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Faithful in the little things…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week’s Wednesday Wisdom comes from the Gospel of Luke:

“If you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in the large ones.”


On Friday, my favorite farmer and I will celebrate 22 years of marriage. I was twenty one years old when we said “I do”. My parents considered that to be too young an age to marry, but Matt and I held firm in our devotion to each other. We officially began our life journey together on June 15, 1996. On the day of our wedding, I looked up at him with all of my love shining in my eyes.

22 years later, my eyes shine even brighter.

Our family has grown to include three beautiful daughters and recently God called us to welcome a young man into our family as a son. The journey has not always been easy, but our love grounds us in faithfulness.

Matt and I still hold hands. Despite his mother’s concern, my forehead has not developed a callous from the multitude of kisses that he has placed there over the past two decades 😉 We often “embarrass” our children with our affection. I’ve learned a lot of things over the past 22 years, but perhaps the most important is how much joy there is to be found in sharing a life together.

If you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in the large ones.

I often think about the most important “life lessons” that I want my children to learn. Most of them can be found wrapped up in this short bible verse.

  1. Devotion is fueled by faithfulness.
  2. Love requires both discipline and commitment.
  3. Hope and hard work create meaningful relationships.
  4. Partnerships thrive in an unselfish environment.
  5. Integrity brings honor.
  6. Purpose gives life meaning.
  7. Passion flows from a faithful heart.
  8. Companionship brings peace.
  9. Trust allows for a leap of faith.
  10. Grace holds it all together.

Matt is my greatest blessing. I honor that precious gift from God as I honor the love that we share. Together we bring purpose to God’s mission as we reach out to share our love with others on the journey.

My grandparents celebrated more than 70 years of marriage together before God called them home. When I think of one word to describe them, it is devoted – to God, to each other, and to their family. Matt and I laugh that “when we grow up, we want to be like my beloved Grannie and Dedaw”. We have a few more years to go, but I know in my heart that we are on the right track 🙂

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Greener Pastures…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from Psalm 23: 1-3

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.”


It is impossible to live in Central Nebraska in late spring without thinking of green pastures. Either we are blessed with an abundance of rain that brings strong and healthy grass to our native plains, or else we pray for the moisture that we need to turn our brown pastures into a verdant green. In either instance, the thought of green pastures dominates a rancher’s mind.

Nebraska is home to 24 million acres of rangeland and pastures (more than 1/2 of the state) where cattle turn grass into a human edible protein source (beef) and other needed products. Cattle are the great “up-cyclers” as they up-cycle grass into human nourishment. Leading cattle to greener pastures is relatively easy, especially after a little bit of classical conditioning where they learn that when we move them that they get to go to a place with better food!


The New Testament is filled with instances where Jesus is described as the good shepherd, but we also find references to our Father God as a shepherd in the Old Testament. The above verse in Psalms reminds me of two very important components of faith.

  1. God’s love never waivers and his care for us is unconditional
  2. Because of his gift of free will, we must submit and lean on Him in order to understand the vast breath of his love and guidance

There is a necessary leap of faith for us to fully abide in God — we must actively accept Jesus’ gift and love in our hearts as well as embracing the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our minds. Questions often outnumber answers but, when we listen with care and intention, God always gives us enough guidance that we can follow his desired life path. It is there that we find the greenest pastures as our hearts fill with peace, strength and purpose.

I think that I never really understood the importance of a “good shepherd” until I became an animal caregiver in the late 1990’s. I’d read about it, but the full magnitude of what it meant did not become clear in my mind until I learned to be a cattle caregiver. My animals depend on me for their basic needs — they look to me for leadership — and they submit to my guidance in order to thrive.

How do they know that I will lead them to greener pastures? Because I consistently provide for their needs.

As humans, we ask a lot more questions than cattle do. We’re a lot smarter and it takes more than physical satisfaction for us to live a meaningful life. It is important for us to ask God questions, but it is equally important for us to trust that he will lead us to an honorable life. We don’t need to have all of the answers — that is why we have faith. We can look to many things to provide meaning in our lives, but there is only one source of living water that fills our hearts with joy and brings honor and purpose to our existence.

Faith is a verb. It requires patience as well as perseverance. It comes from a beautiful blend of submission and guidance, and comes wrapped up in a package of love. God is a good shepherd — and we bring honor to Him as we choose to live our lives embracing his purpose.

