Tag Archives: life

awkward Grace enables us to thrive in chaos…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Proverbs 14:4

“Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.”


My favorite blonde cowgirl’s college track coach recently talked to the team about being able to thrive in chaos. They are in the heart of the outdoor season and finish right before they take final exams in May. Meg is super excited to be pole vaulting again, and I continue to be very proud of how she is handling her life as a college freshman 2000 miles away from home. “Chaos” levels on college campuses are peaking at a high level during this 2020-2021 school year. Ever-changing covid regulations create an added stressor just as many normal support structures are not available to the students due to pandemic restrictions. It’s a tough combination that reminds me of the tremendous need for awkward Grace as we live in a realm filled with shortfalls.

When Meg left for college last August, I starting praying every day that God would surround her with people that would love her as Jesus loves. Those first weeks were very hard and I knew that she was lonely and struggling to figure out God’s plan. My heart broke for her, but deep down I knew that God would guide her as she held Jesus’ hand. A couple of weeks into the school year, the student president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter on campus stopped her and introduced himself when he saw the faith message on the back of her old swim team t-shirt. Through FCA, she was able to find a local church and then ultimately get involved in a “Young Life” chapter. She dug into her faith and God delivered blessings.


Meg’s story reminds me that Grace finds us when we steadfastly pursue Jesus. Grace is tied to faith, not circumstance and it fills our hearts when we lean in to persevere amidst chaos. There is an innate sense of strength in the “awkwardness” of Grace. The ability of Grace to be awkward allows it to reach us in the midst of the messes that exist around us.

Proverbs 14:4 delivers a similar message that truly hits home in my “farmer’s heart”. Without oxen, the stable stays clean. It doesn’t have to be mucked out everyday because no animals live in it to make it messy. However, a large harvest needs a strong ox and the stable actually exists to house the oxen so that they can do their work. What if this faith paradigm shows us that the harvest is our part, and that the necessary cleaning of the stable is Jesus’ part?

  • What if we are called to live in the mess of the crowded stable in order to create a light in the darkness?
  • What if Jesus promises to muck the stable everyday if we courageously promise to let His light shine through us?

Sometimes I think that as Christians we can get tripped up trying so hard to keep the stable clean, when what Jesus asks us to do is something actually very different. He asks us to fill the stable in order to make heaven a crowded place. We don’t need to get wrapped up worrying about keeping the stable clean. Jesus will do that. We thrive when we trust Jesus to do his part while courageously committing to do our part. Our earthly world will never be perfect, but we can bring perfection into it as we share Jesus with those that He brings into our lives. Grace becomes awkward in order for us to access it and use it to bring others to faith.

As Meg is figuring out this year, if God leads you to it, He’ll lead you through it. The stable may get dirty but that’s okay.

At the end of the day, Jesus will wash it and anoint its occupants with enough Grace to thrive again tomorrow 🙂

 

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Flexion…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Jesus’ word in the Gospel of Matthew 10:39

“If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”


I’d never paid much attention to the concept of flexion until I tore ligaments and broke my leg. The bone that I broke (the fibula) is actually the “non-weight bearing” bone in the lower leg, but it – and the ligaments near it – play a critical role in ankle mobility.  As a lifelong runner, I’d enjoyed really good flexion in my ankles which allowed my foot to bridge up and back down in a harmonious running step. Like many things in life, I never truly appreciated my ankle flexion until I no longer had it.

It has taken many, many painful hours of intentional physical therapy to work to gain back the ability to bend my right ankle. It’s still not what it used to be, but last week I made a new stride as my therapist was able to push it to 29 degrees past neutral. To help put that victory into perspective, in between my first and second surgery, I scored in at only 3 degrees past neutral. I’m not sure that I can put into words how hard it has been to gain the ability to bend those additional 26 degrees, but my body has given my heart an entirely new outlook on the concept of shaping.

I recently completed my first 5k post leg break – it is the first race in my life that I have walked and it took me longer to walk the 5k than it took for me to run the 10k last year. But, this race is likely more meaningful as I honored the medal God placed on my heart instead of the one that I might have earned had I been able to run…


I think that God finds creative ways to grow us. My leg experience is one of those. Outside of my ankles, I have spent most of my life not being a particularly “flexible person”. My stubbornness can outweigh my ability to bend. It stands in the way of God’s ability to shape and refine me; and can provide a significant hurdle as I strive to hold Jesus’ hand on my daily faith journey.

If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

That scripture verse used to confuse me. I couldn’t fathom why God would want me to give up who I am in order to find myself. It frightened me to think about releasing control in order to allow God to guide my path. It took a lot of prayer and deep reflection for me to realize that walking with Jesus – responding to the Holy Spirit – and honoring God’s calls actually allowed me to find myself.  It freed me to be the person that my brain feared but my heart desired.

Being shaped by God is not always an easy process. When I am stubborn, it can look like my ankle refusing to move as the physical therapist breaks into a sweat trying to cram it into the proper bending shape. My therapist describes me as “guarded” because I don’t trust him as he bends, twists, and yanks on my leg. A truthful introspection shows me that God might also describe me as guarded when He asks me to truly give him my heart.


