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find your calling, purpose, ministry, passions, “Calling” – I’m not crazy about the term because it produces a lot of angst for some people. I admit I have used it many times for lack of a better word, but in recent years I have grown tired of how it is thrown around.

It creates unnecessary pressure for those who may wonder if they even have one. For some, it can become a frustrating quest and a breeding ground for feelings of inadequacy. I have encountered people who, because they do not have a job, title or position that is focused on a specific cause, struggle with feeling “less than” those who do.

That is partly due to how this term is used. I have heard countless times in church, read many times in books and articles that it is important for everyone to “find their calling” as if it is hidden somewhere.

It is true that there are some people whose passions are very focused and translate into a job or position in life which makes it clear to everyone else what their “calling” is.  For example, I have a dear friend whose passion is to spread joy. She has found a way to do that by bringing hula-hoops around the world and sharing the gospel and love of God everywhere she goes.  It is pretty evident that she has “found her calling.” When you meet her, passion exudes from her.  (Her name is Carissa, and this is her website – you should check it out!)

On the other hand, there are many people who are using their God given gifts and passions to impact the world around them positively without a title or position or what would be considered a “calling” in the sense that it is so often used.  Their “calling” is much more subtle than a missionary for example.

My husband is a great case in point.  (Fortunately he doesn’t read my blog on a regular basis because he’d probably kill me for using him as an example!) He is a business owner who uses his knowledge, his love of people and his passion for excellence and success in order to provide security and provision for his family and employees.   Is his “calling” to run a quick-service restaurant? No, not really. It is difficult to sum up his calling.  But every day he influences his team members by being an example of a godly business leader.  Future leaders are learning from him.  He has been an example of a faithful husband and father to me and our children.  He helps advise me as I lead the non-profit For the Girls International. His scope of influence is far and wide, but he is not in the ministry and would not really even consider himself to have a “calling” in the sense that we hear it used.

Some may see what I do with For the Girls International and surmise that my calling is to encourage women. That is true, but if you asked my husband, he would tell you my calling is also to be his wife and mother to our children. On a day when I am encouraging someone suffering from depression one might think my calling was to counseling or coaching but it is just part of what I believe my “calling” is. I am wildly passionate about all of those things and believe they are all part my calling.

So, in the broader sense of the term I would define my calling to be this:

My calling is to be led by the Holy Spirit daily, ever becoming who He has made me to be, allowing what I “do” to naturally evolve from there.

It’s really just a matter of semantics but sometimes words can confuse people and cause unnecessary pressure.  I would really like to hear your take on the whole idea of having a “calling.”  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

vulnerability

I thought that might get your attention!

But, it’s not what you are thinking. What I had was a vulnerability hangover.

Let me explain.

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to speak at my church. It was a message of encouragement but within the message I told the entire congregation about the fact that my depression had gotten so bad last year that I decided to treat it with medication. It was pertinent to the conversation because I was talking about shame – something I felt a great deal of and had to fight off. I felt good about sharing because even though I knew it would be uncomfortable, I believed it would help someone.

It went well and many people thanked me for my transparency. On Sunday night, I felt like I had accomplished what I set out to do.

Then Monday came.

I woke up and thought, “I can’t believe I shared such personal details with 3 services worth of people not to mention those who may watch the video.” I was experiencing a vulnerability hangover. I didn’t make that up. It is a term coined by Brené Brown, researcher of such topics as courage, vulnerability, authenticity, empathy and shame. Brené explains that a vulnerability hangover is “the feeling that sweeps over us after we feel the need to connect… and we share something deeply meaningful. Minutes, hours, or days later, we begin to feel regret sweep over us like a warm wave of nausea.”

I’m happy to say that because I have been sharing bits and pieces of my story for a while now, my hangover was not too bad. I was able to shake it off pretty quickly having learned these 3 things.

#1  It’s worth it.

The discomfort of vulnerability is worth it when you weigh it against the value of connection.  Connection, true connection is what people who are in need are looking for.  It doesn’t help them to see someone who acts like they have it all together all the time – it only adds to their shame and impedes their ability to open up and share themselves. When true connection is made, we share. When we share we heal.

#2  It’s not the critic who counts. (thank you, Theodore Roosevelt!)

At the heart of the vulnerability hangover is the fear of being judged.  Since depression is classified as a mental illness I battle the fear of being defined by my struggle. There are people who will disagree with how I choose to handle and overcome depression but in the end it is not those people who I necessarily feel drawn to connect with.  I have come to terms with the reality that there will be those who may not understand or have a different opinion than I do. I have resolved that I answer only to the One who has called me to share my story in order to help others.

#3  It’s not about me.

