Tag Archives: faith

Packing my FAITH to race with GRACE…

On May 25th I published The Good Life Halfsy as a promise to myself of great things to come. I wrote it just a few days after signing up to run my first half marathon – an important component to my journey to regain my spiritual health.


Sunday morning, with 550 miles of running training — a smile on my face and peace in my heart — I packed my FAITH to race with GRACE.

Fortitude                                     Gratitude

Attitude                                        Resilience

Integrity                                       Acceptance

Trust                                             Compassion

Hope                                             Eloquence


My favorite farmer filmed the finish of the race so that I could share it with you 🙂

God had my back and I learned in a very tangible way that my faith could be stronger than my fear. 

My high school Cross Country coach would likely tell you that my running form still needs some work 😉 butI overcame that with grit and determination to finish the race in a time of 1:42.49. I negative split the race (ran the second half faster than the first) with an average pace of about 7:50 per mile.

It’s amazing what happens when you open your heart and mind and let God’s presence fill your soul. I trained and then completed the race with no stop watch — a decision that I made before beginning the journey in order to help myself to learn to let go of control and just BE.

Somewhere along the journey, I learned to lean on God. To find joy and peace in the times that we spend together each day, as well as strength to overcome the physical and mental barriers that had plagued me since my battle with Graves Disease more than ten years ago.

As I crossed the finish line, I was proud of me.

Proud of the person that I found deep inside of myself during the training journey. 

Life is about much more than any one race or moment in time. The lessons learned along the way carry you forward on the road to excellence. I found that I needed to build the muscle of hope in my heart just as much as I needed to build the muscles in my legs.

When you build the muscle of hope, then faith supports you on the journey!

 

 

 

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Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, Family, General

Hope is a Muscle…

I graduated with a degree in psychology from Dartmouth College in 1997. I remember clearly the phone conversation with my parents a couple of years prior when I told them of my chosen major. My dad struggled to find enthusiasm as he finally managed to say “Psychology’s not a very practical major. Don’t you think you should study something else?”

Two days after graduation, I moved to rural Nebraska where I used my psychology degree to learn to care for farm animals and coach young athletes. Over the almost 25 years that have passed since that phone conversation, I have routinely pondered why the science of the brain and the emotions that play critical roles in our lives fall into the “not practical” category of focus.

Mental health touches all of us. The mass shootings that all too often ravage our country were not even on my radar screen in the mid-90’s when I formally studied psychology; but the denial and feeling of shame that go along with smaller daily emotional  and mental challenges did permeate our mainstream American culture. Still today, we harbor embarrassment toward and quietly shun people who suffer from mental turmoil instead of reaching out in love and support. We chose to judge others, blame inanimate objects, and participate in rabid political debates after tragedy strikes rather than acknowledge the real problem and preemptively come together to focus on a cure.

Hope is a muscle.

When it is strengthened daily by love and faith, hope wards off the self-doubt, loneliness and fear that challenge and erode our mental health. The battle is real. No one holds immunity from it. Hope provides the inspiration that allows each of us to find value in life. It motivates us to reach out to others in love and support, instead of focusing inward with judgement and disdain.

A grass-roots effort is needed to create the cure. It starts with you and me – how we view ourselves — how we relate to others, as well as what we teach our children.

  • Do we focus on love of others and honoring the gift of life?
  • Do we respect individual differences while also working to find common ground so that we can move forward together as a team?
  • Do we accept that mental and emotional struggles are part of life and focus on creating the tools needed to find happiness amidst the challenge?
  • Do we have honest discussions with our children about faith that inspire them to love themselves while also recognizing that “we” is stronger than “I”?

Everyone matters.

We all have worth.

We are all children of God.

I believe that we begin to effectively improve the mental health of our country one person at a time – one relationship at a time – one loving action at a time. We waste precious lives when we judge instead of love. Repetitious acts of kindness build the muscle of hope. They not only help others, but they help us. We feel self-worth rather than self-doubt, focus on community instead of loneliness, and replace fear with faith as we look toward the future.

I spend a lot of time coaching and working with youth on the athletic field. While it may appear that my primary job is to build physical muscle and athletic prowess; I know that what I truly need to do is teach my athletes to believe in themselves – to truly believe that each one of them matters. Not just on the day of competition, but in the journey of life.

