Tag Archives: family

Burkholder Family Christmas Letter – Long version 2020…

While I sent out a few paper Christmas cards this year, the “letter” included with them is fairly abridged.

So, in honor of the 24th annual Burkholder Christmas letter tradition, I am including here a longer version for those inclined to read it 😊


As I reflect on 2020, what God places firmly on my heart is the rekindling of a deep gratitude for our farm, our community and the place that we get to call “home”. I think that both Matt and I would report that our ability to “work the land” and live in the midst of “God’s country” frees our hearts and brings peace to our minds even in the midst of chaos and upheaval. We are closing in on 25 years of marriage and 24 years of farming! Matt’s hair is a little bit grayer and I seem to develop more wrinkles with each year that passes, but we are so blessed to have each other – our family – and all those whom God brings into our daily lives.

Matt continues to manage the farm and “play in the dirt” as the girls and I like to tease him. He loves studying the soil and figuring out ways to better care for our land. He uses his “engineering problem solving skills” to help his crew harvest alfalfa and create alfalfa dehy pellets that feed animals all across the United States. In addition, he works with partners to grow a blend of rotational corn, soy beans, wheat, oats and cover crops to ensure good long-term soil health. In his spare time, he serves on several community boards, water skis like he is still 18, and chases determinedly after his girls 🙂

I “retired” from my animal (cattle) welfare job with the Beef Marketing Group on May 1st. I’m keeping busy helping Matt on the farm and taking care of our grass cattle during the spring and summer months. I also continue to coach swim team and cross country, serve as a small group leader for local middle school girls through our church, and added on substitute teaching at our local public middle school this fall. I’m finding that 6th-8th graders are just as ornery as cattle caregivers, but they bring a new sense of hope to my heart as I shake my head at their antics. I am truly enjoying this new door that God has opened in my life.

Ashley Grace is a Junior at Notre Dame University. She is a dual major in Political Science and Theology with a minor in Public Service. In her “free time” she works as a writing tutor for the university, and spent the fall tutoring football players. She is very proud that “her boys” are in the running for the National Championship title. She also is learning the sport of boxing and continues to run a bit on the side. She heads to Milwaukee, Wisconsin next summer to work as a summer school teacher before completing her final year as an undergraduate at ND.

Megan began her tenure at Davidson College this fall. She plans to be a STEM major of some sort – likely either chemistry or physics – with a long term goal of being a teacher and coach. She is a member of the track team where she pole vaults and is looking forward to the winter and spring season! Covid made for a difficult transition to college, but we are very proud of her tenacity. We are also incredibly thankful for God’s blessing of helping her to find a supportive group of awesome young Christians to “do life with” during her time in North Carolina.

Karyn is surviving living as “an only child” with Matt and I. She adopted an “emotional support kitten” this summer right before her sisters both left for college, and persevered with greatness through both the Nebraska State Cross Country Championships and the Nebraska State One Act Championships this fall. She is currently keeping busy with basketball and claims chemistry and math as her favorite subjects. We are extremely thankful that “in-person” school and activities persevered across Nebraska this fall. Our local school board, administrators, teachers, coaches, custodians, and bus drivers are a beautiful set of humans who have worked tirelessly to ensure that the children of our community are loved each day.

We wish each of you the peace and love of Jesus this Christmas Season. As always, our door is open for those who travel past the farm.

Matt, Anne, Ashley Grace, Megan, Karyn and all the 4-legged members of the Burkholder family 🙂

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Two wrongs don’t make a right…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter 1Thessalonians 5: 12-22

Paul’s Final Advice:

“Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other. 

Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.

See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. 

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.”


Sometime during my journey of motherhood, I found myself reciting “Two wrongs don’t make a right” at fairly regular intervals. When my girls were little, it would cause them to stop and think before lashing out in anger. As they grew into teenagers, one of them decided that sarcasm was the appropriate response to my words of wisdom. This new phenomenon was often preceded by an eye roll, and followed by “Yeah, but mom three lefts do.” The eye roll cost the guilty party “push ups” and over time my girls became famous for their upper body strength 😉

We’ve got a full house in preparation for Christmas with all three girls back home. It is a joyful chaos. The other day, their actions inspired me to chorus “two wrongs don’t make a right”. By now, I get only a word or two in before they begin to say it along with me. It seems that after two decades, they are well-trained in their mama’s thoughts! Regardless, the words stop whatever shenanigans are brewing and replace them with laughter.


