Tag Archives: Jesus

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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What kind of hope is in your heart?

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 1:18

“I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called — his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.”


In my mind, there are two kinds of hope. A hope that creates a wish, and a hope that inspires a confident expectation. If you take a moment to think about it, they are not the same thing. A wish is passive, while a confident expectation requires both trust and action. For example, our family has many Christmas traditions beginning with cutting down a tree on the day after Thanksgiving. In my girls’ minds, the hope to get to do these traditions together as a family is one of confident expectation. They don’t just wish to do them, they prioritize and set their schedules so that they happen.

Another tradition that we have is placing the home-made star (that my sister-in-law made us 24 years ago) on the top of the tree. For the past 20 years, Matt lifted one of the girls up to perform this cherished chore. Last week, the girls decided that it was Matt’s turn. They created a plan to work together to lift him up so that he would get a chance to place the star. The tree our family chose to cut down this year was over 9 feet tall so the girls had to get him quite a ways off of the ground. Their hope was not simply a wish, it was a confident expectation and they never doubted their ability to get it done. Matt never doubted it either. The trust that they had in each other and the value that they placed in achieving the commonly held goal ensured that they were successful. There was a beautiful joy created by this shared hope as they completed the task. I managed to get a video of it, and you can watch it here:


I think that sometimes our culture defines hope as more of a wish and less of a confident expectation. While that is likely a safer interpretation as it doesn’t really require either trust or work on the part of the believer, the effects of considering it that way severely restrict the benefits that it can offer. I don’t believe that Jesus intends for us to receive only wishes from our faith relationship with him. Rather, I think that Jesus calls us to share his active passion for love. He promises the endless supply of living water and light that will move through us to bless both ourselves and others.

There are many references to hope in the Bible and it seems clear to me that they all revolve around a confident expectation, one of belief, trust, and loving action. God’s definition of hope is not synonymous to a wish, rather it came to us in the form of the ultimate loving action: His gift of Jesus (Immanuel). As a result, it carries with it a need for the kind of trust which believes in a certainty of fulfillment.

What kind of hope is in my heart? What kind is in yours? I’ve thought about this often over the past three weeks as I’ve been substitute teaching at our local middle school. Do I carry the hope of Jesus? Is my heart flooded by the light that brings the confident expression of love? Do the students know how much I care about them? Do I have the kind of deep belief and complete trust that allows Immanuel to lift me up in order to place His star on the top of my tree?

These are the things that God is placing on my heart as we begin the start of Advent. I *hope* that as I celebrate the birth of our Savior, that I will trust and understand more deeply the ultimate spiritual gift that we celebrate on Christmas Day 🙂

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What’s in a name?

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Luke chapter 9: Jesus and Zacchaeus. Specifically, verse 5:

“When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. ‘Zacchaeus!’ he said, ‘Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.'”


We learn to understand our names as babies before we can even speak ourselves. Each of us has one, and it makes us unique. Have you ever spent time thinking of the importance of getting personal enough to call someone by name? I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot recently as I began my tenure as a substitute in our local middle school. There are a lot of kids (a sea of movement down the hallways with faces partially disguised by masks) but each one has a name and a unique blend of traits that makes them special.

The critical question for me becomes: How does each student know that I consider them valuable and special?

It starts when I call them by name – by the right name, pronounced correctly, and with a smile on my face. I’m masked up too, but I know in my heart that the kids can sense my smile. With about 200 students in the school, knowing each one’s name is not a simple goal. I’m lucky to have coached about a quarter of them, but that still leaves a large number of masked faces looking at me with expectation.

As if to put an exclamation point on the importance of this goal, the Holy Spirit inspired our Youth Pastor to ask me recently to read a book entitled, “It’s Personal”. The book, by Virginia Ward, Reggie Joiner, and Kristen Ivy covers how hope is intrinsically tied to getting personal with the kids that God brings into our lives. Getting personal starts with caring enough to call them by name.


How many people in your life have both a name and a story to tell?


