Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

We all make them, right? We want to be thinner, eat healthier, spend less, save more, yadda yadda yadda. This week has been a tough week for me. There has been some intense stirring going on in my heart and I am quite certain God is working on me and though I have to admit it frightens me a little, I am also excited, because I know His plans for me are good!

I have spent some time reflecting on the past year and what I hope for the future and I have to say that we have been immensely blessed in 2010. We have had our struggles but He has brought us through each and every one a little stronger, a little more refined and a little more focused on Him. I have to say, He has our attention. I spent a lot of time praying in 2010 for Him to draw near, for a hunger for him. In the days I carried Asher, His presence was tangible. I could feel his hand upon me and I cannot even describe the peace that came with his presence. I had missed it so much and was honestly a little afraid that the only way to feel it was to suffer so intensely. I have to say that in the past several months I have had a deeper hunger and thirst for His Word and His presence. I had no idea just praying for it could bring it. ;)

We have spent 2010 teaching our kids and learning from them. We have seen growth as individuals and as a family. Our love for God has intensified as has our desire to do His will. We have stepped out of our comfort zone and loved more deeply, given more, and forgiven more freely. Words can't even begin to tell you how each and every time we have acted in obedience, the Lord has returned to us an incredible blessing that leaves us gasping for air.

It is my hope that in the coming year that we can use our time to glorify Him even more. That we can be His hands and feet and get out there and do the things He would have us do. We want to give our whole lives to him, not in part, the whole thing. Our time is no longer our own. When we chose to give our lives to Him that meant ALL of it. My intention this year is to live with such intentionality that He can be seen in and through me. I resolve to wake up each morning (early) and give it all over to Him each and every day, I pray to keep an open heart so that I can go wherever he leads, even when it seems nuts and even when I don't want to.

"LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered-how fleeting my life is. Psalm 39:4

I want to live my life focused on Heaven and not on this earth. I want my time here to reflect Him. I want my kids to see how amazing life is when He is given the trust and honor He so fully deserves. I want them to know the JOY of giving, even when it makes thing very uncomfortable. I want them to know that He will ALWAYS provide for their needs even when all hope seems lost.

I have a feeling this coming year is going to hold some big things for the Boltes as we follow hard after Him. I am sure it will be a year of ups and downs, highs and lows and grief and joy. I know he will push us to our limits and grow us a little more, I pray we are able to love even more, give even more and seek Him in all we do. I pray that our lives are a reflection of Him. I don't know if we will be thinner or if we will exercise more, but I know we are here and we are feeling a stirring in our hearts, He is calling and we are wrapping our minds around what it is he is asking and praying for his guidance. Stay tuned...he isn't done with us yet. ;)

