Thursday, May 28, 2015

Practicing the Art of Abundance

At a recent meeting for my women's writing group, the subject of abundance came up. One of the members had brought a book full of poetic phrases designed to capture the essence of abundance. I left that day challenged to seek out and appreciate more fully that which is abundant in my little world. 

I've been giving it some thought and on the day that I locked my keys inside my car and had to wait two hours for my rescuer to come and unlock the car, I thought about how nice an extra set of car keys would have been right about then! I suppose I thought having one set more than I needed was an abundance I didn't need but I'm thinking differently now.  (I USED to have a hide-a-key under my car bumper but it is likely to be rusting away on the bottom of some pot hole ridden back road. And there is SUPPOSED to be an extra key tucked into a drawer at home but it has gone AWOL) 

Later that day, home and feathers slowly un-ruffling, as I put away my groceries I thought about abundance some more. 

A fruit bowl piled high with shiny apples
 and plump juicy oranges
A fresh vibrant colored array of vegetables
 piled high in the produce drawer of the fridge
A freezer stocked piled with food 
and a pantry lined with an assortment 
of bright colored packages and cans
A kitchen full of healthy yummy food products
            This is abundance.

When I take my cup of fresh brewed coffee, 
mixed with sweet heavenly cream 
and I tiptoe out onto the front porch, 
barefoot and still in my jammies,
when I park myself on my 
kaleidoscope colored patio chair 
and breath in the still cool freshness of a new day, 
when I turn my face to the sun and let it kiss my face 
and let the breeze tousle my hair
               This is abundance.

On laundry day when the piles of clothes seem endless
and there is no more room on the clothes line 
When the sheets need changing on the bed 
and I must decide between flannel or cotton
or whether or not to add  the extra blanket
When it's time to get the fans back out of storage 
and I have one for upstairs and one for down
              This is abundance.

Abundance is noticing just how many Bibles we have, 
when I know there are others who are rejoicing over having 
just one page of a Bible.
Abundance is not complaining about 
having to dust the library shelves
where rows of books are assembled.  
Abundance is having gas in my tank, 
enough to get me to places I want to be, 
not just the places I need to be.
Abundance is staring at the shoes in my closet 
trying to decide which ones to wear today,
knowing others go barefoot.

Abundance is...
    fresh drinking water
       a lawn to mow
          a house to clean
             a meal to cook
               a garden to grow
A family to love.

All the things I might take for granted...
               come from living a life of.....

A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14.1

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Break Time

quite possibly the longest hiatus this blog has been on.... while there is MUCH whirling through my heart and mind, putting it down in public forum has me stalled. So... instead, here are a few pictures from our trip to Tall Timber Ranch... just to let you know I'm OK!

one little boy against the back drop of one big mountain!

trillium blooms

a new generation of campers are being raised. 

reunited with old friends.

served on summer staff with this awesome lady two years in a row.

Bruce and volunteer extraordinaire Harry.
 Harry is 92 and still spends all summer at TTR helping out.
(he makes amazing pie too!) 

the love-burkes stopped for a foto-op at a waterfall. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Summer of '97; the Sequel

If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you probably already know that Tall Timber Ranch holds a very special place in my heart. It's where I met my sweetie, and where our courtship sparked, it's where he popped the question a couple of years later and it's where we visit when ever we get the chance. It is also where we lived the first summer after we married.

Grasshopper Mountain in the morning light
 Having worked in the kitchen for summer camp the year before, I was ready and willing to give it another go. I was prepared for the long tiring days because I also knew the rewards that came with the job. Being a part of a team effort that reached children of all ages and introduced them to the love of Jesus was worth every aching muscle, even every burn from the grill. Not to mention,Tall Timber is located in such a beautiful setting, it takes your breath away every time you walk outside and face the massive mountain range that borders the camp. Yep, I was looking forward to another experience at the camp.

making pans and pans full of jo-jo's!

The catch was... what about Bruce? Well, I certainly didn't relish the idea of being separated all summer. Being apart the year before had been challenging but we weren't married then! We thought the idea of living at the camp for the summer to be a fun one, if we could just find a way to make it work on his end. The only way was if he could land a job near there. Hmmm.

He began detailing the criteria he'd need for a temporary job.

1. Construction work, obviously; something he enjoyed doing would be sweet.

2. It needed to be located close enough to Tall Timber that commuting wouldn't be a big hassle.

3.  It needed to be one job- something that would last from June-August or Sept.

4. Preferably paid by the hour, not a bid, at prevailing wage.

And just to make it a little more challenging, he added that it would be nice if he knew the person or company well enough ahead of time to know if it would be a good working environment.

