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The 4th Runner…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from 1John 4:12

“No one has ever seen God. But if we love each another, God lives in us and his love is brought to full expression in us.”


The morning of August 6th dawned early as the Haymaker Cross Country team gathered for our first conditioning practice. As the sleepy high school students wandered in, it was not hard to notice that the number of boys outnumbered the girls. In Nebraska (for all classes of schools other than A – the largest schools), varsity teams run 6 athletes and score 4 with the optional 5th runner serving as the tie-breaker runner and both the 5th and 6th runners able to out-place those from other teams in order to raise team scores. The goal – if you are running as a team – is to get the lowest score possible with your top 4 runners.

To the outsider, Cross Country is pretty much an individual sport. To the runner, it is very clearly a team sport. In addition to scoring as a team, there’s nothing more lonely than standing at the starting line without any teammates, and possibly nothing harder than motivating yourself to race through the discomfort of the 4th and 5th kilometer without the knowledge that your teammates are with you.

The individuals make up the team — but the team brings the individuals together to accomplish something greater than they can do alone.

In those early weeks of conditioning, I prayed each day for God to bring our three girls a fourth runner. By conventional standards, three runners did not give them a team. Our girls could compete as “individuals”, but could not compete as a team. I knew how important it was to them to go to state together. It is possible for individuals to qualify to run at state, but it is also highly improbable for one school to get three athletes qualified that way as only the top 15 runners in each district earn the right to compete at state.

The days went by and the same three girls showed up for practice each day.  As I watched them love each other – support each other – and work so very hard together, I had an epiphany. There may have only been three of them, but they were a team. They loved, they leaned, and they shared through each moment. They did all of the things that good teams do. Honestly, they weren’t just teammates – they were sisters of the heart. It was not only remarkable, but also beautiful.

At that point, I stopped praying for a fourth runner. Instead, I started thanking God for bringing the three of them together and asked for Jesus to bring them courage. I prayed for Him to fill a different gap – not a physical one, but an emotional one. They didn’t need a fourth runner, they needed to believe that they were a team so that Jesus could carry them.

Almost two month later, the three girls huddled up near the starting line at the District Championships – preparing for the defining race of their season. I reminded them that God brought them together as a team. That He loved them and that I did too. They just needed to pack their Holy Sass and GET IT DONE!

They finished 2nd, 12th and 15th. Karyn – my youngest – was our third runner racing right on the heals of her sister Megan. 100 yards before the finish line, Karyn tripped and fell. I don’t know how many people saw her fall, but I can tell you that those of us that did had a moment of panic. But, Jesus filled the gap. She came up racing and managed to claim the 15th spot despite the fall.


I’ve learned a lot of lessons this season. So did the girls. But, I think what struck me the most was how much God shown through them. 1John 4:12 reminds us that none of us have ever seen God, but when we love one another He is expressed through us.

We know Him when we love, and others also get to know Him as we love. 

Throughout the season, the girls often gathered in prayer and opened their hearts to abide in Jesus. You couldn’t ever see Him, but you could see Him in them. As they honored Him, He blessed them. As a coach – and a mom – I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen anything more beautiful. I prayed for a 4th runner, and Jesus delivered.

Friday, the girls will compete together at the Nebraska Class C State Cross Country Championships. I don’t know exactly what the race will bring, but I do know that Jesus will once again be with them. As they hold His hand, He will hold their hearts. Together, they’ll run.

As they do, they create the light that illuminates God’s expression of love in their hearts.

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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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I don’t know…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Hebrews 12: 1-2

“…And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”


Over the course of the last several months, my favorite farmer and I have developed a habit. I’ve yet to determine if it is a good habit or a bad habit. When things weigh us down, we shake our heads and say “I don’t know.” We say it when we get stuck and can’t figure things out on our own. It is a quiet ask for direction amidst a perceived sea of chaos.

Over the weekend, I decided to intentionally amend the statement in an effort to build a heart filled with hope. Now, instead of “I don’t know”, I say “I don’t know but I trust in the One that does know and I know that He loves me.”

It doesn’t make the hard things go away. But, I think that it helps me build an appropriate perspective in which to deal with them. Most importantly, it allows me to let go of what I can’t control and focus on the fact that I do know that Jesus always shows up. He walks with me – everyday, and through every experience. We are reminded often in the Bible that “with God, all things are possible” so I figure that teaming up with Jesus makes for a pretty good game plan 🙂


Although I’m currently trying to learn how to walk again, rather than running half marathons – I’ve been an athlete my entire life.

I’ve never known a race that was easy.

