All posts in Encouragement

beauty for ashes, mourning, joy, garment of praise, prisoners, Isaiah 61A few years back I was praying for direction for FTGI.  I was hoping God would direct me to something in the Bible to steer me.  One thought led to another and I ended up in Isaiah chapter 61. It is a beautiful poetic chapter charging us as Christians to (among other things):

  • proclaim good news to the poor
  • bind up the brokenhearted
  • to proclaim freedom for the captives
  • release from darkness the prisoners
  • to comfort all who mourn
  • to provide for those who grieve

I love the way it describes the way that we are to bring hope ~~ bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair!

Whew! Like bringing oxygen to someone gasping for breath. What a privilege to be charged to bring such hope to those who are hurting!  Everywhere you turn in this life whether they look like it or not there are people with deep hurts and need for hope.

Here I am send me, prisoners, Isaiah 61

This week I have the privilege of bringing good news to some prisoners.  I have been invited to bring a message of hope to the women residing in a Pinellas county jail. I’m sure the platform won’t be fancy.  I’m sure the facility will not be particularly comfortable. I won’t receive a speaking fee.  I haven’t even given a thought to what I will wear. And yet this may be the most literal interpretation of what God has called me to do.

I find myself overwhelmed with the responsibility and yet I know that all I need to do is show up and allow God to speak his life and redemption through me.

There will be approximately 100 women attending.  I am looking for 100 women to partner with me to pray this week over these prisoners for their hearts to be open to the redeeming love of Jesus that I hope to bring to them. If 100 women pray for one nameless but specific prisoner we will have each one of them covered.

Will you partner with me? Leave a comment to let me know.

Praying that at the blessing comes back around to you!!

On a daily basis I post a picture or encouraging word on our Facebook page for For the Girls International. To let you in on a little secret…I usually post things that resonate with me personally.  That’s how it works.  I see something that hits a nerve for me and I figure someone else probably needs it too.

Occasionally I check to see how many people we are reaching with our Facebook posts and the data I saw yesterday was very telling.  In case you don’t know how it works, the more people that “like” or “share” a post the more people it reaches.

The last 7 posts (not including the announcement of my incredible granddaughter’s birth – which generated a lot of interest!) averaged a reach of 284 people.

Then a few nights ago I posted this (because I needed it):

Tough times, hardship, depression,

The reach for that post rose to over 2000 just for that one post! I don’t have time to figure out the math (that would seriously take me several hours) but that is a huge increase in reach.

So why was that post so popular?

3 reasons:

Because we all have our struggles.

Because we all need to know it’s ok not to be ok.

Because we all need to know that God loves us and is working through our struggle.

This is a tough time of year for me.  Thankfully it’s not as tough as it’s been in the past but the process of writing my book causes me to unearth some past hurts and pain that stirs up some emotions that I struggle with.

Reading that post helped me take a deep breath and know that God is allowing me to go a little deeper and peel another layer off to become more and more whole.  He loves me that much.

Sharing that post helped me realize that the more we are transparent about our struggles the more we help others to know that it is ok that they struggle too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts ~ so please feel free to share.  It helps to know that we are all in this together :)

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I'm ok, you're ok, mental health, depression

And sometimes it’s ok not to be ok!

September 11th is a memorial day for our country. It is also a memorial day for me personally.

Last year on September 11th my mom passed from this life to heaven. My brother, sisters and I sang to her as she took her last breath.

This year on September 11th at 1:14 am I am writing this with my laptop propped up on a couch pillow and a precious new life in my arms ~ my brand new granddaughter. Just days ago she took her first breath.

IMG_1901

Gramma T and Ezra burning the midnight oil

After my mom’s accident, in one of my darkest moments, God gave me a promise. I found it in Psalms 27:13-14 after begging God to give me something to hold on to. He did.  The verse says that if I wait on Him, I WILL see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. And I have. Many times over.

psalm27-13

Today, His promise is fulfilled once again. And I am reminded of the circle of life.

Instead of feeling the sting of death on this memorial day, I feel my mom’s presence as I embrace this new, beautiful season of life. A season she embraced when my son Shaun made her a grandmother for the first time. I feel her smiling face as I snuggle his daughter in my arms. I rest knowing that we are both enjoying the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, each on a different side of eternity.

I pray for all the people who suffered loss on this day that they too would experience God’s goodness in some small or big way as a reminder that his promises are true.

We will never forget September 11th collectively or individually.  We must also never forget His goodness even if we are not feeling it in a given moment. We must hold onto the promise that this life is temporary and that He came to redeem all that is broken.

blessed

His promises are true.  We need only to believe.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens

backtoschoolHappy Back to School Day! I call it Back to schedule day because in the summer any semblance of a regular schedule goes out the window.  It’s fun but someone like me needs a schedule to keep myself on track.

