Radical love…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John 3:16

“For God so loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”


In addition to being in the Bible, you can find the above verse on billboards across the country. Its words are both simple and powerful as they encompass the heart of the Good News. God loves. Jesus saves. I don’t know what eternal life fully looks like, but my heart tells me that it is peaceful, joyful, and filled with the agape love that we strive to wrap our minds and hearts around during our earthly lives. Despite the fact that its exact description eludes me, I know that it is where I want to go.

But, I believe that there is more to it than that because eternal life (in my mind) begins today, not the day that God calls me home to heaven. Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes up the rest of the message. What is my role on earth? Then, last week my Pastor said the words that allowed it all to come together. He started with the verse from the Gospel of John, “For God so loved the world that He sent his son Jesus.” But then he went on, “Jesus so loved the world that He sent us.”ย  The dots connected and the line was bolded and strong. I cried as I sat there, my eyes with a new level of insight and my heart with a deeper understanding of how and why He calls us to love. Not just those who return our love, but also those who do not.

He asks us to be thereย with our hearts ready and our bodies prepared to act.


Ever since Joseph left twelve months ago, I’ve wondered time and time again why God sent him to be a part of our family. At the time that the Holy Spirit put the request to love him on my heart, I assumed God’s ask brought with it a promise. Why wouldn’t it? Surely an ask of that magnitude came with a multitude of blessings? Visions of happily ever after passed through my mind as I believed that what was once an awesome family of five would become a beautiful family of six. Joe spent more than a year with us. The day he walked out the door, he took a piece of both Matt’s and my heart with him. I’ve felt a range of emotions since then; defeat, sadness, anger, and bits of joy as I remember the memories that we built together. Most of the emotions I am okay with, but the one that has proved the heaviest to bear is rejection.

I think that I finally hung that one on the cross last week as our Pastor’s words sank into my heart.

Jesus so loved the world that He sent us 
     - to love anyone and everyone- 
with no expectations for anything in return. 

It changes your heart to learn to love among and through pain. Rejection is a powerful emotion, and it incites a myriad of reactions (most of which are not rooted in love). It hurts. But, attaining the ability to love through it creates a light in the dark, an unexpected goodness in a time of crisis. Love enables forgiveness. It brings salvation and eternal life, but it also allows grace to permeate our earthly lives. Jesus is the ultimate source of grace, but every one of us has the ability to share that gift as we walk through each day. The more we share, the more it spreads.

I may not ever truly understand why God asked me to love Joseph, but I can understand that it wasn’t about me. It was about sharing. It was about unselfishly loving someone in a time of need. If I’m truly blessed, I’ll get to do it again before my heavenly Father calls me home. If I’m a good student, next time I’ll do it better – more like Jesus. I’ll leave the strings and the expectations out, and just focus on sharing radical love with the courageous boldness of grace.

Joseph gave great hugs. In those moments, I felt the strength of Grace. I took that for granted, and perhaps that’s my greatest regret. As he left, I told him that our door was always open. I’m not sure that I truly meant it at the time, but that’s the beauty of the Holy Spirit. Today I do, as my heart has gained a better understanding of the radical love that we are called to share.

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Leading With Grace…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration for this week comes from Paul’s letter to Colossians 3: 12-14

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”


When you look in the mirror what do you see? What story do your eyes tell? Do you see love, humility, mercy and gentle strength? Or, do your eyes tell a different tale?

My favorite farmer has a keepsake from his years as a wrestler. It was a gift from his coach, and we still have it in our house. It’s a frame that includes pictures of the District Champs Haymaker wrestling team, as well as a poem entitled “The Man in the Glass”. Coach Bonesteel followed the poem with his own thoughts:

“The meaning is that we must make the best of the ability God has given us. We have to do the things that are right rather than those that make us look good or make us popular. When all is said and done each day and we put our head on the pillow, it’s just us and God, and we can’t fool either one.”

I’ve never met Coach Bonesteel, but he left a lasting impression on my husband. Matt did not find his greatest athletic victories on the wrestling mat, but I think he’d tell you that he learned more in his time wrestling than any other athletic experience. It made him a better athlete and (more importantly) it made him a better human ๐Ÿ™‚


A big ‘thank you’ to Katie Arndt for the picture!

