Category Archives: General

The Essence of Hope…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


My favorite blonde cowgirl brings inspiration for this scripture choice– this one is special to her and it comes from Proverbs 24: 16.

For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.


Our girls are our greatest blessings. There is something truly beautiful about children as they bring an added dimension to life. A child views the world with a unique perspective of innocence as well as an unrelenting fountain of hope. Even as teenagers, all three of my girls possess an ability to nurture their faith through an uncomplicated blend of optimism and forgiveness. This helps them to persevere with grace.

I’ll never forget a spring about ten years ago. It rained. And, it rained. And, it rained some more. It rained so much that we had to move cattle to higher ground. Then we got yet another hard rain that caused localized flooding both at our house and on the farm. I was emotionally defeated as well as physically drained. It seemed like the world was against me and my attitude reflected my failing faith.

The afternoon after the flood, the girls and I were driving around the feed yard. I was bitter, angry and full of judgement. Amidst my grumbling, I heard what could only be described as joyful laughter from the back seat of the pickup. I turned to look and, with a beaming smile on her face, Ashley Grace (age 8) leaned over the front seat and issued precious words of advice.

“Mama, it’ll be okay. We just need to build an ark.”

It was so simple for her. She believed that God was with us, and her faith never faltered. Despite the fact that she was watching her dad and I fall at the farm, she had internalized the important notion that if we behaved appropriately that we would rise again. She knew it was going to be alright, and the optimism and faith radiating in her eyes inspired me to recenter myself and fix my attitude. After that day, we did not receive any more rain for about 30 days which gave us plenty of time to fix the house and get the farm back on its feet. The hard work wasn’t done, but the emergency had passed.


I believe that God, with the Holy Spirit, communicates with us through feelings and experiences. I’ve no doubt that He was present in the pick up that day and spoke to me through my daughter. I also believe that He continuously pursues me in a desire for a meaningful relationship. This helps me to find righteousness in my actions and rise again when I falter. The number seven reminds me that perfection isn’t the goal. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, so he inspires us to keep going – to keeping trying – always striving to live a more honorable life.

It is no surprise to me that Proverbs 24:16 is Megan’s favorite scripture verse. Meg has an innate sense of humility — she is fully aware that she makes mistakes — but she is just as certain that God will help her to rise again each time that she falls.

This is the essence of hope.

This is a cornerstone of faith.

This is the beauty of being on God’s team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gates and Doors…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s scripture can be found in Revelations 3: 20.

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.


As a cattle farmer, I spend a lot of time thinking about gates. Gates are essentially doors used for animals and provide critical tools for a cattle caregiver. Sometimes gates are physical, and sometimes they are the metaphorical ones that lead to a mental connection — either way, they are the pathways for forward progress.

I often think to myself:

  • Are the correct gates open to allow my cattle to go where I need them to go?
  • Are the correct gates closed to keep my cattle from going somewhere that I do not want them to go?
  • As a leader, do I correctly manage the gates as I either invite or discourage my cattle?

The simplest way to lead my animals is to cause my idea to be their idea. When we share the same thought, then we find harmony in whatever farm chore is being done. The first part to sharing a thought is gaining attention. While I don’t “stand at the door and knock” — I do the cow equivalent and enter their space until they lift their eyes and grant me their curious attention.  The moment that I become their focus, then I can begin to open the communication gate and guide them to the correct physical gate. 

There is always a choice involved, and sometimes I need to be persistent in the proper position with my animals until they chose to make that connection with me. I must be patient as well as sensitive because if I link up with them at the right moment and in the right way, then the cattle not only follow my direction but they also continue to view me as their trusted leader and caregiver. While I use physical gates and fences to help guide them, finding the doorway to their brains provides the key to having a healthy and low stress experience.


It seems to me that God makes a perfect cowboy. As a tenaciously patient and loving leader, he uses the Holy Spirit to stand at my door and knock. My awareness and willingness to engage drives whether or not we travel the journey together. He persistently pursues — always knocking and waiting for me to respond.