 

 

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She Believed!

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from Ephesians 3:16-18

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.”


For me, living with grace allows for my faith to be stronger than my fear.

There are many things in life that can bring fear to our hearts and minds — for example, new experiences, worry over how others view us, and concern for those that we love. For competitive athletes, races – meets – and games often bring a new level of fear.

Physical toughness and dedication to training play a huge role in an athlete’s success. But, victory requires more than just physical fortitude. Mental toughness and emotional/spiritual fitness often dictate continued success on the athletic journey.

“Am I good enough?”

How often do each of us ask that simple question? Four words that represent an 800# gorilla that can ride heavily on our backs. Recently, as the District Track meet approached, I watched doubt take hold of my favorite blonde cowgirl. Hampered by a pulled quadricep muscle that stubbornly refused to completely heal, Meg’s confidence plummeted and fear threatened to override the faith that lives inside her heart.

She struggled as a christian athlete.

I searched deeply to find the right words to share. I found them in the above verses in Ephesians 3.


As her mind healed, her leg seemed to follow suit. Two days before the Nebraska State Track meet, Meg looked at me and said:

“Mom, I’m good. I’m ready for Burke Stadium — I’m ready to compete.”

The day of the Class B Pole Vault competition @ Burke greeted us with gloomy skies that offered periodic cold rain showers. But, I knew that Meg was ready. I could tell from my seat in the stadium stands that nothing could dampen her fire. She carried God’s guidance in her heart with Jesus’s confident love flowing deeply in her body, and the Holy Spirit’s inner strength surrounding her as she journeyed into competition.

They delayed the Pole Vault competition twice due to hard rain: once during warm ups and once close to half way through the event. Meg didn’t miss a beat. She vaulted perfectly — not once missing until after she had already won the competition by clearing 11’2″ on her first attempt.

Her mind was calm.

Her soul was on fire.

Her body responded with strength.

I cried as we watched her realize victory. The joy in my heart came not from the gold medal that she proudly wore around her neck, but from the sparkle in her eyes that told me the depth of her faith.

She was good enough. God carried her when she needed Him the most and the end of the journey brought magic as she believed.

 

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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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The Greatest Of These Is Love…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from 1Corinthians 13: 4-7

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”


My favorite brunette graduates from high school this week. In honor of the event, this week’s “Wednesday Wisdom” comes in a form of a letter to her.


Dear Ashley Grace,

Eighteen and a half years ago, we embarked on the journey of life together. I remember when your dad proudly held you in his arm for the first time. You were so little that you almost fit in his hand, but your exuberant cries assured me of your mighty tenacity. We grew together — you and I. Learning to pack our faith to live with grace. Sometimes I led you, and sometimes you led me; but God relentlessly inspired us to travel on this faith journey together.

Last weekend, I honored your request to have “homemade macaroni and cheese” at your graduation party. When you told me that was what you wanted most, it seemed a right and appropriate tribute to the completion of the first leg of our journey.

Do you remember the “mac and cheese night” ten years ago?

Dad was out of town for work, and I was in the midst of a barely controlled thyroid storm episode. I was heavily medicated to control my racing heart-rate, and so weak that my body shook. I sat down in the chair in the kitchen, overwhelmed by the thought of making you and your sisters’ dinner. I started to cry – my broken spirit getting the best of me. You came to kneel down beside me, with all of the love in your heart shining in your eyes. 

“Mama, it’s okay. I can help you. We can do it together. We’ll make mac and cheese. You tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”

You pulled a stool over to the stove top, and got out the sauce pan — carefully measuring and melting the butter, blending in the flour, adding milk, and stirring for what must have seemed like forever to your eight year old mind. But, you were patient — working with diligence and care — as though you sensed that we were both doing more than just making dinner. When the sauce finally thickened, you carefully grated and added the cheese. I had a moment of worry when the macaroni finished cooking and you had to dump the pasta out of the boiling water; but you bit your lip in concentration as was your habit and successfully completed the task. 

The heavy casserole dish was the next challenge, but somehow you got it filled and into the oven. By this time, Megan was your biggest cheerleader – doing her part to bravely fight the worry in order to support you. Karyn was too young to really understand anything other than we were having a new adventure — one that resulted in her favorite dinner. But, we all came together in our little kitchen to conquer a simple challenge in the midst of a very hard time.

