Tag Archives: love

A Grateful, Hopeful and Joyful Heart…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Luke 6: 27-28

“But to you who are willing to listen. I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.”


I went back to the doctor last week for a check up on my leg. I’ve still got a lot of stiffness and discomfort from it, but my strength and mobility improve each day. The doctor’s parting words were, “Anne, you’ve gotten to the point that you won’t hurt your leg. It’ll just hurt you. Healing takes time and you’ve had a significant trauma.”

There’s an old expression that says “time heals”. While I think that patience plays a huge role in rehabilitation, it doesn’t work alone. Healing takes an intentional effort that requires us to move through the pain – to forgive – and to let go of it. If we don’t do that, we become a slave to it. Doc was very clearly telling me to be patient, but he had just gotten finished instructing me on how important it was to put in the work to build back the leg in spite of the pain.

Human nature directs us to move away from physical pain. Our brains do an excellent job of letting us know when something hurts and our instant reflex is to distance ourselves from it. Sometimes, despite the fact that it seems the best thing to do in the short term – shying away precludes us from moving forward in a meaningful way in the long term.


Mental and emotional pain affect our daily choices just as much as physical pain. They are very real and they will own us if we do not intentionally choose to lean into the hope and the peace that Jesus brings.

  • A grateful heart focuses on what we have rather than getting fixated on what we do not have.
  • A hopeful heart revels in the promise of today instead of living in the disappointments of yesterday.
  • A joyful heart learns from all experiences (even painful ones) and looks with optimism to the possibilities that tomorrow brings.

Jesus was big on healing. It seems to me that most of his life on earth was spent healing people and teaching his disciples how to heal. I used to think that Jesus called us to love one another – even and especially our enemies – because we should always be kind. Love your neighbor as yourself is an instruction that many of us give to ourselves on a daily basis. It provides a cornerstone to living in fellowship with others.

But what if Jesus calls us to love those who hurt us not just to be kind, but because that intentional act of loving forgiveness allows our pain to be released and ultimately our hearts to heal?

While pain and hurt are difficult to deal with, they offer the opportunity to shape our hearts and can ultimately help to set us free. Jesus didn’t shy away from pain. He walked into it – with a faith that overcame fear and a hope that led to healing. He hated the sin, but he loved the sinner. His heart was free regardless of physical circumstance or the behavior of others. That gives a whole new meaning to the term amazing grace.

Joseph lived with our family for 383 days before leaving on May 6th. Someday I am going to write about the time that we spent together. He played a big role in bringing alive many of Jesus’ teachings including this one. Much like my leg, the healing of my heart is a slow process. But, each day I intentionally lean into my faith in order to move through the pain. This offers a release that leads to healing and allows me to love with a grateful, hopeful, and joyful heart.

As I read the Gospels, one thing is certain to me. Jesus loves each one of us. He cares about our hearts and will lead us to healing if we follow His guidance. He doesn’t take away the pain, but He teaches us how to find a joy and peace that fills our hearts regardless of circumstance.

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From the inside out…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the book of Job 4:3-6

Eliphaz (a friend of Job) says to him, “In the past you have encouraged many people; you have strengthened those who were weak. Your words have supported those who were falling; you encouraged those with shaky knees. But now when trouble strikes, you lose heart. You are terrified when it touches you. Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence? Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope?”


As I read these words in the book of Job last week, it reminded me of myself – how I inwardly struggle during times of challenge — how I lose confidence when I am faced with multiple hardships. My pastor reminded me on Sunday that there are two typical responses that a Christian can have during times of trial: lean into faith or reject/flee from God.

I think that the deciding factor for me when things get hard is my level of trust. Do I limit God or do I truly believe that He is both good and great? A related question that I find myself wondering is:

“Am I being punished and rejected by God, or is He walking through the struggles with me and shaping me out of love from the inside out?”


