Faith Is a Muscle…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration from today’s Wednesday Wisdom comes from the Gospel of Luke 16:10

“If you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in the large ones…”


This week my favorite brunette and my favorite blonde cowgirl will compete at the Nebraska State Track Meet. While I am incredibly proud of both of their accomplishments, the joy that fills my heart mostly stems from the knowledge that they will get to continue as track teammates for one more competition.

One more opportunity to learn to compete with grace. 

Twenty one years ago, when I held my first “coaching job”, I clung tightly to the competitive spirit that marked my own athletic career. I focused on teaching all of the little things that help to bring athletic success:

  • Hard Work
  • Dedicated passion for the sport
  • Developing the competitive mental mindset that allows for physical success on game day

Coming out of an athletic career where I trained for up to 5 hours per day, I was well versed in what it took to be both mentally tough and physically strong. I was faithful in the little things, and found success both in the pool and on the Cross Country Course. I understood the what but, as I matured, I struggled with the why.

Although I did the little things correctly, I never truly comprehended that I was traveling God’s journey. As a result, on race day I lacked the confidence and peace that came from a strong faith. I didn’t understand that when I accepted God’s call, He traveled the competitive journey with me. It was my job to work hard and compete with passion to bring Him honor — It was God’s job to carry me through the stress of competition that sometimes threatened to overcome the peace in my heart.

I never learned to give it to Him.

As a result, my fear was often stronger than my faith and I never truly competed with grace.


When I think of what I most want my girls to experience in athletics, it is the art of competing with grace. I believe that faith is a muscle. It strengthens as we use it. It requires trust, obedience, and intentionality to grow. I never really understood that until I ran a half marathon last fall. I competed in thousands of races over more than three decades before I finally got it right.

The first step is faithfully doing all of the little things, but it doesn’t end there — that is simply the beginning.

Blessings follow obedience

Megan asked me recently how I know when I pack my faith to compete with grace. For me, the answer lies in my heart. When I step up to compete with grace, the intensity of competition blends with a peaceful heart as I know that I am where God called me to be.

There is confidence that comes from obedience – From knowing that you are fulfilling God’s purpose with your actions.

That is how you compete with grace.

As both a mom and a coach, I find that I now live by a new definition of mentoring with my athletes. While my teaching still includes faithfully putting in the work and doing the little things, perhaps the most important lesson that I teach my kids is to believe that their competitive journey is a part of God’s calling for their lives.

Our job is to work hard and move our bodies with passion. God provides the guidance that leads to peace and confidence. When we learn to trust — to obey — to lean — it is then that we intentionally build the muscle of faith that brings us success on the journey.

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The Greatest Of These Is Love…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from 1Corinthians 13: 4-7

“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. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”


My favorite brunette graduates from high school this week. In honor of the event, this week’s “Wednesday Wisdom” comes in a form of a letter to her.


Dear Ashley Grace,

Eighteen and a half years ago, we embarked on the journey of life together. I remember when your dad proudly held you in his arm for the first time. You were so little that you almost fit in his hand, but your exuberant cries assured me of your mighty tenacity. We grew together — you and I. Learning to pack our faith to live with grace. Sometimes I led you, and sometimes you led me; but God relentlessly inspired us to travel on this faith journey together.

Last weekend, I honored your request to have “homemade macaroni and cheese” at your graduation party. When you told me that was what you wanted most, it seemed a right and appropriate tribute to the completion of the first leg of our journey.

Do you remember the “mac and cheese night” ten years ago?

Dad was out of town for work, and I was in the midst of a barely controlled thyroid storm episode. I was heavily medicated to control my racing heart-rate, and so weak that my body shook. I sat down in the chair in the kitchen, overwhelmed by the thought of making you and your sisters’ dinner. I started to cry – my broken spirit getting the best of me. You came to kneel down beside me, with all of the love in your heart shining in your eyes. 

“Mama, it’s okay. I can help you. We can do it together. We’ll make mac and cheese. You tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”

You pulled a stool over to the stove top, and got out the sauce pan — carefully measuring and melting the butter, blending in the flour, adding milk, and stirring for what must have seemed like forever to your eight year old mind. But, you were patient — working with diligence and care — as though you sensed that we were both doing more than just making dinner. When the sauce finally thickened, you carefully grated and added the cheese. I had a moment of worry when the macaroni finished cooking and you had to dump the pasta out of the boiling water; but you bit your lip in concentration as was your habit and successfully completed the task. 