The next couple of weeks are big weeks for my favorite blonde cowgirl. They will not unfold in the way we originally intended, but they still mark an important time that reveals her heart and her character. Tomorrow was to be the District Track Meet, Saturday – high school graduation, and the following week the Nebraska State Track Championships. None of these events will occur, just as all seniors across the country have been called to end their high school careers without the traditional sense of closure. At Meg’s request, we’ve taken down the high school calendar that hangs on the wall in the kitchen, and we jokingly harass her about writing the graduation speech (due Friday) that she hopes to be able to give in person on August 1st.

To casually talk to her, you’d never know the disappointment that lies deep in her heart or the fear that threatens to take hold when she thinks about the future. She stubbornly clings to hope and covers up the hurt with her own blend of sunshine and sass. As her mom, I know that the loss of fellowship with classmates, teachers, teammates, coaches and church family is both tangible and heartbreaking. I see it weigh her down, but I watch as she resolutely chooses to cling to Grace.

As I read Coach Bonesteel’s poem and the above verses from Colossians, I envision Meg standing in front of her mirror – tears falling down her face – alternately asking God “why” while also imploring Him to exchange the frustration, disappointment and fear with a cloak of tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. She knows that at the end of the day, it’s just her and God, and that she can’t fool either one. Her eyes tell a meaningful story.

And, she inspires me as she believes, loves and leads with Grace.


*My thoughts, prayers, and support go out to all of the high school seniors who give of themselves to provide a solid foundation for our country as they choose to endure with faith and lead with Grace ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for clothing yourselves in love to help us bind together in harmony!

 

 

 

 

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It takes a team!

For those of you that are not a part of the FeedYard Foodie Facebook family, but are interested in my thoughts relative to agriculture, COVID19, and raising beef ๐Ÿ™‚


It takes a team to be successful. Teams are made up of many parts, but each one plays a vital role. Just like it takes 5 to field the court in basketball, 6 in volleyball, and 4 to make a relay for swimming or track; it takes a special group of people to come together to make nutritious beef available. Today, I ask you to join us โ€“ farmers, ranchers, feedyard caregivers, and meat packing plant crews as we do our best to combat the challenges of COVID19. Support us, love us, and come together with us in community. Together, we are stronger. Together, we prevail.

#ThankfulToBeEssentialย #COVID19ย #Beefย #CattleTales


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Courage…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration for this week comes from 2 Timothy 1:7

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”


What is courage? How does it tie in with fear? What role do trust and faith play?

I’ve spent significant time over the past couple of weeks thinking about the above questions. Given current circumstances, I doubt that I am alone in this type of mental exercise ๐Ÿ™‚ I first starting thinking about it relative to the COVID19 challenge, but it spilled over to farm life as we recently took cattle to grass. Change can bring fear as “the unknown” often exists outside of our comfort zone. During those times, I am most successful when I lean into my faith and am reminded of who God calls me to be – a woman of power, love and self-discipline. This brings me courage.

Cattle are very different than humans (with significantly lessoned abilities for comprehension). However, helping them to overcome fear reinforces some key ideas that also aid me when I struggle.

  1. New circumstances can be fearful, but repeated positive experiences build the trust that enables courage.
  2. It doesn’t matter if you have all of the “answers”. What matters is having a heart that is inspired to care with empathy.
  3. Courage is not the absence of fear, rather it is the ability to move forward in the right way despite being afraid.

In the first few days when cattle are new to our farm, they lack confidence and curiosity. Instead of looking to me as a leader, they tend to shy away in fear. But, as I interact with them each day, trust grows and brings with it a beautiful sense of curiosity. After a few days, a handful of braver animals will approach and begin to look to us for direction. Not long after, curiosity tips the scale and their herd-mates follow suit. Soon, it becomes very easy to gather and check the animals despite the fact that they run on hundreds of acres of grass pasture.