We live in a me-driven world. As a Christian and follower of Jesus, I want to live as He lived.  He lived His life entirely for others.  Notice I said I WANT to live as He lived. That doesn’t mean I always do, by any means. But when I am feeling exposed and vulnerable I remember that in order to live the way I claim to want to live, it requires dying to myself and living for a greater cause.  Ironically, it ends up being the best thing for ME. It is where I derive true joy and peace – so in the end it sort of is about me.  But that’s how God works.  The more we pour ourselves out on behalf of others the more he pours joy and peace into us. It’s a pretty good deal.

Final thought on vulnerability, again from Brené Brown. (can you tell I love her and her work?)

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. 

Amen.

Have you ever experienced a vulnerability hangover after taking a courageous step to share a part of yourself?  I’d love to hear about it ~ please leave a comment!

Find my phone, Yesterday Danny and I were flying home from New York and about half way through the flight I realized I had misplaced my phone.  I spent most of the flight being so frustrated with myself. I am constantly backtracking to find things I misplace.

Thanks to “Find My Phone,” an iPhone feature, I was able to see that it was still in N.Y. somewhere on 23rd Ave in Queens. It had to be at the car rental place. Uugh. I called and the girl at the desk searched and couldn’t find it.

That’s because she wasn’t meant to. Darius was.

Around 1pm I received a call to Danny’s phone from the Darius the manager of Budget.  The shuttle bus driver had turned my phone in to him. He had noticed the message on my home screen that said that the phone was lost and directed him to call Danny’s number.

I was thrilled and thanked him a thousand times. He told me to email my address to him and he would send it to me ~ no charge! Nice.

I emailed my address to him but Darius noticed something on my signature line caught his attention.

Here is our email exchange. Read from the bottom arrow up.

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That made my day! I love how God can take a really annoying personality flaw and use it for someone else’s good!

Have you got an out of the box story about how God has spoken to you or someone you know?  I’d love to hear it.  One of the chapters of the book I’m writing is God Can Talk. It is not always how you would imagine!

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.

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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

As a follow up to yesterday’s blog I thought I share with you a little nugget I got from reading Esther’s story this past week. Esther is an incredible example of a woman who knew who she was and used every bit of it to fulfill God’s purpose in her life.

King Xerxes was looking for a new queen.  Esther was chosen along with many others to be pampered and beautified for a whole year and then presented to the king one by one for him to choose his new bride from the group of beautiful women.

So there is this group of women of which Esther was one, all vying for the same position of queen. And here’s how it went…

Thus prepared, each young woman went to the king, and she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the women’s quarters to the king’s palace.15 Now when the turn came for Esther to go in to the king, she requested nothing but what the custodian of the women, advised. And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her. Esther 4:17 (edited)

I bolded and underlined the part that leapt off the page when I was reading this the other day. Esther knew something that each of us need to know. SHE WAS ENOUGH.

She didn’t need to load herself up with things to make her feel better about herself. She didn’t need to add to what she already had.  She operated from a quiet confidence that she was enough and as you will see in the next verse it won her favor and she was crowned queen.

Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen… Esther 4:17

The book of Esther is all about God’s providence although interestingly God’s name is not even mentioned in it.  However, it is clear that God called Esther to a position of power so that she could influence the king and save her people from genocide.

God positioned her to fulfill His purpose through her.

Here’s what I tend to do when God calls me to do something – see if you can relate.

First, I look at what I think it requires.  Then, I look at myself, my capabilities and I immediately conclude that I need to add something in order to fulfill the task….maybe I should go to school because I don’t have enough education. I think to myself…if only I had certain connections or more money I could get started.  If only I was more talented… and then I have to stop and realize what Esther realized.

If God has called me to a position then He knows that I am capable. All I need to bring is myself and He will equip me to fulfill His purpose for my life. What a relief! I can stop spinning myself in circles trying to measure up!

Of course we can always learn more and hone our skills and make new connections and find new ways of doing things but we must operate from the core knowledge that we alone are enough.

What have you been waiting to start because you thought you needed something more?  You already have what you need – YOU!

And you are enough! Walk boldly and confidently towards your destiny.

esther

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What makes a woman beautiful?enough

There is certainly no quick answer to that question.  It’s very easy to pinpoint some of the things that do not help us to appreciate our own beauty.  Everywhere we turn we are fed images of what beauty is supposed to look like and when don’t look like those images we can easily assume that we are not beautiful.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  

When we operate from a position of knowing who we are at our core – a child of God – loved beyond measure- it bursts from inside of us causing us to shine on the outside. Here’s what 1 Peter 3:3-4 says:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Note that the verse doesn’t say we shouldn’t wear jewelry or care about our outer appearance but that our beauty should not COME from those things. I often think about Mother Theresa when I think of the quiet confidence that is referred to in this verse.  What a beautiful woman she was! Her beauty came from within herself.  She knew who she was and what she had to offer and she gently and quietly went about her business changing lives and bringing love and hope to thousands.