The heavy casserole dish was the next challenge, but somehow you got it filled and into the oven. By this time, Megan was your biggest cheerleader – doing her part to bravely fight the worry in order to support you. Karyn was too young to really understand anything other than we were having a new adventure — one that resulted in her favorite dinner. But, we all came together in our little kitchen to conquer a simple challenge in the midst of a very hard time.

I think that we both “grew up” that day — Realizing that together we were stronger. You learned to step up to the plate and fill the gap when someone you loved needed help. I learned to accept that when there is true love, it carries you when you need it the most.

In the years that followed, we navigated the hard times and celebrated the joy that filled our hearts. Your list of accolades is long, but I want you to know what I believe to be the most important result of our journey together. It doesn’t hang in the form of a medal around your neck. Rather, it fills your heart and guides your actions as you treasure and value each day.

It is love.

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

You grew up hearing me say “Take God with you.” You do that when you open your heart to His patient, kind, and unending love. A love so potent that your heart runs over so that as you experience it, you can’t help to share it with others. Sometimes life is hard and it seems that the love that you offer is not returned in kind.

But it always is.

Perhaps not in the human hearts of everyone whose life path crosses with yours, but your heavenly Father returns it in excess of what you share. If you take Him with you on the journey, then your heart never empties.

I may shed some tears as you embark on the next leg of your journey, but please know that there is something that geography cannot alter. You take a part of me with you wherever you go, and I hold tight to a piece of you. God’s love ties us together — in good times and in bad — in this life and in the heavenly life that awaits us both sometime in the future.

Pack your faith.

Live with grace.

Know that my love supports you wherever God takes you on this journey.

Perhaps life is really just like a delicious batch of homemade macaroni and cheese — when it is made with love, you can’t go wrong 🙂

Love,

Mama

 

 

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Accepting the Call Through Active Faith…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from the book of Psalms 40: 1-3

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.”


As the mother of teenagers, I often think about what active faith means and how to best help my children to internalize the art of walking with God. Because each of us is different, I don’t really think that there is any set formula for the walk — rather there are tools that we can uniquely use in our journey as we abide in Christ.

I think of my faith journey like a succession of distance runs:

  • There is the beginning where excitement drives action
  • There is the middle where doubt takes root as discomfort and fatigue creep in
  • There is the end where challenge escalates and a full and changed heart creates needed perseverance

As one run ends, a new one begins.

I remember clearly the day that I figured out exactly what it meant to lean on God with active faith. I was out for a long run and I felt terrible. I don’t know what it was, but that day my legs appeared to have lead in them and each step hurt. I was right in the middle of a five month training plan for my first half marathon, and had a goal of getting in 9 miles that morning — running on the gravel road from our house to what used to be our cattle feed yard and then back.

I had my earphones on with my “God rock” christian music playing. I have a habit of talking to God while I run, so I lifted my eyes to the early morning sky and asked God if I could make a deal with him. I said:

God, if I keep my feet moving will you guide me on the journey?

I don’t wear a watch when I run, but I am certain that I negative split my 9 miles that morning. The more that I concentrated on feeling God’s guidance, the lighter my feet became. The lead went out of my legs as a sense of peace filled my heart. I still feel that peace in my heart — it provides a steady hand of support as I continue to move my legs each and every day. That day, I learned what it meant to abide in Christ.

 


The three verses from Psalms listed above speak to my heart. Meaningful prayer occurs when we open our hearts to God’s direction.

  • God turns to me and hears my cry. 
  • When it gets hard and it seems that I am in a pit of despair, I keep moving and God sets my feet on solid ground and steadies me as I walk along.  
  • He gives me a new song to sing as I am called to walk with Him. As I put my trust in God, He allows me to peacefully walk through the resistance by filling my heart with loving confidence.
  • I hope that my response as I follow not only brings joy to God, but also helps others to put their trust in Him.

A little over two weeks ago, I answered what is likely my most intentional call from God. It came during a run on a day when I was experiencing sadness and turmoil. As I moved my feet, I asked God for direction. I received a very direct response almost immediately. God asked me:

To reach out in love to a young man whom I had been tutoring.

