Worthy…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from John 14: 27

“I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.


I love the life lessons that athletics teach. That is what fuels me on a daily basis to keep coaching. Sometime during my coaching tenure, I learned the hard lesson that a good coach loves their athletes more than they love the sport or the win. I don’t think that it was a passionate “aha” moment, but rather an on-going personal development in my leadership skills that led me to this realization. I know that it is something that I remind myself often as I wear the “coaching hat”.

Over the decades, I have noticed a recurring challenge that appears most often in my female athletes. Interestingly enough, it is also something that I struggled with during my own athletic career. It is a simple question that carries huge implications (both in athletic performance and in life).

Am I worthy of the win?

An innate sense of worth is critical to athletic performance. Google defines worth as “sufficiently good, important or interesting enough to justify a specific action.” I see it determine the way that the athlete perceives him/herself as well as how he/she internally formulates their role on the team. It dictates whether an athlete is all in and able to own the game. What the fans notice most is athletic performance — what I see as a coach goes much deeper than that.

Am I good enough to deserve to win sets the stage for the athletic performance. It can be both transient and permanent — it depends on the athlete and it depends on the day! While the status within each player’s mind might fluctuate, the effects of the answer are steadfast.

  • A worthy athlete plays with confidence
  • A worthy athlete plays with resilience
  • A worthy athlete is better able to look outside of themselves to play a leadership role on the team

Why girls?

I think that girls struggle with this challenge more than boys because they live in a world that constantly compares them and often expects perfection in order to grant value. As a result, girls are cautious. If they do not have 100% confidence that they can do it right, then they chose to hold back. In a teenage girl’s mind, there are different levels of failure. And, while none of them are appealing some hurt more than others. They believe that:

it is better to hold a piece of themselves back and fall short than it is to give it everything that they have and still not win.


A couple of years ago, I coined the phrase pack your faith to compete with grace. There are many implications to this mantra, but I thought of the young women that I coach when I put the words together. As a coach, I can run drills and practice so that my girls internalize what they are supposed to do and gain confidence that they can perform the tasks necessary to bring home the win. As a coach, I can also love them and encourage them to believe. But, I cannot fill their hearts with the peace of Jesus that will carry them in the moment of competition when they need it most.

I cannot. But, God can.

The apostle John reminds us in the above passage that Jesus leaves us on earth with a heavenly gift. The gift is peace of mind and heart. It is available for all those that reach for it. While it is offered to everyone, it is not forced on anyone. We each have the choice to say “Yes”. When we do, Jesus fills our hearts and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our minds. The combination creates a new level of worthiness.

I wish that I had figured that out during my own athletic tenure.

I feel incredibly blessed that I figured it out during my coaching tenure.

God’s time isn’t always our time, and learning to trade fear for faith is a life skill. When we make this intentional choice, the results on the athletic field are tangible. But, more importantly, the impact on the confidence with which we live our lives is nothing short of amazing grace 🙂

 

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It’s okay to not be okay…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from Isaiah 41: 9-10

“For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”


When I turned 42, my favorite brunette wrote me a letter entitled “42 Reasons We Love you”. It is my favorite birthday present of all time and I go back and read it often.

My favorite farmer and I love being parents. I think that both of us would report that we have enjoyed all of our children at all of their different life stages. Our greatest priority is simply to be with them and love them on their life journey. The adventure of parenting is not for the weak-hearted. We’ve shared smiles, laughter, tears, heart ache, anger, frustration and any number of varying emotions over the past 19 years. God has used each one to shape us as both individuals and as a family.

Sometimes I doubt my “mothering skills”. Worry creeps into my brain that I haven’t been patient enough – I haven’t been understanding enough – I haven’t supported enough. That’s when I go back and read that letter. It serves as a great reminder of the tremendous blessing of being a mom and gives me confidence that I have answered this incredibly important calling from God in a meaningful way.

Ashley Grace covered a lot of territory in her 42 reasons – from push up contests to forgiveness to fashion advice to faith. You can click here to read them all if God puts that desire on your heart. But, today I’d like to talk about the one that didn’t make the original list. I guess since I’m going to turn 44 in a couple of months that makes me eligible to change it to 43 Reasons We Love You 😉

#43: It’s okay to not be okay.

Hopefully Ashley Grace won’t mind that I added to her gift because I pray that my children all internalize this as they travel the journey each day.


I’ve lived the above passage from the prophet Isaiah.

  • I’ve been broken.
  • I’ve been afraid.
  • I’ve lacked hope.

I’ve not hidden that from my children.

  • They’ve seen me struggle.
  • They’ve seen me fall.
  • They’ve seen me look to God for help in order to get back up again.

All of those things have happened because I know that it’s okay to not be okay. That’s why God sent his son Jesus – to help us to become okay even when we’re not okay. While the initial moment of surrender is hard for those like me who prefer to be in control, the result ensures that we live with grace. When I carry Jesus in my heart:

  • He heals me.
  • He trades my fear for faith.
  • He fills my heart with love and gives me hope.

Although I may fall at times on the journey, I never truly fail because He fills the gap and picks me up so that I can continue the journey. God has chosen me as one of His own and holds me up with a victorious right hand. Each time that I fall, there is pain during the struggle but it is replaced with a deep sense of peace as I lean on God to find the strength to move forward in faith.

Our culture teaches that it’s not okay to not be okay. But it is. Jesus came to heal the broken. And that is perhaps the most beautiful gift of all 🙂

 

 

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Nothing is insignificant…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the gospel of Matthew 3: 13-15

Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” 


After I moved to the farm in 1997, I quickly learned that when you care for farm animals that it is the little things that matter most. Daily chores are a constant, and the quality of life for the animals is directly correlated with the quality of your workmanship. Nothing is insignificant. 

I think that one of the things that allowed me to find success as a cattle caregiver is my dedication to detail. If it affected the welfare of my animals, then I placed a priority on it regardless of whether or not I truly understood it. In the early 2000’s I delved deeply into “prey animal psychology” so that I could learn to think like my cattle. It led to a fascinating journey in mental and emotional health that continues to inspire me daily.

I’ll never forget the looks on my farm crew’s faces when I told them that I was going to start exercising cattle as a way to allow the animals to find a higher level of comfort on our farm. The expressions of bafflement might have been comical if I had not been so passionate on the topic. I knew in my heart that caring for God’s creatures involved a deeper level of commitment. Over time, my guys all became believers as the changes in animal care that I lead them on allowed for improved cattle health and well-being.


As I read Matthew 3, I can picture the look on John’s face as Jesus seeks to be baptized by him. It might just have been similar to the looks of bafflement that I received from my feed yard crew that day that I introduced them to cattle psychology 🙂 A lack of understanding can often lead to a human response of disbelief.

Why would the Son of God need to be baptized?

Because God required it.

Despite the fact that John did not really understand why he was being called to baptize Jesus, he preformed the action because God asked him to. He faltered a bit and needed Jesus to kindly remind him of God’s call, but together they moved in faith. If you read on further in Matthew we are told that “After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water; the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

What happened when God’s call was faithfully answered?

Blessings followed obedience and the act of faith resulted in Jesus becoming fully equipped with the Spirit of God for his earthly journey. Something that seemed unnecessary in human eyes played a critical role in God’s plan for Jesus and ultimately for us.


How many times do we fail to respond to something that God has asked of us because we do not fully understand it?

  • Perhaps it scares us
  • Perhaps it baffles us
  • Perhaps it seems insignificant as a result of our lack of comprehension

I know that this is something that I need to work on daily. For me, the vital part of walking with Jesus to fulfill God’s mission is found in the intentional commitment to answer the call; regardless of whether or not I understand it. It is the belief that nothing that God asks us to do is insignificant.

It’s okay that we can’t see the finish line —

what matters is being faithfully committed to the journey.

 

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Wholesome…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Isaiah 40:11

“He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.”


