Friday, November 13, 2015

For What It's Worth

It's rainy and windy here in the mountains this morning and I'm up too early but I do love the first hours of the day to begin with quiet.

So many people and their troubles weighing heavy. It may be holiday time, but these are not Norman Rockwell days for everyone. On my prayer list:

a friend who had her heart broken by a church and it's leaders
a friend who is struggling to salvage her broken marriage
a family and church who lost a young wife/mother/daughter/friend/pastor's wife in a senseless, "random" shooting in her home
a friend who is approaching her entrance into heaven slowly, day by pain-filled day and her family, dreading the impending loss and daily suffering

It's the season of Thanksgiving. Finally, something politically correct for everyone - to give thanks. I see many daily posts of gratitude on my social media. It is good to share these reminders of blessings that we enjoy. An excellent exercise for not just November but all year long.

Since reading Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts several years ago, I continue to keep my own record everyday. A list of all the ways God shows His love to me. I have found this to be life-changing. It tends to prevent me from my natural inclination to complain and grumble.

I'm also a big fan of spiritual disciplines, engaging in different practices for specific purposes, especially at holiday time. So as November approached this year I was eager for something to do to make my worship go deeper still.

A good friend sent me a link to an idea and invited me to join her. You can look at it here.
It is a 30 day Scripture writing plan. Of course, we all know we retain more information when we actually write it down, taking reading or hearing a step further. I have written a lot of Scripture through various Bible studies in my life and I absolutely know the deeper value. Yes! I was in!  Seriously, is there anything more wonderful than a blank book and a new pen?
Each morning as I write the suggested passages, I'm amazed at how God's Word speaks. Wild things happen. Prayers form for myself and more importantly, for the others who are on my mind (specifically those mentioned above).

It's thrilling to see repetitive words and themes emerge, especially those filled with promises for Christ-followers and the attributes of God that benefit us. I can't stop thanking Him. My heart loves God more and I'm eager to get up the next day and read what's next.

I know we are half way to Thanksgiving, but it's not too late to join me. I can't recommend this enough. Maybe you are struggling this year and not feeling much like celebrating or giving thanks because what you've got is not what you want. All the more reason to invite God in. Or maybe, like me, you need a little more than just a list of the good things in your life.

Whatever your situation, print this chart off or choose any Scriptures and start writing them down. A little bit each day and watch what happens.

Oh, and before I let you go... if you've read this blog for more than a year, you know that one of my favorite times of the year is coming, Advent.* Now is the time to start preparing for that too. (More to come on this.) You don't want it to sneak up on you.
These came in the mail the other day. I can't wait to dive in. December 1st won't come soon enough.

And yes, that is a tree up already, but it's not a Christmas tree. Notice the brown theme. Very November. Very Thanksgiving. No harm. No foul.

*If you would like to read more about Advent and why I love it so, just scroll through my late November/early December posts for the last few years.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Today is Halloween. The day to celebrate masquerading. We don't use that fancy word very much so since I am a word nerd, I looked it up for us. You're welcome in advance.

Meaning: "false outward show; fa├žade; pretense: a hypocrite's masquerade of virtue."*

Well, that's kind of negative. To be honest I'm not very interested in Halloween without kids in the house. I always enjoyed dressing my three up in cute costumes, going to their school and watching them parade around the property with their classmates and then eat a good portion of the loot they would come home with after trick-or-treating. But with them not here it feels like just any other day.

Unless of course, you consider that tomorrow starts the two most wonderful months of the year in my opinion. Now it's an "eve". The Most Wonderful Time of the Year Eve? It's got a pretty awesome ring to it, don't you think?

That's not really what's at the forefront of my mind today. After waking too early on my day off again, I've enjoyed sitting in my red chair praying. I'm aware of many friends and others who are hurting, whose lives have come to a rough patch.

I've received some messages asking me to pray. One is from a man who's been married for thirty years and headed to a courtroom to end it. Heartbreaking.