Ten days later, my favorite farmer and I (together with our girls) welcomed that young man into our home. I do not know exactly what the future holds, but I know that as we share God’s love that we bring honor to our faith and meaning to our lives. Together, we make a new family — One that is moving with strength on a new journey. I am packing my faith to live with grace – letting go of the worries and celebrating the joy.

I fulfill my part of the bargain as I put one foot in front of the other, trusting that God will protect us as we use active faith to live out His call.

 

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The Call To Serve With Grace…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Jesus’s words in the Gospel of Matthew 20: 26-28

“But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


During the “off season” when I do not coach, I like to spend time mentoring students at the high school. In January, God brought a new group of high school students into my life. I love teenagers and working with them truly helps me to find personal and spiritual growth. These kids are such a blessing as they remind me that the greatest gift in life is the ability to serve.

Perhaps it is my psychology training in college – perhaps it is simply my innate need to reach out – but God calls me to look for gaps in these kids’ lives and then help them to fill them. Specifically, I feel the call to show them love. Some of the students that I mentor have experienced trauma in their lives. Behind the walls that they have built around their hearts exists a deep-seated hurt. While the expressed goal of our time together may be to write an English paper or work on a Biology project, the primary goal is to show each student that they matter.

They have worth.

They are loved.

They have love inside of them that is meant to be shared.

The students have taught me a priceless lesson over the past couple of weeks. Through them, I have learned to answer God’s call to serve at their level of need. This is very different than answering a call to serve at my own personal level. They’ve taught me that to truly serve, I must put my own needs aside and let God lead my heart so that I can truly see theirs.

Some hurt can only be healed through GRACE.

Living with a Grateful perspective while leaning on God to find Resilience brings an Awareness of the needs of others so that we can reach out with Compassion and Eloquence. This brings hope and enables the love that can begin the healing process. It bestows an innate sense of worth in the child when they need it the most.


The above scripture reading provides a foundation for my faith. Each time that I read it, I gain better insight into the acts of unselfish service that Jesus modeled for us during his earthly life. He lived to serve others — not in order to fulfill a personal need, but in order to share God’s love with others in a meaningful way.

Hearing God’s call is vital to our service outreach, but how we respond to the call is perhaps even more important. Reaching out under God’s direction with love in our heart allows for the act of service to meet the specific needs of those that we serve. The act of serving finds completion when we share Christ’s love and build a foundation of faith together.

We are not called to serve alone.

We are called to serve each other — sharing the love of our Creator and finding strength in His care.

How do you follow God’s guidance to serve others?

 

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The Draw…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Scripture for today’s Wednesday Wisdom comes from Luke 6: 19

“Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.”


The New Testament is full of stories that demonstrate the power of Jesus’s draw. His heart, full of unconditional love, worked as a magnet toward many. Two things happened on the farm this week that caused me to further focus my thoughts on the concept of the draw.

  1. I attended an educational summit on low stress cattle handling put on by the PAC Veterinary Consultants
  2. I took a group of yearling steers from the Lazy YN Ranch to our spring grass pasture by Willow Island, NE.

As a cattle handling tool, the draw acts like a magnet — inspiring movement toward something meaningful. The draw pulls cattle in a certain direction in an orderly and calm fashion. It provides an incredibly effective tool when you need to move your animals from one place to another.

Creating the draw takes a little bit of homework because it serves as an inspiration for cooperation rather than a forceful submission. I want my animals to naturally follow my leadership because this is how we are able to create a harmonious partnership on the farm. It takes trust and understanding, as well as patience and empathy.


While it is likely a bit unorthodox, I tend to draw parallels from being a cattle caregiver into my own faith. Just as I lead my animals, God leads me. He draws me in as we travel the journey together. It is a natural draw that inspires my cooperation rather than a forceful submission. As I abide in Him, we are able to move forward together.

My “cattle trail” is not a perfectly straight line, as I falter at times, but the draw seems to always bring me back. One of the things that fascinates me the most about the New Testament stories of Jesus’s draw is his ability use goodness to draw others into faith. Luke reminds us that everyone wanted to touch Jesus because of his healing power. That healing power was not just a physical one — rather it was one that also touched the soul.

