Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Living in the Gap

I look at life as chapters that we move through.....our youth.....the high school years.....going away to college, and venturing out on our own.  Then there are chapters that define our career, a time when we find our spouse and get married, and a time when we start our families by having kids.  These periods in our life encompass our twenties, our thirties and our forties.

In my case I focused on my career and pushed out getting married until I was in my late 30's.  I married later than most of my friends and cousins, and then had my son when I was forty.

By the middle of my forties I was ready to move on to another chapter in my life.  Zack went off to school full time and I was ready to refocus on my career.

Instead, God had a different spend the next 15 months managing my husband's illness.

Many times in life we get thrown into a role that we never thought we would have to play........and suddenly our life is totally out of our control..........if it ever was in our control at all?

That 15 months was a chapter in itself and will always define my life as "before Jeff got sick" and "after he passed away."

And then, the next 4 years are what I consider 'living in the gap.'

It is a period of time filled with grief, transition and rebuilding.

It  has me reflecting on how NFL teams have lost great players or their plans don't work any longer and they are in a rebuilding phase.  There is a sense of operating in the unknown.  They hope they are building a great team and a winning season will emerge, but there is that huge unknown if it will all come together.

I followed my instincts, while operating in the dark, and slowly working my way out of a heavy blanket of grief, while guiding Zack to a better place emotionally and mentally.

I tried focusing on getting us to the other side of this chapter, praying that I would find happiness, that Zack would be whole, and the vehicle I built to secure our future would take off.

Along the way, God had so many spiritual lessons to teach me, as if I hadn't experienced enough!  

But what I realized is that this period was when he threw me onto the potter's wheel as a lump of clay and began shaping and molding me for his greater purpose............and then he threw me into the fire for the last several months to make me into the vessel he desires.

Living in the Gap is a chapter of its own.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Serving Others

At 25, I was President and Founder of a company that was the largest buyer of home furnishings accessories in the country.  I had Sears, Rhodes Furniture, and Farmers Furniture chains as several of my clients.

I felt like I had hit a pinnacle in my career.

Ever since college I had been so focused and driven to make something of myself.  But when I turned 25, I looked around at my life, and while I had achieved some level or success, it didn't feel like what I thought it would.  I suddenly  had a desire to "give back," although I wasn't sure what that would look like.

A lot of people I knew were volunteering on non-profit boards, but that didn't feel right to me.  I wanted to really get involved.

So I started doing some research and came up with the Guardian ad Litem program.  I decided to go through the training and become a volunteer.

What I soon discovered is that I had the power to truly make a difference in a child's life.  Judges listened to what I had to say because I did my homework and my focus was to help that child.  I could get services put in place and move that child through the system faster.

It sparked a passion inside of me to find other ways to help kids within the foster care system.

I soon saw so many needs that were going unmet and I got on the Guardian ad Litem Guild  as a Board member to loosen their purse strings and use money to recruit and retain more guardian volunteer. 

Then after a year I decided to create my own non-profit to get kids adopted out of the foster care system and help support some basic needs that were going unmet.  Up to that point there were no marketing programs letting people in the community know about these children languishing in foster care.

I have always found the greatest satisfaction from empowering others with what they needed, providing tools or resources.  And also helping kids in particular, find their gifts or talents, and helping them unleash their desire.

Ephesians 2:10 ~ "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do".   

Thursday, March 2, 2017

One Day Can Change Everything

In our lives we have days that have a certain significance ~ Good or Bad, that we will always remember. 

Some of the Best days may have been when you met your husband or wife for the first time, the day your children were born, maybe when you graduated from college, or reached a milestone in your career that you had been working towards.  Each one of those days may have changed everything in your life.

The other morning I woke up remembering one of those days.  I was 24 years old and I had been working with a serial entrepreneur since college.  His latest company created Marketing Videos for  accessory manufacturers in the home furnishing industry.

Recently we had taken on furniture manufacturers as clients such as Bassett and Schweiger Furniture.  One day the V.P. of Bassett was telling us about a problem he had been having getting accessories shipped to his furniture galleries.  The manufacturers wanted large minimum orders before they would ship their lamps, pictures or mirrors, which left holes in their room setups in the store, as customers bought the items to take home.

The VP asked if we could do anything, since we knew most of the owners of these companies.

We then talked to Schweiger Furniture and found they were having the same problem.

What if we could create a new company to solve this problem, broker a deal with these accessory manufacturers to create a "just in time" delivery system for these gallery programs and their particular items, and we would become the middle man to process the orders?

I jumped at the change to start a new company and run it!

The first company that I created was while I was in college ~ it was a balloon bouquet delivery business at USF and around the city of Tampa.  This one could be even bigger.

I knew I could process all the orders on a Quattro spreadsheet in my office and work directly with the manufacturers, who I knew already.

After a period of time of managing orders for Bassett and Schweiger, and everything was running smoothly, I wanted more business.

So I went to my partner and asked him to find me more clients.

He started calling around and heard that Sears was opening up free standing furniture stores called Homelife stores, so he cold called the buyer at Sears, and soon we had a meeting set up at Sears Tower in Chicago in the middle of winter.

We brought information with us showing them what we had been doing for the 2 furniture manufacturers and within an hour we closed a deal.

In that meeting we closed a deal that would give us ALL the orders for all their 736 Sears stores nationwide, as well as the 12 new Homelife stores they would be opening up over the next year.

We said we could do it, but it would take us a little bit to get our system set up to handle their business.

We left Sears Tower trying to figure out how to handle ALL that business.

Within a month, their first order arrived in the mail in buckets and buckets.  I had to figure out how to process them all into a computer system and send them out to the  manufacturers.

