All posts in Family

A few weeks ago I wrote my eulogy.eulogy

Don’t worry…I don’t plan on going anywhere soon. It was part of an exercise for a workshop I attended. The workshop was called The Power of Life Planning.

At first I thought it was a really weird thing to do but the more the instructor explained it the more I understood it.

The general idea is that if you write out what you would like someone to say about you at the end of your life, you can then work backwards and make sure you put a plan in place for those things to be accomplished.

It was very telling about the people whom I love, what I dream about, what I care deeply about and what I believe my life purpose is. I will reveal a few tidbits but you’ll have to wait 52 years for the rest (…I plan to live to 100!)

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Who I love…

“Tracey loved her family with all her heart…”

I realized after writing with passion about my love for my husband and children, grandchild, great grandchildren-to-come and my extended family that I need to make sure that I am investing my time and energy into those relationships consciously and purposefully. Life can get so crazy that those we love most get pushed down on the priority list.

What I dream about…

“Although Tracey enjoyed traveling all over the world it was at her lake home in a little town called Jefferson that she felt the most like herself…”

So, I am not travelling the world…yet. And we don’t own the cottage in Maine…yet. But these are things I dream of and if I want them to come to pass then I need to start putting plans in place to ensure that they happen.

What I believe in…

“Her relationship with God was so deep and so critical to her that she longed for everyone she came in contact with to have that same experience. At age 14 her Dad wrote a verse in her Bible – a gift commemorating her baptism. It was Matthew 5:16 – Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven. Tracey took that verse as a charge and tried to live her life intentionally to that end.

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You get the idea.

Writing out that pseudo-eulogy painted a picture of what I would like my life to look like when all is said and done.

It gives me something to work backwards from to make sure that I am building a life of purpose.

Obviously this will look different for everyone and many people will probably have higher aspirations than I do – as it turns out I realized after writing this out that I am not as complicated as I thought I was. I can really make life more difficult than it has to be!

And the other thing worth mentioning is that of course life happens and things change but this exercise is a good place to start to figure out what matters most to you and what you can be working towards.

I’d love to hear your thoughts…crazy idea or helpful tool?

You will only be overwhelmed if you allow yourself to be overwhelmed.
(major life crises excluded – you’re allowed to be overwhelmed then)

Unfortunately, I allow myself to be overwhelmed way too often.

In the past two months I’ve…

  • hosted and spoke at an FTGI major conference and hosted 2 luncheons
  • spoke at an outreach event
  • attended my husband’s 4 day business conference
  • hosted 2 major parties at my house of over 25 people at each of them
  • had 7 people ( including one very tiny soft, sweet baby girl) stay at my house spanning 30 days straight of in-house company
  • had the flu along with several members of the family
  • had to navigate a very bad reaction while trying to wean off medication
  • attended a baby baptism, a baby shower, a first birthday party and a work dinner with my husband
  • attended a plethora of meetings
  • had a daughter on Spring Break

And these are just the biggies, not to mention… cook, clean (which often are left undone) and maintain some of my work schedule.

Let me be clear, I am not complaining. Most of those things are things I really love to do and would do all over again. Some of them were unplanned or snuck up on me and threw me off my game.  But that is life, right?

I’m sure if you listed out everything you’ve done in the past two months your list would be just as long.

Here are some things I am reminding myself of in order to not allow myself to be overwhelmed.

1) Be sure to create margins in your schedule.

Things pop up that need your attention whether you want to give it or not.  Things pop up that you want to be able to jump in on and enjoy.  If your schedule is too packed ~ the unplanned things in life will send you into a tailspin. Creating what I call “white space” on my calendar also allows time to feed your soul – to do something you love like read a book, paint, write, play. When “white space” is missing from my schedule I get overwhelmed.

2) Realize that you are only one person with the same 24 hours as everyone else.

I wrote another piece about this because it is hard to strike a balance but really – You Can Only Do What You Can Do! Trying to do more than what reasonably fits into your life is going to lead to feeling overwhelmed.

3) Say NO to some really good things in pursuit of sanity. 