The family unit is so important to God. It's a gift to us and ours should model His. He is our Father and loves us with a wild love. This love is unexplainable because we simply don't deserve it. But He lavishes His love anyway - because He is love.

God's greatest expression of love came through His Son Jesus. He gave His most prized possession as a sacrifice for us to make a way for us to enter His family. Maybe like me, you've allowed the wonder of that to fade a little.

I think all of us long for that kind of love and inclusion in a family setting more than anything else. We want to be understood, cared for, protected, provided for and adored. In Christ, all that is abundantly available. We are just one surrender from receiving it and never losing it.

When I consider the family God has given me, I marvel. He gave me a man who is faithful and loving, not to mention patient and fun. I did nothing to deserve that gift. If the truth be told, I did everything to prove I didn't deserve it. But that's not how love and gifts work with God and I am forever grateful. If Scott wasn't blessing enough, God expanded our family and gave me three children here on Earth and two in heaven I plan to meet one day.

These kids. Not every day of the last twenty three plus years has been a picnic and they weren't charming every minute, believe me. (Nor was I as the mom.) They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. In this case, for me at least, it's true. All three have flown out of our nest and don't live here day in and day out anymore. Yet my heart seems to be growing in deeper love for each of them. When I do get to be near them, it's pure joy.

Just last week I got to "see" all of them. One in person and the others on a screen. (I'm a big fan of modern technology that makes this possible.) Looking at their smiles just does something for me. The very best is when every personality is in the same room. Family.
She's the queen of selfies and yikes, I look tired.

As I consider this GIANT, ever increasing love I feel for each of them, how can I not marvel at God's love for me? He is a much better parent than I'll ever dream of being. All love started with Him and He heaps it on us. It's huge. We get to be a part of this family! Don't let that get lost on you.

So this couple who is allowing their family to disintegrate, somewhere along the way one or both lost sight of the gift and began a masquerade. You can't be in church and community with others for the thirty years of marriage, no one suspecting how far away from each other you've drifted, and then suddenly one day reveal it's over, without having been putting on a facade for awhile. Too many times I've seen this and when suggesting solutions have been told "it's too late". The masks finally come off. But is it really too late? Couldn't we all just promise to get help right from the beginning? Fight for our marriages instead of against each other?

What I'd like to say to this struggling couple is this. "You've walked with God a long time. You know His Word and the principles therein that are expected of you if you belong to Him. Are you living it? Treat one another the way God expects you to in each of your roles. Husband, if you love your wife with the self-sacrificing, generous, kind love that Jesus loves His bride (us) with, your wife would never turn her gaze from you. Wife, if you respect your husband and be his helper, his champion, always encouraging, building up and believing in him, his gaze will never leave you."

Sounds simplistic, I know (see note at end of post). Marriage is complicated and can be difficult at times. I'm not minimizing that. It's true in all relationships. But I honestly believe that if two Holy Spirit-filled believers are both seeking to become Christlike above all else, above all else, and making every decision based on that desire, our relationships can be mended, redeemed, resuscitated. Parents and children, siblings, friends.

This is where God really shines. Redemption. Making the broken whole. Repairing destruction. Healing wounds.

Our job: live according to His Word. 
His job: everything else. 

So on this Most Wonderful Time of the Year Eve when love and family will be highlighted and celebrated, don't despair if you are lacking in this area.

1. Know that God is your Father if you have received the truth and gift of His Son, Jesus. Your loving, generous, forgiving, patient Father. Let that settle on you.
2. Entering into His family is the best decision, full of eternity-long benefits and responsibilities, you'll ever make.
3. He can make all things new. You. Your troubled relationship. Your family. Everything.

Invite Him? Do the hard work of obedience. Give up your rights. Seek to be Christ-like in every area. Love your people the way God loves you - with their best interest as priority. 

Then watch God breathe new life into your marriage, your relationship, your family. Do as much as God requires of you and trust Him for the rest.

No more masquerading. There's no shame in honestly living as broken children made whole by their Father. This is who we are. Embrace it and let it give hope to everyone you know. If at all possible, don't give up on family.