What’s the secret to gaining their trust? Helping them to realize that their lives are better with us, than they are without us ๐Ÿ™‚


I believe that the spirit that God gives us cannot fully emerge without the courage that comes from faith. I find that when my faith and trust are weak, then fear inspires timidity. Conversely, when my faith and trust are strong, then I find a source of power – fueled by love – that allows my natural sense of self-discipline to propel me forward. In those moments, I may still have some fear but it no longer has the power to drive my decisions because courage takes over.

We all have uncertainties in our lives. They do not define us, and they do not have to “own us”. God can do that if we let Him. Repeated positive faith building experiences, a heart full of love, and a desire to move forward to make a positive difference provides an equation for courage to thrive. Don’t be afraid to answer the call, life with God is far better than life without Him.

Are you in the front of the herd filled with courage and eager to answer God’s call?

Or, do you linger behind hindered by timidity?

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Finding Optimism…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Jeremiah 29:11-13

“For I know the plans I have for you”, says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord…


I moved from the city to the farm in June of 1997. Over the past twenty three years, I’ve come to know many farmers and ranchers in Nebraska, and (through volunteer work with the BQA program and the Beef Check Off) from all across the United States. A large percentage of our farmers and ranchers are people of deep faith.ย  Although these faiths stretch across a variety of Christian denominations, they carry a similar level of sincerity that just seems to flow naturally from the heart. At first I wondered what created such a unifying dedication and trust in the Lord, but I’ve now lived it for enough years that it is clear to me.

Living off of the land creates a unique perspective. It’s a life with many uncontrollable components, and one that is fiercely complicated yet basically simple. While the daily chores hold consistency, the circumstances surrounding those chores are ever changing. Sometimes the land yields to human tending, and sometimes Mother Nature chooses instead to teach a lesson in humility. Sometimes the markets move in favorable ways, but often the margins are slim and filled with financial risk. Despite detailed planning, things often change in the moment requiring both good problem solving skills and an innate optimism that ultimately everything will be okay.ย 

Last week we took steers weighing 600 pounds to grass. In typical Nebraska fashion, one day the temperature was close to 70 degrees but by Easter Sunday snow flurries buzzed about with 30+ mile per hour winds that reminded us of winter’s strong grasp. As winter and spring battled, I bought the cattle from a family with whom I have done business longer than my Karyn has been alive. I value them as friends and partners, so despite the crazy weather and dismal cattle markets I packed my faith and sealed the deal. The risk involved should likely keep me awake at night, but yet somehow I sleep.


The somehow is tied up in the above verses from Jeremiah, and I think it explains the deep faith and inherent optimism that exists within the heart of a farmer. When I care for my neighbors, my land, and my cattle, I believe that I honor the God that created us all. Through these actions, I am tapping into my “inner Jesus” – following the direction of the Holy Spirit and trusting the love that fills my heart. The Lord has plans for His people – for good and not for disaster, that will result in a future and a hope. I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but I know that God is with me and it’s my job to be faithful. When I pray, I believe that He hears me. When I look with my heart, I can hear a soft voice telling me that it is well.

A good friend has a saying that I often cling to, “When you can’t see His hand, trust His heart.”

As a country, we are in a time of great uncertainty with a diverse set of challenges. The list of “uncontrollables” is long, even by farmer standards ๐Ÿ˜‰ Fear seems to knock daily or perhaps hourly on our doors. While we can look to science for needed answers and tools, science won’t fuel our hearts. A courageous heart runs off of the hope and inherent optimism that Jesus brings. Today, I pray that each of us can deepen in faith to stay the course with optimism regardless of how difficult things are. Our heavenly Father asks us to believe even when we can’t see, to love with abundance, and to work tirelessly to care for one another!

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Prayer…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Romans 12: 10-13

“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.”


I used to be afraid to pray. I was reasonably adept at reciting phrases that I’d learned in school and at church, but I shied away from truly opening my heart to God and trusting Him to hold me. While I don’t know exactly what fueled this fear, honesty requires that I admit that during some times of my life I have struggled believing that I am worthy of God’s grace – of Christ’s loving sacrifice – and participation in the mission to share it. I spent decades working really hard, but (when I prayed) I held a piece of myself back for fear that I would not measure up.

