Posted in book, faith

Out of the River, Onto the Raft – My Faith Journey

Purpose in Life – Rewritten

I’ve divided the rest of the book into 5 parts: An All About Me, Meet my Mom of the Last 3 Years, Unveiling the Mirror of My Life, My Relationship with my Mom before August 2016, and Lessons I Learned Along the Way.

When I originally wrote about my faith in God, I wrote in a linear fashion because that is how life is – minutes, days, weeks, months, and then years. But is that how our faith is, does it go in a straight line one moment after another or are there rapids we must overcome? Those rapids might cause our faith to go off course.

I can tell you that I always went to church as a child. Or at least from what I remember. My paternal grandpa was a United Methodist Church pastor and baptized me within a week of my birth. My mom would talk about the different churches we attended while in Pennsylvania but honestly, I can’t remember any one of them. I was either too young or traumatized.

It wasn’t until we moved to Ohio that I can remember the whole going to church and the expectation that I attend on a regular basis even after staying out all night at prom. We first attended church at my mom’s childhood church. I remember the experiences I had at that church: music “tour” trips and being in plays. Even though it felt like home, it wasn’t really my church home.

Then in 1987, we moved across town away from that church. I mean we could have still attended but God had other plans. In the new area where I lived was a church and as soon as I saw it, I told my mom, “I want to attend a service here.”

She obliged and quickly I was in the confirmation class. Within 6 months of attending the church, I was standing up in front of the church becoming a member. I had just broken my leg a couple months prior and was expected to help with the communion on confirmation Sunday. With the help of God, I did not drop the communion tray. At that moment, my faith journey really began.

You see within a year or so of attending the church, I met a person who would truly help me with my faith. He didn’t realize it at that time, but his constant loving of me as though as a daughter really helped me grow as a person and as did my faith. He saw through my human fallacies and shakable faith to see me as someone that had a purpose in life.

For the next seven years, I faithfully attended that church and was active in youth group, clowns for Christ, and attended several mission trips helping those who were misfortunate and needed our help.

Then life happened. Just like there is a bend in a river where you can quickly change course, my life did that. In 1995, I was accepted to be part of the Disney College Program. While on the program, my relationship with God was not priority. It was not going to be that way until I met my husband 2 years later. However, God never forgot me. HE had my back even though I was flapping around like a fish out of the water trying to discover who I was as a person.

Then I met my husband and well I started going back to church on a more regular basis. God was bringing me back to his fold. As I mentioned before, he will find the one lost sheep. HE was searching for me and found me.

“Here, Traci.”

“Who is this from?” I asked myself as I looked at the card. No one had signed the card.

When I asked people, who gave me the money, no one was willing to confess that they had given me the money. They wanted to remain anonymous.

At the time I was given that envelope, I was a struggling college student at that time with limited income. During the previous quarter, I had worked myself to the bone in both classwork and at work. On this day, I had been back to my church for college Sunday. I was handed that envelope after I had talked about my dreams of completing my college degree and eventually becoming a teacher. I never spoke of my worries about not being able to pay for college. God had seen my struggle and even though I had limped away from a relationship with him, he saw to it that I was provided for but still I didn’t realize how much God really loved me.

Also, during that time, I had been estranged from my grandparents. We didn’t agree about many things which caused a divide. It was a rapid in my ever-changing life at that time. God used my husband to reconnect my grandparents and myself.

In the late 90s, I had many rapids in my life. So many river bends were occurring as my life kept changing. Even though I didn’t seek God first with my problems, he planted seeds of my spiritual gift which is a strong faith that my end goal would be accomplished which was my teaching degree.

“. . . if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:20

After my husband and I were dating for a year, I joined his church and 6 months after that we were married. He had also been brought up in the church, so we continued the tradition of going to church every Sunday. We attended the church that he had grown up in and eventually brought our sons there.

During that time, I was complacent with my relationship with God. I knew I loved him but a lot of me going to church was ritualistic and not of building a relationship with HIM.

Then in 2010, a political issue caused a giant crack in the church we had been attending – his childhood church. People we called our church family turned their back on us and still to this day won’t talk to us.

It was decided on a nippy March evening in a golf course clubhouse that we were going to be part a group of people gathering to form a new church. We took a leap of faith as we changed course with our church. Those people who gathered had the faith of a mustard seed. Ten years later, my family still attends that church.

During all these years, I have had challenges that could have rocked my faith. However, my faith as small as a mustard seed has seen me through those challenges. The road of my life has been full of rocks and thorny plants, but no matter what, God has been by my side. He has never forsaken or forgotten me even with my faith has been shaken and gone off course.