You see, hope is a muscle. When it is strong, it refills our cup and provides a beacon of light as we travel the journey. It keeps us honed in on the joy of giving. It tells us that we have something worth sharing and inspires us to reach out in empathy toward others. When we all work to build the muscle of hope, we rediscover the value of life. We are at peace and whole within ourselves through our faith in God which allows us to show love and compassion to others.

It isn’t complicated; but it requires dedication and tenacity both at the individual and community level.

Are you ready to build the habit of love and fuel it with faith in order to find hope for the future?

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Did you eat today? Thank a farmer!

Technology advances each and every day, providing more tools to help us create efficiency and prosperity. For example, larger equipment, GPS guidance systems, and improved computer software affect many different types of businesses today – and agriculture is no exception. We can move faster and with more precision, trace more things, and create reports that analyze our performance on a variety of levels. All of these things help farmers to be better today than we were yesterday.

Despite incredible advances in technology, I still firmly believe that it is people, not machines, that play the most pivotal roles in growing food. Behind that great tasting steak on the grill is a hard working group of men and women who offered care to the animal across its lifetime. By care I mean not just giving them nutritious feed, water, and a place to rest, but teaching the animal how to prosper in a variety of situations along the life journey.

I remember sitting in an animal welfare meeting several years ago and hearing someone remark, “We need to continue to make more things automated in agriculture because people are our greatest liability”.

While my head acknowledges that sometimes people make poor choices that negatively impact others (including animals), my heart still holds faith that integrity prevails.

I believe that the soul of agriculture is its farmers.

The occasional hurtful caregiver may make the evening news and go viral on social media; but at home on the farm are hundreds of thousands of others who are good caregivers and work with integrity to grow the steak that graces your grill.

I recently wrote about Finding Honor In Our Lives, and how work is part of God’s plan for humanity. Each of us brings honor to our faith when we honestly and fully engage in our jobs. Raising cattle for beef production requires a special type of person. Our animals are sentient beings – they don’t just need, they feel – and they are able to communicate with us. Good caregivers learn to understand animal feedback and use that information to individualize care.

Technology helps us to do that job, but even the best machine cannot provide the caring leadership needed to enable cattle to prosper.

If the soul of agriculture is its farmers, then the future of agriculture manifests itself in the young people who aspire to be the next generation of animal caregivers. I am often asked if any of my three daughters plan to return home to the farm after college. The honest answer to that question is, “I don’t know”. I know that our future necessitates farm kids like mine coming home to continue the tradition or at least remaining involved in agriculture; however, wishes and reality do not always find harmony.

Farming is a tough life. It is filled with long hours and many worries. In addition, over the past couple of decades, the connotation of a farmer has shifted away from something positive and trustworthy. That weighs on me as I have conversations with my kids about what life path they should take.

I believe that our country has a necessary call to action.

  • Humanity cannot exist without life.
  • Life cannot exist without food.

It is time for all of us to unite in the knowledge that there is honor in the profession of farming. Placing value on the people who tend the land, care for animals, and help to put food on the table creates a culture of honor that helps us to sustain on into the future. That might very well provide the key to inspiring kids like mine to choose a life path that involves agriculture.

Technology aids in the production of food, but it can never replace the men and women who pack their FAITH each and every day to put food on our tables.

How long has it been since you thanked a farmer?

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Filed under A Farmer's View on Foodie Thoughts..., Animal Welfare, General

Finding Honor In Our Lives…

My favorite farmer celebrates 46 years of awesomeness this week. With the last twenty of those years spent working on the farm, I find myself thinking that perhaps we aren’t as young as we used to be! Matt and I tend to draw very few boundaries in our lives, so it would be impossible to evaluate the last two decades of our lives without including the farm.

A couple of weeks ago, the sermon at church centered on finding honor in our work. The topic resonated deeply with me as honor is something that I personally value. It was a great reminder for me that work is part of God’s plan for humanity and we honor our faith when we honestly and fully engage in our jobs. For Matt and I, finding honor in our work is closely akin to finding honor in our lives as there is very little separation.

