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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Wish Upon a Prayerful Prairie Star…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Psalms 19: 1-4

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.”


I spent the winter and spring reading the Old Testament, and I have really enjoyed pondering the story and journey of King David. I’ve drawn introspection and wisdom from reading about David’s life journey. I see parallels in David that I find in my own life. The most obvious to me is that I make mistakes along the way, but I try to have a devoted and faithful heart that turns to God for guidance.

I think that the book of Psalms (partially written by David) shows the range of human response to God and His world. The verses help to bring the emotion out of my heart, and tell me that its okay to have an up and down relationship with God as long as I am deepening my faith in an intentional journey to know Him better.

I find God best in the quiet. He comes alive to me as I spend peaceful time on the Nebraska prairie.

My favorite blonde cowgirl went flying out the back door the other night to snap the above picture. It’s a little bit hard to see, but the alfalfa field behind my horse paddock is dotted with dandelions. As the sun prepared to set, the dandelions lit up with its rays and seem to beckon “Wish upon a prayerful prairie star”. I remember when my girls were little, they used to pick the dandelions and make a wish before they blew on them. I don’t know exactly what they wished for, but I think of those times as God moments. 

Today, when I search for God’s guidance, it comes to me as a soft and quiet voice. I hear it best amongst the quiet when my mind is uncluttered and my heart is at peace. The more I open my mind to listen, the more I that I hear.

I’ve been asked a couple of times over the last several months what I feel is the best tool that my girls can have in order to live an honorable life. To me that means: What is the best inspiration for having good character as they travel through all of the moments of each day?

My answer is simple and can be summed up in three words.

OWN THEIR FAITH.

When my girls reach out in faithful love to Jesus and open their hearts to him, then they develop a personal relationship with God that drives the way that they live their lives. Their decision making process changes as they intentionally seek guidance from the ultimate source of holy character. They learn to listen for that soft and quiet voice.

It’s a life changer.

You can see it in the story of King David as well as in the lives of anyone who chooses to live in faith. And, I am truly blessed to have watched it happen in all three of my girls.

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day. As I think about the celebration of motherhood, I am eternally grateful for this blessing. As my girls own their faith, they make a daily choice to walk with Jesus and let him guide their hearts. It changes their perspective and it enables them to live with a new level of peace and confidence that is not tied to earthly culture.

If I were to think of what I would most wish upon a prayerful star for, it is just this. And today I am grateful for all of the dandelions (that are not supposed to be in my favorite farmer’s alfalfa field) for reminding me of God’s graceful influence in our family 🙂

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I don’t know…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week 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.”


Over the course of the last several months, my favorite farmer and I have developed a habit. I’ve yet to determine if it is a good habit or a bad habit. When things weigh us down, we shake our heads and say “I don’t know.” We say it when we get stuck and can’t figure things out on our own. It is a quiet ask for direction amidst a perceived sea of chaos.

Over the weekend, I decided to intentionally amend the statement in an effort to build a heart filled with hope. Now, instead of “I don’t know”, I say “I don’t know but I trust in the One that does know and I know that He loves me.”

It doesn’t make the hard things go away. But, I think that it helps me build an appropriate perspective in which to deal with them. Most importantly, it allows me to let go of what I can’t control and focus on the fact that I do know that Jesus always shows up. He walks with me – everyday, and through every experience. We are reminded often in the Bible that “with God, all things are possible” so I figure that teaming up with Jesus makes for a pretty good game plan 🙂


Although I’m currently trying to learn how to walk again, rather than running half marathons – I’ve been an athlete my entire life.

I’ve never known a race that was easy.

I know that endurance takes work, perseverance, focus and a heart filled with hope. Sometimes it hurts and often it is uncomfortable, but it is always meaningful.

Just as Jesus always shows up, God has high expectations that I will always show up – with my heart in His hand and a dedication to not only start well but also to finish strong.

How many meaningful lessons are learned by quitting the race before it is over?

Each day, it’s God’s job to tell me what that leg of the race will be. Each day, it’s my job to try to compete with the honor and endurance that Jesus showed to us during his time on earth. I can’t ever be like him, but I can walk (and sometimes run) with him in order to find a faithful victory.

Races are won by those who whole-heartedly choose to compete. Victory comes to those who are willing to personally sacrifice as they honor their coach by obeying his direction. We don’t always have to know. But, we do always have to both trust and be willing to put in the effort.

My pastor reminded me at church on Sunday that “A promising start is not enough”. God doesn’t just call us to start with passion. He calls us to continually walk with Jesus so that we can maintain the courageous faith that it takes to finish strong. The race is long, but a humble and courageous heart is willing to lean in when things get hard – with an intentional focus to not get lost in the middle, and a trusting patience that allows God to mentor us for victory.