How does it make you feel when someone you barely know calls you by name? How does it make you feel when someone you know fairly well mispronounces or forgets your name? While the book discusses the importance of getting personal with adolescents and teenagers, I would argue that our ability to intentionally take the time to notice and to care impacts the adults in our lives just as much as the kids. The best way to love authentically is to go deep. There is a vulnerability that comes from opening your heart to each person that God brings into your life, but there is also a deep sense of purpose that stems from choosing to take the risk.

The story of Jesus and Zacchaeus illustrates how Jesus felt about heart-felt relationships. Zacchaeus is one example of how Jesus modeled genuine friendship by taking the time to both notice and move in to understand the people around him. Zacchaeus was a loner, an unpopular tax collector struggling with greed and loneliness. When he heard that Jesus was to pass by, he climbed up in a tree to try and see the Messiah. Imagine how he felt when Jesus noticed him, called him by name, and invited him into fellowship?  When Jesus called him by name, I bet that he felt worth. When Jesus invited him into fellowship, I imagine that he felt hope. It’s so simple, but yet so awesomely beautiful.

What if each day there is someone that God intentionally places on your path?

Take the time to stop and look around.

There’s someone who needs you to see them.

It isn’t often convenient and it takes a unique blend of compassion, awareness and courage. Honestly, it’s hard. But it is so, so very important. I pray each day that I slow down to notice, accept, love and value the kids that God brings into my life. It starts by simply learning a name, but it leads to a promise of shared grace.

Who is your Zacchaeus today?

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The difference between a good day and a bad day…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4: 12-13

“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.”


I always seem to have a “one liner” that I try to intentionally live by and share with others. Over time, the words shift and change but I hold onto the old ones even as I transition into the new ones. The girls laugh that I don’t need to keep a written list as they are all tucked safely in between our ears 😊 My mantra for the fall season this year is, “the difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude”. My runners may not remember everything that I share with them, but they’ve got this one down. If I start the statement, they all chorus in to finish it for me. I believe it to be incredibly important. As we live in a world full of uncertainty, the one thing that we can control daily is our attitude.

There are a number of people who have come before me who get credit for the creation of this statement, and as I read through Paul’s epistles I see the message over and over again. We can control our attitude, how we approach each day, by making a choice to trust in the love of Jesus and being grateful for the joy that comes from that love. We live in a world of scarcity, but we worship a God of abundance. Love, hope, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, patience, perseverance, faithfulness, gentleness and self control – God makes those available to us daily, we simply need to choose to accept them. When my heart is soft and I pack my faith well, then I am filled with these gifts of the Spirit and able to see, experience, and share all of the rainbows that God places on my daily path.


Paul wrote the above words from Philippians while he was living in a jail cell. He couldn’t control his physical freedom, but he could control his attitude. He demonstrated how to be “full of joy in the Lord” regardless of circumstance. His secret weapon was Jesus’ love. On a day when he could not celebrate physical freedom, he could celebrate spiritual freedom and the ability to walk in love — not just any love, but Christ’s love. This love allowed him to speak of thankfulness, to find joy, and to focus on the rainbow instead of the storm. Paul could have been bitter, but he chose to walk in the joyous freedom of love.

It’s seems crazy, and yet it makes perfect sense. We can live in the world but not be of the world. We do this as we remember that God is the audience that matters and that His love is unconditional and omnipotent. We can choose the freedom to be found there, in an identity rooted in forgiveness and grace. When I draw strength from the big picture of God’s love, then I can find joys to celebrate and meaningful purpose amidst the hard things. My cup doesn’t run empty because I turn to Jesus to fill it. As my faith grows, I realize that it isn’t just full, it is running over. As it runs over, it blesses others and the cycle of love prevails. Even in the midst of hard times, that makes for a good day 🙂

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Today Matters…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the book of Psalms 118:24 and 29

“This is the day the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

and

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.”