I think that we both “grew up” that day — Realizing that together we were stronger. You learned to step up to the plate and fill the gap when someone you loved needed help. I learned to accept that when there is true love, it carries you when you need it the most.

In the years that followed, we navigated the hard times and celebrated the joy that filled our hearts. Your list of accolades is long, but I want you to know what I believe to be the most important result of our journey together. It doesn’t hang in the form of a medal around your neck. Rather, it fills your heart and guides your actions as you treasure and value each day.

It is love.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

You grew up hearing me say “Take God with you.” You do that when you open your heart to His patient, kind, and unending love. A love so potent that your heart runs over so that as you experience it, you can’t help to share it with others. Sometimes life is hard and it seems that the love that you offer is not returned in kind.

But it always is.

Perhaps not in the human hearts of everyone whose life path crosses with yours, but your heavenly Father returns it in excess of what you share. If you take Him with you on the journey, then your heart never empties.

I may shed some tears as you embark on the next leg of your journey, but please know that there is something that geography cannot alter. You take a part of me with you wherever you go, and I hold tight to a piece of you. God’s love ties us together — in good times and in bad — in this life and in the heavenly life that awaits us both sometime in the future.

Pack your faith.

Live with grace.

Know that my love supports you wherever God takes you on this journey.

Perhaps life is really just like a delicious batch of homemade macaroni and cheese — when it is made with love, you can’t go wrong 🙂

Love,

Mama

 

 

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Accepting the Call Through Active Faith…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from the book of Psalms 40: 1-3

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.”


As the mother of teenagers, I often think about what active faith means and how to best help my children to internalize the art of walking with God. Because each of us is different, I don’t really think that there is any set formula for the walk — rather there are tools that we can uniquely use in our journey as we abide in Christ.

I think of my faith journey like a succession of distance runs:

  • There is the beginning where excitement drives action
  • There is the middle where doubt takes root as discomfort and fatigue creep in
  • There is the end where challenge escalates and a full and changed heart creates needed perseverance

As one run ends, a new one begins.

I remember clearly the day that I figured out exactly what it meant to lean on God with active faith. I was out for a long run and I felt terrible. I don’t know what it was, but that day my legs appeared to have lead in them and each step hurt. I was right in the middle of a five month training plan for my first half marathon, and had a goal of getting in 9 miles that morning — running on the gravel road from our house to what used to be our cattle feed yard and then back.

I had my earphones on with my “God rock” christian music playing. I have a habit of talking to God while I run, so I lifted my eyes to the early morning sky and asked God if I could make a deal with him. I said:

God, if I keep my feet moving will you guide me on the journey?

I don’t wear a watch when I run, but I am certain that I negative split my 9 miles that morning. The more that I concentrated on feeling God’s guidance, the lighter my feet became. The lead went out of my legs as a sense of peace filled my heart. I still feel that peace in my heart — it provides a steady hand of support as I continue to move my legs each and every day. That day, I learned what it meant to abide in Christ.

 


The three verses from Psalms listed above speak to my heart. Meaningful prayer occurs when we open our hearts to God’s direction.

  • God turns to me and hears my cry. 
  • When it gets hard and it seems that I am in a pit of despair, I keep moving and God sets my feet on solid ground and steadies me as I walk along.  
  • He gives me a new song to sing as I am called to walk with Him. As I put my trust in God, He allows me to peacefully walk through the resistance by filling my heart with loving confidence.
  • I hope that my response as I follow not only brings joy to God, but also helps others to put their trust in Him.

A little over two weeks ago, I answered what is likely my most intentional call from God. It came during a run on a day when I was experiencing sadness and turmoil. As I moved my feet, I asked God for direction. I received a very direct response almost immediately. God asked me:

To reach out in love to a young man whom I had been tutoring.

Ten days later, my favorite farmer and I (together with our girls) welcomed that young man into our home. I do not know exactly what the future holds, but I know that as we share God’s love that we bring honor to our faith and meaning to our lives. Together, we make a new family — One that is moving with strength on a new journey. I am packing my faith to live with grace – letting go of the worries and celebrating the joy.