God gives ever Christian spiritual gifts. Mine happens to be the gift of exhortation which is spiritual encouragement. It is my belief that God wants me to write so that I can encourage people.

To be honest, I had the foundations of my faith started at my church I attended as a teenager, but it was not until the Coronavirus pandemic that my faith began to flourish. It took 20 plus years of me discovering who I was as a person before I could fully embrace who I am in the eyes of the Lord.

As we continue to float down the river, we are going to meet the two men who would help with the laying of the foundation of my faith. I’m proud to call them my father figures. Without either of them, I believe I would have hit even more rapids and would have fallen off my raft and drowned in the human existence of life. My relationship with God would have floated even further away from me.

To be continued . . .

Posted in book, faith

Out of the River, Onto the Raft – Purpose in Life Rewritten

My “Heart” Bible

I’ve divided the rest of the book into 5 parts: An All About Me, Meet my Mom of the Last 3 Years, Unveiling the Mirror of My Life, My Relationship with my Mom before August 2016, and Lessons I Learned Along the Way.

After I shared “My Purpose in Life,” I realized how stilted it sounded to me. I really didn’t like how I originally wrote that part of the book. I still wanted to keep the content but needed to change it up. At 3 something in the morning, I awoke to a realization of how I was going to write it. So this morning, I rewrote it.

As we drove down I-35 towards the school, we would listen to Notorious B.IG.’s Hypnotize on repeat. It was the spring of ’97 and I was finally starting my first phase towards becoming a teacher. My college decided to pilot a program where you would take all of your education classes and observation of a classroom in one school building. They wanted the students who were studying elementary education to be totally immersed in the school environment.

As the class sat in the musty basement of the older building, I shared some of my story which was too difficult for some of my classmates to understand. This was way before teachers really thought about trauma informed teaching.

At the end of the quarter, I was called into the professor’s office. Not knowing the purpose of the meeting, I felt as though I was going on a roller coaster: sweaty palms, erratic heartbeat, and a flip-flopping stomach.

After he demanded I sit down, he informed me that my classmates couldn’t handle hearing about my past and didn’t know how to talk to me.

“And those who know Your name will put their trust in You;” Psalm 9:10

When I shared MY story, I was trusting the fact though they could speak to me as another person. The only difference is I had trauma in my past. But that trauma did not define who I was a person. It was my passion to why I was becoming a teacher. You see 12 years prior; I had escaped from an abusive father. I wanted to be at least ONE student’s hero. I wanted them to see that you can become someone even after someone took away your dignity and left you feeling as though you were nothing. I knew I couldn’t save ALL of my students, but ONE is better than none.

Instead of being understanding, I became a student in trouble with the principal because I shared MY story.

It was at that time that I quit telling people about my past because I couldn’t trust people with MY story. What I didn’t know is that God was laying the foundation for his purpose for my life.

At that time, I felt as though God had forsaken me. You see while in college, I rarely went to church because of working or studying. I didn’t seek a relationship with him, but he never left my side.

“For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”
Psalm 9:10.

In September 2019, God whispered in my ear and said, “It is time to tell your story.”

What I didn’t know was that my mom was going to be gone with the month. He knew her plans for her life. HE also knew I couldn’t heal from her death without sharing my story. Not only was I to heal from her death, I was to create a legacy for others. One of encouragement and resilience. I don’t know who I’m going to help by sharing MY story. I just have to get out of the boat and just trust him. He knows his purpose for my life.

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 29: 11.

Now I have been given inklings to what his plans for me. I have heard him whisper to me to, “Write.”

I dream of new towns with people I have never met. I’ve created blog posts in my mind. I invent stories about people I have seen out and about. But have never just written because I get caught up in the restraints of grammar. Or the worry about would people really want to read what I have written. I just need to trust the process and allow my fingers to dance across my keyboard or fill the notebook pages with my words. God will touch the hearts of those who read the words I have written.

“Plans to prosper you and not harm you,” Jeremiah 29:11

As I write, I’m becoming less Instagram fake and more my authentic self. Life is messy. We may hit the rapids of life, but we need to remember that means we are truly living.

I need to trust God when he keeps telling me, “Write. You need to write and share YOUR story. No one can tell it but you. Your writing is going to be your legacy and help someone you’ve never met before. Listen to me. Trust me.”

“Plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

If I could go back in time, I would have told that professor, “You talk to me like a person. I’m no different than you. I just have a trauma that is invisible. The experience makes up my personality and character but does not define me now and not in the future. In fact, it may make me a better teacher because I have had some similar experiences as some of the teachers.”