I think that one of the hardest things about being a farmer is finding and maintaining balance. You learn quickly to control the controllable in order to protect your livelihood from those things that threaten it. From Mother Nature –  to volatile markets-  to debilitating regulations: the list of things that keeps you up at night can grow lengthy. Maintaining a perspective that focuses on honor instead of fear/frustration provides the encouragement that refuels your cup and grants you a healthy outlook on life.

Cattle are masterful at sensing their caregiver’s attitude 🙂

The last twelve months have inspired me to reflect on this topic. The following are 5 personal habits that I have worked to establish in order to help me always focus on finding honor in my life:

  1. Let my faith be stronger than my fear.
  2. Look for gaps and be cognizant of the needs of others – Approach each day with the question: “How can I help?”
  3. Bring a constant element of thankfulness to my daily perspective. Thankfulness wards off frustration and anger, and increases the ability to live a life filled with joy.
  4. Create a personal focus on giving intentional encouragement so that my words and actions positively inspire others.
  5. Recognize that it is okay to take time for personal reflection and growth. While I am very much an “action” person, taking time each day to talk to God and develop a plan grants meaning to my actions in addition to helping me to refill my cup.

I find each day that I am still a work in progress – achieving differing levels of success with the above 5 habits.  But, I am confident that I am on the right track. Good habits bring about good daily choices.

And, making good choices enables us to find honor in our lives.

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The Good Life Halfsy…

Last week, I signed up to run The Good Life Halfsy. My favorite farmer thinks that I am crazy and my favorite blonde cowgirls are claiming that my mental status has been in question for years; but there are a variety of things compelling me to complete my first half marathon.

 The first, and most important, is that Ashley Grace asked me to do it with her. My favorite brunette begins her senior year in high school this fall, and I am incredibly excited to be able to share this experience with her. While we will not really run it together (she will cross the finish line well ahead of me), it is a mother/daughter bucket list item.

Apart from a few 5k races completed recently as a fitness building tool with my family or the Haymaker Cross Country team, I have not competed in a running event since high school. The six minute miles that I used to kick out on the XC course provide an interesting history, but little relevance to the race in late October. Much has changed over the last twenty-four years 😉

The second reason that I hit the “go button” on the registration form is simply that I canFor the first time in 13 years, I am physically strong enough to finish the race. To be completely honest, this race is a mental (as well as physical) stretch for me. However, I believe that it is a symbolic event as I celebrate a level of health and fitness that, during my years with active Graves Disease, I worried I would never again attain.

I recently wrote a blog entitled Life’s About Never Giving UpIn a number of ways, this race will be living proof of my words.

  • It is a difficult challenge to lose your health.
  • It is often a long journey to regain strength and fitness.

But, there is an awesome sweet spot to find as you pack your FAITH along the healing process. I’m hopeful that sweet spot will make a strong appearance the morning of the race as my main goal is to complete the half marathon with a smile on my face and peace in my heart.

I hope to have many great moments over the next five months as I train and prepare for the race; but what I most look forward to is seeing the pride in my daughter’s eyes as she hugs me on the finish line.

 

One of the reasons that Life’s About Never Giving Up is because there are so many awesome things to do as we live it 🙂

 

 

 

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Packing her FAITH to fly…

My favorite blonde cowgirl trades her horse for a pole vault pole tomorrow afternoon to compete in the Nebraska State Track and Field Championships. I’m pretty proud of Megan as she has had an awesome freshman year track season! It’s been a lot of fun to watch her work hard and pack her FAITH to fly 🙂

My Feed Yard Foodie video for the week highlights her pole vaulting prowess. Please help me to wish her the best as she tackles one of her favorite off farm challenges @ Burke Stadium in Omaha.  Go Meg!

 

 

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Life’s About Never Giving Up…

The onset of Mother’s Day always brings a personal sense of pensiveness. I think this is the case for a couple of different reasons.

  1. Being a mom and a coach/mentor provide the most important facets of my life.
  2. After my third daughter was born, I struggled for an extended period of time with chronic illness due to an autoimmune system disease.

At a glance, these two things do not necessarily seem related, but digging a bit deeper brings us to the heart of what I believe it truly means to be a mom.

The privilege of being a mom begins with receiving a new life. I’ll never forget how I felt when I held each of my three girls for the first time. I was in awe that something so precious, so infinitely beautiful could come from me.  I made a multitude of promises to my girls in those first moments. As I vowed to love them forever and support them in their dreams, I curled their tiny hands around my index finger and humbly thanked God for his gift of life.

