Monday, April 1, 2013


I'm moving! Well, not actually physically moving, just moving my blog. For the past several months I've been posting my blog here, and on my website,  I wanted everything to be "just right" before I made the big announcement and moved everything to just that one location and now the time has come. I will keep this site up for a little bit longer while everyone "moves" with me but the new posts will only be found at

Thanks for faithfully following my ramblings. At my new site you'll have the option to "subscribe" to have my blog emailed to you the day after it posts. Or, you can just check in whenever you'd like to see what's new. It's my goal to post a new blog each Monday (so that might be a good day to stop by.)

Before I close I want to offer a HUGE thank you to my son, Adam, for his work in getting my website up and running. I'd be lost without his help.

Again, thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy the new site. God bless!

Monday, March 25, 2013

What's So Good About Good Friday?

What’s so good about Good Friday? This is a question that I consider just about every year as we enter into Easter week. Why would they name the day we commemorate Christ’s brutal crucifixion “good”? It was horrible. Our Lord and Savior was beaten, abused, mocked and nailed to a tree while onlookers watched him die, not just from the pain and suffocation, but also from a broken heart.  How can we call that “good”?

I’ve asked this question of pastors over the years but I’ve either not been satisfied with their answer or else I’ve forgotten it so I found myself thinking about it yesterday once again, “What’s so good about Good Friday?”  

This morning I did a little Internet research on the subject, which turned up some pretty interesting answers. In general, it would appear that no one is totally sure of why the Friday before Easter is called Good Friday. Everyone seems to agree that this title showed up sometime in the 4th century but after that, there are numerous explanations given for its name. Some say it was possibly once called “God’s Friday” and the word “Good” was used to replace “God” because at some points in history God’s name was considered too holy even to speak. One author even quipped that the change from God’s Friday to Good Friday was due, perchance, to a hard-of-hearing monk who added an “o” and dropped the “s” and moved on. Another explanation is that the name, Germanic in origin, was "Gute Freitag" and literally means "good" or "holy" Friday.

Yesterday, when I was thinking about the whole “Good in Good Friday” question here’s what I came up with:

Because of Jesus’ horrible death, I get to live.
Because of Jesus’ willingness to be the ultimate blood sacrifice, my sins can be forgiven.
Because of Jesus’ time on the cross, I can go boldly to the throne of grace in prayer.
Because of Jesus, I get to fulfill God’s purpose for me in this amazing adventure called life.

So yes, on Good Friday, when we remember Christ’s death on the cross, I will grieve over what had to happen but know that without the crucifixion nothing would be “good.”  Instead, because of Christ willingly giving his life to buy mine, everything has been made “good.”

And the best news? It’s what happened on the third day that takes the good to great! Christ’s resurrection from the dead brings with it the promise of eternal life for everyone who calls Jesus their Lord. And that, my friend, is reason to celebrate!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Our Swazi "Daughter"


I have just one more story to tell you about our trip to Swaziland. In theory, this should be an easy story to tell but in reality I’ve struggled more with writing it than with any other. The short story here is that we were able to meet the little girl that we sponsor through the organization One Child Matters. In Swaziland One Child Matters partners with Children’s Cup to provide care, education, food and Christian teaching to children living in impoverished regions.

There were several people on our team who are sponsoring children in Swaziland and we’d been told in advance that we’d have the chance meet with our child. I was so excited, but to be honest, a little bit nervous. What would I say? Would she like us? What would we do during the time we had together? All of the children who had sponsors on the trip were bussed in to meet us at the Children’s Cup Global Leadership Academy. (I haven’t told you much about the amazing Global Leadership Academy – and their directors – but check out my friend Gretchen’s blog to find out all about it.) The bus arrived right around lunchtime, along with Kentucky Fried Chicken for the kids. Let me just tell you that KFC in Swaziland beats any KFC you’ll find in the United States and I was just a wee bit jealous when I found out that the chicken was only for the them.