My favorite farmer’s business partner visited us in Cozad last week. While he was here, he asked, “How do you all stay so wholesome?” I think that Matt was not entirely sure how to answer that question, but when he came home and told me about it I had to smile a bit. I viewed the question as a very nice complement. It reminded me of a similar question that I had received earlier in the week…

I am a youth leader at The Refuge which is in the neighboring town of Lexington. I spend Wednesday evenings hanging out with some pretty awesome middle schoolers 🙂 Last week, we were talking about how Jesus calls us to love one another. One of the girls looked at me and asked, “How did you learn to love?”

What an awesome question!

  • How do we learn to love?
  • And, maybe more importantly, how can we grow in our faith so that we can love more like Jesus?

Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-5 that “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.” That type of a love is a wholesome love – and one that is given freely without conditions.

I looked at the girl, smiled and did my best to answer her question. I said, “God uses my children to teach me how to love. They inspire me to open my heart so that I can reflect the love that Jesus places in it.” Being a mom leads me on a journey of learning to love and it is one of my life’s greatest blessings. It is a beautiful and wholesome adventure. I still have a lot to learn, but I get better each day that I intentionally try to progress.


Above, the prophet Isaiah gives us a beautiful description of a loving shepherd. Although he lived hundreds of years before the coming of Christ, as I read the words from Isaiah 40:11, I think of Jesus. He is the Good Shepherd that carries lambs in his arms in order to hold them close to his heart. He is the God that gently leads us on our wholesome journey of love.

I opened my bible on Saturday morning searching for guidance. The last sentence of this verse jumped off the page at me. If Jesus leads the mother sheep gently as she follows with her young, then I need to lead gently as well as I strive to reflect His love. I’ve spent the majority of my life not being a very gentle person. I’ll never forget a few years ago when the Activities Director of our local high school called me to ask if I would serve as a volunteer coach on the Junior High and High School Cross Country team. He was looking for someone with “soft skills” to aid the team during a time of coaching transition.

When my family learned that I’d been hired for my “soft skills”, they laughed until they cried. My reputation more closely resembled a Drill Sargent than a mediator. But that phone call played a pivotal role in my personal decision to intentionally focus on love as I strived to learn how to be more gentle. It’s a journey that I still take today – endeavoring to love freely and lead gently – following the example of our Good Shepherd. I remind myself that I am after progress not perfection which gives me hope as well as goals for the future.

Perhaps the questions of last week are one of the little ways that the Lord uses others to shine His light on my path to enable me to leave the light on 🙂

 

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Leave the Light On…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Matthew 5: 14-16

“You are the light of the world — like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”


Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had about 24 hours of “windshield time”. I do not usually travel that often but my trip to OSU was followed immediately with another work trip to Kansas. The good part of driving time (especially in rural America where the traffic is light) is long periods of relative quiet. I am an avid Christian music listener so I fill that time with spiritual reflection.

Matthew West has a song out entitled Do Something that strikes a cord deep inside of me. It came on the radio on my way to Stillwater, and I thought about it often during my journeys. If you have never listened to it, I highly recommend spending a few moments of reflection letting the lyrics sink into your soul. The first stanza goes something like this:

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now, thought
How’d we ever get so far down, and
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

How many times have you watched the news, read articles on the internet, or listened to the radio and thought, “Our country – our world – is just such a mess”? Are those thoughts followed by feelings of anger or hopelessness?

Do you shake your head and go about your daily life or do you “do something”?


I believe in the trilogy:

  • God the Father
  • God the Son
  • God the Holy Spirit

As I accept God the Father’s gift of Jesus in my heart, the Holy Spirit guides my journey and lights my path. Quite simply, it’s the way that God is able to leave the light on  — through each and every one of us. As we reflect His love, it creates a light for the world.

My favorite farmer and I have had hundreds of intellectual discussions over the years about the increase in violence and judgement (finger pointing) that currently exists in our country. We’ve debated politics, government regulations, morality, parenting techniques and a huge variety of topics trying to find a reasonable solution to take our country out of it’s current state of darkness and into a place filled with the light of love.

Each time, I found myself coming back to God.