Job 42:2 "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, season’s greetings and “Police Mommy Dad” to you all, and hope you are enjoying the Christmas “spearment.” There are so many of you that surely we’ll miss out on many opportunities to visit and catch up with you over the holidays. The time and energy being increasingly drained from our families is certainly stressful, especially at this time of year. In fact, if by chance you had the opportunity to come visit our house and family recently, you would’ve quickly realized just how stressful and confining life can get, and in order to survive here, there are certain things you just can’t do. CAN’T… I mean, if you do, your life will be pained in some way.
For instance, you can’t call Luke “Lucas” or Ben “Benjamin,” and certainly don’t use his middle name (Oliver) or he’ll just go nuts. You can’t eat a warm meal, eat breakfast before lunch, or drink warm coffee. You can’t get Ben to finish any meal in less than an hour, go more than an hour without wiping a behind, wipe your own without an audience, and can’t help but be glad you aren’t in a public restroom, because inevitably every time you are you must say “Shhhhhh, nobody wants to know that.”
You can’t sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” without the proper intro (you know Dasher and Dancer and…), can’t say “stupid,” “dumb” or “shut-up.” However you can say “dang it,” but then so will Hope so just don’t. You can’t tell Hope to sit, ‘cause when she repeats that it just sounds very in appropriate, and it just so happens that she likes to say “sit” the most in the grocery store. You can’t get though a sentence… what was I saying?... without saying “STOP, STOP” or “NO, NO.” You also can’t say things only once, know why you ever ask anyone to do anything, or understand how a child’s mind works.
You can’t get a full night’s sleep, get to sleep in, watch anything on TV but PBSkids, Nick Jr. or Disney Channel until after 5:00 pm. You can’t watch any show or movie from start to finish, fold laundry only once, or get your clothes put into drawers before you need to change the ones you are wearing because of snot, spills or puke (that is not your own.) You can’t leave the house without hearing “I want to stay home!” or come home without hearing “I don’t want to go home!”
You can’t get through bedtime without wondering to yourself “could they go one more day without a bath?” You can’t tell anybody to do anything without having them whine grunt, growl, stomp around or ignore you. You can’t let Luke go first, keep the floor clean, the toilet seat dry or the table un-sticky. Can’t talk on the phone, well I suppose you could, but you won’t hear what the person on the other end has to say back. Regardless you likely won’t find the phone anyhow… or the remotes, the keys, wallet, or pretty much anything within 3 feet of the floor. And although Hope has developed quite a vocabulary, her memory is lacking… she can’t remember where she leaves anything. However, walk around long enough in the dark and you’ll find it… or at least your barefoot will… ouch!
Anyhow, you can’t keep any electronic devices with knobs, buttons, lights, cords, or anything breakable in good working condition, unless it is a toddler toy… those are all in mint condition. You can’t keep smudges off the windows, TV or appliances. You can’t argue with a 4 year old, even about simple things like what day of the week it is… well again, you can, but there are better things you can do with your time like getting a root canal. Oh yeah, you can’t keep teeth in a 1st Grader either… or wake him up in time for school… or get him to sleep in on the weekend. You can’t know what he did in school that day, help him with his homework (he knows everything) or know whether or not he actually ate his lunch. Can’t get him to play outside, yet can’t keep him from running, bouncing and climbing all over the house either.
You can’t sit down, open the door all the way, think, read, cry, be afraid, ask for help, concentrate, have a conversation, take a normal vacation, make sense, get sick, have pillows on the couch or rugs on the floor. You can’t remember if you are repeating yourself, and you can’t expect anyone else to ever want to visit this house let alone want to babysit the kids.
But…if you were crazy enough, brave enough and open-minded enough and actually did, then you would also know that you can’t enter this home and not be THANKFUL! You can’t help but feel loved. You can’t resist laughing, sometimes until you cry or pee (both of which I said you can’t do, but will do inadvertently.) You can’t ignore the Christmas spirit, or deny that children can know about Jesus… who he is and what he has done… sometimes even better than adults. You can’t help but want to do everything in your power to share this undeserving gift with everyone. In fact, this may be one of the most unjust situations in this world… that so many families are being denied a love that can be so freely given… our house is full to the brim with His blessings and love and we have to do better at sharing that gift with the world.
May you and your neighbors be blessed in 2011 and receive God’s goodness, and may we all become the hands and feet to go out and deliver it.

Much Love,
The Bolte Family
Howard, Kristy, Luke, Ben, and Hope
Isaac and Asher, always in our hearts

Monday, December 20, 2010

So, here in the Bolte house we are SUPER excited for Christmas. This was our recent attempt at Christmas Card photos. :) You can see that any attempt to get a photo of all three children at once just turns into chaos. So this is a REAL life photo.

The Advent Challenge has been going GREAT and we are astounded at the understanding our children have shown about the TRUE meaning of Christmas. We have done lots of fun things, like paying for a stranger's dinner, adopting another family for Christmas, picked out gifts through World Vision, gone Christmas caroling at local nursing homes, made bird feeders, and lots of other super fun things...they are learning how GREAT it feels to give and are experiencing true joy!

I also have to say that in our Advent season we have been equally blessed, we have had a couple of visits from "Santa" and we just stand in awe at how the Lord provides for His people.

We did battle perhaps the WORST case of the stomach flu ever and are still feeling some ill effects. ALL five of us went down within the same three days and it wasn't a 24 hour kind of thing...I may never catch up on laundry. :)

Tomorrow is Howard's birthday and we are excited and planning a fun time for him providing everyone is well!

How is your holiday season going?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

He REALLY does provide

I am not even sure I have the words to write this post but I am going to give it a shot. Prior to this Christmas season, I had been praying, daily, for the Lord to draw near. For Him to show himself as clearly and tangibly as he did for my family when I was pregnant with Asher. I feel like when it comes to the REALLY tough stuff and the tragic areas of our life, He has been so visible, but sometimes I REALLY struggle more with the daily stuff. So, I miss that closeness, and wasn't sure how to get it back. SO, I have been praying.

We started the Advent Challenge because of a STRONG desire to focus on GIVING this holiday season and teaching our kids the REAL joy that comes from loving others. We have been praying to be so filled with God's love that it also POURS out of us, overflowing like a tidal wave to those around us. Each night we have focused on giving and the true meaning of Christmas and I can tell you that my heart has never felt such joy and excitement for the Christmas season. I am brought to tears DAILY as I see God working. His hand is upon our family and He is so good.

