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.

3 Comments

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

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.

 

7 Comments

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

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.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

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.

 

1 Comment

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

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:

1 Comment

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

From the inside out…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the book of Job 4:3-6

Eliphaz (a friend of Job) says to him, “In the past you have encouraged many people; you have strengthened those who were weak. Your words have supported those who were falling; you encouraged those with shaky knees. But now when trouble strikes, you lose heart. You are terrified when it touches you. Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence? Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope?”


As I read these words in the book of Job last week, it reminded me of myself – how I inwardly struggle during times of challenge — how I lose confidence when I am faced with multiple hardships. My pastor reminded me on Sunday that there are two typical responses that a Christian can have during times of trial: lean into faith or reject/flee from God.

I think that the deciding factor for me when things get hard is my level of trust. Do I limit God or do I truly believe that He is both good and great? A related question that I find myself wondering is:

“Am I being punished and rejected by God, or is He walking through the struggles with me and shaping me out of love from the inside out?”


I fell on the ice and broke my leg about nine months after I brought Joe home to live with our family. There’s really not a good reason that I fell – it was a quirky winter-time accident that did far more damage than rational thought can explain. During the same time as my leg refused to heal, I was forced to face the reality that Joe was rejecting the values and love that our family was trying to share with him. That hit me hard, and I found myself trying to figure out what I’d done wrong.

I temporarily forgot about God’s part – my part – others part. And, I placed the blame squarely on myself. This filled me with sadness as I began to wonder if my leg was a punishment for not correctly answering God’s call to love Joe. I wasn’t sure where I’d messed up or what I should have done differently, but that did not take away the feeling of aloneness and failure that threatened my heart.

I have a good friend named Bev. Joe’s presence in our family brought us together. If I didn’t believe in God, then I might say that our friendship was a coincidence. But since I rely strongly on my faith, my heart knows that God brought her to me because I needed her on the journey. Bev’s faith is so strong and she reflects Jesus’ love better than anyone that I have ever known.

It’s hard for me to open up to others, but one day I asked Bev to help me understand. I was blessed, as she did not respond the same way that Job’s friends responded to his trials. Instead, she reminded me that Jesus always loves me – always walks with me – and uses experiences of all kinds in order to shape my heart from the inside out. My struggles were not a punishment, rather they were a chance for me to gain perspective and understanding. It was a pivotal time that allowed me to lean into my faith to find strength and hope instead of pulling away to wallow in self-pity and blame.

The book of Job helps me to understand that it’s okay to question God and to have feelings of doubt. But, during those times, it is important that I take those questions and doubts to God – to go to Him. We can’t see God, but faith can fill the gap so that we can experience God. We are emotional beings – created to be loved and to love. God loves us and often brings people into our lives when we need them the most. We find healing when we embrace that and give our emotions to Jesus. It is through Him that our hearts find peace.

Tomorrow I have a third surgery on my leg. I don’t know the details of what will happen, but I do know that Jesus will hold my hand and my heart as I travel the journey. It’s my job to take it to Him – trusting in love. He’ll be there – in my heart and in the hearts of those that love me. I don’t really agree with Eliphaz’s words up above that say “a life of integrity will bring me hope”. Rather, I think that Jesus brings me the hope that I need to fuel myself and to share with others — from the inside out.

 

 

 

9 Comments

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

An Esther Moment…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the book of Esther 4: 13-14

“Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”


I spent last week studying the book of Esther. It’s a fabulous read and I believe it to be meaningful for a variety of reasons. My favorite brunette celebrates the book of Esther just as she enjoys the book of Ruth – She loves that God uses a woman to play a “hero” role in order to fulfill an important purpose.

I love the fact that Esther demonstrates that God moves in quiet ways — not just in boldness. The Bible is full of ways that demonstrate God’s power. He is clearly great. But, I think that Esther demonstrates that greatness can also be subtle. God’s miracles are diverse —  yet they are all meaningful, no matter where they fit on the drama meter.

The above verse occurs at a pivotal time in both Esther’s life and in the history of the Jewish people. On the verge of tragedy – with the threat of mass destruction and assassination – Esther listens to her mentor and packs her faith to step up and use her new position as queen in order to quietly and masterfully allow God to save both herself and her people. She demonstrates that a practiced loyalty to faith allows for a strong and courageous stand during a moment of crisis.


Likely each and every one of us will have an Esther moment or two in our lives — Times when we are called to do something subtle, yet bold as we answer God’s call. It may occur in a moment when we can clearly see the purpose, or it may occur amidst a foggy cloud of uncertainty. I’ve come to realize that the clarity in which we understand the Esther moment is much less important than our ability to respond with a servant heart in order to move forward with courage.