One key information that I left out was that in the previous November, 11 years after we left him, my father succumbed to his brain tumor that had hindered him for almost 30 years. Right before his death, I had made the decision to go and see him one more time and tell him, “You don’t have power over me anymore.”

God had other plans for me. I was not to go to Pittsburgh.

I had felt free from my father’s chains and instead someone else put new chains on me. What I didn’t know was God was laying the foundation for me so I could find my purpose in life. And for that I’m thankful. It was not the season of my life to share MY story.

“To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven;” Ecclesiastes 3:1

To be continued . . .

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Out of the River, Onto the Raft – Purpose in Life

My “Heart” Bible

I’ve divided the rest of the book into 5 parts: An All About Me, Meet my Mom of the Last 3 Years, Unveiling the Mirror of My Life, My Relationship with my Mom before August 2016, and Lessons I Learned Along the Way.

Your palms are sweating. Your heart is beating out of your chest. Your stomach is doing flip flops.

“Sit down,” demanded your professor.

Your professor has asked you to come to his office to speak to you.

So, you obediently sit down on a chair while your mind is racing. Because you don’t know what you did to cause this meeting.

You had just finished your first classes to be a teacher and your first observation in a classroom. You’re confused about what you did while in the class with the first and second graders.

“When you shared your past, the rest of the class didn’t know how to talk to you afterward,” uttered my professor.

“And those who know Your name will put their trust in You;”
Psalm 9:10

You put your trust in the class when you shared my past with them. The rest of the students in your class didn’t trust the fact that they could just speak to you as though you’re a regular person.

So, what about your past did you share with your class? You told them one of the reasons you want to become a teacher was because you had had been physically abused by your father.

That person was me. I was told by my professor that I shouldn’t share my story because it scared other people in my class. They didn’t know how to respond to my sharing. Instead of speaking to me, they went to the professor who called me into the office, like I was a student in trouble with the principal just for sharing my past.

None of my teachers was my hero, while the whole ordeal was going on in my life. Perhaps I was going to be a kid’s hero. I knew that I wasn’t going to save all the children.

Even though at that moment, I felt as though God had forsaken me. I couldn’t be my authentic self.

“For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”
Psalm 9:10.

For the next 20 years, I was very selective about who I told the story of my past because I thought I was going to be judged. Through it all, God stayed by my side, preparing me for his plans for me. He did not forsake me.

It was not until my mom died in early October that I felt like I could be my authentic self. I knew that it was time to tell my story. God began to let me know his plans for me. It is up for me to believe him.

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 29: 11.

Over the years, he has given me an inkling of what his plans are for me. He has since whispered, “Write.”

While I sleep, I dream of new towns with people I have never met.  When I wake up in the middle of the night and on long car rides, I create blog posts in my mind never to recreate them when I’m awake. I invent stories about people I observe when I’m people watching while out and about.

When I write, I often get caught up in the grammar and does it sound right which causes my writing to be stilted instead of being inspiring. (At least it does to me.) However, I need just to sit and write and later worry about revising and editing.

“Plans to prosper you and not harm you,”
Jeremiah 29:11

I’ve shared more of my writing in the last few months, along with the story of my life. Many people have been shocked when I tell them the truth since I’m becoming more authentic. They can’t really get to know me when I just say, “I’m okay.”

It’s as though I’m being Instagram fake. My life may look as though it is “perfect” even though I’m walking through valleys right now. No one’s life is truly perfect. It’s messy, especially if you are truly living.

Some of my stories have been shared with various people in my life. God has worked his magic by talking through those people. “Write. You need to write and share your stories.”

“Your writing is going to help someone. Someone who you’ve never met and may never meet. It’s going to be your legacy. Listen to me,” God is saying through them.

“Plans to give you hope and a future.”
 Jeremiah 29:11

Even though I’m trying to follow what the Lord is telling me to do, there is still some self-doubt because of what I was told 22 years ago. “People don’t know how to talk to you after learning about your tragic past.”

If I could talk to that professor, I would reply, “You talk to me like a person.”

Just because I have suffered through circumstances that would make a person cry, it’s only part of my story. It does not define me. However, it is what makes up part of my personality and character.

What the professor didn’t know was that the abuse made me a stronger person. While in my 20’s, I had the drive to graduate from college. I was bound and determined to be the first member of my family to earn my bachelor’s degree. I was working full-time at McDonald’s so that I could afford to go to college. I didn’t let that part of my story become an excuse. Instead, it gave me a reason to be successful.

