Category Archives: Family

Merry Christmas!

The annual Burkholder Christmas letter — 21 years in the running 🙂

2017 brought the year of the teenagers to the Burkholder residence. Ashley Grace achieved the big 18 this month, Megan quickly approaches 16, and Karyn celebrated the fall with 13. Despite the fact that he is surrounded by women, Matt continues to thrive on the Nebraska prairie 🙂 The girls are truly our greatest blessings and the farm is alive with the love and joy that comes with family.

While Ashley Grace rocks her senior year in high school, Matt and I are left pondering how in the world we have a child old enough to leave for college! Last week brought the news that she will join the Notre Dame family in August of 2018. Her excitement rivals the pride that we feel toward the beautiful, compassionate young woman she has become. 2017 brought competition in the National Forensics League Extemporaneous Speaking finals as well as the completion of a successful four year state qualifying cross country career.

Megan expanded her repertoire this year to include set building for the Haymaker State Runner Up One Act play, and state appearances in pole vaulting (along with a school record) and cross country. She is in the midst of a great sophomore basketball season and still makes time to help out with cattle on the farm. Her smile is contagious and she packs her faith with a dedication that makes this Mama proud.

Karyn began her Junior High career this fall bringing home hardware on the cross country course and a successful basketball season. She relishes the fact that although she is the youngest of the Burkholder girls, she is the tallest. Karyn’s greatest dream came true this summer when we welcomed a yellow Labrador named Theodore into the family. Theodore brings a whole new level of antics and laughter to our home; and I have to admit that she is not the only one who adores him 🙂

Matt and I celebrated 21 years of marriage last June although he swears that I turn 29 with every birthday that passes…I am thankful each day to be able to share my life with him. He continues to manage the farm with a dedication to sustainability and integrity, although I think that he would tell you that being a good daddy dominates the top of his priority list.

Ashley Grace challenged me to run in my first half marathon this fall. I found a unique element of good health and strength amidst the 550 miles of training. I finished the race with a smile on my face, peace in my heart, and a time of 1:42.49. I continue to coach the local swim team as well as acting as an assistant coach for the Haymaker Junior High and High School Cross Country team. I truly believe that it takes a community to raise a child, and hope that I positively influence the athletes that I coach.

We wish you and your family the very best this holiday season. As always, if your path ever brings you across Nebraska please stop by and say hello!

1 Comment

Filed under Family, General

How do you build “intentionality” and “perspective” in your life?

The FYF family traveled to the Grand Canyon over the Thanksgiving holiday. It was the first time in twenty years that Matt and I did not spend Thanksgiving on the farm, and the trip taught me a lesson in intentionality and perspective. The dictionary defines the word “intentionality” as the fact of being deliberate or purposeful; and “perspective” as a particular attitude toward or a point of view.

The Grand Canyon left me awestruck. Hiking in and around the canyon provided a truly unique perspective as the landscape view adjusts with each step and change in light. After several days of “looking”, I decided that I never would see all of the intricacies of the Canyon. Honestly, perhaps that is its true beauty. Each different view or perspective inspired me to keep looking — to keep searching — so that I might better understand it.

I came home thinking, “Is that really any different from my faith journey?”

It is easy to fall into a routine in our daily lives, as routines bring comfort. But, challenging our own perspective allows us to grow and mature. While looking at the world simply through our own eyes is easy, seeking to understand it at a deeper level requires intentional study.

I wrote a blog post on the 5th year anniversary of this blog (almost two years ago) called, “Refilling The Cup”In it, I talked about 5 things that I do in order to sustain as an advocate for agriculture. While this is a bit of recurring challenge, I find that staying true to these five practices helps me to keep going. Just as I struggle at times to refill my cup of agricultural advocacy, I also wrestle with refilling my cup in life.

In any given day, numerous people ask us to give time and energy to work on projects. Whether it is jobs, volunteer projects, or our families: the list of requests can get long and leave us feeling stressed and drained. While all of the things that we do hold meaning, they can quickly drain the cup if you have not developed a healthy culture that refills it and keeps you moving forward with a peaceful heart.

