If you took the 600 million orphans and at-risk children in the world and had them hold hands, they would circle the globe 18 times. The need is enormous.
If you took the 600 million orphans and at-risk children in the world and had them hold hands, they would circle the globe 18 times. The need is enormous.
Umm, well…expecting grandgoslings that is.
The Geese have Landed
Winter has come and gone and our resident pair of Canada Geese have finally returned. We’ve come to realize that this is a true gift from God (one that money can’t buy), as this year, she has made her nest a mere 20 feet from our living room window. Our family and guests get the awesome privilege of watching this returning goose “up close and personal” for the next 28 days as she patiently sits on what appears to be 5 eggs (actual number may vary as the eggs were counted from the tower deck during her 15 minute daily feeding break). Meanwhile, her mate patrols the grounds claiming his territory and defending her and their soon-to-be babies from any threat. We are thoroughly enjoying watching the daily routine of these lifemates.
Here’s a quick recap of some winter highlights before we completely move into Spring:
Sips and a Snowman… 2 bits!
Here for her second visit to Talus Rock Retreat, Guest Tanya Mack and I gleam happily amidst the remnants of a fast and furious snowfall followed by an even quicker melt. It seemed like a January Spring here in North Idaho. The Mack and D’Eloia families get full credit for making the snowman (one family began it and the other family finished it.) This was a true build – no tractors or blades were involved in the making of it and, considering the size of the snowballs, that’s quite a feat!
Sips and Nibbles
Speaking of melt, oh how we savored the melt-in-mouth nibbles enjoyed during our New Year’s celebration that included all family and Talus Rock Retreat guests. Tanya Mack’s friend and lodging guest, Anne D’Eloia, Account Executive for television Food Network and the Cooking Channel, are pictured below with Talus Rock friend, Elizabeth. Anne whipped up a “Sips and Nibbles” Night.
Foodies were frothing over the lamb sliders with Tzaziki, divine pork tenderloins with fennel and lemon, fabulous seafood fettucine with a deep yellow alfredo sauce, and rich tornadoes of beef with horseradish. We sat around a camp fire then stomped out to the far meadow where Bruce (a trained volunteer firefighter for Westside Fire District) lit a beacon-of-bright-light bonfire to bid the old year farewell and guide in the New Year. Champagne and wine flowed until late, accompanied by sumptuous chocolate-dipped strawberries. Oh, what a night!
Selkirk’s Six-Wheeler Slowly Sinks
Ah, the disconnected brains of 14-year-olds never cease to amaze us. Believing that his amphibious “duck” (as we call it, since it’s a 6-wheeler that operates on both land and water) was supposed to float, our son Selkirk and his buddy, Lane Rasmussen, decided to try it on thin ice. This is when two half brains don’t make a whole! Too late in determining that a few of vital boat plugs were missing, they were fortunately able to get the sinking machine to dry land before finding themselves in icy water. It’s a good thing this pond is only 4 feet deep! Loose plugs sink ships, boys!
Kids Creating Comfort Food in the Kitchen
We all know that winter brings the nesting desire to make delicious baked desserts in the kitchen with rounds of hot chocolate while the snow falls and the fire crackles. Daughter Rio, her cousin (Darby Pierce), and 2 girlfriends (Aubrey Perry and Michelle Rockwell) spied a delicious Pinterest recipe called “Apple Pie in an Apple”. The name says it all: Four oversized tart apples were stuffed with cinnamon and sugar diced apple bits, then topped with a home-made draped lattice crust. Of course, leftovers were scarce, and I could only dream of what they might have tasted like as girls and guests took priority of the spoils. But, alas, sometimes it’s apple pie and sometimes it’s dirty baking pans when it comes to being the mother of a teenager.
Never a dull moment as childhood (and unplugging parents) peeled our kids away from screens and video games and forced them outside. Building ski jumps and skijoring around the arena, using both a horse and an ATV (on different occasions of course), made for both a great show from Talus Rock Retreat windows and an exhilarating all-afternoon winter activity.
