What are you LOOKING for?

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Mark 4: 21-25

The Parable of the Lamp:

“Then Jesus asked them, ‘Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine. For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.’

Then he added, ‘Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given — and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.'”


I think that what we see in our lives is directly related to what we are looking for. Personal introspection causes me to realize that attitude and perspective set the stage for not only how I view each day but also how I chose to experience it. Last winter, I bought a sweatshirt that said Choose Joy on it. I purchased it intentionally as I was going through a difficult time – a time when I had to remind myself daily that looking for the light allowed me to see God’s grace no matter how dark things appeared.

I could choose joy or I could wallow in self-pity and unhappiness.

The choice was mine, and I needed to own it.

The Haymaker Swim Team spent a lot of time talking about attitude on the pool deck this summer. It was a natural out-pouring of where I was in my own life. I spent significant time this winter and spring praying to ask God to fill my heart with peace and hope. I needed Jesus’ light to define my attitude and grant me the peace that brought joy and hope.

I found it when I made it less about me, and more about Him.


I don’t know for sure what my swimmers internalized in their hearts this summer, but I know that God provided the core of our team. He healed my heart as I intentionally placed His lamp on a stand to share with my athletes. We learned to trust as courageous faith called us to finish strong each and every day. I spent the summer watching our team grow in our understanding of God while we built a foundation based on faith and fueled by hard work.

On Saturday we took 49 swimmers to the Championship Meet and brought home 92 individual medals to hang around our necks. In addition, 5 of our relays set league records and brought home another 24 top 8 place finishes. We found victory as Jesus took our outstretched hands and filled our souls with the fire that comes from confident hope. We made Holy Moments on the pool deck and in the water. We made mistakes and learned from them. Most importantly, we did our best to share the love that creates community.

Blessings follow obedience.

I could say many things about the 2019 year, but the message that fills my heart today as I look in faith is:

When we chose to look for God’s light – and set it on a stand to share – then it becomes easy to see the grace that brings the ultimate victory. The more that we see, the more that we can understand the compounding nature of Jesus’ mission.

 

 

 

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Holy Moments…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from the Gospel of John 12:36.

“Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”


A friend of mine recently gave me a book to read. It is entitled The Biggest Lie In The History Of Christianity by Matthew Kelly. It’s a great read as it covers an incredibly significant question – As Christians, can we find purpose and strength as we live in God’s grace under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to share Jesus’ love with others? What an awesome way to envision the Trinity working within us so that we can become children of the light!

The heart of the book is about what Kelly calls creating Holy Moments. A Holy Moment is simply a moment where you open yourself to God – make yourself available to him – and follow the direction of the Holy Spirit to reach out and share Jesus’ love with others.  Holy Moments fulfill multiple purposes as sharing love not only brings joy to the heart of the giver, but also creates an intentional mindset of kindness that allows ordinary moments to be touched with God’s holy hand. Perhaps the best part is that Holy Moments are contagious – causing a cultural shift toward stewardship and service as Jesus’ love creates common ground and fellowship.


Last week on the pool deck, our character lesson was “It’s the little things that matter most.” I truly believe that the little things matter to God, as the Bible is more than 1000 pages full of details. From the Pentateuch and the history of God’s people to the Book of Proverbs, the Old Testament clearly shows us that good daily habits play a vital role in our Christian journey. Jesus then reminds us repeatedly in the New Testament that he is most interested in our hearts – in the sincerity of our desire to take his hand and live in the light through Him.

I spend a good part of the summer hanging out with more than 50 swimmers. From the middle of May to the middle of July, we spend 6 days a week together learning how to be a skilled team. I used to think that teaching them correct strokes and how to work hard was the most important thing that I could do as a coach. Today, I view each practice as an opportunity to impact their hearts – to help them to realize that every day is filled with chances to make Holy Moments.

Our team is a great group of talented kids who generally finish each season with medals hanging around their necks. But, I’ve come to understand that the medals that will impact their lives the most aren’t the ones that hang around their necks after our Championship Meet – They are the ones that God hangs on their hearts each day that they chose to live in His light. Holy Moments show us that the little things matter. They demonstrate that good daily habits create a faithful focus. With each Holy Moment medal that God places on our hearts, our relationship with the Holy Spirit becomes stronger. Pretty soon we spend our days searching for ways to share Jesus’ light and become better versions of ourselves.

I think that sometimes we get stuck thinking that Jesus’ mission is too big for us. I used to withdraw into myself during those moments driven by a lack of confidence. Today, I intentionally chose to pack my faith to team up with God’s grace. As I take His hand, He holds my heart – together we make the Holy Moments that bring light to the world.

