Monday, April 14, 2014

it's a cleaning toilets kind of day

On the eve of my 16th birthday I went on my very first date. It was the high school Tolo, and I had asked the boy I was crushing on to go with me. I wore a long dress and got my hair do-didded up. He gave me a corsage, we went to a fine dining establishment and then the high school cafeteria where the dance was being held. We danced a couple of slow dances but for the most part we sort of hugged the wall and tried to downplay the awkward nervousness between us. I was home by midnight and wrote furiously about it in my journal before finally crashing in a state of bliss.

And the next morning, a Saturday, birthday or not, I was in my old jeans and ratty sweatshirt, dusting shelves and cleaning toilets. And yes, I think there is some significance in that.


the love-burkes are ready to walk n' roll!
So... yesterday I participated in my very first race. Walking, yes, but a race just the same. Timed and competitive and I rose to the challenge. Bruce asked me before we left the house what sort of goal did I have in mind for the day. Because I walk almost every day and the 4 miles we were signed up for had become pretty routine to my daily regime, I was really only interested in doing it in a decent amount of time. Keeping in mind that we'd agreed to do the race together and that Bruce does not walk every day and does not walk as fast as me, I needed to remember to keep my pace compatible to his. Still, I wanted to complete the race in a decent amount of time. I told him I'd like to see us complete it in no more than one hour. We'd been averaging a 4 mile walk together on Sunday mornings, on a road that was uphill both ways, in about 65-70 minutes. Being the Honeywagon run was all on level ground I figured doing it in an hour or less was certainly manageable.

And we did. 59 minutes and 29 seconds. I tried not to smoke my sweetie too bad but it was hard holding back on such a glorious warm day, with a spring in my step to match the season. We walked side by side some of the time, other times I was in the lead and encouraging him to catch up while he suggested short cuts across farmland. (such a kidder that hubby of mine.) We had a lot of fun and every step of the way I was aware that he was doing this for me as much as with me and I cannot tell you how much that gesture meant to me.

peace out baby!

who is this cute guy following me anyway? maybe I should get his number....

Perhaps walking a 4 mile stretch doesn't sound like much to a seasoned walker or runner but I deal almost daily with physical challenges so this was HUGE to me. Accomplishing something that had been buried in the recesses of my heart since I was in my 20's was also huge. (getting a little emotional here, sniff, sniff)

walking hand in hand up to the finish line and then he insisted I cross first. 

This morning was very much like the day after my Tolo. I am still riding high on my goal being met, but the reality of daily life is also needing attention. So here I am in my old jeans and a ratty sweatshirt, dusting shelves and cleaning the toilet.

no prizes awarded for walkers but I did win a pair of socks in a door prize!

I can hear my mothers voice (you probably can hear someone in your past saying this too) reminding me of that old Proverb, "pride goeth before a fall" (which a shortened version of the real verse but you know what I mean, right?) My point is this: I must remember to not get puffed up about things. And cleaning toilets helps me with that.... sort of... :)

Galatians 6.3 says For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 

As I said in a previous post, I am weak. And that is when God steps in. When I admit my dependence on Him, when I say, 'when I am weak, I am strong', when I recognize that His Grace is sufficient for me, that His Power works best in my weakness, then, as Paul says, then I can boast.

For all the pride I feel over yesterdays achievement, (and I do deserve to feel proud of myself for it) I am also reminded as I swish the brush around the toilet bowl, that with my physical challenges and, my emotional frailties, I am NOTHING without Jesus. He is the rock I cling to, my hope, my strength and my song.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ready, Set.... GO!

Tomorrow is the Big Day
The Run for the Honeywagon.
 Bucket List Day. 
Team Burke. 
The LoveBurkes do the honeywagon. 
A 4 mile walk. 
We've got this. 
No problemo! 
Piece of Cake.
And speaking of cake, I just might have some to celebrate after we finish. 
(gluten free of course) 

 Took an obligatory 2 mile around the high school track this morning, just because. I debated on making this a rest day but the muscles really needed to be stretched. And it was such a glorious, beautiful, sunny morning. The birds were trilling, the parking lot was busy with cars; high school kids showing up for some event, cars whizzing by on the highway, and the wind rustling my hair and nipping my ears. 

2 miles around the track, with a chocolate protein smoothie to finish it off!

I woke up with a sense that 
today was a day I really needed to remember all I am thankful for. 
To not let any waves of overwhelmedness, depression, anxiety or worry, get me down. 
As I gazed out my living room window, sipping my morning cuppa, and watching the sky change colors with the breaking of sun through clouds, I just stopped.

THANK YOU.  

