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The Facade…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Mark 4: 21-22

Parable of the Lamp

“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.”


I recently heard Coach Ron Brown speak. Coach Brown is a successful football coach and Christian mentor, and currently serves as Director of Player Development under Scott Frost and the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He returned to the Big Red last year after a few years away from the program. There’s something special about Coach Brown – he wears his faith well – and genuinely reflects Jesus’ love to the athletes that he serves. In short, he’s real.

That night, I bought a copy of his new book, Sports Parables. It’s left me thinking about the value of “the story”. Jesus often taught using parables. The Greek prefix “para” means to come alongside something in order to magnify truth. The Gospels are full of Jesus’ parables as he lived to clarify and define what a life of faith looks like. To me, using stories to teach inspires reflection — I know that as I read them, they stick in my mind as I work to figure them out 🙂


I love the Parable of the Lamp. Forms of it appear in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Jesus is all about the light. He’s it! When we walk with Him, we live in His light and are able to reflect that light to others. It’s like placing a lamp on a table so that everyone can share it. Light allows discernment and opens the door to unconditional love. As it glows, it highlights each one of our stories and declares us children of God.

In my mind, the most beautiful thing about Jesus’ light is that it has no facade. It’s real – it’s genuine – and it is just as awesome on the inside as it is on the outside. It warms my heart like a beautiful sunny fall day. Despite the loving warmth of Jesus’ light, the transparency of the light causes some to shy away instead of drawing near. It brings all that is hidden into the open, which can be a bit unsettling if you’re short on confidence or think you have something to hide.

We can’t fool God. He can see through any facade that we build. And, he loves us anyway. He uses us – and our stories – to share His love and His light with others. He doesn’t expect perfection, he simply asks for our hearts and an earnest faith that inspires us to live for Him. This reminds me that I don’t need to worry about a facade – I simply need to draw near to Jesus as I live my life so that He can use me to make Holy Moments with Him 🙂

I started coaching out of love for athletics. Twenty + years later, I coach because sharing the love that Jesus puts in my heart brings my life joy and purpose. In Matthew’s version of the Parable of the Lamp (Matt 5:14-16), Jesus reminds us that when we serve others by sharing love, then we enable His light to shine . I pray that the athletes that God brings into my path can feel the love of Jesus and the warmth of His light as we travel the journey together.

*You can learn more about Coach Ron Brown by visiting http://www.kingdomsports.online.

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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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Find the Rainbow…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Genesis 9: 12-14

Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is a sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth.”


I am notorious amongst the young athletes that I coach for having “inspirational sayings”. They just seem to roll off my tongue. Some of them I borrow from others, and some just pop into my mind in the moment. I believe that the ones that simply “pop into my head” come from the Holy Spirit and I tend to cling to them with loyalty. Sometime, I should sit down and make a list of all of them. Better yet, I should ask my athletes to make a list of them 😉

I believe that attitude shapes experience. No matter where our journey takes us, the way that we perceive our daily experiences determines our ability to not only find joy in the moment but also to evolve and learn for the future. When we approach life determined to find the rainbow, then each day becomes an opportunity rather than an ordeal.

The difference between opportunity and ordeal may not seem that big a deal on the surface, but I believe it to be profound.

Let me share a story from last summer.

I have a group of junior high and high school athletes that gather on the pool deck at 6:00am every weekday during the summer for swimming practice before they go on to their days working jobs and practicing for other sports. In the moment — as we gather to begin each morning — I *may* be the only one of us truly excited for each morning workout 🙂 The words, find the rainbow, often pop out of my mouth during those times.

One morning, after a thunderstorm had blown through, we were in the water in the midst of a difficult set. One of the boys said, “hey look there’s a rainbow”. I suspect that he was trying to distract Coach Anne to get some extra rest at the wall, but I humored him by pausing and looking in the sky before we left for the next interval. While I did not immediately find a rainbow in the sky, about twenty minutes later — as we were finishing up the workout with some sprints — God brought us a beautiful one. On a regular day, we might have missed it because it was a small one in the shape of a vertical sundog. But, we were looking for it since the motto for the day had turned into different ways we could look for the rainbow.