As our 2019 swim team season draws to an end this weekend, I pray that each one of the swimmers internalizes this lesson and builds the daily habit to answer God’s call to become children of the light.

 

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Scars…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Book of Psalms 50: 14-15

“Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.”


My body makes scar tissue like a true champion. I think it is likely due to my auto-immune challenges, but it could simply be that my personality dictates that I never seem to do anything halfway 😉 With my leg recovery, I’ve found that scar tissue is not particularly friendly. In the last six months, Doc’s had to manipulate my ankle twice to break up the accumulated scar tissue and the 3rd round of surgery also required him to remove the 10 screw plate hardware which my awesome scar tissue had attached to my peroneal tendon. Metal plates aren’t the best partners for tendons as that causes pain and rubbing damage with every walking step.

The good news is that my bone has healed nicely, and the tendon debridement procedure should hopefully allow the tendon to heal properly now that the hardware is no longer attached to it. I’m back to mastering my skills with crutches and very thankful that this round of “non-weight bearing” will occur without the winter and spring ice that plagued Nebraska this year. I am also thankful that I can now move forward in the journey of physical healing.

2019 has done an effective job of adding scars to my life. Some have been physical and some emotional, but they’ve all affective my perspective as well as my daily life. Right after I fell on the ice and shattered my leg, I told my favorite farmer that “God choses interesting ways to grow us.” Six months later, I can report that this certainly is the case 🙂


My scars do not make me unique – Life is full of things that can scar us. Whether physical or emotional, I’ve come to realize that the magnitude of the scars’ negative power is directly related to the attitude that I chose to bring to the pain. I can let it define and damage me — trading healthy tissue for thick and hardened ones — or I can be thankful for the opportunity to experience life in a different way. I have learned that although sometimes the days are hard, that the journey can be filled with beautiful blessings when I choose to face it with a grateful and open heart.

There is a rainbow to every experience. God puts his blessing on your heart when you chose to be thankful. Sometimes that thankfulness involves a sacrifice – that’s not a bad thing, as it brings honor to your faith and deepens your relationship with the Lord. I’ve found that as I go deeper, His presence never fails me. I do not always get answers, but I do find comfort and peace even in the midst of pain.

The other day at our summer Bible study, my favorite blonde cowgirl made a statement that brought joy and peace to this mama’s heart. She shared:

“I need to lean on God during the easy times and be faithfully thankful then, because you never know when things are going to get hard. And when it does get hard, I need God and if I don’t learn to reach for him during the good times then I will be afraid to reach in times of trouble.”

Megan was not immune from the pain and scars that 2019 brought to our family. She didn’t break her leg, but there were many times when “Broseph” – what the girls called Joe (brother Joseph) – broke her heart. But, when the pain came, she bravely reached for God because she wears her faith like a shield — and Jesus filled her heart and carried her through. She allowed the scars to deepen her love and soften her heart instead of hardening it.

I’ve never been more proud of her than at the NE State Track Championships this year. Less than 4 days after Broseph packed his bags and left our family, she packed her faith and shared Jesus’ love with everyone that crossed her path. She opened her heart  – trading fear for faith.  It made her vulnerable but it also made her mighty. And, I know that she vaulted with harmony because she’d given it to Jesus and he held her with care.

Together, our family has learned to ask God to hold our hearts. That action requires trust, but it leaves us with a sense of peace and gratefulness and creates an entirely new dimension to our faith journey.

I Am They captures it well with one of my favorite Christian songs:

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From the inside out…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the book of Job 4:3-6

Eliphaz (a friend of Job) says to him, “In the past you have encouraged many people; you have strengthened those who were weak. Your words have supported those who were falling; you encouraged those with shaky knees. But now when trouble strikes, you lose heart. You are terrified when it touches you. Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence? Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope?”


As I read these words in the book of Job last week, it reminded me of myself – how I inwardly struggle during times of challenge — how I lose confidence when I am faced with multiple hardships. My pastor reminded me on Sunday that there are two typical responses that a Christian can have during times of trial: lean into faith or reject/flee from God.

I think that the deciding factor for me when things get hard is my level of trust. Do I limit God or do I truly believe that He is both good and great? A related question that I find myself wondering is:

“Am I being punished and rejected by God, or is He walking through the struggles with me and shaping me out of love from the inside out?”