When all three of my children were in school mornings used to be really busy.  I only have one in school now and she takes care of herself in the morning so it’s pretty mellow at our house in the morning. I am not a morning person (understatement) and getting myself up and going is enough of a challenge for me so I’m grateful that she is so independent!

The beginning of the school year is like the New Year for me.  I always start out with GOOD INTENTIONS.  I intend to get up a little early to have a few minutes to myself before the family day gets going.  I intend to have the house in order so that the morning won’t be a rush to get lunch or iron shirts or whatever else needs to be done.  I intend to make my bed.

And for the first few weeks I usually keep it up and then something happens.  I forget to set my alarm.  Or I set it but turn it off and turn over.  Life gets crazy and the ironing piles up and I end up having to iron a shirt for Danny just before walking out the door and resort to putting my make-up on in the car.

Yesterday my pastor said something that rang in my head this morning.

Intentions alone will not lead you to your destination.  Direction not intention leads you to your destination

So although I might intend to do all those things throughout the school year I have to actually move in that direction to make it happen. I have to put things in place to make sure that I can follow through on my intentions. It’s like that with anything, right?

I have intended to write a book for years now but that hasn’t gotten me anywhere. Putting pen to paper is the only thing that will get me closer to reaching that goal. Now that I’m back to a schedule I’m hoping to do a lot more of that.

What have you been intending to do that you need to actually start doing?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments so we can cheer each other along.  

impossible journey

How do you make a dream come true?

One brave step at a time!

So far in 2013, over at For the Girls International, we have built all of our events around this idea that we were created to be STRONG, BEAUTIFUL and BRAVE and we have been cheering women on to take brave steps all year.  I have taken a few myself by talking about my struggle with depression…you can read a little bit about that here, here, and here.

And even though I feel like I’ve definitely taken a few brave steps this year there is one more I have decided to take.

For the longest time I’ve had a secret dream. Well, not completely a secret. Some of those very close to me have known of it. I’ve dreamed of writing a book. I love books!

I love stories and characters and plots and themes. I love how you can learn, even from recreational reading, about places and people and life. I love how words strung together in just the right way can transport you to another world. And I love how people sharing their life experience can reach out beyond the paper pages and touch you right where you live, giving you strength and helpful tools for your journey. And I’ve dreamed of inspiring others as I have been inspired by so many wonderful books.

But here’s the problem:

There are SO many books already! When I stand in Books A MILLION I hear this little voice tell me that the world doesn’t need another book, at least not from me. Who am I to think that the world needs to hear what I have to say?

I expressed this nagging thought to my business coach. (I hired him to keep me focused – something I highly recommend if you have a fly by the seat of your pants kind of personality like me)

And he said to me, “The truth is…you’re right. The world doesn’t need a book from you. The whole world doesn’t need to hear what you have to say. But someone does.”

And that is precisely why I am taking this journey. It’s a little scary to put yourself out there because in order to bring real hope there must be transparency which can leave one feeling a little…well, naked.

But this hope that I have and hold so dearly, I want to share.

So, yesterday I started my journey to write The Six Impossible Things I Believe Before Breakfast – (tag line still to be determined). With one brave step I started.  I had actually written a little bit already but yesterday I bought a white board and post it notes and now I’m telling YOU so that makes it official!!!

What brave step have you been putting off? Start your journey today and let’s do this thing together!

I’ll be sharing bits of the journey here so follow along and please feel free to leave comments.  I love to hear what you have to say! first step

This is a little bit long but it is my 1st blog ever…telling the story of the beginning of FTGI written June 12, 2008 two days after we incorporated. It’s fun to look back and see where we have come from.

retrospect, looking back

To truly chronicle the beginnings of For the Girls International I would need to write a book but below you will find a synopsis of the events of my personal journey this year 2008.

When 2008 began I knew that this was the year. I just felt it in the core of my being. I didn’t know how or exactly when but I knew that I must start moving on this vision that has been in my heart for several years now. I made a commitment to myself and God that I would start moving forward even if it was the smallest of steps. That was January 1st 2008.

Fourteen days later at 2 o’clock in the morning I received a phone call that would change my life and the landscape of my extended family forever. My beautiful, adorable, bubbly, carefree and fearless cousin, Alex, died that night in a car accident. She was only eighteen. It is really impossible to describe how that news impacted me. It felt so final even though I knew that she was immediately with Jesus and that I would see her again. I felt so helpless. Shock and grief is so difficult to put into words. There is an overwhelming feeling of wanting to turn back the hands of time and do something to prevent it. How can you describe the emptiness and hopelessness you feel when you lose someone you love so dearly? There are no words.

