The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

For some of you, 2019 was the best year of your life; for others, you're ready to crawl out of the worst year of your life. And for others, 2019 was a combination of both. There's a great song titled, Bittersweet Symphony, which refers to the ups and downs of life. The Bible verifies this symphony as significant times in life in Ecclesiastes 3:4—a time to cry and a time to laugh; a time to grieve and a time to dance.

Joy and Sadness are not mutually exclusive and often go together. That's why it is critical that as you go through life's struggles, keep pressing on because the flip side of that experience is life's breakthroughs. One of my father's most poignant quotes is, "Things don't go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so that you can be all that you were intended to be."

I grieved a lot this year. I lost my second soul dog, Ruby Red, in January, my soul cat, Prince William of Orange in July, and my angel mother, Gloria Jean, in October. I also had a pup, Indigo, who needed ACL surgery, and a rascally terrier, Roscoe, who got into pet meds with his brothers landing them in urgent care for three days. Then there was my emergency eye surgery for detached retina right in the home stretch of my doctoral dissertation.

I also danced a lot this year. I found a co-leader to join my business in June, which has significantly allowed me to cast the vision for Tremendous Leadership going forward. I traveled to Africa to do my first-ever women's conference. I did a live TV interview with four dogs AND one cat! After 23 years of singlehood, I got engaged to a godly, tremendous man and am set to marry next month. I completed my Ph.D. in December and am now officially Dr. Jones. I went back to the gym this year and regained my strength and endurance and kept off the 50 pounds I lost last year.

As I reflect on my time in the wilderness, I realized much of the Joy and Sadness of the past four years ran concurrently. This sudden realization led me to the resounding truth that while we are wandering in the desert, we still need to be preparing for our arrival into the promised land.

When I began my doctoral studies in 2015, the spark that ignited me to formally start the program was the fact I was so broken and frustrated with my inability to lead the business the only thing I thought I could or should do was to read and write.

When I opened my heart to love in 2018, it was after spending time with a neighbor for the past six years. What started out as acquaintances, grew to friends and then best friends, and finally to a desire to enter the convenential bond of marriage. Although I respected and almost coveted my singleness, I also was open to the possibility of God bringing someone into my life.

Regaining my physical health started with the healthy habits I established in the military. I was a gym rat. Once I lost the excess weight in 2018, I found that I was able to run again, faster and longer than I had ever before in 2019. And those muscles I hadn't trained in 20 years never forgot how to properly lift and move.

Losing Ruby and William was devastating. It took me four years to get over the loss of my first dog, Mr. Blue, in 2014. I often cite his passing in June as the beginning of my transition into the wilderness. I wandered in grief for years. When Ruby and William passed, I honored their memory by not allowing myself to descend into misery longer than needed. They both had unbelievable lives. I adopted them both at six years of age because not many people want a "senior" cat or dog. My two red-heads brought zest and unconditional love into my heart. The Bible tells us it is appointed once to die. None of us gets out of here alive. We need to rejoice when given full lives to spend with our loved ones and pets. Ruby Red was 14, and Prince William of Orange was 18.

One of the last things my mother said to me as I was tearfully sharing how much I would miss her was to "stop dwelling." If I weren't so sad, I would have laughed out loud. Such a logical yet insightful thing to say. She had a brilliant and blessed life. She was surrounded peacefully in my sister's home when she departed earth. She just celebrated her first Christmas in Heaven, and I will see her, and Mr. Blue and Ruby and William, and my father, and everyone else that has claimed their Heavenly inheritance, again!

Here's to you 2019. You served it up in every possible way. You also were the year when it all came together. So, thank you for the bitter pills I have learned taste sweet when I realized it's all part of life's grand plan to break you down and build you up. Never forget, when you have the right outlook and attitude, things that seem to be falling apart are actually falling into place.





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Ed Helvey

Ed Helvey

So well said, Tracey! As I’ve learned (so much) over my lifetime, life is a paradox. There is no perfect life – and, yet, life is perfect if we’re just open to the lessons and opportunities it provides each of us every day. Like you, I have met a number of challenges this year.

