Finding Honor As a Coach…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Luke 12: 34

“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”


This year, I divided the 8 week swim team season into 3 phases of training. We began the 3rd phase last week and it is entitled “Competing with Honor”. We spent the week as a team brainstorming ways to do this

As a young coach straight out of college, I lacked maturity and perspective. It took me a few years of motherhood to learn that good coaches love their athletes more than they love athletic victory. That doesn’t mean that victory is not important — it simply means that the coach’s focus is on developing the child/young adult not simply pushing hard to win the game.

I’m a constant “work in progress” and have found that my coaching abilities continue to improve as my faith deepens. On Saturday, God taught me a new lesson in how to coach with honor. One of my young athletes was disqualified in her butterfly race. There are a lot of things that you learn to take in stride as a coach, but this particular one hurt my heart. It was a big deal for a couple of reasons.

  • This young athlete works hard everyday at practice. She cares about her performance and prides herself on doing things correctly.
  • I encourage my swimmers to fill out goal sheets at the beginning of each season. I think that a goal without a plan is just a wish and like to teach my kids to care enough about their life journey to honor it with a plan. Here are the three season goals that she selected in May:

My mind wanted to contest the DQ, but my heart knew that the life lesson that it had the ability to teach was more important. It wasn’t my job to question the judgement of the official — it was my job to guide the swimmer through the experience packing her faith to compete with grace and honor.


How many times do we (as coaches and parents) get so hung up on the athletic event/game that we forget the importance of the development of the child? I hope that my swimmers want to be a part of the Cozad Swim Team because they love the sport of swimming and want to share in the awesomeness of a supportive team. If this is my desire as a coach, then it is my duty to teach my swimmers to persevere and remain hopeful in times of challenge. Being an athlete is a journey — not a single moment in time.

After the meet ended, I took a walk with my young swimmer. I held her hand as we talked about a lot of things: resilience, forgiveness, learning from mistakes, and looking forward to future races with hope in our hearts. At the end of our talk, I gave her a hug and reminded her how awesome both God and I knew that she was. We made a plan for the future that started with a smile, and involved some more work at practice to prepare for the butterfly leg of the relay that she would swim at Championships. A couple of days later, after she had some time to heal, we sat down and made a new goal for the end of the season to take the place of the one that could no longer be attained this year.

During this experience, I kept coming back to the above bible verse. Asking myself: What is my treasure? And, How does that drive the desires of my heart? If my treasure is embracing Jesus’s mission, then my love for the athlete must inspire my actions. Twenty years from now, it is unlikely that my swimmer will remember the other 5 races that she swam on Saturday. However, it is likely that tucked somewhere in her heart will be the memory of our walk together after the meet was over. Perhaps she will draw on her first hand experience of how to compete with honor by relying on faith and grace to find resilience in times of challenge.

 

 

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Resilience

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration today comes from the five daily devotionals that I shared last week with the athletes of the Cozad Swim Team.

Mark 6: 31 “Let’s go off by ourselves and rest awhile.”

John 4: 14 “Those that drink the water that I (Jesus) give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh bubbling spring within them, giving eternal life.”

Romans 1:12 “When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.”

Romans 5: 3 “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us to develop endurance.”

Romans 8: 31 “If God is for us, who could ever be against us?”


Resilience provided the team’s weekly character lesson. Our focus quote was: “You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.” We asked some hard questions, but we also found strength in each other as we shared times of faith.

  • How do we keep going when things get hard?
  • How do we support others on the journey?
  • How do we let God be the coach of our team in order to bring honor to our efforts in the swimming pool?

Monday, Jesus reminded us in Mark 6:31 that it’s okay to take time to rest and recharge. Resilience requires both strength and patience. Prayer and reflection allow us to fill our hearts with God’s love and find strength and confidence in our faith relationship. Patience enables us to learn from our mistakes, but not let them define us. There is freedom to be found in giving it to God and focusing on the promise of the future.

Tuesday we learned of the living water that Jesus speaks of in John 4:14. It provides the foundation of our faith and stems from the eternal fountain of God’s love. It is the inspiration that leads to greatness. It is the motivation to face challenges with gratitude rather than with grievance. When our athletic actions are the result of God’s living water, then we bring honor to Him with our efforts.

Wednesday Paul reminded us in Romans 1: 12 that we are a family. We are brought together to create a cycle of encouragement. A quiet smile and word of kind support has the power to change our daily perspective: regardless of whether we are the one to give or to receive. God inspires us to have each others’ back and fills our hearts with His love to be shared. When we share love rather than judgement, then we strengthen the family (team). Building a cycle of encouragement amongst teammates allows everyone to share of themselves in a meaningful way.

Thursday we focused on creating a culture of positivity which allows us to rejoice in the face of trials (Romans 5:3).  We know that challenges make us stronger — build our endurance — and help us to learn how to persevere with grace. The challenge that an athlete faces in a difficult practice or competition helps him/her to prepare for life’s challenges. When we come together as a team to meet our challenges with positivity then we build the habit of living with grace.