This month alone I had to opt out of 2 events I really wanted to go to, a radio interview and an offer to co-host a radio show. I have been known to say, “I want to have and do it all” in a passionate moment but in the real world I have to make some hard choices in order not to set myself up for chaos.

4) Commit my time to God 

He is so much better at knowing exactly where I need to spend my time. Sometimes I get caught up and forget to consult the One who has numbered my days about how I should spend them! I find that if I take just a little time each morning to ask where my focus should be and ask Him to guide my steps life gets a lot smoother. He has designed me to thrive on being busy but He hasn’t designed everyone that way and He doesn’t wanted me overwhelmed or unavailable for the unexpected blessings that come along.

This seems to be a theme for me this year.  I welcome your thoughts and suggestions!!

smile

A little levity! Just smile ;)

 

It’s actually a pretty difficult time of the year for many. There are images everywhere of ideal family dinners but for some that is not a reality. There is pressure to buy presents and spend money yet there are those who are struggling financially. There are emotions that the holidays stir up that lay dormant for much of the year.

I understand. There is, however, a way to manage some of the things that make it difficult.

As I unpack the ornaments, I unpack memories with them, sweet reminders of past Christmases. Many of the ornaments that decorate our tree commemorate a milestone…Our First Christmas, Baby’s First Christmas…etc. Many of them were gifts from my mom. While the memories are sweet, the pain of loss is bitter.

For years I would slip away from the activity of decorating to collect myself and shake off the sadness but I have learned over the years to change my mindset. Now, I look forward to the tradition as a way of setting time aside to be with the memories and celebrate all the love that my tree holds:

  • a faded ornament from my grandparent’s tree
  • little treasures made with tiny fingers that are now full grown hands
  • chubby faces of babies dressed like santa and an elf (the things we do to our children!)
  • gifts from friends old and new

ImageHere are a few tips to help you navigate the holidays with cheer!

1. Identify those things that cause stress 

Is there something you are dreading during the holiday season? Are there difficult relationships that you will have to deal with? Is the financial pressure of gift giving stressing you out? Unless you identify the sources of stress you can’t address them.

2. Find a way to limit if not eliminate those things.

If there is something that you are absolutely dreading, you can take control over how it affects you by changing your mindset. Go with a different attitude and you may be pleasantly surprised how things turn around.

You may discover as you dig a little deeper that you are striving to meet other people’s expectations of you which is not a healthy motive for continuing to put yourself in a negative situation. If you can’t eliminate it altogether then consider limiting the amount of time or maybe gathering in a place or time that would be less stressful.

If finances are stressing you out let people know ahead of time that you will be scaling back and giving smaller meaningful gifts instead so that the expectation is set ahead of time.  Maybe it’s my age, but I enjoy thoughtful things my children have done like recording a song for me or putting a slide show together as opposed to store bought things.

3. Carve out some time for yourself

Even if it is something really small, do something YOU love to do this season.  Last night on our way home from picking up my daughter from work we drove around and looked at houses in our neighborhood all lit up for Christmas.  Normally we zoom in and out hardly noticing. While I was organizing my closet the other day I put on Miracle on 34th Street.  I am the only one in my family who really loves that movie so I made a cup of tea and watched (and was still productive!) Ok, so I did two things for myself!!

4. Let something go

Unless you are incredibly organized or not very busy it is likely that something is going to get missed this year. For me, it’s Christmas cards.  I love to send them, I love to get them but I am letting it go this year.  There are just too many things to do and not enough time. Making that decision freed me of having it hang over my head. It just wasn’t in the cards this year. (pun intended)

5. GIVE!

This should really be first but if the holidays are difficult, stressful or sad for you the absolute best thing you can do is GIVE. It’s getting a little late in the game but I am sure there are still causes that need and would gladly accept last minute help. It may be giving of your time or a gift for someone in need but it will be the thing that brings you great joy this season.

ornament

Wishing you and yours a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

xo

This has been my year to be brave.

In the beginning of the year, actually at the end of 2012 ~ this verse leapt off the page to me and I didn’t really know just how much I would need to draw upon it until now.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged; the Lord your God is with you wherever you go ~ Joshua 1:9

For five years I’ve been sharing bits and pieces of my story and my struggle with depression but never in as much detail as this past Sunday.

