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I have a lovely flower garden.  But I didn’t always.

Before I decided to get intentional about making my garden look nice, I would just wish that I had one.  I wished I could just close my eyes and *poof* a beautiful garden appear.  But great gardens don’t just happen.

In my wishing stage I would see other people’s gardens and find myself being jealous.  And then I would make excuses. A list of reasons why I didn’t have a nice garden.  I decided that there was something wrong with the soil in my front yard. Every time I planted flowers, they would inevitably shrivel up and die.  So I blamed the full sun exposure of my yard. Excuses, excuses.

Last month, I decided to trash the excuses and get serious about finding out what it would take to have a thriving garden.  That was step one.

STEP ONE: Stop making excuses!

So let’s apply this principle to life.

Is there something in your life that you have been dreaming of doing? Do you see someone else pursuing their dream and find yourself being envious that you are not living yours?  Do you have a gift that you could be sharing with the world that you are not using? Do you find yourself making excuses for why you are not stepping out?

If the answer is yes to any of the above, then it’s time to stop making excuses.  There is a difference between a reason and an excuse. If you really peel back the so called “reasons” that you can’t pursue your dream, you will most likely find that they are actually excuses in disguise.  People that really want to do something will go out of their way and overcome incredible obstacles in order to do it. We read inspiring stories about them all the time. I would like to encourage you to make a list of your “reasons” why you cannot move forward with your idea or your dream and scratch out the ones that are really excuses in disguise.

Every dream, no matter how big, starts with one small step.

What is that one step that you need to take today to start moving in the direction of your dream?

Food for thought:  “Not enough time” and “not enough money” are both excuses.

Tomorrow, I’ll share my personal experience with this step. Hope you’ll check back.

Have a wonderful day!

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, 
bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept.”

I have been doing a lot of gardening lately. This is a fairly recent passion. The more I get into it the more I have seen so many parallels to life.

My gardening endeavor coincided time-wise with preparing for our Girls Night Out that we had this past Monday evening.  The topic of the evening was a serious one ~ Human Trafficking, specifically sex trafficking.  It is not a pleasant topic yet it is important that we talk about this and don’t ignore what is going on right under our noses, in our city, on our watch. (and not just our city ~ lots of cities and even small towns)

According to the Clearwater Area Task Force on Human Trafficking’s website recent studies estimate that approximately 18,000 to 50,000 people are trafficked into the United States annually with Florida being one of the top 3 destination states.

And so if we look at our community as our “garden” and we want to bring out the God-colors in our corner of the world, we must do what every gardener has to do when they get started.


We must clear the garden of the things that are choking or eating away at the potentially beautiful plants and flowers.  The Task Force is working hard to do that along with the lawmakers and concerned citizens that are aware and looking for signs, calling the hotline with potential leads.

We must create safe and nurturing environments for the flowers and plants to grow.  We must make sure the soil that they are planted in is rich with nutrients.  Organizations like Created and Bridging Freedom are doing just that.  Making sure that the victims that are rescued have a safe place to recover and rehabilitate.

We must commit to caring for our plants and flowers.  We cannot expect to plant flowers in the ground and just expect them to thrive.  They need water, fertilizer and light! If we want to see change we must commit to helping in someway.  Everybody can do something.

Our evening ended with this song.  If you have time, have a listen.

COMING UP:  I will be expounding on the gardening theme but how it applies to our personal lives and dreams…stay tuned 🙂

I remember Good Friday being a big deal when I was a little girl.  My grandmother made fish (which I wasn’t crazy about and didn’t understand the significance of) and we went to church.  Over the years it seems like Good Friday does not get the kind of attention it did then.  We attended a Lutheran church when I was little. Maybe the Lutheran church still makes a big deal of it.

Anyway, I have just been thinking today about what a very big deal it really is.

It was the day it all changed.

The day that salvation came.
The day that redemption was set in motion.
The day of justification and pardon.
The day of freedom for you and for me.

There is a Redeemer, 
Jesus, God’s own Son,
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah, 
Holy One!

Thank you, oh my Father
For giving us Your Son,
And leaving Your Spirit, 
‘Til the work on Earth is done. 

(Excerpt from “There is a Redeemer” written by Melody and Keith Green)

There is still so much work to be done.  So many broken people in need of hope.  I find myself this Good Friday challenged to be a messenger of hope. The hope that Jesus died to bring.

I love this conversation between Jesus and his disciples just before he died:

Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” 

And since we are children of the light everyone of us must let His light shine. 

Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice ~ help me to let your light shine.

