s insane. Why not right now? Were Moses to ask me a question like that my response would be “ten minutes ago would be perfect!”

Last year, when John and I were in Africa, we checked into our accommodations at the hostel where we’d be staying for the week. We’d driven for most of the day to get there. We were tired and hungry. We found our room and let’s just say, it was not the Ritz Carlton. It wasn’t even a bad Super 8. It just wasn’t the most pleasant of spots. I was in the midst of surveying the accommodations, wondering how in the world I’d make it through the week, when a frog hopped into our room. That’s when I lost it. Now, I’ve dealt with frogs before, and it’s not like I’m afraid of them, but that particular frog tipped the scale of my emotions and turned me into a sobbing mess. And it was just ONE frog! One, little bitty, yet unpredictably hoppy, frog. I didn’t look at my husband and say, “oh by the way honey, if you could get that frog out of my room tomorrow sometime that would be great.” I looked at him and said “GET IT OUT, GET IT OUT NOW!”

There is only one conclusion that can be made based on my experience and the story of the frog plague. Pharaoh was not a married man.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Facebook Phenomenon

Sometime last year I ventured onto Facebook. It took my friends quite awhile to convince me that this was a good idea. I’m still not 100% convinced that I made the right decision, but now that I’m addicted I guess I’m stuck.

If you aren’t familiar with Facebook, let me try to explain it. Essentially, it’s a social networking opportunity via the internet. Anytime you want to tell your friends about a great sale going on, share a recipe, talk about the weather, or show the latest pictures of your Great Aunt Harriet’s birthday, you can do so on Facebook.

You have choices, too. You can allow your Facebook page to be open to the public, open to your friends and their friends, or open only to your friends. I’m paranoid, so I have my settings as private as possible. The first thing I learned once I joined was that I have even more friends than I knew about. For instance, a teenage boy at church requested my friendship, as did a few others that I’m fairly certain wouldn’t even come to my funeral were I to die tomorrow. But, why not? I don’t want to be rude and not accept their friendship. It felt, for awhile, that some people on Facebook were “collecting” friends the same way my kids collected POGS when they were younger. I also had friend requests from people I didn’t know at all, and though I felt bad, I clicked the ignore button.

It’s interesting to see who I’ve been able to connect with through Facebook; an old high school friend, college friends, nieces and nephews, and missionary friends in far off lands. It really is amazing. And, through Facebook, I can connect with all of them in one posting.

There are a few things about Facebook that bother me; like seeing pictures of my friends at a party that I didn’t attend because my invitation was lost in the mail. Or, finding a photo of myself, posted by a “friend,” that shows me in some unbecoming pose. Who wants to see that?

Today, I got what I consider to be the perfect response to a friend request. Here is the very first message I got from my new friend: “if you post any fat pictures of me I will hurt you....” It cracked me up! I believe though that her request is too specific. I think that, in general, common courtesy should dictate that any picture posted on Facebook should make your friend look gorgeous. I mean really, isn’t that what friends are for?

If you haven’t ventured onto Facebook yet it’s not too late. But beware, it can steal some serious time from your life. On the other hand, it can add some joy and laughter to your day, and who can’t use some of that.

Wanna be friends?