Thank you God for your mercies, new every morning. 
Thank you God for your loving kindness. 
Thank you for loving me. 
Thank you for providing for me. 
Thank you for never giving up, even when I feel like doing so. 
Thank you for your strength that carries me when I am weak. 
Thank you for making me weak, so I will learn to depend and  lean on you. 
Thank you for building my faith muscle. 
Thank you for the little pill I take each day
 that helps keep me balanced and sane.  

some days this IS how it feels!!

I do try every day,
 to remember to be thankful for the things one would think we wouldn't be thankful for.
 Like depression. Who would be thankful for that?
 Or financial worries and woes. Who wishes for that in their life? 
For body aches and limitations. Why? 
But we are told repeatedly in scripture to give thanks. 
To praise him.
  Give Thanks in ALL THINGS, for this is the Will of God. 1 Thessalonians 5.18 (emphasis mine) 

some days are just FULL of hurdles!!

Really God? Give thanks for circumstances that aren't pleasant? 
Give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5.20

Give thanks for feeling weak and needy? 
My grace is sufficient for you; My power works best in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12.9 

what a wonderful way to look at it.

Yes. Some days its harder than others for me to remember to be thankful. 
To give thanks.
 And it is on those days that I need it the most.   
Yes, even more than coffee.

even more than coffee, I need to give thanks.


Tomorrow I will bust a move along with my sweetie, knocking out those 4 miles like it's nothing.
 And along the way, I will continue to be giving thanks. 



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

the curse of the dreaded fibro-fog

it was a dark and stormy night.... Oh wait, that's the beginning of a bad novel.This is just a blog post and I don't want it to read like a soap opera turned horror flick. No, this is just your average tale about a modern day woman who occasionally suffers from a malady known as Fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia, for those who may not know, is one of those chronic ailments that are widely misunderstood but had gained much attention in recent years as more and more people become diagnosed with it and doctors scramble to learn the cause and subsequent treatment of it. Fibromyalgia, or FM for abbreviation purposes, is characterized by wide spread pain that does not seem to be related to one specific cause. Its not arthritis, or bursitis, it's not a flu or virus, though when in a fibro-flair up, I often feel like I have the flu... or that I've been run over by a semi.


I was diagnosed with FM about 10 or 12 years ago. Back then there were not many doctors in our neck of the woods who knew what to do with the diagnosis. I saw a specialist for awhile (back in the good old days when we had health insurance) and the most common treatment was putting us on anti-psychotic medication. (Crazy right?) The premise was that it would raise the serotonin levels which would help combat pain. I can't vouch for anyone else but after a horrible trial run with several different med's which made me feel crazy, I said "enough with that!" and decided to go with a more holistic approach. During that time I took a leave of absence from my job (I was driving school bus at the time and calling in sick way too much) and concentrated on trying to find answers to my problem. I was blessed to stumble across a chiropractor who practiced natural techniques.  Within the first couple of treatments I was experiencing less pain than I had in months. I kept up a regime of regular visits to his office, taking supplements and incorporating exercise as much as my body could tolerate. (A few years later when I opened up our Curves for Women's Fitness Center, I was really able to keep up my exercise, and thankfully with a workout that was easy for me to handle. It was a win-win for me.)

this helps keep me going when the going gets really tough. 

Getting adequate sleep is also important but the sleep issue is often trickier to manage as insomnia is one of the trademarks of this debilitating ailment. In addition to insomnia, joint pain and stiffness, there is irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, difficulty swallowing, and cognitive dysfunction. Or, as some of us call it "fibro-fog". (Today for instance, it's taken me most of the day to put together this post, something I usually knock out in a relatively short amount of time.)

A few years ago I made the discovery about my intolerance for gluten. Once I removed gluten from my diet I noticed a dramatic difference as far as inflammation goes. Now, when I do have a flare up, I can usually trace it back to something I ate the day before that was on the No-No list. ( this often occurs after eating out, as I can't control what goes into restaurant prepared food.) Despite the tricks I have learned to help keep this nasty condition at bay, I can't guarantee it wont rear its ugly head and render me useless.

don't bug me. I'm sleeping.

So, it wasn't a dark and stormy night after all. It was a dark and stormy Morning. One of those mornings where it hurts to even open my eyes.  Where it feels like someone poured cement into my joints and its quick setting cement.  Where mass amounts of coffee still wont make the brain fog lift.  On these days it would be better for me to just crawl back in bed and sleep. Or so one would think. But I find sleep just as elusive on these days as I do most nights. And sleep doesn't necessarily relieve the joint pain and stiffness. It's usually better for me to move, painful as it may be. So, this morning, if you saw someone stumbling down the road, with her ass dragging on the heels of her shoes, looking like a zombie... yah, that'd be me.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Advancing for the Kingdom (part 2)


We retreated so we could advance.