In the months that have followed it has became evident to me that time is short. That NOW is when you have to step out and follow the dreams that God has placed in your heart. No one knows the day or the hour that God will call us to be with Him, and so we must live fully engaged in today, fulfilling our calling and purpose here on earth. I knew that I couldn’t wait much longer to begin this new journey called For the Girls International.

A month later, in February, while I was slowly emerging from the initial deep grief from Alex’s sudden death, I attended a conference for my husband’s business, Chick-fil-A. It’s a seminar for the Operators and their spouses to get refreshed and inspired for the coming year. It is always personally inspiring as well. Chick-fil-A is a company founded by committed Christians that live to inspire people on every level. As I sat through the sessions, I felt the fire of the vision of this ministry burning strong. On the second evening of the seminar I was having trouble sleeping. I felt compelled to write out my vision in the notebook given to us at the beginning of the week. At the top of the page I wrote… PERSONAL GOAL… and then wrote out, not very eloquently either, what was in my heart. I made it a goal to get started this year. I never intended for anyone to read it. It was for me and God – a little note to God.

The next day my husband and I went to the sessions and events, but that evening when we got back to our room I realized that at some point during the day I had lost my book. I was really bummed out and my husband didn’t understand why because he thought it was just full of notes I had taken, so I told him that I had written out my vision in it. Just as a side note… I am, and this can be confirmed by anyone who knows me well, on the spacey side of life. I lose my keys several times a week. I lock myself out of my car on a regular basis. I leave things everywhere (including my children). So this was not really out of the ordinary for me. My husband just rolled his eyes when I told him I couldn’t find my book.

The next morning as we rushed from breakfast to the general session, I checked with the lost and found desk that Chick-fil-A had set up and found several notebooks there (so I wasn’t the only airhead!) I flipped through them and found mine. I was so glad to have it back, but we were in a rush, so I just grabbed it and ran. When we settled into our seats I wanted to read my vision again so I flipped through to get to the page I had written it on. When I came to the page, I was completely taken back. There was someone else’s handwriting on the opposite page! Someone had written in my book!

Here’s what she wrote…
I found your book and was looking for a name when I saw this (arrow pointing to vision).
I’d love to help you with this.
Lysa TerKeurst and her cell phone #
Proverbs 31 Ministries proverbs31.org

I was completely freaked out! It was like God had written me a personal note to tell me that He loves me, He got my note, He knows the desires of my heart and that He was going to help make it happen. My heart was racing, my hands started to shake, and I couldn’t hear anything else that was going on in the room! I honestly just stared at it in disbelief for quite a while. What are the chances that out of 1500 women at that conference and hundreds of bathroom stalls that Lysa would follow me into the stall where I had left my book? Then, on top of that, what are the chances that she would open to the very page that I had written my vision on and read it?? Being the space cadet that I am, the chances of me losing something while I was at the conference were great, but all the rest of the “coincidences” completely defied all the odds.

I had heard of Proverbs 31 Ministries because they do radio spots on my local Christian radio station but I didn’t think in my wildest dreams that it was the same ministry that was on my radio. I was excited just at the idea that someone already involved in women’s ministry would be offering to help me. For me the big thing was the acknowledgment from God and the fact that I could also get help and direction was completely over the top. After the conference ended and I got home, I looked up Proverbs 31 and was completely blown away by the magnitude of the ministry. It is a wonderful organization and the President of the ministry wants to help me!!!! I got in touch with Lysa who was a great help and encouragement and she suggested that I attend the She Speaks conference in June. I figured that would be the start of things for FTGI but God had other plans. On the same day that Lysa found my book, my friend Cynda (co-founder of FTGI) was receiving confirmation of her own through a phone call and before we knew it, we were set up for our first ministry trip to NYC.

I love this quote from a former pastor friend of mine.

Oftentimes God takes a long time to move suddenly.

As long as this first post is (and I promise they won’t all be this long), this is only one of many, many ways that God has confirmed over and over that He wants to do something great in the lives of women in this day and age. I am thrilled and humbled at the thought of being a part of that and can’t wait for what lies ahead.

Lots of Love,

Tracey

Last week my niece won two tickets from a radio station to a private listening party with Amy Grant for her newly released cd How Mercy Looks From Here and she invited me to go with her!

It’s no secret that I am a huge Amy Grant fan. I love her music, I love her soothing voice but more than both of those God given talents, I love her spirit. She has a beautiful, very real faith that intersects with very human experiences and raw emotions but remains strong and full of grace.