While a full cup leads to a true sense of joy as we reach out to help others and live with honor, a drained cup brings feelings of resentment and fatigue that create an unhealthy perspective. The healthy, peaceful heart slowly transforms to a sad one full of judgement. The body quickly follows with a bone deep tiredness that leaves us without inspiration.

For me, refilling the life cup stems from intentionally focusing on my faith. It involves valuing myself enough that I prioritize time to develop my soul. This not only allows for the cup to refill, but it actually allows it to grow so that ultimately I have more to give. I forgot this for a few years, but I have worked hard over the past 11 months to get it back.

Here is a short list of things that help me to create a healthy culture that refills my cup:

  • Take time to recharge — everyday. For me that is a combination of prayer and exercise.
  • Take time to commit to a perspective of hope — every hour. For me that is a periodic “gut check” to make sure that I value myself and believe that I bring meaning to the world.
  • Take time to commit to a smile — every minute. For me that is remembering to count my blessings and express gratitude for the gifts in my life.
  • Take time to commit to God — every second. His love and support inspires me to greatness.

Discipline and commitment to the above things allows me to retain my optimism and open my perspective. It is an intentional journey and one that never ends; but the road is lined with joy, hope, peace, and honor.

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Coaching / Personal Growth, Family, General

Packing my FAITH to race with GRACE…

On May 25th I published The Good Life Halfsy as a promise to myself of great things to come. I wrote it just a few days after signing up to run my first half marathon – an important component to my journey to regain my spiritual health.


Sunday morning, with 550 miles of running training — a smile on my face and peace in my heart — I packed my FAITH to race with GRACE.

Fortitude                                     Gratitude

Attitude                                        Resilience

Integrity                                       Acceptance

Trust                                             Compassion

Hope                                             Eloquence


My favorite farmer filmed the finish of the race so that I could share it with you 🙂

God had my back and I learned in a very tangible way that my faith could be stronger than my fear. 

My high school Cross Country coach would likely tell you that my running form still needs some work 😉 butI overcame that with grit and determination to finish the race in a time of 1:42.49. I negative split the race (ran the second half faster than the first) with an average pace of about 7:50 per mile.

It’s amazing what happens when you open your heart and mind and let God’s presence fill your soul. I trained and then completed the race with no stop watch — a decision that I made before beginning the journey in order to help myself to learn to let go of control and just BE.

Somewhere along the journey, I learned to lean on God. To find joy and peace in the times that we spend together each day, as well as strength to overcome the physical and mental barriers that had plagued me since my battle with Graves Disease more than ten years ago.

As I crossed the finish line, I was proud of me.

Proud of the person that I found deep inside of myself during the training journey. 

Life is about much more than any one race or moment in time. The lessons learned along the way carry you forward on the road to excellence. I found that I needed to build the muscle of hope in my heart just as much as I needed to build the muscles in my legs.

When you build the muscle of hope, then faith supports you on the journey!

 

 

 

8 Comments

Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, Coaching / Personal Growth, Family, General

What Fuels You On the Journey?

25 years ago…

Sunday morning, just as the sun popped over the horizon, I logged in my 500th mile running since deciding to compete in the Good Life Halfsy October 29th in Lincoln, NE.

500 miles is a long way…
Farther than the width of the state of Nebraska – Similar to traveling from NYC to Cleveland…

I decided to keep a journal of my training as a bit of a whim. I figured that looking back on my swimming and running cross training for the race would be meaningful. More than four months into the journey, I am very glad that I did. Not because I plan to do it exactly the same way the next time, but because it gives me insight into the journey of peace that I embarked upon last June.

For the first time in my life, I trained not for time but as a means to regain my mental and spiritual health.

I’ve logged in more than 500 miles never wearing a watch. I never missed it because my pace was superfluous — I set out not to regain the athletic status of my youth, rather, to regain balance in my life. In less than two weeks, I will cross the starting line packing my faith to compete with grace. I know that what I accomplish on that day pales in comparison to what I have found running the gravel roads — watching the sun rise — and finding a deep sense of rightness in my life.

Somewhere along the way, I learned that my faith could be stronger than my fear. I found joy, peace, and inspiration as I opened my heart and refocused on what is most important in my life. I will cross the finish line with the knowledge that life is a journey.