**If you are in an abusive relationship, this post is not for you. Please get safe and then get Godly counsel right away. If your marriage already ended, this post is not to assign blame or shame. The past is the past and there's no condemnation here. You are loved.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Conversation With Myself

Nothing like packing up all your belongings and moving to a new location to make you evaluate your life. Last week, after four months living out of a suitcase and in small accommodations, Scott and I have finally moved into our home here at Camp of the Woods.

Just to be clear from this point forward, anything I write will NOT be a complaint. No one wanted to move and start over more than I. My heart is happy and filled with gratitude.

But friends, moving is hard (insert whining). Oh my back, my feet! Not to mention my emotions. Just under four years ago we engaged in what I then referred to as the big move because we packed up our home of fourteen years. At that time, Drew was home from college and at my side as my lovely assistant while Scott finished one job and started another. Ben and Ally were in school.

In case I've never said it here, Drew is a good son. He's the only person on the planet I know who never complains, about anything! I have no idea where he got it from. Oh wait, maybe his Dad. Come to think of it, Ben doesn't complain much either. (Burtis women need some help in this area.)

Anyway, between he and I, we moved twenty one years of life ninety minutes down the road and had it unpacked and settled in less than three days. I would empty boxes and throw them down the stairs. The kid made all the boxes and packing material disappear while I decorated for Christmas. Don't judge me - we moved on December 16, I had no choice! It ain't easy being Type A. It ain't easy being the child of one either. He does it well. For being Scott's clone, he does seem to have a little of me in him. I know, you'll pray for him.

This time around, it was just me and Scott. Same scenario except now we are both juggling jobs and have no slaves, I mean kids here to do all the things we don't want to do, I mean help us. Ahem. The empty nest is great for some things, not so much for others.

I'd like to tell you it was smooth sailing, but in my heart there was a war going on. Believing by faith for the past year that God would be moving us upon Ally's graduation, I was weeding out unnecessary items for months. You know, the things that don't need to follow us to our next place. I thought I was making a significant dent. Well, as I saw the boxes pile up and the space on the trucks (yes, plural - don't get me started - I'm not even going to tell you we also filled two vans, a trailer and Scott has to go back for one more trip) shrink, I grew more and more agitated. What are we doing with all this stuff?

I may or may not have even muttered, "You know the kids are just going to throw all this out when we die anyway, what are we keeping it for?" I was near meltdown stage for two days, the day we packed the trucks and the day we unpacked them.

I may or may not have wailed things like, "Why do we have all these clothes?" or "Where did we get all these reusable bags? and hangers?" or "Are we ever going to drink out of all these mugs?" or "Who is going to read all these books?" "Under no circumstances are you to allow me to buy another throw blanket or pair of colored tights!" and the biggie... "I declare NO ONE is getting clothes for Christmas this year! Not one item! Not even Christmas jammies!" It's bad here, folks.

In an effort to feel better, I left a pile of garbage at the place we left and I created a whole new one upon arrival (significantly bigger!).
Don't tell Scott, he'll never know what he's missing. I even donated 55 books from my own personal library. That's big!

As good as that purge felt, even it didn't make the problem go away.

I inherently knew it was time to take a step back from my life and evaluate its course. I needed to have a conversation with myself. I don't want to be tied down by stuff. But I love my things. But I don't need all this. But I want it all (...and more if I'm brutally honest). See the war?

Ultimately, I do want to live leaner physically, materially, and spiritually so I can serve the Lord without distraction. Kind of like what the writer of Hebrews suggests in 12:1

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

Speaking of a great cloud of witnesses, very recently, in an effort to learn the history of Camp of the Woods, I read a document written by the founder called "Pop Tibbitts' Personal Resolve" formulated in 1907.

I was quite moved by it and sought permission to share it here. This text motivates me to live a more well-ordered and purposeful second half of my life. I hope after you read it, you are inspired too.
I love that it was written in 1907 and yet is timeless and valuable to all generations. See for yourself.