  • Have you ever come in contact with someone who radiates joy?
  • Is there someone who consistently brightens your day and inspires you to mature in your perspective?

None of us are blessed on earth with the ability to physically touch Jesus, but we can receive His love and guidance through our relationship with the Holy Spirit as well as other people that we meet along the journey.

Perhaps we can all receive healing as we share God’s love together.

There is no greater gift than love.

There is no greater draw than the joy and hope that come from living in faith.

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Cranial Christians…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s scripture comes from Hebrews 10: 23-24

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”


Good cattle caregivers are good students. They consistently strive to learn more about the animals that depend on them — seeking to understand what they need in order to provide the leadership that brings comfort and good health. Good leadership requires cranial cleverness.

However, *thinking* like a calf takes more than mental understanding, it requires a leap of faith as you must  leave your human tendencies behind to embrace those of the animal. When I handle cattle my very presence needs to change so that we can find harmony as a team. When I find the sweet spot of understanding with the cattle, my leadership creates a magnet that draws them in.

My animals don’t really care how much I know until they understand how much I care. 

What you know is important, but it is what is inside of your heart that inspires you to lead with compassion.


As a cradle Episcopalian, I’ve intellectually known God for more than four decades. I went to church on Sunday and attended Catholic school from Kindergarten through 12th grade. My parents taught me right from wrong and instilled in me a desire to help others.

I grew up a cranial christian. I knew about God — I believed in him. I tried to live my life doing the right thing because that was what I was supposed to do.

But sometimes I got tired as my cup seemed to refuse to refill. As a result, I wasn’t always a cheerful giver. Instead of my heart being grateful for the beauty of sharing, my head compared and judged — like life was a race and the “should do’s” led their way to the finish line.

God was in my head, but I had not yet let Him become a permanent resident in my heart. I was the worker ant who toiled out of duty. It was a hard and exhausting job. Fortunately, God is a good caregiver, and persistently pursued my heart. He knew that what was in my head would not sustain me without support from what needed to be in my heart.

I think it’s normal human tendency to rely heavily on our minds. We want to logically understand things and are quick to shut the door when things get messy. It take a leap of faith to lead with your heart — transitioning from a cranial christian to a heart-felt christian. Just as my animals don’t care how much I know until they see how much I care, God desires a place in our hearts — not just intellectual residence in our heads.

Perhaps that is the answer to inspiring unending motivation for acts of love and good works. With God in our hearts, the cup overflows and we learn that giving for the sake of sharing creates a special bond that not only helps others, but also refills our own hearts.

Through his gift of Jesus, God has the finish line taken care of — life isn’t just a race for goodness. When we trust in God’s promise, we open our hearts and life becomes a journey grounded in sharing the love that He abundantly places in our hearts.

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Making a Masterpiece…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s scripture verse comes from Luke 4: 4

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”


Last weekend, I traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana to participate in the 2018 Food Waste and Hunger Summit. In the United States, we waste 40% of the food that is grown while 1 in 6 Americans are food insecure. The summit, put on by DC Central Kitchen and its Campus Kitchens Project, brought college students from across the nation together to brainstorm solutions to this challenge. It was truly an honor to lead a break out session and participate on a panel as a speaker for the summit.

In 2018, we have the best and safest food supply in the history of our nation. My favorite farmer and I are proud to play a role growing it. It is a sad story that neighbors go hungry while landfills are simultaneously filling up with wasted food.

We can do better.

We must do better.

It’s hard, but the road to excellence is never easy or comfortable. I believe that part of the problem can be solved by working to improve the logistics and integrity of food production and delivery, as well as inspiring responsible eating. But, it is bigger than that. While there is an obvious physical link to hunger, food insecurity finds its roots in a larger social challenge. We grow enough food to feed everyone, so why are so many of our neighbors going hungry?


Jesus reminds us repeatedly in the Gospels that we do not live by bread alone. While bread fuels our bodies, love must fill our hearts to heal our souls. Growing food is important and honoring it by limiting waste is critical.

But that’s not the entire story. The rest of the story exists in our ability to end the cycle of hunger by teaching skills and offering jobs — one American at a time – until everyone has a place on the team.

A team that brings love and opportunity.

