Tag Archives: Paul’s Epistles

On the other side…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4: 11-13

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”


Life’s not perfect. As much as we might long for unlimited happy days where the sun always shines and the journey is easy, that’s just not what happens. I’m going to reach 45 years this February and my favorite farmer has been with me on the journey since I was 18. We’ve been blessed beyond measure, and yet we’ve been challenged beyond anything I might have imagined. It’s hard to wrap your brain around how those two things can go together until you read Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It is a letter of thanksgiving – written from a prison cell – during a time when he faced the very real possibility of execution. It is a great reminder that there is joy to be found in every situation, even those times of great struggle.

Last week I spent time thinking about what happens on the other side. Not just that “eternal high five” that greets us at heaven’s gate, but the other side of difficult times that we pass through during our years on earth. I spent five years battling Graves Disease and some unusual complications resulting from treatment beginning when Karyn was an infant. It was unexpected, it was hard. We had three small children (5 and under) as well as a farm to run. And, there were many days that I could hardly function. I looked anorexic, was terribly anemic and got so weak that I couldn’t lift the girls.

On the “other side” of Graves Disease 🙂

As hard as it was for me to get through each day, it was harder for Matt. Watching someone you love suffer has to be one of the hardest things that we are asked to do in our lifetime. It brings on a litany of emotions – none of which resemble the perfect happiness that we dream of on the day that we say I do. There have been times in our marriage where we have looked at each other and asked the question:

If God loves us, why does he allow us to suffer?


As I was visiting with a friend last week, the pieces all fell together and my brain made sense of this question. God uses every experience to shape us and to grant us various perspectives that help us to share His love with others on the journey. We can’t learn these things if we are never challenged. We can’t learn to lean into Jesus’ love and strength if life is never hard. We can’t have true understanding and empathy for others if we never hurt ourselves.

I’ve revisited many of these lessons over the past nine months as I spent long days on crutches and went through three surgeries to heal my leg. Today, I’d like to share the five most important lessons that struggling has taught me — looking back now that I am on the other side.

  1. Everyone has a story. Each and every person that we come into contact with battles a challenge that we may never get to see. A smile or a few words of encouragement likely makes the difference in their ability to find joy amongst the struggle.
  2. Life is not meant to be taken for granted. Each day brings the possibility of many blessings – the ability for us to share Jesus’ love with others. Slow down. Take the time to see those opportunities and then embrace the confidence of Christ in order to turn them into Holy Moments.
  3.  A loving spouse is a gift to be cherished. Matt carries a lot of medals on his heart. God’s placed them there as we’ve walked together through the past twenty seven years. He is an amazing man with a heart that never stops giving. Being his wife is one of my greatest blessings and inspires my heart to be grateful as we greet each new day together.
  4. Our children learn with us as we walk together – they learn from us and we learn from them. Never discount the power of TEAM. One of the greatest blessings that came out of my illness was our ability to come together as a family to find strength and remain stubbornly rooted in love. There’ve been days that the girls have carried us — spiritually and emotionally — as Matt and I struggled to make sense of things. Today I believe that there is nothing more beautiful than a child reflecting Jesus’ love and light to his/her parents. It not only helps them to own their own faith, it shows them the purpose of faith!
  5. We never walk alone. When I was sick, someone told me “Anne, God will never give you more than you can handle.” I really struggled with that as some days I was just plain not enough. The last ten years have taught me that faith allows Jesus to fill that gap. God often gives us more than we can handle on our own, but those are the times that Jesus comes into our lives to carry us through. He is the perfect Coach — the one with divine discernment and a never-ending well of love and strength.

I’m sure that Matt and I and our girls will face more struggles as we walk through life together. But, just as I know this, I also realize that there is joy to be found in each and every day. We find it when we abide in Christ and welcome the peace and strength that He brings. Just as Paul reminds us in the above scripture verses, the secret to being content in every situation is to recognize that we are never alone. God walks with us and offers the comfort that leads to peace – on the good days and the tough ones. It may be hard to see the value in the moment of hardship, but it becomes clear once we are on the other side.