Grace, something we all need so very much.

During the listening party she chose a few songs and told the stories behind them. I loved them all but one of them caused that huge lump in my throat that develops when I am trying to hold back tears.

It was called ~ Don’t Try So Hard.

It hit home for me because I had recently gone through a period of time where I was trying so hard that I had worn myself out completely. I am not even sure how it happened or when it began because it snuck up on me. Gradually over time somehow I had developed this imaginary standard that I needed to measure up to.

The standard was perfection and although no one else expected it of me ~ I did. As the words washed over me I felt a few hot tears escape from my eyes. Not tears of painful emotion but of relief that the striving is over. It’s over in a sense but it is a battle that we all face every day as new pressures to measure up or fit in present themselves.  It is one of the greatest weapons of the enemy of our soul. Comparison.

I am glad that I was able to recognize the harmful practice of comparing myself to some made up standards that I could never achieve and just breathe and relax instead of fighting.

Here are the words to the chorus…

Don’t try so hard
God gives you grace and you can’t earn it
Don’t think that you’re not worth it
Because you are
He gave you His love and He’s not leaving
He gave you His Son so you’d believe it
You’re lovely even with your scars
Don’t try so hard

My favorite line is…”You’re lovely even with your scars…”

Do you believe that today? You are lovely even with your scars…don’t try so hard!

Here…take some deep breaths as you listen.

One of the greatest games my mom ever taught me to play was the Glad Game.

She adopted it from a character from the 1913 book Pollyanna.  Pollyanna’s philosophy revolved around this “game” that she learned from her father.  The object of the game is to find something to be glad about in every situation.  It’s ironic really because in the book the Pollyanna’s Glad Game was put to the test when she was hit by a car and lost the use of her legs. I’m sure that my mother had know idea when she read it that she would suffer a similar fate.

When life throws challenging and difficult situations it can be very hard to keep “playing” but my mom was the Queen of the Glad Game.  She could find always find something to be glad about. We used to make fun of her for it but now I am so grateful because it has shaped how I respond to life.

As some of you reading this know, my mom was traumatically brain injured in a car accident in 1991. It left her almost completely immobile, unable to speak, eat on her own or do anything for herself.  She required 24 hour care and so she lived in a nursing home for almost 20 years before she died this past September.

Yet, when we would visit her we were always greeted with a big smile and she would type out happy encouraging little messages on a machine.  We could print out those messages and they have become treasures now that she is gone from us.

My mom played the Glad Game right up until the end of her life on earth.

Mother’s Day could potentially be a tough day for me but I chose to play the Glad Game in honor of my mom this year.  In the morning when I woke I realized that I am glad that her suffering is over.  I am glad that this Mother’s day instead of laying in a nursing home she is free and whole in heaven. That is something to be happy about.

I invited my sisters over with their families.  And I was so GLAD they could come. We had tea and I got to enjoy my brand new nephew and all of the family.  My step mom and mother-in-law were there and I am GLAD I have them in my life.

It is a temptation to dwell on the negative when your heart hurts but there is joy when we can choose to find something to be grateful for and glad about. That was part of the legacy my mom left me and I am so glad she did 😉

glad game,positive thinking, happy, glad, mother, sad.

Think about some things in your life that you can be glad about today.  Feel free to share them in the comments.  Sometimes it’s good to say it out loud.

I know it’s a day late…but love and blessings to all the moms. It is by far the hardest but most rewarding job there is!

dream, perseverance, faith One of my favorite books is called The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. It is a modern day parable of a man named Ordinary from the Land of Familiar who is visited by the Dream Giver and given a Dream.

I read it at least once a year. It reminds me that the ups and downs that I experience as I pursue the dreams God has given me are all part of the journey and common to any dreamer.

The chapter outline alone comforts me. It helps me recognize where I am in the dream cycle. Here is the outline and maybe you can identify where you are.

1. Ordinary Embraced His Big Dream
2. Ordinary Leaves His Comfort Zone
3. Ordinary Meets Bullies in the Borderland
4. Ordinary Enters the Wasteland
5. Ordinary finds Sanctuary
6. Ordinary Reaches the Valley of the Giants
7. Ordinary Thrives in the Land of Promise

This past fall I entered the wasteland. In the winter I found sanctuary and gained the strength I needed to face the giants. Now, I am ready to enter into the land of promise. How about you? Can you identify with any of these stages of the dream cycle?

Be comforted today as you pursue your dreams that as we are tried and tested we are still making progress towards the land of promise ~ it is there waiting for us if we persevere.

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:4

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