Tag Archives: hope

A God of abundance…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John 1: 16-18:

“From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.”


Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time praying and thinking about what it means to be loved by a God of abundance. Pondering this fuels me as our family navigates through the ever-changing world of 2020. Last spring I started asking God to help me to know Him better so that I could truly trust and believe that I am beloved by Him. Some deep part of my heart knew that I needed to better understand this and to cling to it as an anchor of faith. I asked, I prayed, and God moved. Over the past four months, God systematically supplied me with tools of discernment and moments of personal growth so that my heart could deepen in love. It’s allowed me to find peace regardless of circumstance.

I think it is interesting how God works – using a variety of people and bringing different facets of our lives together as a way to answer our prayers. He put a series of callings on my heart, and as I followed them I found the answers. From our girls Bible study on the book of Philippians, to our swim team family’s shared devotional lessons on the “fruits of the Spirit”, to the recommendation of two of Henri Nouwen’s books to read, to surrounding me with the love of family with all three of my girls home, to bringing Joseph back into our lives — God has clearly been moving in my heart and helping to answer my prayers to better understand His abundance.

People write books on how to follow Jesus in order to find peace. I suppose that maybe I could write one too 🙂 But today, what is on my heart finds its power in its simplicity. We may live in a world of scarcity, but our God is a God of abundance. His love never runs out, and it covers all of His children. We don’t have to worry that God does not have a place for us, Jesus took care of that. John 14: 1-2 recounts Jesus’ words, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?”


Regardless of what the earthly world tells you, it is not a competition. There is enough for everyone. God’s love never gives up, it never runs out, and it has the capacity to fill our hearts if only we would allow it. When love comes alive, fear falls apart. When we follow out of love, then our focus is that love and it outshines everything else. We may have times when we feel pain, but it is not our focus. Instead, divine love brings a wave of peace and a gentle strength that moves past worldly troubles to bring the hope of tomorrow. That love is available now – today – this minute. It is eternal, but it begins on this earth the moment that we say “yes” and move into the comforting embrace of the Father. The more that we nestle into that embrace, the more Jesus fills our hearts with His sustaining love, and the Holy Spirit brings peace amidst the storm.

Megan comes out of quarantine tonight. We’ve had a time of joy, of togetherness, and of faith during this journey. It’s reminded our family to be grateful for what we have instead of worrying about what we don’t have. God blessed us by keeping her safe and free of sickness. He also blessed us with moments and memories that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. Perhaps the list of what she “missed” is long, but there is a longer list of things that our family gained – medals that were placed on our hearts as we deepened in love and faith with each other and with our God of abundance.


For those of you who enjoy reading, The Return of the Prodigal Son and Following Jesus by Henri J.M. Nouwen are wonderfully insightful books that have blessed me this summer. Ashley Grace has studied Henri Nouwen in her theology classes at Notre Dame, and our discipleship pastor encouraged me to read them as well.

A big “thank you” to all of you who are keeping our family in your prayers – you bless us with your loving hearts 😊

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Finding Optimism…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Jeremiah 29:11-13

“For I know the plans I have for you”, says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord…


I moved from the city to the farm in June of 1997. Over the past twenty three years, I’ve come to know many farmers and ranchers in Nebraska, and (through volunteer work with the BQA program and the Beef Check Off) from all across the United States. A large percentage of our farmers and ranchers are people of deep faith.  Although these faiths stretch across a variety of Christian denominations, they carry a similar level of sincerity that just seems to flow naturally from the heart. At first I wondered what created such a unifying dedication and trust in the Lord, but I’ve now lived it for enough years that it is clear to me.

Living off of the land creates a unique perspective. It’s a life with many uncontrollable components, and one that is fiercely complicated yet basically simple. While the daily chores hold consistency, the circumstances surrounding those chores are ever changing. Sometimes the land yields to human tending, and sometimes Mother Nature chooses instead to teach a lesson in humility. Sometimes the markets move in favorable ways, but often the margins are slim and filled with financial risk. Despite detailed planning, things often change in the moment requiring both good problem solving skills and an innate optimism that ultimately everything will be okay. 

Last week we took steers weighing 600 pounds to grass. In typical Nebraska fashion, one day the temperature was close to 70 degrees but by Easter Sunday snow flurries buzzed about with 30+ mile per hour winds that reminded us of winter’s strong grasp. As winter and spring battled, I bought the cattle from a family with whom I have done business longer than my Karyn has been alive. I value them as friends and partners, so despite the crazy weather and dismal cattle markets I packed my faith and sealed the deal. The risk involved should likely keep me awake at night, but yet somehow I sleep.