It’s always pretty cool to find wisdom in the Bible that supports your “parental teachings”. I didn’t spend regular time in God’s Word when the girls were little so they were quite a lot older by the time that I found the above verses in 1Thessalonians. I greatly value all of the guidance that God offers through Paul, but it brings a special smile to my face when I read the verse:

“See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.” 

I regret that I went through a significant part of my adult life without spending time each day in the Bible, yet I am so very thankful that God still found ways to speak to me and to reach my heart. He is steadfast, and His grace and mercy walks with our family each day. Over the past 5 years, I have come to truly value my time in the Word. It brings me clarity and confidence as it shapes my heart. It allows me to understand more fully that love is the evidence of faith, and Jesus is love.

As we reflect and ponder on the eternal gift of Jesus Christ, I pray that each of us will do as Paul suggests: take a breath, choose joy, and lead in gratitude, love and prayer as Jesus uses the Holy Spirit to guides us on the journey. After all, two wrongs don’t make a right, so we must hold onto what is good and stay away from every type of evil!

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A God of abundance…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John 1: 16-18:

“From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.”


Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time praying and thinking about what it means to be loved by a God of abundance. Pondering this fuels me as our family navigates through the ever-changing world of 2020. Last spring I started asking God to help me to know Him better so that I could truly trust and believe that I am beloved by Him. Some deep part of my heart knew that I needed to better understand this and to cling to it as an anchor of faith. I asked, I prayed, and God moved. Over the past four months, God systematically supplied me with tools of discernment and moments of personal growth so that my heart could deepen in love. It’s allowed me to find peace regardless of circumstance.

I think it is interesting how God works – using a variety of people and bringing different facets of our lives together as a way to answer our prayers. He put a series of callings on my heart, and as I followed them I found the answers. From our girls Bible study on the book of Philippians, to our swim team family’s shared devotional lessons on the “fruits of the Spirit”, to the recommendation of two of Henri Nouwen’s books to read, to surrounding me with the love of family with all three of my girls home, to bringing Joseph back into our lives — God has clearly been moving in my heart and helping to answer my prayers to better understand His abundance.

People write books on how to follow Jesus in order to find peace. I suppose that maybe I could write one too 🙂 But today, what is on my heart finds its power in its simplicity. We may live in a world of scarcity, but our God is a God of abundance. His love never runs out, and it covers all of His children. We don’t have to worry that God does not have a place for us, Jesus took care of that. John 14: 1-2 recounts Jesus’ words, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?”


Regardless of what the earthly world tells you, it is not a competition. There is enough for everyone. God’s love never gives up, it never runs out, and it has the capacity to fill our hearts if only we would allow it. When love comes alive, fear falls apart. When we follow out of love, then our focus is that love and it outshines everything else. We may have times when we feel pain, but it is not our focus. Instead, divine love brings a wave of peace and a gentle strength that moves past worldly troubles to bring the hope of tomorrow. That love is available now – today – this minute. It is eternal, but it begins on this earth the moment that we say “yes” and move into the comforting embrace of the Father. The more that we nestle into that embrace, the more Jesus fills our hearts with His sustaining love, and the Holy Spirit brings peace amidst the storm.

Megan comes out of quarantine tonight. We’ve had a time of joy, of togetherness, and of faith during this journey. It’s reminded our family to be grateful for what we have instead of worrying about what we don’t have. God blessed us by keeping her safe and free of sickness. He also blessed us with moments and memories that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. Perhaps the list of what she “missed” is long, but there is a longer list of things that our family gained – medals that were placed on our hearts as we deepened in love and faith with each other and with our God of abundance.


For those of you who enjoy reading, The Return of the Prodigal Son and Following Jesus by Henri J.M. Nouwen are wonderfully insightful books that have blessed me this summer. Ashley Grace has studied Henri Nouwen in her theology classes at Notre Dame, and our discipleship pastor encouraged me to read them as well.

A big “thank you” to all of you who are keeping our family in your prayers – you bless us with your loving hearts 😊

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Someone With Whom To Share…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.”

My favorite farmer and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary on Monday. I met Matt when I was eighteen and a freshman in college. My mom’s parting words when she put me on an airplane to go to school were, “Anne, stay away from the older boys.” It took about two months at Dartmouth College for our paths to cross on Halloween night, and we went on our first date the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

I knew when I met Matt that he was the one. My friends teased me and my dad kept reminding me that I was too young to commit, but my heart had clear discernment and I have always been stubborn. We got engaged on my 20th birthday and were married not long after I turned 21. I had no idea what life would bring, but I knew who I was meant to share it with.