God calls us to GO ALL IN – STAY FOCUSED – and FINISH STRONG.

I don’t know a lot of things. That’s okay. I know the important One and I trust that He will provide direction as I give Jesus my heart. Together, we find the patiently passionate endurance that leads to a faithful victory.

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Courageous Faith…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week’s post comes from Galatians 2: 21

“I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless…”


I wasn’t going to write a post to share this week as we are going through some difficult times at home, and I am not yet able to share about them. But, here I am writing at 9:00 on Tuesday night as God has placed something on my heart. I opened my bible to read out of Galatians and the above partial verse jumped off of the page at me.

I love it when the Holy Spirit does that!

The more that I realize the depth of God’s love, the more I understand the vastness of His grace. When we walk through hard times, it is easy to be angry – to accuse God of not being there – to let frustration steal the peace that should live in our hearts. I’ve been tempted to do this, but God just keeps pursuing me. His steadfastness draws me in. It inspires me to lean into my faith instead of walking away.

Why?

Because Jesus shows up everyday. He is the ultimate demonstration of God’s grace and He uses the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide. He fills my heart with the courageous faith that inspires hope and grants the peace that passes all understanding. Even on the hard days – especially on the hard days.

He is there.

I write myself bible verses, quotes and sayings on note cards. I scatter them around the house and seem to find them on the days that I need them. A couple of weeks ago, I sat down and wrote: “Courageous faith is continuing to work with hope even during times of trial — trusting that God’s grace will carry me.” When we treat the grace of God with reverence and devotion and truly trust in it, then we are able to feel the full power of courageous faith. Its value is limitless.


 

I’ve experienced God’s grace often over the past several months. I’ve seen it in this goofy and loyal dog that has granted me company in the long days that I spent in the chair with a broken leg. I’ve seen it in my favorite farmer and our girls as they have circled in love and carried me when I failed. I’ve seen it in friends and those in our church family who have been there – waiting to fill whatever gap unfolds – supporting without question – and reflecting Jesus’ love with steadfast loyalty. I’ve seen it as I’ve continued to live, to coach, and to share my faith.

Sharing faith helps to create courageous faith. We are all meant to live in community. The more that I embrace that, the more I am able to experience God’s grace. Many times grace is found in giving – not in receiving. A grace-filled heart is a grateful heart. Grateful hearts make for cheerful givers. Cheerful givers spread God’s grace, even during times of trial.

Today I am thankful for God’s grace. I cherish the courageous faith that Jesus puts into my heart, and pray that in sharing it I can also help to spread His grace to others.

Thank you to all of you who have reached out in prayer and support for me over the past weeks. Please know how much I appreciate your kindness 🙂

 

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Suffering with holiness – Loving with grace…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Luke 23:34

“Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”


Last week we experienced Holy Week and celebrated the Easter holiday. 2019 has been a time of great reflection for me, and our Good Friday church service brought me a great deal of clarity with something that I have been struggling with for months. Hours of prayer and reflection have resulted in the following three questions being in the forefront of my mind.

  1. Why does God allow us to suffer?
  2. What does Jesus teach us about suffering with holiness?
  3. What does Jesus teach us about loving with grace?

I believe that suffering occurs on many levels – physical as well as emotional. I’ve experienced both in 2019.

Health problems resulting from a fall on the ice where I shattered my fibula (leg bone) has led to four and a half months of physical pain – two surgeries – seven weeks in a cast – and nine weeks in a boot. 16 and a half weeks in, I am slowly transitioning out of the boot and into a pair of running shoes and have traded two crutches for one. I wake up everyday hoping that my leg won’t hurt. I’ve been told that day is far into the future as is the day that I will take a long awaited running step.

Almost two weeks ago, as I headed in for the second surgery hoping to gain the ankle flexion that I needed to walk, I gave it to God. The hours spent in physical therapy did not seem to be working, and I was left in a fog of chronic pain and very little hope. I needed grace as my suffering was not only painful but it was beginning to lack in holiness as anger kept my heart from feeling peace amidst my struggle.

Why does God allow us to suffer? To teach us lessons that enable us to reach out in love to help others. It’s a hard journey, but I am finally finding the grace that I need to be thankful for it. I no longer look at the world the same way. I am irrevocably changed. This actually is the second time a chronic health issue has crippled me – 14 years ago Graves Disease destroyed my health and led to a four year fight to regain it. Looking back, I can see how that time of suffering also shaped me.

Isn’t it interesting how God uses our experiences to help us to grow in faith?