"Whereas my earthly career must be but a few short years and realizing the necessity of a zealous, concentrated and intelligent service for my Maker:

1.  That with God’s help I will live a true life, with one supreme ambition, namely, to do His will and spend my life in unselfish endeavor to present the Gospel of salvation to mankind.

2.  That I will live a quiet, restful life, not anxious nor restless, knowing that “it is not by might nor by power, but by My spirit” that victory and success is won.

3.  That I shall spend a portion of every day in devotional Bible study and communion with Him.

4.  That I will abide in Him so that His presence and power may be revealed through me. 

5.  That my vision of the work and its need shall be as broad as humanity and the redeeming power of Jesus Christ. 

6.  That I shall be stable in my belief, tactful, a living sacrifice, but not fanatical.

7.  That my ambition will not be greater than my judgment in caring for my body, so that I will be able to do the work to which He assigns me.  That I will live, at stated periods, close to nature that my body may be re-created and my soul refreshed.

8.  That I shall endeavor to introduce at least one person to Jesus Christ each day and teach that one to know Him as a personal Savior.  Where a conversation is either inadvisable or impossible, other means to the same end shall be employed, such as tracts and other religious literature.

9.  That I will prize every individual, making no difference as to condition, education or position, knowing that the soul is of more value than the whole world, and that Jesus Christ came to save every sinner, “not willing that any should perish.”

10.  That I shall have true sympathy and compassion for all men, patient with those who are thoughtless, ungrateful and critical; and ever seek to do for others as I believe Christ would do for them and for me.

11.  That I will rely completely upon the Holy Spirit for guidance, instruction and power for service. 

12.  That these simple fundamentals shall be read at least once each week to the end that I may be “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” 

See what I mean? That's good stuff! I highlighted phrases that could use attention in my life. Yes, I know it's nearly all of them. I plan to take some time these next weeks as we head toward a new calendar year, to consider these and possibly create my own Personal Resolve, then endeavor to live it with gusto. I have a feeling I may be stealing some of Pop Tibbits' ideas.

In the meantime, we are almost all unpacked. Nothing left to do but decorate for Christmas.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Happy Last Day of September

Is it really only Wednesday? Feels like Friday to me. We've been going, going, going for a while now and I'm feeling a little whipped in an I'm-so-happy-I'm-annoying-kind-of-way.

Today the staff was treated to a lunch cruise on Racquette Lake as a thank you for a hard-working summer. Figures this would be the day it rained and was cloudy all day, but still, the Adirondacks in September are gorgeous.

This was our vessel.
The food and company was terrific.
And need I say more about the scenery? Breathtaking.

We were back in Speculator by about 3pm and were given the rest of the day off. This is where I headed. I'm a little ashamed to say it's taken me a month since coming here on full time staff to come here (look, it's getting bigger!)....

and get one of these, but today is the day!
You'll never guess what I found around a corner....I may or may not have jumped up and down inside. Inside my head, not inside the room.
For all the years we have camped in the Adirondacks, I've always taken note of the books in gift shops written about its history, geography and biographies telling the old stories. I've never read one, but late in the summer declared a new now-that-we-live-in-the-mountains empty nest goal to begin reading these books.

And here they are!  In the Adirondack Room of the Lake Pleasant Public Library no less. Have I died and gone to heaven? Not really, but I certainly have found a new happy place. This should keep me busy all winter. For a few winters most likely.

We had a blast last weekend with my NSBC ladies here at Camp of the Woods. It felt like we had invited them all to our place for a few days. Waiting on them and serving them was an absolute pleasure. It was so wonderful to hug, kiss and catch up with as many as I could spend time with. Some of them even gave me gifts. They know me. I am thankful for longtime friends who give the gift of understanding.

My favorite thing was hearing over and over again, "It's good to see you and Scott so happy." And the way they hugged him and fussed over him was the best.

Friday night I was ready to turn in by 10:45pm (late for me). As I started walking back toward where we live Scott zoomed up, tossed me a set of golf cart keys and said, "Let's go! The 300 Spanish ladies just arrived." Yep, twice in one month.