My father had just died that past November, so I felt as though that weight had been lifted off my shoulder. Right before he died, I wanted to travel to Pittsburgh for the first time in 11 years so that I could tell him, “You no longer have power over me.”

Then a few months later, I’m told, “You can’t talk about your past.” My piece of advice from my experience is, “Do not let someone have that kind of power over you that you feel like you can’t share your authentic self.”

Behind the scenes, God was only preparing the way for me. He was building the foundation for his real purpose for my life. He already knew the plans for my life. It was not to be the season of my life for him to reveal his plan. He was only laying down the foundation.

“To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven;”
Ecclesiastes 3:1

To be continued . . .

Posted in book, faith

Out of the River, Onto the Raft – My “Heart Bible”

Where I’m From

I’ve divided the rest of the book into 5 parts: An All About Me, Meet my Mom of the Last 3 Years, Unveiling the Mirror of My Life, My Relationship with my Mom before August 2016, and Lessons I Learned Along the Way.

During World War II, many soldiers carried a heart Bible. The Bible was not in the shape of a Bible. Instead, they wore in their uniform pocket above their heart. My grandpa had one of those Bibles. He was a scared 19 year old tail gunner. That Bible helped him during his missions.

Instead of an actual heart Bible, I carry around a verse that saves me during my troubled times. As with a lot of my life, there is a story behind my heart Bible.

All the windows had bars on them. These bars were not to keep people out but not to allow people in. Graffiti covered the exterior of buildings, overpasses, and other public spaces. Litter was all over the ground. The Over-the-Rhine area was not the mecca of the hip bar scene of the current time. Thirty years ago, it was a down and out part of Cincinnati.

          It was there my pastor decided to take a group of youth ranging from 11 years of age to 16 years to help with some of the revitalization. None of the youth were allowed to walk the streets without an adult escort for safety reasons. Doors were locked the moment you entered the building we were staying in.

          Not only did our pastor decide to take our youth group but another youth group joined us for our week of mission work. Memories were made during that week from having a boyfriend for a day, first kisses when the adults weren’t present, singing Bell Biv Bevoe’s Poison at every meal, and watching a Reds Game.

          It was there that I had an encounter with God. Once again, I didn’t realize it at the moment because I was a 15-year-old stuck in the human part of existence. Boys, music, and how others perceived me were number one and my relationship with God had not been developed yet. Church had always been a part of my life and continues to be that way now. God has always led me, but I never knew it in the moment.

          A few of us were given the job of painting this dirty unkempt hallway. Paint was peeling and there was a rank smell permeating throughout the building. As I began painting, a song popped into my head and I began singing it. “This is the day the Lord hath made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

          I sang that song repeatedly that week. In all that grunginess and lack of safety, God found me and said, “It’s okay. I made this day. You just need to be thankful that you are able to be here and help these people. These are my people.”

          That song has become my life verse. The verse I hold on as a life preserver when life gets difficult. Twenty-nine years after that day, I lost my mom suddenly. My aunt traveled from New York to help me with the funeral plans and to clean out my mom’s apartment. The day after her death, we were wandering through a local market when we came across a vendor selling charms. It was there I found the charm that read Psalm 118:24. After I bought it, I wore it for the first few months after her death.

          On the day of her funeral, I mourned but also rejoiced because the fall leaves were changing color. Mom always said to me, “I wonder when the leaves will change color this year,” right before her death.

          So please, always find time to rejoice no matter what your circumstance.

“This is the day that the Lord has made.

   let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24


To be continued . . .

Posted in book, faith

Out of the River, Onto the Raft – Where I’m From

Reason for the Book – Part 3

I’ve divided the rest of the book into 5 parts: An All About Me, Meet my Mom of the Last 3 Years, Unveiling the Mirror of My Life, My Relationship with my Mom before August 2016, and Lessons I Learned Along the Way.

Today we are going to begin the section of the river where we get a more in depth look at my life.

As you climb aboard your raft, please make sure you have on your life jacket. Even though this river is smooth with no ripples and whitewater, you never know what the river might present. Drink in the scenery of a brilliant blue sky with no clouds. Enjoy the reflections of the brilliant green trees that line the bank of the river.

It’s pure nirvana. However, you only see the surface of the water. Underneath is a torn and twisted world unseen by the naked eye. This is the metaphor for our lives.

It certainly a metaphor for my life. I often only allow people to see the surface level and not the real me. Very few people have been allowed to enter my underwater world.