When the kids arrived I was hoping that I’d recognize our “daughter,” Nathando, but there were a couple of girls about the same age who shared a similar haircut so I was out of luck. Soon enough, though, we were matched up, given our meals and sent off to find a place to enjoy our lunch. We were also assigned a translator and even though Nothando speaks some English it was very helpful to have the translator. At one point I asked her if she had any animals and I thought she said she had a cat and a duck. So then I asked her if her family got eggs from the duck. I could tell that she thought that was a strange question but I couldn’t figure out why until her translator explained that she’d said DOG not DUCK. Well yes, that would make getting eggs a bit more challenging.

After lunch we gave Nothando a backpack filled with small gifts. It had been hard for me to decide what to bring but I ended up taking an Uno game, some art supplies, a miniature stuffed sock monkey, candy, and a compact mirror. She giggled a bit when she saw the stuffed monkey and seemed to like the art supplies, but it was the mirror that she clearly liked the most. One dollar – that’s what the mirror cost – but the response from Nothando was worth thousands. She opened it up and very quietly gasped that excited kind of gasp a person reserves for when they’re really excited. Then, ever so softly she said “oohhhh, a mirror” like it was the most precious thing she had ever received. You see, mirrors aren’t a normal commodity in the impoverished homes of Swaziland. I wasn’t sure we’d get her to put it away for the rest of the afternoon she was so excited to look at herself. And who can blame her – she’s adorable.
During our time together we played Uno, talked, and took a walk to the nearby Children’s Cup Care Point. The care point Nothando attends is much like the one we visited but at her care point they don’t have swings yet and she loves to swing.   
Despite all the fun we had the best part of our time together happened when we were walking down the dusty road to and from the care point. It was then that Nothando slipped her hand into mine and held on like little girls do with their mommas. She captured my heart.

You might be wondering why it was so hard for me to write about this experience. Here’s why. I'm embarrassed to tell you it made a difference in the way I feel about her. It’s not that I didn’t love her before but now I know I love her! Now she’s not just a picture on a piece of paper. She’s not just a little girl in need of food, clothing, and education. She’s a child who doesn’t just need to be supported financially, but also emotionally. Why did I not understand that before?

Before we left we had the chance to pray with Nothando; that God would bless her, and care for her, and show her the great plans He has for her life. We hugged her, told her we loved her and swallowed our hearts when she asked, “When are you coming back?” It was a hard good-bye.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Camping - Swazi Style

Most people would be shocked to know that one of the things that attracted me to my husband, John, is that he liked to camp. It’s true though. When I was growing up in California I was a part of a very fun Girl Scout troop and we did a lot of camping. I loved it! Granted, I wasn’t so fond of the time we went backpacking but the camping that didn’t involve carrying things up a hill on my back was a blast. When I met John I was excited at the prospect of being able to go camping with him as we traveled through life together.

What I didn’t understand, however, is that John and I had totally different ideas on what it meant to camp. I also didn’t understand that camping in Minnesota is a totally different experience than camping in California. When I camped in California it was always at an established campground, with a team of people, and a bathroom in close proximity of our campsite. John’s idea of camping is to find a remote location, by ourselves, with nary a toilet in site. The other huge difference between camping with my Girl Scout troop in California and camping with John in Minnesota is the size and quantity of the bugs. While there are bugs in California there are considerably less mosquitoes and the ones we did have were about half the size of the ones in Minnesota.

In other words, after one night of camping in Minnesota I was longing for a hotel, preferably one with room service.  Roughing it just isn’t my style. I like lights, I like electricity, I like the fact that the place I sleep is generally free of biting insects and spiders.

As you might imagine, then, when an overnight trip to a game park in Swaziland featuring huts without electricity and with thatched roofs (where bugs and geckos hang out) was presented, I was less than excited. It sounded a lot like camping to me. Though I knew it would be fun to see the animals, the rest of the trip seemed more like torture than the “fun” that it was designed to be.
And what was my biggest concern? My hair. Pretty much all the other women on the team had long hair that could be pulled into a ponytail or naturally fell straight. My hair, on the other hand, has the potential to stick straight out in several directions when I get up in the morning. I totally understood that I was having first-world problems in a third-world country; it just didn’t help my mood at the time. Neither did the fact that I was extremely tired at this point in the trip. But, after a good cry (yes, it’s true, I cried) I put my big girl panties on and determined to make the best of it.