A team that packs their FAITH to live with GRACE.

My trip home took an unexpected turn and I ended up driving from Minneapolis (that’s a story for another time). As I drove,  I kept thinking about how each one of us is a masterpiece in the making. God asks us to open our hearts so that He can travel the journey with us — impacting our attitudes and inspiring us to offer service and outreach to others. When we let Him in, He fills us with agape love to share. In that moment of joining, our lives become meaningful. The world looks different and our natural internal focus broadens as we look to share and contribute.

Imagine a world where everyone looks to serve instead of to receive.

Imagine a world where we are all members of God’s team.

It is incredibly powerful to realize that while bread is necessary for physical survival, it is truly God’s love and guidance that sustains us in our earthly journey. Our country faces many, many challenges in 2018 — From hunger to food waste to the daily violence that seems to stem from disunity and fear. When I closed my feed yard down 14 months ago, I promised myself that I would intentionally devote more meaningful time to serving others. I felt the call to share — to help the youth in our community to learn to love and to understand that they are loved.

Each one of us is a masterpiece in the making. Perhaps most importantly, all of our masterpieces fit together like pieces of a puzzle in order to heal both our hearts and those of our fellow countrymen. As we progress through Holy Week, I pray that each one of us intentionally opens our lives to share with others. Together we make a difference 🙂

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Perhaps Agape Can Heal Us…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


The inspiration for this post comes from Dr. Tom Osborne and his book Mentoring Matters.

Supporting scripture comes from 1 Peter 3:8-9.

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.


About 10 days ago, my favorite farmer and I attended a fundraiser for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Tom Osborne was the featured speaker. Anyone who has spent any time in Nebraska is familiar with Dr. Tom. He coached the Husker football team for 25 years leading them to multiple National Championships before becoming our 3rd District Congressman from 2001-2007. While Dr. Tom is famous for many things, I believe that his greatest gift is tied to mentoring kids.

Dr. Tom’s personal mentoring in the classroom and on the football field grew to include the creation of an amazing mentoring organization in the early 1990’s. At this time, Tom and his wife Nancy founded the TeamMates organization. Over the last twenty seven years, TeamMates has grown from a local Lincoln mentoring effort to encompass programs in multiple states that impact tens of thousands of kids each year. TeamMates pairs students with local community mentors in an effort to offer support and guidance to our young people during a critical time in their lives.

Dr. Tom believes that the key to healing our broken country can be found in sharing agape. He defines agape as “unconditional, selfless love for another”. It is willing the best for another person regardless of the depth of your relationship or their behavior toward you. Agape is about what is in your heart, and showing a supportive attitude toward others independent of their behavior / feelings toward you. It takes a tremendous strength in character to show universal agape. Dr. Tom points out that this type of love provides a critical component for a mentor’s success.


When I think of agape, my mind goes to Jesus and his journey on earth. The Bible is full of examples of Jesus turning the other cheek —  loving unconditionally — and sharing blessings with all. He preached that love covered a multitude of sins and demonstrated that purpose came from sharing cheerfully of ourselves in order to help others.

  • It’s hard to be kind – even when others hurt us.
  • It’s hard to show love – to everyone.
  • It’s hard to commit to being selfless – looking outside of circumstances to remain positively supportive.

Although I try, this challenges me daily. The spiritual maturity needed to positively improve takes constant intentional focus. It requires changing what is in your heart and building the habit of sharing agape.

Photo credits to Corbey Dorsey 🙂

I’ve been blessed to spend significant periods of time coaching and mentoring kids in my community. I’ve had moments of inspiration when I found the right words – chose the right actions – and made a meaningful difference in the lives of the kids whose paths intersect with mine. I’ve also had times of mistake when I allowed my insecurities or hurt feelings to affect my level of support. I regret my mistakes and I wish that I could get those times back.

I find comfort in the knowledge that Jesus allows for forgiveness. I move forward, always trying to get better, because I know that it matters.

How I share – What I share. It makes a difference.

Each child that touches my life inspires me and brings meaning to my journey. I hope that my support will allow them to believe that their lives hold meaning. That all of our actions – together – can help to build a culture of love. We are all children of God.

When we all strive to share agape, perhaps we will find the key.

Are you willing to open your heart and try?

 

 

 

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