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Holiday Highs and Lows

Traci ChristmasI have been a little silent on the blogging front for the past few weeks. This is the first week without any new posts (I usually post twice each week), but it has been a few weeks since I have written something new. I was so proud of myself for having several weeks worth in the queue, but those disappeared quickly.

So, why the silence?

These past few weeks have been a mix of wonderful and difficult. It truly has been extremely wonderful and extremely difficult, a pendulum swing from one to the other, from one day to the next and sometimes from one hour to the next.

Some of the wonderful was my kids being on Christmas vacation. We played games, watched movies, baked goodies, delivered gifts, and opened gifts. Joe and I surprised the kids with some bigger gifts that they “really wanted’ and it was so fun to anticipate and then deliver those gifts. (I love giving gifts!!)

Joe and I also celebrated 18 years of marriage. We had a fun and relaxing get-away. We connected on a lot of levels, laughed a lot, andAJ Christmas morn enjoyed some gift cards we were given for Christmas. I am so blessed! Joe wrote a great “18 Years of Marriage” blog. Read it HERE.

And then there was the not-so-fun side of life. (Sorry, there will be no juicy details here.) Yet, even in navigating this challenge, I have learned some valuable lessons about myself and how to approach difficult situations and/or people.

Here are a few of the lessons I learned and am still learning:

Emotions are Healthy

The feelings we experience are real feelings that are not to be supressed, but are to be felt. I have felt the full range of emotions – joy, anger, frustration, compassion, hurt, pain, hope – in the past few weeks. I can choose to ignore these feelings, but that does not make the difficult situation or emotions go away. Or I can choose to not feel positive emotions because, “How can I feel happy when I’m facing a difficult circumstance?” but that isn’t healthy either.

Emotions Compound

Positive emotions breed more positive emotions and the same is true of negative emotions. When I am in the midst of a difficulty I have the opportunity to spread my positive or negative emotions to others. The things I feel are powerful and can impact the thoughts and actions of others. I have askedBJ Christmas lights myself, “What do I want to create for myself and others as a results of this situation?”

Remember the Big Picture

I can think of one specific time a week ago where it would have served me and those around me to remember the big picture. In the heat of hard times it can be challenging to get back to a bird’s eye view and to remember the ultimate goal. The goal of most conflict ought to be resolution, but too often I just want to get my point across and ultimately to be right! Anyone else ever feel the need to be right?

 

In conclusion, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

* Whether you are in the midst of a struggle or not, are your emotions in check?

* Are you allowing yourself to experience your feelings in a proper context?

* Are you compounding positive or negative thoughts and feelings?

* What is the big picture of your current situation?

* How can you contribute to a positive outcome?

 

In the highs and lows we always have the opportunity to . . .

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.)

Are You Learning or Dying?

Were you a student in 2014?

EinsteinIf you answered “no” to the question then you must continue reading! Let me add some clarity to my trick question. There are many types of students. Typically we think of students as people who are in school – traditional, public, private, home, elementary, junior high, senior high, or university. Whatever the mode, students are in some type of formalized education. However, this is not the type of student I am talking about. I am referring to the person who is always learning, no matter their age or connection to a formalized learning environment.

Did you ever take a class in school that didn’t really interest you and therefore you only did the bare minimum (or only read the Cliff Notes) to get by? Did you do any real learning in that class? Perhaps you were a “student” but not a learner.

Some people love school and learning in that environment. I have met some life-time students who are always getting another degree . . . forever in the classroom. This is not the type of learning or student I am talking about today.

What about those of us who are out of school, working a job, raising a family, changing diapers or playing taxi-mom, serving at church, or involved the community? Are we learning? Are we students?

Albert Einstein said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”

I am convinced that a key component to living an extraordinary life is learning. There is a piece of our brains – our creativity and energy – that is activated through learning new things. This learning can take many forms. The form is not the important factor, but the engagement in something new is very important.

Here are some examples from my life in the past year:

* I spent 2+ years learning more about my life and business by hiring a personal coach. This coaching in a specific area was invaluable. Coaching others in life, health, and business is also one of my passions.
If you are looking to be coached on your health journey click HERE.

* In the beginning of 2014 I learned how to crochet. I started on a loom and then learned a few stitches from my mother-in-law. I made snow hats and headbands for my girls, dishrags, scarves, and some other gifts.

* An amazing woman who volunteers at camp in the summer taught me how to make a pillowcase and a rag quilt. These were fun gifts for my kids and some of my nieces and nephews on Christmas.

