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

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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What really matters?

I’ve had the opportunity to go to Guatemala on a mission trip as a chaperone for my church’s youth group two different times and both trips impacted me in different ways. The first trip we spent our time in Guatemala City, where there is a clear division between the “haves and have nots.” As we drove from the airport to where we were staying, we passed McDonald’s, Starbucks and a shopping mall. But as we continued driving, I was shocked to see the condition of how some people lived.

552On the side of a mountain there were corregated metal lean-tos and tents. No plumbing, no electricity. It was on this side of the mountain where we learned that people cooked over open fires and breathed in the dangerous fumes. Our group had raised money for months prior to pay for and build stoves for these people during our trip.

We spent a lot of our time at a church in a poor part of town where gangs are prevalent. At this church we hosted a Vacation Bible School for families to bring their children to. The children ranged in age from toddlers to teens and we were treated like royalty. We played games, ate a hot meal together and prayed with the families. It was at this church where many of the families saw a free doctor and received clothing and supplies.

O427n the days we built the stoves, we loaded our truck with the supplies and headed to the side of the mountain that I had seen on our drive from the airport. My heart sunk as I recognized some of the kids from the church and realized that this was where they lived. Each time we built a stove, we asked if we could pray with the family and asked God to bless them. We prayed for the kids and hoped that they would be able to avoid getting involved in the gang life. That first trip was a very humbling experience and as I returned home I had a big culture shock as I stood in my own closet and wept.

 

Why do I have so much and they have so little?

Slowly the shock wore off and I returned to my normal life. I tried to remind myself of what I had experienced and how I had felt, but it wasn’t until we went for our second trip that I really remembered.

608The second time we went to an rural area outside of the city at the base of a volcano called Pacaya. Our bunkhouse was separated from the locals by a chain link fence. As we emerged each morning, the children were waiting for us on the other side of the fence. They welcomed us with hugs and a game of soccer. As we got acclimated, it was apparent that the people who lived here were a lot worse off than those in the city.  Each morning we made trips to see locals and deliver food baskets. The locals made money by going to town and selling eggs, coffee beans, or doing manual labor. No one had a car, so each morning a bus came and the men piled on and were gone for the day. Each afternoon we hosted a program for the children. We helped build a cinderblock building that is now used as a school and painted a building that is now a medical building. As we visited with the locals, we saw that many were cooking over open flames. We made note of the situations that were the worst and returned to build a stove.419

One day as we were delivering food baskets, I took in the despair in front of us. A women with three young kids in a one room “house” made of corrugated metal siding and a tarp for the roof. As the translator explained that we were there to give her food and some dry goods, she began to weep. The translator explained that the gift was not from us, but from God. The kids came forward and started digging into see what we had brought and my heart broke. The translator asked if we could pray with her and the woman agreed. We asked if there was anything specific that we could pray for. I was prepared for her to ask that we pray that she and her family would be able to leave and find a better life, but what she said took me aback.

In sob-filled Spanish, she asked the translator to thank us. She said that she knew we were angels from God because just that morning she had run out of food and didn’t know how she was going to feed her family. She had prayed and then we came. She was crying tears of joy!

I will never forget those trips and the lasting impact the children and families had on me. The size of your house, the amount of things we have, none of them matter.

What really matters is our faith.

My story is not just mine.

When people read my book, I often hear, “Wow, you’re brave.” Telling a personal story that involves pain is scary and makes you vulnerable, but I feel strongly that it is important in order to help others. I kept my secret until I was 43 years old. Scared of being judged, I was full of guilt and shame. Today I am able to tell my story as a testimony to God’s grace. I will continue to share in order to help other women understand that they are not alone. My story may shock some, but it is one of many….

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN):

Victims of sexual assault are:

3 times more likely to suffer from depression.

6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.

26 times more likely to abuse drugs.

4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

I am one of the lucky ones. Thanks to God’s grace and my ability to forgive my abusers, I am able to live a life full of love. As you can see from the statistics above, many aren’t as lucky.

My goal is to help others find freedom and healing through God’s grace. This is why I chose to share my story.

My story is about much more than just me. l-298041

The calm AFTER the storm

The last few days in Northern Virginia we were blanketed by a blizzard named Jonas. Schools were cancelled, roads became impassable and time seemed to stop as we waited for it to end. The wind created snowdrifts and everyone held their breath for fear of losing power. And then it stopped. Today the snow is piled up and the sun is shining. Stores are still closed and no one is driving.

We are forced to slow down, and after the shoveling, we were able to relax and enjoy this sunny winter day. On a normal weekend I would be running errands, going to the grocery store, and preparing for another busy week. Today I get to relax and enjoy a new sense of calm as I reflect on the beauty around me.

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Isn’t that what God wants us to do? Slow down and focus on Him even during the storms in our life? Will you try this with me?

Thank you God for protecting us during this storm and for giving me the opportunity to reflect on your love and realize how blessed I am.

Amen.