  • I know that there are times that God knocks and I miss it — either letting the chaos of daily life distract me from the call, or ignoring the invitation because I fail to get my priorities in the correct order.
  • I also know that my hours are better – my days are better – and my life is better when I open the door to my heart and mind to answer the call.

Sharing time with God makes life meaningful. It brings peace to the world’s chaos and reminds me of the importance of centering my life with love. Like a good friend, God offers unconditional strength and support as I travel the journey. The trinity makes a remarkably powerful combination and I have come to realize how important it is to be a part of His team.

There are many farming references in the Bible, and I think that my life is most complete when I am both one of God’s sheep as well as a loving shepard to those whom God places along my path.

Love, strength, and purpose all live on the other side of the door — We simply need to answer the knock.

 

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A Culture of Love…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s verse comes from Hebrews 11:1

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.


Of all of the lessons that I have tried as a parent to teach my girls, packing their faith quickly rises to the top of the priority list. Faith allows for hope – it brings peace – and it enables you to live with honor to help create a culture of love. It fuels you with the inspiration to take the time to care and to spread God’s love to others along the journey.

Every time that I read Hebrews, those eighteen words jump off the page at me and inspire me to ponder their meaning. I believe that the heart of this verse is rooted in the Holy Spirit.

When I tell my girls to pack their faith, I mean for them to listen to God’s voice that manifests itself inside of them through the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit’s influence in our lives that the reality of hope/peace/joy/love can be attained during our time on earth. Our relationship with the Holy Spirit brings closeness with God. It allows for a grateful heart as well as the ability to see the instruction and opportunities that God places along our path. Our eyes cannot see His presence, but our hearts and minds still receive his faithful guidance and support.



Learning to be a caregiver for cattle helped me to develop an attention to detail that aids me in my spiritual journey. It may sound crazy, but cattle are attune to the slightest movement – the smallest sign – and respond to caregiver leadership best when the communication begins with natural subtlety. To be a good cattle caregiver, you need to slow down, pay close attention and search for the non-verbal cues that the animals send to you. This allows you to balance your energy with theirs’ and find harmony.

I best understand God’s direction when I slow down, pay close attention, and search for signs of his guidance. Just as I lead and direct my cattle to ensure that they receive good care, God guides me on a similar journey.


I’m very much a work in progress, but I clearly feel the work of the Holy Spirit in my own life — offering direction and refilling my cup as I look for balance and harmony. There is an awesome sense of peace that comes from making reality out of hope, and finding the evidence of abundant love as we attune our lives’ with faith through the Holy Spirit.

 

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The Gift of Giving…A behind the scenes glimpse of small town America

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s verse comes from James 3:13

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.


I became a farmer when I fell in love with my favorite farmer. Just as I married into agriculture, I also married into rural America. For a wedding gift, some of my college friends got a large map of the United States, entitled it “Civilization: A Nebraskan’s Guide Out”, and marked lines from Cozad, Nebraska to their home towns thereby showing me how to get back to civilization on the East Coast 😉 . The gift was a tongue in cheek joke stemming from the fact that none of them could believe that I actually wanted to move to a tiny town in Nebraska and make my life there as a farmer.

Twenty two years later, the map (which I framed) is faded and blurred but I still smile every time that I look at it. I knew at age 21 that Matt and I were meant to be together, and I opened my heart to the community that welcomed us a year later when we moved back to the farm. I have never needed “A Nebraskan’s Guide Out” because my adopted home state still holds my heart just as firmly as my favorite farmer.

There is a statistic floating around social media right now stating that 53% of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers actively volunteer in their local and state communities (compared with just 7% of the general public). While I have not “fact checked” this statistic, I can say that my life experiences in Nebraska demonstrate the dedication of Rural America to giving back. I know that my community inspires me to actively volunteer as I view sharing of myself to help others as a top life priority.  

Over the years, I have learned the true gift of giving. It has two components and I truly treasure them both.