24 years later, I better appreciate the blessing of our partnership. We’ve experienced the joy of family with our girls, the heartache of loss, and enough health challenges that we remember that each day is a gift. It’s not been easy, but it’s been a beautiful and honorable journey. One that would not be complete without the togetherness that we intentionally choose to share each day.


I think that the Bible very clearly calls us to live in community. God did not create us to live in isolation, He created us to share. While we are asked to share with many, there is a special type of sharing that comes with being husband and wife. Sharing is not just a “perk”, rather it is a vital part of finding stability amidst the roller coaster of life. I’ve learned to appreciate many things in the 24 years that Matt and I have been married, but I think this is the gift that I treasure the most.

Having someone with whom to share life enables the joy to be greater and the challenges to be surmountable. It is one way that God comforts us no matter the circumstances that we must walk through.

Even though I am an introvert, being alone frightens me. The love that Matt and I share helps to fuel me. I know that no matter what happens, he will walk through it with me – holding my hand – and caring for my heart. Quite honestly, Matt is my little bit of Jesus on earth. God’s good like that. He places a bit of himself in everyone with the goal that He can be shared and become a reality for all.

One of my very favorite verses is Hebrews 11:1 – “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” I can’t literally see Jesus while I live on earth, but I can see Him through others and (as a result) know with certainty that He is there. Matt enables that for me. I believe that part of his mission – his calling – is to share God’s love, comfort, courage and grace with me. I know in my heart that God intentionally created Matt to love me and to share life with me, and through that connection I am able to better see the reality of God’s love for me 🙂

Today, I am thankful to have someone with whom to share…

 

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An Update From the Farm…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Micah 6:8:

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”


I’ve had a couple of people ask for an update “from the farm”. We are packing our faith to follow the advice found in Micah, and here are a few specifics 🙂

My favorite farmer and I both work in “agriculture” which was deemed as a “critical infrastructure industry” by the Department of Homeland Security, so daily life on the farm continues. Matt is gearing up for our growing season to begin and will be in full planting mode when the ground dries out enough to work the fields. While waiting for Mother Nature, he currently is working on his yearly organic farm certification, updating farms maps/yearly planning, and finishing up the equipment maintenance that dominants our winter months. He is itching to get to spring planting work, and smiles as he watches the Nebraska plains slowing turn from brown to green.

I am still spending my days servicing cattle feedyards and helping them to understand and implement the Progressive Beef program. I have about five more weeks before transitioning back to full-time with our family, our farm, and volunteer projects in our community. I am getting excited for spring/summer projects like grazing cattle on our pastures, coaching swim team, and gardening in my back yard. The alfalfa behind our house has started to grow, so this week the girls and I will take down the temporary winter fence and the horses will rotate from winter grazing to the spring/summer paddocks.

Ashley Grace is home from Notre Dame. Her school made the decision to switch to online classes while she was visiting for spring break, so we’ve got a car in Chicago and all of her belongings in South Bend, IN but she’s home and that’s what truly matters 🙂 Her summer teaching job in Panama City, Panama has been canceled so she is trying to figure out where God will call her to serve instead. She’s done an awesome job of going with the flow and choosing joy despite huge unexpected changes in her college life.

Megan and Karyn are figuring out the art of home schooling, something that honestly has never before been on their radar screen. In addition to doing learning enrichment via the internet, they are dutifully doing daily track workouts from home with the hope that there will be some sort of abbreviated spring sports season. This is not how either of them would choose to spend their Senior and Freshman springs, but they’re packing their faith to make the best of an uncertain situation!

Megan will celebrate her 18th birthday this weekend, and she has a quiet wish of getting to do all of the things that Seniors do: Prom, Senior Tea, Pen Pal Picnic with the 4th graders, graduation, and a chance to defend her two year pole vault NE State Title. I have been very proud of her positive attitude and ability to adapt to the disappointments of “missing some of the lasts” of her high school career. Both Meg and Karyn are embracing “zoom” weekly Bible study meetings with their high school girls small group, and trying to keep in touch with friends despite social distancing.


If I were to pick a rainbow to focus on, it is definitely the gift of having all three girls living at home again. My heart smiles as I take out 5 dishes each evening when I serve dinner. The time of family and fellowship is truly a blessing!  The above verse from Micah speaks to my heart, so I share it with each of you. It grants us instruction for today and the days to come. God asks us to:

Do what is right.

To love mercy.

To walk humbly with Him.

