Swimming Across Nebraska…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Galatians 5: 22-23

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”


The Cozad Swim team kicked off its 2020 season on Monday. It is truly a season like no others, as it appears that we will not hold any competitions during our time together due to Covid 19 restrictions. I know that some of our kids are very disappointed at the lack of meets, but I stand firm in my belief that we have many other things that we are called to accomplish together in our time as a team in 2020. As a coach, there are two focuses that God has put on my heart to share:

  1. During our daily fellowship time before we dive into the pool, we are learning to better “pack our faith”. We practice this by putting on our “backpacks of faith” each day as we begin our adventures. Throughout the 5 week season, we will study the 9 Fruits of the Holy Spirit and devise strategies to make sure that our backpacks are filled with them. I hope to help the kids connect the dots to understand that as Jesus lives in our hearts, the Holy Spirit is able to guide us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These “fruits of the Spirit” provide the recipe for a successful team 😊
  2. As we dive into the water together, we are learning to be contributors by working hard and giving our best to help our teammates each day. We have a team goal of pooling our laps – measuring in miles – and swimming across the state of Nebraska and beyond. After three days, we’ve swum 67.22 miles and have passed Lincoln headed west. I am excited to see how far we can go together and build on the theme #StrongerTogether!

We have 45 swimmers on the team this summer, and we’re getting creative to make the most of our shortened time together. After 3 and 1/2 months of no structured school or sports activities, the kids are out of practice and generally out of shape. But, we’re holding each other accountable and putting in the hard work that creates fitness and success! About halfway through the first day of practice, one of the 11 year old boys on the team looked at me with complete confusion as he asked – “Coach, why is this so hard?” This swimmer is a talented athlete who is used to things coming easily to him. He – along with his teammates – are learning this summer that fitness is hard to reattain after it is lost. More than 3 months sitting at home during quarantine took its toll — both physically and emotionally. But, we are coming together as a team to earn it back.


I think it is appropriate that our lesson this first week is of love. When I think about what best motivates me, it is love. Passion, perseverance, and camaraderie thrive when we let love fuel us. When love comes alive, fear falls apart. As fear falls apart, great things happen. Have you ever noticed how our attitudes change when we are focused on sharing Jesus’ love? As our eyes shift outward in a desire to contribute to something greater, our hearts find the joy of purpose. I remember an old cowboy telling me sometime “Anne, when you’re guiding your horse, always remember that wherever his nose goes – his body will go. Guide the nose and you’ll guide the horse.”

What if our hearts are just like a horse’s nose? When they are guided by Jesus and the fruits of the Spirit, then everything just falls into place for our journey. As my swimmers are finding out this week, sometimes this journey is hard. But, Jesus so loved the world that he sent each of us on a mission to love during our time on earth. When our backpacks are filled with love, we find that we are stronger and more joyful teammates who can rally with toughness to conquer hard things. We are able to swim across Nebraska and beyond. We are not just putting in the laps, but also making a difference in the lives of others as we travel the journey.

 

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Someone With Whom To Share…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.”

My favorite farmer and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary on Monday. I met Matt when I was eighteen and a freshman in college. My mom’s parting words when she put me on an airplane to go to school were, “Anne, stay away from the older boys.” It took about two months at Dartmouth College for our paths to cross on Halloween night, and we went on our first date the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

I knew when I met Matt that he was the one. My friends teased me and my dad kept reminding me that I was too young to commit, but my heart had clear discernment and I have always been stubborn. We got engaged on my 20th birthday and were married not long after I turned 21. I had no idea what life would bring, but I knew who I was meant to share it with.

24 years later, I better appreciate the blessing of our partnership. We’ve experienced the joy of family with our girls, the heartache of loss, and enough health challenges that we remember that each day is a gift. It’s not been easy, but it’s been a beautiful and honorable journey. One that would not be complete without the togetherness that we intentionally choose to share each day.


I think that the Bible very clearly calls us to live in community. God did not create us to live in isolation, He created us to share. While we are asked to share with many, there is a special type of sharing that comes with being husband and wife. Sharing is not just a “perk”, rather it is a vital part of finding stability amidst the roller coaster of life. I’ve learned to appreciate many things in the 24 years that Matt and I have been married, but I think this is the gift that I treasure the most.

Having someone with whom to share life enables the joy to be greater and the challenges to be surmountable. It is one way that God comforts us no matter the circumstances that we must walk through.

Even though I am an introvert, being alone frightens me. The love that Matt and I share helps to fuel me. I know that no matter what happens, he will walk through it with me – holding my hand – and caring for my heart. Quite honestly, Matt is my little bit of Jesus on earth. God’s good like that. He places a bit of himself in everyone with the goal that He can be shared and become a reality for all.

One of my very favorite verses is Hebrews 11:1 – “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” I can’t literally see Jesus while I live on earth, but I can see Him through others and (as a result) know with certainty that He is there. Matt enables that for me. I believe that part of his mission – his calling – is to share God’s love, comfort, courage and grace with me. I know in my heart that God intentionally created Matt to love me and to share life with me, and through that connection I am able to better see the reality of God’s love for me 🙂

Today, I am thankful to have someone with whom to share…

 

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Radical love…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leading With Grace…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

 

 

 

 

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It takes a team!

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


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

#ThankfulToBeEssential #COVID19 #Beef #CattleTales


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Courage…

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.”


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Or, do you linger behind hindered by timidity?

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Finding Optimism…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Jeremiah 29:11-13

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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Prayer…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Romans 12: 10-13

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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