 

Swirling in the wind

I’m hunkered down for #blizzard2016, thankful that I live in a house with 4 sons and a husband who don’t mind the shoveling. As I look outside at the snow on the ground, my eyes go upward towards the sky. The wind is strong and some of the snowflakes are being blown sideways, but every once in a while the wind slows down as if to take a breath before the next big exhale. The snowflakes seem to float and swirl, not sure which way to go. My mind wanders and I start thinking……I’ve been like these snowflakes.snowflakes

Have you ever felt so lost that you are floating around with no direction?

Maybe it’s a job that you go to every day and feel like you’re not growing or being used to your best ability. Perhaps it’s a relationship that seems to be going no where.

Have you been pushed in a direction that you’re not sure you want to go?

You feel called to do something that is a risk. Maybe you’re scared of losing control or giving up what you are used to. What will people think?

It’s during times like these that we must lean on God and not on our own understanding, because unlike a snowflake, we have a source to turn to for direction. That source is our God. All we have to do is ask Him for help.

When we feel lost we must PRAY and LISTEN for the answer.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. (James 1:5 NLT)

 

Waging warfare with prayer

One of the things that I love most about blogging is the connections that I have made and continue to make. I believe that we should all use whatever gift we have received to help others as faithful stewards of God’s grace. So today, I am excited to announce that my blogging friend, Anita Estes is releasing a book today! Take a look at what Anita has to say about this new and exciting book:

As a young girl I always loved reading because it took me to a different place and time. Of course, I fell in love with the Nancy Drew series which developed into a penchant for mysteries. When I began to write The Dividing Stone, it started out as a mystery, but then I felt the Lord got a hold of my pen and led it another direction. It became my quest to understand the forces behind the breakup of a vital church.

51wEKHUKK8L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The more I wrote, the more He revealed the Satanic forces at work to divide Christian marriages and churches. Years before, as a young Christian living in Vermont in an isolated area, God began to reveal to me about the spirit world and in particular principalities that ruled over regions. When I moved back to New York there were ministries that were being shown the same thing. As my circle of friends began to grow, I met more people that lent credence to what God was showing me. Then my historical research led to me uncovering the presence of “secret societies” in the formation of our nation and a rift in our community.

I wove everything into a complex tale of mystery and intrigue, but had difficulty finishing it. For years, I struggled with getting the book polished and ready for publication, until God lit a fire under me and a publisher was interested. I believe the timing is perfect with the increasing persecution of Christians around the world and the rising dark forces in America.

I was very excited when “War Room” came out because it dealt with a similar theme: attacking the root reason for many of our relational problems that cause division in the church and marriages, while waging warfare not with guns but in prayer. Though The Dividing Stone is a fictionalized account it unmasks these root causes and what we can do to overcome them!

It follows the tale of a young artist, Margo Pierson, a young artist with a penchant for truth, sets off to find the identity of a missing ancestor. Unknown to her, she ends up discovering something far more significant—a key stone to a dark secret. Though she doesn’t realize the importance of the hidden message inscribed on it, the heavenly forces do. Stirred by her finding, a host of angelic beings resume an age-old struggle to reveal the truth about the town of New Coven, formerly New Covenant. Margo too is determined to uncover the facts surrounding her secreted relative. However, she never thought it would lead her down such an unexpected path. As mysterious events unfold and visions mark her dreams, Margo and her husband Chris are thrust into a battle to expose a secret society’s plans. With God’s help, they are led every step of the way.

Anita EstesCome join Margo and her companions for the roller coaster ride of your life!
You can purchase Anita’s book on Amazon by clicking here: http://amzn.to/1ll0Jdv

For anyone purchasing a copy of The Dividing Stone between January 19th to the 24th, your name will be entered in a drawing to win a $25 gift certificate and a signed FREE copy of The Dividing Stone.

Stop by her blog for details @ http://anitathoughtsonchristianity.blogspot.com/

 

What’s LUCK got to do with it?

My friend was on her way to buy a Powerball ticket yesterday and saw a man curled up on a bench in a small park. It was a cold day and obvious that he wasn’t there by choice. She pulled over and approached him and began talking to him. She learned that he slept there, ate when he got food, and yes, he was cold. She gave him the $6.00 that she was going to spend on her lottery ticket and a Starbucks card that she had received as a gift.

This selfless act got me thinking…I wonder how many people were really hoping that they might win the $1.5 billion. I read online that one man purchased $100,000 worth of tickets. I wonder what he was planning to do with the money if he had won it?

What if we stopped wishing and hoping for luck to change our lives?

What if we leaned on God to help us with change that we want?

What if we focused on being thankful for what we have?

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Your destination is straight ahead

Do you remember life before GPS? Ok, there was MapQuest (is that still a thing?) but I mean before that? Remember using a map?!

I am directionally challenged. Seriously. I rely on my GPS to get me everywhere. The worst is when it doesn’t give you enough time before you need to turn and then you hear the obnoxious….RECALCULATING. My husband often teases me about it. He says, “what if your GPS didn’t work?” I laugh and shrug. Being a woman, I would ask for directions!

It got me thinking….what if we are truly lost and have no idea where to go?  I’ve been in this situation before, not just on the road, but in life. I’ve needed direction and been scared that I would make the wrong decision. Have you? Who do you turn to when you need direction?

What if we trusted Jesus as much as we trust our GPS?

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