I know that endurance takes work, perseverance, focus and a heart filled with hope. Sometimes it hurts and often it is uncomfortable, but it is always meaningful.

Just as Jesus always shows up, God has high expectations that I will always show up – with my heart in His hand and a dedication to not only start well but also to finish strong.

How many meaningful lessons are learned by quitting the race before it is over?

Each day, it’s God’s job to tell me what that leg of the race will be. Each day, it’s my job to try to compete with the honor and endurance that Jesus showed to us during his time on earth. I can’t ever be like him, but I can walk (and sometimes run) with him in order to find a faithful victory.

Races are won by those who whole-heartedly choose to compete. Victory comes to those who are willing to personally sacrifice as they honor their coach by obeying his direction. We don’t always have to know. But, we do always have to both trust and be willing to put in the effort.

My pastor reminded me at church on Sunday that “A promising start is not enough”. God doesn’t just call us to start with passion. He calls us to continually walk with Jesus so that we can maintain the courageous faith that it takes to finish strong. The race is long, but a humble and courageous heart is willing to lean in when things get hard – with an intentional focus to not get lost in the middle, and a trusting patience that allows God to mentor us for victory.

God calls us to GO ALL IN – STAY FOCUSED – and FINISH STRONG.

I don’t know a lot of things. That’s okay. I know the important One and I trust that He will provide direction as I give Jesus my heart. Together, we find the patiently passionate endurance that leads to a faithful victory.

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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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Packing my FAITH to race with GRACE…

On May 25th I published The Good Life Halfsy as a promise to myself of great things to come. I wrote it just a few days after signing up to run my first half marathon – an important component to my journey to regain my spiritual health.


Sunday morning, with 550 miles of running training — a smile on my face and peace in my heart — I packed my FAITH to race with GRACE.

Fortitude                                     Gratitude

Attitude                                        Resilience

Integrity                                       Acceptance

Trust                                             Compassion

Hope                                             Eloquence


My favorite farmer filmed the finish of the race so that I could share it with you 🙂

God had my back and I learned in a very tangible way that my faith could be stronger than my fear. 

My high school Cross Country coach would likely tell you that my running form still needs some work 😉 butI overcame that with grit and determination to finish the race in a time of 1:42.49. I negative split the race (ran the second half faster than the first) with an average pace of about 7:50 per mile.

It’s amazing what happens when you open your heart and mind and let God’s presence fill your soul. I trained and then completed the race with no stop watch — a decision that I made before beginning the journey in order to help myself to learn to let go of control and just BE.

Somewhere along the journey, I learned to lean on God. To find joy and peace in the times that we spend together each day, as well as strength to overcome the physical and mental barriers that had plagued me since my battle with Graves Disease more than ten years ago.

As I crossed the finish line, I was proud of me.

Proud of the person that I found deep inside of myself during the training journey. 

Life is about much more than any one race or moment in time. The lessons learned along the way carry you forward on the road to excellence. I found that I needed to build the muscle of hope in my heart just as much as I needed to build the muscles in my legs.

When you build the muscle of hope, then faith supports you on the journey!

 

 

 

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Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, Coaching / Personal Growth, Family, General

What Fuels You On the Journey?

25 years ago…

Sunday morning, just as the sun popped over the horizon, I logged in my 500th mile running since deciding to compete in the Good Life Halfsy October 29th in Lincoln, NE.

500 miles is a long way…
Farther than the width of the state of Nebraska – Similar to traveling from NYC to Cleveland…

I decided to keep a journal of my training as a bit of a whim. I figured that looking back on my swimming and running cross training for the race would be meaningful. More than four months into the journey, I am very glad that I did. Not because I plan to do it exactly the same way the next time, but because it gives me insight into the journey of peace that I embarked upon last June.

For the first time in my life, I trained not for time but as a means to regain my mental and spiritual health.

I’ve logged in more than 500 miles never wearing a watch. I never missed it because my pace was superfluous — I set out not to regain the athletic status of my youth, rather, to regain balance in my life. In less than two weeks, I will cross the starting line packing my faith to compete with grace. I know that what I accomplish on that day pales in comparison to what I have found running the gravel roads — watching the sun rise — and finding a deep sense of rightness in my life.

Somewhere along the way, I learned that my faith could be stronger than my fear. I found joy, peace, and inspiration as I opened my heart and refocused on what is most important in my life. I will cross the finish line with the knowledge that life is a journey.

That I am stronger than I ever imagined and that hope is the muscle that fuels faith.