* I am going on a mission trip to Thailand in June. I decided to learn a little Thai. I knew nothing of the language when I started, but I am picking up a few things after just a few weeks. (I am spending 30 minutes, 3-4 times each week.)
Want to partner with this trip financially? Click HERE, follow the giving links, and put “Traci Castaneda to Thailand” in the memo box.

* I listen to audio books in the car. I drive close to one hour taking the kids to and from school each day and have chosen to use this time learning. I have listened to personal growth, business, biography, and classic books. I am learning, and teaching my kids to use this time learning as well.
My favorite way to listen? Click HERE.

* Here is an example from my husband, Joe. Motivated by his friendship with Danny Ray, he is learning how to shuffle cards. This is not a regular shuffle, but a magician’s shuffle. He spends 15 minutes 3-4 times each week and is mastering this skill as well as adding some tricks to his repertoire too.

* Joe and I ran our first half marathon this year. The longest I had run prior to this training was a 5k. There were so many ways my attitude, mind, and body learned in order to complete a run of 13.1 miles.

All of these things engage my brain. I am learning to be a better problem-solver, how and when to ask for help, and finding inspiration from those who have gone before me and lived extraordinary lives. I am gaining skills, ideas, and motivation that move me forward in parenting, spiritual journey, business, relationships, and more.

What will you learn in 2015? What can you commit just 15 minutes a day to learning this year? One mark of an extraordinary life is continual learning.

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.)

 

Gifts of Expectation

I love gifts! Receiving gifts is fun, rewarding, enjoyable, and often filled with anticipation. Yet, even more than receiving gifts, I love giving gifts! Our whole family (and I am sure many of you) loves gift-giving. When the perfect gift is found it heightens the anticipation of that treasure to be opened.

cj quilt 2I am making some Christmas gifts this year. Each of my kids will receive a hand-made rag quilt. The fabric of each quilt was specifically chosen for each of them. It took several trips to the fabric store and a whole lot of contemplation to find things that I think they will love. It has been so much fun and so difficult to keep from blabbing to them about it. In fact, Celina has asked a number of times if I would please make her a blanket. She says, “You can just crochet a bunch of squares and put them all together.” A quilting group was having a retreat at the camp and that got her asking about this again. I said, “Maybe someday.” Like this Christmas!!

BJ quiltAs I create these gifts I am giddy with excitement for the day the gifts will be in the hands of the receivers. I am confident that my kids will love their quilts. It will bring me great joy to see their faces as they unwrap these treasures!

I also love wrapping gifts! (It’s easy to get me in the Christmas spirit.) The attention to detail in wrapping the gifts is part of expressing my love through the gift.

I pondered a life-lesson as I was thinking about gifts today: What materials do we use to wrap our gifts?

I am afraid that many of the gifts we give are wrapped in expectation. Expectations that we put on the receiver of the “gift”. Expectation makes the gift no longer a gift. Gifts, in my definition, are to be given with no strings attached. This applies to a variety of “gifts” – those wrapped in paper as well as gifts of kindness, friendship, and love.

What if we took the pressure off of the receiver and simply found joy in giving the gift?

What if we let go of the expectation and simply enjoy the anticipation of gift-giving?

As we move into the biggest gift-giving time of the year, let’s be givers of well-wrapped gifts. Let’s be givers of gifts wrapped in gratitude, love, kindness, grace, and joyful anticipation. And as we find blessing and joy in giving, may we also receive gifts in the same manner.

Be Extraordinary!

cj quilt

(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.)

Mary Did You Know?

Mary did you know“Mary Did You Know?” is one of my favorite religious Christmas songs. As a mom – having given birth to three of my own children – I love putting myself in Mary’s place. I imagine the range of emotions Mary must have felt throughout her pregnancy. And the thought of holding Jesus Christ in my arms is overwhelming.

Other words and emotions come to mind as well . . . joy, fear, anticipation, uncertainty, gratitude, etc.

Imagine for a moment that you gave birth to the Savior of the world. To the one who would bring salvation and also great controversy. To the one who would heal and be loved by many. To the one who would be hated by others even to the point of being beaten and killed.

Will you put yourself in Mary’s sandals as you read the beautiful words of this song?

“Mary did you know that your baby boy will some day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you
.

“Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

“Oh Mary did you know

“The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb.

“Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am.”

God has not given you or me His son to raise on this earth, but He has given each of us some precious gifts: forgiveness, life, dreams, and passions. How are you holding the dreams He has given you? Are you living out those dreams fully? Are you pursuing with passion all that you have been given and called to do?

