When things get tough, Look Up!

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week 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.”


I spend my falls helping to coach the local high school and junior high cross country teams. It works out just about perfectly as we finish up swim team season – have a few weeks to refuel – and then Haymaker Cross Country begins. We have a great set of athletes and coaches who bless my fall days.

Part of the training routine for the runners is to run intervals or repeats of certain distances at specific paces. This not only physically prepares them to race, but it also teaches their brains what it feels like to persevere. Some afternoons in Central Nebraska provide nice, cool running weather and some bring on summer heat with a heavy dose of humidity that provides added challenge to the workouts. I remember doing repeats in the Florida heat when I was in high school, and a few decades later it provides a different perspective to coach the kids as they persevere through them on the plains of Nebraska 🙂

The other day during practice, God put the following phrase on my heart: when things get tough, look up.  The runners were hot, tired and only about halfway through the interval workout, and I could see some of them begin to struggle mentally as the physical exertion began to weigh heavily on them. Trials tend to remove any filter that might normally impact our behavior causing a clear picture of our hearts to shine through. It may be the physical test of a difficult athletic practice, or a mental or emotional challenge that leaves us shaken.


What happens to you when trials come your way? Are you able to pack your faith to hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm? Or, do you struggle to trust that God will keep his promise and that Jesus will steadfastly hold your heart?

Do you LOOK UP so that you can persevere with grace?

I think that hope provides the key to perseverance. When you are tired, when you begin to doubt your abilities, when quitting (or settling) appears more attractive than finishing strong — it is the hope that Jesus places in your heart that leads to victory. Hope inspires selfless love and good works. There is both strength and freedom to be found in the realization that IT IS BIGGER THAN YOU.

We don’t travel alone.

The ask may be hard. Just like our Cross Country interval workouts, sometimes hard work and discomfort mark the journey. But, our hearts gain limitless fuel when we hold tightly to our faith. Where our heart goes, our body will follow. It’s like that awesome runner’s high in those moments when your feet seem weightless and your lungs become invincible.

Have you ever noticed that your own challenges seem to get smaller when you look outside of yourself to help someone else? Something almost magical happens when we shift our focus to How can I serve? God keeps his promises. He uses each one of us to bring hope, purpose and love to each other. He heals the broken by inspiring the broken to help mend others.

That’s just awesome.

And, the best part of all is the promise of the Eternal High Five that waits for us on the other side. So, the next time that things get hard – LOOK UP – so that God can redirect your focus to one of serving others. There is a special healing beauty that is found in sharing Jesus’ hope and love with your neighbors 🙂

 

 

 

 

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Flexion…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Jesus’ word in the Gospel of Matthew 10:39

“If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”


I’d never paid much attention to the concept of flexion until I tore ligaments and broke my leg. The bone that I broke (the fibula) is actually the “non-weight bearing” bone in the lower leg, but it – and the ligaments near it – play a critical role in ankle mobility.  As a lifelong runner, I’d enjoyed really good flexion in my ankles which allowed my foot to bridge up and back down in a harmonious running step. Like many things in life, I never truly appreciated my ankle flexion until I no longer had it.

It has taken many, many painful hours of intentional physical therapy to work to gain back the ability to bend my right ankle. It’s still not what it used to be, but last week I made a new stride as my therapist was able to push it to 29 degrees past neutral. To help put that victory into perspective, in between my first and second surgery, I scored in at only 3 degrees past neutral. I’m not sure that I can put into words how hard it has been to gain the ability to bend those additional 26 degrees, but my body has given my heart an entirely new outlook on the concept of shaping.

I recently completed my first 5k post leg break – it is the first race in my life that I have walked and it took me longer to walk the 5k than it took for me to run the 10k last year. But, this race is likely more meaningful as I honored the medal God placed on my heart instead of the one that I might have earned had I been able to run…


I think that God finds creative ways to grow us. My leg experience is one of those. Outside of my ankles, I have spent most of my life not being a particularly “flexible person”. My stubbornness can outweigh my ability to bend. It stands in the way of God’s ability to shape and refine me; and can provide a significant hurdle as I strive to hold Jesus’ hand on my daily faith journey.