Tuesday, I had a tough day. I woke up in kind of a funk and realized Howard had a snow day. I was glad that I would have some help around here. Then he decided it would be best if he went to work with his dad (who does construction) to earn a little extra money since we are behind on some bills due to a HUGE dental bill from the kids that insurance didn't cover. So off he went, and here I sat...feeling sorry for myself asking God why we have to struggle so much. I got the kids their breakfast and sat down myself with my daily devotional. My verse for the day was this:

"You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink. This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord; He will also hand Moab over to you." 2 Kings 3:17-18

The devotional went on to talk about how often time to human reason, what God is about to do seems impossible, but that nothing is too difficult for Him. I closed the book (Streams in the Desert, the BEST devotional ever) and got the bill basket to write out a few bills. There just wasn't enough money. I called and used phone banking to balance our checking account and not only was there not nearly enough money for the bills, but there was nothing left to get the rest of the Christmas stuff we wanted to get for the kids. I sighed, cried, and cleaned up breakfast.

Once I got the kids working on a project I sat down again, determined to make SOME type of progress in our finances. We have been trying SOOOO hard...committing ourselves to getting us out of debt and cutting ALL extras, and yet it seems like we are NO farther ahead. The previous verse came back into my head and I again sat down to check our checkbook.

This is where I began to sob. This time when I checked the account there was more money, I am NOT EVEN KIDDING. I tried and tried to figure out where this extra money had come from. It didn't say. So I checked my email and found that one of the most precious people I know had been prompted that morning to deposit money into my paypal account, simply to bless us. Words could not even begin to thank her for the hope she gave to me that morning. I have no idea why I am continually surprised when God comes through. He IS true to His word. He is, and yet I was still stunned. He is so good. We have been so blessed. This is just ONE story of how he is working through our family this week...there are more...I have seriously been brought to tears (not too hard I know) daily, sometimes multiple times when I see how he is answering our prayers and drawing near.

I feel like the more we give and focus on giving, the more loved WE feel. The more JOY He brings into our lives, I am just overwhelmed right now with gratitude, joy and peace. I haven't felt this in quite sometime and it is a welcome change. I had no idea that just praying for Him to draw near would prove so powerful or that giving would give US so much joy.

How is the Advent Challenge going for you...perhaps tonight, you should pray for Him to draw near...I am telling you, you won't be sorry. He is here...right here and he REALLY does make the impossible possible.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How's it Going?

We are TEN days in to Advent. I cannot tell you how blessed we have been thus far by the Advent Challenge. I have been brought to tear more times than I can count. Friday night our task was to help someone else decorate for Christmas. We spent the afternoon decorating a couple of wreaths and stockings and delivered them secretively to my Dad's Garage. He is a mechanic, and kind of a bah-humbug. Great guy, just not so jolly! ;) We were hoping to brighten his day and the kids just LOVED the secret operation.

Saturday was probably our best day so far. Our symbol was "lips" which meant we were to use our words to make others smile and we were to encourage others. Howard was working so I loaded up the kids and we stopped at a new, FABULOUS, local bakery and we picked up some cinnamon rolls and made deliveries to some folks we knew could use the "pick me up". We then spent the afternoon with my grandma. Since my grandpa died, she gets lonely and just LOVES having us spend time with her. We could be there for 12 hours and she still will say "I don't know why you have to leave so soon." I LOVE LOVE LOVE her so much and thank God for every day I get with her. She raised my sister and me and really, there isn't a greater lady on earth.

Once we left her house it was really beginning to snow. We got home and ate dinner and then we sat at the table and made wreaths from willow tree branches. They were SO cute. I am hoping to get a few pictures up soon. Then, we bundled EVERYONE up and headed to a local grocery store to hand out wreaths and wish folks a Merry Christmas. It was COLD, and the kids had a BLAST! When Howard suggested this, I thought he was insane. I LOVE snow and cold, from inside my warm home. I am not a fan of being out in it.

I was leery of how his was going to go down as Luke is typically PAINFULLY shy. It was SO awesome to see the kids so excited and making others smile. I will also say that they got a lesson in rejection. I would guess that about fifty percent of people they approached to wish a Merry Christmas and offer a wreath, told them no. Sometimes nicely, sometimes, not so much. We pretty much stunned people I think. One lady even looked at me and said, "Seriously? You are standing out here in the freezing cold with your children to wish strangers a Merry Christmas?" YEP.

So, some people scoffed and scowled and walked away and others were genuinely touched by the boys. Either way...they were AWESOME.

So, how is it going for you?

"Having faith often means doing what others see as crazy. Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers." - Francis Chan

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Joy

Our Advent thus far:

Seriously, I would do just about anything to get a picture of ALL three kids looking semi happy AT the camera.

Our Nativity

A visit to Kraynak's to see all the fun trees!

Sibling love while waiting in line to see the trees

Decorating the tree!

I have to be honest. I am not sure I have EVER been so excited and looking forward to Christmas. The past several years have been tough and though we are thankful and always love to celebrate Christmas, it seems that in the past few years, just getting the tree up has been a stretch.