A few months back my Pastor asked me if I would share my story as the wrap-up of a series called UNMASKED.  It was timely request.  After 7 years now of cycling in and out of rough bouts with depression I finally feel like I have a handle on how to cope with it.

Every time I make it through a rough patch I believe that I am done with it forever although I know that is not probable.  The difference now is that I feel like I have all the tools I need to fight. Until this past year I always felt like I was missing something. Now that I know how to combat the shame associated with depression I believe that I will never suffer as badly as I have in the past.

You can hear my story here. The message begins about 21 mins into the video.

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Shame affects every one of us without exception so regardless of whether you suffer from depression or not I believe this message will encourage you.  At least that is my hope and the reason that I have chosen to be brave and share.  As always I welcome your feedback and comments…

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.

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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.  

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

On June 8th, twenty eight years ago Danny and I got married.

me and Danny

Our hearts made lots of plans.

We planned to have children. We had two amazing boys. And then God completely surprised us with a daughter.  A most beautiful surprise that was not in the plan.

We lived on Long Island in New York.  We planned to have a nice house someday. And we do, but it is in New Port Richey, Florida.  A nice surprise since we both love the sunshine but that was not in the original plan.

We dreamed of having a business. We never imagined it would be selling (the best) chicken sandwiches and sweet tea! A great surprise but not exactly in the plan.

We planned to have Sunday dinners at my mom’s house as our children grew but sadly that ended abruptly when my boys were four and 1 year(s) old.

We planned on watching our kids grow up with their cousin Alex but she will remain forever 18 to us now that God has taken her to be with Him.

We planned on never speaking a harsh word to each other and always communicating openly and lovingly…well you know how that goes!

There is joy and heartache in every journey in every life and every married life. What has held us together and made this journey so beautiful is that even though we have made lots of plans and are still making them, we rely on the reassuring fact that God alone determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9

In his heart man plans his course but the Lord determines his steps

We still make plans. Lots of them. Exciting ones. But we hold them loosely knowing that there will be twists and turns and unexpected detours. We know that even though some of the bends in the road will be confusing, we will look back and see that they were leading us to the places that God intended for us to go.

Twenty eight years later by the grace of God, our love is sweeter, richer and deeper.

And we’re still making plans!

Grieving the loss of someone you love is painful.  Understatement, I know. The word grief conjures up images of heartbreak, crying and sadness.  It can be a dark place where memories haunt and regrets taunt.  But then mixed in is bittersweet joy as you recall sweet and happy times and you can feel their presence with you as if they were sitting right next to you.  Grieving brings on a roller coaster of emotions without a lot of advance notice of the next dip or turn.

I found myself experiencing all of that this past weekend as we celebrated the life of my mom who died almost 2 weeks ago.  My mom had a car accident in 1991 and was severely brain injured. She has been incapacitated for the past 21 years unable to eat, speak, or move her body with the exception of one arm.  It has been an extended grieving process for those of us who love her.  We have been preparing to let go for a very long time but when the final goodbye came, we realized that no matter how long you have to prepare you are never really ready.

my beautiful mom

What helped tremendously was having a ceremony.  We organized a memorial – a celebration of her life. Our family gathered together and cried and laughed and went though pictures and told stories. Some precious friends that didn’t know my mom came out of love for us and said they left feeling like they knew her which warmed our hearts. Her grandchildren, most of whom weren’t born before her accident, got to hear and learn things about her that they didn’t know. We celebrated her legacy which I will write about soon. And it was good. Really good.

Woven through the sadness was joy.  I realized how important it is to allow yourself to just be with the pain when you are feeling it, and allow yourself to grieve.  At first I kept trying to rise above it but it wasn’t working.  Once I really allowed myself to feel it, I was able to release it and move forward.

Right after my mom’s accident Psalm 27:13 brought me such comfort and I am now relying on it’s truth once again.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.

I will see her again. In the land of the living.  And although there is grief, there is also great joy in knowing that she is finally free and whole! It is comforting to know that I will carry her love and spirit with me until we meet again.

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