If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

That scripture verse used to confuse me. I couldn’t fathom why God would want me to give up who I am in order to find myself. It frightened me to think about releasing control in order to allow God to guide my path. It took a lot of prayer and deep reflection for me to realize that walking with Jesus – responding to the Holy Spirit – and honoring God’s calls actually allowed me to find myself.  It freed me to be the person that my brain feared but my heart desired.

Being shaped by God is not always an easy process. When I am stubborn, it can look like my ankle refusing to move as the physical therapist breaks into a sweat trying to cram it into the proper bending shape. My therapist describes me as “guarded” because I don’t trust him as he bends, twists, and yanks on my leg. A truthful introspection shows me that God might also describe me as guarded when He asks me to truly give him my heart.


As I write this today, I’m still stubborn. I’ll likely always carry a bit of that trait with me. But, I’m learning to be more flexible — to submit my heart to the One who calls me by name with an unconditional love that fuels me despite the circumstances of my earthly life. I am finding that the more of my heart that I surrender to Jesus, the more that I can find the peaceful hope that transcends human ability or explanation. It doesn’t always make intellectual sense, but it frees me with a flexion that lends purposeful meaning to my life.

 

 

 

 

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Consider it pure joy…

My favorite brunette provides a guest blog this morning as she wraps up her summer internship in Denver, CO and prepares to head back to college 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from James 1:2-4

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything,”


I spent my summer volunteering at a free summer camp for kids in Denver’s inner-city housing projects. It was a completely eye-opening and humbling experience— if you’d ever like to have your assumptions and worldview challenged over arts and crafts, I whole-heartedly recommend seeking out one of my kiddos. The beautiful thing about these kids is even though they’ve been through more trials and hardships than the most embittered adult, they still want to let people in and share their hearts. During my 8 weeks at the camp this summer, the way they talked about incredibly heavy topics, like the deportation of a parent or financial stress or violence in their neighborhood, as normal, pervasive facts of life broke my heart.

In the face of challenges such as those faced by the kids, the verses above can seem almost like an empty platitude, an inept way to rationalize suffering in a world created by a good, good God.

Why does a good God allow suffering and evil to plague the lives of His people?

I don’t know the answer to this, and you probably don’t either. Yes, He uses trials to refine us, as iron sharpens iron, and struggles do help us to empathize more fully with Jesus’ experience in this world, but for me, these truths don’t entirely alleviate the holes left by loss and hurt in my life. While we will never be able to truly understand God’s plan for why we or someone we love are suffering, we shouldn’t just throw our hands up in the air and do nothing about our situation.


A German martyr named Alfred Delp once said that while it is not in our power to stop our own suffering or that of others, it is our responsibility to respond in a way that allows the seeds that God plants through hard times to “fall upon fertile ground”. This, for me, taps into the partnership aspect of our faith– as we suffer, we walk alongside Jesus and listen to what life was like for He who took on our sins and as we do, He welcomes our laments and sorrows and complaints with the compassionate ear of someone who has personally known our pain. This companionship and the peace that comes with laying our burdens at His feet is the only way that I consider my tribulations joy.

As I reflect on my summer, the overwhelming emotion from it all is joy. I owe this entirely to the kids I spent it with, the same ones who put on impromptu rap battles and K-Pop dance parties, who planned and executed a water gun sneak-attack on me and the other staff in the halls of our building, and who upon learning that I would share my lunch with whoever asked nicely, would put in increasingly complicated orders for the next day (I’m talking requests like: pb&j with two different kinds of jelly, crunchy peanut butter and cut diagonally). These kids teach a lesson to us all to seize the joy in every moment of every day and to appreciate the small eyes in the storms of our lives as gifts from God.

Consider it pure joy…

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A Grateful, Hopeful and Joyful Heart…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Luke 6: 27-28

“But to you who are willing to listen. I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.”


I went back to the doctor last week for a check up on my leg. I’ve still got a lot of stiffness and discomfort from it, but my strength and mobility improve each day. The doctor’s parting words were, “Anne, you’ve gotten to the point that you won’t hurt your leg. It’ll just hurt you. Healing takes time and you’ve had a significant trauma.”

There’s an old expression that says “time heals”. While I think that patience plays a huge role in rehabilitation, it doesn’t work alone. Healing takes an intentional effort that requires us to move through the pain – to forgive – and to let go of it. If we don’t do that, we become a slave to it. Doc was very clearly telling me to be patient, but he had just gotten finished instructing me on how important it was to put in the work to build back the leg in spite of the pain.