Monday we celebrated my favorite farmer’s birthday. That, along with several other things that God has recently put on my heart, reminded me of the need to realize that today matters. I have a bad habit of trying to “be ahead of the game” – of thinking and doing all of the things today that do not need to be thought about or done until tomorrow. I have a related but additional tendency of wanting to “fix” things. I habitually struggle to trust and have patience. This combines with my farming philosophy of never wanting to let my animals or those whom I care about down to create a desire to get ahead of where I am meant to be. In short, I am so focused on tomorrow that I miss out on today.

This is something that I have been very intentional in thinking about over the past several months. I’ve begun noticing the repetition in God’s Word that asks me to trust and be patient. I have heard the whisperings of the Holy Spirit reminding me that our God is a God of the present and that He loves me and is with me. Jesus reiterates over and over again to be patient, to not worry about tomorrow. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously and He will give you everything that you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Jesus’ words written in Matthew 6: 33-34) Sometimes, I just need to sit and let those words sink into my heart.

Henri Nouwen in his book Following Jesus defines patience as “remaining close to the moment to fully taste where you are so that the seeds that are sown in the moment can grow and lead you to the future.” Have you ever considered ripping a growing seed out of the ground in order to make sure that its roots are okay? That seems like a silly question, but when I examine my heart I see times when I do that very thing. Impatience gets the best of me, and instead of nurturing the soil and allowing the plant to grow, my worry over the future causes me to inappropriately interfere. I forget to trust in the promise of the Holy Spirit. I forget “God’s part, my part, others part” and figure that it’s just better to do it all myself. Nouwen asks an important question,

“What if the future is hidden in the present as a seed in fertile ground?”


The book of Psalms reminds us, “This is the day the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” It also reminds us that our God is a faithful God whose love endures forever. There is freedom to be found in rejoicing for today, in living for today, and in knowing that you are right where your loving God means for you to be. I am coming to realize that one of the biggest differences between earthly life and spiritual life is that when I trust that I am where God means for me to be, I don’t have to be anywhere else. I can be still, I can pray, I can be aware (in the moment) of God’s call to love those that He places right in front of me. Most importantly, I can trust that the same thing will happen tomorrow – and the next day – and the next day, until the day that God calls me home to heaven. There’s a lot to be grateful for in the midst of that promise.

It allows me to truly understand that “today matters”. Then, my life becomes less of a list of worries and boxes to check off and more of an opportunity to be present and share love with the gentle strength and confidence that comes from walking with Jesus.

 

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accepting Comfort…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Matthew 11: 28-30

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.'”


Not a day passes when I do not need comfort. Whether small hurts build up to weigh down my heart, or a single large burden dominates my mind, I rarely go through a day when finding and accepting comfort is not important. In those moments of pain, my brain tempts me to look for logical answers despite the fact that my heart is very clearly needing the comfort of peace. The outcome of my daily experiences tends to be tied to which of two possible questions I choose to ask God: Do I ask “why” something is happening and get stuck at the very beginning, or do I accept the challenge and instead choose to ask “how” we can get through it together?

Jesus tells us repeatedly in the Gospels, “Take up your daily cross and follow me.” Often I find myself puzzled by that message, and trying to meld it together with the above passage from Matthew. What cross is my cross? And, what does it truly mean to take it up and follow him? Is the cross the yoke Jesus reverences in the above scripture? I found clarity on this as I read Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book, Following Jesus. Nouwen points out that Jesus says to “Take up your cross” – he doesn’t say, create a cross or to take up someone else’s. He suggests that our cross is our own pain, our own hurts, and that taking up our cross means that we have the courage to see that pain.

Perhaps as we answer Jesus’s call to pick up our pain, then we are able to yoke it to the healing presence of the cross. There we can accept the comfort and peace of a God that loves first and can sooth our hearts. 


As I think back on my life, I remember all of the times that I said – “I’m tough. I can do this. I don’t need any help. I can suffer through it.” Do you ever tell yourself that? I’m figuring out that when I do this, I hide my burden and honestly try to hide from it. That makes it become heavier and heavier because it surrounds me at the same time that I deny that it exists. Perhaps being tough isn’t the point…God doesn’t want us to just suffer through it. He wants us to pick up our cross so that He can compassionately comfort us as we travel the journey together. When I acknowledge my pain and share it, then I am able to shift my focus. The pain is still there, but it moves to the background because I am surrounded by comforting love that breaks through the fear.