Rio’s Buttons for Bangkok
Our 17-year-old son, Kipling, and I will be leaving in early May for a 35 day trip to India, Thailand and the Philippines while Bruce and Stephanie hold down the Talus Rock Retreat fort. On behalf of International Children’s Network, we will be updating sponsorship, visiting orphanage directors, considering new partnerships, working with country-specific Embassies, and auditioning orphans and at-risk kids for the 2012/13 Matsiko World Orphan Tour. I will be heading back to these countries again in mid-September; Rio is determined to accompany me during that time. In an effort to save for this adventure, she has made these fabulous button bracelets to sell at $10 each (or 5 for $35). Guests seem to love them and Rio is well on her way to raising the $3,000 nut…only 286 more bracelets to sell! Button up, Rio! Let’s go!
If you are interested in supporting Rio’s efforts and would like to “buy a button bracelet and be a bridge to a better beginning'” (reads her tongue twisting tagline), please email her at email@example.com. Of course, she also is in need of a few hundred 4-hole buttons, so if you have a bag ‘o buttons needing a good purpose, please send it to Rio c/o Talus Rock Retreat, 291 Syringa Heights Road, Sandpoint, ID 83854!
If anyone would like to join us on this fabulous ICN mission trip in September (which may include Nepal in addition to India, Thailand and the Philippines) to help escort the chosen 24 orphans to the United States, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I still find it hard to believe that last week I was boarding a plane to address 13,000 Google employees on a stage in Santa Clara, CA – the very same stage that hosted Lady GaGa, President Obama, Keith Urban and a slew of other celebrities.
Honored to be called upon to introduce the Matsiko World Orphan Choir (one of the non-profit missions supported by Talus Rock Retreat), I welcomed the challenge of the opportunity and recognized the magnitude of the task at hand. I was also charged with explaining to a significantly Indian-based audience why the India kids would not be present (The Delhi-based US Embassy denied the orphans visas citing “not enough family ties to ensure their return”. Despite a press storm, my interview on IBN/CNN, Times Now TV, and a 12-turned-to-41 day stay fighting for reconsideration, the denial decision stood firm. I returned home to the States empty-handed.)
On a last-minute request by Jennie and Don Windham, Founders of International Children’s Network (parent organization of the Matsiko World Orphan Choir), I wondered what I might say to move the brightest of minds — something that might cause them to sponsor a child to become educated through the University level and help end the cycle of poverty. Well aware of the intellectual capital that might be listening, I struggled over every word while writing to weave an effective script in a very short 6 minute window. It’s not everyday that one gets the chance to present on the world’s platform, and I had drafted at least 8 potential speeches, belaboring over each phrase trying to choose which best expressed the call to action with regard to the world’s 600 million orphaned and at-risk children.
Fortunately, I was accompanied by my friend, Stephanie Sandish and her wonderful daughter, Morgan. Stephanie is Talus Rock Retreat’s “Keeper of the Keys” and “Goddess of All Things Good” taking full charge of the Retreat when I’m overseas or overworked. Neither of them could pass up the opportunity to tour the Google campus and see the kids perform, and I was most relieved to have the company. They offered up more than a few speech concepts, one liners, and points of focus to my already scrambled and swimming head.
ICN fell into my life in when the group was in need of choir housing during their 2009 Choir tour through Sandpoint. Talus Rock Retreat was called to help with housing 10 or so people. When I opened our door to welcome what I thought would be the ten orphans needing host housing for a week, I was surprised to face a doorstep full of weary adults. Shocked more than disappointed (C’mon—you think you’re getting adorable, small, brown orphan children, and instead you end up with exhausted, scruffy, red-eyed, chaperones and leaders. There’s bound to be a jolt, right?), I ushered in the group while mentally reconnoitering the sleeping arrangements.
I’ve come to believe that this was one of those “divine appointments”.
There were many late nights over the next 7 days spent holed up with the ICN Founders, their staff and choir directors since I had opened that door. Bruce and I talked with our guests into the wee hours about the team’s global vision, the choir marketing, their overall mission effectiveness, current (and past) problems and successes, and other insightful organizational highs and lows of ICN. That was to be the beginning of a mission-based relationship that would lead me to stand on Google’s stage as ICN’s International Director for Asia.