Instead of staying on the surface of the river, we are going to dive into my underwater world as you begin to get to know the real me.

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

    a time to be born and a time to die,

    a time to plant and a time to uproot,

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2

One of my favorite parts of most blogs is the about you page. It allows the reader to have a glimpse into the lives of the author or authors of the blog. Later in the book, I’m going to share a more in depth autobiography of my childhood. Right now, I’m sharing where I’m from.

I am from lots of tomatoes and bananas because that is what my parents could afford, from the land of Hershey chocolate and the Abigail, my Cabbage Patch doll, who still resides somewhere in my house.

I am from the house next to a dam with lots of green grass and an apartment in a house that had three floors with a spooky door that intrigued me. I am from a home that had a magical forest where we never roamed and a giant side yard where we played cricket and learned our Rainbow ritualistic work. I am from the hill way in the back with a metal fence where I sledded and broke my leg.

I am from the black walnut tree that splattered walnuts onto the driveway – such the mess and the tomato plants my Great Uncle fertilized while we were at my aunt’s wedding. We had tomatoes coming out of our ears in the summer of ’88.

I am from eating olives and white salad at family reunions at the farm with the Willow trees. Photography, family history, always having chocolate, coffee, obscure driving, Word Power, and faith in God from Uncle Corky, Grandpa, and John.

I am from talking a lot and a Masonic tradition, something I passed on to my oldest. I am from big hips, thighs, and butts, and thick hair.

From “You have long legs,” “quit standing like that,” and random vocabulary words, I was told to look up in the HUGE dictionary.

I am from the United Methodist Church. Grandpa was a pastor and insisted we go to church. As a teen, I discovered Clayton UMC that changed my life. The Dukes will be my forever family.

I’m from Hershey, PA, pretzel sticks with cream cheese, Fat Rats, and pickles.

From our trip to Walt Disney World, where I told my mom that Thunder Mountain was not a roller coaster. She closed her eyes and wished it was over while on the ride. The time I got carsick while riding on the Blue Ridge Mountains on our way to Harper’s Ferry, where we saw Betty and the independent plane ride at 10 to see my aunt in Colorado. It was my first and only time seeing the Rocky Mountains. I discovered my love of olives on that trip and my sense of adventure.

I am from my mom’s oral storytelling of people long ago. I am from the special scrapbook my aunt made of my grandpa’s time as a tail gunner during World War II. I am from the plastic tubs of photos and other mementos of my family. I am from the family recipes my grandma sent to me while I was in the College Program at Walt Disney World. I cherish those because she hand wrote each of them with her love for me.

I am from the many miniature golfing trips, trips to Downtown to eat lunch in the food court of the Arcade, and shopping at Woolworth and the bookstore. I am from summer trips to Virginia, where I learned American History at Monticello, Stratford Hall, and George Washington’s birthplace. I am from many years in Rainbow, learning how to be a proper lady while messing up my temporary room in only 2 days. I am from the youth group, where we went on Mission trips. Ambo, the traveling hobo, “I don’t like Chinese food,” making the boys pretty, and becoming a family at Myrtle Beach.

To be continued . . .

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Out of the River, Onto the Raft – Reason for the Book Part 3

Part 2

I’ve divided this chapter into 3 parts because it is so long. Here is the first part.

It was at that moment; I began a new season of my life. A season of life that God had been preparing me for 2 weeks prior to finding my mom. Just like a gardener plants his seeds, God planted a seed in my mind. He told me that it was finally time for me to tell my story. Just like a boulder, I can be stubborn and not listen to my Father. So, he sent to me people to tell me, “You need to write a book and share your story.”

Even so, it took me a while to write my story.

There is no princess in my story. Instead there is a monster who tried to tear me down. It was a Randall from Monsters Inc. not a cute and loveable Sully. Satan filled that monster’s heart. The only way I defeated him was through the word of God.

As I heal through these words I am typing, I am beginning to sort through the emotions and tattered memories. Those memories make me who I am today – a robust and resilient person who has made a legacy for future generations.

This book is meant to be healing for me as I sort through all the emotions and tattered memories of my childhood and young adulthood. Those emotions and memories make me who I am today, which is a robust and resilient person who has hopefully made a legacy that will be carried on long after I am gone.

One of my absolute favorite musical artists is P!nk. I’ve been to two of her concerts and have fallen more in love with her music. The album she released in April 2019 has many songs that speak to my soul, whether it is present-day Traci or past me. One of those songs is called “My Attic” one of the lyrics is “Hoping, one day; you’ll find them all – ‘Cause I wanna let you see inside my attic.”