This year I feel different somehow. I guess partly because through all of the trials we have endured, I have SEEN the hand of God moving in our lives. I know that it is because of Him that we are still standing. Part of me is very thankful that Isaac and Asher will never have to endure these trials and part of me is very excited that we get to train Luke, Ben and Hope in the way they should go. We pray daily for them to have a heart for Jesus so that when they DO come up against the tough stuff, when the rubber meets the road, they will have a solid rock on which to stand.

It excites me to get my kids excited for Jesus. I love to see the wonder and joy in their eyes as we decorate, sing, and prepare for Jesus' birthday. I just want to bottle this time up and keep it forever. Tonight for school, Luke had to make a Christmas list for Santa. In our house we don't put a whole lot of focus on Santa. We surely don't believe there is anything wrong with Santa. We do go sit on his lap and we so feed reindeer and all that jazz, but we don't really do the whole, if you are good you get gifts thing. We just feel it reinforces the wrong points of Christmas. We don't get gifts because we deserve them. We get them even when we don't. But that is just our take. I digress. So Luke sat down to write his letter. This is what he wrote:

Dear Santa,

You are a good giver. Christmas is about giving, so I think you should pick out what you want to give me and I will like whatever it is.

Luke Bolte

I looked at his paper and I said, wow, Luke. There isn't one thing you want to write on that list? And he just said that there were things he wanted but if Christmas was about giving he shouldn't tell people what they should get him.


Hadn't thought about that. He really does inspire me. He makes me want to do better. He makes me want to be intentional.

Now, Ben on the other hand, sat down with Howard to write his letter and he told Howard, he likes Santa because he brings presents and that if he didn't bring presents he wouldn't like him because he is kinda creepy. :) (also maybe a little true), but we have work to do with him none the less.

So, as I sit here listening to Hope scream her little lungs out because for the fiftieth time today (and it isn't even 9 am) I have told her she cannot touch or disassemble the Christmas tree, I am looking forward to Christmas (not because we get to take the tree down and this struggle will end) because we get to teach our kids about the GIFT we were given in Jesus. Because we can share with them that it is by GRACE alone that they are saved. There is NOTHING they can do to make God love them less and there is NOTHING they can do to make God love them more. Because we get to teach them the JOY of giving and that because God loves us so much and gives us so much we are called to GIVE to others, and that giving brings joy to everyone.

This is the good stuff folks. This is what it is all about. We get to do this. It is such a privilege. God chose us to shepherd these kids and I am totally excited to get the opportunity. Sure, I am still struggling with the idea that I won't get to do that for Isaac and Asher, but then again. They don't need me. They have EVERYTHING they need, and I have the hope that one day our family will be whole.

SO...all that said...we have come to the end of the "decorating days" on our "Advent Challenge" calendar. Now begins the giving. Here are the symbols on our calendar this week.

Thursday -book - read the Christmas story from the Bible
Friday - wreath- help someone else decorate
Saturday - lips - use our words carefully and kindly. Say nice things.
Sunday - bird - do something for nature
Monday - music note - sing Christmas carols with the family and have family worship
Tuesday - apple - donate food, buy someone's groceries, dinner etc.
Wednesday - table - eat and have fellowship with others

Tell are you preparing for Jesus' birthday? Are you joining in on the "Advent Challenge"? I have gotten a few links from others who are participating and blogging about their experience. I will share those with you this weekend! :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

So, are you in?

Hey Everyone! I am so excited about all of the positive feedback on the "Advent Challenge"! You guys are awesome! I wanted to say that I will be updating frequently (I hope) on what we are doing, what order we have our blocks in and how things are going!

I also wanted to add that many of you have asked about us selling a version of our calendar and right now since we are already into Advent we don't have time, but you can go here and print a FREE Advent calendar! I have gotten links from a few of you who are participating and posting on your blogs. If you want to share please let me know! I am going to post a list of others who are doing this so we can see the impact GIVING has! :)

or here is an idea from Stacy on using an Advent Calendar you ALREADY have. :) I LOVE IT!

We, like some of you, already have an advent calendar that my mom bought us years ago, It is a tree and each day you place a velcro ornament on the tree. My kids love it. No theme.....just simple.

So love your calendar and the idea behind it! Awesome....for those of us who already have an advent's the idea....take the symbols and put them on an index card with the act of giving written out on the other side of the card. Put the cards (or pieces of papaer etc.) into a bag/container. Each day when you mark off that day, have the kids pick from the bag...whatever they pick, that is what the family does as a whole for that day. Each day becomes a new theme day. It is like "casting lots" you are leaving it up to God to determine what you will do each day. :)

We are going to start that today! Thanks Kristy for spurring us all on to press in on the true meaning of Christmas and putting others before ourselves.

Much love in Christ,

Now let's get to work! Get out there and give your hearts out and PLEASE come back and share your stories!

Love and Blessings to all of you!