To those who have been given much, much is required. Will you use all that you have been given to live the extraordinary life for which you were designed and created?

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.)

Let It Snow!

sunrise snow trioIt’s calm. It’s clean. It’s peaceful. It’s beautiful.

Everything is covered.
Every branch of every tree, even the tiniest little limb, is covered.
Every piece of dirt or mud from the previous day is clean.
Every blemish of the earth can no longer be seen.

snow 2There is, quite honestly, nothing like waking up to a world covered in a layer of freshly fallen snow.

This was my world this morning and I will have similar mornings many times over in the next few months. After all, Northern Michigan is something of a winter wonderland. Actually, for about five months each year it is a total winter wonderland!

Throughout the winter the roads and roadsides can become very dirty – brown, black, mucky, and a big ‘ole mess! When three, six, or twelve inches of fresh snow falls overnight the yuck is completely gone. Everywhere I look it is suddenly white, clean, pristine, and even sparkly.

Sometimes in life we need a fresh snowfall – a new start, a clean slate, or forgiveness for all of the mistakes from the previous day.

snowy treesToo often, we try to “forget” our mistakes – a bad attitude, harsh words, or poor choices. We attempt to pretend like they didn’t happen in hope they will disappear into thin air. Or we justify our offenses, blaming someone or something else, in order to feel less guilty. These “fixes” are temporary, but if we want to live an extraordinary life then we are going to have to take more drastic measures.

So, what do we do with those offenses? How can we have a brand new start, a day that begins with a clean, crisp layer of freshly fallen snow?

#1 Own It

Own up to the attitudes, words, and choices you made. Say it out loud. Whatever you have done, fully admit it.

#2 Make It Right

Make it right with whoever was on the receiving end of your poor attitude, words, or actions. As much as you are able, make amends and seek forgiveness. Even something small will compound if not taken care of now.

#3 Let It Go

Now that you have owned up to your offense and made it right with others involved, forgive yourself so you can move on. Walking through your day, or this life with the guilt of past offenses, will hinder the freedom necessary to live an extraordinary life.

SnowDo you want the ultimate extraordinary experience? The ultimate personal cleansing? The ultimate gift of freshly fallen snow for your life? You can have this experience by doing the following:

A – Admit that you mess up (sin). Admit that this sin separates you from a perfect God.

A – Acknowledge that Jesus is God’s son. Believe that Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, died on a cross for your sin, and rose to life on the third day.

A – Accept God’s free gift of salvation. God offers you freedom from your sin and the promise of eternal life in heaven when you die. He offers it. Your only job is to accept it.

Once you are right with God and experiencing the extraordinary life He offers, then you can fully experience right relationships and full forgiveness with others. It’s totally worth it!

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.)

For Mom’s Eyes Only: Patience

Be patientPatience. From one mom’s heart to another.

If I am honest, I do not always show patience to my children, even though they are so valuable to me and I love them so much. Patience shows that what my children have to say is important and worth hearing. When I am patient, I wait to hear the whole story before I begin to speak and before I formulate responses in my mind. Patience allows God’s wisdom and love to catch up with my initial emotional responses. Patience affords me the space to think clearly and respond to my children’s actions, attitudes, and words with love.

I want to love my children with patience. I want to value their opinions, ideas, and thoughts. I want to value what they, as young people, have to offer. I want to pause long enough to truly hear all of the great and wonderful things they have to say.

Child of Mine: You are funny. You are adorable. You are innocent. You are thoughtful. You are smart. You are creative. You are unique. You are bold. You are a dreamer. You are hopeful. You are beautiful.

If I don’t respond with patience I miss all of these beautiful thoughts, words, actions, and feelings.

Child of Mine: You are hurting. You are angry. You are sad. You are misunderstood. You are in conflict. You are searching. You are hoping. You are wanting. You are lonely. You are afraid.

If I don’t respond with patience I miss all of these emotions that are shaping their lives and future choices from the inside out. Without patience, I will also miss out on the opportunity to walk the path of their lives alongside them.

I have so much to offer my children, but I lose the platform for sharing and communicating my ideas with them when I don’t take time to hear what they are saying, with and without words. So often, I want to get my thoughts out. I want to have influence over their decisions. I do this out of love for them, but it doesn’t come across that way when it is not done with patience. I can’t control their future choices or change their past choices by talking at them every chance I get.

Ultimately, I don’t want their silent obedience. I want a relationship with them. I want them to relate beautifully with God. I want them to live a life full of impact, faith, love, and the realization of their greatest dreams. This relationship I desire is not solely dependent on them. It begins with me.

