Learning To Abide…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from James 1: 2-5

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”


This is one of my favorite verses. I don’t just enjoy it, I need the perspective that it brings. While I like challenge, real troubles sometimes stump me. When fatigue sets in, I begin to question God’s plan as I forget to let go of the hurt and simply abide in Jesus’s love.

About 10 days ago, I fell on the snow and ice and broke my right ankle and lower leg. I was delivering lasagna to the high school to help feed the Lady Haymaker basketball team and I slipped and fell as I transitioned from the parking lot up the handicap access to the side walk. I had surgery last Thursday and am now the proud owner of a 10 screw plate in my lower right leg, as well as a few extra “long screws” (holding my ligament in place) that will have to be removed after my leg heals. I’m non-weight bearing and in a cast for six weeks before beginning physical therapy.

There is never a good time to have an accident. I have to admit that I’ve had moments over the past 10 days when I’ve wanted to fall apart. After one of those moments, my favorite farmer came hurrying down the hallway. He said: “Okay, the guy on the radio just said that James says to find joy in your challenges because they bring you endurance and a stronger faith.”

I think that’s the first time that Matt has ever quoted scripture to me– and it made me smile that he’d been listening to MyBridge Radio and had picked up on some of my favorite verses. I’ve yet to figure out why my accident happened, but God has sent me several very clear signs like this one that He is with me on the journey 🙂


As Christians, Jesus calls each one of us to abide in His love.

To be on His team.

The invitation is open to everyone and it’s there on the good days as well as the hard ones. It’s there, we simply need to put it on. Our pastor talked about this same thing on Sunday and it was so truly meaningful to me. As we abide in Christ, our hearts become full of Jesus’ love. There is no limit to His love which brings both peace in the moment and hope for the future. Our ultimate call is to share that love. Not just to love our neighbor as ourself, but to love them as Jesus loves us.

That’s a big deal.

We often pray for God’s help, but how often do we sign up to whole-heartedly and intentionally be on His team? The culture of love only develops when we are all in. That’s because God uses all of us to reflect Jesus’ love — it can’t be reflected if no one answers the call. When we sign up to be on the team, we need to be willing to put in the work.

I saw this picture on facebook last week and it really resonated with me.

Perhaps this is part of what James is talking about.

I am coming to understand that there is both joy and honor to be found in being a member of God’s team. The hard things still come; but there is a purpose to them as Jesus uses the experiences to mold us into something more complete – more loving – more meaningful. Sometimes learning is hard, but Jesus’ love makes impossible things possible.

What if all we really need to do is to more deeply abide in His love so that following His direction becomes a natural out-pouring from our hearts?

One day, maybe we’ll wake up to find that we are so completely filled with grace that we are in need of nothing.

That will be a good day 🙂

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It’s about how you play the game…

Inspiration for this week comes from the Parable of the Three Servants (Talents) in Matthew 25: 14-30. I am going to focus on verse 29, but encourage you to read the parable in its entirety.

“To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.”


I just finished reading the book Why I didn’t rebel by Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach. It is a “reality based parenting book” written by a 22 year old. She’s not yet a parent, but she’s passed the teenage years that tend to challenge us as families. I found it incredibly interesting to read her perspective.

There is a section in her book entitled “It’s not about winning — it’s how you play the game.” Rebecca references the Parable of the Three Servants (Talents) in this part of the book.  She writes, “We spend a lot of time focusing on the man with one talent and the man with five talents, but in my experience we don’t talk a lot about the man with two talents. But something I’ve realized is this: the master was equally pleased with the man with two talents and the man with five. He gave them both the same praise…It wasn’t about how much they made — it was about how they used what they were given.

Talents are gifts. We often have little control over how much or which ones are given to us. Perhaps the value does not intrinsically exist in the gift. Rather, the value exists in the intentional effort that we chose to place with the talent to use it to further God’s purpose.


I have four teenagers that bless my life and fill my days. Each one is different. Not only do they have different talents, but they also have different levels of talent. I love each one of them in their God-given uniqueness. They are my greatest gift and together we make a family team. As their mom, it’s my job to teach and inspire them to BEST USE WHAT THEY WERE GIVEN.

As a Christian, I find honor and purpose in my life when I live with effort, tenacity, passionate boldness, and an unselfish heart filled with grace. Somewhere along the way, I discovered that authentic faith is contagious as we trust God to provide the initial talents and control the final outcome. Our job is to focus on how we play the game.

Nine months ago, Joseph joined our family. Before I brought him home, neither Matt nor the girls knew him. The day that I had been working out the logistics of his move to us, Megan was competing in a track meet about an hour and a half away. I’ll never forget when Matt got home and shared their story:

My favorite blonde cowgirl won the pole vault and set a new school record that day. The first thing that she did after completing her final vault was to walk over to Matt and ask: “Was mom able to get Joe? Do I have a new brother?”

Anyone that knows Meg, knows how competitive she is. She’s an athlete with a capital “A” 🙂 But, she carries Jesus in her heart and recognizes that playing the game is so much bigger than setting records. It is honoring your sport with focus, passion and effort, but also remembering that opening your heart to a stranger who needs someone to love him trumps any medal that we receive on earth.

In the months that have followed, our family has learned the true meaning of abundance.

We found it by taking our talent and using that gift to embrace His call. It didn’t come with a medal that hangs around our necks, rather it came in our hearts as we truly learned how to share Jesus’ love 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas!

