Best. Valentine. Ever.

valentineHere is the blog post – the big reveal of “The most amazing Valentine gift from Joseph Castaneda.” that I promised on Facebook. Some of you have expressed understandable ‘concern’ because this Facebook promise came on the heels of Joe’s blog post, “50 Shades of Grey . . . and 37 uses of the word “Sex”. This is a great post and you ought to read it! However, my sharing about “the gift” will not be x-rated nor will it cause any blushing.

Have you ever had someone witness your worse moments first-hand? Sometimes our lowest and darkest moments happen in secret, but in marriage/family relationships there is a front-row seat to the mountains and the valleys of a person’s life.

This past year has held some of the toughest moments in my adult life. Here are a couple of the highlights (“lowlights”) between February 15, 2014 and February 14, 2015:


Tati came to live with, and become a part of, our family on June 3, 2011. (You can read the story of how she came to live with us here.) In the spring of 2014 it became evident that Tati was no longer going to be living with our family. Her life and desires were headed in a direction that did not fit the structure of our family and she made the decision to move back to Oregon with her bio family. This was a very painful time. The transition was not easy. It was a messy time and the whole process caused great strain in our entire household and tested the strength of our marriage.


As Tati was transitioning out of our home and as we headed into our busy summer camp schedule, I became depressed. I didn’t recognize it at first, although Joe did and carefully watched and walked with me through this season. In the middle of summer I stopped coaching with my amazing coach and friend, Tony. This was a difficult decision, but I could not seem to pick up my head and heart enough to work my business to the level required for this type of coaching. It was a heart-breaking end for me and I felt like a total failure.


During this whole time Joe and I were training for our first half-marathon. The running was hard. My emotional strength was low and it impacted my physical strength. Running with Joe, hitting new milestones, and having breakthroughs helped me keep a piece of my sanity all the way through October 5 when we actually ran the race. This was the most difficult physical task I have ever accomplished. (Read lessons of this journey here.)

Moving On

December 17, following a shocking and disturbing meeting, we began navigating a season that would lead to Joe being fired from his job on January 16, 2015. The emotions have been raw, deep, and very painful. (You can read more here and here.)

Journal 2The Gift

On Valentines Day 2015 Joe gave me a journal. Nearly every page is full and there is an entry every single day for 365 days. In this journal, Joe wrote about all of the great things he saw in me – things I had done, things we had done together, qualities he loved about me, and much much more.

The Point

journalIn one of the “worst” 365 days of my life, unbeknownst to me, Joe was looking for and writing down the best of me. He looked through my depression and saw my beauty and strength. He looked through my pain and saw my passion and fight. He looked through the yuck of my life and saw good.

He didn’t make things up. He was simply looking for the good and he found it. I was overwhelmed by his gift. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting. It chronicled an incredibly difficult year and it was written from a position of grace and love.

How do you look at people in your life? Your spouse? Your kids? Your boss? Your friends? If you are looking for the bad, you will find it; and if you are looking for the good, you will find that too! Everyone deserves the gift of grace and love, especially on the worse days, weeks, or years of life.

With grace and love, Be Extraordinary!


(I’m Traci, the “Be Extraordinary!” blogger. I share insights that challenge and encourage moms to be the best version of themselves. To me, that’s an extraordinary life! Click HERE to receive blog updates and a free newsletter.)

17 comments on “Best. Valentine. Ever.”

  1. Tom Tanner Reply

    Wow! Joseph, you set the bar pretty high with that one! Thanks to both of you for your friendship, inspiration, and encouragement in our lives!

    • tracicast Reply

      Yes he did, Tom!!
      We, too, are thankful for you and your family – what a blessing and encouragement you have been during these difficult 365 days! We are blessed!

  2. Heidi A. Reply

    1st thing I read this morning, and I’m blubbering before my feet ever hit the floor! That IS the MOST. Precious Valentine’s Day gift EVER! There is nothing better than to be known and truly loved at the same time. And for Joe to be so deliberate to “choose” to express his love and passion for you in spite of heartache (depression affects both members) even secretly during the year, shows 1) his beautiful love for you, 2) a beautiful picture of God’s love for us, and 3) and an act of self-sacrifice which chose to put his gem, his wife, above himself day in and day out. I’m so happy for you (what a precious gift) and so very proud of Joe for taking on this extraordinary act of love and following it through to the end. ❤️

    • tracicast Reply

      Yes, yes, and yes Heidi! I am humbled and truly grateful. It truly makes we want to act on all God puts on my heart because I never know the impact it may have later.
      Thank you!

  3. Bev Landgren Reply

    Traci – that is beautiful. What a blessing from Joe and something you can go back to over and over. My love writes his heart into cards on special occasions I have all of them and read them over and over when I am feeling unlovable.

    I grew up as a pastor’s daughter, I saw the best of the body of Christ and I saw the worst. How Christians treat other Christians is sometimes so horrible. I spent a season of my life very bitter and disillusioned because of the way the church treated people. I admire the way your family is moving through this journey. I admire the way you and Joe are loving your family through this time. As I watch you transition into your next great adventure I see honest human emotions and reactions. I also see grace, I see trust, I see the extraordinary life being pursued.

    Hugs to you and yours –

    PS I have also struggled with depression after Jason’s passing – I still take meds, I think a big grief changes the chemistry in our brains, take care of your self – 🙂

    • tracicast Reply

      Thanks Bev! It is so awesome how God uses other people to speak His own words of grace, kindness, and truth.
      Thanks for your openness about depression – it is a struggle for so many. I, too, was on medication for season 8+ years ago. Totally not immune to its return, obviously, but very aware of my condition and its power.
      Blessings to you. 🙂

  4. kendra Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing Traci! You totally made me cry! Lol. There is so much good to see in YOU friend! Thank you for the inspiration to keep seeing the good in others AND being willing to share that with them! Hugs

  5. Mom C Reply

    Just about the most precious valentine ever. I love it, and when he told me about it last year, I loved the idea, just wasn’t sure he would be able to do it all. Thank you for sharing, Mija. Prayes and blessings to you during this time.

  6. Jess Reply

    Reason number 18924257 why I desire to emulate you, and want to some day have a husband with the same character as Joe. Love you, Traci! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • tracicast Reply

      Jess! I love you and am so thankful for the moments of time I have had with you! Your words bless me like crazy! 🙂

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