Well, that's quite a list and once I heard it my heart sank just a little. It wasn't that I doubted God could orchestrate it. It was that Bruce was painting a pretty tight circle around our mission opportunity. Add to this, I really needed to give the camp a definite answer about the job and soon. With no leads on any carpentry work and a decision about the assistant cook position waiting, the pressure was getting rather intense.

Finally the moment arrive where we said, Look, do we trust God or not? We believe He's calling me to come back and work at the camp. We want to go. Do we say yes and trust that God will bring Bruce work? What if we say yes and no work develops for Bruce and he has to return home in order to work? Can we deal with that? With prayer and faith, we decided to go for it. I called the camp and affirmed I would be there in June.

The next day... the VERY NEXT DAY, Bruce got a phone call from a contemporary in the construction world. A builder/supplier of log home kits, he was calling to ask Bruce about doing some sub-contracting work for him... (which he'd done in the past) and as the conversation developed, Bruce explained what our plans for the summer were.... and guess what???  Mr. M. just so happened to have a log house kit being erected in Leavenworth Wa, which was a 40 minute drive from Tall Timber. He needed someone to come in and do specialty trim and finish work. By the hour. It was enough work to last all summer. Would Bruce be interested?

the house Bruce worked on that summer. 

I chuckle every time I tell this story or even think about it. That's just how our God works! We step out in faith and He meets us, greets us, and when it comes to wants and needs, exceeds us!

So, that is how a few weeks later we loaded up my car and his work truck and headed over the mountains to our special camp. We spent the next 3 months living in a dorm style lodge, playing house parents to a building full of college kids.

Shultze Center, the dorm style housing where we lived.

It was a very different summer from the one before. That first summer I was learning my way around the kitchen and the quirks of the schedule. I was there with my daughter, rebuilding our relationship, missing my fiance and being stretched in various ways.

That second summer, feeling seasoned and comfortable, I was able to relax and find ways to play a little bit more. Bruce took a week and volunteered as counselor for Sr. High Camp, we enjoyed some weekend hikes and camp outs. We mingled with college kids and not only laughed at their antics but readily joined in. (OK--we might have even instigated some of it.)

date night for the love-burkes. We went to Leavenworth one night for the outdoor summer theater!

I've been back many times over the years, to help out in the kitchen when needed and even do a few stints as camp counselor but it's those summers of 1996 and 1997 that stand out in my memory the strongest. How God used those times to stretch our character, build our faith, heal our hearts, bind us together, and bless us in unimaginable ways.

the view of the camp from Eagles Nest Mountain.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Summer of '96

in a few short days my husband and I will be gathering in our special place, Tall Timber Ranch, for a reunion of all staff as we honor the retiring camp directors. I worked on summer staff several times and have made life long connections with amazing people-- some of whom I have not seen in about 18 years. Getting ready for the reunion has sparked lots of special memories... this is just one...

A little red compact loaded to the gills, boxes and suitcases precariously stacked, each niche filled with one more thing we could't live without. My almost 15 year old daughter tucked into the front seat beside me, fiddling with the radio, finding only static and finally negotiating a cassette tape from the box at her feet. 

"Not too loud" I made it a suggestion, choosing to ignore the eye roll. We would share a small room for three months and I remember thinking if we didn't establish rules during a 4 hour car ride, the summer was sure to be challenging. I knew it was going to be a challenge regardless. 

For the previous several months she'd been living with her aunt, before that, her dad. My opportunity to work at our church camp for the summer and my invitation for her to join me would provide us a way to try living together again and see if we couldn't make this relationship work. It had been strained since the divorce and that was putting it politely. It was my heart's cry that somehow we forge ahead and build something between us we could honor. 

The job opportunity came on the heels of my recent engagement to the love of my life. We'd been dating for two years and the proposal had happen on a church retreat at the camp. That same weekend I had spied a notice on the camp bulletin board, advertising for summer staff. Working at a church camp, cooking in the vast kitchen appealed to me, so I had taken an application not really sure how that would fit in with any wedding plans I'd be making. With the encouragement of my fiance however, I submitted the application and was delighted when hired. The next step had been to ask my daughter if she would like to come with me for the summer. It was truly an answer to prayer that she'd agreed. 