For a while, I was like the song — shaking my fist at heaven and asking, “God why don’t you do something?

But then I met Joseph.

And God used him to answer my question. He said, “I did, I created you. Go and share my love.”

I learned that the recipe for healing is love. It is a universal display of loving actions that help to heal — one child, one person at a time. When we all take up that mission, the acts of daily love become countless and God’s light (expressed by each of us) overshadows the darkness. Only then can love trump violence and hatred to create a new culture of freedom.

God lights our path through Jesus’s gift of guidance through the Holy Spirit. But, we cannot reflect that light if we don’t move our feet down the path. Each and every one of us is God’s answer. Together we heal our world – one reflection of love at a time. It isn’t complicated, but sometimes it is hard.

Faith carries us forward.

I pray that together we will enable God’s grace to leave the light on.

 

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Lay Down What’s Good To Find What’s Best…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


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.”


Last week, I traveled to Stillwater, Oklahoma to speak on OSU’s campus as part of the 25th Annual Totusek Lectureship. I spent all day Friday with students and faculty from the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and ended the evening as the keynote speaker for the lectureship. I always learn something when I spend time with students who are passionate about agriculture, and I hope that I offered a meaningful message for them.

I was charged with talking about “My Journey in Beef Production”, but perhaps a more accurate title would be “Laying Down What’s Good To Find What’s Best”. The phrase comes from an awesome Jonny Diaz song entitled “Breathe”.

As I prepared for the lecture, creating a power point and pondering what “work” stories and lessons I should share, it occurred to me that there have been many times in my life that I have laid down what’s good to find what’s best. Each and every time, it has taken loving commitment and self-discipline to overcome the fear involved in creating meaningful change.

I have literally hundreds of stories to share on a variety of topics including:

  • Moving to Nebraska from the city to work in our small feed yard
  • Changing daily feed yard animal care practices to include low stress cattle handling
  • Redefining our business model to become my own cattle buyer in order to reduce stress on my animals and better honor God’s call to be good caregivers
  • Navigating my way into leadership positions in order to foster meaningful change across the beef industry in animal well-being
  • Closing down the feed yard and then opening a new chapter of life with the Beef Marketing Group.

Throughout the preparation process for my time at OSU, my thoughts kept coming back to the difference between good — better — and best. It takes intentionality to move up the scale. And, the leap from better to best is a big one. When I think of best, my mind often goes to my faith and my family – to the love that I share with my favorite farmer and the children with which we were blessed. I’ve earned a lot of titles over the years, but the one that I am most proud of is wife/mom. Together, our family has learned to love — to reflect the light of God’s grace in order to walk a meaningful journey. There’s not a plaque hanging on my wall to honor this, but instead a mark on my heart that I cherish above all else.

It’s where I consistently find best.


Life journeys are interesting that way. Reaching for what’s good – upgrading to better – and ultimately striving for what’s best. I believe that the leap from better to best has a strong faith component to it. When we follow the path that God sets out for us, He fuels us with the power that comes from love and inspires us to develop the needed self discipline to persevere. Jesus calls us to be courageous and hopeful in our journey – thereby overcoming the fear and timidity that threatens to keep us from finding best.

I don’t know for sure what the folks at OSU expected from me, but they got a talk that uniquely blended cattle stories and faith stories with a sprinkle of Coach Anne on top.  It’s a mix that works for me in my constant search for best 🙂

 

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Celebrating 14 Years!

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from the Gospel of John 3:21

“But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”


Today my favorite “fish” turns 14! While it’s hard to believe that my baby could be that old, it is one of my greatest joys to travel with her on the journey of life. There are many things that make Karyn beautiful, but it is her kind heart that constantly draws me in. Karyn loves deeply and quietly — with all of the joy and none of the drama. Her sensitive intuition allows her to radiate kindness and to help others when they need it most.

