Moving forward

It’s been almost a year since we welcomed 2016. As I get older, time seems to be going by faster! I used to make a resolution every year on New Years Eve, but last year, instead of a resolution, I chose to focus on a word to give me a vision for change.

My word for 2016 was STRENGTH. I picked it after careful consideration for several reasons and found myself going back to it on many occasions. 2016 has had some challenges for me as I continue to take on the role of guardian for my aging (and ornery) mother. She had two major accidents this year that resulted in extended hospital and rehab stays. I found myself needing spiritual strength to get through the trials and continue to, as our relationship is complicated. I also prayed for strength this year as I shared my personal story in front of audiences of strangers, on radio and TV programs. During this past year, I also focused on my physical strength as I embraced several new fitness routines and saw the benefits on the inside and out! I have relied on my physical and mental strength to be the best mom possible for my four teenage sons. More recently, I have needed strength as I have returned to teaching and have a challennyeging group of students.
I’ve found that having a word to represent what I hope God will do for me has given me comfort and hope during difficult times.

I encourage you to try it and let me know what your word for 2017 will be!

 

Today and every day

This September I returned to teaching (because college and braces for four sons is expensive!) After eight years in high school, I decided to change things up and try out elementary school. Each day I spend time with 4th and 5th graders working on language arts, science, and math. Yesterday was an early release day, so as you might imagine, the kids were very excited. I did my best to make the day fun by doing some different types of activities.

In our language arts class, I asked my 5th graders to write a letter to one person who they were thankful for. Many chose their parents, a friend, or relative. I could tell that they were proud of their work and excited to give it to the recipient.  One student asked me who I would write my letter to and I smiled. Here is my Thanksgiving letter:

 

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Dear God,

Thank you for the many blessings that you have given me in my life. Thank you for having your hand on me when I was a young girl; scared, confused and unsure of my future. Thank you for putting people in my life to look to when my situation at home was so hard. I am thankful that you never gave up on me and pursued me until I finally realized that it was you that I was searching for. Thank you for blessing me with my husband and our four amazing sons. Finally, thank you for sacrificing your only son for our sins so that I (and many others) are reminded of what it means to be given grace. I can’t imagine my life without you, on Thanksgiving and every day.

Love,

Tracey

 

 

A reason to celebrate!

Today is my birthday! When we are young, we look forward to celebrating our special day with cupcakes, balloons, and friends. We make a wish for things that we hope will “come true” in the near future.

I’ve noticed that some people feel less like celebrating as they get older. In fact, our culture reinforces this by using phrases such as “over the hill.” We see ads for anti-aging creams and potions and are encouraged to reverse any sign of having lived. As I reflect on my past years of life, a happy marriage, raising four wonderful sons, establishing a career, saving money to explore new places, and writing a book, I feel fulfilled and certainly don’t want to erase any of that!

I like to think of every birthday as a new beginning; my own personal “New Year.” Yes, I’m a year older, but I’m also a year closer to many of my personal goals, some of which were met this past year. I’ve also grown in my faith this past year and look forward to learning more about Jesus in the next 365 days. I’m older, but also wiser and more content.

The truth is that God wants us to face everyday with joy! When we become followers, we are given a clean slate and the opportunity to face each day with gratitude for our life. Not every day will be easy, but knowing that we have a God who loves us gives us a confidence and strength unlike any other. We will be faced with temptations, but God has given us the power to change. We have tools to navigate uncertainty and be filled with a sense of peace.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT).

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So this year I invite you to join me and face every day as if it was your birthday. Smile, celebrate, be filled with joy. And eat a cupcake once in a while!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13 NIV).

Blessings,

Tracey

A new perspective

I will be starting a new full time job at the end of August, so I purposely ended my current job a few weeks early so that I could relax, get organized and have some fun. My last day was this past Thursday. On Sunday evening I was getting into my running clothes when I got a call from the assisted living facility where my mom lives. My mom had fallen and was being taken to the hospital via ambulance. I had a flashback to last December when she fell and broke her back. That resulted in a week at the hospital and three weeks at a rehabilitation center. As I put my regular clothes back on and headed to the hospital with my husband, I was anxious. We found my mom in the ER and learned that she had broken her hip and would require surgery. She was admitted to the hospital and the surgery was going to be the next day.  I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but as we headed home from the hospital after midnight, I was focused on myself.

There goes the rest of my summer. 

I returned the next day to see my mom in pre-op and pray that everything would be fine. After they took her into surgery I made my way to the waiting room. Adjacent to the waiting room was a kid’s play area, so I sat as far away as possible to avoid any noise. I wanted to be alone. A few hours later the surgeon came to me to tell me that everything went well and that she was in recovery and I would be able to see her soon. As he walked away my phone rang and it was my mother in law asking how everything was going. I gave her the report and she then told me that my father in law had fallen and hit his head and was on his way to the ER in an ambulance. My heart sank and my selfish thoughts returned.

There goes the rest of our summer.