When we arrived at our hut I did a quick survey to see if there were any visible bugs in the room. The room and the thatched roof looked fairly clear, but there was a can of roach spray on the counter. I thought, “Well, this will be good to have on hand if there are any roaches but what am I to do with the non-roach types of critters?” Screens on the windows were an added bonus as that isn’t always the case. I started to breath a little easier.

Soon, it was time to head out on our game drive and it did not disappoint; lions, elephants, vultures and beautiful vistas were a part of our evening drive.

Before climbing into bed at the end of the day I double-checked it for bugs; using my flashlight and the gas lamp provided. In my world, if there aren’t bugs on the bed when I get in they most assuredly won’t show up in the middle of the night. Please, let me continue to live in this delusional state.

When the alarm went off at 4:30 AM for our early morning drive I realized I had slept better that night than any other night of the trip. As an added bonus, my hair looked somewhat respectable. And, as we headed out to see the giraffes, impalas, rhinos and storks I could almost hear God say, “You see, Nancy, I’ve got your back. There was no need for the drama."

And once again, I am reminded to trust the One who loves me so much that he knows the number of hairs on my head – and keeps them under control at just the right time.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Hardest Question

John and I returned last Thursday from a mission trip to Swaziland, Africa. When a person comes home from a trip such as this the obvious question from friends is “How was your trip?” Even after nine mission trips I find this an incredibly hard question to answer.

There are so many things that happen on a mission trip that it’s hard to quickly summarize it all into a few short sentences. I’ve seen poverty that most Americans can’t even fathom. I’ve met women who work harder to wash a few items of clothing than I work to do four loads. I’ve seen young girls who are at great risk of being victims of human trafficking and others who are already caught in the web. And, I’ve held crying women in my arms that are struggling with a depression they can’t seem to shake.

It’s overwhelming and hard to put into words when someone asks the seemingly reasonable question, “How was your trip?” It takes me a few weeks, sometimes even a few months, to process all that I’ve seen and experienced; which is what makes the ever-present question so challenging.
It’s not all hard though. One of the joys of going on a mission trip is having a front row seat to some pretty miraculous stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I know that miracles happen every where – every day; it’s just that I can get so wrapped up in my own little world that I miss them.  Even on a mission trip I can get pretty self-absorbed (I’ll save that story for another day) and miss the miracles, but on this trip to Swaziland I actually watched God multiply time. Let me explain.

My husband, John, is an optometrist. He had the opportunity to spend a day examining eyes and providing glasses for people who needed them. Knowing the hours available for seeing patients John figured he’d be able to see about 70 patients. When we arrived at church on Saturday morning (the day planned for eye exams) there were already at least 50 people in line to have their eyes checked. John, two team members, and I got the “exam room” set up and glasses ready to dispense. I walked back out to do my job of putting drops in everyone’s eyes (a job which requires no special training other than the ability to pry open eyes that refuse to cooperate) and saw that the line of patients had already doubled and it was only 9:00 in the morning! I would just barely get the drops in a few people’s eyes and it seemed like another 20 people would show up. By 10:00 AM there were nearly 150 people waiting. (Most of the people sitting in this picture were in line.) I knew there was no way that John could see them all and my heart was broken. The nurse with Children’s Cup (the organization we worked with) encouraged me while tears flowed from my eyes. She told me that God only asked us to do what we could. Still, I grieved as we made the announcement that there would not be time to see everyone.

Running through my mind, however, was the story from Matthew 14 about the feeding of 5000 people and I thought to myself, “If God can feed 5000 people (and really he fed even more than that) with five loaves and two fish then he can surely multiply time and allow John to see more than 75 people.” And I prayed for that exact thing – for God to multiply time. I had counted the people up to the 70th person and when I saw him move to the front of the line by 1:15 PM, I knew I was watching a miracle take place. At the end of the day nearly 150 people had been seen.  Though some had left when we made the announcement earlier no one who was still there was turned away. We’d also told them that John could see the first 20 people who showed up on Sunday morning; he saw 35 more. In those two days over 125 pairs of glasses were dispensed.

Seeing that all transpire was amazing but equally as awesome was watching one woman look through her new reading glasses for the first time. The smile that spread across her face as she realized that she could read again would melt even the hardest of hearts. On that day, in her world, she was experiencing a new kind of miracle, the miracle of sight.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hello, My Name is Nancy . . . .