“Perfect love casts out all fear” – my good days are the ones that I lean into that 🙂 Our God is a God of unconditional love, not of fear. At the cross, he accepts our fear and our hurts, and exchanges them for love. That’s where we find rest in Jesus’ yoke, and it is where we come to accept the comfort that lightens our burdens. The pain doesn’t go away, the challenge remains, but we ask “how” instead of asking “why”. As we lift our eyes and ask “how”, we accept our cross and lean into our humble and gentle God who leads us in love.

This week I am leaning in. I am in the process of moving my older two girls into college – one in Indiana and the other in North Carolina. I’m traveling cross-country and leaving pieces of my heart behind with each of the girls. It’s hard. It hurts. But, I know that they are where God called them to be and I am accepting comfort from the abundant love that awaits me as I pick up those hurts and bring them to the cross.

 

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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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clinging to Grace…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 3: 14-18

“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.”


I remember reading these verses with Megan a few nights before the Nebraska State Track Meet a couple of years ago. To say that she was nervous would have been an understatement, she was a wreck. The stress of competition had depleted her confidence and left her in a pit of fear. Instead of looking up and remembering the love of her Father in heaven, she had tied herself into knots worrying that she wasn’t good enough. I don’t know exactly how she felt as we read these verses together, but my “mama’s heart” calmed as the Holy Spirit assured me that Megan was beloved and held by the Father. She would be just fine.

She, in fact, was just fine. Jesus carried her through the state track meet all the way to the medal stand. The gold medal from the Nebraska State Activities Association was awesome, but the lesson she learned about faith made it seem pale in comparison. She learned to cling to Grace and her roots have since grown deep into God’s love to bring her a new kind of strength. The strength that is found in the realization of the power of God’s love. I’ve read the above passages from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians many times since that day, and I always take a moment to remember how these verses came alive for Meg in the spring of 2018 and then again in the spring of 2019.


We all pass through hard times. We experience moments, days, perhaps even years that shake our core and threaten our peace. I would venture a guess that each of us has experienced some level of this in recent months as our lives changed dramatically due to Covid-19. Over and above the physical challenge of Covid, we have also experienced a growing emotional chasm in our country fueled by passionate and often opposing opinions. Instead of living in community with hearts united for a meaningful purpose, we’ve fallen into a trap where fear overrides our ability to accept and share Grace. I know that I need the daily reminder of how wide, how long, how high and how deep God’s love is. That love calls me to cling to Grace in order to find strength, patience, peace, and joy. It battles directly against the fear, frustration, anger, and temptation to judge that threatens my heart.

Today, a small group of awesome middle school and high school students finish up our four week Bible study on “how to chose joy regardless of circumstance”. While we specifically studied another of Paul’s epistles (to the people of Philippi), I believe that the above verses to the Ephesians also speak directly to this topic.

I believe that our ability to chose joy and to experience peace through challenging times is directly related to the depth of our understanding and trust in God’s love.

When that trust runs deep, our hearts fill with love and gratefulness. We then become able to recognize fully the beauty of what we have, instead of getting hung up on those things that we do not have.

Clinging to Grace becomes a habit when we choose to make it one. Some days it is really hard, and some of those days I fail to accomplish it. But, I believe that it provides the answer to what we all inherently search for: acceptance, love, value and purpose. I know that the days that I truly believe and trust in the vast power of God’s love are my good days. They are the days that He hangs the gold medal on my heart – the medal that allows me to chose joy, find peace, and cling to the beautiful Grace of a good, good Father.

I pray that as I prepare to send my girls back to school – two to college and one to high school – that we will all cling to Grace and be inspired to share God’s love, the ultimate medal to be found on our earthly journey 🙂

 

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