Well.... I have to start SOMEWHERE.

My 1st run in a long while. Beginning, I felt out of shape (which I am!), tired, and lethargic.

It was HARD. I had to PUSH myself.

I was really mad at myself. How had I gotten here??? It seems like the last 5 years have been a constant yo-yoing of up and down battles with fitness. I felt (feel) like I had lost the victory of where I was...of where I USED to be.

I have had a lot of "excuses "- My mom having breast cancer. My (step)dad having bladder cancer and having his bladder removed. Helping my mom and dad through that year of depression and lack of fight, his depression and her stress and my many trips back and forth. Dealing with an injury and pain.  Celebrating Andrew's wedding and the fact that Grandpa could be there. My mom's cancer coming back. The ugly 2 and half months of her suffering. Losing my mom. My feelings of inadequacy taking on the role of being his POA. It's been a rollercoaster 5 years.

I could blame all these things for where I stand in my weight, my attitude, and my backsliding.

But, the TRUTH is that I allowed a bitter root to take hold in my heart.

I was mad at God and it was easier to turn to food, alcohol, Netflix, even exercise, for comfort INSTEAD of the only One who brings true comfort.

I battled turning to Him...to surrendering my heart to Him. I fought it.

So much so that I took an 8 month hiatus from my Bible Study. A study I started and led for the  last 16+ years. (Thankfully, they have been doing just fine without me because it was never truly "mine", but God's!)

I didn't cut God off... I listened to worship music, prayed constantly, went to church (off & on, but let's be honest, I was avoiding Sunday morning worship as much as Monday night study)...

But I wasn't allowing him full access to my pain (where only TRUE healing can begin) and I was not surrendering my heart to Him.

So...as I worked through all of this on my run today...Day #1 of training for a 5k...getting through even though it was excruciatingly hard....God reminded me:

 Tracy, don't focus on where you USED to be....focus on what is ahead!

"So, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Philippians 3:14 NLT

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!
It's the day of "love". Lovers around the world celebrate their affection for one another. Families make heart-shaped pancakes.....Men buy red roses and chocolates...Some women even receive gifts such as jewelry.
But, what if you don't have a spouse?
What if you have a child who won't speak to you?
What if you are grieving the loss of your loved one?
Or, what if your "honey" doesn't buy flowers, chocolates, or jewelry?
What if you feel disappointed?

Whether we are celebrating the love of those around us, or we feel "left out" in this love thing, we need to remember our Heavenly Father loves us more than we can ever imagine.

For God so loved the world...
We love because God first loved us!” (1John 4:19) We can only love God and take delight in Him because He FIRST loved us! "For God so loved the world, that He have His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) God loves the world so much that He sacrificed His one and only Son so that we may live.
God loves the WORLD, and you are included in the WORLD, but God loves YOU….personally. God loves YOU so much that He gave YOU Jesus.

When our youngest child Abby was about 8 months old, I was making my bed and I happened to look over at her. She was quietly napping in her swing. All of a sudden, I was filled with such an overflowing, intense, unconditional love for her. It was like a wave of love washed over me. I HAD to stop making the bed, drop everything and scoop her up, kissing her from top to bottom. I thought, "Abby, you are "addicting!" Sometimes I can't even do anything else but love on you!" I felt so much love for her.

She hadn't DONE anything.

She hadn't performed.

She wasn’t “being good.”

She was just….being.

And, I just felt overwhelming love for her. God whispered to my heart at that moment. “Tracy this is how I feel for you. I want to scoop you up and love on you. You don’t have to DO anything. You don’t have to perform. You don’t have to “be good.” Just BE.........”

Sweet Reader, God feels that way for you as well. He has an overflowing, intense, “gotta
stop what He is doing, scoop you up and love on you” unconditional love. Beloved, we don't have to DO anything, He JUST loves us! He just has to pick us up, breathe us in, kiss us, love on us.... The God of the Universe feels that way for YOU! Doesn't it just bring you to your knees?

God loves you and desires that you love Him back! “The Lord Your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love. And He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17) Your God sings over you like a mother singing to her newborn babe cradled in her arms.
Do you get it?
Can you comprehend how much God loves YOU?
He takes delight in you. You make Him smile. You are His Beloved!
I'm sorry to say that our sweet husbands, children, parents, and friends will disappoint us at times....they are not meant to fill our needs, our longing...
Only your God can love you the way you need to be loved.
Beyond measure.
And, because God loves us, He wants US to love one another.
This is the message we have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.-1John 3:11
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.-1John 3:18
Remember, LOVE isn't a FEELING. LOVE is an ACTION.
Love someone today.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Christmas with the Kranks! Repost from 2012

Have you seen the movie, “Christmas with the Kranks”? It is hilarious!
With their only daughter away with the Peace Corps over Christmas, Luther and Nora Krank decide to “skip” Christmas and go away on a cruise. Their decision to boycott the holiday has the neighborhood in an uproar.

This movie is hilarious because it is so relate-able! I can identify with all of the crazy details that we can get caught up in over Christmas- the cards, decorations, parties, lights….losing sight of WHAT Christmas is really about. Sometimes we can become so overwhelmed with the activities, forgetting that Christmas is remembering and celebrating the birth of Christ.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions that I got from the book, "Redeeming the Season,"
is called “Gift with Purchase.” Our family spends some time together making simple crafts, like ornaments or jewelry. We make several, usually at least 10-20 items. Then, when we are shopping, we give them to sales clerks, thanking them for working during the holidays. We make sure to include a scripture and message of God’s love through the birth of Jesus.
The reaction of surprise and thankfulness of the clerks is so worth the effort! They love being appreciated.