I fell on the ice and broke my leg about nine months after I brought Joe home to live with our family. There’s really not a good reason that I fell – it was a quirky winter-time accident that did far more damage than rational thought can explain. During the same time as my leg refused to heal, I was forced to face the reality that Joe was rejecting the values and love that our family was trying to share with him. That hit me hard, and I found myself trying to figure out what I’d done wrong.

I temporarily forgot about God’s part – my part – others part. And, I placed the blame squarely on myself. This filled me with sadness as I began to wonder if my leg was a punishment for not correctly answering God’s call to love Joe. I wasn’t sure where I’d messed up or what I should have done differently, but that did not take away the feeling of aloneness and failure that threatened my heart.

I have a good friend named Bev. Joe’s presence in our family brought us together. If I didn’t believe in God, then I might say that our friendship was a coincidence. But since I rely strongly on my faith, my heart knows that God brought her to me because I needed her on the journey. Bev’s faith is so strong and she reflects Jesus’ love better than anyone that I have ever known.

It’s hard for me to open up to others, but one day I asked Bev to help me understand. I was blessed, as she did not respond the same way that Job’s friends responded to his trials. Instead, she reminded me that Jesus always loves me – always walks with me – and uses experiences of all kinds in order to shape my heart from the inside out. My struggles were not a punishment, rather they were a chance for me to gain perspective and understanding. It was a pivotal time that allowed me to lean into my faith to find strength and hope instead of pulling away to wallow in self-pity and blame.

The book of Job helps me to understand that it’s okay to question God and to have feelings of doubt. But, during those times, it is important that I take those questions and doubts to God – to go to Him. We can’t see God, but faith can fill the gap so that we can experience God. We are emotional beings – created to be loved and to love. God loves us and often brings people into our lives when we need them the most. We find healing when we embrace that and give our emotions to Jesus. It is through Him that our hearts find peace.

Tomorrow I have a third surgery on my leg. I don’t know the details of what will happen, but I do know that Jesus will hold my hand and my heart as I travel the journey. It’s my job to take it to Him – trusting in love. He’ll be there – in my heart and in the hearts of those that love me. I don’t really agree with Eliphaz’s words up above that say “a life of integrity will bring me hope”. Rather, I think that Jesus brings me the hope that I need to fuel myself and to share with others — from the inside out.

 

 

 

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Courageous Faith…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week’s post comes from Galatians 2: 21

“I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless…”


I wasn’t going to write a post to share this week as we are going through some difficult times at home, and I am not yet able to share about them. But, here I am writing at 9:00 on Tuesday night as God has placed something on my heart. I opened my bible to read out of Galatians and the above partial verse jumped off of the page at me.

I love it when the Holy Spirit does that!

The more that I realize the depth of God’s love, the more I understand the vastness of His grace. When we walk through hard times, it is easy to be angry – to accuse God of not being there – to let frustration steal the peace that should live in our hearts. I’ve been tempted to do this, but God just keeps pursuing me. His steadfastness draws me in. It inspires me to lean into my faith instead of walking away.

Why?

Because Jesus shows up everyday. He is the ultimate demonstration of God’s grace and He uses the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide. He fills my heart with the courageous faith that inspires hope and grants the peace that passes all understanding. Even on the hard days – especially on the hard days.

He is there.

I write myself bible verses, quotes and sayings on note cards. I scatter them around the house and seem to find them on the days that I need them. A couple of weeks ago, I sat down and wrote: “Courageous faith is continuing to work with hope even during times of trial — trusting that God’s grace will carry me.” When we treat the grace of God with reverence and devotion and truly trust in it, then we are able to feel the full power of courageous faith. Its value is limitless.


 

I’ve experienced God’s grace often over the past several months. I’ve seen it in this goofy and loyal dog that has granted me company in the long days that I spent in the chair with a broken leg. I’ve seen it in my favorite farmer and our girls as they have circled in love and carried me when I failed. I’ve seen it in friends and those in our church family who have been there – waiting to fill whatever gap unfolds – supporting without question – and reflecting Jesus’ love with steadfast loyalty. I’ve seen it as I’ve continued to live, to coach, and to share my faith.