Instead of living in grace, I found myself caught in this cycle of clinging to belief yet drowning in bits of unbelief. I was like the father who brought his demon-possessed son for healing (Mark 9: 14-29).ย  The father believed enough to seek, but at the same time collective insecurity created an underlying level of unbelief that only Jesus could overcome. Interestingly, the last verse of the passage is Jesus telling to his disciples, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.”

Prayer is vital. It builds relationship. It builds trust. It fuels belief and brings the freedom to choose joy, regardless of circumstance ๐Ÿ™‚


I overcame my fear of prayer, by praying. By simply opening up my heart and sharing it with Jesus. I talk to Him. I share my day, my thanks, my fears, my desires, my faults, and my love.ย  As I’ve spent more time reading the Bible over the past several years, I have discovered God’s advice for prayer. He calls for us to pray with confidence, faithfulness, and dedication – regardless of circumstance. God asks us to pray boldly, fueled by the knowledge that He loves us and He listens.

I am currently reading a book called, Unquestioned Answersย by Jeff Myers. He points out that when we pray we must be willing to do two things:

  1. To act on what God leads us to do.
  2. To expect God to move in the ways He has promised, rather than expecting that He will make things easier.

Myers says, “Military generals don’t long for opportunities to avoid the enemy. Rather, they request the equipment and personnel needed to obtain victory. Prayer is the same for us. God wants to give us everything we need to accomplish what he asks of us.”

I think that I used to be afraid to pray because I feared that I wasn’t important enough for God to remove the struggle when I asked Him to. Now that my prayer life has matured, I realize that I don’t actually pray for God to remove the hardships. Instead, I pray for God to give me the strength, the confidence, the hope, and the boldness to face the struggle head on knowing that Jesus steadfastly holds my heart. I’ve found freedom through prayer as I have deepened in relationship with Jesus.

Prayer ensures that we are never helpless nor ever hopeless. It prepares us to serve. As Jesus reminds us in the verses from Mark, there are kinds of struggles that can only be cast out by prayer. Perhaps this is because prayer is our ultimate source of strength and communication with the One who brings eternal victory ๐Ÿ™‚

Prayer may not change circumstances, but it shapes our hearts so that we can walk through the trials covered in grace.

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An Update From the Farm…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Micah 6:8:

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”


I’ve had a couple of people ask for an update “from the farm”. We are packing our faith to follow the advice found in Micah, and here are a few specifics ๐Ÿ™‚

My favorite farmer and I both work in “agriculture” which was deemed as a “critical infrastructure industry” by the Department of Homeland Security, so daily life on the farm continues. Matt is gearing up for our growing season to begin and will be in full planting mode when the ground dries out enough to work the fields. While waiting for Mother Nature, he currently is working on his yearly organic farm certification, updating farms maps/yearly planning, and finishing up the equipment maintenance that dominants our winter months. He is itching to get to spring planting work, and smiles as he watches the Nebraska plains slowing turn from brown to green.

I am still spending my days servicing cattle feedyards and helping them to understand and implement the Progressive Beef program. I have about five more weeks before transitioning back to full-time with our family, our farm, and volunteer projects in our community. I am getting excited for spring/summer projects like grazing cattle on our pastures, coaching swim team, and gardening in my back yard. The alfalfa behind our house has started to grow, so this week the girls and I will take down the temporary winter fence and the horses will rotate from winter grazing to the spring/summer paddocks.

Ashley Grace is home from Notre Dame. Her school made the decision to switch to online classes while she was visiting for spring break, so we’ve got a car in Chicago and all of her belongings in South Bend, IN but she’s home and that’s what truly matters ๐Ÿ™‚ Her summer teaching job in Panama City, Panama has been canceled so she is trying to figure out where God will call her to serve instead. She’s done an awesome job of going with the flowย and choosing joy despite huge unexpected changes in her college life.

Megan and Karyn are figuring out the art of home schooling,ย something that honestly has never before been on their radar screen. In addition to doing learning enrichment via the internet, they are dutifully doing daily track workouts from home with the hope that there will be some sort of abbreviated spring sports season. This is not how either of them would choose to spend their Senior and Freshman springs, but they’re packing their faith to make the best of an uncertain situation!