 

 

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Hands and Feet…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s Epistle to Romans 12: 4-5

“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body and we all belong to each other.”


It’s college football season. My favorite farmer played both high school and college football, so my girls have grown up in a house that understands and celebrates the game. The other night at dinner, Karyn mentioned Army’s football uniforms. She loves the fact that instead of having the last name of the player on the back of the jersey, each team member’s jersey has “Army” printed where their name might be.

My dad was in the Army and I went on a college recruiting trip for swimming to West Point my senior year in high school. Although my heart led me somewhere else for college, I remember the feeling of “team” that permeated the campus. There wasn’t hardly an “I” to be found –  instead it was about “we” and the power of teamwork. As Karyn, Matt and I talked about Army’s philosophy, it reminded me of our call to be on Team Jesus.


The New Testament is filled with verses where Jesus asks us to do two things: Believe and Love. Intermixed with these callings is a clear message of service. I used to think of service as something that I needed to do in order to prove that I was worthy – to become eligible for God’s love and the ability to spend eternal life in heaven. During this time of my life, I did a lot of things that helped others. But, over time, my heart grew weary. I lost sight of the joy of giving as it became more like an obligation than a gift.

I’ve always viewed Jesus as my innate source of goodness, but it has taken time for me to fully understand what it means to be Jesus’ hand and feet. It’s not about an obligation to serve, rather it’s about taking His love into your heart in order to share it with others. It’s about abiding in Him. After all, you can’t be someone’s hands and feet without being a part of them. It is this intentional choice that brings us together as Christ’s body. It inspires us to belong to each other – to look outside of ourselves to share – to work toward the mission – to find the peaceful and joyous victory that our hearts seek.

We could call it by lots of fancy terms, but to me it’s walking with Jesus. He’s the coach and we’re the team. As his Holy Spirit guides us, we follow.  Together we make Holy Moments. 2Corinthians 9:7 reminds us that “God loves a cheerful giver”. Perhaps God loves a cheerful giver not just because He likes to see us smile, but because that is a sure sign that we’ve given our hearts to the One who asks us to be his hands and feet.

Last week I watched one of our Haymaker Cross Country teammates circle back during the “recovery” part of our interval workout to help someone who was struggling. This isn’t an unusual occurrence. Our athletes do a good job looking outside of themselves to be good teammates.  The concept of stronger together holds meaning for them. As I spend the fall season with the runners, I’m reminded of how simple it is to serve others with a joyful heart.

When Jesus takes up residence in our hearts, then our hands become His hands and our feet become His feet. Together we make the Holy Moments that help to keep the light burning.

 

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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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AOTA…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Hebrews 12: 11

“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.”


Our family entered the world of Haymaker Wrestling this year. About a month after Joseph came to live with us, he decided that he wanted to learn to wrestle. Two of the Haymaker Wrestling coaches have kids that swim for me, and my favorite farmer was a wrestler in high school so it seemed a good fit.

As a swimmer and a runner (with a brother who played baseball), I was a newbie to the sport of wrestling. The discipline and fitness intrigued me, while the culture of the sport just plain pulled at my heart. Over the course of the season, I watched a small group of young men band together to create a brotherhood. A brotherhood that inspired loyalty and leadership.

Photo Credit: Brian Bazata

The mantra of the Haymaker Wrestling team is AOTA. A-always, O-on, T-the, A-ttack. I questioned it a bit going into the season, but it didn’t take long for me to understand the meaning and the purpose. In a wrestling match, you are either in control of the match and earning points or you are getting beat by an opponent who is. Leadership on the mat requires a high level of engagement and a willingness to take chances in the moment in order to claim victory at the end.

There is no room for laziness.

Rather, the wrestling culture inspires enthusiastic and proactive “headmanship”. Our Youth Ministry Pastor defines “headmanship” as the leadership that men demonstrate as they intentionally work to serve and protect. It comes from active and selfless engagement as mental and physical strength merge to create honor.


