Tag Archives: overcoming challenges

The Gift of Giving…A behind the scenes glimpse of small town America

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂

Today’s verse comes from James 3:13

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.

I became a farmer when I fell in love with my favorite farmer. Just as I married into agriculture, I also married into rural America. For a wedding gift, some of my college friends got a large map of the United States, entitled it “Civilization: A Nebraskan’s Guide Out”, and marked lines from Cozad, Nebraska to their home towns thereby showing me how to get back to civilization on the East Coast 😉 . The gift was a tongue in cheek joke stemming from the fact that none of them could believe that I actually wanted to move to a tiny town in Nebraska and make my life there as a farmer.

Twenty two years later, the map (which I framed) is faded and blurred but I still smile every time that I look at it. I knew at age 21 that Matt and I were meant to be together, and I opened my heart to the community that welcomed us a year later when we moved back to the farm. I have never needed “A Nebraskan’s Guide Out” because my adopted home state still holds my heart just as firmly as my favorite farmer.

There is a statistic floating around social media right now stating that 53% of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers actively volunteer in their local and state communities (compared with just 7% of the general public). While I have not “fact checked” this statistic, I can say that my life experiences in Nebraska demonstrate the dedication of Rural America to giving back. I know that my community inspires me to actively volunteer as I view sharing of myself to help others as a top life priority.  

Over the years, I have learned the true gift of giving. It has two components and I truly treasure them both.

  1. An unending well of energy fills your soul when you reach out in faith to help others. Good works are a demonstration of faith — they are the Holy Spirit guiding your life so that your love is shared, your talents are used to honor your neighbors, and your actions provide a living display of God’s loving hand.
  2. Giving in love inspires gifts of love. Good works are contagious as they allow for the spread of faith. Random acts of kindness are not random. Rather, they are intentional acts of love that result from a joyful and faithful heart. God is on the move through each one of us as we intentionally share of ourselves to help others.

Last weekend, our family took a four day trip to Colorado. February is generally a quiet time for Matt on the farm, so we try to take advantage of it for some intentional family time. My favorite farmer loves to snow ski and my girls happily zoom down the mountain in his wake. The long weekend is a time for us to regroup as a family and is something that both Matt and I treasure.

Our second day gone, Matt received word that one of his storage buildings at the alfalfa mill had caught fire. Matt burns sawdust (as a means of recycling) for energy to run the alfalfa dehydration plant during the summer harvest months. It allows us to reduce the environmental footprint of the farm because it uses a “waste product” to create the energy needed to dry and pellet the alfalfa. It is necessary to accumulate and store the sawdust over the winter months to ensure the needed supply for the summer months. Matt’s crew was working in the building on Friday when equipment malfunctioned – sparked – and started a fire.

The local volunteer fire department, along with our farm crew, worked diligently to contain the fire. Their hard work enabled us to continue with our family weekend instead of packing up to rush home to an emergency. Matt spent some needed time on the telephone, and worried rather than sleeping most of the night, but we were able to salvage what will likely be our last vacation before our oldest daughter leaves for college next fall.

Our crew – Our community – banded together to give us a gift. We didn’t even need to ask for it. It was given freely and with generous hearts. To me, this is the exquisite beauty of rural Nebraska. When challenges come, a support network automatically assembles to fill the need. Our community is filled with neighbors – those that help with giving hearts and a dedication to James’ call for demonstrating faith through good works.

Matt and I would like to thank all those that gave of themselves to lend aid. Your selfless generosity fills my heart with the joy of faith, and humbles me with the knowledge that we are loved — cared for — and honored as members of our family of Cozad. The clean up will take time, patience, and much work but you all have given us a reason to be thankful in the face of challenge.


Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

The Haymakers Rock the Pool…

The Haymaker Swim Team rocked the pool during the 2015 Plains Tsunami Swim League Championships.

52 Haymaker Swimmers competed garnering a total of 210 medal winning swims, and 13 individual swimmers earning High Point Awards for the meet. The stack of medals is indeed impressive – glittering brightly to match the smiles of the swimmers after they powered through more than 70 PR’s and secured the team victory.swimteam2015a

Words cannot describe how proud I am of the team, and it is my fervent hope that each swimmer finished the season stronger and more confident than they began. Many share my enthusiasm for our team’s success in 2015, but very few realize that I held an additional and very important personal goal for the 2015 Championships.

This year I celebrated my 40th birthday as well as my 10 year anniversary with Graves Disease. A few months prior to my 30th birthday, this autoimmune system disease racked my body – leaving me physically debilitated and mentally shattered. My anemic and painfully thin body refused to function and simple things like lifting my 12 month old baby or reading aloud to my children became nearly impossible.

As my physical strength deteriorated, my mind ran on constant adrenaline leaving my mental and emotional fitness devastated. My Graves journey was unique and I experienced some unexpected complications both from the disease and the treatment. I have few specific memories from those first 5 years of my 4th decade, but many regrets for the trauma that my family experienced as a result of the disease.

My biggest fan...

My biggest fan…

The last five years have been years of healing for me – finding new balance – and accepting that my flawed body (with the help of modern medicine) can indeed persevere. Losing fitness is difficult for anyone, but it hit me particularly hard as my identity was closely tied to athletics. Soul searching eventually led me to decide that I needed to come full circle in order to effectively “finish the Graves Chapter” of my life.

On my 40th birthday, I made a promise to myself that I would train and compete as a 19 and Over Swimmer for the 2015 season. While I have haphazardly swum for a few years, I had not set an athletic goal since getting sick. I have to admit that it scared me. I am naturally driven to accomplish personal goals and my flagging confidence worried that I would fall short. Despite my trepidation, I recognized that it was a critical step in my journey.

I too was personally victorious at the Championships. I completed the meet with a sweep of Gold Medals (200M freestyle, 100M freestyle, 50M Backstroke, and 100M Individual Medley) and a collection of very decent swims to mark the first year of my 5th decade. My healed body showed stamina and strength which brought a feeling of pride and closure.

This picture was taken about a month ago -- since then, my favorite 10 year old has passed me by and I am now the shortest two-legged member of the household!

My Graves journey was life changing. I look at the world differently today than I did 10 years ago. There are a few physical challenges that still remain, but I have overcome the heart of this trial. As a result, I truly understand that the road to excellence is not meant to be comfortable.  I would not be where I am today without the love and support of my favorite farmer and the three girls with which God blessed us.  We persevered together.

Every day is a gift — Every race is an opportunity.

Go Haymakers!


Filed under Coaching / Personal Growth, Family, General