While I don’t think I hit a home run despite the practice, stress and wholehearted effort in preparation, I know that I gave it my all. The scheduled (and I do mean scheduled – even the applause was slated for 30 seconds!) 20 minute Choir performance was fantastic and the entire effort went off without a hitch. As I reflect back on the weekend ordeal, the Googleplex (Google’s corporate headquarters) was most impressive but, with the whirlwind that was my mind, it remains a blur. I’m not sure what I liked best about the campus: the micro-kitchens conveniently located only 100 feet from any desk (chock full of organic wholesome food, milk, juice, soda, candy racks and 6 choices of water – all free for employees and guests), the colorful bikes to go from one office to another within the 3 mile campus, the ice cream cart in the lunch room, the valet parking for all employees, the outdoor exercise swim jet pool (complete with a lifeguard), or perhaps it was the convenient campus trailers for oil changes, car washes, massages and even haircuts!
Finally, a great big thank you to Talus Rock Retreat guest (and Google Executive) Steve Houtchens, and his beautiful and talented wife, Bernadette, who made it all happen. You made dreams come true! Stephanie said it best:
“To see inside the iconic Google campus was a privilege and I count us all very lucky to have been included. Thank you both for developing such an opportunity for the choir. We can never fully measure or be aware of the impact occurring inside another human, however, we choose to take the stand that your event can lead to unexpected results, unpredictable change and dare we say it, a miracle or two. We trust that when those tiny orphans’ palms of friendship reached across those laptops and held, for a moment ,the nimble fingers of those on the forefront of the virtual highways, an extraordinary partnership began.”
To all of you who have stayed here at Talus Rock Retreat, we thank you for your continued support of ICN, the Matsiko World Orphan Choir, our family, and this place we call ‘home’.
Check out the World Orphan Choir’s Tour Schedule, and if you know of a church, school or an organization in your neck of the woods that might be interested in experiencing the Choir (or you or someone you know would like to house a part of the team while traveling through your area), please contact Pam at email@example.com
Of course, if you feel called to sponsor a child (thank you!), please email Jennie Windham, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you enjoy these videos of the 2012 Matsiko World Orphan Choir:
The snow-covered rock (which is believed by many to be a large glacial remnant) known as Talus Rock made for a great ski bank with a little help from the Kabota tractor (which accidently slid into the pond when Selkirk cut it a little too close to the edge.) The hour the guys spent working to get the orange beast back up the slippery slope made for almost as much entertainment as the skiing itself. The kids weren’t the only ones enjoying winter at Talus Rock retreat; guests David and Shannon Dickson had a blast playing in the snow and with the pets.
The day didn’t stop when the sun went down; the kids rigged up some outdoor lights and rails for continued nighttime fun. Catch a glimpse of 14-year-old Selkirk’s video (his latest hobby), and see the action live via another YouTube “Pedersen Production” on the SelkirkSelkirk Channel:
And speaking of skijoring, we still have rooms available at Talus Rock Retreat for Winter Carnival February 17-26, 2012! Downtown Sandpoint and Schweitzer Ski Mountain with events and activities including skijoring at the Bonner County Fairgrounds, fire dancers, shopping deals and a nighttime street rail jam contest! Bring your honeybun, and call 208-255-8458 to reserve a room!
Talus Rock Retreat is not a house that one owns in the traditional sense; while we steward its walls and land, its own charisma inspires guests and visitors to ask what they can do for the house, or how they can help with the mission.
On the spur of the moment, guest Jimmy Sauter (a young engineer visiting Sandpoint on business) invited the new veterinary intern from North Idaho Animal Hospital (lodging guest Carlyn Zylstra ) to a round of Trivial Night at MickDuff’s. They had such a wonderful visit that when he finished his work at the local lumber mill, he returned to spend the remaining afternoon at Talus eager to lend a hand. We directed him to what we call the “Mine Shaft”, where he proceeded to crack open and test stored cans of old paint (We were preparing for an upcoming Spring remodel of the Talus Rock Gatehouse.) Jimmy didn’t know it then, but he ended up being part of “Robin’s Weekend”.