That I am stronger than I ever imagined and that hope is the muscle that fuels faith.

I remember when I moved to the farm in June of 1997, I laughed to Matt that I traded flip flops for cowboy boots. Over the last four months, I have learned that my perspective on life is healthier if I also add in a pair of running shoes in order to fuel myself with some quiet time in the presence of God.

The blessings are numerous — we only have to look to see them.

Where did you see God today?

4 Comments

Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, Coaching / Personal Growth, Family, General

Hope is a Muscle…

I graduated with a degree in psychology from Dartmouth College in 1997. I remember clearly the phone conversation with my parents a couple of years prior when I told them of my chosen major. My dad struggled to find enthusiasm as he finally managed to say “Psychology’s not a very practical major. Don’t you think you should study something else?”

Two days after graduation, I moved to rural Nebraska where I used my psychology degree to learn to care for farm animals and coach young athletes. Over the almost 25 years that have passed since that phone conversation, I have routinely pondered why the science of the brain and the emotions that play critical roles in our lives fall into the “not practical” category of focus.

Mental health touches all of us. The mass shootings that all too often ravage our country were not even on my radar screen in the mid-90’s when I formally studied psychology; but the denial and feeling of shame that go along with smaller daily emotional  and mental challenges did permeate our mainstream American culture. Still today, we harbor embarrassment toward and quietly shun people who suffer from mental turmoil instead of reaching out in love and support. We chose to judge others, blame inanimate objects, and participate in rabid political debates after tragedy strikes rather than acknowledge the real problem and preemptively come together to focus on a cure.

Hope is a muscle.

When it is strengthened daily by love and faith, hope wards off the self-doubt, loneliness and fear that challenge and erode our mental health. The battle is real. No one holds immunity from it. Hope provides the inspiration that allows each of us to find value in life. It motivates us to reach out to others in love and support, instead of focusing inward with judgement and disdain.

A grass-roots effort is needed to create the cure. It starts with you and me – how we view ourselves — how we relate to others, as well as what we teach our children.

  • Do we focus on love of others and honoring the gift of life?
  • Do we respect individual differences while also working to find common ground so that we can move forward together as a team?
  • Do we accept that mental and emotional struggles are part of life and focus on creating the tools needed to find happiness amidst the challenge?
  • Do we have honest discussions with our children about faith that inspire them to love themselves while also recognizing that “we” is stronger than “I”?

Everyone matters.

We all have worth.

We are all children of God.

I believe that we begin to effectively improve the mental health of our country one person at a time – one relationship at a time – one loving action at a time. We waste precious lives when we judge instead of love. Repetitious acts of kindness build the muscle of hope. They not only help others, but they help us. We feel self-worth rather than self-doubt, focus on community instead of loneliness, and replace fear with faith as we look toward the future.

I spend a lot of time coaching and working with youth on the athletic field. While it may appear that my primary job is to build physical muscle and athletic prowess; I know that what I truly need to do is teach my athletes to believe in themselves – to truly believe that each one of them matters. Not just on the day of competition, but in the journey of life.

You see, hope is a muscle. When it is strong, it refills our cup and provides a beacon of light as we travel the journey. It keeps us honed in on the joy of giving. It tells us that we have something worth sharing and inspires us to reach out in empathy toward others. When we all work to build the muscle of hope, we rediscover the value of life. We are at peace and whole within ourselves through our faith in God which allows us to show love and compassion to others.

It isn’t complicated; but it requires dedication and tenacity both at the individual and community level.

Are you ready to build the habit of love and fuel it with faith in order to find hope for the future?

6 Comments

Filed under Coaching / Personal Growth, Family, General

What Makes a Good Animal Trainer?

Learning about cattle…

I remember the first time that I stepped into a pen filled with cattle at our feed yard. I was 21 years old and had never been within a quarter of a mile of a bovine before. The first thought that ran through my mind was “They’re huge”, followed simultaneously with an almost automatic feeling of fear.

I’ve always believed in the saying Mind over Matter and, in that instant, I made the decision to figure out how these very large creatures viewed the world (and me). My gut pushed me to learn their story so that I could become a part of it. It’s been an awesome journey. Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with those big, hairy creatures. Their minds fascinate me, and I overcame my fear as I traded inexperience for knowledge.