Friday Paul (Romans 8:31) helped us to finish the week with the reminder that when we pack our faith to live with grace, that failure is not an option. God seeks us, supports us, and loves us through every experience. We persevere with resilience as we allow God to lead us and our team. We are defined by what is in our hearts — resilience comes from a heart filled with love and passion!


Here, I share week 6’s swim team journey in the hope that it brings meaning and inspiration to each of you. I have shared in the lives of many, many athletes over the past twenty years. However, this swim season will forever provide a turning point in my philosophy as a coach. I took a leap of faith as I made the decision this year to intentionally share my relationship with God. As our team begins each daily practice with a character lesson, a supporting bible verse, sharing time and a prayer,  I have learned that while loving God is so important, it is the act of sharing God that allows us to be the change that we wish to see in the world.

There is nothing more beautiful than seeing God’s hope spring eternal in the eyes of our children. What began as an effort to share my faith has evolved into a mutual sharing of faith as the athletes realize that we become #StrongerTogether as we reach for God. What an awesome lesson in resilience 🙂

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Intentionally reaching for those that “fall through the cracks”…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for today’s post comes from the Parable of the Lost Sheep in Matthew 18.

If a man has 100 sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the 99 on the mountains and go in search of the 1 that went astray?


Do you remember a time in your youth when you felt as though you fell through the cracks? Perhaps you got lost in a sea of faces in school — wondering if your classmates or teachers even knew you were there. Or, maybe you showed up for sports practice everyday longing for support and inspiration, but left feeling invisible. 

I think that honest reflection brings each one of us a memory of feeling lost.

A time when it seemed that we were invisible.

A moment when we craved acceptance but our hearts felt alone and hollow.

As a coach, I try to intentionally reach for the kids that feel as though they fall through the cracks. I have a goal of finishing every practice having offered at least one happy thought or word of inspiration to each of my swimmers. I have high expectations for my athletes, but there is a sea of love that sits right underneath the discipline that I ask for as we travel the journey together. I aspire to seek out each swimmer – in a positive way – every single day.

If they gain nothing else from practice that day, at least they will go home feeling like they matter.

This year, our team began a new tradition of sharing both a character lesson and a daily devotion before diving into the water for practice. I have 40 regular swim team practices during the summer months — 40 chances to help the 42 athletes realize that true strength comes when we simultaneously radiate kindness while also displaying personal toughness and tenacity through athletic competition. I love this new tradition as it starts our time together as a team centering our hearts on God and focusing our minds on ways to pack our faith to compete with grace.


The Parable of the Lost Sheep reminds me that God is always seeking us. Understanding that He is longing for a loving relationship with us helps to battle the lonely feelings and empty hearts that may threaten our daily peace. The more time that I spend with teenagers, the more I believe that this message plays a critical role in the mental wellbeing of our kids.

We live in a broken world. The news reminds us daily of suicides and school shootings. Additionally, current culture entices our kids away from faith and family, and into the the disturbing world of cyberspace. My favorite farmer and I have spent countless hours talking about how we can help to change the reality of teenage life in 2018. Many of our discussions result in an impasse where we are left with more questions and very few answers. But a lack of easy answers is no reason to not engage.

Start with what you can impact.

This is what I tell myself daily. What child can I help today? Who feels lost?

I am reminded of a mantra that I learned many years ago as a member of the Daughter’s of the King.

I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I ought to do. What I ought to do, by the grace of God I will do. Lord, what will you have me do?

This summer I am trying my best to live out these words. To listen to God and help to bring his love to the athletes that come to me for guidance. Together we can create a culture where everyone has a place and no one feels alone. As we huddle up each day at the start of practice we seal the cracks ensuring that no one will fall through…

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Faithful in the little things…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week’s Wednesday Wisdom comes from the Gospel of Luke:

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


On Friday, my favorite farmer and I will celebrate 22 years of marriage. I was twenty one years old when we said “I do”. My parents considered that to be too young an age to marry, but Matt and I held firm in our devotion to each other. We officially began our life journey together on June 15, 1996. On the day of our wedding, I looked up at him with all of my love shining in my eyes.

22 years later, my eyes shine even brighter.

Our family has grown to include three beautiful daughters and recently God called us to welcome a young man into our family as a son. The journey has not always been easy, but our love grounds us in faithfulness.

Matt and I still hold hands. Despite his mother’s concern, my forehead has not developed a callous from the multitude of kisses that he has placed there over the past two decades 😉 We often “embarrass” our children with our affection. I’ve learned a lot of things over the past 22 years, but perhaps the most important is how much joy there is to be found in sharing a life together.

If you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in the large ones.

I often think about the most important “life lessons” that I want my children to learn. Most of them can be found wrapped up in this short bible verse.

  1. Devotion is fueled by faithfulness.
  2. Love requires both discipline and commitment.
  3. Hope and hard work create meaningful relationships.
  4. Partnerships thrive in an unselfish environment.
  5. Integrity brings honor.
  6. Purpose gives life meaning.
  7. Passion flows from a faithful heart.
  8. Companionship brings peace.
  9. Trust allows for a leap of faith.
  10. Grace holds it all together.