She is talking about her thoughts, feelings, and memories that are stored in her memories. So, welcome to my attic. Just so you know, my attic is full of hurt feelings and tattered memories. I have decided that it’s time for me to show people what is in my attic. My intention is that my attic will help you know that you can overcome adversity.

Throughout the book, I’m going to make references to the Bible, scripture, and music. Beware some of what I’m going to write is going to be challenging to read, but it’s essential to share it so that it can help other people.

I want to welcome you to my attic!

As I am writing these words, I’m allowing them to float away on the river of life. I’m going with the current while they are still in the riptide. They’ll always be there but I’ll move further away from them. Just like seasons change, so do the seasons of life.

In him and through faith in him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

Ephesians 3:12

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Out of the River, Onto the Raft – Reason for the Book Part 2

Part 1

I’ve divided this chapter into 3 parts because it is so long. Here is the second part.

Soon after the arrival of the police, my husband quickly pulled into the parking lot engulfing me in a hug with an apologetic word. He took over talking with the police after I gave them my initial statement. Hubby knew I was running on adrenaline but didn’t need to relive the moment of finding Mom over again.

Thus, began my pacing of the apartment complex while calling my aunt who was her only sibling who was still living, my best friend, and the funeral home. Since I am the only surviving child of my mom, I posted the news of her death to Facebook. I didn’t want to call everyone.

I must have paced at least a mile during the time, the police were checking out the apartment. People began to gather and ask me questions about what had happened. One was sympathetic telling me how much she enjoyed my mom while a couple of guys were invasive like a mosquito trying to find a food source. They didn’t help me while I was still in shock.

After what seemed like forever, the police gave me the okay to leave the complex before the funeral home came to pick up Mom’s body. They understood my need not to be there because I already had the awful image of her lying dead on the floor.

As I drove off to do my Saturday errands, anger began to fill my heart. I was angry with my mom for various reasons. I needed to heal from that anger but how was I going to do that? My mom didn’t let me know how sick she really was the week before. My question is why did she do that to me? It wasn’t’ the first time she disappointed me, but it was the last time. In order to heal, I needed to learn to forgive her.

Yes, I did my errands because I needed some things to feel normal even at that moment my world was falling apart.

Oh, before I forget. I never made that appointment with the pediatrician. My oldest read about his condition and realized what I was trying to do the night before. Even though he didn’t go to the game, he did go to the Homecoming dance. He did see HER which was a disaster but that is his story, not mine.

I walked into Aldi’s that morning numb from the shock of finding my mom had died. This Aldi was shut down after the devastating Memorial Day tornados. During the time it was shut down because of the rebuilding, Mom and I decided to take a tour of local Aldi’s. At that time, it was appropriate for me to be there.

As the cashier checked me out, I asked her if she needed to see my license because I was buying some alcoholic drinks. She responded with “I recognize you, so you are okay.”

With a shaky voice, I told her that she wouldn’t see my mom anymore because she had died.

“Oh, no. Let me give you a hug,” she told me as she got up from her seat. In the middle of Aldi in front of strangers who were waiting to cash out, she hugged me and allowed me to cry on her shoulder. A mere stranger became a messenger from God during a time I needed someone to remind me, “You are one of his 100 sheep. I have found you and bringing you home right now.”

To be continued . . .

Posted in book, faith

Out of the River, Onto the Raft – Reason for the Book Part 1


I’ve divided this chapter into 3 parts because it is so long. Here is the first part.

The night before was a rough for my oldest and myself as we came to a crossroads. His social anxiety was causing a rift between us. I wanted him to go to the Homecoming Game, but he became a still statue refusing to move when it was time to leave. For weeks, he had talked about going to the game but since his breakup, he just didn’t feel comfortable because he could have run into HER. Plus, the rain was coming down in buckets.

After a long tense discussion, I then agreed to take him to the 5th quarter which was also known as Hangout in a Church after the football game. When it came time to get in the car to go to the church, he reluctantly got into the car. The air smelled of autumn rain. Darkness filled the sky. The tension between us could not be cut even with a knife. Once we got there, he refused to get out of the car. His anxiety was through the roof.

It was then I made the decision that I needed to call his pediatrician of advice because he might have needed to see someone to talk about his anxiety. After yelling at him, which to be honest doesn’t do any good, we drove back home. Both upset with the circumstances and each other.

During the night, sleep evaded me. I was tossing and turning trying to wrap my head around the events of the evening and how I could help my 16-year-old son. The next morning, I texted my friend for advice. As I vented and took her advice, I kept trying to call my mom. We had a system where I would call once or twice and then she would call me back. Sometimes she was on the phone with one of her friends, so she couldn’t take the call right away. Plus, she screened calls because of scammers.

I dialed her number at least 10 times with no response. Fear crept into my body.

A week earlier, I had called her. “We are having a family day. I’m going to go shopping in the evening. Do you want to go with me?”

“I have a sinus infection,” was her response. “I don’t think I want to expose you to it.”

Later, I called her again just to make sure she didn’t want to go with me or if she wanted me to pick up something for her at the store. She responded with, “No, I don’t need anything. Please don’t come around. I don’t want you to miss school if you get sick.”

What I didn’t realize is that she didn’t want me around for an extremely specific reason. The morning after the fight with my oldest is when I would realize the reason.

After not reaching her, I begged my husband, “Please, go and check on mom!”

“I will after 10 o’clock,” he replied not wanting to get dressed. He didn’t realize the circumstances on why I needed him to do a welfare check for me. Ever since my mom moved over to my town 3 years prior, I feared my mom would die in her apartment alone. I was going to be the one to find her.

“Fine,” I responded as I left to do my Saturday errands. My heart felt heavy in that moment. I needed to call the pediatrician and I couldn’t get a hold of my mom. As I turned onto the main road, I made the brave decision. “I’ll stop and check on her myself. No one else is going to do it for me,” ran through my head.

As I turned into her apartment complex, my heart began to beat a little faster. My breathing almost stopped when I saw her mailbox. My mom was obsessed with two things: the dumpster and her mail. I would constantly hear stories about how people would fill the dumpster and when her mail was dropped off for the day.

Her mailbox was overflowing which was not a good sign.

I put the car into park and quickly opened the car door. Dread hung over me like a cloud. As I climbed the step onto her stoop, I grabbed her mail and attempted to open her door. Fortunately, she had left the door unlocked.

As I entered her apartment, I noticed it was eerily quiet like one of those horror movies. I dropped the mail onto her dresser right inside the door. And began to yell, “Mom, mom, mom!”

Silence greeted my ear.

I turned the corner to go down the minuscule hallway towards her bedroom and bathroom when I found her. She was half dressed as though she had just taken a bath and was getting ready for the day. She laid half in the bathroom and the bedroom as though she had just fallen asleep.

Quickly I retraced my steps. Breathing in the cool autumn air as I exited her apartment.

Once I got into my car, I called 9-11. “What’s your emergency?” the calm operator asked me.

“My mom,” I blubbered as tears escaped my eyes.

She talked me through the whole call. Even though they want you to stay on the line until the police arrive, she allowed me to get off the call so I could call my husband.

In a matter of minutes, the police were there confirming my worst fear. My mom had died alone in the apartment earlier in the week.

To be continued . . .

Posted in book, faith

Out of the River, Onto the Raft – Intro

I’ve written a book but don’t want to publish it for several reasons.

  1. Fear
  2. Don’t think people will read it.
  3. I think people will judge me.

Even though I have those reasons, I need to get the story out. God says not to worry. I need to cast my worries onto him. So, I’m releasing my fears. Instead of publishing it, I’m going to share it a little at a time here on the blog. Some I have shared before but I’m going to share it once again here.

God grant me peace. Let’s jump in.

Welcome! May God’s peace and blessings rain over you as you read this book. During the reading of this vulnerable and raw book, you will discover the rapids I encountered during my formative years. Those rapids could have drowned me. Instead they made me a better person.

In the early 2000s, the Goofy One and I along with a friend and my father-in-law to West Virginia to go to white water rafting. This was my second time white water rafting, so I knew the excitement and dangers that lurked ahead of me.

The sky was a brilliant blue that morning. As we put on our life jackets, my heart was knotted up and my brain was on high alert. Instead of feeling the typical “high” people feel when doing this high adventure sports, I was feeling dread and a sense of foreboding.  I didn’t know what lied ahead and worry had crept into my brain.

We climbed into the raft and set down the New River Gorge which is a white-water rafting experience that high adventure thrill seekers sought. Not me. I was there to spend time with my husband and to try to conquer my fear of drowning.

The trip begins with smooth water in which all the passengers on the raft help paddle their way down the river. Every time I attempted to help with the paddling, our raft would go the opposite way. “I’m so uncoordinated,” I thought to myself.

Instead of worrying about helping the other rafters, I wanted to sit there and wallow in my misery. Worry kept creeping into my brain. “What if I drown?” I asked myself repeatedly. Even though rationally I should have known that I was with a guide who was trained in knowing what to do if one of the rafters fell in the water.   

I should have been drinking in the scenery and lavished in the water that was like a mirror until it was disturbed by our oars. Instead I was allowing the Devil to take over my thoughts. He’s a liar. The One who will take the joy out of your life. He was doing a great job of that at this moment.

After lazily “floating” down the river for what seemed like hours, which it probably was because time stands still while you are on the river, we found the drop off zone for lunch. A sigh of relief washed over me as I ate my lunch or at least attempted to eat my lunch. My stomach was still in knots and where my appetite should have increased because of the physical exertion I was left with a lack of appetite because of the Devil running my thoughts.

During our break, we were allowed to jump off this one cliff into the water. People were encouraged to do this jump because again thrill seekers. I instead cowered in the corner like a mouse hiding from the homeowner praying that no one would notice me.  I was determined not to drown that day.

As soon as we were back on the river, I noticed that the river had changed. No longer was it mirror smooth; it was choppy like the sea Jesus had calmed during the storm. “Dear Lord, please protect me,” was my prayer. I clenched my butt cheeks so tightly that no quarter would get between them. I was determined not to drown that day.

Our raft crashed into the white rapids and jumped into the air. I prayed, “Dear Lord, please protect over me,” repeatedly over the next few hours. The rapids got increasingly stronger. Our raft kept hitting rocks which caused us to fly into the air. “Woo hoos were heard throughout the raft,” when the roaring noise of the white water wasn’t deafening my ears.

During the midst of this, I traveled back in time and was suddenly 7 years old not listening to my father.

The swimming pool was calling my name. It was one of those hot steamy days where your feet burned as soon as they touched the cement. I just wanted to be in the water, but I was told to wait until one of my parents could help me.

My stubborn Taurus self knew that I could swim, so I didn’t need to listen to him. He was my monster anyway.

The cool water was calling me. “Traci, Traci,” it taunted me.

 “Oh, all right,” I responded to the water.

Without hesitation, I jumped. My life flashed before my eyes as the water overtook me. I couldn’t get off the bottom of the pool. A heavy weight pushed down on me. I tried to push that weight off but couldn’t. I was sinking further into the water.

Suddenly I was grabbed by a lifeguard who saw the struggling between life and death happening in the pool. God was not going to call me to his Heavenly home today.

As I was sitting in that raft some almost 20 years later, that memory plagued my thoughts. Instead of enjoying the moment, I was in fear of a heavy weight pushing me further into the water.

After hitting those rapids for hours, we finally made it back to smooth mirror like water and were on the journey back to dry land. God had protected me like he had protected me when I was a child. He wasn’t ready to call me Home.

Once we were on dry land, I kissed the ground and praised God.

I tell the story of my white-water rafting trip because it’s a metaphor for life. Life is like a river. There are moments in our life that are like the mirror smooth water where everything is going the way we want, and we can just float along. Then the river bends and rapids begin to develop. Every time we hit those rapids; it feels as though we are flying into the sky without a parachute not knowing where we are going to land. Are we going to land softly or crash? Is this rapid the one that will make us drown? We don’t know. God is the one who knows the plans for our life.

Through it all, we need to remember God is our guide just like I had a guide on that raft. He knows what we need or don’t need. He will protect us even when it feels as though he has forsaken us.

He is also our life preserver when the Devil tries to drown us with his taunting and constant bullying. We need to turn to him when it seems as though life is trying to drown us. All we need to do is pray, read the Bible, and love others.

This book is my journey on my river of life thus far. I have had those mirror smooth water moments and class 5 rapids in my life. Before we begin, I need to give you the safety guidelines that all white-water rafting guides give their rafters.

  1. Put those life vests on which is the armor of God.
  2. Listen to your guide: God.
  3. Listen to the directions the oars want you to go: The Bible will tell the directions.
  4. Have fun.

Let me tell you a secret, even though I was terrified during that trip down the river I still had a blast. It’s a memory of mine where I conquered a fear of mine to come on the other side a much better person.

May you be blessed,

Posted in Beliefs, faith

Getting more bang for your buck – Writing Scripture – Graphics (Part 3)


Part 1

Part 2

Instead of just reading the Bible, I take an active route to understanding and learning God’s word.

Two ways I have done that are through live readings on Facebook and then dissecting what I have read to try to make sense of what I had just read and by writing scripture.

Today I’m just sharing some graphics summarizing my other 2 posts about this subject.

In action

May you be blessed,