Moms, will you join me in the following commitments?

I choose to be quick to listen and slow to speak.
I choose to listen to the entire story before I formulate thoughts or words of response.
The answer may not always be yes, but I choose to listen with the intent to understand my child’s heart.
I choose to be patient.

Moms: 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.)

Are You Listening?

The subconscious. Inner promptings. The Holy Spirit. Women’s intuition. Gut feelings. The little voice inside my head.

Whatever you believe it is or whatever you choose to call it, consider how well you listen and how well you act on what you hear.

do you listen“Do you listen?”

Everyone is busy, or at least they feel busy. There is very little quiet space in our lives and in our minds. I have seen in my own life the difficulty of being ok in the quiet spaces. Those spaces can be filled with many things like playing out scenarios in my mind, movies, TV shows, social media, or You Tube videos. All of this “noise” keeps me from truly listening to any instincts or prompts that might be happening. It is important to silence the chatter long enough to listen for that still, small voice.

Listening and hearing what we ought or ought not to do is just one part of the equation.

“Do you act upon what you hear?”

All of us, if we are honest, can think of a time when we did not follow the voice inside that said to do or not do something.

Have you ever felt like you should send a card to someone but didn’t do it?
Have you ever thought you ought to approach “that person” about business, but you were too afraid?
Have you ever thought the words “I love you” or considered a loving touch, but did not verbalize or take action?

What opportunities, feelings, or relationships have we missed out on because we were unwilling to respond when that little voice spoke?

There is so much good to be done and love to be spread in this world if we would only listen and then act on what we hear.

STOP! Silence the chatter. Ask yourself,

Is there an action that I should take right now?

Is there a word I ought to speak to the person next to me?

Is there something I could do right now to make a difference in someone’s day?

Listen. Act. And then share what difference that small deed or word made in your day.

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.)

Thanksgiving Blog-Venture Day 7

img_9802-2I enjoy the cozy, comfy, home-focused writing that Becca shares in her blog. I am excited to share her thoughts and insights with you for this final day of the blog-venture.

“Today is the day where we all remember to be thankful. As we sit around a turkey feast, grabbing a third piece of pie, and sharing what and who we are grateful for, our hearts are filled.

Remembering the good, the blessings, the love steadies the mind and reassures the heart that all will be okay — God has provided and will continue to provide. . .”

Continue reading HERE.

Thank you for following this 7 day blog-venture. I hope you have enjoyed looking at thanksgiving and gratitude from some different perspectives. I also hope you have been challenged and encouraged. And finally, I hope that you have found some great new blogs to follow and enjoy.

If you missed any of the 7 blogs in 7 days by 7 bloggers, you will find the links below.

Day 1, Me

Day 2, Terry

Day 3, Bev

Day 4, Joe

Day 5, Tom

Day 6, Danny

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.)

Thanksgiving Blog-Venture Day 6

Photo credit: Marcus Rahm / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: Marcus Rahm / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Today’s blog post, “Best.Thanksgiving. Ever.”, comes to you from Danny Ray. Danny gives us a dose of perspective for Thanksgiving by taking a look at Noah’s attitude and gratitude.

“Can you picture Noah’s face when he saw the first rainbow? He just spent the last year on a boat with his family. 365+ days with his family! A year with his daughter-in-laws and his soon to be cursed son, Ham! How much Bingo, Monopoly and Scrabble can one family play? Imagine spending Thanksgiving with your entire family for a year with no place to go. . .”

Continue reading HERE.

In case you’ve missed any days so far, here are the links:

Day 1, Me

Day 2, Terry

Day 3, Bev

Day 4, Joe

Day 5, Tom

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.)

Thanksgiving Blog-Venture Day 5

PieIt is Day 5 of the Thanksgiving Blog-Venture: 7 blogs in 7 days by 7 bloggers. Today’s post comes from Tom who is full of wisdom, humor, and a love for pie! He has some great Thanksgiving thoughts and perspective to share with us today.

“That time of year is here again.  We have said goodbye to another summer and are now in the dwindling days of fall. If you live in Northern Michigan, I think we skipped over the last half of fall, and we are now knee deep in winter! Fall is one of my favorite times of year.  The leaves changes, the sun takes on a different glow, there is a crispness in the air, and my thoughts turn to Thanksgiving – and pie! . . .”

Continue reading by clicking HERE.

Don’t forget to give some blog love to Tom while you’re there by leaving a comment or like.

In case you’ve missed any days so far, here are the links:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

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.)

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