It’s the most wonderful time of the year??

It’s actually a pretty difficult time of the year for many. There are images everywhere of ideal family dinners but for some that is not a reality. There is pressure to buy presents and spend money yet there are those who are struggling financially. There are emotions that the holidays stir up that lay dormant for much of the year.

I understand. There is, however, a way to manage some of the things that make it difficult.

As I unpack the ornaments, I unpack memories with them, sweet reminders of past Christmases. Many of the ornaments that decorate our tree commemorate a milestone…Our First Christmas, Baby’s First Christmas…etc. Many of them were gifts from my mom. While the memories are sweet, the pain of loss is bitter.

For years I would slip away from the activity of decorating to collect myself and shake off the sadness but I have learned over the years to change my mindset. Now, I look forward to the tradition as a way of setting time aside to be with the memories and celebrate all the love that my tree holds:

  • a faded ornament from my grandparent’s tree
  • little treasures made with tiny fingers that are now full grown hands
  • chubby faces of babies dressed like santa and an elf (the things we do to our children!)
  • gifts from friends old and new

ImageHere are a few tips to help you navigate the holidays with cheer!

1. Identify those things that cause stress 

Is there something you are dreading during the holiday season? Are there difficult relationships that you will have to deal with? Is the financial pressure of gift giving stressing you out? Unless you identify the sources of stress you can’t address them.

2. Find a way to limit if not eliminate those things.

If there is something that you are absolutely dreading, you can take control over how it affects you by changing your mindset. Go with a different attitude and you may be pleasantly surprised how things turn around.

You may discover as you dig a little deeper that you are striving to meet other people’s expectations of you which is not a healthy motive for continuing to put yourself in a negative situation. If you can’t eliminate it altogether then consider limiting the amount of time or maybe gathering in a place or time that would be less stressful.

If finances are stressing you out let people know ahead of time that you will be scaling back and giving smaller meaningful gifts instead so that the expectation is set ahead of time.  Maybe it’s my age, but I enjoy thoughtful things my children have done like recording a song for me or putting a slide show together as opposed to store bought things.

3. Carve out some time for yourself

Even if it is something really small, do something YOU love to do this season.  Last night on our way home from picking up my daughter from work we drove around and looked at houses in our neighborhood all lit up for Christmas.  Normally we zoom in and out hardly noticing. While I was organizing my closet the other day I put on Miracle on 34th Street.  I am the only one in my family who really loves that movie so I made a cup of tea and watched (and was still productive!) Ok, so I did two things for myself!!

4. Let something go

Unless you are incredibly organized or not very busy it is likely that something is going to get missed this year. For me, it’s Christmas cards.  I love to send them, I love to get them but I am letting it go this year.  There are just too many things to do and not enough time. Making that decision freed me of having it hang over my head. It just wasn’t in the cards this year. (pun intended)

5. GIVE!

This should really be first but if the holidays are difficult, stressful or sad for you the absolute best thing you can do is GIVE. It’s getting a little late in the game but I am sure there are still causes that need and would gladly accept last minute help. It may be giving of your time or a gift for someone in need but it will be the thing that brings you great joy this season.

ornament

Wishing you and yours a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

xo

My Story.

This has been my year to be brave.

In the beginning of the year, actually at the end of 2012 ~ this verse leapt off the page to me and I didn’t really know just how much I would need to draw upon it until now.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged; the Lord your God is with you wherever you go ~ Joshua 1:9

For five years I’ve been sharing bits and pieces of my story and my struggle with depression but never in as much detail as this past Sunday.

A few months back my Pastor asked me if I would share my story as the wrap-up of a series called UNMASKED.  It was timely request.  After 7 years now of cycling in and out of rough bouts with depression I finally feel like I have a handle on how to cope with it.

Every time I make it through a rough patch I believe that I am done with it forever although I know that is not probable.  The difference now is that I feel like I have all the tools I need to fight. Until this past year I always felt like I was missing something. Now that I know how to combat the shame associated with depression I believe that I will never suffer as badly as I have in the past.

You can hear my story here. The message begins about 21 mins into the video.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 8.47.23 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shame affects every one of us without exception so regardless of whether you suffer from depression or not I believe this message will encourage you.  At least that is my hope and the reason that I have chosen to be brave and share.  As always I welcome your feedback and comments…

Beauty for Ashes

beauty for ashes, mourning, joy, garment of praise, prisoners, Isaiah 61A few years back I was praying for direction for FTGI.  I was hoping God would direct me to something in the Bible to steer me.  One thought led to another and I ended up in Isaiah chapter 61. It is a beautiful poetic chapter charging us as Christians to (among other things):

  • proclaim good news to the poor
  • bind up the brokenhearted
  • to proclaim freedom for the captives
  • release from darkness the prisoners
  • to comfort all who mourn
  • to provide for those who grieve

I love the way it describes the way that we are to bring hope ~~ bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair!