As I read Micah, my thoughts turn to the Prayer of St. Francis which I’d like to leave with you today 🙂

Dear Lord,
Make me an instrument of Your peace; 
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; 
Where there is injury, pardon; 
Where there is doubt, faith; 
Where there is despair, hope; 
Where there is darkness, light; 
And where there is sadness, joy… 
Grant that I may not so much seek 
to be consoled as to console; 
to be understood as to understand; 
to be loved as to love. 
For it is in giving that we receive; 
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying we are born to 
eternal life.

 

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The Heart’s Desires…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Psalms 37: 3-6

“Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.”


It’s always been a dream of mine to be a “mom”. One of the big reasons that my favorite farmer and I decided to move back to Nebraska was the desire to raise a family on the farm. As a farm kid with a MS in electrical engineering, Matt was likely “over-educated” for his professional choice. At the same time, my South Florida city roots and degree in psychology left me closer to the “under-educated” end of the spectrum. We were young and we followed our hearts, despite the mixed advice that we received from well-meaning friends and family.

When it came down to it, the question of whether or not we were appropriately qualified took a back seat to the strong call to follow our hearts’ desires

Twenty four years later, I look back and know that my heart did not lead me astray. Just as the God who put the call into my heart is trustworthy, so was my ability to find discernment and courage regardless of circumstance. The years have flown past, but the joy and the lessons proved bountiful. Together we learned to love deeply, to work passionately, and to respect each other and the farm that brought us all together. My girls can wield a scoop shovel with the best of them, and know how to work with a combination of smile and grit. They pack their faith well, fueled by servant hearts who look up for guidance and out to see those who are in need.


Life has stages and chapters. My girls are on the cusp of becoming women. Matt and I are in a new place that perhaps requires more trust and faith than when we decided to move from the East Coast back to the farm. Even though I know better, my heart is tempted to be selfish. It desires to hold my girls close even as I know that it is time to let God move them as He moved me all those years ago.

My favorite brunette sees her 21st birthday in 2020 and will spend more of the next twelve months abroad than in the United States. Teaching and mission work in Panama will fill her summer, followed by a semester living and going to school in Chile at the start of 2021. There will be a time this summer when all three of our girls will be in other countries doing mission work at the same time. As hard as it is to trust your own life to God, for me it is harder to trust the lives of my children. And yet, I know that it what I am called to do.

The Holy Spirit has been nudging my heart recently, reminding it of its job to trust and to share. On Friday morning at WayMakers, the middle schoolers acted out the Parable of the Three Servants (Matthew 25: 14-29) and we studied the purpose and responsibility of gifts or talents. Then, our Pastor reminded me on Sunday morning that blessings are meant to be shared. They are given to inspire selflessness, not selfishness. God loves a cheerful giver 🙂 Sometimes the ask is hard.

I know that God did not bless Matt and I with our girls for us to hoard them and hold them tight. He blessed us with them so that they, in turn, could bless others.

As I read the above verses in Psalms last weekend, my heart received another reminder. All those years ago, I trusted in the Lord and we’ve lived safely and prospered on the farm for decades. God gave me my heart’s desire as I became a wife and a mom. Now, Jesus asks me to commit everything to Him, to trust Him and live in the center of His will. He asks me to let Him guide those beautiful girls so that they radiate like the dawn and shine like the noonday sun.

Who am I to say “no”?

So I trust.

And I pray.

And my heart fills.

And my eyes water.

And, I pray some more.

And, I am truly thankful for this journey: the times I’ve experienced, and the ones that I have yet to come. Joy is a courageous choice, one that clings tightly to the heart and is fueled by the hope, love, peace, and forgiveness found in faith 🙂

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The Burkholder Annual Christmas Letter: 23rd edition

The Burkholder Annual Christmas Letter: 23rd edition

In honor of our children beginning to reach the age of “adulting”, we asked them to contribute to the 2019 Christmas letter by composing their own Limerick poems.

Photo Credit: Katie Arndt Photography


Ashley Grace: Age 20, Sophomore Political Science major at Notre Dame – Servant heart, fluent in Spanish, and inspired to take on the world’s challenges in order to make a difference 🙂

Our girl has done well in South Bend

To many she’s been a good friend

She loves a tail-gate

Her grades have been great

Next year she’ll continue this trend


Megan Anne: Age 17, Senior at Cozad High School – Joyful heart, full of Holy Sass, 2019 Pole Vault Nebraska State Champ and enrolling at Davidson College in the fall of 2020 🙂

Turns out I’m a champion napper

I played a bartender that’s dapper

A science fanatic

And very sarcastic

Now that’s a very great capper


Karyn Allison: Age 15, Freshman at Cozad High School – Hamilton Musical and history lover, expert baker, math whiz, courageous athlete and kindhearted girl 🙂

I had to Rise Up to high school

Take My Shot and play it cool

Never back down

Learn to go a few rounds

And not be afraid to look like a fool


As for Matt and I, we continue to enjoy life on the Nebraska prairie. God blesses us daily, and we both look forward to another year loving and working alongside each other on the farm. We hope that the joy that Jesus Christ brings permeates your heart this Christmas and brings you hope for the New Year!

