Tag Archives: life lessons

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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Cycles of giving…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s quote can be found in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 6:38

“Give and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full — pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount that you give will determine the amount you get back.”


Life on a farm intrinsically teaches a lesson in the cycle of giving. As Howard Buffet notes in his book, Forty Chances, a farmer has approximately 40 chances (growing cycles) over his lifetime to use his efforts to bring meaning to the world. Whether its tilling the soil or caring for a calf, as adult farmers, we each have around 40 years of contribution.

Matt and I are firmly in the middle of our forty year tenure — far enough through the process to understand fully what it means, but with enough chances left that we are inspired to constantly strive to do it better. It takes a lot of faith to farm. Diligent care for the land and our animals provides the structure to our days, but uncontrollable forces like Mother Nature can undermine our success as caretakers. The process has taught me to tenaciously give, stubbornly packing my belief that God will never let the cup run empty.

Matt giving a young Megan a lesson in water quality

We honor our resources on the farm by always getting smarter about how to use them. We work, we mature in our knowledge, and we are renewed by our dedication to the goal. A tangible example of this is the move to shift from gravity pipe irrigation to pivot technology combined with soil moisture sensors which allows us to conserve water while optimizing crop yields.


As I travel into my third decade of chances, I find myself digging deeper to better understand what it really means to give. Jesus’s instruction, “Give and you will receive”, is a very basic one. However, it also holds complexity and depth. In order to fully give, you must

  • gather as a team
  • connect as a unified group
  • contribute unselfishly

I feel as though my life has been a series of experiences where God tenaciously tries to teach me the value of giving as a team. Jesus’s words, “pressed down, shaken together to make room for more” denotes the importance of we. Giving is not a singular act. It takes both a donor and a receiver. We bring honor to the act when we work together — creating a continuous cycle rather than one independent input. The cycle perpetuates as givers become receivers and receivers become givers — when the team comes together to fill the cup.

If we only have a finite number of chances, then it behooves us to make the most of each and every one. I may have learned that lesson on the farm, but it carries over to every aspect of my life. The Holy Spirit reminds me daily that #TogetherWeAreStronger.

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Wednesday Wisdom…

Today kicks off my new series, “Wednesday Wisdom” 🙂


I plan to spend the rest of the winter sharing a favorite bible quote each week along with how life on the farm reinforces the lesson that I find in the words. I hope that this will help you all to better understand how faith changes my heart as well as the role that it plays for farmers as we make our way along the journey of using God’s gift of natural resources in order to grow food.


Today’s quote can be found in Paul’s letter to Galatians Chapter 6:2-3.

“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.”


I find Paul’s bluntness incredibly refreshing. Of the many lessons that I’ve learned on the farm, I believe the most important is the art of sharing responsibility. The list of daily chores gets long, and most are vital to the wellbeing of our animals. When you fully embrace the responsibility of being an animal caregiver, taking pride in completing chores well becomes the norm. Learning to work as a team not only increases efficiency, but also brings joy to the day as sharing a burden lightens it — not just in a physical way but also in an emotional way.

A constant supply of fresh water helps to ensure good health with cattle, so cleaning and checking water tanks lives somewhere near the top of the chore list. I’ve been known to tell my favorite blonde cowgirl that washing water tanks builds character. She’s been known to reply that her character cup is overflowing 😉

In all honesty, washing water tanks is not fun. It’s a hot, sweaty job in the summer and a bone chilling cold one in the winter — and bending over to scrub is always hard on your back. However, there is honor to be found in the task because it fulfills a basic animal need. Sharing the burden of the chore sets everyone up for success.

The Progressive Beef management program that all of our feed yards operate by requires regular water tank cleaning. It’s a big deal — and something that I am particular about as an animal welfare specialist. Clean water is just that important. One of our feed yards has a really awesome water tank cleaning plan. Once a week, the entire crew divides the feed yard into groups of pens and each crew member goes out after lunch to clean their assigned water tanks. Every member of the team (including the manager) washes tanks, sharing the chore in order to reduce any one team member’s individual burden.


To me, this is a beautiful example of how we implement God’s teachings on the farm. Everyone contributes to complete the common goal of providing for our animals. No one is too important to help, no matter how mundane the task. Humility blends with strength to bring honor to the journey 🙂

 

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How do you build “intentionality” and “perspective” in your life?

The FYF family traveled to the Grand Canyon over the Thanksgiving holiday. It was the first time in twenty years that Matt and I did not spend Thanksgiving on the farm, and the trip taught me a lesson in intentionality and perspective. The dictionary defines the word “intentionality” as the fact of being deliberate or purposeful; and “perspective” as a particular attitude toward or a point of view.

The Grand Canyon left me awestruck. Hiking in and around the canyon provided a truly unique perspective as the landscape view adjusts with each step and change in light. After several days of “looking”, I decided that I never would see all of the intricacies of the Canyon. Honestly, perhaps that is its true beauty. Each different view or perspective inspired me to keep looking — to keep searching — so that I might better understand it.

I came home thinking, “Is that really any different from my faith journey?”

It is easy to fall into a routine in our daily lives, as routines bring comfort. But, challenging our own perspective allows us to grow and mature. While looking at the world simply through our own eyes is easy, seeking to understand it at a deeper level requires intentional study.

I wrote a blog post on the 5th year anniversary of this blog (almost two years ago) called, “Refilling The Cup”In it, I talked about 5 things that I do in order to sustain as an advocate for agriculture. While this is a bit of recurring challenge, I find that staying true to these five practices helps me to keep going. Just as I struggle at times to refill my cup of agricultural advocacy, I also wrestle with refilling my cup in life.

In any given day, numerous people ask us to give time and energy to work on projects. Whether it is jobs, volunteer projects, or our families: the list of requests can get long and leave us feeling stressed and drained. While all of the things that we do hold meaning, they can quickly drain the cup if you have not developed a healthy culture that refills it and keeps you moving forward with a peaceful heart.

While a full cup leads to a true sense of joy as we reach out to help others and live with honor, a drained cup brings feelings of resentment and fatigue that create an unhealthy perspective. The healthy, peaceful heart slowly transforms to a sad one full of judgement. The body quickly follows with a bone deep tiredness that leaves us without inspiration.

For me, refilling the life cup stems from intentionally focusing on my faith. It involves valuing myself enough that I prioritize time to develop my soul. This not only allows for the cup to refill, but it actually allows it to grow so that ultimately I have more to give. I forgot this for a few years, but I have worked hard over the past 11 months to get it back.

Here is a short list of things that help me to create a healthy culture that refills my cup:

  • Take time to recharge — everyday. For me that is a combination of prayer and exercise.
  • Take time to commit to a perspective of hope — every hour. For me that is a periodic “gut check” to make sure that I value myself and believe that I bring meaning to the world.
  • Take time to commit to a smile — every minute. For me that is remembering to count my blessings and express gratitude for the gifts in my life.
  • Take time to commit to God — every second. His love and support inspires me to greatness.

Discipline and commitment to the above things allows me to retain my optimism and open my perspective. It is an intentional journey and one that never ends; but the road is lined with joy, hope, peace, and honor.

 

 

 

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