Our overnight retreat was truly a time for connecting. Connecting with one another as a small group. Connecting with ourselves as we pulled away, just for a few hours, from the hustle-bustle of our busy lives. Connecting with God in an intimate, unhurried way. 


Saturday Morning found me out on a new road for my morning walk. I have driven this road any number of times but it takes on a much different flavor when you walk it. I had a couple of hours to myself before we would gather again as a group for our next session and I made the most of it. As I marched along, breathing in the unmistakable aroma of  "Dairy Air", I couldn't help grinning. 



I had slept deep the night before, which is unusual for me on any night, and especially so in a strange bed. But I was filled with a deep sense of peace and joy stemming from the time of prayer the night before and the joy that was carrying me down that country road that morning almost had me running. 


Because I am no stranger to those times of dryness in my prayer life, I know that it is never God who moves away from me. No, it is I who move. I go in my own direction and do my own thing and it isn't long before the Voice of the Holy Spirit gets muted in favor of my own voice, or the voice of the world. 

Later that day I will share with the group how God moved in me during our Friday night prayer time, and I know they will rejoice with me but for right now, I am tackling hills and valleys on this country road, thrilling at the clouds and tree blossoms and cheerful daffodils blooming in random places. 



We Retreated So We Could Advance (part 1)

The Time: this past weekend.
The Place: Cedar Springs Christian Retreat Center
The Reason: a prayer and planning session for our church.
The People: a small group of leaders from our church family.



Setting the Scene
Friday Night. We've picked our rooms for the night, gotten settled in and enjoyed a tasty hot meal together, and have now circled the wagons in the living room of the cozy A-frame cabin we've rented for the weekend. A fire crackles in the hearth of the massive fireplace, a fresh pot of aromatic coffee brews in the kitchen and the bowl of trail mix and chocolate circulates the room. Soft praise music plays in the background and our view from the window offers us entertainment as squirrels scamper across the lawn and further out a small pond is busy with the flurry of geese claiming territory. We wait expectantly for our leader, our pastor, to set the tone for this evenings discussion.

We are 4 couples who serve in various capacities of leadership in our church. We now gather at least quarterly for planning and prayer, encouragement and accountability, to each other and to the people we serve. This is our first overnight together and it will allow us an extended time of fellowship and relaxation as we review where we've been and look ahead to our future. I think we are all curious as to what this weekend really holds in store for us.

Our evening session is productive. We listen to an audio clip from an Andy Stanley program, about how we spend our time. It is both convicting and encouraging. We spend some time discussing this as a group and then paired up with our spouse, in the privacy of our rooms, spend time praying. We come back together a little while later, as a group, to move into a time of intentional, focused prayer.

I find myself feeling irritated and know instinctively that at some point this evening I've put my walls up. I do this when I am nervous, or worried about being vulnerable. I do this when my security feels threatened, even in the smallest measure. When I think someone or something might shake what little control I have, out of my hands, I tend to grip it even tighter. And it seldom ever really works. For I know there is very little that I truly have control over. Especially when I try to live my life centered in Gods Will. Those times when I determine to do my own thing, follow my own will instead of the One whom I gave my heart and soul to, are the times that the control I think I own, becomes even more slippery. Life always goes better when I allow His Will and His Control to rule and I just line up with it and rest in in.

But for the past little while, I've been slowly slipping back into old habits, unhealthy thought practices, and the outcome has become a hardening heart. It doesn't feel tender, but it does feel fragile. Hard hearts can shatter but a soft heart can bounce. I am lost in my thoughts and ticking off my list of grumbles and complaints instead of listening, really listening and praying along with, my brothers and sisters gathered here this warm spring evening.

As our prayer time continues, I shake myself mentally. I want to be a conscious part of this time together, not just a huddle on the couch lost in my own agenda. I struggle to shake the negative thoughts away, to push down the irritations, in favor of tuning in to the prayer warrior who is now fervently calling to God.

I hear him pray to bind the enemy. That those Satan would lay hold of to trick and distract, would be rendered powerless. In an instant I know this prayer is for me. I am one of those whom the enemy wishes to bring down. He's done it before and will gleefully do it again.

Is doing it.

For I have been struggling to keep my head above water, spiritually speaking, for weeks now. My prayer life has been full of fits and starts. I'll try to pray and just sputter. My worship time has felt forced and empty. My bible reading has felt automatic, not real. I've not been fully engaged and it's evident. I feel it. I see it.