Human nature directs us to move away from physical pain. Our brains do an excellent job of letting us know when something hurts and our instant reflex is to distance ourselves from it. Sometimes, despite the fact that it seems the best thing to do in the short term – shying away precludes us from moving forward in a meaningful way in the long term.


Mental and emotional pain affect our daily choices just as much as physical pain. They are very real and they will own us if we do not intentionally choose to lean into the hope and the peace that Jesus brings.

  • A grateful heart focuses on what we have rather than getting fixated on what we do not have.
  • A hopeful heart revels in the promise of today instead of living in the disappointments of yesterday.
  • A joyful heart learns from all experiences (even painful ones) and looks with optimism to the possibilities that tomorrow brings.

Jesus was big on healing. It seems to me that most of his life on earth was spent healing people and teaching his disciples how to heal. I used to think that Jesus called us to love one another – even and especially our enemies – because we should always be kind. Love your neighbor as yourself is an instruction that many of us give to ourselves on a daily basis. It provides a cornerstone to living in fellowship with others.

But what if Jesus calls us to love those who hurt us not just to be kind, but because that intentional act of loving forgiveness allows our pain to be released and ultimately our hearts to heal?

While pain and hurt are difficult to deal with, they offer the opportunity to shape our hearts and can ultimately help to set us free. Jesus didn’t shy away from pain. He walked into it – with a faith that overcame fear and a hope that led to healing. He hated the sin, but he loved the sinner. His heart was free regardless of physical circumstance or the behavior of others. That gives a whole new meaning to the term amazing grace.

Joseph lived with our family for 383 days before leaving on May 6th. Someday I am going to write about the time that we spent together. He played a big role in bringing alive many of Jesus’ teachings including this one. Much like my leg, the healing of my heart is a slow process. But, each day I intentionally lean into my faith in order to move through the pain. This offers a release that leads to healing and allows me to love with a grateful, hopeful, and joyful heart.

As I read the Gospels, one thing is certain to me. Jesus loves each one of us. He cares about our hearts and will lead us to healing if we follow His guidance. He doesn’t take away the pain, but He teaches us how to find a joy and peace that fills our hearts regardless of circumstance.

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Steadfast…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John 18: 1-4

“After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees. Judas, the betrayer, knew this place because Jesus had often gone there with his disciples. The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove.

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?”


This summer, I’ve been blessed to take part in a middle school / high school girls Bible study. Reading God’s word takes on a new significance when you are blessed to be able to share it with a group of intelligent and faithful young women. We have learned a lot of things about Jesus during our study of the Gospel of John, but what has jumped off the page at me over the last couple of weeks is a greater understanding of how steadfast Jesus is.

He believes.

He loves.

And, he leads with a gentle heart and nerves of steel.

Whether he is healing the sick, sharing parables of wisdom, visiting with a troubled woman at the well, or facing death at the hands of his own people, the same Jesus shows up every single day. Regardless of circumstance – He is steadfast because he trusts in God. He shows us what happens when you live with wholehearted faith, and holds out his hand to help us travel that same journey.


My girls have a family joke that I am like Old Faithful — I have things that yank my chain and inspire a flair of temper with relative frequency. In fact, there was a rumor that my hair used to turn red as my temper built signaling a coming eruption 😉 A couple of years ago, I figured out that as God continued to call me to work with young athletes that I needed to change this habit in order to be faithful.

I needed the steadfastness of Jesus.

Jesus spent his life intentionally stepping into God’s call – regardless of circumstance with a quiet confidence and selfless heart. Even when his crucifixion is eminent and Peter lashes out in fear induced temper and cuts off the ear of a soldier, Jesus calms the situation and heals the man. He is steadfast, with his eyes and heart completely focused on God’s call.

What is your response when you are challenged or someone yanks your chain?

I’d like to report that I act like Jesus, but the truth is that I likely fail as often as I succeed. I’ve got a bit of Peter in me – despite the fact that I love Jesus, sometimes my emotions get the best of me and I make mistakes. Jesus loved Peter through those moments of failure, and my heart tells me that Jesus loves me through those times as well. My faith calls me to lean into Jesus, to draw from his peaceful confidence.