As I write this today, I’m still stubborn. I’ll likely always carry a bit of that trait with me. But, I’m learning to be more flexible — to submit my heart to the One who calls me by name with an unconditional love that fuels me despite the circumstances of my earthly life. I am finding that the more of my heart that I surrender to Jesus, the more that I can find the peaceful hope that transcends human ability or explanation. It doesn’t always make intellectual sense, but it frees me with a flexion that lends purposeful meaning to my life.

 

 

 

 

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It All Started With a Beer…

Frankie Ballard has a new song out on the country music charts entitled, “It all started with a beer”.  There is something innately human about the song that really speaks to me.  The truth in the words of the melody pull at my heart and serve as a good reminder of what real life is all about.

There’s been highs and lows,

Fast lane freeways and bumpy roads
Cursed the devil and prayed to heaven,

Lost it all and we rolled some sevens
Been some smiles then there’s been tears,

Been more good than bad years
Ain’t it crazy baby how we got here,

Oh, it all started with a beer

annemattjeans.jpgMatt and I met at Dartmouth College at a party in the fall of 1993.  The life we started together in New Hampshire and then continued on the farm in Nebraska is wrapped up somewhere in the midst of those words coined by Frankie Ballard.  We celebrate 20 years of marriage this June and 19 years on the farm having experienced the joys of love, the trials of farming, and the journey of finding strength in togetherness.

When I look in the mirror today, my eyes do not hold the innocence and optimism of youth.  Instead, they carry the knowledge of life — the highs and lows, fast lane freeways and bumpy roads — the recognition that tackling challenges is just part of living.  Understanding that, perhaps, the tears and frustrations that come during the lows actually lead to a broader perspective allowing for a fuller life experience.

There is no doubt that the optimistic Ivy League graduate with stars in her eyes that landed in the heart of the Nebraska plains really had no idea of the journey ahead.  Sometimes it is hard to remember the girl who showed up at the feed yard that first day shaking with nerves, but determined to learn.  The years blur together, but adaptation is a curious process and I have (from time to time) both cursed the devil and prayed to heaven. 

The experiences of creating a family combined with the trials of learning to understand cattle and running a business have instilled me with patience and resilience.  The uphill battle of bringing positive change to an agricultural industry steeped in both testosterone and tradition taught me that small periods of failure often precede a roll of sevens.annemattjeanskiss.jpg

Through the decades, my favorite farmer has shared both my smiles and my tears quietly supporting me so that I would have more good than bad years.  His faith in me never waivers and the love that we have nurtured on the journey humbles me.  On this Valentine’s Day, it seems quite hard to believe that

It all started with a beer

 

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Digging In the Dirt…

I have always loved digging in the dirt.  Although I grew up in the city, my dad is an avid hunter and we spent many of my childhood weekends in the Lake Okeechobee area hunting on Florida ranch land for quail, ducks and dove.

My brother and I, many many years ago out at the "hunting camp"...

My brother and I, many many years ago out at the “hunting camp”…

When Matt and I moved to Nebraska, my one condition on the move was that I wanted a house “in the country” where I could have lots of room to have animals and gardens.  Our house is positioned on the edge of one of Matt’s farms and sits on about five acres.

My two horses lay claim to a large portion of those acres, but I still have plenty of room to experiment and grow things.  This spring has been mentally challenging for me because it has been too cold to garden.  Our trees are only now starting to bud and my summer perennials are barely peaking their brave heads above ground (the tulips and daffodils perished in a snow storm several weeks ago).  My fingers have been itching to play in the dirt…DSC05280

On Sunday, we had temperatures in the low sixties so I herded up my free labor and headed outdoors to do some gardening chores.  My girls always complain a little bit as we get started, but it does not take long for my older ones to get excited about transplanting and clearing out the flower gardens.

Transplanting lilies...

Transplanting lilies…

They seem to have inherited my love for digging in the dirt and making things grow…

In addition to my perennial flowers taking the plunge above the soil, my rhubarb and asparagus are coming up.  It will not be long before it is time to get the colder season annual vegetables in (it was 28 degrees Saturday morning so not quite yet!).  This year we are doing a combination vegetable garden with my  mother-in-law and the girls are in charge of weeding 🙂

Dividing our Irises...

Dividing out and replanting Irises…

It renews my soul to dig in the dirt.  It fuels my optimism to watch new life grow in my gardens.  It brings a smile to my face to watch my daughters learn the combination of care and just a little magic which brings beauty to our yard and vegetables to our table.

Even while we garden and water, she still dreams about that great tasting steak that will go along with her vegetables :)

Even while we garden and water, she still dreams about that great tasting steak that will go along with her vegetables 🙂

We topped off the afternoon by finding the first toad of the year.  Karyn seemed to spend more time playing with it than helping with the gardens...I guess that is the joy of being the baby of the family!

We topped off the afternoon by finding the first toad of the year. Karyn seemed to spend more time playing with it than helping with the gardens…I guess that is the joy of being the baby of the family!

Is it warm enough to get your gardens going for the growing season?

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