The vision of For the Girls International was born in the middle of one of the darkest times of my life.  At the time I didn’t really know it was a vision.  It just seemed like an odd thought.  Very odd.  The depression was the result of some physical issues with my thyroid combined with a lot of emotional stress.

It was the year I was turning 40 and my oldest son was graduating high school and preparing to leave for college.   It sounds a little ridiculous to even write but I was just not ready for any of that. It seemed like one day he was my little boy and then poof ~ he was a young man and would be leaving me!  I wasn’t ready to move into the phase of life where all my children were not sleeping safely under my roof.  I don’t know what I thought “ready” would look or feel like, I just knew that I wasn’t ready.  On top of that my grandfather who I loved dearly was dying. I was trying to be there for my grandmother and help walk her through the pain of losing her life and soul mate. It was a rough time. It didn’t seem like enough to throw me into the darkness that I was in but in addition to the physical and emotional challenges of life there is always a spiritual element too.

1 Peter 5:8 tells us:
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

It is not a pleasant subject but it is a reality that we must be aware of.  We have a God that loves us and delivers us but we also have an enemy that hates us and wishes to destroy us. Our adversary is constantly on the prowl to see who he can kick while they are down.  He uses lies fired at our minds to try to convince us that God has forgotten about us or is not loving because He is allowing us to go through a valley experience.  But the truth is our enemy is powerless.  The truth is God is aware of every circumstance we are in and intends to use what we learn through those experiences to strengthen our faith.  We in turn can use those faith building experiences to encourage and influence those around us to have strength on their journey.  And so faith and strength multiplies through the hardest times of our life.  

We must be alert and realize that we have an enemy so that we don’t fall prey to his lies and temptations.  Then we must rely on our Redeemer to rescue us and lift us out of the darkness as He promises that He will.  1 Peter 5:10 tells us:

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

This sounds a little heavy for a Monday morning but praying that someone needed to hear it!  
The darkest hour is just before the dawn. NEVER GIVE UP!

A few years ago I was preparing a message for one of our conferences.  It was based on Hebrews 12:1 about running our race with perseverance.  I was praying that God would lead me to the resources I needed to gather information for my talk.

Soon after praying, I got an email from a friend who is a fitness instructor and she was offering to train a group of women to run a 5K.  Something in my head said, “There’s your resource ~ you should train for the 5K.” I promptly ignored the voice and clicked out of the email.

That was not the kind of resource I meant.  I meant books, or articles.  Something that I could read from the comfort of my couch.  I strongly dislike any form of physical exercise and to make matters worse the training would be at 6:00am!! I dislike getting out of bed early in the morning almost as much as I dislike physical exercise.

A few days went by and I could not ignore the prompting so I conceded and signed up for the training.

When I was in school people would always think, because I have long legs, that I am a runner.  But I am not.  My legs just don’t work that way.  I have weak ankles and no stamina.

But I made it a goal to finish the 5K.  The first day we just did one lap around her neighborhood and I was pretty glad I did that without passing out.  I could not imagine that I could ever accomplish much more than that.  But Jenni, my trainer, encouraged me that I would build strength and endurance as I went along.  I would have been happy to settle for being able to run a few laps around her neighborhood but she kept pushing and to my amazement I was able to complete the race.

God may be calling you to something that you feel like is stretch for your current ability and skill set.  They dream that he’s given you may overwhelm you at times and it may tempting to settle for less.

But be confident of this ~

 “…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
 Phillipians 1:6
As you keep moving forward towards your goals and dreams God will give you just what you need for every step of the journey.  So keep running!

If we are going to see the dreams that God has planted in our hearts come to fruition we must have faith to believe that He is able to make them happen. Sometimes we settle for less just because we don’t know how to access the faith that we do have.

You may be thinking to yourself that you don’t have a lot of faith in comparison to others.  Maybe you don’t.  But you have some.  I know that because Romans 3:12 says, “…as God has dealt to each a measure of faith.” If you feel like maybe you were dealt a smaller amount, which is how I feel sometimes, then take comfort in the fact that it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed to move a mountain!!

So much for the excuses!! We all have faith and it only takes a little teeny bit to move mountains. Now it is a matter of drawing upon it and growing it.

So how does it grow?

The first thing I do when my faith is low is pray.  There is a story in Mark 9 of a desperate father pleading with Jesus for healing for his son. Jesus tells him, “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Then the man says, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Read the whole story here)

I cannot tell you how many times I have prayed that prayer.  And it works.  God stands ready and willing to increase your faith if you simply ask for it! 

The next thing I do is pick up my bible.  Plain and simply, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17.