The somehow is tied up in the above verses from Jeremiah, and I think it explains the deep faith and inherent optimism that exists within the heart of a farmer. When I care for my neighbors, my land, and my cattle, I believe that I honor the God that created us all. Through these actions, I am tapping into my “inner Jesus” – following the direction of the Holy Spirit and trusting the love that fills my heart. The Lord has plans for His people – for good and not for disaster, that will result in a future and a hope. I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but I know that God is with me and it’s my job to be faithful. When I pray, I believe that He hears me. When I look with my heart, I can hear a soft voice telling me that it is well.

A good friend has a saying that I often cling to, “When you can’t see His hand, trust His heart.”

As a country, we are in a time of great uncertainty with a diverse set of challenges. The list of “uncontrollables” is long, even by farmer standards 😉 Fear seems to knock daily or perhaps hourly on our doors. While we can look to science for needed answers and tools, science won’t fuel our hearts. A courageous heart runs off of the hope and inherent optimism that Jesus brings. Today, I pray that each of us can deepen in faith to stay the course with optimism regardless of how difficult things are. Our heavenly Father asks us to believe even when we can’t see, to love with abundance, and to work tirelessly to care for one another!

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Beautiful, Awkward Grace…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Hebrews 4:16

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”


The Holy Spirit sometimes has to say the same thing to me multiple times before I figure out His message. Whether I miss it the first time, or don’t listen to understand, the Spirit does eventually get my attention 😉 This week we celebrated my favorite brunette’s 20th birthday. As I sit and think about all of things that I am grateful for, being a mom tops the list. Not just because my children bring me great joy, but also because God uses them to teach me so very much.

Ashley Grace played a huge role in bringing me back to Christ during a time in my life when I faltered and got *stuck*. The work of the Holy Spirit through her opened my eyes to the vastness of God’s grace. It is humbling and beautiful to watch Jesus move through the Spirit in the life of a teenager. It can be life-altering when that teenager is your’s. I had always thought that my faith needed to be perfect in order to honor God. As a result, I worked really hard but constantly fell short. I ended up tired and discouraged. My daughter taught me that grace fills the gap. It is perfectly and beautifully awkward because Jesus promises to always meet me where I am – not where I should be. Grace is what helps me to move toward where I should be, and it’s a good thing that I need divine interference to get there!

When we give our hearts to Christ, we never walk alone. Life becomes a beautiful, awkward journey full of grace.


As we move through the season of Advent, I pray that each of us remembers the gift of grace. It’s available to everyone, and it’s given freely to all those who believe. It never runs out and comes in the form of peace, hope, love, and forgiveness. We can look for it in a variety of places, but we’ll only find it in One.

Our earthly days are sometimes hard, but they are better when we walk in faith. And, (best of all) we are guaranteed a good ending! Jesus did that for us and nothing and no one can take that away. We live as awkward people in an awkward world. The Good News is that we have a gracious God with an unending supply of awkward grace that meets each and every one of us just where we are. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews reminds us to come boldly to the throne of God. There we will find mercy and grace when we need it most – complete with free delivery to wherever we are at the moment!

This year, celebrate the Christmas season with defiant hope because Christ came for us and will never leave us lonely – we simply need to accept that joy comes from what is happening inside of our hearts through Jesus rather than being contingent on the circumstances that we face on earth. That’s the beauty of grace.

As I look back twenty years ago, it seems fitting that my favorite farmer and I gave her “grace” as her middle name 🙂 Happy Birthday to my beautiful girl whose heart overflows with Jesus’ beautiful, awkward grace!

 

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WayMakers…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the book of Proverbs 3: 27

“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them.”


I draw on the above verse often. I believe that we are called to be Jesus’ hands and feet to others, to share His love and light as we go through each day. There’s a part of that calling that is very uncomfortable, and yet a larger piece that is just plain beautiful. The kind of heart-pulling beauty that promises an overriding purpose regardless of daily circumstance. It inspires me to want to do my part while also trusting that God has always and will always do His part.

Although it is closing in on two years ago, I remember very clearly when the Holy Spirit asked me to bring Joseph home. Our family wrestled for days with the uncertainty that revolved around stepping in to help him. Proverbs 3:27 is the verse that led me to follow the call despite our fear of the enormity of it. What right did I have to say “no” when a young man so very clearly needed the love of our family? We had the power to give, it simply involved opening up our hearts to share God’s grace. I don’t know exactly what Joseph learned during our time together, but I learned to trust Jesus to fill my heart each day with love to share. For fifteen months I loved Joseph like he was my son. And, every morning Jesus showed up to help wipe away the challenges of yesterday in order to love today and have hope for tomorrow.

