Tag Archives: life lessons

Leave the Light On…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Matthew 5: 14-16

“You are the light of the world — like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”


Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had about 24 hours of “windshield time”. I do not usually travel that often but my trip to OSU was followed immediately with another work trip to Kansas. The good part of driving time (especially in rural America where the traffic is light) is long periods of relative quiet. I am an avid Christian music listener so I fill that time with spiritual reflection.

Matthew West has a song out entitled Do Something that strikes a cord deep inside of me. It came on the radio on my way to Stillwater, and I thought about it often during my journeys. If you have never listened to it, I highly recommend spending a few moments of reflection letting the lyrics sink into your soul. The first stanza goes something like this:

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now, thought
How’d we ever get so far down, and
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

How many times have you watched the news, read articles on the internet, or listened to the radio and thought, “Our country – our world – is just such a mess”? Are those thoughts followed by feelings of anger or hopelessness?

Do you shake your head and go about your daily life or do you “do something”?


I believe in the trilogy:

  • God the Father
  • God the Son
  • God the Holy Spirit

As I accept God the Father’s gift of Jesus in my heart, the Holy Spirit guides my journey and lights my path. Quite simply, it’s the way that God is able to leave the light on  — through each and every one of us. As we reflect His love, it creates a light for the world.

My favorite farmer and I have had hundreds of intellectual discussions over the years about the increase in violence and judgement (finger pointing) that currently exists in our country. We’ve debated politics, government regulations, morality, parenting techniques and a huge variety of topics trying to find a reasonable solution to take our country out of it’s current state of darkness and into a place filled with the light of love.

Each time, I found myself coming back to God.

For a while, I was like the song — shaking my fist at heaven and asking, “God why don’t you do something?

But then I met Joseph.

And God used him to answer my question. He said, “I did, I created you. Go and share my love.”

I learned that the recipe for healing is love. It is a universal display of loving actions that help to heal — one child, one person at a time. When we all take up that mission, the acts of daily love become countless and God’s light (expressed by each of us) overshadows the darkness. Only then can love trump violence and hatred to create a new culture of freedom.

God lights our path through Jesus’s gift of guidance through the Holy Spirit. But, we cannot reflect that light if we don’t move our feet down the path. Each and every one of us is God’s answer. Together we heal our world – one reflection of love at a time. It isn’t complicated, but sometimes it is hard.

Faith carries us forward.

I pray that together we will enable God’s grace to leave the light on.

 

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Lay Down What’s Good To Find What’s Best…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from 2 Timothy 1:7

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”


Last week, I traveled to Stillwater, Oklahoma to speak on OSU’s campus as part of the 25th Annual Totusek Lectureship. I spent all day Friday with students and faculty from the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and ended the evening as the keynote speaker for the lectureship. I always learn something when I spend time with students who are passionate about agriculture, and I hope that I offered a meaningful message for them.

I was charged with talking about “My Journey in Beef Production”, but perhaps a more accurate title would be “Laying Down What’s Good To Find What’s Best”. The phrase comes from an awesome Jonny Diaz song entitled “Breathe”.

As I prepared for the lecture, creating a power point and pondering what “work” stories and lessons I should share, it occurred to me that there have been many times in my life that I have laid down what’s good to find what’s best. Each and every time, it has taken loving commitment and self-discipline to overcome the fear involved in creating meaningful change.

I have literally hundreds of stories to share on a variety of topics including:

  • Moving to Nebraska from the city to work in our small feed yard
  • Changing daily feed yard animal care practices to include low stress cattle handling
  • Redefining our business model to become my own cattle buyer in order to reduce stress on my animals and better honor God’s call to be good caregivers
  • Navigating my way into leadership positions in order to foster meaningful change across the beef industry in animal well-being
  • Closing down the feed yard and then opening a new chapter of life with the Beef Marketing Group.