Ashley Grace was just short of 6 and Megan was 2 and ½ when Karyn entered the world. The next five years were difficult ones as Matt and I struggled to hold together the family, the farm and survive my journey with Graves Disease. I learned a very important lesson during that time.

Life’s about never giving up.

It’s about FAITH.

It’s about letting go enough to embrace GRACE.

When I began my journey with Graves, I packed my stubborn with a vengeance, but I forgot to take along the majority of my FAITH. The stubborn took care of the fortitude and my integrity seemed to be permanently ingrained, but my attitude, trust, and hope were severely lacking. I am not proud of the person that I was during those years; but Matt held me up when I wanted to fall, and I came out the other side with a new perspective on life.

Today, I look at my beautiful girls and I see the true meaning of blessed. As I accept that blessing, I know in my heart that I must help them to learn that same important lesson about life. Being a real mom is about much more than wrapping that tiny hand around your finger, it’s about instilling that important value of FAITH and then letting them go enough that they can learn to find GRACE.

Life is hard.

Life is real.

Life is what you make of it.

Problems do not just disappear when you do not want to deal with them. No one is going to wave a magic wand. The negative aspect of challenges can fester and ruin your beautiful spirit – causing you to lose sight of what really matters. The only way that you work through it is to recognize that life’s about never giving up.

Sometimes never giving up involves letting go. On the surface, this may seem a bit backwards – letting go in order to never give up. But, trust and hope cannot move into your soul to lead you through the journey if there is not a personal realization that not everything in life is meant to be controlled by you.

Life isn’t about control.

Life’s about FAITH.

Life’s about GRACE.

The journey is better when you accept the love and support that God can grant you. This support comes in many different forms, and I have learned that I need to look for it. Trust and hope are critical components to FAITH. Developing a meaningful relationship with God enables you to open your heart to find them. When we pack our FAITH, we are open to receive GRACE.

Sometimes as moms we are tempted to try and fix things for our children. I make it a point to not do this with my girls because I know that their lives will be happier and more meaningful if they learn how to pack their FAITH, remember to let GRACE lead their actions, and figure out how to let go enough to never give up.

Life will never be perfect, but it can be meaningful. In order to receive, you must give. True joy can be found in sharing of yourself as you use your talents in order to make a difference. Peace is a beautiful emotion – it sits all along a journey marked by FAITH and GRACE. Finding it provides one of life’s most precious gifts.

Look for it.

Honor the gift of life.

Pack your FAITH so that you can fly.

Lead with GRACE so that there is a purpose to your flight.

Above all, cherish the journey as the pot of gold is the rainbow itself, not any given moment in time.

 

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And Then There Were None…

Yesterday morning we shipped the final pens of cattle from the feed yard to Tyson.  A calm wind with temperatures in the mid-20’s provided an easy ship out environment.  Mother Nature also rewarded us with a beautiful sunrise toward the end of the process.

As I watched the last cattle truck pull away from the load-out chute, my emotions threatened to get the best of me.  I took a moment to remember back to the first of the lasts as I experienced the last of the lasts. This particular shipment marked the end of our feed yard era, and the finality of the moment left me drained.

I wasn’t quite sure how to feel with the knowledge that, for the first time in twenty years, I had no cattle directly depending on me for care.  An internal struggle waged as the uplifting element of freedom fought with the deep rooted desire to be needed.

Recognizing the necessity and wisdom in change is sometimes easier than living it out. Watching the cattle truck pull away forced me to face the reality in a way that I had not yet done. I took a brief moment to feel sorry for myself before I packed my FAITH and went back to work.

faith

In that transition moment from self-pity to resolve, I made the decision to be happy. 

While that decision does not preclude me from experiencing difficult moments tinged with sadness, it focuses my attitude on the positive and grants me the strength to make the most of the future.  LIFE is a verb, and I recognize that my ability to achieve happiness is directly related to how I chose to live it.

  • Staying true to my core values
  • Trusting both myself and God on the journey
  • Recognizing that there is so very much more left to do on the journey…

All of these things give my life purpose, and I am looking forward to cowgirling up to make the most of it.

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