As my brother in Christ continues to pray, he has no idea that one of the people he prays freedom for, is sitting right across the room from him. That's ok. I know it. God knows it. My husband must sense it for when we were alone together in our room I told him I felt like I sucked at prayer right now. He's heard this from me a time or two and he never panics. He just nods with patience because he's experienced it himself-- as I am thinking we all do from time to time-- and he knows this will pass. But when you are the one in the doldrums, it can feel scary and icky.

The prayers continue and again this man asks-- no, commands-- that Satan leave God's chosen alone. I feel something hot and brief flash across my heart and immediately, feel a release. It is quick and it is subtle but it is real. A warmth begins to seep throughout my body and the tension that has filled my joints begins to melt away, the walls around my heart come crashing down. Prayers begin to tumble from my lips. Silent prayers, filled with heart.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Do They See Jesus?

I love coming home on a dark winter's night and seeing the lights shining from inside the house. That warm yellow glow spilling out from the windows, makes me feel welcome and brings me comfort. Who doesn't appreciate a sight like that?

my house is waiting for me.

I can tell you who. Someone who has evil intent. Someone who maybe has been casing your house, watching and waiting for darkness so they won't be seen. They have plans to break in and steal your stuff. Thoughts like that don't feel very good, do they? On the occasions I have come home to a dark empty house it definitely feels different. Its kind of scary and intimidating. I much prefer the light!

google images
Most of the people in my life, that I spend time with, are followers of Jesus Christ, like myself. I love what happens when our living room is full of my friends and we are talking about matters of faith and God and such. The whole room feels warm and soothing, yet exciting at the same time. We can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and it both unites us and inspires us. It is a beautiful wonderful feeling.

I think we are automatically drawn to other believers. Ever start a casual conversation with a stranger and feel right away that your connecting? You find yourself nodding your head and maybe even wishing to engage in more conversation, and though it might just be the person behind you in the grocery line and the talking won't continue passed the checkstand, you'll walk away feeling lighter. I like to think that this happens because I have just encountered a kindred spirit and I would even venture to say they might have the Spirit of Christ in them.

Now, on the flip side of that, I have also encountered people who immediately make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! My senses cry "stranger danger!" and I automatically step back, even if it's just inwardly. We can sense something about that person that doesn't feel safe and so we distance ourselves for protection. I might be more sensitive to this than others but I think you all know what I'm talking about.

But, let's flip it again and look at it from the other persons perspective. The pleasant encounter you just had with stranger #1 was probably just as enjoyable for them. Again, that kindred spirit coming out. And I'm gonna guess that for stranger #2, if they are indeed someone to be wary of, and you are a follower of Jesus, they might be finding their hackles raised. That is to say, their spirit senses your spirit-- which is really the Holy Spirit, who dwells in each of us, and they don't like it!

My husband loves to get involved with service projects in our community. Whether it's building a wheelchair ramp for a person in need, or a school bus stop for neighborhood kids, he wants to jump in and lend a hand. And then of course, there are the mission trips overseas. We have taken some flack for our willingness to make sacrifices and get involved. People who don't understand how Bruce would give up his paycheck (which we struggle for every month!) in exchange for a day or week of service with no pay. They criticize because they don't understand. A few times we have actually come up against such a contentious spirit  that we have retreated quickly, feeling like we've been scalded by their hostility.

This has brought about some interesting conversations for my sweetie and me. My first inclination when meeting someone who treats me with an attitude of dismissal, is to think I've done something to offend them, or they don't like me and somehow it is my fault. But as God has worked on my identity and built up my self esteem, I have come to realize and really believe, that how others perceive me does not define me. I also think now that those times I have interacted with unpleasant (ie: rude, obnoxious, angry, dismissive, hostile)
people, it's not me they are reacting to but Jesus living in me. They see my light and they don't want anything to do with it. To be in the light might reveal  things they wish to remain in the darkness.

The bible tells us that "men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." (John 3.19) Being around Jesus sure stirred up the people in His time, didn't it? Those who did not choose to follow him what did they do? Well, ultimately they crucified him.  And the people today, who want nothing to do with the Son of God, are still just as reactive. They are repelled by the Spirit of Christ.

What can we do to change that? I don't know if I actually can do anything. Only Christ can do that. But I do think that if I allow my Light to shine bright, perhaps, someday that Light will draw them in. And instead of being afraid of being in the light, instead of fearing being exposed, they will see that Light for what it truly is: Life-saving, Life-giving.