Sharing faith helps to create courageous faith. We are all meant to live in community. The more that I embrace that, the more I am able to experience God’s grace. Many times grace is found in giving – not in receiving. A grace-filled heart is a grateful heart. Grateful hearts make for cheerful givers. Cheerful givers spread God’s grace, even during times of trial.

Today I am thankful for God’s grace. I cherish the courageous faith that Jesus puts into my heart, and pray that in sharing it I can also help to spread His grace to others.

Thank you to all of you who have reached out in prayer and support for me over the past weeks. Please know how much I appreciate your kindness 🙂

 

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Suffering with holiness – Loving with grace…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Luke 23:34

“Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”


Last week we experienced Holy Week and celebrated the Easter holiday. 2019 has been a time of great reflection for me, and our Good Friday church service brought me a great deal of clarity with something that I have been struggling with for months. Hours of prayer and reflection have resulted in the following three questions being in the forefront of my mind.

  1. Why does God allow us to suffer?
  2. What does Jesus teach us about suffering with holiness?
  3. What does Jesus teach us about loving with grace?

I believe that suffering occurs on many levels – physical as well as emotional. I’ve experienced both in 2019.

Health problems resulting from a fall on the ice where I shattered my fibula (leg bone) has led to four and a half months of physical pain – two surgeries – seven weeks in a cast – and nine weeks in a boot. 16 and a half weeks in, I am slowly transitioning out of the boot and into a pair of running shoes and have traded two crutches for one. I wake up everyday hoping that my leg won’t hurt. I’ve been told that day is far into the future as is the day that I will take a long awaited running step.

Almost two weeks ago, as I headed in for the second surgery hoping to gain the ankle flexion that I needed to walk, I gave it to God. The hours spent in physical therapy did not seem to be working, and I was left in a fog of chronic pain and very little hope. I needed grace as my suffering was not only painful but it was beginning to lack in holiness as anger kept my heart from feeling peace amidst my struggle.

Why does God allow us to suffer? To teach us lessons that enable us to reach out in love to help others. It’s a hard journey, but I am finally finding the grace that I need to be thankful for it. I no longer look at the world the same way. I am irrevocably changed. This actually is the second time a chronic health issue has crippled me – 14 years ago Graves Disease destroyed my health and led to a four year fight to regain it. Looking back, I can see how that time of suffering also shaped me.

Isn’t it interesting how God uses our experiences to help us to grow in faith?

As I sat in the Good Friday service thinking of the suffering that Jesus endured during his lifetime and particularly during the last few days of his earthly life, the phrase suffer with holiness kept running through my mind. There really is no other way to describe what Jesus went through — the ridicule, the betrayal, the physical pain of carrying the cross and then dying on it. Understanding what it means to suffer allows me to better understand how Jesus loved with grace.

Father, forgive them, they know not what they do. 

Jesus very clearly calls us to love our neighbors – to forgive them when they cause us pain – to offer supportive love when they need it. He says it in the Bible and he lived it during his time on earth. It sounds easy, but it is not. The months that I have spent physically crippled from the leg break have coincided with a very difficult time trying to mentor and love the young man that God called our family to help over a year ago. Emotional suffering is real and I believe it is possibly even more difficult to work through than physical suffering. The combination of it has shaken me to the core.

I’ve learned several things over the past four months, but likely the most important lesson is that I can cling to Jesus when things get hard. He suffers with me and he loves with the grace that allows me to find hope when I can’t find it on my own.  The Good News is that God’s love never falters and that Jesus exhibits a loving grace carried with the same strength and steadfastness with which he shouldered the cross.

He does it for each one of us.

He does it out of love, and it makes all of the difference.

 

 

 

 

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How do “doors” and “cups of water” merge?