After I visited with my mom and they took her to her room, I made my way to the ER to find my in-laws. As I walked through the surgical waiting area, something caught my eye. I saw that the area that was set up as a play area had become quite full and many adults were standing, hugging. I noticed that the sign on the wall said Pediatric Surgical Waiting Area. I stopped and stared at the people for a few minutes, trying to imagine their fear. It was like a slap in the face. My mom was going to be fine, but what about their child?

What about the rest of their summer?

I found my in-laws in the ER and my father in law had received many stitches and staples in his head. The CAT scan showed some bleeding and he was going to be admitted.  As I drove home from the hospital on that second day, I prayed out loud. I asked for forgiveness for being so selfish. I thanked God for keeping both our parents alive and asked for blessings for the parents in the pediatric surgical waiting room.

Today is the fourth day that I’m getting ready to return to the hospital. I will see my mom and father in law and remember to be thankful. This may not be the way that I thought the end of our summer would look like, but I remind myself that it could’ve been a lot worse.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Summertime magic

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Feel the warm sun on my face,

tanned skin, freckles, a slower pace.

Watermelon, corn on the cob, crabs,

no homework, tests, or science labs.

 

Laughter, games, friends and hugs,

come to dance with lightening bugs.

A break for students and those who teach,

flip flops, tank tops, a walk on the beach.

Welcoming with a wave at my feet,

the ocean is a summertime treat.

A playground for dolphins jumping pairs,

the salt remains on my skin and hair.

Three months is better than none,

let’s make the most of summertime fun!

 

 

 

Roadblock or Detour?

Do you ever wonder how you got to where you are? How sometimes you think you’re headed in a certain direction in life and then it changes?

Detour!

How do you handle it?

I recently had several detours in my life. I was plugging along as a HS special education teacher for eight years when I felt called to write a book (Detour #1). I found that balancing a full-time job, family and writing a book was nearly impossible and after a some serious prayer, decided to take a year off (Detour #2). Not long after I made this decision a part-time position opened up at my church and someone asked me if I’d be interested (Detour #3). It has been such a privilege to work with my pastor and other church staff and has given me even more appreciation for the wonderful things they do. After I released my book last year, I have had some amazing opportunities to share my story, write articles and appear on TV and radio programs during this time. I’ve also had the opportunity to focus more on my health and be more available for my four sons. I volunteered in my sons’ fifth grade class once a week to assist with math and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.  This got me thinking…..what if? So this September you will find me in fifth grade helping students with reading (Detour #4)!l-450744

When life hands you a sudden change, do you embrace it or allow it to throw you off course?

I can’t wait to see what is ahead!

Red, White and Blue (A 4BOYMOM Adventure)

The 4th of July is one of our families favorite holidays. We have a tradition of buying fireworks from a local stand and setting them off in the yard at night. One year we were at my in-laws beach house on the Chesapeake Bay for the holiday weekend. The day was filled with fun events including a local parade, playing in the water, and a picnic on the beach.

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As it got dark that evening, my husband began to set up the pyrotechnic display in the yard. Our 2nd son was about 3 1/2 at the time and was scared of the loud sound and ran inside to watch from the glass door. We oohed and ahhhed as the colorful display began. A few minutes later my mother in law exclaimed, “Oh my gosh….no…” as she was looking towards the house. I glanced back to see my little blonde cherub standing with a small American flag in his hand watching from behind the glass. “What?” I asked. She couldn’t respond as she was gagging and retching. I looked back at my son again and couldn’t imagine what had happened. I stood up, walked to the door and asked my son what happened and he just waved his little flag at me and smiled. I looked at my mother in law again and she was wiping tears from her face and trying to form words between gags. Annoyed I begged, “What happened?” At this point the show was finished and my husband joined us on the deck . Between gags, my mother in law explained what she has seen. My son, my bubbly, adorable toddler, had pulled his pants down, put the flag stick in his bottom and then curiously had put it in his mouth!

Horrified, the only word I could form was, “Why?”

The following week the same son developed a sore throat and ear infection. As I often did, I had to take all my kids to the appointment. As the doctor looked in son #2’s ears and throat my cherub said, “I think I know why I’m sick.” Dread filled my body as I began to pray (beg) silently, “God, please, don’t let him say it.”

The doctor said, “Oh? Why?”

I begged to be swallowed by the Earth as I heard my son begin, “Well, on the 4th of July I had this flag…”

Once my son finished the story, I couldn’t bring myself to look up at the doctor and the room went silent. My oldest son sat with his mouth hanging open, stunned that his brother just admitted (to a doctor) what he had done. After what felt like an eternity of silence, the doctor proceeded to tell my son(s) why we need to keep our hands and other objects away from our bottoms and as he left the room I was sure that our file folder got a big red slash drawn on the font.

Many years have passed since that incident and that doctor has retired, but something tells me that he hasn’t forgotten that story!

Encouragement for dads on Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads out there! Know that what you’re doing everyday makes a difference. Your children look to you for wisdom, guidance and love. Show them everyday what it looks like to work hard while finding balance. I hope that you can enjoy this day with your family!

I am honored to be able to share my article on this amazing site that provides encouragement for dads!

http://www.encouragingdads.com/2016/05/what-makes-a-good-dad/

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