This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!

google images

Saturday, March 29, 2014

It's Saturday, It's Raining and I Have Questions.

what can I say about a rainy Saturday? Glad to be inside by the fire with book and blanket. Got the walk out out of the way earlier when it looked like it might actually be a decent day, so that's done. Been averaging 3-4 mile walks 5-6 days a week but had a couple set backs this week. Feeling puny; my body likes to betray me every now and again.

There are days, such as today, when I ask myself who am I racing? I keep trying to increase my pace, applauding myself when my walk app gives me my time and it's better than the day before.  But these child-bearing hips, these creaky-cranky ankles and the feet with slipping arches, are only gonna plod so fast. I see some slight increase in my speed and ability to hold that pace for longer portions of time but again, I have to ask myself, where's this competitive spirit coming from? My sweetie asked me that same question. Why do I feel the need to walk faster than I do right now? I could only shrug and say "I just want to keep improving."

I am at my goal weight and have successfully maintained it for 7 months, and that includes some major holidays! Yet, I think about dropping "just 5 more pounds". I can walk a mile in under 14 minutes on a good day yet I keep thinking "Can I do it in 12?" I love walking and I know how much it has benefited me yet when I walk, in my heart I'm running. I still dream about running a 5K if you want to know the truth.

I was cleaning my closet, moving winter clothes to the back and bringing forward the spring and summer wardrobe, discarding things that are worn out, or the wrong size. Making a mental list of what I need to replace and what would look snazzy with that cardigan and I stop and look, really look, at the pile of clothes I own and have to ask "isn't that enough? Do I really need another.... shirt/pants/sweater?

Where does it end? How much does it take to be satisfied? 


I am part of the human race known as Consumer. If I am being completely transparent, I will tell you I have a selfish streak a mile wide. I wrestle with letting go of my best stuff, in favor of giving just what I don't want or need. The materialistic side of me wins more often than I like to admit.

I comfort this truth with the other truth, that I am a giving, compassionate person, motivated by the Holy Spirit to do what is right and loving and good. I know I have good-- no, GREAT,  qualities. And most of the time, I like to think that the good qualities outshine the bad.

So, here I am wrestling with two different areas: the dissatisfied me and the selfish me.

In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote: I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Philippians 4.12) 

Earlier in the letter he tells them, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.(Phil. 2)

I don't think it's wrong of me to want to work on improving myself health wise. I don't think it's wrong to want to dress or look nice. What does bother me however, is the attitude behind those things. Am I doing it for my health and well-being or is there some other motivating factor at work? When I want just a little bit more than what I already have, when I want to hang on to my possessions is that an indication that my heart needs some adjustments?

Good questions to ponder on this rainy Saturday afternoon.



Thursday, March 20, 2014

He Said "Yes"

I love it when things come together. When a plan I hatch, crazy as it may seem, doesn't scramble like eggs but rather sets up nicely, like pudding. And I do love to plan things. Much as I am a 'fly by the seat of my pants' girl, I also pay attention to details and plot out the arrangements for weeks in advance. But those impulsive last minute decisions are just plain fun. Dangerous perhaps, but FUN!

I think I've shared a bit about how the Love-Burkes came to be, but you know it's almost spring time when the memories and pictures start making their annual appearance! Our first date was on March 20, 1994-- 20 years ago this year!!- which is also the first day of Spring! I love that our love story coincides with the arrival of a new season... as the buds are busting out on the trees and blooms appear, so it was with the friendship between us that quickly progressed to love.

What you may not know is that I'm the one who asked him out. I'd been so stand-offish in the past several encounters we'd had, kind of leaving him with Freezer Burn, so when I suddenly began to thaw-- even melt, he was, not surprisingly, a wee bit suspicious and perhaps gun shy of thinking we might possible move into a relationship. I dropped some subtle hints that might prod him into asking me out but when that didn't seem to be yielding the results I wanted, I finally had to just get bold and do the asking.

You will laugh at this, but I actually scripted out what I was going to say once I got him on the phone. I wanted the conversation to be causal and non-threatening, just a "hey I was thinking of going to the movies this weekend, you wanna tag along" sort of invite. So, I wrote it out, a couple of different ways, then pacing the hallway of my home, I practiced. When I thought I finally had it down I dialed his number quickly before I lost my nerve. I pitched my invitation in an airy, off handed way... "So... after that discussion we had about the movie Schindler's List, I decided I'm going to go see it on Sunday. I wondered if maybe you'd like to go along?"


April 1994, after we'd been dating for about a month
There was a silence on his end, for probably a second or two, but from my perspective it was a LONG silence. I have since learned so much about my man, that I can now picture exactly the look on his face and hear the wheels turning in his head as he processed this seemingly out of the blue request.

Then, mercifully, he said yes.

And, the rest, as they say,  is history.