Hello, my name is Nancy and I have a problem. Apparently, I’m addicted to television. To be honest, this came as a shock to me. Seriously. When people would ask me about a particular show I would say, “I really don’t watch much t.v.” I have four shows that I watch regularly and they generally flip flop, two per season; so that tallies up to about two to three hours a week. Or so I thought BEFORE we gave up television for three weeks. Here’s how it all got started.

Every year in January our church encourages us to participate in 21 days of prayer and fasting.  While fasting generally refers to not eating, or giving up a certain type of food, or a certain meal every day, that’s not what we (meaning John and I) did. For reasons I won’t go into here, giving up food isn’t really an option for us. For a couple of years I gave up Facebook during this time but that was complicated because people message me through Facebook and then wonder why I’m not responding to their inquiries.  Suffice it to say, we needed a change and that is why we turned off the television: no news, no shows, no chitchat in the background.

It didn’t take long for me to notice this annoying twitch in my right shoulder. It seems that every morning when I go into the bedroom to get dressed I automatically reach up to turn on the television, which is suspended on a stand over John’s dresser.  And then I would remember, “Oops, no t.v.” I kid you not; this “twitch” lasted for two and a half weeks! And it wasn’t just when I’d go in to get dressed in the morning; it was EVERY SINGLE TIME I went into my room. I guess I felt like I might actually learn something of value in the 30 seconds it takes me to put on my shoes. Seriously, what is wrong with me?

On the up side, each time I would reach to turn on the television it would remind me to pray. John and I both agreed that the three weeks without t.v. was beneficial in many ways. He managed to read through several of the 40,000 magazines he has lying around the house (which THRILLS me because now they can go out the door!) I read five books (only three were novels which read much faster than non-fiction) and best of all; we talked more - much more. That can only be good, right?

At one point, John mentioned that perhaps we could cut back on our television watching permanently. I agreed thinking that was a great plan. Then, he said, “Maybe we can even get rid of Tivo.” I just looked at him calmly and said, “Honey, that’s the only thing getting me through this.” I can give up the chitchat. The news, I gave up years ago (that’s John’s vice.) But, NCIS? Not quite yet. Baby steps . . . baby steps.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Look Who's Here

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog (and really, I’ve got a schedule now!) to introduce you to the newest addition in the Holte Family. Jane Elizabeth Holte was born Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 12:55 PM. Of course, most of my Facebook friends, my close friends who aren’t on Facebook, and my family are already aware of this but still, there could be one or two people left in the world who don’t know yet.  Right?

But, here’s what even some of my closest friends might not have realized. Jane, you may have noticed, was born on Ground Hog’s Day. I’m so glad she didn’t see her shadow and decide to go back in for six more weeks because seriously, she had already taken her own sweet time getting here in the first place. Anyway, it’s no big deal, of course, until you realize that her brother, Charlie, was born on April Fool’s Day. So we’re thinking that all future babies (assuming there are more but this is NOT the time to ask their mom) should be born on obscure holidays. Not the big ones; like Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving, but something smaller like Presidents’ Day or St. Patrick’s Day.

OR, I’m also thinking that it might work if the next baby came on the 3rd of some month being as child number one was born on the 1st and Child number two was born on the 2nd. Now, if we could just find an obscure holiday that fell on the 3rd, we’d have the next child’s birthdate pretty well wrapped up. Or not.

To be honest, besides letting you know that I’m crazy in love with our new granddaughter, I wanted to share just a few pictures. We think she’s beautiful.

Mom and Dad are over the moon in love!

As is Nana, even though Janey doesn't look all that excited to meet me.

Oh sure, Boppa gets to meet her when she's all sweet and sleepy!
Charlie loves his new sister - most of the time. Grandma Jane is pretty excited about the choice of names, of course.

And, lucky for me, Charlie still loves to snuggle! 