  1. An unending well of energy fills your soul when you reach out in faith to help others. Good works are a demonstration of faith — they are the Holy Spirit guiding your life so that your love is shared, your talents are used to honor your neighbors, and your actions provide a living display of God’s loving hand.
  2. Giving in love inspires gifts of love. Good works are contagious as they allow for the spread of faith. Random acts of kindness are not random. Rather, they are intentional acts of love that result from a joyful and faithful heart. God is on the move through each one of us as we intentionally share of ourselves to help others.

Last weekend, our family took a four day trip to Colorado. February is generally a quiet time for Matt on the farm, so we try to take advantage of it for some intentional family time. My favorite farmer loves to snow ski and my girls happily zoom down the mountain in his wake. The long weekend is a time for us to regroup as a family and is something that both Matt and I treasure.

Our second day gone, Matt received word that one of his storage buildings at the alfalfa mill had caught fire. Matt burns sawdust (as a means of recycling) for energy to run the alfalfa dehydration plant during the summer harvest months. It allows us to reduce the environmental footprint of the farm because it uses a “waste product” to create the energy needed to dry and pellet the alfalfa. It is necessary to accumulate and store the sawdust over the winter months to ensure the needed supply for the summer months. Matt’s crew was working in the building on Friday when equipment malfunctioned – sparked – and started a fire.

The local volunteer fire department, along with our farm crew, worked diligently to contain the fire. Their hard work enabled us to continue with our family weekend instead of packing up to rush home to an emergency. Matt spent some needed time on the telephone, and worried rather than sleeping most of the night, but we were able to salvage what will likely be our last vacation before our oldest daughter leaves for college next fall.

Our crew – Our community – banded together to give us a gift. We didn’t even need to ask for it. It was given freely and with generous hearts. To me, this is the exquisite beauty of rural Nebraska. When challenges come, a support network automatically assembles to fill the need. Our community is filled with neighbors – those that help with giving hearts and a dedication to James’ call for demonstrating faith through good works.

Matt and I would like to thank all those that gave of themselves to lend aid. Your selfless generosity fills my heart with the joy of faith, and humbles me with the knowledge that we are loved — cared for — and honored as members of our family of Cozad. The clean up will take time, patience, and much work but you all have given us a reason to be thankful in the face of challenge.

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Find your grit…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s scripture comes via my favorite brunette who blessed me with this verse from Psalms on my birthday last week. Psalm 46:5

God is with her, she will not fail. God will help her at the break of day.


I love this verse for a variety of reasons. It speaks to the grit and determination that a successful life requires while at the same time reminding us that we do not travel the journey alone. I’ve experienced more than 20 years of sunrises on the farm. Each morning, I pause for a moment at the break of day to notice the beauty around me.

My memory book is chocked full of “dawn moments”, but likely the most poignant was the morning that I lost my steadfast partner. I arrived at the feed yard to read bunks and exercise calves a few minutes before six. My cowboy met me at the gate with a grim look on his face. I expected him to tell me that we’d had calves get out, — I never expected him to look at me with a tear in his eye and say, “Studly’s gone.”

There are animals that come into our lives and change our hearts. Studly was one of those. A big quarterhorse with a streak of loyalty that perfectly complimented his goofy personality, Studly brought a daily chuckle to my life. He was a bit lazy, but you could always count on him to take care of you while you were taking care of animal chores.

I loved that horse.

The day that I lost him was a hard one.

It’s been more than four years since that morning and I still blink back the tears every time that I think about it. The afternoon before, we left an apparently healthy and strong horse happily munching prairie hay. That morning, my cowboy found him lying dead in the pasture. With no sign of struggle, the vet diagnosed a heart attack as the culprit and I told myself that I should be glad that he didn’t suffer.

Life goes on — especially on a farm — where daily chores ensure that animals remain healthy and thrive. Death, even the death of a beloved partner, does not stop the chore process so I pressed on. I had a newly arrived group of cattle that I was acclimating, so I pulled my eyes from his unmoving body and forced my feet to walk away.

I exercised calves that morning with tears streaming down my face, telling myself over and over again to focus and move on. I wanted to crawl in a hole and bawl my eyes out, but I packed my faith and let God carry me through the day.


