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

 

 

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!

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.”

 

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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Adventures from a 4BOYMOM: Chapter One?

Now that my husband and I are “seasoned” parents, I love to look back at photos and share stories with our kids from when they were little. This is a memory from our first days of parenthood, 19 years ago.

My husband and I are only children and although I had babysat a lot, I had never been around babies, and neither had he, so when our first son was born we were both very nervous. We had read books and done our best to prepare, but really had no idea what we were doing. Reflecting on those first weeks makes us smile and laugh.

I remember getting home from the hospital and into the house and we put the baby down and then looked at each other as if to say, “Now what?” My husband was able to stay home for a week and by the time his parents arrived, we were exhausted. I was nursing and had read an article about using pacifiers and how they caused “nipple confusion” (seriously?) and was adamant that we wouldn’t use one.  After a week of litPacifiertle sleep and what felt like non-stop nursing, I was a wreck. My mother in law suggested that we try a pacifier (WHAT?!) She explained that the baby just wanted to soothe himself and wasn’t really hungry, which explained why he kept falling asleep at the wheel. So reluctantly, I popped it in his mouth mid-wail and BOOM, it worked!

 

We were very excited to give him his first bath and, being the firstborn, it would be videotaped and photographed to keep for all eternity. We lived in Massachusetts and although it was May, the weather was still cool. So before anything could happen, we had to be sure that the kitchen was warm enough (bring in the heater). Next step was to remove all items from the counter, sterilize the area, and get the perfect water temperature. My husband filled the small tub in the sink and did the “elbow test” to be sure that the water temperature was perfect. (Of course I had to test it too). We were ready!

My mother in law was standing in position with various cameras and caught everything on tape…

Baby bathAs soon as I started to undress the baby, he started to cry. I did my best to soothe him and tell him how much fun he was going to have in his first bath. (We even had a rubber ducky). I carefully lowered him into the water whereupon he howled. My blood pressure rose and I accused my husband of making the water too hot. I lifted him out and we quickly did the elbow test again. My mother in law suggested that we proceed with the bath….I lowered him back into the water and my husband proceeded to wash him as we had been instructed at the hospital, using a different washcloth for the major sections of the body (?!) The baby continued to scream and I quickly looked at my husband and saw sweat running down his temple. We surveyed the naked body and determined that he was clean. As I proceeded to lift him out of the tub, I noticed a weird yellowish color in the water and yelled, “WHY IS THEIR MUSTARD IN THE TUB?!” I looked around the room frantically and saw my mother in law laughing behind the camera. She said, “I think he pooped.” I looked into he camera with a desperate wail and asked, “Now what do we do?”

After wrapping the poopy screaming baby in a towel, emptying the tub, refilling it with the perfect temperature of water, we proceeded the cleaning process again.

When it was all over and the baby was clothed and swaddled, my husband and I collapsed on the couch and agreed that he wouldn’t be having another bath until he was 5.

I share this as a funny memory and also to encourage and cheer on any new moms out there. You are doing a great job! Having babies and raising little kids is tough and it’s ok if you don’t have all the answers. Go with your gut and remember to lean on your friends and family for help and LAUGH at yourself once in a while. When  you feel yourself slipping, pray and ask God for help.

Your baby WILL sleep through the night, learn to walk and talk, and go poop on the potty. You will blink and your strong-willed two year old will be heading out the door to Kindergarten.  No phase lasts forever, I promise.

Best wishes,

Tracey

 

 

 

 

Fill our homes with humility

I love it when the seasons change and get excited when I go into a home furnishing store and see all the seasonal décor. Last weekend I found myself oohing and aahing over all the beach and seaside home goods. I love the light blue and turquoise colored candles and even though they don’t really match our home décor, I found myself picking them up.

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And then a little voice (no, not my husbands) said, “Do you NEED that?” I answered in my head, “Ugh…..no. But it would be so nice to have if we had friends over.”

I recently heard a staggering set of statistics. Last month, Americans spent 8.96 billion on home furnishings and last year Americans spent 338 billion on home improvements.

 

This got me thinking; are we that desperate to feel good about ourselves that we need to fill our homes with nice/ improved things? The real question is, do these “things” add value to our home or life or are we just trying to look good for others?

What if someone invited me to their house for dinner and great conversation and didn’t have many furnishings at all? Would I love them less?

This led me to think about being humble. Humility is counter to our society and human nature, but the Bible is clear on the subject.

 “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves” Phillipians 2:3 (NLT).

As Americans, we are consumers and tend to collect “stuff” to make our homes look nice.  But what is the real value of it to anyone but us?

I learned this as I was going through my parent’s house after my father died. He liked to spend money on nice things and as I saw the very low price tags at the estate sale, it made me realize that our possessions don’t matter to anyone but us.

So next time I find myself tempted to buy another thing to fill my home with, I’m going to ask, “Do I really need this? Will it bring me joy? Could I spend my money on something else that will add value to my life and contribute to my memories?”

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