Learning to work with cattle taught me more about myself than I would have ever imagined. Cattle’s ability to sense emotions and see the world in pictures challenged my natural linear thought process. I figured out relatively quickly that they were not able to think like me – that, in fact, it was not their job to think like me. Rather, it was my job as their caregiver to learn to think like them.

Empathy creates a powerful tool…

Today, I don’t handle cattle as often as I used to. I get my fill during the spring and summer months when we run cattle on grass pasture. But, once our grass is eaten up and I move them into the feed yard, I pass off the job of “primary caregiver” to the knowledgeable crew at Roberts Cattle Co.

Honestly, there are days when I miss that daily bovine-human interaction tremendously.

I’ve learned during my adult life that happiness is a self-fulfilling prophesy. I determine my own fate and my attitude defines my level of joy. When I sense a personal gap, I look to fill it in a meaningful way as that helps me to find daily fulfillment.

Enter Theodore…

Six months after closing down my own feed yard, I brought a 7 week old yellow lab puppy into my life. Labrador Retrievers have a special place in my heart. I shared a love for them with my Dad, and I have fond childhood memories of watching him train his hunting dogs. Theodore has helped me to fill the gap and I am broadening my animal training prowess. Just like cattle, learning to understand Theodore is a journey. We have a partnership with each of us having responsibilities to fill in order to find harmony together.

The following is a short list of qualities that I believe make a good animal trainer. While cattle are incredibly different creatures than dogs, I am finding that the qualities that make me effective in training them are remarkably similar.

  1. Patience: Animals have a way of trying to “outlast” their handlers. Being patient tips the scale in your favor as it allows you to control your own emotions and wait for the right moment as you teach.
  2. Consistency: Just as patience allows for success, consistent boundaries are critical for effective training. Animals learn what happens before what happens happens which means that good caregivers must be consistent with their feedback.
  3. Communication: Clear communication sets everyone up for success. Expectations and asks can only be effectively answered by the animal if he understands what you want. Be clear.
  4. Empathy: Animals are not smart enough to think like you, so to be an effective trainer you have to learn how to think like them. When you are able to put yourself in their shoes, then you can ask in a way that is meaningful to them which leads to your idea becoming their idea.
  5. Love: Someone once told me animals don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. A good leader always cares.

I am so very thankful for the lessons that my animals teach me. They enrich my life in countless ways as we make the journey together. Theodore’s a pretty awesome little partner 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Animal Welfare, Family, General

Finding the right words…

Today marks the third 5K race in 8 days for the Haymaker Varsity Cross Country team. We are into the “tough” part of the season where fitness is critical and mental determination creates success. As a coach, I sometimes find myself struggling to find the right words to help the athletes believe in themselves and continuously engage in the running journey.

Words are powerful.

When chosen carefully and delivered effectively:

  • They inspire.
  • They create.
  • They bring beauty to our lives.

In order for words to bring about positive change, they must be heard and they must be meaningful. The bottom line for us is that, as a team, we must celebrate our differences as we build team unity. A culture of hard work and excellence plays a critical role. And, it extends beyond the physical to include our ability to be good teammates.

What are the top 5 qualities of a good teammate?

Heart: Packing your FAITH to trust in both yourself and your teammates creates a team with heart. Building a positive culture inspires a unity dedicated to greatness.

Work Ethic: The road to excellence is never comfortable. Expect to work tirelessly under conditions that will be uncomfortable. Success is often found in the midst of challenge and surrounded by hard work.

Integrity: Truth in thoughts, words and actions creates a team worth fighting for. Love yourself enough to be true to your uniqueness – Love your teammates enough to embrace diversity – Love your sport enough to give it your all.

Leadership: Supporting and mentoring others inspires greatness. The team is bigger than any one individual or race. What you build together is infinitely greater than anything that you can build alone. Life is a journey – one that contains a vastness of joy that can only be tapped through community.

Passion: Race with passion. Give it your all, recognizing that you bring honor to your God, your team, and your sport when you dig deep to compete with perseverance.

Go Haymakers!

 

3 Comments

Filed under Coaching / Personal Growth, Family, General, Rural Communities