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Matthew 10:42

“And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”


My family participates in a small group bible study once a week with some wonderful people from our church. Right now we are studying the Gospel of Matthew. This week we read Chapter 10. Tuesday late afternoon found me taking my first big trip since breaking my leg in January. Part of my job for the Beef Marketing Group is to service cattle feed yards, and I had a visit that was overdue. It was far enough away from home that I decided to stay overnight in a hotel.

I broke my leg on January 5th, and never would have dreamed that I would still be basically non-weight bearing and on crutches the 13th of March. But, with some nerve damage in my foot and a stubborn ankle, that is my reality. I packed carefully for the trip with two backpacks (one with my computer and the things that I would need for the feed yard visit, and the other with an extra change of clothes for the overnight stay).

Before I experienced life on crutches, I never realized how difficult it was to open doors and then pass through them. Most doors these days (at least those in Nebraska) have to be pulled open and physically held because they are designed to immediately close. The majority do not have that awesome handicap button to push to operate the door automatically. When you have two working arms and legs, it likely never enters your radar screen that this creates a challenge for some people. I’ve learned to balance myself on my one working leg and the crutches and pull on the door, but holding it open while I try to move in a forward motion is hard. Usually it results in the door banging into some part of my upper body. I’ve yet to truly master the process.

Please pardon the “selfie” – I don’t take them well 😉

Rural Nebraska hotels do not have “bell hops”, so when I arrived at the hotel I parked in the closest available place and put one back pack on my back and the other on my front. I pretty much made an “Anne sandwich”, and crutched my way toward the door. When I got there, I realized with a bit of a sinking heart that there was not only 1 outside door but a set of 2 outside doors (one followed by another) to help reduce energy use with the difficult Nebraska weather.

While I was getting together a game plan, I noticed the one lady sitting in the lobby. She was just on the other side of the second door, and scrolling through her smart phone. I made eye contact with her hoping that she would see my difficulty and come to my aid. After glancing at me briefly, she went back to scrolling on her phone. I faced the reality of the doors and began the tedious process of getting myself through one and then the other. I’d never tried it with two backpacks on before, but God was with me and I worked my way through.

As I awkwardly cleared the second door, the lady looked up – a little bit sheepishly – and said, “Oh, I guess I should have helped you.” I just smiled and told her that it was okay, and made my way to the front desk to sign for my room.


So, by now you may be asking yourself:

What does Anne’s “door story” have to do with a cup of cold water?

I think that the above statement from the Gospel of Matthew is designed to remind us that we are a community, a family. And, as such, we are called to offer a cold cup of water when someone is thirsty and in need of help. Sometimes it is a physical need, and sometimes it is an emotional or spiritual need. In any instance, Jesus asks us to take the time to notice the need and then to reach out in love to help.

I’ve learned many things over the past 9 and a half weeks, but I can promise that I will never look at a manual door the same way again. Additionally, I hope that I am learning to be more sensitive to others, to pay better attention to the needs that exist around me, and to reach out in agape love to help fill them. Sometimes it’s simply opening a door for someone who is physically struggling, but other times it might be offering comfort to someone who has pain in their heart.

There is a saying that everyone has a story of need. Perhaps if we all tried a little bit harder to help others, the world would be a more loving place. I am confident that many would have rushed to help me with the doors, but the truth is that not everyone does. What if one of the ways that Jesus heals others is through us? If that is the case, what happens when we ignore His call?

I’m going to try harder to be one who responds instead of one who doesn’t.

 

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Find the Rainbow…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Genesis 9: 12-14

Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is a sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth.”


I am notorious amongst the young athletes that I coach for having “inspirational sayings”. They just seem to roll off my tongue. Some of them I borrow from others, and some just pop into my mind in the moment. I believe that the ones that simply “pop into my head” come from the Holy Spirit and I tend to cling to them with loyalty. Sometime, I should sit down and make a list of all of them. Better yet, I should ask my athletes to make a list of them 😉

I believe that attitude shapes experience. No matter where our journey takes us, the way that we perceive our daily experiences determines our ability to not only find joy in the moment but also to evolve and learn for the future. When we approach life determined to find the rainbow, then each day becomes an opportunity rather than an ordeal.