I fell on the ice and broke my leg about nine months after I brought Joe home to live with our family. There’s really not a good reason that I fell – it was a quirky winter-time accident that did far more damage than rational thought can explain. During the same time as my leg refused to heal, I was forced to face the reality that Joe was rejecting the values and love that our family was trying to share with him. That hit me hard, and I found myself trying to figure out what I’d done wrong.

I temporarily forgot about God’s part – my part – others part. And, I placed the blame squarely on myself. This filled me with sadness as I began to wonder if my leg was a punishment for not correctly answering God’s call to love Joe. I wasn’t sure where I’d messed up or what I should have done differently, but that did not take away the feeling of aloneness and failure that threatened my heart.

I have a good friend named Bev. Joe’s presence in our family brought us together. If I didn’t believe in God, then I might say that our friendship was a coincidence. But since I rely strongly on my faith, my heart knows that God brought her to me because I needed her on the journey. Bev’s faith is so strong and she reflects Jesus’ love better than anyone that I have ever known.

It’s hard for me to open up to others, but one day I asked Bev to help me understand. I was blessed, as she did not respond the same way that Job’s friends responded to his trials. Instead, she reminded me that Jesus always loves me – always walks with me – and uses experiences of all kinds in order to shape my heart from the inside out. My struggles were not a punishment, rather they were a chance for me to gain perspective and understanding. It was a pivotal time that allowed me to lean into my faith to find strength and hope instead of pulling away to wallow in self-pity and blame.

The book of Job helps me to understand that it’s okay to question God and to have feelings of doubt. But, during those times, it is important that I take those questions and doubts to God – to go to Him. We can’t see God, but faith can fill the gap so that we can experience God. We are emotional beings – created to be loved and to love. God loves us and often brings people into our lives when we need them the most. We find healing when we embrace that and give our emotions to Jesus. It is through Him that our hearts find peace.

Tomorrow I have a third surgery on my leg. I don’t know the details of what will happen, but I do know that Jesus will hold my hand and my heart as I travel the journey. It’s my job to take it to Him – trusting in love. He’ll be there – in my heart and in the hearts of those that love me. I don’t really agree with Eliphaz’s words up above that say “a life of integrity will bring me hope”. Rather, I think that Jesus brings me the hope that I need to fuel myself and to share with others — from the inside out.

 

 

 

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An Esther Moment…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the book of Esther 4: 13-14

“Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”


I spent last week studying the book of Esther. It’s a fabulous read and I believe it to be meaningful for a variety of reasons. My favorite brunette celebrates the book of Esther just as she enjoys the book of Ruth – She loves that God uses a woman to play a “hero” role in order to fulfill an important purpose.

I love the fact that Esther demonstrates that God moves in quiet ways — not just in boldness. The Bible is full of ways that demonstrate God’s power. He is clearly great. But, I think that Esther demonstrates that greatness can also be subtle. God’s miracles are diverse —  yet they are all meaningful, no matter where they fit on the drama meter.

The above verse occurs at a pivotal time in both Esther’s life and in the history of the Jewish people. On the verge of tragedy – with the threat of mass destruction and assassination – Esther listens to her mentor and packs her faith to step up and use her new position as queen in order to quietly and masterfully allow God to save both herself and her people. She demonstrates that a practiced loyalty to faith allows for a strong and courageous stand during a moment of crisis.


Likely each and every one of us will have an Esther moment or two in our lives — Times when we are called to do something subtle, yet bold as we answer God’s call. It may occur in a moment when we can clearly see the purpose, or it may occur amidst a foggy cloud of uncertainty. I’ve come to realize that the clarity in which we understand the Esther moment is much less important than our ability to respond with a servant heart in order to move forward with courage.

I had an Esther moment in April of 2018. It occurred when a boy that I had been tutoring got into trouble and landed in jail. While the Holy Spirit’s call for me to help him was quiet, it was also firm and clear.

Go and love him.

I ended up bailing him out of jail and bringing him to our home to finish his high school career. 383 days with Joe – a young man with a challenging past whom God decided deserved a second chance. During the time that our lives melded together into a new family, the crystal ball was often fuzzy in terms of detail despite the clearness of the call to be together. Each day, we tried to walk in faith believing that God’s purpose was meaningful even though we couldn’t see the finish line.

Some in our town thought we were crazy to bring a stranger into our home. Some watched from a distance, undecided as to whether we’d made the right decision. And, a few opened their arms in support of our faith journey as a new family. We persevered clinging to the call to love.