I had an Esther moment in April of 2018. It occurred when a boy that I had been tutoring got into trouble and landed in jail. While the Holy Spirit’s call for me to help him was quiet, it was also firm and clear.

Go and love him.

I ended up bailing him out of jail and bringing him to our home to finish his high school career. 383 days with Joe – a young man with a challenging past whom God decided deserved a second chance. During the time that our lives melded together into a new family, the crystal ball was often fuzzy in terms of detail despite the clearness of the call to be together. Each day, we tried to walk in faith believing that God’s purpose was meaningful even though we couldn’t see the finish line.

Some in our town thought we were crazy to bring a stranger into our home. Some watched from a distance, undecided as to whether we’d made the right decision. And, a few opened their arms in support of our faith journey as a new family. We persevered clinging to the call to love.

Joe’s been gone a month now, and the crystal ball still remains fuzzy. I’ve decided that’s okay. There’s a reason that my view is fuzzy and God’s is clear.  The details of why God chose us and Joe to come together for a time may never be revealed. But, I believe that God is great and God is good. So, I don’t have to fully understand it — I just have to believe in the call and answer it in love.

The part of the journey that is clearest to me is that the time that we spent together deepened our family’s faith as we willingly participated in Jesus’ mission. We answered the call in a moment of crisis — willing to take a stand and own our faith. I learned many things from Joe. Things that I carry with me everyday that offer a new perspective for me as a Christian, a wife, a mom, and a coach.

I am grateful for that.

God works through ordinary people and is present even when His hand may seem invisible. Each individual assignment from God matters. It may seem risky and possibly scary at times, but it is always meaningful and we never walk alone when we answer the call.

To me, living in faith means trusting God, following his call, and stepping up during the Esther moments in life.

2 Comments

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

Radiologically Perfect…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Hebrews 11: 6

“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”


Since I fell on the ice and broke my leg on the 5th of January, I’ve had two surgeries and an interesting journey of rehabilitation that included 16 weeks on crutches and quality time in a cast. My girls have been known to say “Mom never believes in doing anything halfway.” I can state with confidence that the fall and the leg break clearly followed this mantra 😉

Every time that I go back to the doctor for an appointment, he is quick to point out that my leg is radiologically perfect. Doc put in a variety of hardware to aid in the healing process. I’ve had part of that hardware already removed and the rest will come out within the next month. I have to agree that the x-ray is impressive. However, I always feel compelled to point out what I believe to be an important fact:

A perfect x-ray picture does not ensure that my leg is functional and moves with harmony.

The picture is notable, but my leg still refuses to allow me to walk without pain. I have dreams of running and going up and down stairs with harmony, but at this point I’m really looking forward to walking with fluency.

At the doctor’s office, I am “the lady with high expectations and skinny ankles”. Apparently that is not a good combination when someone suffers from a trauma like I did. With all honesty, I think that the doctor has done a good job taking care of me — my body just does not tolerate medical challenges well. My “auto-immune” tendencies make me a poor healer and my body seems to have a mind of it’s own.


It occurred to me the other day that my experience with my leg is a great metaphor for showing discrepancies that I have experienced along my faith journey.

Has your life ever looked “radiologically perfect” while inside you seemed to be unable to put one foot in front of the other? 

Good deeds and items that we can proudly check off the daily to do list pile up while our hearts wither under the pressure that weighs deeply on our souls. We have a servant heart, but we struggle to serve the right thing. I’ve had many periods of my life that looked like this. I knew that helping others needed to be a priority, but amidst the daily chores I lost sight of the heart of the gift – a deep faith that ensured that Jesus’ living water never left me needy.

  • God loves a cheerful giver (2Corinthians 9:7).
  • Jesus’ presence in our hearts ensures that we share His love – something that never runs out (John 7:38).
  • The yoke is easy to bear and the burden is light (Matthew 11:30).

A few years ago, I started to figure out that faith wasn’t about how many good deeds I accomplished in a day. While those deeds are awesome and likely blessed someone that God brought into my life path, faith is really about living for God.  To me, this means daily leaning on Jesus to find strength, joy, peace, and love to share with others regardless of circumstance.

I physically stumble each morning when I get out of bed on a bad leg, but I can face each day with a smile knowing that Jesus will carry me through. I find joy in sharing his love – peace in leaning in on my faith – and strength as I realize that I never walk alone.

God rewards those who sincerely seek him. Walking with Jesus ensures that we experience those rewards in our hearts, not just on the structural surface of our lives. Radiologically perfect only works when it stems from the harmony of faith that lives in our hearts.

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom