Tag Archives: personal growth

Treasures in My Heart

What a day! At nine months pregnant she had traveled many miles on the back of a donkey on her first road trip with Joseph. Then, when she was about to give birth, there was no place found for them to stay – no place to deliver the baby. They found shelter and warmth in a stable where they were likely in the presence of barn animals.

Finally, Mary gave birth (a first-time experience) to Jesus, God’s own son!

Then, to their surprise (I would imagine) they were greeted by shepherds. Most nativity sets depict just one shepherd, but in Luke 2:15 we read, “The shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” So there were many shepherds who arrived on the scene and left glorifying and praising God, telling everyone about what they had seen and heard.

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart,” Luke 2:19.

CJ treasureI used to think Mary treasured and pondered this beautiful moment while holding God’s son in her arms. I still think she did, but I also believe that she treasured and pondered the whole experience from the time she found out she was pregnant until the shepherds left rejoicing.

Why did Mary hold all these things in her heart? Because no one else could understand or even begin to comprehend all she had seen, heard, believed, and felt. No one.

These thoughts about Mary came to me as I considered all I have experienced this past year. I have done much pondering, but many things keep popping out of my mouth and heart. I keep attempting to express them and draw understanding from others. I leave those conversations feeling empty and dissatisfied. Maybe it’s time to take all these “treasures” and share them solely with Jesus; to hold the beautiful and ugly in my heart and then let Jesus hold my healing heart.

treasure 2

Someday, when the time is right and my heart is healed enough, it will come out just right. I will be able to express the best things to help others. It will satisfy because it will fit my purpose of enriching others’ lives. It will Be Extraordinary!

Is there anything in your life that needs a little more treasuring and pondering within before it comes out? Jesus, the great Healer, wants to touch those areas of your life as only He can. He is the One who knows what you have been through and what you are going through. Take it all to Him – ponder and treasure those things in your heart – and let Jesus share the joys and sorrows of your unexplainable journey.

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.)

Braces or No Braces

BJ bracesTuesday, January 19, at 10:20am my beautiful daughter Bethany was scheduled to get her braces off. She is about one month shy of having had her braces for 18 months. This process was much quicker than anticipated, but getting them off was still very exciting. Bethany has been counting down the days since her December appointment, when Dr. Schultz told her the thrilling news: “Let’s take your off your braces at your next appointment!”

But when Tuesday, January 19 came, and so did a sudden migraine. This is a fairly common occurrence so when I received the call from the school, just 15 minutes before I picked her up for the ortho appointment, I winced. Because we moved recently, the orthodontist is almost an hour drive away. I hoped that she could sleep it off in the car and be ok – that’s what I prayed. However, ten minutes down the road, she sat up in tears and said, “I can’t do it.” Within ten more minutes she displayed the full effects of the migraine.

Her appointment is rescheduled for the next possible time: February 22. Ouch!

Bethany was excited for January 19. She and I had great plans – a lunch date (without braces), the purchase of a promised bag of Skittles (if she got her braces off before I was done paying for them!), and shopping for a much-needed pair of pants. I was excited for her and I was excited to give all my attention to her.

I am so proud of how Bethany has managed her disappointment. She was sad. She was disappointed. She told many people this was coming and now must face them at school and church, telling them why she still bears her shiny smile. However, this disappointment did not knock her out.

Disappointment weighs differently on each of us. (Read about Celina’s bout with disappointment HERE.) The disappointment itself is different for each of us, but Bethany’s response challenges me and I hope it challenges you too:

  1. She acknowledged the disappointment.
  2. She grieved the disappointment.
  3. She engaged others in processing the disappointment.
  4. She moved on in spite of the disappointment.

It reminds me of the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

In the face of disappointment (which will come),

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.)

My One Word: Heal

One word: Heal.

This is my word for 2016. (Read more about choosing a word HERE). My desire is to experience deep healing throughout this year. In order to live the extraordinary life, be all that God made me to be, and do all that God designed me to do I must experience real, authentic, and deep healing.

HealsHonestly, I did not like this word when I first thought of it. My typical words or goals involve something more (active, proactive, aggressive, get-it-done) dynamic. Healing sounds like dark, hard, emotional work. I feel like I have had enough tears and emotions for one lifetime, so going to a deeper level . . . ugh! I say “ugh” and yet I want the results, and so a piece of my heart (at least in this moment) says “yes!” I want to be better. I want to feel better. I want to heal.


When I initially chose the word “heal” it was all about emotions. My heart was broken and dreams were crushed last year. The hurt my family experienced affected me personally. I felt deep sadness, anger – at times vengeful – and an ache of soul I never knew until this past year. My emotional self definitely needs more healing and that is a part of my word’s meaning.