Dealing with loss and disappointment provides perhaps one of life’s hardest challenges. Learning to cope and press on provides a critical step on the journey. As I’ve gotten older, I have come to understand that I do not fail. I persevere because God has my back and faithfully fills the gap for me. He props me up on the hard days, and then sits back with a big smile on his face as I dig deep to find the strength to continue.

He is the master of balance — providing just the right amount of support — with a loving hand and a compassionate spirit.  

Each break of day brings opportunity.

Each sunrise brings the promise of peace and grace.

And as the sun crests the horizon, I remind myself that I only need to reach for it in order to fill my heart with the quiet strength of perseverance and the steadfast grace of walking with God on the journey.

It is particularly meaningful for me for my daughter to chose this bible verse to share with me. Her gift fills my heart with the knowledge that she gets it. And wherever her life takes her as she begins college next fall, she understands the need to grip tenaciously to the knowledge that God will never let her fail. He will help her at the break of each day and together they will persevere with greatness.

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It means more when you share it with a cheerful heart…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s thoughts come from Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians Chap. 9:7-9

You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all that you need. Then you will always have everything that you need and plenty left over to share with others. 


Finishing an ocean mile race as part of my training circa 1992

When I was a young athlete, I remember my dad telling me, “Anne, if you are going to do something then you need to do it well.” With him, there was no halfway, and I learned to work with diligence and dedication to make the most of my God-given talent. At 5’3″ and 105#, I was often the smallest backstroker in the pool. I think that some wondered how I found success, but I knew the secret — I found that hard work brought passion and passion brought hard work. It was a winning cycle that both brought honor to my sport and carried me through the majority of my athletic career.

While I possessed a keen grip on the notion of bringing honor to my God-given talents through dedication and hard work, I had begun my journey into adulthood before I gave much intentional thought to the concept of “giving”. The idea of turning those talents into cheerful gifts to others came after trading the ocean for the Nebraska prairie. Over the years, there have certainly been times that my efforts benefited others, but a focus on daily giving with a cheerful heart is still a work in progress for me.

I think that one of the things that I love most about being a cattle caregiver is the simplicity of the relationship. My cattle need me for daily care, and I need them to turn the resources on my farm into beef which nourishes my body.

There are no games, there are no politics, there are no pretensions.

Very simply, there exists only an honest display of bidirectional giving.

I can’t honestly say if cattle experience the emotion of joy; but I can report that I gain a feeling of peace and contentment as I fulfill my responsibilities as an animal caregiver — giving from a cheerful heart to fulfill a noble calling.


For me, things become more complicated in my relationships with other people. My “cheerful heart” sometimes wants to place expectations on others instead of simply finding honor in the act of sharing and giving. I forget the point of sharing when I do not place my faith at the heart of my gift.

I believe that God desires us to give as He gives

cheerfully, generously, and without any strings

knowing that our hearts possess enough love for everyone and our actions are fueled by a divine power of unending goodness.

I know that with each day that passes, I intentionally mature in my faith as my heart builds a habit of sharing with gratitude — trading unhealthy expectations for empathy and love.

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Lean while pressing on…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today I pull from both the Old and the New Testament as I work to internalize the concept of leaning while pressing on.

The Old Testament reading comes from Hosea 6:3

“Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in the early spring.”

The New Testament reading comes from Matthew 7:7

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone that asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”


I’ll never forget the “Thanksgiving Blizzard”. It began the Sunday after Thanksgiving when Karyn (my youngest) was just a toddler. The day prior was 60 degrees and sunny, but the weather changed quickly as 70 mile per hour winds beat down on Central Nebraska for 36 hours piling snow into drifts taller than my favorite farmer.

It took us almost 24 hours to be able to get out to the feed yard to check on the cattle. My favorite farmer and my foreman got stuck multiple times trying to make the 3 mile trip west from our house. The cattle huddled together to brave the storm, and then took the liberty of wandering from pen to pen when the snow drifted higher than the fences. We were blessed that none of the animals left the feed yard facility to wander onto the nearby roads.