Whew! Like bringing oxygen to someone gasping for breath. What a privilege to be charged to bring such hope to those who are hurting!  Everywhere you turn in this life whether they look like it or not there are people with deep hurts and need for hope.

Here I am send me, prisoners, Isaiah 61

This week I have the privilege of bringing good news to some prisoners.  I have been invited to bring a message of hope to the women residing in a Pinellas county jail. I’m sure the platform won’t be fancy.  I’m sure the facility will not be particularly comfortable. I won’t receive a speaking fee.  I haven’t even given a thought to what I will wear. And yet this may be the most literal interpretation of what God has called me to do.

I find myself overwhelmed with the responsibility and yet I know that all I need to do is show up and allow God to speak his life and redemption through me.

There will be approximately 100 women attending.  I am looking for 100 women to partner with me to pray this week over these prisoners for their hearts to be open to the redeeming love of Jesus that I hope to bring to them. If 100 women pray for one nameless but specific prisoner we will have each one of them covered.

Will you partner with me? Leave a comment to let me know.

Praying that at the blessing comes back around to you!!

September 11th ~ I will not forget

September 11th is a memorial day for our country. It is also a memorial day for me personally.

Last year on September 11th my mom passed from this life to heaven. My brother, sisters and I sang to her as she took her last breath.

This year on September 11th at 1:14 am I am writing this with my laptop propped up on a couch pillow and a precious new life in my arms ~ my brand new granddaughter. Just days ago she took her first breath.

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Gramma T and Ezra burning the midnight oil

After my mom’s accident, in one of my darkest moments, God gave me a promise. I found it in Psalms 27:13-14 after begging God to give me something to hold on to. He did.  The verse says that if I wait on Him, I WILL see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. And I have. Many times over.

psalm27-13

Today, His promise is fulfilled once again. And I am reminded of the circle of life.

Instead of feeling the sting of death on this memorial day, I feel my mom’s presence as I embrace this new, beautiful season of life. A season she embraced when my son Shaun made her a grandmother for the first time. I feel her smiling face as I snuggle his daughter in my arms. I rest knowing that we are both enjoying the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, each on a different side of eternity.

I pray for all the people who suffered loss on this day that they too would experience God’s goodness in some small or big way as a reminder that his promises are true.

We will never forget September 11th collectively or individually.  We must also never forget His goodness even if we are not feeling it in a given moment. We must hold onto the promise that this life is temporary and that He came to redeem all that is broken.

blessed

His promises are true.  We need only to believe.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens

Remember to remember!

Yesterday I woke up feeling under the weather.  I was very tired even after a long night’s sleep. I still have a scratchy throat this morning and some aches and pains.  I must have a touch of a cold but the feeling was a chilling reminder.

It felt a lot like the way I feel when I am depressed.  Thankfully, I know that I am not but the physical symptoms were similar. 

The good thing was that it made me realize how GOOD I have been feeling for the past 8 months.  In that moment I was so grateful that I had come through that awful episode and it was behind me.  I’m grateful for what I learned through it.  I am grateful that what didn’t kill me really did make me stronger! 

I don’t have time to write much this morning but I wanted to encourage someone today.  Whatever it is you are going through – this too shall pass. And you will look back and see the value of the experience and be glad. I promise. But more importantly God promises.

Maybe you are in a good place today.  Take a moment and remember what God has done for you.  Now that I am feeling better, it is something I take for granted sometimes… so I need to make a point to remember to remember! 

depression, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, never forget

 

How it all began…

This is a little bit long but it is my 1st blog ever…telling the story of the beginning of FTGI written June 12, 2008 two days after we incorporated. It’s fun to look back and see where we have come from.

retrospect, looking back

To truly chronicle the beginnings of For the Girls International I would need to write a book but below you will find a synopsis of the events of my personal journey this year 2008.

When 2008 began I knew that this was the year. I just felt it in the core of my being. I didn’t know how or exactly when but I knew that I must start moving on this vision that has been in my heart for several years now. I made a commitment to myself and God that I would start moving forward even if it was the smallest of steps. That was January 1st 2008.

Fourteen days later at 2 o’clock in the morning I received a phone call that would change my life and the landscape of my extended family forever. My beautiful, adorable, bubbly, carefree and fearless cousin, Alex, died that night in a car accident. She was only eighteen. It is really impossible to describe how that news impacted me. It felt so final even though I knew that she was immediately with Jesus and that I would see her again. I felt so helpless. Shock and grief is so difficult to put into words. There is an overwhelming feeling of wanting to turn back the hands of time and do something to prevent it. How can you describe the emptiness and hopelessness you feel when you lose someone you love so dearly? There are no words.

In the months that have followed it has became evident to me that time is short. That NOW is when you have to step out and follow the dreams that God has placed in your heart. No one knows the day or the hour that God will call us to be with Him, and so we must live fully engaged in today, fulfilling our calling and purpose here on earth. I knew that I couldn’t wait much longer to begin this new journey called For the Girls International.