When we are unhappy with ourself our spirit is not quiet.  It is warring inside of us and it ends up showing on the outside. When our confidence and self esteem are low, our spirit is not at rest and it speaks loudly and clearly to those around us.

So how do we begin to get back to a place where our spirit is at rest inside of us?

It starts with 3 words.  I AM ENOUGH.

You, just the way you are with your scars and your weaknesses are worthy of the love of the Creator of the universe. God knows every hair on your head and his thoughts of you are so many that they can’t be counted. He has a purpose for you in this season of your life and He wants your spirit to be at rest so that His love can shine through you.

Take a deep breath right where you are and say these words… I AM ENOUGH.

Stop trying so hard. There is nothing you could do today that could make Him love you more than He already does!

Every summer we come here to this beautiful sleepy little town called Jefferson on Damariscotta Lake in Mid Coast Maine.  We have been blessed to take many vacations of all different sorts…fancy cruises, lovely resorts, city hotels but our vacation in Maine is my favorite for lots of reasons. Here are three of them.

1. I am reminded of the importance of LEGACY.

The modest little cottage that we stay in was owned by my grandparents when they were alive here on earth and left to their children collectively for the family to enjoy. I have taken over the management of the cottage this year and in doing so I have had more interaction with the people in the town. I have always known that my grandfather had an incredible reputation, but it has really hit home this year.  As I meet people and tell them my family name the response is always the same if they knew my grandfather.  The three words that come up consistently when people recall their dealings with him are integrity, honesty and generosity. It makes me proud to be his granddaughter but it also makes me wonder about how I will be described when I am gone.  What will people say about me?  Will it be consistent?

I love to be reminded to live my life with intention, conscious of the legacy I am creating.

2. I am reminded of how little I really need to be HAPPY.

I have a beautiful 3 bedroom 4 bathroom home in Florida with all the modern conveniences and a list of even more that I want if I am completely honest. I can easily get caught up in the more, more, more mind-set. For example, I couldn’t wait to replace my stained carpet in my living areas with wood floor but then once that was done it made me notice how shabby the bedroom carpets are looking.  Before I know it I can become dissatisfied and buy into the idea that I will be happier if I just have this or if I just have that.

In our little cottage in Maine we have a floor made of painted plywood and some scattered area rugs.  The furniture is older than my oldest child and none of the doors close properly.  There is no dishwasher or clothes washer or dryer. And yet I am as happy as can be there because I am with my family and there are no distractions or pressures. Instead of watching TV or working on our computers each night (with the exception of the occasional blog!) we play games and laugh with each other. Our meals are simple and made with limited pots and pans that we improvise with, but they taste better for some reason than those made at home with all the proper cookware.

I love being reminded that sometimes less really is more.

3. I am reminded that there is FREEDOM in not caring so much about how I look!

While we are here I never blow dry my hair. I hardly ever wear make-up but if I do it is very little- just enough to ensure that I don’t frighten poor unsuspecting strangers. I don’t look in the mirror much and I don’t think much at all about what I look like. And I love it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a slave to fashion and probably always will be but being free of caring for a little while is really refreshing.  And it makes you realize how silly it is to get too caught up in all of that superficial stuff.

I’ve always joked that I subscribe to Billy Crystal’s credo in the old SNL skit…”it’s better to look good than to feel good” but as I sit here in my ripped jeans and comfy old t-shirt with my frizzy hair I am reminded that that it is not always true!

Greetings from the shores of Damariscotta Lake xo

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P.S. This blog was written while the gang was out tubing on the lake so it was allowed 😉

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

Yesterday I turned 48. And I believe I have turned a corner.

I have always joked that I subscribe to the philosophy from the old Oil of Olay ad that said…

“I don’t intend to grow old gracefully. I’m going to fight it every step of the way.”

But I’ve changed my mind.  I don’t mean that I’m going to stop covering my gray hair or stop using $40 eye cream to diminish my “smile lines,” but I have decided to stop feeling like I am in a race against time and remind myself that every season of life has it’s own beauty.

I remember a funny conversation I had with Danny when I was pregnant with our first child. It’s even funnier now but we laughed about it then.  We were discussing his job.  He was doing route sales for a company called SafetyKleen.  He made a really good salary for being just out of college but he didn’t see a future for himself there.  During the conversation he said, “I feel like it’s time to make a change. You know, I’m not getting any younger.” It made me laugh out loud because he was only 22!

We realized how silly it sounded for a 22 year old to feel the pressure of aging but I think no matter how old we are we are always at risk of feeling like we are racing the clock.

The truth is no matter how old we are, we are not getting any younger. If I am going to allow myself to feel any urgency from that truth it is going to be the urgency to live more in the moment.  It’s the only time that we can be sure of.

I love this Message version of Matthew 6:34

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

What is God doing in your life right NOW that you can give your entire attention to?

today-moment

How about you?

 

 

 

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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