For those of you who do not receive our annual Christmas letter via snail mail — Year #22 🙂



If I were to think of a family “mantra” for 2018, it is that we learned to live by faith. 2018 was a year full of blessings and change for us as we packed our faith to live with God’s grace. In April, a young man who I had been tutoring at the high school needed a place to call home so Joseph joined the family. He is a brave soul – stepping into a house full of women – and Matt rejoiced as he lost his status of “only male” in the family!

About six weeks after Joseph joined us, Ashley Grace graduated from high school. We are still adjusting to having an “adult” child as Matt and I wonder daily how we could possibly be old enough to have a college student. Ashley Grace joined the Notre Dame community in August and loves her new role. In addition to school, she is interning with the Girls On The Run organization. She has the heart of servant – plans to major in Political Science – is well on her way to being bilingual – and has a long-term goal of using her talents to help others to find their voices. She brought home straight A’s during her first semester in the Fighting Irish family and we are tremendously proud of her kind heart and fierce discipline.

A week after Ashley Grace’s graduation, Megan pole vaulted her way to victory at the 2018 Nebraska State Track Meet bringing home the gold in addition to a new school record. It brought joy to my heart to watch her develop confidence as an athlete as she soared 11’2” through the air. She still has her sights set on beating her Dad’s pole vault PR so we’ll see what the future holds 🙂 She began her junior year in high school this fall, and takes every science class available with the plan of studying physics or engineering when it becomes her time to start college. Meg approaches life with the same passion that she brings to the athletic field, and packs her faith with a devotion that allows for an ever-present smile.

2018 marks the year that Karyn found her voice. My quiet, shy girl blossomed into a confident and eloquent young woman. She is currently mastering 8th grade, and finding leadership roles on the various athletic teams that she loves so much. I think that she would report that swim team is still her favorite, but basketball and track are likely not far behind. Karyn’s compassionate heart combined with her steadfast loyalty provided an important foundation for Joseph as he began a new life with us. I love to watch the two of them be brave together – facing challenges with God’s grace and a faith that reflects Jesus’ universal agape love. They both serve as an inspiration for me.

Joseph is a senior in high school this year. In addition to mastering the art of deftly handling sisters, he played football in the fall and is now immersed into wrestling season. Matt reports that we are tremendously blessed as a family, and he and I are both so grateful that what used to be a great 5 is now an awesome 6! We continue to farm in the Platte River Valley where Matt amazes me with his adept entrepreneurship skills. I still work for the Beef Marketing Group with a continued passion to improve cattle welfare in feedlots. In my spare time, I coach the Cozad Swim Team and am an assistant coach for the junior high and high school cross country teams. We hope that your travels will bring you across Nebraska on Interstate 80 and that you will stop and visit us!

In the meantime, we send blessings and smiles from our farm to your family!

Matt,   Anne,   Ashley Grace,  Joseph,  Megan, and  Karyn   

 

 

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Choose Your Experience…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Matthew 11: 28-30

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”


I walked out of my house into the garage Sunday afternoon to find a piece of paper that read in big letters Choose Your Experience. It was a college flyer that must have missed the trash can and landed on the ground. I’d been praying for guidance as I pondered something difficult. It’s always interesting to see the unique ways that God responds to my prayers 🙂

Choose Your Experience

When I was a child, I used to pray for outcomes — a win in the swimming pool or help on a test, or sometimes I prayed that I wouldn’t have to do something that I didn’t want to do. As an adult, my prayers have changed. Today, it is rare for me to pray for a specific outcome. Instead, my prayers are more like a conversation where I search for guidance, love, and peace.

This change occurred when I realized that we are all meant to walk through challenges during our time on earth. It isn’t about the challenge – it’s about the experience.

Life isn’t easy. Sometimes it hurts. That’s okay. I don’t pray for “outcomes” anymore because I know that I am meant to experience it all. Instead, I pray for Jesus to be with me on the journey because I know that my attitude determines the love, peace, hope and joy that I carry in my heart as I walk through each challenge.

It isn’t about the what. It’s about the how.

Choose your experience.

If we are meant to experience everything, then that phrase says to me that my choice determines not what happens, but rather how I respond and react to what happens. My experience changes when I choose to ask Jesus to walk the journey with me.


I’ve pondered the above scripture from the Gospel of Matthew often over the past year.

How can a yoke be easy to bear?

I live on a farm. While we do not use yokes and oxen in 2018, I’ve seen a horse pull a plow. It isn’t easy and it does not take long for the animal to break out into a sweat from the exertion necessary to pull the plow and work the ground. The yoke provides the connection. It doesn’t stop the work – rather – it orchestrates it.

It came to me on Sunday afternoon that when I put on Jesus’ yoke, the work load does not lesson. In fact, if I truly answer the call, it often increases. But, the burden becomes easy to bear as I open my heart in faith to Jesus’ love- peace – hope – joy.

It is possible to experience difficult times with the peace that enables a purposeful joy. It happens when we choose to experience life on earth with God’s grace in our hearts. When we take Jesus’ yoke upon ourselves, it brings the strength that lightens the burden. The burden may not change, but our ability to bear it does.

Next week we celebrate Christmas. Many will celebrate it with the joy of family – Some will celebrate it in the midst of difficult times. We all are invited to celebrate it with the peace that passes all understanding and creates rest for the soul. This peace comes in the form of the Emmanuel – the Christ child – who yokes us to our Heavenly Father during our earthly journey.

 

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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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