Lastly, I call to mind times in the past when God has come through for me.  The recollection of all that He has done for me in the past builds my faith to believe for my future. I learned this from David.  Whenever I am feeling hopeless about the future I love to read the Psalms because then I don’t feel so bad.  David was absolutely miserable at times!! But he pulls through by remembering all the times that God was faithful and it brings him hope. (Psalm 143, Psalm 77)

I love this quote from Corrie Ten Boom…

Faith is like radar that sees through the fog.

Patience.  The word itself makes me start to squirm. I, like a lot of people, hate to wait.  I realized recently that the main reason that I often cut it too close for appointments or meetings and end up being late is because I hate the idea of getting somewhere early and having to wait

Several years back I needed to find a full-time job. I heard through the grape vine that that there was a possibility that the Production Director at the church that I was attending was leaving and his job would soon be available.  It was a great solution for me since I already spent a lot of time volunteering in that department.  I was excited but weeks and weeks went by and the church administration had not posted the job and there was no indication of when it might happen. I was feeling the pressure to find something quickly and my husband was encouraging me to look elsewhere.  I knew that the production job was the job for me.  I remember being so upset with God because I could see the perfect fit but He was not moving fast enough for me.  Ever been there?

I distinctly remember the day that I said to myself, “Fine, obviously this is not going to happen anytime soon so I will just go find a job myself.” I was definitely hoping that God would overhear me. I thought to myself that I would show God and my husband that I was fully capable of finding something on my own it and making it happen all by myself.

Caution: I do not recommend taking matters into your own hands and/or thinking that you can “show” God anything. 

I did go out and find a job in a call center of a uniform company but it was the most miserable two working weeks of my life!  It was the only time I have left a job without notice.  I’m not proud of that, but it was that bad!

The day I quit, I went home and dissolved into tears apologizing to God and surrendering my plans to Him.  It was such a huge lesson to me.  Two days later the job at the church came through.

Even though that experience was a little blip on the map of my life it was a lesson I tucked away in my heart and when I feel anxious and tempted to settle for less than what I know God has promised for me I remember those long two weeks in that dingy call center and the lesson I learned about waiting on Him.

So many times in life we quit believing or holding out for the best just shy of it coming to pass.  Don’t be tempted to settle for less.  Hang on and hold out for the best!

Psalm 27:13-14   

I would have been without hope if I had not believed that I would see the loving-kindness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord. Be strong. Let your heart be strong. Yes, wait for the Lord. New Life Version (NLV)

Every year we host a Christmas party at our house for my husband’s employees.  We look forward to our chance to serve his team.  For the last few years we have had a white elephant gift exchange which is always fun. They all try to outdo each other with funny gifts but the all- time winner for me was the guy who brought a hamster as his gift.  Yes, a live hamster!  My husband knew that my daughter would love it so he “stole” it.  Weeks later I was watching that silly rodent go around and around and around on her wheel.  She was getting nowhere fast. 
Do you ever feel that way?
Sometimes I find myself running and running but accomplishing very little.
When I first began this journey of FTGI I had the privilege of speaking with author and speaker Lysa Terkeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries for some words of wisdom.  (You can read about our God ordained connection here)  During the course of our conversation she talked about the need to be intentional about how we spend our time if we are going to pursue the calling on our life. 
Intentional.  I loved that word.  I still love it but it is also a challenge for a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of girl like me. 
As the years go by I find that it is more important than ever to be intentional about what I put my hand to and what I commit to. I need to make sure that the things I say “yes” to line up with my priorities based on what I believe God has called me to do.  If I don’t I could very easily get distracted and slow down progress on my assignment for this season in my life.  

So sometimes in order to LIGHTEN UP we need to strip down our schedule in order to focus. 
It may be possible to run so fast that it slows you down.
As a child I used to get in trouble in school for daydreaming. I often heard things like, “Earth to Tracey” or “Hellooooo???” in an effort to get my attention that had wandered out the window.  I remember during gym class being in the outfield of a kickball game and my classmates being mad at me because I missed the ball.  I was in an “outfield” of my own!  Daydreamers often get labeled as “flighty” or “drifty”.  I was affectionately nicknamed “Spacey Tracey” because my mind was often off dreaming instead of attending to the task at hand.  

My “spaciness” or absentmindedness has carried over to adulthood and is often a nuisance because it results in lost car keys among other things and sometimes lost time but I have learned to embrace it.

If you can’t dream it, you can’t have it! 