Joe’s been gone a month now, and the crystal ball still remains fuzzy. I’ve decided that’s okay. There’s a reason that my view is fuzzy and God’s is clear.  The details of why God chose us and Joe to come together for a time may never be revealed. But, I believe that God is great and God is good. So, I don’t have to fully understand it — I just have to believe in the call and answer it in love.

The part of the journey that is clearest to me is that the time that we spent together deepened our family’s faith as we willingly participated in Jesus’ mission. We answered the call in a moment of crisis — willing to take a stand and own our faith. I learned many things from Joe. Things that I carry with me everyday that offer a new perspective for me as a Christian, a wife, a mom, and a coach.

I am grateful for that.

God works through ordinary people and is present even when His hand may seem invisible. Each individual assignment from God matters. It may seem risky and possibly scary at times, but it is always meaningful and we never walk alone when we answer the call.

To me, living in faith means trusting God, following his call, and stepping up during the Esther moments in life.

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Radiologically Perfect…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Hebrews 11: 6

“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”


Since I fell on the ice and broke my leg on the 5th of January, I’ve had two surgeries and an interesting journey of rehabilitation that included 16 weeks on crutches and quality time in a cast. My girls have been known to say “Mom never believes in doing anything halfway.” I can state with confidence that the fall and the leg break clearly followed this mantra 😉

Every time that I go back to the doctor for an appointment, he is quick to point out that my leg is radiologically perfect. Doc put in a variety of hardware to aid in the healing process. I’ve had part of that hardware already removed and the rest will come out within the next month. I have to agree that the x-ray is impressive. However, I always feel compelled to point out what I believe to be an important fact:

A perfect x-ray picture does not ensure that my leg is functional and moves with harmony.

The picture is notable, but my leg still refuses to allow me to walk without pain. I have dreams of running and going up and down stairs with harmony, but at this point I’m really looking forward to walking with fluency.

At the doctor’s office, I am “the lady with high expectations and skinny ankles”. Apparently that is not a good combination when someone suffers from a trauma like I did. With all honesty, I think that the doctor has done a good job taking care of me — my body just does not tolerate medical challenges well. My “auto-immune” tendencies make me a poor healer and my body seems to have a mind of it’s own.


It occurred to me the other day that my experience with my leg is a great metaphor for showing discrepancies that I have experienced along my faith journey.

Has your life ever looked “radiologically perfect” while inside you seemed to be unable to put one foot in front of the other? 

Good deeds and items that we can proudly check off the daily to do list pile up while our hearts wither under the pressure that weighs deeply on our souls. We have a servant heart, but we struggle to serve the right thing. I’ve had many periods of my life that looked like this. I knew that helping others needed to be a priority, but amidst the daily chores I lost sight of the heart of the gift – a deep faith that ensured that Jesus’ living water never left me needy.

  • God loves a cheerful giver (2Corinthians 9:7).
  • Jesus’ presence in our hearts ensures that we share His love – something that never runs out (John 7:38).
  • The yoke is easy to bear and the burden is light (Matthew 11:30).

A few years ago, I started to figure out that faith wasn’t about how many good deeds I accomplished in a day. While those deeds are awesome and likely blessed someone that God brought into my life path, faith is really about living for God.  To me, this means daily leaning on Jesus to find strength, joy, peace, and love to share with others regardless of circumstance.

I physically stumble each morning when I get out of bed on a bad leg, but I can face each day with a smile knowing that Jesus will carry me through. I find joy in sharing his love – peace in leaning in on my faith – and strength as I realize that I never walk alone.

God rewards those who sincerely seek him. Walking with Jesus ensures that we experience those rewards in our hearts, not just on the structural surface of our lives. Radiologically perfect only works when it stems from the harmony of faith that lives in our hearts.

 

 

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Shared Courage…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Matthew 18: 20

“For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”


The 2019 swim team season kicked off last week. The first morning practice with the high school swimmers began with an air temperature of 38 degrees, and we were very glad for a heated pool! It was 55 degrees by the time the younger swimmers practiced in the middle of the day, but the air still carried a bit of a bite to it…The weather might not think it is summer, but we have more than 40 young athletes that are excited to be in the water!

This year’s theme for the season is courage. In particular our quote to live by is, “Courageous faith calls us to finish strong!”. We spent our weekly off-season winter practices talking about what it takes to be a good teammate. That provides a great lead-up to a summer of courageous fellowship 🙂

Just as being an athlete takes courage, so does life.

  • It takes courage to be grateful regardless of your circumstance.
  • It takes courage to persevere with steadfast grace.
  • It takes courage to continue to put in the work even when you can’t see a victorious outcome.
  • It takes courage to stand firm and cling to your faith.