There’s a lot of spirituality that happens on the wrestling mat. I don’t know if the Haymaker wrestlers would intentionally call it that, but I clearly saw it as I watched them come together as a team this season. Paul reminds us in Hebrews 12:11 that God calls us to never be lazy – rather – we are called to work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.

It takes an intentional individual choice to create a victorious community.

Joseph began his wrestling career as a senior with no prior experience. He faced the challenge of spending the season wrestling some of the Midwest’s finest who had more than 10 years of experience. I never worried that he would fail. I knew that God would carry him. What he lacked in learned skill, his teammates and coaches helped him to fill in with discipline, leadership, and love.

I cried when he won his first match. My heart swelled when he got his first victory by pin. I watched him lose more times than he won, but each match brought a sense of purpose, identity and worth to the young man that God had brought to me as a son. Joseph discovered the beauty of “team” as well as the pride found in working hard to honor the mission.

He learned that being on the attack can be something incredibly righteous.

Isn’t this what Jesus calls us to do?

The New Testament is full of passages where Jesus implores us to actively and passionately love community more than self. And, to keep giving even when it hurts because the mission holds unfathomable value. My heart filled with hope as the season went on and I realized that wrestling provided a tremendous battlefield to teach our young men to fight with righteousness.

When the battle is honorable, being on the attack is a good thing.

We are not called to be passive. We are called to fight with our whole hearts as we engage in Jesus’ mission.

To the 2019 Haymaker Wrestling Team, thank you for fighting the good fight. I pray that you will take these “life lessons” and apply them to the calls that God has for you during your life journey. You all earned many medals this season, but the greatest is the one that you carry in your heart as you honor your God and your team. Thank you for your efforts.

Respect is earned — you all have mine.

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It means more when you share it with a cheerful heart…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s thoughts come from Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians Chap. 9:7-9

You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all that you need. Then you will always have everything that you need and plenty left over to share with others. 


Finishing an ocean mile race as part of my training circa 1992

When I was a young athlete, I remember my dad telling me, “Anne, if you are going to do something then you need to do it well.” With him, there was no halfway, and I learned to work with diligence and dedication to make the most of my God-given talent. At 5’3″ and 105#, I was often the smallest backstroker in the pool. I think that some wondered how I found success, but I knew the secret — I found that hard work brought passion and passion brought hard work. It was a winning cycle that both brought honor to my sport and carried me through the majority of my athletic career.

While I possessed a keen grip on the notion of bringing honor to my God-given talents through dedication and hard work, I had begun my journey into adulthood before I gave much intentional thought to the concept of “giving”. The idea of turning those talents into cheerful gifts to others came after trading the ocean for the Nebraska prairie. Over the years, there have certainly been times that my efforts benefited others, but a focus on daily giving with a cheerful heart is still a work in progress for me.

I think that one of the things that I love most about being a cattle caregiver is the simplicity of the relationship. My cattle need me for daily care, and I need them to turn the resources on my farm into beef which nourishes my body.

There are no games, there are no politics, there are no pretensions.

Very simply, there exists only an honest display of bidirectional giving.

I can’t honestly say if cattle experience the emotion of joy; but I can report that I gain a feeling of peace and contentment as I fulfill my responsibilities as an animal caregiver — giving from a cheerful heart to fulfill a noble calling.


For me, things become more complicated in my relationships with other people. My “cheerful heart” sometimes wants to place expectations on others instead of simply finding honor in the act of sharing and giving. I forget the point of sharing when I do not place my faith at the heart of my gift.

I believe that God desires us to give as He gives

cheerfully, generously, and without any strings

knowing that our hearts possess enough love for everyone and our actions are fueled by a divine power of unending goodness.

I know that with each day that passes, I intentionally mature in my faith as my heart builds a habit of sharing with gratitude — trading unhealthy expectations for empathy and love.

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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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