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On the other side…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4: 11-13

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”


Life’s not perfect. As much as we might long for unlimited happy days where the sun always shines and the journey is easy, that’s just not what happens. I’m going to reach 45 years this February and my favorite farmer has been with me on the journey since I was 18. We’ve been blessed beyond measure, and yet we’ve been challenged beyond anything I might have imagined. It’s hard to wrap your brain around how those two things can go together until you read Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It is a letter of thanksgiving – written from a prison cell – during a time when he faced the very real possibility of execution. It is a great reminder that there is joy to be found in every situation, even those times of great struggle.

Last week I spent time thinking about what happens on the other side. Not just that “eternal high five” that greets us at heaven’s gate, but the other side of difficult times that we pass through during our years on earth. I spent five years battling Graves Disease and some unusual complications resulting from treatment beginning when Karyn was an infant. It was unexpected, it was hard. We had three small children (5 and under) as well as a farm to run. And, there were many days that I could hardly function. I looked anorexic, was terribly anemic and got so weak that I couldn’t lift the girls.

On the “other side” of Graves Disease 🙂

As hard as it was for me to get through each day, it was harder for Matt. Watching someone you love suffer has to be one of the hardest things that we are asked to do in our lifetime. It brings on a litany of emotions – none of which resemble the perfect happiness that we dream of on the day that we say I do. There have been times in our marriage where we have looked at each other and asked the question:

If God loves us, why does he allow us to suffer?


As I was visiting with a friend last week, the pieces all fell together and my brain made sense of this question. God uses every experience to shape us and to grant us various perspectives that help us to share His love with others on the journey. We can’t learn these things if we are never challenged. We can’t learn to lean into Jesus’ love and strength if life is never hard. We can’t have true understanding and empathy for others if we never hurt ourselves.

I’ve revisited many of these lessons over the past nine months as I spent long days on crutches and went through three surgeries to heal my leg. Today, I’d like to share the five most important lessons that struggling has taught me — looking back now that I am on the other side.

  1. Everyone has a story. Each and every person that we come into contact with battles a challenge that we may never get to see. A smile or a few words of encouragement likely makes the difference in their ability to find joy amongst the struggle.
  2. Life is not meant to be taken for granted. Each day brings the possibility of many blessings – the ability for us to share Jesus’ love with others. Slow down. Take the time to see those opportunities and then embrace the confidence of Christ in order to turn them into Holy Moments.
  3.  A loving spouse is a gift to be cherished. Matt carries a lot of medals on his heart. God’s placed them there as we’ve walked together through the past twenty seven years. He is an amazing man with a heart that never stops giving. Being his wife is one of my greatest blessings and inspires my heart to be grateful as we greet each new day together.
  4. Our children learn with us as we walk together – they learn from us and we learn from them. Never discount the power of TEAM. One of the greatest blessings that came out of my illness was our ability to come together as a family to find strength and remain stubbornly rooted in love. There’ve been days that the girls have carried us — spiritually and emotionally — as Matt and I struggled to make sense of things. Today I believe that there is nothing more beautiful than a child reflecting Jesus’ love and light to his/her parents. It not only helps them to own their own faith, it shows them the purpose of faith!
  5. We never walk alone. When I was sick, someone told me “Anne, God will never give you more than you can handle.” I really struggled with that as some days I was just plain not enough. The last ten years have taught me that faith allows Jesus to fill that gap. God often gives us more than we can handle on our own, but those are the times that Jesus comes into our lives to carry us through. He is the perfect Coach — the one with divine discernment and a never-ending well of love and strength.

I’m sure that Matt and I and our girls will face more struggles as we walk through life together. But, just as I know this, I also realize that there is joy to be found in each and every day. We find it when we abide in Christ and welcome the peace and strength that He brings. Just as Paul reminds us in the above scripture verses, the secret to being content in every situation is to recognize that we are never alone. God walks with us and offers the comfort that leads to peace – on the good days and the tough ones. It may be hard to see the value in the moment of hardship, but it becomes clear once we are on the other side.

 

 

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