Next Monday I will return to my regularly scheduled blog - unless, of course, something crops up in the meantime.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Tip of the Month - Stop the Bleeding

It seems that over the years I’ve learned a thing or two that have just plain helped me out. (Somehow “over the years” seems to translate in my mind to “you’re older than dirt” but I’m just going to ignore that for the time being.) Whether it is an easier way to do something or a secret for getting a stain out of my favorite top, there are just a few tips that are too good to keep to myself. So, I’ve decided that once a month – until I run out of tips - I’m going to share some of my “wisdom” with you.

For my first trick (and yes, this one really is so amazing it seems like magic) let me share with you how to set the color in an article of clothing. The other day I was hand washing a dark red blouse (because it’s cheaper and generally more effective than dry cleaning.) As I washed it I noticed the water in the sink was turning as red as the blouse and if I didn’t do something soon, I’d have a pink top instead of a red one. Time to pull out the vinegar. DSC_0570 - Version 2Yep, standard household white vinegar. I filled the sink with water, added a couple of “glugs” (a highly technical measurement that one hears instead of sees) of vinegar and then put my blouse back in the water. I let it soak for about 15 minutes and bam, no more color bleeding! Amazing, right? This also works for those pesky blue jeans that turn your hands blue by the end of the day. You know, the ones that leave you thinking “has the circulation left my hands completely?” or “do I really touch my legs that often?” You won’t want to do this in the sink, of course, but it can be done in the washer, too. You might need three of four “glugs” of vinegar to compensate for the increased amount of water, but you get the idea.

There you have it. My easy peasy tip for stopping the color bleeding! (Oh, you weren’t expecting a medical tip when you saw the title, were you?)

Now, because this is my first monthly tip I’m going to give you a little bonus. Follow this link and go to my friend, Becca Grove’s blog. She has a hard-boiled egg tip that’ll blow your mind!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Walking Isn't for Wimps

I have taken up walking – for exercise, I mean, not just for moving from one place to another. This is not normally noteworthy, I understand, but what you don’t know about me is that I absolutely hate walking. My feet always hurt, I get bored, and occasionally I even sweat. And I hate sweating more than I hate walking. It’s just so, um, gross. Nonetheless, I have determined that walking on a regular basis would give me more endurance, and heaven knows I could use a dose or two of endurance.
I’ve tried walking regularly in the past, but to be honest I’ve been unable to find anything that would distract me from the pain – and yes, I’m talking about real, physical pain. It appears that my feet don’t enjoy the process any more than I do. My hope is that eventually they’ll just get used to it and stop their whining.

Thus, my first challenge was to find something that could shout louder than my feet. I figured out that podcasts required concentration and would give me something to focus on, kind of like Lamaze breathing during labor. My first day out I turned on my podcast, walked 15 minutes in one direction and then turned back towards home. I took my phone along in case I needed to call 911 somewhere along the way. Later that night, I was trying to figure out how far I’d walked, so I asked my husband for his guess based on the route I’d taken. When he said about a mile and a half I was shocked! So shocked that I actually got up out of bed at 11:00 p.m., put my coat on over my pajamas, and drove the route to see if he was right. Turns out, it was only 1.2 miles, but hey, this was just my first day!

True to their natural bent, my feet have indeed been complaining – some days more than others. Determined to have the upper hand in this battle of the wills with my feet, I walk anyway. After one particularly painful day a friend told me that she’d seen me walking. I asked her, “Did I look like I was about to cry?” (Because I was.) She told me that she couldn’t tell because I was looking down at the ground. Note to self: When you stare at the ground, it puts your whole body alignment out of whack – look up! I’m not sure when I started the practice of walking with my head down, but I’m going to guess it was during the 1980s when there were Lego pieces scattered all around our house. Those babies HURT when you step on them!

After my crying day I decided to take a day off and find other footwear, which I did. I actually found a pair of shoes that are pretty much an answer to prayer. But even perfectly fitting shoes have a break-in period, and apparently I forgot to pay attention to that fact. Before too long my feet were back to shouting in protest, but I didn’t want to quit. So I took a few Advil and persisted in my walking regimen. Apparently another friend spotted me out walking that day (you gotta love a small town) and told me, “Nancy, you know I love you, but when I saw you walking you had the worst look on your face.”

“You mean, like I was in intense pain?” I asked.

“Exactly like that.”