This season, especially when you have the opportunity to spread Christ’s love with strangers, remember to keep Christ in Christmas. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed in the details, but remain in His peace. Help your family to bask in the gift of Jesus….His love, His peace, and His hope.

You don't have to be like the Kranks and try to "escape" all of the hub-ub by "skipping Christmas", but stay grounded on why we are celebrating- the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

(Still) Beautiful...

I had been reading some of my original blog posts and found this gem from 2007. Love it!

Last night I wasn’t feeling well. In fact, our whole family is fighting off a “bug.” So, with homework finished early and supper done, we left the dishes in the sink and all got under some blankets to “snuggle buggle” and watch a movie. Lying there next to Ashley, my precious 8yr old, she looked up at me and said, “You are so beautiful, Mama.” She outlined my features and continued, “More beautiful than Miley (aka “Hannaha Montana”) or Mary Jane (Parker from Spiderman).” Now this surprised me, because I had not a stitch of make-up on and my hair was pulled back into a ponytail. (Not exactly “movie star” material!) I hugged her closer and giggled and we continued watching the movie.

But, as I was out walking this morning, God brought back that moment to my memory. What made me so beautiful to my little girl? It wasn’t the make-up or the hair or a gorgeous outfit. One of the verses I purpose in my heart to “live out” is 1Peter 3:3-4. It is my hearts’ cry that “my beauty should not come from outward adornment….Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a GENTLE and QUIET spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” Gentle….a fruit of the spirit. How I long that I am gentle. That my talk is gentle (a gentle answer turns away wrath). Other words for gentle are calm, kind, and tender. I always want to be tender to my family. And, “quiet.” I look at quiet as resting in God, trusting Him. A quiet spirit…….a humble spirit…..

How I long to reflect these things. But, I feared that I had “exploded” with my children too many times for them to see me as gentle. I feared that I had said too many unkind words to be this gentle spirit. I have nagged too much… Complained too often… I feared that I had “exasperated” (Ephesians 6:4) my children too many times to be “beautiful” in God’s sight and their sight. I have a vision of what I so long to be……

But, through the sweet, gentle, kind words of my little girl, God reminded me that I am indeed beautiful in His sight. And, what a joy to a mother’s heart that her daughter would look past the physical beauty that the world espouses, traces the features of mama’s face, and calls her “beautiful.”

Father, may this be a gentle reminder to all of us that true beauty comes from a spirit who loves, follows, and trusts You. There is nothing more beautiful than a reflection of Your glorious Light. Help us, as women, Lord, to be secure and comfortable in who You have created us to be. Father, we praise You and love You. Glory to God in the highest! In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

Wilderness Hikes

During my time in Tuscan, I had a couple of days on my own while Brian worked. There was an amazing hiking trail adjacent to our hotel and Brian and I had hiked part of it together. On my first free day, a friend from the conference and I ventured out on the trail. I had been on it once already and was able to lead us further than where I had been. On my second free day, God called me out into this wilderness trail to be alone with Him. Now, I was a little more than nervous doing this, especially since I had seen a (dead) rattlesnake the day before when I was out walking. I knew the trail was pretty challenging and a bit treacherous at times with streams to ford, rocks to climb, and plenty of wildlife to be wary of. But, if God was calling me out, I knew He would protect me.

It didn't take long for me to understand that I was going to have to face my fears. The biggest fear for me was that of the unknown. I literally trembled as I had to walk through jungles of overgrown brush or when the the trail narrowed and I had to creep closely to the canyon walls. I was petrified that something hidden would come out and hurt me.

Being alone was so much harder than with a hiking buddy. Every little noise put me on edge and I had to continue to call out to God and depend on Him. Over and over I asked Him to give me courage to continue. God continued to push me farther, to challenge myself to do more than what I thought I could. He encouraged me over and over to face my fears and keep going. When I sat down on a boulder near a stream, I soaked in His sunshine, His beauty, His peace....A beautiful butterfly was my constant companion. I continued to feel stronger and the more I pushed in, I felt more brave.

During life, God calls into the wilderness at times. He pushes us deeper...further. He asks us to face our fears and join Him near the streams for refreshment. He teaches us lessons that can only be learned in the wilderness.

During my experience, He revealed things in my heart that need to change. He drew me closer still to Him. He proved Himself a trustworthy guide.

Some lessons I learned were that shortcuts, although they may appear to be shorter can be dangerous. The trail may take longer, but it is the safe path.

I met several other hikers along the way. Most were small groups, but some were alone like me. Now, I am often a bit wary of strangers when I am alone and in an isolated place, but I found a co artery and unity with my fellow travelers. We were all facing these same struggles....the same streams to ford, boulders to climb, narrow trails to navigate. We ask one another what the trail was like ahead and how far we had gotten. We had the same struggles, but also the same desire and goal to reach the maiden pools. In life, we need a community of others to encourage each other.

Going up the trail can be physically demanding, climbing up rocks and canyons. But, coming down isn't always "easier". The momentum can bring you down too quickly. I had to use muscles and energy to slow myself at times. Jumping down can be more perilous than hoisting myself up.

I am thankful for my wilderness time. I felt so accomplished and victorious when I finished! God showed me that I am much more brave than I had imagined. He helped me face my fears. My favorite time is still sitting near the quiet stream, soaking Him in and allowing Him to fill me with His Presence.  I encourage you to take some time alone with Him in the wilderness.

Thank you Lord for your love. Thank you Lord that you encourage us to spend time with you alone in the wilderness and that you challenge us to face our fears. Thank you for providing community to encourage us. Thank you for quiet rests. I love You Lord. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.