One of the most beautiful things for me to watch is how love makes Karyn bold. It turns the quiet and shy girl into a strong and courageous young woman. In honor of her birthday, I’d like to share a Karyn story 🙂

About a week ago, the Young Americans touring musical group did a workshop for students in our town of Cozad. Karyn and Joseph both enjoy music and decided to participate. After two days of practice, the Young Americans group performed along with close to 100 Cozad elementary, junior high and high school students. It’s a big deal for Karyn to get up in front of a group of people — that type of thing is not in her natural comfort zone, even in a group setting. The high school gymnasium was full that night with students, parents, and friends attending the performance.

Part way through the performance, one of the Young American actors announced that a few students were going to move forward to the microphones to share their stories of inspiration. The last thing that I expected was for Karyn to make her way to the front of the stage. I wish that I had thought to record her testimony, but I was so enthralled with the quietly brave young woman on the stage that I didn’t think of it.

Karyn spoke of how her family inspired her to always want to make a difference. She talked of each of her older siblings with the sweetness and genuine love that is so truly Karyn. She ended by publicly declaring her love for her new brother Joseph.

  • How she never expected to have a brother, but that God had brought him into our lives last April.
  • How the struggles of his life inspired her to live bravely.

Tears rolled down my face by the time that she finished. The simplicity of her message — spoken in that quiet yet confident voice – left me shaken. In a world that likes to make things complicated, sometimes it takes a reminder from the soft, God-inspired voice of a 14 year old to remind us how powerful love and acceptance can be in our lives.

 


Last night, Karyn – Joseph – and I read together from the 3rd chapter of John. It occurred to me that Karyn lived John 3:21 during the Young Americans performance. This quietly private young woman who prefers to avoid the spotlight stepped forward to publicly share the love in her heart for a young man that God called her to care for as a brother. Her unabashed acceptance of Joseph sent a powerful signal of faith to everyone in attendance. It was a vibrant moment filled with God’s grace.

There are very few things in my life that have touched me that deeply. Our journey as a new family with Joseph has not been easy, but it has been right. Blessings follow obedience and I thank God every day for the blessings that He bestows on my family. Sometimes as humans we make “God’s ask” complicated — Jesus asks us to love, not to be complicated.

Love is patient and kind…Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Love Does.

Happy Happy Birthday to my beautiful Karyn who lights up my life and reminds me that patience, kindness and love trump all!

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A Christian Athlete’s Journey…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week’s Wednesday Wisdom comes from Hebrews 12: 1-2

“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”


My favorite blonde cowgirl has always preferred to measure running distances in feet instead of miles. She gets it from her dad. They share a love of pole vaulting and any number of other sports that require a level of “daring” that leaves me baffled. She ended up on the Haymaker Cross Country team last year when she was at a loss for a fall sport to participate in, and the team needed female athletes. In Nebraska, we run six and score four so a team requires (at a minimum) four runners.

Meg’s XC experience has always been about team. She ran that first year to help ensure that her older sister (who prefers to measure running in miles instead of feet) could complete her high school XC tenure running as a team. Megan spent the season proclaiming that she loved everything about the team — except for the running part 😉 The 5k races opened up a whole new level of “discomfort” for my blonde cowgirl, but she persevered out of love.

I watched a lot of personal growth happen in Megan during that time – It was a season that nurtured many traits that are necessary for a Christian athlete. I smiled as I watched her take those traits with her to the basketball court and then further develop them in the pole vault pit. It was during the XC season in 2017 that Megan made the life choice to let Jesus in her heart. Over the past 12 months, she has learned that to truly pack her faith to compete with grace that she must intentionally walk with Him every day of the journey.


The above scripture verse from Hebrews reminds me that our journey on earth will be one that resembles a marathon – measuring life in miles, not in moments or feet. There will be many uncertainties during that race, but God’s love for us will remain steadfast. He is there for us — we only need to look to feel His presence. We successfully complete the marathon when we keep our eyes on Jesus.

Why?

Because He is there to fill the gap.

Like many Christian athletes, Megan has a story to tell. Tonight, she will share that story as a speaker at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ 2018 Fields of Faith in Lexington, Nebraska. I don’t know exactly what she plans to say, but I know that I am blessed to be a part of her journey 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

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