I remember when I moved to the farm in June of 1997, I laughed to Matt that I traded flip flops for cowboy boots. Over the last four months, I have learned that my perspective on life is healthier if I also add in a pair of running shoes in order to fuel myself with some quiet time in the presence of God.

The blessings are numerous — we only have to look to see them.

Where did you see God today?

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The Good Life Halfsy…

Last week, I signed up to run The Good Life Halfsy. My favorite farmer thinks that I am crazy and my favorite blonde cowgirls are claiming that my mental status has been in question for years; but there are a variety of things compelling me to complete my first half marathon.

 The first, and most important, is that Ashley Grace asked me to do it with her. My favorite brunette begins her senior year in high school this fall, and I am incredibly excited to be able to share this experience with her. While we will not really run it together (she will cross the finish line well ahead of me), it is a mother/daughter bucket list item.

Apart from a few 5k races completed recently as a fitness building tool with my family or the Haymaker Cross Country team, I have not competed in a running event since high school. The six minute miles that I used to kick out on the XC course provide an interesting history, but little relevance to the race in late October. Much has changed over the last twenty-four years 😉

The second reason that I hit the “go button” on the registration form is simply that I canFor the first time in 13 years, I am physically strong enough to finish the race. To be completely honest, this race is a mental (as well as physical) stretch for me. However, I believe that it is a symbolic event as I celebrate a level of health and fitness that, during my years with active Graves Disease, I worried I would never again attain.

I recently wrote a blog entitled Life’s About Never Giving UpIn a number of ways, this race will be living proof of my words.

  • It is a difficult challenge to lose your health.
  • It is often a long journey to regain strength and fitness.

But, there is an awesome sweet spot to find as you pack your FAITH along the healing process. I’m hopeful that sweet spot will make a strong appearance the morning of the race as my main goal is to complete the half marathon with a smile on my face and peace in my heart.

I hope to have many great moments over the next five months as I train and prepare for the race; but what I most look forward to is seeing the pride in my daughter’s eyes as she hugs me on the finish line.

 

One of the reasons that Life’s About Never Giving Up is because there are so many awesome things to do as we live it 🙂

 

 

 

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Goals, Accountability, and Teenagers…

  • I believe that setting goals and working to achieve them gives life purpose.
  • I believe that accountability empowers integrity and results in making good decisions.
  • I believe that in all of my life journeys, the one that I take as a parent is the most important.

I live in a house full of teenagers.  My girls bring me intermittent bouts of joy and exasperation as we make our way together as a family.  They are both my greatest pride and my best challenge.  What we build together provides life’s greatest blessing.

I am a habitual goal maker.  Setting and working toward goals keeps me passionately excited to be better tomorrow than I am today.  I set goals in every facet of my life and hold myself accountable while working toward achieving them.  I try each and every day to pass this habit on to my daughters. This often results in interesting feedback from them 😉

agstatexc3I remember a couple years ago when my favorite brunette was struggling during track.  I asked her at the dinner table one night what her goals were for the season.  Her reply caused me to grit my teeth as she stated: “I don’t have a goal for the season.  I am afraid to set a goal because I might not reach it, and I don’t want to fail.”

Fear is real.  It is part of being human and affects the decisions that each of us makes every day.  Acknowledging it empowers you to deal with it and ultimately move past it.  Setting goals that are challenging, yet achievable is one of the best ways to keep fear under control and gain confidence on the journey.

Although that night at the dinner table I wondered if my mentoring was flawed, the maturity and fortitude that my daughter went on to show in the next two Cross Country seasons demonstrated that we were both on the right path.  She ended both seasons as the lead runner on the respective XC squads helping to bring home the runner up team medal in 2015, and garnering an individual medal in 2016.

While she would likely tell you that the hardware was her greatest achievement, I would argue that learning to set goals and finding the personal strength to hold herself accountable for them creates her greatest accolade.  Over the last 18 months, I have watched her dig deep, over come adversity, and persevere with greatness.

This weekend, I will watch proudly as she competes in her first 1/2 marathon.  Completing the race accomplishes a long term goal and checks off a bucket list item.  She loves to run, and I love to watch her love to run.

Finding the appropriate balance as both her parent and her coach provides my greatest accomplishment.  While I want her to find success more than anything in the world, I realize that success only holds meaning when she learns to do it for herself.  From finding the personal discipline to get through the daily grind to daring to dream and packing her faith to go after it — that’s what makes her a winner.

She may be a teenager today, but tomorrow her contributions will help to shape our country.  That’s plenty of motivation to fuel us both on the journey 🙂

 

 

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