Stress, grief, change, and the unknown all impact our bodies physically. Weight loss is difficult, if not impossible. Inflammation increases and is hard to manage, which can result in all kinds of physical problems. And, in the midst of stress, moving, and emotional struggle it feels ridiculously overwhelming to make any lifestyle changes because survival is the highest goal (along with not going insane)!

Now that we are settled into our new community, schools, work, and home I want to re-focus on my health. I want to make healthy meals, release some pounds, and renew healthy habits for me and my family. I know more transitions are in the future, but I can take physical steps of healing now.


There is one specific relationship I am working on this year. My heart and attitude need healing because I want a #10, open, honest, fun, growing relationship with this person. It requires work on my part. This relationship needs the healing touch of Jesus, and so does my heart. I want great relationships. I want to be a giver rather than a taker. I want to heal and improve in my relationships, beginning with this specific one.

What does your one word mean? Are there ways your word could be expanded or enhanced to have greater meaning and value? The opportunity before us is huge. We have the chance to grow, change, and Be Extraordinary in 2016. Don’t miss 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.)


one wordIt is common in recent years to choose a word for the year. It has probably been popular for ages, but I have seen it in books, blogs, and heard it spoken about more often recently. I have been doing something similar with my mastermind team for the past eight years. We make contract statements. For example, “I am a Joyful, Positive, Forgiving Woman.” We then sign our emails with these contracts: “Joyful, Positive, Forgiving Traci.” Sometimes the words change throughout the year because we change or different circumstances arise, but often we pick themes for an entire year.

One year I chose the word “positive.” Up to that point I considered myself a natural pessimist, but I wanted to change my perspective and my life. One year of focus, working through a powerful book (The 4:8 Principle), and accepting feedback and challenge from my mastermind team changed my outlook. I, the eternal pessimist/realist, became a positive, glass-half-full kind of girl.

Simply saying the word over and over will not make it true. Like Steve Carell’s morning ritual in Evan Almighty, “I am successful. I am powerful. I am handsome. I am happy.” Yes, there is power in our words – what we speak, listen to, and believe. However, I also believe we must take action in order to develop these qualities or experience these life-changing words in our life.


If you already have a word, skip to the ACTION section, but if you don’t have a word, would you consider choosing one for this year? If you want to take the journey and Be Extraordinary in this life, then internal change (which will turn into external change) must occur. No one has arrived. Here are a few suggestions for choosing your word:

  1. Think about who you want to become this year. What is one specific area you want to see more of in your life?
  2. Make sure your word is positive. Rather than “not being fearful,” choose courageous, confident, or brave.
  3. Know what your word means to you. It doesn’t really matter if others fully understand your word, but YOU must understand your word.
  4. Pray. If you have a relationship with God, ask Him. He wants you to grow, change, and Be Extraordinary too!


I look at these actions as ways to enhance your growth in your word. To really become – or take big strides in becoming – your word, there must be more than a morning ritual of repetition. Some action ideas:

  1. Write your word and put it in places you will see regularly. (bathroom mirror, refrigerator, car)
  2. Tell others your word. Make sure you tell people who love you and encourage you as you grow into your new word.
  3. Find a book. One of the most powerful things for me in becoming more positive was reading a book related to that topic (The 4:8 Principle). I actually read the book twice that year.
  4. Memorize a Bible verse. There are so many verses that relate to life and personal growth. Choose one of these verses and commit it to memory.
  5. Embrace your word. Choose to be your word. You may not have fully arrived, but you can still choose to take actions that make your word true. For example, if my word is healthy, then I can embrace a healthy lifestyle and do things that a healthy person would do even if I am not yet healthy.

I would love to know what your word is for this year. My word is HEAL and you can read more about it HERE. Would you please share your word in the comments below or in the comments on Facebook? Let’s become more of who we were made to be, one word at a time!

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.)

Against the Wind

I completed the couch to 5k (C25K) training program a few weeks ago. I absolutely love the app since it tells me when to run, when to walk, when my workout is halfway complete, and even congratulates me when I am done. It took me much longer than the allotted 8 weeks, but I did finish and then ran a 5k in 31 minutes.

The next thing I did after completing this training was a little outside my personal workout box: I chose to move on to the 10k training app. Because I completed the 5k training I get to pick up this new training plan on week 9. Whoa! I had completed all the training, but I anticipated going back to some shorter run times for a little while and easing into this new plan. Instead, the first workout was 40 minutes long (four, 10-minute runs), nine minutes longer than any of my previous runs!