That gives me hope.

I’ve come to realize that hope allows for peace and love to prevail – even when circumstances are grim. I am thankful that my source of hope is steadfast, and each time He steps toward me to ask, “Who are you looking for?”, I pray that I will reach out to take a hold of his hand with the same quiet confidence and trust with which it is offered.

 

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What are you LOOKING for?

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Mark 4: 21-25

The Parable of the Lamp:

“Then Jesus asked them, ‘Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine. For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.’

Then he added, ‘Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given — and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.'”


I think that what we see in our lives is directly related to what we are looking for. Personal introspection causes me to realize that attitude and perspective set the stage for not only how I view each day but also how I chose to experience it. Last winter, I bought a sweatshirt that said Choose Joy on it. I purchased it intentionally as I was going through a difficult time – a time when I had to remind myself daily that looking for the light allowed me to see God’s grace no matter how dark things appeared.

I could choose joy or I could wallow in self-pity and unhappiness.

The choice was mine, and I needed to own it.

The Haymaker Swim Team spent a lot of time talking about attitude on the pool deck this summer. It was a natural out-pouring of where I was in my own life. I spent significant time this winter and spring praying to ask God to fill my heart with peace and hope. I needed Jesus’ light to define my attitude and grant me the peace that brought joy and hope.

I found it when I made it less about me, and more about Him.


I don’t know for sure what my swimmers internalized in their hearts this summer, but I know that God provided the core of our team. He healed my heart as I intentionally placed His lamp on a stand to share with my athletes. We learned to trust as courageous faith called us to finish strong each and every day. I spent the summer watching our team grow in our understanding of God while we built a foundation based on faith and fueled by hard work.

On Saturday we took 49 swimmers to the Championship Meet and brought home 92 individual medals to hang around our necks. In addition, 5 of our relays set league records and brought home another 24 top 8 place finishes. We found victory as Jesus took our outstretched hands and filled our souls with the fire that comes from confident hope. We made Holy Moments on the pool deck and in the water. We made mistakes and learned from them. Most importantly, we did our best to share the love that creates community.

Blessings follow obedience.

I could say many things about the 2019 year, but the message that fills my heart today as I look in faith is:

When we chose to look for God’s light – and set it on a stand to share – then it becomes easy to see the grace that brings the ultimate victory. The more that we see, the more that we can understand the compounding nature of Jesus’ mission.

 

 

 

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Holy Moments…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from the Gospel of John 12:36.

“Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”


A friend of mine recently gave me a book to read. It is entitled The Biggest Lie In The History Of Christianity by Matthew Kelly. It’s a great read as it covers an incredibly significant question – As Christians, can we find purpose and strength as we live in God’s grace under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to share Jesus’ love with others? What an awesome way to envision the Trinity working within us so that we can become children of the light!

The heart of the book is about what Kelly calls creating Holy Moments. A Holy Moment is simply a moment where you open yourself to God – make yourself available to him – and follow the direction of the Holy Spirit to reach out and share Jesus’ love with others.  Holy Moments fulfill multiple purposes as sharing love not only brings joy to the heart of the giver, but also creates an intentional mindset of kindness that allows ordinary moments to be touched with God’s holy hand. Perhaps the best part is that Holy Moments are contagious – causing a cultural shift toward stewardship and service as Jesus’ love creates common ground and fellowship.


Last week on the pool deck, our character lesson was “It’s the little things that matter most.” I truly believe that the little things matter to God, as the Bible is more than 1000 pages full of details. From the Pentateuch and the history of God’s people to the Book of Proverbs, the Old Testament clearly shows us that good daily habits play a vital role in our Christian journey. Jesus then reminds us repeatedly in the New Testament that he is most interested in our hearts – in the sincerity of our desire to take his hand and live in the light through Him.

I spend a good part of the summer hanging out with more than 50 swimmers. From the middle of May to the middle of July, we spend 6 days a week together learning how to be a skilled team. I used to think that teaching them correct strokes and how to work hard was the most important thing that I could do as a coach. Today, I view each practice as an opportunity to impact their hearts – to help them to realize that every day is filled with chances to make Holy Moments.