The difference between opportunity and ordeal may not seem that big a deal on the surface, but I believe it to be profound.

Let me share a story from last summer.

I have a group of junior high and high school athletes that gather on the pool deck at 6:00am every weekday during the summer for swimming practice before they go on to their days working jobs and practicing for other sports. In the moment — as we gather to begin each morning — I *may* be the only one of us truly excited for each morning workout 🙂 The words, find the rainbow, often pop out of my mouth during those times.

One morning, after a thunderstorm had blown through, we were in the water in the midst of a difficult set. One of the boys said, “hey look there’s a rainbow”. I suspect that he was trying to distract Coach Anne to get some extra rest at the wall, but I humored him by pausing and looking in the sky before we left for the next interval. While I did not immediately find a rainbow in the sky, about twenty minutes later — as we were finishing up the workout with some sprints — God brought us a beautiful one. On a regular day, we might have missed it because it was a small one in the shape of a vertical sundog. But, we were looking for it since the motto for the day had turned into different ways we could look for the rainbow.

As the summer progressed, we found many rainbows together — some in the sky and some in our hearts. In each instance, we found them because we were intentionally looking for them 🙂


God reminds us in the book of Genesis that a rainbow is a special sign from Him.

It is the sign of a covenant.

It is a beautiful physical image that depicts a promise.

To me, it is a reminder of eternal hope. I make the intentional choice to take the image with me every day as I pack my faith. The challenges will still come. However, my perspective – my attitude – allows those challenges to be opportunities rather than burdensome ordeals. Over time, I’ve figured out that it’s really not about the challenge itself. Rather, it’s about how I embrace God’s grace in my daily life to live with honor.

Last week, I transitioned from my post-surgery cast to a hard cast. As I looked at my pathetically bruised leg and it’s 8″ incision, I might have wanted to cry. But then I remembered my own advice. Find the rainbow. So, I covered the leg with a colorful reminder. Every time that I look at it, I remember God’s covenant. I remember that He loves me. I remember that it’s not my job worry about the “why”. It’s my job to focus on the “how”.

I honor God when I pack an attitude of love and positivity. Great things come out of hard times. Noah packed his faith to live with grace in a way that brings great perspective to my own challenges. He did his part and I can too.

How does God inspire you during times of challenge?

 

 

 

 

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Love Wins…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from Matthew 18: 10-14 and the Parable of the Lost Sheep.

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”


I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this parable over the past year. When Joseph’s life fell apart early last spring, I read this passage. I prayed. I ran. I asked God lots of questions. I received a very clear answer from the Holy Spirit, and I clung to it.

Go and love him.

So, I did.

I made my first visit to a jail and I ached for the scared and broken young man that looked back at me. I prayed with him and I cried with him. Ten days later, I brought him home. It was likely the most reckless thing that I have ever done in my life. It is very clearly the first time that I have lived entirely through faith.

I remember our pastor saying one Sunday last spring in a sermon, “God will give you just enough information so that you can follow His call. He doesn’t often show you everything because that might bring you unnecessary fear in the moment.” Trading fear for faith depends on this delicate balance, and I am very thankful for God’s transparency time table.

Corey Asbury has a song out on Christian Radio called  “Reckless Love” that I feel like sums up my feelings quite accurately. It brings to my mind the following questions that I ponder daily:

  • How does God recklessly pursue us?
  • What does it mean to love so recklessly that we are willing to leave what is comfortable in order to do what is right?
  • What is our role in Jesus’ mission?