Throughout the preparation process for my time at OSU, my thoughts kept coming back to the difference between good — better — and best. It takes intentionality to move up the scale. And, the leap from better to best is a big one. When I think of best, my mind often goes to my faith and my family – to the love that I share with my favorite farmer and the children with which we were blessed. I’ve earned a lot of titles over the years, but the one that I am most proud of is wife/mom. Together, our family has learned to love — to reflect the light of God’s grace in order to walk a meaningful journey. There’s not a plaque hanging on my wall to honor this, but instead a mark on my heart that I cherish above all else.

It’s where I consistently find best.


Life journeys are interesting that way. Reaching for what’s good – upgrading to better – and ultimately striving for what’s best. I believe that the leap from better to best has a strong faith component to it. When we follow the path that God sets out for us, He fuels us with the power that comes from love and inspires us to develop the needed self discipline to persevere. Jesus calls us to be courageous and hopeful in our journey – thereby overcoming the fear and timidity that threatens to keep us from finding best.

I don’t know for sure what the folks at OSU expected from me, but they got a talk that uniquely blended cattle stories and faith stories with a sprinkle of Coach Anne on top.  It’s a mix that works for me in my constant search for best 🙂

 

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Celebrating 14 Years!

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from the Gospel of John 3:21

“But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”


Today my favorite “fish” turns 14! While it’s hard to believe that my baby could be that old, it is one of my greatest joys to travel with her on the journey of life. There are many things that make Karyn beautiful, but it is her kind heart that constantly draws me in. Karyn loves deeply and quietly — with all of the joy and none of the drama. Her sensitive intuition allows her to radiate kindness and to help others when they need it most.

One of the most beautiful things for me to watch is how love makes Karyn bold. It turns the quiet and shy girl into a strong and courageous young woman. In honor of her birthday, I’d like to share a Karyn story 🙂

About a week ago, the Young Americans touring musical group did a workshop for students in our town of Cozad. Karyn and Joseph both enjoy music and decided to participate. After two days of practice, the Young Americans group performed along with close to 100 Cozad elementary, junior high and high school students. It’s a big deal for Karyn to get up in front of a group of people — that type of thing is not in her natural comfort zone, even in a group setting. The high school gymnasium was full that night with students, parents, and friends attending the performance.

Part way through the performance, one of the Young American actors announced that a few students were going to move forward to the microphones to share their stories of inspiration. The last thing that I expected was for Karyn to make her way to the front of the stage. I wish that I had thought to record her testimony, but I was so enthralled with the quietly brave young woman on the stage that I didn’t think of it.

Karyn spoke of how her family inspired her to always want to make a difference. She talked of each of her older siblings with the sweetness and genuine love that is so truly Karyn. She ended by publicly declaring her love for her new brother Joseph.

  • How she never expected to have a brother, but that God had brought him into our lives last April.
  • How the struggles of his life inspired her to live bravely.

Tears rolled down my face by the time that she finished. The simplicity of her message — spoken in that quiet yet confident voice – left me shaken. In a world that likes to make things complicated, sometimes it takes a reminder from the soft, God-inspired voice of a 14 year old to remind us how powerful love and acceptance can be in our lives.

 


Last night, Karyn – Joseph – and I read together from the 3rd chapter of John. It occurred to me that Karyn lived John 3:21 during the Young Americans performance. This quietly private young woman who prefers to avoid the spotlight stepped forward to publicly share the love in her heart for a young man that God called her to care for as a brother. Her unabashed acceptance of Joseph sent a powerful signal of faith to everyone in attendance. It was a vibrant moment filled with God’s grace.

There are very few things in my life that have touched me that deeply. Our journey as a new family with Joseph has not been easy, but it has been right. Blessings follow obedience and I thank God every day for the blessings that He bestows on my family. Sometimes as humans we make “God’s ask” complicated — Jesus asks us to love, not to be complicated.

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

Love Does.

Happy Happy Birthday to my beautiful Karyn who lights up my life and reminds me that patience, kindness and love trump all!

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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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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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Gates and Doors…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


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

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


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

I often think to myself:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

 

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Lean while pressing on…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


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

The Old Testament reading comes from Hosea 6:3

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

The New Testament reading comes from Matthew 7:7

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


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

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

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

This storm served as an epiphany for me.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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