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

 

 

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!

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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