Who knew so many people would be watching me while I walk? And who knew that they’d expect me to look happy? That seems like a lot to expect if you ask me. Clearly walking isn’t for wimps.

I will persist. I’m convinced that once my feet understand my determination they will stop protesting so loudly. In the meantime, I recommend you buy stock in Advil. I hear it’s flying off the shelf.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Dishin' Up Love All Year Long

In December I was honored to be asked by my friends at The Ruth Experience to be a guest blogger. My plan was to post this blog at the same time they posted my guest blog on their site. As you can see, that didn’t happen. The Ruth Experience girls are the ones who came up with the Advent Acts of Kindness idea I wrote about in November. For my “guest spot” I wrote a bit of a follow-up article on my experience with my own Advent Acts of Kindness. It may have been written during the Advent season but the sentiment behind it applies to every month of the year. If you haven’t read it yet click here to get to their blog and see what I had to say. Go ahead and read it now, it’s o.k.; I can wait.

If you read it you now know that I’m a huge fan of committing to Acts of Kindness all year round. We don’t need to limit them to the Advent season. There are plenty of ways that you can encourage and bless others that will cost you nothing other than your time. Today, I’d like to highlight one ministry you might consider getting involved with.  To be actively involved in this you’ll need to live within driving proximity of Burnsville, MN but the non-profit organization I’m going to tell you about has the potential to sweep the nation as more people get involved.

My friend, Kirsten Shabaz, recently started a 501(c)(3) non-profit called Dishin’ Up Some Love. What she does (along with a few volunteers) is put together freezer meals once a month and delivers them to families who are experiencing some sort of crisis. It could be they have a family member dealing with a stroke, going through cancer treatment, or any other type of life-altering situation. Dishin’ Up Some Love doesn’t just offer food, they also provide encouragement and prayers for the families they serve. I’ve known Kirsten for a long time and ever since we first met she has had a passion to provide for people in need. By the way, the meals she makes are delicious! I’ve personally been privileged to receive a couple of these meals when I’ve been sick.

There are three ways you can get involved with Dishin’ Up Some Love. You can:

Volunteer a couple hours each month to help put meals together. Even though I have a profound dislike of cooking, this idea sounds kind of fun to me. A bunch of girlfriends together, talking, and helping others in the process? It’s a win-win! Contact Kirsten at for the time and location.

Host a Partnership Dinner – invite your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers or anyone else you like to have at the dinner to hear about Dishin’ Up Some Love. There is more information about this on the Dishin’ Up Some Love website in the newsletter found under the “about” tab.

Donate – As you probably know; food isn’t free. Kirsten does an amazing job of collecting coupons and planning good meals that can be made at a minimal cost. Nonetheless, funding for food is pretty much a necessity with this kind of a ministry. Look for the “donate” button also found under the “about” tab.

And while this ends my commercial for one amazing ministry it does not end my mission to continue with “Advent Acts of Kindness” all through the year. I hope you’ll join me in that adventure. Trust me, if you do, you will be blessed!

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Perfect Moment

I’m not a professional photographer by any means, but I know enough to recognize a great picture when I see it. And, sometimes when I look at a picture I wonder how the photographer managed to show up, at say the Grand Canyon, just as a storm settled over it and the lighting was perfect. I realize that people who take exceptional, National Geographic types of shots, spend a lot of time just sitting and waiting for the perfect moment. They get up early in the morning to catch the sunrise and sit outside in sub-zero temperatures for hours to capture the Northern Lights. I will never be that kind of photographer; primarily because I’m not a morning person and I’m not terribly fond of the cold. Nonetheless, sometimes a good shot is simply a matter of ending up in the right place at the right time. This weekend, I was in such a spot.

We were traveling in northern Minnesota and the hoarfrost was something to behold. The whole morning had been beautiful but at one moment in the trip we rounded a curve and the sight was like none I’d ever seen. The trees sparkled as though God had taken a shaker of white glitter and poured it over them.  It was breathtaking. I can’t even begin to describe the moment. I’d say it looked like a movie set but it was even more perfect than that. I actually got tears in my eyes. I know . . . it sounds corny.  But for a few minutes I felt like I was in the presence of God; the holy creator, designer and artist. It was AWESOME!