Running is challenging for me. I am not very fast or fluid, but I am learning with each run how to better manage my body. In fact, I’ve been feeling like “a runner” during my last few runs – until my most recent run. It was my second time running three, 15-minute runs with one minute walks in between, so I knew I was capable of the task. However, I wasn’t expecting to meet such a foe on the trail:


This wind was strong, unwanted, and for most of the run it was at my face. I was exerting a lot of effort, but didn’t feel like I was moving. I tried to settle into my pace and straighten my posture, but the force was too strong. I had a couple glorious moments when the wind was on my back and running felt easy, but most of the run was difficult. My mile times were 40 seconds slower than usual.

As I was struggled to run well I thought about my friends who are facing difficult circumstances. And I thought about my own difficult circumstances of the day (car in the shop – again; kid home sick – again; finances tight – again.) These difficulties are like the fierce wind beating against us – causing the pursuit of our dreams to feel impossible, causing us to want to quit – and it’s just plain hard!

I wish God would just calm the wind or turn it in the other direction so it’s at our backs (although I know He has done that for me before.) He doesn’t because He wants my trust. He wants my heart. He wants my obedience. He wants my growth. He wants all of these things more than He wants to make my life easy.

Mt 14When Peter walked on water in Matthew 14, the Lord did not calm the storm until they were back in the boat! Even after the Lord rescued Peter from near drowning, they walk together, side by side, all the way back to the boat took place IN the wind and waves.

God is by your side. In the midst of your raging sea and fierce winds, He is with you.

This blog would not be complete without this song: Listen Here.

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name

Even – especially – when running against the wind . . .

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.)

A Little Look at Grace

night and dayI am doing a read-through-the-Bible program with my church – actually, I’m listening. It’s a great way to use my car time and is also helpful since I’m not a very fast reader. When I read through the Bible it amazes me how new phrases, stories, and people are brought to my attention each time. One story that challenged me so far is that of Sarai and Hagar.

Hagar is Sarai’s maid-servant. Sarai became frustrated and impatient when she did not get pregnant as God had promised. It was taking far too long according to Sarai’s plans and so she gave Hagar to her husband and Hagar became pregnant. This started an intense, emotional, angry cat-fight between the women. They despised each other. Abram saw what was happening and told Sarai, “‘Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.’ Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.” (Genesis 16:6)

The Lord reached down and showed amazing kindness and grace to Hagar. It is a beautiful story, especially if you are in a lonely place. You can read the entire story in Genesis 16.

There is a piece of this story that caught my attention like never before. In Genesis 17 God says to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

Sarah was blessed. Sarah was a leader alongside her husband. I imagine that Sarah was known by many, impacted many, loved many, and many loved her. I think of her like Princess Diana – helping and caring for the people her husband led. She was blessed by God Himself!

Now imagine how Hagar felt when she heard Sarah’s name spoken. What emotions would come up as she heard of the blessings bestowed upon Sarah, Abraham, and their community? God’s favor and Sarah’s usefulness were not limited by Hagar’s experience with Sarai.

There is some tough application here . . . speaking from my own experience.

Have you ever been hurt or treated unjustly by someone who loves Jesus? Have you (who love Jesus) ever been the bearer of hurt or treated someone else unjustly?

Have mean, unkind, downright wrong, or evil words or actions been done to you by someone who seems to be favored by God? Have you (who have received blessing from God) ever spoken or done mean, wrong, or evil things to someone else?

It’s happened – I’m 100% sure because we are human and we are not perfect.

I struggle with the fact that people who hurt me so badly could also be the agents of great blessing to others. My experience feels like the only possible truth. I admittedly don’t feel like giving much or any grace. After all, they ought to be held accountable for their actions. But . . . when I’m on the end of personally “messing up” I desire, expect, and sometimes demand all the grace in the world. That mess-up shouldn’t define me. After all, look at all the ways God has blessed me and all the people I, in turn, bless. I deserve grace!

See any application yet?

I encourage you to ponder these thoughts, as I continue to ponder them as well. God is teaching me much about grace and I will be writing more about it in the weeks and months to come. The extraordinary life challenges our thinking, our behavior, and requires new grace-filled thoughts and actions.

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.)

Little Orange Leaf

It is a new season . . . fall. I love fall and the changes it brings. . .

Fall colors are amazing. I love the oranges, reds, browns, and splashes of yellow. I decorate my home with these warm, beautiful colors.

The weather is changing. Today, where I live, the temperature is 13 degrees lower than yesterday. The mornings are crisper and the afternoons often warm up dramatically from the sun, only to cool down again in the evenings.

The kids are in school and new routines are established. It takes a few days, but a new rhythm is found, the house gets cleaned (maybe next week), and new work schedules are set.

little orange leafWe are not yet fully in fall. Most of the leaves are still green. The ground hasn’t been frosty in the morning. But, it’s coming. I can see one little orange leaf amongst the green ones and know that fall is on the way.