My hope is that our team will build meaningful habits to help us be courageous while simultaneously building fitness and strength in the water. I opened up the first practice asking the swimmers what it means to have courage. A ten year old boy on the team immediately responded, “courage is keeping going and working hard even when you are scared.” A second swimmer followed that statement with, “when we have courage we don’t settle even when it gets hard.” By the end of the week, we all decided that it was easier to be courageous and to make courageous choices when we came together to support each other as a team.


I believe that God calls us to be all in – To live with heartfelt passion in order to share his love with others. The athletic team is an awesome place to learn this. It provides a fun and engaging way to introduce many of the challenges that we experience throughout life. When done correctly, athletics teach the value of hard work and unselfish fellowship. At the Cozad Swim Team, we start each practice with a character lesson, a bible verse, and a daily devotional. I do this because I believe that the first thing that my swimmers need to learn is that God is always with them. He is the ultimate source of courage and he uses each one of us to help build a fellowship of strength. That is the purpose of TEAM.

For where two or three gather, God is among them.

I think that all of my swimmers know how important my faith is to me. I hope that it provides a light to them as they travel the journey of building a meaningful relationship with our Lord. What they might not know is that sharing faith with them brings me courage. My swimmers inspire me to live with grace – to be brave – to have a grateful attitude – and to work with purpose each and every day.

2019 has been a year of challenge for me. During the various times of trial, I have thought of my athletes and how I would counsel them. This keeps me centered on my faith and reminds me of the importance of practicing what I preach. In about a month, I will undergo a third surgery on my leg. As I fight the fear of another invasive procedure, the reality that today I am unable to walk without pain, and the knowledge that the future is unknown, I draw on the shared courage that we build together in fellowship on the pool deck.

I pray that I will walk this path with grace so that my swimmers can see Jesus carry me with the courageous faith that I need to finish strong 🙂

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Simple Moments…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from 1 Chronicles 28:9

“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him.”


When we get up each day, we don’t know what the hours might bring. But, there are many places in the Bible where we are assured that God will be with us through each moment. If you seek him, you will find him. To me, the beauty of that is found in its simplicity. Each day is filled with many simple moments where God asks us to join him on the journey. It is our job to take hold of that softly spoken call with a whole heart and a willing mind. To patiently trust in God’s plan and to draw peace from his strength.

In some of those moments, God places medals on our hearts as we seek to follow him. In a special few, a medal might also be placed around our neck. One thing is certain, we must respond to God’s ask in order to journey with him. One of my greatest blessings as a parent is to watch my kids learn to lean on their faith to find peace and honor on their journey as Christian Athletes.

My favorite blonde cowgirl defended her title and brought home gold this weekend at the Nebraska State Class B Track and Field Championships. She vaulted with powerful beauty, soaring more than 11 feet 3 inches in the air, with a heart full of the peace and confidence that comes from deep faith. Meg has always felt God’s call to fly with abandon, but this year she led with her heart to find a deeper purpose.

The night before she left with the Haymaker Track Team for Omaha, she told me of her goals and plan. She quietly looked me in the eye and said,

“Mom, I’m going to share Jesus’ love and joy with others in the pole vault pit and on the track. I don’t know how I will vault or run, but I do know that I can take advantage of the opportunity to get to know my competitors and support them on their journey. That way, if I don’t come home with a medal or a personal best, I still know that my trip to the track meet was meaningful.”

Throughout the competition, I watched her share smiles, hugs, and encouragement with others. She stayed true to the bracelet on her wrist which reminded her that Jesus would love first. Over the two day meet, there was only one moment when a state track official placed a medal around her neck, but there were hundreds of moments where God led her heart to share of his love.  It was seeing this shared fellowship with other athletes during competition that filled my heart with gratitude.

Athletes face many pressures on their journey. I’ve watched all of my children and hundreds of others whom I have been blessed to coach, to fight for confidence in the moment of competition when expectations are high and the fear of failure is a reality. The pressure can draw them inward to a place of insecurity that is in direct contrast to what God asks of us. God asks for our hearts – for us to share them – in order to honor the gift that Jesus brought to us on the cross.

Over the past year, I have watched Megan figure out that the overriding call is one of love and fellowship. When we focus on that, then the pressure of competition doesn’t define us and drive our efforts. Instead, it allows Jesus to fill our hearts with the love that carries us to victory. When that happens, fear is replaced with faith as we trust in the simple moments that we share together.

 

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