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!

 

Let yourself rest!

I’ve daydreamed about a day off from work for the last several weeks. I even asked my husband if he could take a day off to go to the beach a few weeks ago. I imagined my perfect day off…a morning workout, coffee with a friend, wandering in and out of some shops, preparing a nice meal for my family and a nap (not necessarily in that order). But something stops me from taking this time for myself. Maybe it’s guilt or the need to be in control (and not trusting someone else to do my job).

Today I am home on a workday. It is a beautiful day and I am struggling to get out of bed. I hardly have a voice and my son said my cough sounds like I have been smoking for “100 years.” My dog’s whine reminds me that it is a perfect fall day for a walk. My throbbing head and body say no way. I’m feeling sorry that I didn’t take the time for myself when I was healthy.

This got me thinking….

Why is it so hard for us to allow ourselves to rest?

The Bible is very clear about the importance of rest. In order to rest, we must trust that God will take care of things for us. We need to have confidence that if we take a day off, the world will not stop spinning! If rest is defined as “a peace of mind or spirit,” then relaxing our control of our own lives, families, careers, etc., and trusting them to God in faith is the best way to relax.

We must remember that good health and the ability to enjoy life are gifts from God. We need to be good stewards of God’s gifts.

  • Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God. (Ecc 5:19)
  • Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 1:2 NASB)

If we want to be able to serve others and God in the long term, we need to practice self-care. Our mind, body and soul is the center from which all good work can flow. Life brings many challenges, and these challenges will be easier to overcome if we face them with a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to bed!

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

The future is bright

I am one hour and 15 minutes away from surviving my first week as an elementary school teacher.

Am I tired? You bet!

But my heart is full in a way that it hasn’t been before. Each morning I am greeted with a smile and a hug from a young student who is eager to learn. I have a chance to make an impact on their attitude towards school and their future opportunities. We use kind, positive words and encourage them to do the same.

Yes, I miss sleeping later and working out after the sun comes up, but I feel thankful for this opportunity!

I challenge you to think about your current situation. Are you fulfilled? Are you growing? Are you using the skills that God gave you?

I heard this quote recently and loved it: “Life shouldn’t be about working to make money. It should be about relationships.”

 

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

What I Learned from Working at A Church

I took this past school year off from teaching to finish writing and publish my book. During 705121_300x300this time I was lucky enough to have worked part time at my church as the assistant to the pastor. Yesterday was my last day and as I packed up my desk, I found myself reflecting on the experience. We see a lot of bad publicity about churches in the news and I thought I’d share a few things that I observed while working in one.

While these may not be true for all churches, here are a few things I learned during the last eleven months at the church I call home:

  1. The people who work at a church do it because they truly want to. They don’t get paid a lot and work many, many hours. They are filled with a passion for making the church a welcoming place for others.
  2. A lot of thought and preparation goes into each weekend. Don’t think that it’s just another Sunday- each song has been chosen and rehearsed by many, the message is carefully crafted, the lighting and videos are planned far in advance. Coffee, tea, soda, pens- all the things we take for granted don’t just magically appear, they require manpower. Churches NEED volunteers to help in many different ways.
  3. It takes a lot of work to do the fun events! Breakfasts, dinners, retreats, youth events, coat and food drives all require labor. Do not take these events for granted; several staff members worked overtime to make the event memorable.
  4. Just like any workplace, there can be drama when working at a church. But I found that at a church it’s a little different. People talk about the problem, possibly cry, figure it out, and then come back together because they realize that it’s not just about them. They are there to do God’s work.
  5. Employees at a church volunteer at the church outside of their work hours. This shows the level of commitment and dedication for the work that they are called to do. I can’t think of many other organizations where this happens in America.
  6. Pastors wear many hats. They are counselor, boss, friend, business partner and biblical expert. From my short time as an assistant, I am amazed that he can juggle so many things at once (and am a little worried because they didn’t hire a replacement for me yet).
  7. Prayer works. As part of an organization and community, I was able to take part and witness many answered prayer requests.
  8. The church community really cares for others. Whether it’s a move, new baby, hardship or death in the family, they rally around each other to provide comfort and support.

I am thankful that I had the opportunity to be a part of my church staff even if just for a short time. I encourage you to look around at all the things that make your church feel like home and thank those who make it happen!

“The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those who hearts are fully committed to him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9 (NLT)

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!

Can we be honest?

Protecting ourselves is human nature, it’s part of our “fight or flight” defense. We only want people to see the best parts of ourselves (think about your social media posts!) But what if everything we did was broadcast?

Do you have a part of your life that you hide or keep to yourself in order to prevent others from REALLY knowing who you are? Hiding the truth can be exhausting and will ultimately lead us further from God.

I kept a very big secret until I was 41 years old. I was sexually abused by my father and had never told anyone. I had lived a life that was far from honest and had tried to ignore it. I knew that it was standing in the way of my relationship with God, but didn’t know what to do about it.

The truth is that God already knows everything about us. So until we confess our sins, we aren’t being truthful with Him.

“People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.” Proverbs 28:13

When we decide to pursue living honestly, we will find ourselves on the way to becoming truly free.

So how do we do this?

The first step it to be honest with God. Ask for forgiveness and guidance for how to live an honest life. The payoff to being honest with God is freedom, hope and purpose.

“Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Psalm 32:5 (NLT)

The second step is to be honest with ourselves. I had to understand that my abuse was affecting my life, no matter how hard I tried to ignore it. Once I was honest with God and myself, it became clear to me that I needed to forgive my parents.

The third step is the hardest- to be honest with others. Once I addressed my abuse with my parents and started to tell others about my past, I was able to help myself grow closer to freedom. I share my story publicly to show others how trusting God with every part of our life and being honest with ourselves and others is healthy.

“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” Ephesians 4:15 (NLT)

I hope that if you are hiding part of your life, you will start searching for honesty and forgiveness with God, yourself and others. I promise that it will lead to contentment and love!

To read more of my story go to http://www.traceycasciano.com

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