I saw a little orange leaf in my life recently – a sign that change is happening. Change has happened.

Since January (9 months) I cry easily. This was not my norm prior to January, but the hurt, pain, and sadness I felt were so raw and fresh that I knew holding back my abundance of tears would probably make me physically sick. I decided to let the tears come – to let them flow during church, at the sound of worship music, and in conversation with friends and strangers.

After several months I began to think it was ridiculous. The tears would not stop. I made a deliberate choice to let myself grieve and hurt in my own way and for my own length of time. I was in the Traci process. There was no formula that my heart and emotions were following. I was in my own grieving process, one like no one else’s and I didn’t need to excuse it or be embarrassed by it. I needed to work through it.

Honestly, I thought it would never end. And then last week, 9 months later, I saw my little orange leaf. I had a conversation – real, honest – and there were teary eyes at one point, but I didn’t bawl my eyes out. Progress! Not just progress like “you’re getting so much better at not crying!” BUT, there was healing! I could feel it in my soul and the thought of it actually brings me to tears! 🙂

This journey of life is crazy. It’s amazing and it’s super hard. Whatever season you are in, don’t fight it. Be there. Be there fully. And know that another season is around the corner. Maybe today you will see a little orange leaf letting you know that change is on the way.

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.)

First Day . . . Again!

First Day of School 2015

First Day of School 2015

It is the first day of school in our new little town. I just returned from dropping the kids off at their new schools, with new teachers, and soon-to-be new friends. Leaving the car one by one were three kids with three very different perspectives on the day. One absolutely loves school and is a total optimist when it comes to school and learning. She set out full of massive amounts of nervous, excited energy. I have no doubt that she has already made a friend and told her teacher everything about the latest book she is reading.

The other two have different battles to face. One in middle school, one in high school, and both full of hormones and unpredictable emotions. They have real concerns about how they look, who they’ll eat lunch with, and if they’ll remember where their classes are.

One of my kiddos has been plagued with anxiety ever since we moved to Michigan two and a half years ago. You would never know it if you encountered him in a variety of contexts. You would see confidence, humor, and even a little arrogance, but the first day of school brings out a beast like none other. Anxiety is a terrible thing and I watch it take every piece of confidence out of this amazing kid. It breaks my heart. He cries. (He’s even thrown up more than once.) Then I trust the people at the new school once again to take care of my kid as I drive away . . . in tears. I keep my phone on me, hoping and praying that I don’t receive a call from the school.

As much as I communicate with the school and trust the office, teachers, and counselors to take care of my child and do what’s best for him, there is a bigger trust for me. I am choosing to entrust my kiddo, his growth, and his future to Almighty God.

He sees. He knows. He cares.

Just as the difficulties in my life are working, pruning, and developing character in me, God is growing, strengthening, developing, and creating an extraordinary story in their lives. As much as it hurts and breaks my heart, I don’t want to take this away from my kids. I remember when this anxiety first reared its ugly head in a major way.

It was the first day of school after moving to Michigan. It was April, the day everyone went back to school after spring break, and it was our kids’ first day in the new school. It did not go so well. As I talked on the phone with the counselor or sat in the drop-off line praying him out the door and into the school, I just wanted to quit. I wanted to pull him out of school, home-school him, and protect him from the loads of pain he was feeling. Then he survived, learned, grew, and was strengthened in his character. I could see it!

Then that fall when school began it happened again. And the next fall it happened again. And now, here we are at a new school . . . again.

Through my tears, as I write these words, I still believe it is worth it . . . for me and for my precious kiddo. I refuse to rob them of the lessons God wants to teach them. I refuse to control the situation in hopes of avoiding hurt because I will not withhold from this kid all that God has for them. It is through our greatest pains and sorrows where we learn to truly depend on and trust God. I want to learn those lessons for myself and I want my kids to learn those lessons too – even while they’re young, especially while they’re young.

Parents, do you need to allow your kids to experience the natural pains of life? I’m not talking about throwing them out to a pack of wolves or not standing by their side in full love and support. I am talking about how often we over-protect our kids from hurt or potential hurt because we think that is helping them. Do you need to help them by letting them strengthen their own spiritual muscles?

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.)

Growing through Grief

I am so thankful for this post by my friend, Bev. As I walk through my own grief and sadness this summer, Bev reminds me that grief does not need to control my life. I will experience it fully, but it won’t rule over me.

Please take to heart the wise words of a woman who knows grief and lives with perspective.

What I have learned about grief.

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.)

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.)

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