Our team is a great group of talented kids who generally finish each season with medals hanging around their necks. But, I’ve come to understand that the medals that will impact their lives the most aren’t the ones that hang around their necks after our Championship Meet – They are the ones that God hangs on their hearts each day that they chose to live in His light. Holy Moments show us that the little things matter. They demonstrate that good daily habits create a faithful focus. With each Holy Moment medal that God places on our hearts, our relationship with the Holy Spirit becomes stronger. Pretty soon we spend our days searching for ways to share Jesus’ light and become better versions of ourselves.

I think that sometimes we get stuck thinking that Jesus’ mission is too big for us. I used to withdraw into myself during those moments driven by a lack of confidence. Today, I intentionally chose to pack my faith to team up with God’s grace. As I take His hand, He holds my heart – together we make the Holy Moments that bring light to the world.

As our 2019 swim team season draws to an end this weekend, I pray that each one of the swimmers internalizes this lesson and builds the daily habit to answer God’s call to become children of the light.

 

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Scars…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Book of Psalms 50: 14-15

“Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.”


My body makes scar tissue like a true champion. I think it is likely due to my auto-immune challenges, but it could simply be that my personality dictates that I never seem to do anything halfway 😉 With my leg recovery, I’ve found that scar tissue is not particularly friendly. In the last six months, Doc’s had to manipulate my ankle twice to break up the accumulated scar tissue and the 3rd round of surgery also required him to remove the 10 screw plate hardware which my awesome scar tissue had attached to my peroneal tendon. Metal plates aren’t the best partners for tendons as that causes pain and rubbing damage with every walking step.

The good news is that my bone has healed nicely, and the tendon debridement procedure should hopefully allow the tendon to heal properly now that the hardware is no longer attached to it. I’m back to mastering my skills with crutches and very thankful that this round of “non-weight bearing” will occur without the winter and spring ice that plagued Nebraska this year. I am also thankful that I can now move forward in the journey of physical healing.

2019 has done an effective job of adding scars to my life. Some have been physical and some emotional, but they’ve all affective my perspective as well as my daily life. Right after I fell on the ice and shattered my leg, I told my favorite farmer that “God choses interesting ways to grow us.” Six months later, I can report that this certainly is the case 🙂


My scars do not make me unique – Life is full of things that can scar us. Whether physical or emotional, I’ve come to realize that the magnitude of the scars’ negative power is directly related to the attitude that I chose to bring to the pain. I can let it define and damage me — trading healthy tissue for thick and hardened ones — or I can be thankful for the opportunity to experience life in a different way. I have learned that although sometimes the days are hard, that the journey can be filled with beautiful blessings when I choose to face it with a grateful and open heart.

There is a rainbow to every experience. God puts his blessing on your heart when you chose to be thankful. Sometimes that thankfulness involves a sacrifice – that’s not a bad thing, as it brings honor to your faith and deepens your relationship with the Lord. I’ve found that as I go deeper, His presence never fails me. I do not always get answers, but I do find comfort and peace even in the midst of pain.

The other day at our summer Bible study, my favorite blonde cowgirl made a statement that brought joy and peace to this mama’s heart. She shared:

“I need to lean on God during the easy times and be faithfully thankful then, because you never know when things are going to get hard. And when it does get hard, I need God and if I don’t learn to reach for him during the good times then I will be afraid to reach in times of trouble.”

Megan was not immune from the pain and scars that 2019 brought to our family. She didn’t break her leg, but there were many times when “Broseph” – what the girls called Joe (brother Joseph) – broke her heart. But, when the pain came, she bravely reached for God because she wears her faith like a shield — and Jesus filled her heart and carried her through. She allowed the scars to deepen her love and soften her heart instead of hardening it.

I’ve never been more proud of her than at the NE State Track Championships this year. Less than 4 days after Broseph packed his bags and left our family, she packed her faith and shared Jesus’ love with everyone that crossed her path. She opened her heart  – trading fear for faith.  It made her vulnerable but it also made her mighty. And, I know that she vaulted with harmony because she’d given it to Jesus and he held her with care.

Together, our family has learned to ask God to hold our hearts. That action requires trust, but it leaves us with a sense of peace and gratefulness and creates an entirely new dimension to our faith journey.

I Am They captures it well with one of my favorite Christian songs:

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