Matt is my greatest blessing. I honor that precious gift from God as I honor the love that we share. Together we bring purpose to God’s mission as we reach out to share our love with others on the journey.

My grandparents celebrated more than 70 years of marriage together before God called them home. When I think of one word to describe them, it is devoted – to God, to each other, and to their family. Matt and I laugh that “when we grow up, we want to be like my beloved Grannie and Dedaw”. We have a few more years to go, but I know in my heart that we are on the right track 🙂

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Greener Pastures…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from Psalm 23: 1-3

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.”


It is impossible to live in Central Nebraska in late spring without thinking of green pastures. Either we are blessed with an abundance of rain that brings strong and healthy grass to our native plains, or else we pray for the moisture that we need to turn our brown pastures into a verdant green. In either instance, the thought of green pastures dominates a rancher’s mind.

Nebraska is home to 24 million acres of rangeland and pastures (more than 1/2 of the state) where cattle turn grass into a human edible protein source (beef) and other needed products. Cattle are the great “up-cyclers” as they up-cycle grass into human nourishment. Leading cattle to greener pastures is relatively easy, especially after a little bit of classical conditioning where they learn that when we move them that they get to go to a place with better food!


The New Testament is filled with instances where Jesus is described as the good shepherd, but we also find references to our Father God as a shepherd in the Old Testament. The above verse in Psalms reminds me of two very important components of faith.

  1. God’s love never waivers and his care for us is unconditional
  2. Because of his gift of free will, we must submit and lean on Him in order to understand the vast breath of his love and guidance

There is a necessary leap of faith for us to fully abide in God — we must actively accept Jesus’ gift and love in our hearts as well as embracing the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our minds. Questions often outnumber answers but, when we listen with care and intention, God always gives us enough guidance that we can follow his desired life path. It is there that we find the greenest pastures as our hearts fill with peace, strength and purpose.

I think that I never really understood the importance of a “good shepherd” until I became an animal caregiver in the late 1990’s. I’d read about it, but the full magnitude of what it meant did not become clear in my mind until I learned to be a cattle caregiver. My animals depend on me for their basic needs — they look to me for leadership — and they submit to my guidance in order to thrive.

How do they know that I will lead them to greener pastures? Because I consistently provide for their needs.

As humans, we ask a lot more questions than cattle do. We’re a lot smarter and it takes more than physical satisfaction for us to live a meaningful life. It is important for us to ask God questions, but it is equally important for us to trust that he will lead us to an honorable life. We don’t need to have all of the answers — that is why we have faith. We can look to many things to provide meaning in our lives, but there is only one source of living water that fills our hearts with joy and brings honor and purpose to our existence.

Faith is a verb. It requires patience as well as perseverance. It comes from a beautiful blend of submission and guidance, and comes wrapped up in a package of love. God is a good shepherd — and we bring honor to Him as we choose to live our lives embracing his purpose.

 

 

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She Believed!

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from Ephesians 3:16-18

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.”


For me, living with grace allows for my faith to be stronger than my fear.

There are many things in life that can bring fear to our hearts and minds — for example, new experiences, worry over how others view us, and concern for those that we love. For competitive athletes, races – meets – and games often bring a new level of fear.

Physical toughness and dedication to training play a huge role in an athlete’s success. But, victory requires more than just physical fortitude. Mental toughness and emotional/spiritual fitness often dictate continued success on the athletic journey.

“Am I good enough?”

How often do each of us ask that simple question? Four words that represent an 800# gorilla that can ride heavily on our backs. Recently, as the District Track meet approached, I watched doubt take hold of my favorite blonde cowgirl. Hampered by a pulled quadricep muscle that stubbornly refused to completely heal, Meg’s confidence plummeted and fear threatened to override the faith that lives inside her heart.

She struggled as a christian athlete.

I searched deeply to find the right words to share. I found them in the above verses in Ephesians 3.


As her mind healed, her leg seemed to follow suit. Two days before the Nebraska State Track meet, Meg looked at me and said:

“Mom, I’m good. I’m ready for Burke Stadium — I’m ready to compete.”

The day of the Class B Pole Vault competition @ Burke greeted us with gloomy skies that offered periodic cold rain showers. But, I knew that Meg was ready. I could tell from my seat in the stadium stands that nothing could dampen her fire. She carried God’s guidance in her heart with Jesus’s confident love flowing deeply in her body, and the Holy Spirit’s inner strength surrounding her as she journeyed into competition.

They delayed the Pole Vault competition twice due to hard rain: once during warm ups and once close to half way through the event. Meg didn’t miss a beat. She vaulted perfectly — not once missing until after she had already won the competition by clearing 11’2″ on her first attempt.

Her mind was calm.

Her soul was on fire.

Her body responded with strength.

I cried as we watched her realize victory. The joy in my heart came not from the gold medal that she proudly wore around her neck, but from the sparkle in her eyes that told me the depth of her faith.

She was good enough. God carried her when she needed Him the most and the end of the journey brought magic as she believed.

 

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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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