While my heart wishes that Joseph’s story with our family had worked out differently, I am truly thankful that I got to love him. I think that if you asked my favorite farmer and our girls, they would respond the same. The girls hung their Christmas stockings on the mantle Saturday night, and they carefully hung Joseph’s next to theirs. Each one of us clings to the hope that someday he will enter our lives again. We are continuing to learn to trust in God’s plan and timing in addition to Jesus’ steadfast love.

Joseph was a WayMaker for me. As I loved him, I realized that I was not called to walk alone. Just as the Holy Spirit led me to share life with Joseph, Jesus promised to hold my hand as I took each step. As I took those steps, my faith deepened in ways that I could never have imagined. I pray that we were also WayMakers for Joseph. A light during a dark time, and a source of love through a season of loneliness.


A legacy is something that a person leaves behind. Legacies create pathways that guide others as they move through life. Joseph’s presence in our family opened not only our hearts but also our eyes to a need that exists in our community (and likely in every community). In a very real way, he created a legacy that changed our hearts. I’ve always known the importance of love, but I now have a new understanding of just how important it is to love as Jesus loves – without any strings and with an unlimited reservoir.

Every child has a story. Every child matters. Every child deserves to receive love, to be taught to love, and to understand that they never walk alone. This week a new group will begin at our local middle school. A friend and I are starting a Friday morning -before school- student prayer group called the WayMakers. It will be similar to the daily devotions and character lessons that our swim team kids share on the pool deck each summer, but with an additional overriding theme: 

Understanding that as we are called to walk with Jesus, we never walk alone. His love, felt and shared through each of us, unites us in goodness and fills the gaps for those in need.

Please pray for us as we begin this new journey – That God will fill our hearts with Jesus’ love and bring the students that most need to understand just “how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” Ephesians 3:18

For those FYF readers with middle school students in Cozad, WayMakers will meet in Mrs. Kostrunek’s room at 7:30 every Friday morning for the remainder of the school year 🙂

 

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When things get tough, Look Up!

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Hebrews 10: 23-24

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”


I spend my falls helping to coach the local high school and junior high cross country teams. It works out just about perfectly as we finish up swim team season – have a few weeks to refuel – and then Haymaker Cross Country begins. We have a great set of athletes and coaches who bless my fall days.

Part of the training routine for the runners is to run intervals or repeats of certain distances at specific paces. This not only physically prepares them to race, but it also teaches their brains what it feels like to persevere. Some afternoons in Central Nebraska provide nice, cool running weather and some bring on summer heat with a heavy dose of humidity that provides added challenge to the workouts. I remember doing repeats in the Florida heat when I was in high school, and a few decades later it provides a different perspective to coach the kids as they persevere through them on the plains of Nebraska 🙂

The other day during practice, God put the following phrase on my heart: when things get tough, look up.  The runners were hot, tired and only about halfway through the interval workout, and I could see some of them begin to struggle mentally as the physical exertion began to weigh heavily on them. Trials tend to remove any filter that might normally impact our behavior causing a clear picture of our hearts to shine through. It may be the physical test of a difficult athletic practice, or a mental or emotional challenge that leaves us shaken.


What happens to you when trials come your way? Are you able to pack your faith to hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm? Or, do you struggle to trust that God will keep his promise and that Jesus will steadfastly hold your heart?

Do you LOOK UP so that you can persevere with grace?

I think that hope provides the key to perseverance. When you are tired, when you begin to doubt your abilities, when quitting (or settling) appears more attractive than finishing strong — it is the hope that Jesus places in your heart that leads to victory. Hope inspires selfless love and good works. There is both strength and freedom to be found in the realization that IT IS BIGGER THAN YOU.

We don’t travel alone.

The ask may be hard. Just like our Cross Country interval workouts, sometimes hard work and discomfort mark the journey. But, our hearts gain limitless fuel when we hold tightly to our faith. Where our heart goes, our body will follow. It’s like that awesome runner’s high in those moments when your feet seem weightless and your lungs become invincible.

Have you ever noticed that your own challenges seem to get smaller when you look outside of yourself to help someone else? Something almost magical happens when we shift our focus to How can I serve? God keeps his promises. He uses each one of us to bring hope, purpose and love to each other. He heals the broken by inspiring the broken to help mend others.

That’s just awesome.