I believe that there are many ways that God pursues us. I can personally attest to the fact that the pursuit is, in fact, reckless. Honestly, it’s the component of reckless abandon that provides the truest beauty of it. God never gives up on us. We are all worthy and we are all loved. Whether it is through Jesus’s love, the work of the Holy Spirit, the Bible, or the actions of other people — or some combination of them — God is steadfast and tenacious in pursuit of our hearts and our lives.

God used Joseph to teach me how to live by faith. I learned to abide in Jesus’ love so that I could share it recklessly. I left what was comfortable to embrace something better. My perspective shifted so that I could let earthly things go in order to remain true to my heavenly call. It’s changed me, and it continues to change me each and every day.

God used me to show Joseph that he was loved – worthy – and cherished. I’ve watched him intentionally work to leave what was comfortable to embrace something better. It’s a daily choice. It’s hard. But it is good. Neither one of us travels the journey alone because God created a community to support us. Our family has learned to make a new team which allows us to be successful as we work to share in Jesus’ mission to love.

I think sometimes, as humans, we like to make things complicated. I struggled for many years trying to figure out what my role in Jesus’ mission was. I thought too much instead of leading with my heart. I looked past the simple, yet potent answer:

Love Wins.

Every time.

Every one matters. Just ask the lost sheep.

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Learning To Abide…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from James 1: 2-5

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”


This is one of my favorite verses. I don’t just enjoy it, I need the perspective that it brings. While I like challenge, real troubles sometimes stump me. When fatigue sets in, I begin to question God’s plan as I forget to let go of the hurt and simply abide in Jesus’s love.

About 10 days ago, I fell on the snow and ice and broke my right ankle and lower leg. I was delivering lasagna to the high school to help feed the Lady Haymaker basketball team and I slipped and fell as I transitioned from the parking lot up the handicap access to the side walk. I had surgery last Thursday and am now the proud owner of a 10 screw plate in my lower right leg, as well as a few extra “long screws” (holding my ligament in place) that will have to be removed after my leg heals. I’m non-weight bearing and in a cast for six weeks before beginning physical therapy.

There is never a good time to have an accident. I have to admit that I’ve had moments over the past 10 days when I’ve wanted to fall apart. After one of those moments, my favorite farmer came hurrying down the hallway. He said: “Okay, the guy on the radio just said that James says to find joy in your challenges because they bring you endurance and a stronger faith.”

I think that’s the first time that Matt has ever quoted scripture to me– and it made me smile that he’d been listening to MyBridge Radio and had picked up on some of my favorite verses. I’ve yet to figure out why my accident happened, but God has sent me several very clear signs like this one that He is with me on the journey 🙂


As Christians, Jesus calls each one of us to abide in His love.

To be on His team.

The invitation is open to everyone and it’s there on the good days as well as the hard ones. It’s there, we simply need to put it on. Our pastor talked about this same thing on Sunday and it was so truly meaningful to me. As we abide in Christ, our hearts become full of Jesus’ love. There is no limit to His love which brings both peace in the moment and hope for the future. Our ultimate call is to share that love. Not just to love our neighbor as ourself, but to love them as Jesus loves us.

That’s a big deal.

We often pray for God’s help, but how often do we sign up to whole-heartedly and intentionally be on His team? The culture of love only develops when we are all in. That’s because God uses all of us to reflect Jesus’ love — it can’t be reflected if no one answers the call. When we sign up to be on the team, we need to be willing to put in the work.

I saw this picture on facebook last week and it really resonated with me.

Perhaps this is part of what James is talking about.

I am coming to understand that there is both joy and honor to be found in being a member of God’s team. The hard things still come; but there is a purpose to them as Jesus uses the experiences to mold us into something more complete – more loving – more meaningful. Sometimes learning is hard, but Jesus’ love makes impossible things possible.

What if all we really need to do is to more deeply abide in His love so that following His direction becomes a natural out-pouring from our hearts?

One day, maybe we’ll wake up to find that we are so completely filled with grace that we are in need of nothing.

That will be a good day 🙂

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