Life isn’t always easy, and paths aren’t always clear. “Robin’s Weekend” has marked a poignant one here at Talus Rock Retreat. While we most often welcome honeymooners, star-gazers, adventurers, vacationers and business travelers, we sometimes get the validating opportunity to share God’s place with those who deserve respite in the way that Bruce and I envisioned when we built Talus Rock Retreat – and so it was last weekend when we opened our doors to a teenage youth group accompanied by their pastor, T.J. Hahn, from Shiloh Hills Fellowship. The group is traveling a tender journey as one of their own, 16-year-old Robin (Pope) Burdick, continues to fight a devastating cancer.
Robin has osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that metastasizes to the lungs, and while she has been in chemotherapy for over a year and a half, she is now on oxygen finding it extremely difficult to breathe. The tumors have spread to her lungs and bladder. Her parents, Jeff and Jane Pope, and Robin’s husband, friends, and family are waiting patiently for their miracle.
Those close to Robin asked if they could come to Talus Rock Retreat a few days early to help prepare the grounds for the youth group’s visit. LeeAnn Burdick brought her sons, Andrew and Kevin, and her neighbor (Amber Sherman), to our doorstep. The group descended upon Talus Rock Retreat like angels as they shoveled paths, swept stairs, carried logs, spread gravel and hauled trash before joining my family and Jimmy for lunch at the kitchen table.
The family shared stories of Robin and honored the strength within each of us, acknowledging God’s grace and purpose though colossal trials. We realized how much hard physical work can help pass time and work through grief. Together we searched to restore confidence and our faith in God, praising Him, in the midst of severe hardship. I have come to believe that the Burdick and Pope families must be extra special people to God, for He has chosen them to hold Robin’s hand with the strength and faith to withstand this tremendously painful ordeal.
Burdicks and Popes, we offer up our sincere prayers and hope to God for a miraculous recovery. Like those who came alongside of Moses, we’ll do our best to hold up your praying arms while we, too, continue to pray for comfort, healing and peace to ease Robin’s suffering.
During this incredibly heart-wrenching time, we pause and say, “We love you and thank you for using your time to serve the Lord with your talents and bless us with service in the face of extreme grief. We honor your work and outpour of blessings through your extraordinary circumstances.”
Robin Burdick Pope passed from the arms of Andrew into the presence of the Lord, Jesus, on February 20, 2012.
As is only fitting, we devote our first Talus Rock Retreat blog to Micheline and Shane Ryckman to convey to them our deepest gratitude.
The Ryckmans are recent additions to our ever-extending Canadian family and, as a blessing to Talus Rock Retreat, Micheline brought her graphic artistry as a professional photographer and publisher to help us to develop a blog.
As a seasoned blogger herself, Micheline’s fabulous blog Ordinary to Extraordinary featured Talus Rock Retreat in a recent post. You might recognize the artful Indian orphan montage creation in her post which is now predominantly featured on our website Mission/Goodwill page. I have to admit, it was not so much her suggestion of creating a blog (of course, what a great idea!), but it was her impetus and sheer follow-through that made this blog happen. Micheline, her husband Shane, and their 2 wonderfully talented children, Hunter and Hannah, drove just over an hour from Creston, British Columbia, last Sunday to tutor me in the way of blogs. While Hannah filled Talus Rock Retreat with joy and beautiful piano music, Hunter and Shane watched movies in the home theater and threw balls for dogs, Panda and Talus. Micheline, determined and intent to finish her intended mission, patiently walked me through the initial blog set up offering ideas, hints, wise media suggestions, and the hands on technological know-how to actually get this blog up and running. Her effort alone made the difference between another entry on a long list of things to do, and you reading this today.
We sincerely offer our appreciation to Micheline and her family, thanking her profusely for recognizing Talus Rock Retreat as a place and opportunity to contribute her considerable gifts. To our delight, the family will return in May to take new photographs of Talus Rock Retreat to best capture the property’s extraordinary depth and charisma. You will eventually see her photographs on our website that will no doubt help to attract even more guests to Talus Rock Retreat. We’d like to continue to offer this place as a love letter to those in need; our front door is open to you.
Thank you Ryckmans and to all of you who give your gifts of time and talent to your local communities and to those in foreign lands.
We thought it would be fun to begin posting some stories and highlights of Talus Rock Retreat activities and guests, and share with you about the work with the missions and causes we support here. Please visit back here often as we plan to post on a regular basis.