And, the best part of all is the promise of the Eternal High Five that waits for us on the other side. So, the next time that things get hard – LOOK UP – so that God can redirect your focus to one of serving others. There is a special healing beauty that is found in sharing Jesus’ hope and love with your neighbors 🙂

 

 

 

 

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Radiologically Perfect…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Hebrews 11: 6

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Choose Your Experience…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Matthew 11: 28-30

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”


I walked out of my house into the garage Sunday afternoon to find a piece of paper that read in big letters Choose Your Experience. It was a college flyer that must have missed the trash can and landed on the ground. I’d been praying for guidance as I pondered something difficult. It’s always interesting to see the unique ways that God responds to my prayers 🙂

Choose Your Experience

When I was a child, I used to pray for outcomes — a win in the swimming pool or help on a test, or sometimes I prayed that I wouldn’t have to do something that I didn’t want to do. As an adult, my prayers have changed. Today, it is rare for me to pray for a specific outcome. Instead, my prayers are more like a conversation where I search for guidance, love, and peace.

This change occurred when I realized that we are all meant to walk through challenges during our time on earth. It isn’t about the challenge – it’s about the experience.

Life isn’t easy. Sometimes it hurts. That’s okay. I don’t pray for “outcomes” anymore because I know that I am meant to experience it all. Instead, I pray for Jesus to be with me on the journey because I know that my attitude determines the love, peace, hope and joy that I carry in my heart as I walk through each challenge.

It isn’t about the what. It’s about the how.

Choose your experience.

If we are meant to experience everything, then that phrase says to me that my choice determines not what happens, but rather how I respond and react to what happens. My experience changes when I choose to ask Jesus to walk the journey with me.


I’ve pondered the above scripture from the Gospel of Matthew often over the past year.

How can a yoke be easy to bear?

I live on a farm. While we do not use yokes and oxen in 2018, I’ve seen a horse pull a plow. It isn’t easy and it does not take long for the animal to break out into a sweat from the exertion necessary to pull the plow and work the ground. The yoke provides the connection. It doesn’t stop the work – rather – it orchestrates it.

It came to me on Sunday afternoon that when I put on Jesus’ yoke, the work load does not lesson. In fact, if I truly answer the call, it often increases. But, the burden becomes easy to bear as I open my heart in faith to Jesus’ love- peace – hope – joy.

It is possible to experience difficult times with the peace that enables a purposeful joy. It happens when we choose to experience life on earth with God’s grace in our hearts. When we take Jesus’ yoke upon ourselves, it brings the strength that lightens the burden. The burden may not change, but our ability to bear it does.

Next week we celebrate Christmas. Many will celebrate it with the joy of family – Some will celebrate it in the midst of difficult times. We all are invited to celebrate it with the peace that passes all understanding and creates rest for the soul. This peace comes in the form of the Emmanuel – the Christ child – who yokes us to our Heavenly Father during our earthly journey.

 

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Cranial Christians…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s scripture comes from Hebrews 10: 23-24

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”


Good cattle caregivers are good students. They consistently strive to learn more about the animals that depend on them — seeking to understand what they need in order to provide the leadership that brings comfort and good health. Good leadership requires cranial cleverness.

However, *thinking* like a calf takes more than mental understanding, it requires a leap of faith as you must  leave your human tendencies behind to embrace those of the animal. When I handle cattle my very presence needs to change so that we can find harmony as a team. When I find the sweet spot of understanding with the cattle, my leadership creates a magnet that draws them in.

My animals don’t really care how much I know until they understand how much I care. 

What you know is important, but it is what is inside of your heart that inspires you to lead with compassion.


As a cradle Episcopalian, I’ve intellectually known God for more than four decades. I went to church on Sunday and attended Catholic school from Kindergarten through 12th grade. My parents taught me right from wrong and instilled in me a desire to help others.

I grew up a cranial christian. I knew about God — I believed in him. I tried to live my life doing the right thing because that was what I was supposed to do.

But sometimes I got tired as my cup seemed to refuse to refill. As a result, I wasn’t always a cheerful giver. Instead of my heart being grateful for the beauty of sharing, my head compared and judged — like life was a race and the “should do’s” led their way to the finish line.

God was in my head, but I had not yet let Him become a permanent resident in my heart. I was the worker ant who toiled out of duty. It was a hard and exhausting job. Fortunately, God is a good caregiver, and persistently pursued my heart. He knew that what was in my head would not sustain me without support from what needed to be in my heart.

I think it’s normal human tendency to rely heavily on our minds. We want to logically understand things and are quick to shut the door when things get messy. It take a leap of faith to lead with your heart — transitioning from a cranial christian to a heart-felt christian. Just as my animals don’t care how much I know until they see how much I care, God desires a place in our hearts — not just intellectual residence in our heads.

Perhaps that is the answer to inspiring unending motivation for acts of love and good works. With God in our hearts, the cup overflows and we learn that giving for the sake of sharing creates a special bond that not only helps others, but also refills our own hearts.

Through his gift of Jesus, God has the finish line taken care of — life isn’t just a race for goodness. When we trust in God’s promise, we open our hearts and life becomes a journey grounded in sharing the love that He abundantly places in our hearts.

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