Megan will celebrate her 18th birthday this weekend, and she has a quiet wish of getting to do all of the things that Seniors do: Prom, Senior Tea, Pen Pal Picnic with the 4th graders, graduation, and a chance to defend her two year pole vault NE State Title. I have been very proud of her positive attitude and ability to adapt to the disappointments of “missing some of the lasts” of her high school career. Both Meg and Karyn are embracing “zoom” weekly Bible study meetings with their high school girls small group, and trying to keep in touch with friends despite social distancing.


If I were to pick a rainbow to focus on, it is definitely the gift of having all three girls living at home again. My heart smiles as I take out 5 dishes each evening when I serve dinner. The time of family and fellowship is truly a blessing!ย  The above verse from Micah speaks to my heart, so I share it with each of you. It grants us instruction for today and the days to come. God asks us to:

Do what is right.

To love mercy.

To walk humbly with Him.

As I read Micah, my thoughts turn to the Prayer of St. Francis which I’d like to leave with you today ๐Ÿ™‚

Dear Lord,
Make me an instrument of Your peace; 
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; 
Where there is injury, pardon; 
Where there is doubt, faith; 
Where there is despair, hope; 
Where there is darkness, light; 
And where there is sadness, joyโ€ฆย 
Grant that I may not so much seek 
to be consoled as to console; 
to be understood as to understand; 
to be loved as to love. 
For it is in giving that we receive; 
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying we are born to 
eternal life.

 

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The First Lap…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Hebrews 12:1

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”


I’ve started running 2-3 times per week on our local high school track. The track surface is soft and the path is clear and flat so it sets me up for success as I embark on this new chapter of the healing process. There’s been a large amount of “unknown” over the past 14 months relative to my leg and I’ve had to learn to do two things: trust that the Lord loves me and walks with me, and put in the work to do my part on the “race” that we travel together. Fear exists in the unknown, but that fear can be replaced by peace and hope when we allow faith to guide us.

It’s surprising to me the things that I notice now that I never used to see before. One of these is the first lap or the start of each run. Since I am accustomed to measuring my runs in miles, the beginning used to be simply a blip on the radar screen. I’d walk out the back door of our house and turn north onto the gravel road with my feet automatically falling into cadence. Easy. No thought required, and little challenge or fear to be found in those first steps.

It’s not that way anymore. The first 300 yards are filled with discomfort as I try to plant my foot properly on the ground and bridge into the next step. The notable thing is that if I keep going, if I continue to run with endurance the race God has set before me, then it gets better. I eventually settle into a rhythm and foot pattern that works so that I can run around the track. With each step that I take, I am able to strip off the weight of the pain and move forward believing in my heart that I can do it.


In light of the COVID-19 virus, I think there is a universal lesson to be found here. There currently exits a HUGE amount of uncertainty and fear. It can stymie our lives and wreak havoc with our emotions. Most importantly, it limits our ability to move forward in faith. Emotional stress is just as crippling as the pain that I feel in my leg. It has the power to trip us up and thwart our ability to trust both God’s greatness and His goodness.

Where can we look when fear threatens?

I had this discussion on the pool deck recently with my swimmers. We talked about three places “to look” in order to live in faith during times of uncertainty:

  1. We look up, to God our heavenly Father who commands us to be strong and courageous and promises to always be with us (Joshua 1:9).
  2. We look out, with a focus on the needs of our neighbors to see how we can serve.
  3. We look within,ย to find the guiding hand of Jesus in our hearts to inspire and fuel us in love.

How do we start?

It’s hard to pack your faith when times are hard. Instead, it is tempting to give into stress and fear. But, that’s not what God asks us to do. I have found that the more I share my burdens with Jesus in prayer, the more the Holy Spirit inspires me to use my energy to serve others instead of worrying about myself. Once I find the courage to start, then over time I find a rhythmic pattern: ย looking up to hear the guidance of the Holy Spirit, looking out to share and serve others, and looking within to let Jesus guide my steps.

As an actively recovering “worry-a-hol-ic”, this is something that I have to be very intentional about. In the midst of these troubling times, don’t be afraid of the first lap! Let’s come together and lean into our faith ๐Ÿ™‚ I am praying that each of you stays healthy — in mind, body and spirit as we go forward into these uncharted waters.

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