One particular daydreaming episode involved my hubby.  I was in 10th grade and the marching band was rehearsing outside my French class window.  They were playing “Laughter in the rain” by Neil Sedaka (hey – it was 1981 ok?) Anyway, I had a serious crush on my now husband and remember my mind dancing right out the window following the notes of the band and envisioning him and I holding hands and laughing in the rain, getting married and having wonderful children.  You can laugh all you want but 26 1/2 years later here we are!!  And I keep dreaming.  Dreaming of him and I surrounded by our happy children and grandchildren to come all living out the lives God intended for them.  It’s more than daydreaming to me – it’s vision.  And keeping that vision in front of me has given me perspective during the not so fun times.  It reminds me of the big picture and what I am working towards.

On the other hand I am very aware that not every dream comes true.  I had a dream in my younger years of gathering at my mother’s house on Sundays for dinner with all the family around and lots of laughter and love. But life stole that dream.  So here’s what I had to do.

I dreamed another dream.

I remember one particular Mother’s Day feeling a little sorry for myself but knowing that I couldn’t stay in that place. It’s an ugly place to be. I made a decision that since I couldn’t experience those family dinners from the perspective of me going to my mom’s house that I would dream a new dream.  A dream where my family would gather at my house and there would be lots of laughter and love. I decided to treasure the memories of my time with my mom but to continue making new ones.

This past Christmas trying to serve 24+ people at my Christmas dinner table and the volume at crazy decibels I had to remind myself… You dreamed this! And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

What I love about living this life of faith is that God continually plants new dreams inside of us.  These days I dream of ways to spread the message that I believe everyone needs to hear.  The message that there is a God that loves them and sees them and is for them not against them and is just waiting to make their dreams come true. 

Well this blog definitely went in a different direction than I intended it to but I am going to go with it and believe that someone needed that encouragement today.

Take some time out today to dream a little.  If a dream has died – dream a new one today!

As always, I’d love to hear from you.  Sometimes speaking a dream out loud is the very first step towards it becoming a reality…so what are you dreaming??

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart.
Psalm 37:4
Have you ever been thinking about someone and then the very next day you bump into them or someone mentions them in conversation?  It’s so weird when that happens and many times we will say, “What a coincidence!”  But I think there are a lot fewer coincidences than we may imagine.  I could easily be accused of over-spiritualizing things but I really truly believe that those coincidences are God speaking. 
Sometimes when I tell someone of how God “spoke” to me on a particular subject their response will be, “I wish he would speak to me like that.”  It would be fun to think that I am special (well, I am – but so are you!!) and the truth is God speaks to every one of us. Many times it is a matter of tuning in. 
Did you ever notice that when you get a new car all of the sudden you see that make and model and even color car everywhere.  I never ever noticed white Grand Ams on the road until I got one.
Once you condition yourself to recognize the coincidences in your life as the voice of God you will hear Him more and more. 
I’ll tell you why this is on my mind.  I’ve had a few too many “coincidences” lately to write them off.  In January FTGI is rolling out a mentorship program called SHINE.  We will have ShineGIRL for young girls and ShineWomen for adults.  Anyway, everytime we start a new venture or program I am always praying to make sure that we are on the right road.  So the other day I was standing on line at the pharmacy at Publix and there was a little pamphlet (I don’t even know what it was for) and it said right across the top in bold letters — SHINE!  It made me smile to myself.  Someone else might think I was reaching, but I took it as a little nod from heaven.
Then a few days later I was on a plane flipping through a magazine and there was a full page ad for Heidi Klum’s new fragrance —SHINE!
Last Wednesday my brother and I went to see a Broadway play while I was in New York. When we entered the theater I looked over at the merchandise and there was a shirt with big letters in glitter —SHINE!  The second song of the play was SHINE and pretty much the overall message was that “You can shine!”
Coincidence, I don’t think so. 
Here’s the thing.  Psalm 139 says (and I’m paraphrasing here) that He knows when we sleep and when we rise, He knows our thoughts, He knows our comings in and our goings out, we cannot get away from His prescence…no matter where we go, what we do, who we hang out with…He is right there. 
And if we believe that He directs our steps then why is it hard to believe that He would plant things along our path to communicate with us?  If you get the chance today read Psalm 139 and realize how completely tuned into you He is! It’s like putting a warm cozy blanket of His love around you to wear as you go about your day. (I guess it would be awkward to wear a blanket all day…unless you are just hanging out on the couch all day…which sounds like fun..but you get what I’m saying…)
Look for His subtle messages!  I would love to hear about “coincidences” that you have had! Post a comment!
Have a great day and stay sane during this busy holiday season…on my way out to brave the mall! Pray for me 😉