In addition to having cattle at the feed yard at the time, we also had a group of animals grazing the left over cornstalks just west of my house. We live about a mile north of town, and – at the time – the local community hospital was constructing an assisted living facility on the edge of town closest to my house. The facility had walls and a roof but no windows or doors when the storm came through. The cattle grazing by my house wisely walked over the drifted snow and headed south to the shelter of the building. Fences are not very useful when they become completely covered in packed snow! My favorite farmer serves on the local hospital board and was a bit sheepish when he had to relate to the rest of the members that it was our cattle hanging out in the unfinished assisted living facility as the storm raged through…

This storm served as an epiphany for me.

  • I am not naturally a person who leans on others — I pride myself in being strong and independent.
  • While I love to work, I shy away from asking for help.
  • I like to be in control.

I clearly had no control over the weather, and it took a lot of work by many different people to get our community back to a state of normality after the storm passed.


I’ve spent decades trying to figure out the balance of leaning while pressing on. 

  • What does it truly mean to “give it to God”?
  • What is my role as I look to find strength in Him?

I first started articulating the phrase “give it to God” as I read and talked about faith with my girls when they were young. Over time, it has become a reoccurring theme as well as a personal mantra for me as I try to worry less and do a better job of packing my faith to live with grace.

I think that learning to lean while pressing on occurs in stages:

  1. Recognizing that strength, joy and hope come from pressing on to develop a meaningful relationship with Jesus.
  2. Realizing that we are never alone on the journey.
  3. Internalizing that while God carries us through strength in faith, that we must still do our part — asking, seeking, knocking.

This lesson became clear to me as I trained and competed in my first half marathon in 2017

While giving it to God grants us the strength to press on, it does not absolve us from responsibility. We must put in the work in order to find success.

To me, faith is a symbiotic process. God brings dedicated love and support to us, we then must respond to His offer with hearts of gratitude and untiring efforts. 

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Cycles of giving…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s quote can be found in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 6:38

“Give and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full — pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount that you give will determine the amount you get back.”


Life on a farm intrinsically teaches a lesson in the cycle of giving. As Howard Buffet notes in his book, Forty Chances, a farmer has approximately 40 chances (growing cycles) over his lifetime to use his efforts to bring meaning to the world. Whether its tilling the soil or caring for a calf, as adult farmers, we each have around 40 years of contribution.

Matt and I are firmly in the middle of our forty year tenure — far enough through the process to understand fully what it means, but with enough chances left that we are inspired to constantly strive to do it better. It takes a lot of faith to farm. Diligent care for the land and our animals provides the structure to our days, but uncontrollable forces like Mother Nature can undermine our success as caretakers. The process has taught me to tenaciously give, stubbornly packing my belief that God will never let the cup run empty.

Matt giving a young Megan a lesson in water quality

We honor our resources on the farm by always getting smarter about how to use them. We work, we mature in our knowledge, and we are renewed by our dedication to the goal. A tangible example of this is the move to shift from gravity pipe irrigation to pivot technology combined with soil moisture sensors which allows us to conserve water while optimizing crop yields.


As I travel into my third decade of chances, I find myself digging deeper to better understand what it really means to give. Jesus’s instruction, “Give and you will receive”, is a very basic one. However, it also holds complexity and depth. In order to fully give, you must

  • gather as a team
  • connect as a unified group
  • contribute unselfishly

I feel as though my life has been a series of experiences where God tenaciously tries to teach me the value of giving as a team. Jesus’s words, “pressed down, shaken together to make room for more” denotes the importance of we. Giving is not a singular act. It takes both a donor and a receiver. We bring honor to the act when we work together — creating a continuous cycle rather than one independent input. The cycle perpetuates as givers become receivers and receivers become givers — when the team comes together to fill the cup.

If we only have a finite number of chances, then it behooves us to make the most of each and every one. I may have learned that lesson on the farm, but it carries over to every aspect of my life. The Holy Spirit reminds me daily that #TogetherWeAreStronger.

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