I fulfill my part of the bargain as I put one foot in front of the other, trusting that God will protect us as we use active faith to live out His call.

 

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The Call To Serve With Grace…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Jesus’s words in the Gospel of Matthew 20: 26-28

“But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


During the “off season” when I do not coach, I like to spend time mentoring students at the high school. In January, God brought a new group of high school students into my life. I love teenagers and working with them truly helps me to find personal and spiritual growth. These kids are such a blessing as they remind me that the greatest gift in life is the ability to serve.

Perhaps it is my psychology training in college – perhaps it is simply my innate need to reach out – but God calls me to look for gaps in these kids’ lives and then help them to fill them. Specifically, I feel the call to show them love. Some of the students that I mentor have experienced trauma in their lives. Behind the walls that they have built around their hearts exists a deep-seated hurt. While the expressed goal of our time together may be to write an English paper or work on a Biology project, the primary goal is to show each student that they matter.

They have worth.

They are loved.

They have love inside of them that is meant to be shared.

The students have taught me a priceless lesson over the past couple of weeks. Through them, I have learned to answer God’s call to serve at their level of need. This is very different than answering a call to serve at my own personal level. They’ve taught me that to truly serve, I must put my own needs aside and let God lead my heart so that I can truly see theirs.

Some hurt can only be healed through GRACE.

Living with a Grateful perspective while leaning on God to find Resilience brings an Awareness of the needs of others so that we can reach out with Compassion and Eloquence. This brings hope and enables the love that can begin the healing process. It bestows an innate sense of worth in the child when they need it the most.


The above scripture reading provides a foundation for my faith. Each time that I read it, I gain better insight into the acts of unselfish service that Jesus modeled for us during his earthly life. He lived to serve others — not in order to fulfill a personal need, but in order to share God’s love with others in a meaningful way.

Hearing God’s call is vital to our service outreach, but how we respond to the call is perhaps even more important. Reaching out under God’s direction with love in our heart allows for the act of service to meet the specific needs of those that we serve. The act of serving finds completion when we share Christ’s love and build a foundation of faith together.

We are not called to serve alone.

We are called to serve each other — sharing the love of our Creator and finding strength in His care.

How do you follow God’s guidance to serve others?

 

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The Draw…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Scripture for today’s Wednesday Wisdom comes from Luke 6: 19

“Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.”


The New Testament is full of stories that demonstrate the power of Jesus’s draw. His heart, full of unconditional love, worked as a magnet toward many. Two things happened on the farm this week that caused me to further focus my thoughts on the concept of the draw.

  1. I attended an educational summit on low stress cattle handling put on by the PAC Veterinary Consultants
  2. I took a group of yearling steers from the Lazy YN Ranch to our spring grass pasture by Willow Island, NE.

As a cattle handling tool, the draw acts like a magnet — inspiring movement toward something meaningful. The draw pulls cattle in a certain direction in an orderly and calm fashion. It provides an incredibly effective tool when you need to move your animals from one place to another.

Creating the draw takes a little bit of homework because it serves as an inspiration for cooperation rather than a forceful submission. I want my animals to naturally follow my leadership because this is how we are able to create a harmonious partnership on the farm. It takes trust and understanding, as well as patience and empathy.


While it is likely a bit unorthodox, I tend to draw parallels from being a cattle caregiver into my own faith. Just as I lead my animals, God leads me. He draws me in as we travel the journey together. It is a natural draw that inspires my cooperation rather than a forceful submission. As I abide in Him, we are able to move forward together.

My “cattle trail” is not a perfectly straight line, as I falter at times, but the draw seems to always bring me back. One of the things that fascinates me the most about the New Testament stories of Jesus’s draw is his ability use goodness to draw others into faith. Luke reminds us that everyone wanted to touch Jesus because of his healing power. That healing power was not just a physical one — rather it was one that also touched the soul.

  • Have you ever come in contact with someone who radiates joy?
  • Is there someone who consistently brightens your day and inspires you to mature in your perspective?

None of us are blessed on earth with the ability to physically touch Jesus, but we can receive His love and guidance through our relationship with the Holy Spirit as well as other people that we meet along the journey.

Perhaps we can all receive healing as we share God’s love together.

There is no greater gift than love.

There is no greater draw than the joy and hope that come from living in faith.

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