It was a $1.2 million dollar order!
In one day we closed a Multi-Million Dollar deal and Everything Changed. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Waking up to Bible Verses

As I have been reading The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, I am getting a better understanding of the purpose behind all the challenges and tests that I have endured throughout my life.

I most recently read the chapter on "It Takes Time." It talks about how "Great souls are grown through struggles and storms and seasons of suffering.  Be patient with the process. James advised, Don't try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so you can mature and be well developed."

Waiting periods for me seem to be another test.  Learning to Wait on the Lord, while he works behind the scenes in my life, as well as within me.

In this latest waiting period that God has me in, he is pulling me towards my Bible, to read through verses and parables that are running through my head as I wake up in the morning.  As if he is sending me messages.

Instead of rushing to my computer to get work done, he is drawing me into his Word.

John 16:10 ~ Whoever can be trusted with very little can be trusted with much.

Matthew 25:14 - 30 ~ Parable of the Three Servants:  The servant who received 5 bags of silver began to invest the money and earned 5 more.  To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance.

In searching for this verse and Bible parable, I realized how much I knew of the Bible in parts but not the whole.  I know about the characters and parts of their stories, but not everything about them.

The Bible had always seemed too overwhelming to read as a book.

Acts 20:32 ~ God's Gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need.

As God calls me to his Word, I am starting at the beginning and taking it a few pages at a time, absorbing all that he wants me to know.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Stories and Characters are Born

For some people stories and characters come to them and seem to become part of their life.  And for certain people, those characters become their destiny and their purpose.

J.K. Rowling was given Harry Potter and his story in 1990.  It took her 5 years from receiving the idea for the world of Harry Potter and fully sketching out the outline for the 7 books. It then took her another 2 years to finish the first book and get it published. Over the next 10 years she would share the whole story in the series.

George Lucas was given the idea for the Star Wars stories and launched the first movie in 1977.  That story is still being unfolded today, 40 years later.

20 years ago three characters were born in my imagination as part of a journal box and story for kids to get their ideas down on paper.  But those 3 characters really seemed to be part of a larger group of friends, so four more characters joined what would be known to me as Daisy Button and her friends.

I could see them so clearly in my mind and the real life adventures that they would go on.  Over the years their story has clung to my heart and seemed to always be there.  As I worked with kids in my coaching practice, the Daisy Button characters seemed to resonate with the kids I was working with.  They wanted to make a difference in the world, they had a deep desire to help others and they wanted real life tools to make things happen.

I sketched out the first 3 books in the series many years ago, and self published the first in the DB Adventures series in 2011. It was a story about Social Enterprise, showing kids how they can create win/win situations. A way to make money and help others in their community. When it was done, it seemed like it should have a curriculum to accompany it, one developed online with games and engaging activities.  So I developed that as well, and sold it into 5 schools in New Jersey.

I thought that would be the time that Daisy Button and her friends would finally make their way into the hands of kids, but suddenly the doors stopped opening.

With everything that God creates, he has his own timing for when stories should be shared.

God had other plans first. He needed me to go through some very painful and personal experiences  before Daisy could float back into my life.  A few years later, I knew it was time.  But my life experiences changed my perspective on the path I wanted to take with Daisy and her friends.

This time I wanted to get the characters and tools directly in the hands of kids, and empower them to go out and make a difference, as I had done in my coaching practice. Only now they could utilize the technology that they love and pull their friends together to create their own real life adventures.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Purpose Driven Life

Books seem to come across my path just when I need them.  It doesn't matter that my sister gave me "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren years ago.

I think I had started it and then put it aside.  I was probably not ready at the time to fully understand its messages.

I had been wanting a Bible Study type book, to dive into after the first of the year, and came across this book, tucked away on my book shelf, waiting for the right time.  I know I would get to it one day.

A 40-day Journey into the deeper meaning of our Purpose, which God has revealed to us within the passages of the Bible.

I was looking for assurances that I was on the Right Path.  That I was doing what God intended me to do.

Throughout all of life's challenges, I believed that God has a Plan ~ I was hoping to understand it better by delving into this book.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Capturing Moments in Time

When I reflect back on my life there are moments with people that are etched in my memory. There are dates in time that are unforgettable and they explain my journey of life.

This last weekend several experiences with family had me reflecting on the next chapter of my life, and felt like it was one of those memorable weekends.  

My Aunt and Uncle, who are like my 2nd parents, visited my new place in Tampa and it felt like a passage from one life that we shared together in Connecticut/NJ, to a new life with new experiences in Florida.

Then my sister came down with her son, and we celebrated his 2nd birthday.  A new tradition that started last year when we had his 1st birthday party at my house.

My brother then called to share his professional and personal news, and wedding plans being to unfold.  Another family celebration to look forward to this year.

But even more memorable for me was a feeling that I was about to walk through a New Doorway to the next phase of my life.

I felt like I had gotten my Mojo back and a new and improved Tracey has emerged.

The last few years have been a work in progress ~ as I guess was part of God's plan.  And Zack and I had to process, heal and grow into a new life.

On Super Bowl Sunday, as has been my tradition for many, many years, I was watching it with Zack.  This year my Aunt and Uncle watched it with us, and I shared how Jeff used to always run a Super Bowl pool at work and the Meadowlands, and have his paper with all the boxes with him to see who won at the end of each quarter.

A few minutes later I was posting pictures from the weekend on Facebook and Jeff's name popped up, as if he was being tagged in the photos!

I showed my Aunt, who was sitting next to me on the couch.  Jeff just wanted to reach out to me and let us know that he was here watching the Super Bowl with us......with my Aunt and Uncle who he loved so much, and while watching one of his favorite games.

This time it felt good seeing his name pop up on my Facebook post.

The pain has subsided and we are moving on, as he would want us to.