As the summer progressed, we found many rainbows together — some in the sky and some in our hearts. In each instance, we found them because we were intentionally looking for them 🙂


God reminds us in the book of Genesis that a rainbow is a special sign from Him.

It is the sign of a covenant.

It is a beautiful physical image that depicts a promise.

To me, it is a reminder of eternal hope. I make the intentional choice to take the image with me every day as I pack my faith. The challenges will still come. However, my perspective – my attitude – allows those challenges to be opportunities rather than burdensome ordeals. Over time, I’ve figured out that it’s really not about the challenge itself. Rather, it’s about how I embrace God’s grace in my daily life to live with honor.

Last week, I transitioned from my post-surgery cast to a hard cast. As I looked at my pathetically bruised leg and it’s 8″ incision, I might have wanted to cry. But then I remembered my own advice. Find the rainbow. So, I covered the leg with a colorful reminder. Every time that I look at it, I remember God’s covenant. I remember that He loves me. I remember that it’s not my job worry about the “why”. It’s my job to focus on the “how”.

I honor God when I pack an attitude of love and positivity. Great things come out of hard times. Noah packed his faith to live with grace in a way that brings great perspective to my own challenges. He did his part and I can too.

How does God inspire you during times of challenge?

 

 

 

 

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Worthy…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from John 14: 27

“I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.


I love the life lessons that athletics teach. That is what fuels me on a daily basis to keep coaching. Sometime during my coaching tenure, I learned the hard lesson that a good coach loves their athletes more than they love the sport or the win. I don’t think that it was a passionate “aha” moment, but rather an on-going personal development in my leadership skills that led me to this realization. I know that it is something that I remind myself often as I wear the “coaching hat”.

Over the decades, I have noticed a recurring challenge that appears most often in my female athletes. Interestingly enough, it is also something that I struggled with during my own athletic career. It is a simple question that carries huge implications (both in athletic performance and in life).

Am I worthy of the win?

An innate sense of worth is critical to athletic performance. Google defines worth as “sufficiently good, important or interesting enough to justify a specific action.” I see it determine the way that the athlete perceives him/herself as well as how he/she internally formulates their role on the team. It dictates whether an athlete is all in and able to own the game. What the fans notice most is athletic performance — what I see as a coach goes much deeper than that.

Am I good enough to deserve to win sets the stage for the athletic performance. It can be both transient and permanent — it depends on the athlete and it depends on the day! While the status within each player’s mind might fluctuate, the effects of the answer are steadfast.

  • A worthy athlete plays with confidence
  • A worthy athlete plays with resilience
  • A worthy athlete is better able to look outside of themselves to play a leadership role on the team

Why girls?

I think that girls struggle with this challenge more than boys because they live in a world that constantly compares them and often expects perfection in order to grant value. As a result, girls are cautious. If they do not have 100% confidence that they can do it right, then they chose to hold back. In a teenage girl’s mind, there are different levels of failure. And, while none of them are appealing some hurt more than others. They believe that:

it is better to hold a piece of themselves back and fall short than it is to give it everything that they have and still not win.


A couple of years ago, I coined the phrase pack your faith to compete with grace. There are many implications to this mantra, but I thought of the young women that I coach when I put the words together. As a coach, I can run drills and practice so that my girls internalize what they are supposed to do and gain confidence that they can perform the tasks necessary to bring home the win. As a coach, I can also love them and encourage them to believe. But, I cannot fill their hearts with the peace of Jesus that will carry them in the moment of competition when they need it most.

I cannot. But, God can.

The apostle John reminds us in the above passage that Jesus leaves us on earth with a heavenly gift. The gift is peace of mind and heart. It is available for all those that reach for it. While it is offered to everyone, it is not forced on anyone. We each have the choice to say “Yes”. When we do, Jesus fills our hearts and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our minds. The combination creates a new level of worthiness.

I wish that I had figured that out during my own athletic tenure.

I feel incredibly blessed that I figured it out during my coaching tenure.

God’s time isn’t always our time, and learning to trade fear for faith is a life skill. When we make this intentional choice, the results on the athletic field are tangible. But, more importantly, the impact on the confidence with which we live our lives is nothing short of amazing grace 🙂

 

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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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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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