One of them was feeling fine and healthy up through the morning of August 18th. Then, literally, in an instant that morning, my life changed forevermore as I was struck down. In clinical terms, I became a “dead man walking.” Within a few days, I was diagnosed with a deadly cancer that had been growing inside me for five years – with no symptoms or pain. Amazingly, over four months later, I still have no obvious symptoms and even after two months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, concurrently, no pain. I didn’t experience any of the terrible side effects typical of these treatments other than the expected fatigue, extremely low energy and weakness. In three days I’ll undergo a very difficult and extensive surgery – 4 to 6 hours in the OR and then a long recovery period after. My surgeon told me if I choose not to have this surgery my chance of surviving as long as 5 years is 0%. With the surgery, the prognosis is much better than the average person with my condition because of my good health and physical condition. However, it’s still not as good as I was hoping for. However, I choose to remain on my 45-year life plan – with people to see and meet, places to go, things to do and so much to learn. I believe I will be around for a long time after this surgery.

I also know how blessed I am. I know there are so many people so much worse off than I am. I have lost many friends over the last several years who weren’t able to beat their challenges. Just yesterday I got a call from a former employee from 45 years ago. We’ve remained friends. He just endured 14 hours of surgery for a condition (not cancer) that struck him, like mine, in virtually an instant. He will probably never be able to enjoy the three passions again that he’s made his life career. Then later yesterday I learned of the daughter of a mutual friend of ours, who is dealing with a very serious stage 4 cancer (mine is only stage 3). So, while so many are praying for me and sending positive thoughts, I find I must be doing the same for those others who are dealing with challenges even more difficult than mine. So, I must survive so I can continue with my life plan and do my best to inspire, uplift and encourage others who need that from me.

As I said, Life is a paradox. There is no perfect life – but, life is perfect if we’re open to its lessons and opportunities. Thank you for your friendship, following in your father’s footsteps and then stepping outside your box to expand to become your own unique inspiration and encourager. May your 2020 be the most exciting year of your life. My wishes to you and your soon to be husband for a Happy, Healthy and Abundant 2020.

Cindy Leone

Cindy Leone

This was beautiful and amazing! Thank you for sharing your heart!

jeremy mutzabaugh

jeremy mutzabaugh

Tracey, When Gloria said to " stop dwelling", I guess she probably knew you would have times where you would be thinking of the past. I don’t think it is a bad thing to remember things from our past, just do not live in the past. Scripture tells us, " You prepare a table for me in front of my enemies," and that " When you commit your plans to Him, your plans will succeed."
God can thwart our best laid plans in our life. We could have everything figured out to our specs, but God can interced and change something. This is a good thing. I often wonder how my future, ( my present life), would have turned out if in my high school years I would have made some choices differently, but I am very happy with the life I do have. I make the statement in Jeremy, Interrupted that if my life were to end soon, I would have lived a satisfied life. This is true, but I am also interested in what 2020 throws at me. I am looking forward to a dog sled ride and a real life “worst case scenario” event coming up for me.

Congratulations Tracey, on the graduation and the wedding. I hope 2020 is awesome for you and your Groom.
jeremy mutzabaugh

jeremy mutzabaugh

Tracey..When Gloria told you to stop dwelling, my guess is she probably understood you would remember things of the past. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to remember things from years behind us, but we should not live in our past. Remember the GOOD times you had with Gloria and Charlie, just do not build your home and live in the past. This can pull you into depression and that emotion is nasty. Scripture tells us that " You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies", and that " the righteous find peace as they lie in death."

I often wonder how my future, ( my life now), would have turned out if I would have made some choices differently as far back as my high school years. I talk about some of my choices over the years in Jeremy, Interrupted. I am happy though, that I have been able to keep solid connections with some really smart friends from my past. People could take my home, job or anything else from me, but I will fight to keep my chain of friends connected to me.

We are also told in Scripture, to " Declare what is to be." -If something is not ours right now, call the act into existence as if it is ours, and to " Rejoice and be glad in today"-the day that we do have right now. Congratulations on the graduation AND the wedding. Now look with happy expectation to the new future you are rapidly entering. The Savior is delivering in your life!

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