Tall Timber Ranch is located in the middle of a glacier wilderness area. Bordered by rugged mountain ranges and glacier fed rivers, it had been serving and blessing kids of all ages for several decades. All my previous visits to the camp had been in winter, when snow was often piled to the eaves of the cabins. That year would be both my daughters and mine first visit to it in summertime. We would share a room in one of the lodges, live, work, worship and play in community of other summer staffers, most of whom were college age. 

The first week of orientation and training kept me much too busy to worry about what my girl was up to. Not that there was much cause for worry. Being in the middle of nowhere without any of the worldly distractions, surrounded by some stellar people, it was the perfect place to thrive. 

It wasn't long before she had bonded with several of the college age staff. She helped out in the craft room, volunteered with the primary campers, and celebrated her 15th birthday that summer. She also got to experience being a camper for one week. Some days I barely saw my daughter but I knew she was being loved on, and I breathed thankfulness every day for the quality of people who were impacting her life. She was officially a 'Camp Kid".

The summer flew by, weeks of intense heat, vicious mosquitoes, long days, short nights. Working in the kitchen from early morning till clean up after dinner left me exhausted but grateful for every knot in my aching shoulders. I was part of something bigger than sore muscles or tired feet. Lives were being changed, as some kids met Jesus for the first time, other's experiencing an up close and personal relationship with Him-- something deeper than the flannel-graph Jesus of Sunday School. 

As we approached the end of summer and with a wedding date set for September, I walked with my daughter down to the river. With cool sand beneath us, our toes bracing glacial river flow, I dared to ask what had been surging in my heart for weeks. Did she want to come back home with me? Was she willing to make an effort to be a part of a new family structure? 
Thankful beyond words, I heard her shy answer, "yes." 

The Summer of '96. We met amazing people, people who have stayed in my heart, my memories, and my life forever. Being at Tall Timber with my daughter gave us a place to heal our relationship and grow closer. It was wonderful. Some parents send their kids to summer camp; I took mine with me. 

me with my beautiful girl; she smiles much better now!

 coming next: Summer of '97-- I took my husband to camp!

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Frugal Housewife

Sounds like a great title for a new blog doesn't it? But, nope, no plans to go in that direction any time soon. Its just that I've been working hard the past few weeks to find ways to trim our household budget and guess what? It's paying off!

Life is becoming decidedly different with my husband now working for someone as opposed to being self employed. For one thing, it's a whole different mind-set. He knows all about BUYING construction materials and he is very skilled at turning those materials into beautiful abodes but now he's on the other side of the counter, selling! It's different and challenging and stretching him every day but he is enjoying it. The work environment is a pleasant one, even while fast paced and demanding. All in all he is slowly but surely finding his niche and settling in.

The other very different part is something we've never really had in all the years we've been together: regular paychecks! There is something to be said for knowing exactly how much you will receive every 2 weeks. I can actually build a budget that works! In self employment it was always a roller coaster cash flow. Some months we had just enough, some months there was more than enough. But more often than not, the months were much too lean to support us in a healthy way. It's a huge blessing and large burden lifted to be living a life that has a more of a flat surface as opposed to the roller coaster ride!

As I laid out our budget however, I could see that there were things that needed to be adjusted. No more getting by on 'a wing and a prayer' (although to be clear, prayer will never depart from our life) Now with income clearly defined we could see our overhead needed to be lowered. So, I got busy and started doing my homework.... What could we do without? What could we change?

I began with researching cell phone providers. While totally satisfied with the service we have had for many years, I just wanted to see if I could find another plan that would help trim the budget. After several false leads and one attempt to 'jump ship' I learned my lesson: Cheap does not equal quality. But asking for something can bring positive results. My cell provider made an adjustment on our monthly service plan that lowers our bill by $40 a month. Same excellent service, same excellent cell phone plan.

It pays to ask!

Next, I shopped insurance. I have learned it always saves to bundle home and auto and while I thought that 15 minutes could save me more, I learned that's not always true. I found auto insurance that not only offers me a better coverage package, it's costing me about 40% less! That's another $40 in my pocket. Yeehaw!

It pays to ask!

Feeling encouraged and brave, I decided to tackle our home internet. We seriously considered whether we could live without internet (it was a scary thought, honestly!) but communication via email, and other online services has become so deeply integrated in our lives, it makes it difficult to not have it. Living in a rural area can also limit the services available so it didn't seem there was much of a choice here but after a tip from my neighbor, I called our internet provider.