A month later, in February, while I was slowly emerging from the initial deep grief from Alex’s sudden death, I attended a conference for my husband’s business, Chick-fil-A. It’s a seminar for the Operators and their spouses to get refreshed and inspired for the coming year. It is always personally inspiring as well. Chick-fil-A is a company founded by committed Christians that live to inspire people on every level. As I sat through the sessions, I felt the fire of the vision of this ministry burning strong. On the second evening of the seminar I was having trouble sleeping. I felt compelled to write out my vision in the notebook given to us at the beginning of the week. At the top of the page I wrote… PERSONAL GOAL… and then wrote out, not very eloquently either, what was in my heart. I made it a goal to get started this year. I never intended for anyone to read it. It was for me and God – a little note to God.

The next day my husband and I went to the sessions and events, but that evening when we got back to our room I realized that at some point during the day I had lost my book. I was really bummed out and my husband didn’t understand why because he thought it was just full of notes I had taken, so I told him that I had written out my vision in it. Just as a side note… I am, and this can be confirmed by anyone who knows me well, on the spacey side of life. I lose my keys several times a week. I lock myself out of my car on a regular basis. I leave things everywhere (including my children). So this was not really out of the ordinary for me. My husband just rolled his eyes when I told him I couldn’t find my book.

The next morning as we rushed from breakfast to the general session, I checked with the lost and found desk that Chick-fil-A had set up and found several notebooks there (so I wasn’t the only airhead!) I flipped through them and found mine. I was so glad to have it back, but we were in a rush, so I just grabbed it and ran. When we settled into our seats I wanted to read my vision again so I flipped through to get to the page I had written it on. When I came to the page, I was completely taken back. There was someone else’s handwriting on the opposite page! Someone had written in my book!

Here’s what she wrote…
I found your book and was looking for a name when I saw this (arrow pointing to vision).
I’d love to help you with this.
Lysa TerKeurst and her cell phone #
Proverbs 31 Ministries proverbs31.org

I was completely freaked out! It was like God had written me a personal note to tell me that He loves me, He got my note, He knows the desires of my heart and that He was going to help make it happen. My heart was racing, my hands started to shake, and I couldn’t hear anything else that was going on in the room! I honestly just stared at it in disbelief for quite a while. What are the chances that out of 1500 women at that conference and hundreds of bathroom stalls that Lysa would follow me into the stall where I had left my book? Then, on top of that, what are the chances that she would open to the very page that I had written my vision on and read it?? Being the space cadet that I am, the chances of me losing something while I was at the conference were great, but all the rest of the “coincidences” completely defied all the odds.

I had heard of Proverbs 31 Ministries because they do radio spots on my local Christian radio station but I didn’t think in my wildest dreams that it was the same ministry that was on my radio. I was excited just at the idea that someone already involved in women’s ministry would be offering to help me. For me the big thing was the acknowledgment from God and the fact that I could also get help and direction was completely over the top. After the conference ended and I got home, I looked up Proverbs 31 and was completely blown away by the magnitude of the ministry. It is a wonderful organization and the President of the ministry wants to help me!!!! I got in touch with Lysa who was a great help and encouragement and she suggested that I attend the She Speaks conference in June. I figured that would be the start of things for FTGI but God had other plans. On the same day that Lysa found my book, my friend Cynda (co-founder of FTGI) was receiving confirmation of her own through a phone call and before we knew it, we were set up for our first ministry trip to NYC.

I love this quote from a former pastor friend of mine.

Oftentimes God takes a long time to move suddenly.

As long as this first post is (and I promise they won’t all be this long), this is only one of many, many ways that God has confirmed over and over that He wants to do something great in the lives of women in this day and age. I am thrilled and humbled at the thought of being a part of that and can’t wait for what lies ahead.

Lots of Love,

Tracey

The Spirit of the Warrior

There is a difference between having a warrior spirit and a warring spirit. warrior

It is true that there are times we have to battle through, but it is equally true that in this life of faith there are times when the warrior’s wisest strategy is to surrender.

Surrender in real battle means defeat but surrender in the life of faith is many times the only way to victory.

I found this out last year when I had my meltdown. I had trained myself throughout my life to war through the tough times.  You know, get tougher when the going got tough.

It worked for the most part for 47 years and then I hit a wall.

It was then that I realized that the warrior in me needed to rest and allow the Spirit of the Warrior that resides within me to fight on my behalf.

It is ironic but I needed to gather all the strength I had to give myself permission to stop being so strong.

Maybe you have been fighting a battle that is not yours to fight.

Allow the Spirit of the Warrior who always wins fight for you.  He has promised that He will.

As always I welcome your thoughts, comments, questions! Have a great Thursday!  Friday’s coming 😉

Stop being afraid, and stop being discouraged because of this vast invasion force, because the battle doesn’t belong to you, but to God.  ~  2Chor 20:15 (ISV)