As I sat in the Good Friday service thinking of the suffering that Jesus endured during his lifetime and particularly during the last few days of his earthly life, the phrase suffer with holiness kept running through my mind. There really is no other way to describe what Jesus went through — the ridicule, the betrayal, the physical pain of carrying the cross and then dying on it. Understanding what it means to suffer allows me to better understand how Jesus loved with grace.

Father, forgive them, they know not what they do. 

Jesus very clearly calls us to love our neighbors – to forgive them when they cause us pain – to offer supportive love when they need it. He says it in the Bible and he lived it during his time on earth. It sounds easy, but it is not. The months that I have spent physically crippled from the leg break have coincided with a very difficult time trying to mentor and love the young man that God called our family to help over a year ago. Emotional suffering is real and I believe it is possibly even more difficult to work through than physical suffering. The combination of it has shaken me to the core.

I’ve learned several things over the past four months, but likely the most important lesson is that I can cling to Jesus when things get hard. He suffers with me and he loves with the grace that allows me to find hope when I can’t find it on my own.  The Good News is that God’s love never falters and that Jesus exhibits a loving grace carried with the same strength and steadfastness with which he shouldered the cross.

He does it for each one of us.

He does it out of love, and it makes all of the difference.

 

 

 

 

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How do “doors” and “cups of water” merge?

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Matthew 10:42

“And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”


My family participates in a small group bible study once a week with some wonderful people from our church. Right now we are studying the Gospel of Matthew. This week we read Chapter 10. Tuesday late afternoon found me taking my first big trip since breaking my leg in January. Part of my job for the Beef Marketing Group is to service cattle feed yards, and I had a visit that was overdue. It was far enough away from home that I decided to stay overnight in a hotel.

I broke my leg on January 5th, and never would have dreamed that I would still be basically non-weight bearing and on crutches the 13th of March. But, with some nerve damage in my foot and a stubborn ankle, that is my reality. I packed carefully for the trip with two backpacks (one with my computer and the things that I would need for the feed yard visit, and the other with an extra change of clothes for the overnight stay).

Before I experienced life on crutches, I never realized how difficult it was to open doors and then pass through them. Most doors these days (at least those in Nebraska) have to be pulled open and physically held because they are designed to immediately close. The majority do not have that awesome handicap button to push to operate the door automatically. When you have two working arms and legs, it likely never enters your radar screen that this creates a challenge for some people. I’ve learned to balance myself on my one working leg and the crutches and pull on the door, but holding it open while I try to move in a forward motion is hard. Usually it results in the door banging into some part of my upper body. I’ve yet to truly master the process.

Please pardon the “selfie” – I don’t take them well 😉

Rural Nebraska hotels do not have “bell hops”, so when I arrived at the hotel I parked in the closest available place and put one back pack on my back and the other on my front. I pretty much made an “Anne sandwich”, and crutched my way toward the door. When I got there, I realized with a bit of a sinking heart that there was not only 1 outside door but a set of 2 outside doors (one followed by another) to help reduce energy use with the difficult Nebraska weather.

While I was getting together a game plan, I noticed the one lady sitting in the lobby. She was just on the other side of the second door, and scrolling through her smart phone. I made eye contact with her hoping that she would see my difficulty and come to my aid. After glancing at me briefly, she went back to scrolling on her phone. I faced the reality of the doors and began the tedious process of getting myself through one and then the other. I’d never tried it with two backpacks on before, but God was with me and I worked my way through.

As I awkwardly cleared the second door, the lady looked up – a little bit sheepishly – and said, “Oh, I guess I should have helped you.” I just smiled and told her that it was okay, and made my way to the front desk to sign for my room.


So, by now you may be asking yourself:

What does Anne’s “door story” have to do with a cup of cold water?

I think that the above statement from the Gospel of Matthew is designed to remind us that we are a community, a family. And, as such, we are called to offer a cold cup of water when someone is thirsty and in need of help. Sometimes it is a physical need, and sometimes it is an emotional or spiritual need. In any instance, Jesus asks us to take the time to notice the need and then to reach out in love to help.

I’ve learned many things over the past 9 and a half weeks, but I can promise that I will never look at a manual door the same way again. Additionally, I hope that I am learning to be more sensitive to others, to pay better attention to the needs that exist around me, and to reach out in agape love to help fill them. Sometimes it’s simply opening a door for someone who is physically struggling, but other times it might be offering comfort to someone who has pain in their heart.

There is a saying that everyone has a story of need. Perhaps if we all tried a little bit harder to help others, the world would be a more loving place. I am confident that many would have rushed to help me with the doors, but the truth is that not everyone does. What if one of the ways that Jesus heals others is through us? If that is the case, what happens when we ignore His call?

I’m going to try harder to be one who responds instead of one who doesn’t.

 

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