We've always had internet through our phone line and we had to have a land line in order to have internet. I learned this wasn't true anymore for our area and made the decision to cut the land line out! That's a little scary too because it's good to have a land line in case your cell service goes bonkers but since I've never had any interruption in my cell coverage here at home in all the years we've had it, it seemed a safe risk. So... bye-bye land line.... and hello internet adjustment. Bazinga! I just lowered my internet with a monthly savings of about $25 a month!

It pays to ask!

I already shop bargain foods and thrift/consignment store clothing. We rarely eat out, movies are whatever we can rent from the local library. We heat with wood and we carpool when ever possible.

 I gave up coloring my hair because I just could not afford it and discovered that the frumpy gray strands were looking much more like silver, which, by golly, I think I like!

 I don't know that I can trim much more off the budget but I am thankful for what I've been able to do so far.

When Bruce decided to take this job we talked about the pros and cons of leaving self employment and going to work for someone else. And despite the pros of that steady paycheck, the con was that it does pay less than what he earns when he is self employed. But we knew without a doubt that God had orchestrated this job. And God knows our needs. He knew what the job paid and what our budget said we needed. We had to move forward in faith, believing that God was either going to fill in the gaps or show us ways to get by on less. He's done both in the last several weeks.

We asked God to show us the way and He has. Yes, oh yes indeed, it pays to ask! 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Answered Prayer; A Healing Touch

"God is seldom early, but He is never late" ~
 Terry "Mateo" Mattson

I believe in the power of prayer. I am never reluctant to ask someone to pray for me when I am in need, nor am I likely to withhold a prayer for someone else who needs it.  This morning was one of those times where the need for healing prayer was my desperate request.

 I was singing on the Worship Team at our church this morning and in the middle of rehearsal something awful happened. I couldn't open my mouth all the way without experiencing shooting pain through my jaw! Now, it's a little hard to sing if you can't open your mouth, and I'm not trying to be funny. Some notes require a more mouth action than others and as I continued singing along, I found my jaw stubbornly and painfully refusing to cooperate. This was not good! 

I have had TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) episodes a few times over the years but is has been a long time since it's caused my jaw to lock or refuse to open wider than needed. When rehearsal was done, several of us gathered, as we do every Sunday morning before service, to pray. I made my plea for prayer for myself and explained the reason. My church family quickly gathered around me and prayed specifically for a healing touch, in order that I could sing.  

I didn't feel anything in that moment, nothing to indicate to me that healing had occurred. In fact the pain was still present and my jaw still stubbornly refusing to cooperate. But I was confident. I believed that God could and would take care of this for me. I really felt like I could handle this little painful episode; I just wanted to be able to open my mouth during singing in order to really make the joyful noise I'd been recruited for!  

Our leader for our Worship Team asked me if I was going to be okay and I nodded emphatically and told her I believed God would give me the ability to do what I needed to do, just when I needed it. 

Guess what? HE DID. 

We went into our worship set and I was able to open my mouth, to sing from my heart and there was no pain in my jaw. It cooperated beautifully. 

When we finished singing and I went to find my seat, I experimented a little by forcing some "yawn" action. OOooOh! Pain! And a limited amount of movement. Just as it had happened during rehearsal. 

I was actually somewhat amused that the pain and lack of mobility had departed just long enough to do what had been asked of me that morning. I mean, we did pray specifically for me to be able to sing and sing well and without pain! At the end of the service when we went back up for one last song I grabbed my mic with confidence that I would once again be able to do my part. 

Yep. No problem. 

After church we had potluck and I found it difficult to eat as once again the jaw was being stiff. but I was happy to report to those who had prayed for me that our prayers had been answered! 

As the day went on I did find the pain slowly subsiding and the ability to open my jaw returning.

In my lifetime I have witnessed and experienced God working in our lives.I have learned that He can do things in an instance and He can do things over a period of time. I don't understand it, but I believe that His timing is perfect and there is a reason only He knows as to why things happen the way they do. I don't understand it but I guess that's not my job. My job is to trust.  

(p.s. as an added bonus, this healing prayer episode seems to have also served as a breakthrough in a case of writer's block that's been plaguing me for a few weeks. So, Yay God!! Thank you!!)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Greatest Day In History

*The Greatest Day in History

Death is beaten, You have rescued me

Sing it out, Jesus is alive

The empty cross, the empty grave

Life eternal, You have won the day

Shout it out, Jesus is alive

He's alive

Oh, happy day, happy day

You washed my sin away

Oh, happy day, happy day

I'll never be the same

Forever I am changed

Blessings upon Blessings 
this glorious Resurrection Sunday 2015!