For the next hour and a half or so Scott, our buddy Paul and I carted these women and their luggage all over camp. For these NYC ladies, it was not only disorienting to arrive in the dark but very cold too. They didn't bring warm enough clothes for our mountain nights and mornings. I especially enjoyed the way they packed like sardines into my cart and when I asked, "Where am I taking you ladies?", they just smiled. No Ingles (accent over e). Woohoo!

The rest of the weekend was a blur, a very happy blur.

However, I was able to sit in on the last two sessions with a special missionary speaker. A few of the things she taught are still rattling around in my head and heart.

In regard to the humility Paul teaches us to emulate in Philippians:

Do nothing out of 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.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature
of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself
and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!  2:5-8*

Jesus became likes those beneath Him. To serve them. With no regard for His obvious high standing. We should do likewise. Do I ever do that?

She later asked this question, "Are you willing to follow Jesus anywhere? Into unpleasant circumstances? Into loneliness?"

Jesus walked a lonely road. He started out with multitudes, then tightened His circle to less and less until He had 12, then 3 and then it was just He and God, His Father.

He taught and led us by example. We don't need to be afraid of where He may invite or require us to go. Even unpleasant circumstances. Even loneliness.

Just like God was always with Jesus, they both along with the Holy Spirit, will be with us.

Don't be afraid. If you are in a relationship with God, you will never be alone. It's a promise you can count on.

*bold mine 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fall is Here

Well, good morning! Today, Timberline, the coffee shop I ate in last week on my morning off (Adirondack latte to jog your memory), is closed but Common Grounds, my favorite is open. Go figure! I hope I learn this rhythm soon. I guess as long as one of them is open I'll survive.

Anyway, as you know, the First Day of Fall has come which seems to be most everyone's favorite season. I've even been known to declare it the 'First Day of the Most Wonderful Time of the Year'. Because it is. From now until about mid-February, every day is delightful.

I'm pleased to disclose that decorating the lobby here at Camp falls into my job description. I can hardly stand it. If ever there was a doubt that God prepared a place for us and called us here (which there isn't), this fact would dispel that notion.

Because we are in this together (aka #emptynestadventure) Scott and I grabbed a van and drove south until we found a farm stand. There are not many farm stands in the Adirondacks.

Maybe a larger vehicle would have been prudent.
We crammed mums and pumpkins into every nook and cranny.
Conversation on the way back was limited.  And our arms were scratchy. He didn't complain at all. This man is a good sport.
The next day things started lining up nicely....
And before you know it....

It all came together.

Just a little aside for those of you who see lights and think Christmas....I am a firm believer that white lights in the Adirondacks are accepted year round. Accepted and expected. Can I get an amen?!
All done! Well, until I move my stuff up here and unpack some more goodies.

I was eager to get this done by mid-week because today is a BIG day. We are expecting more than 500 ladies this weekend and 107 of them are very special to me. The NSBC group will be arriving. Our beloved church of 17 years. The women I lived life, served God, and raised kids with will be here. I am so excited. Scott, formerly known as Mr. MOPS and later Mr. Women's Ministry, is too.

Just like old times, he and I get to serve these ladies every day they are here. Well, let's be honest, Scott will do most of the work while I sit with these favorites and talk, talk, talk. I'm sure there will be many pics to come.

For all those asking, and there have been many, yes the leaves are starting to change. 

 In other big news at camp. Ok maybe that's a slight exaggeration.  I took this picture the other night. I showed it to our marketing guy, Brandon, who promptly put it up on the Camp of the Woods Facebook page. The next day he told me it's the most popular picture ever posted! Over 900 likes and 100+shares.

When God shows off people dig it!

It really was spectacular. You should come for a visit. Rest is a requirement here.

Come to me (Jesus), all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take 
my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you 
will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  
Matthew 11:28-30

Rest is important, my friends, it restores the soul. I pray you enjoy some this weekend.