Posts By Tracy Ruckman

15 Aug 2013 TracyRuckman

Consider it All Joy

No Comments Church, Community, School

Virginia Beach Each December, I ask the Lord for a special word from Him to serve as my “theme” for the coming year. 2013’s word is JOY. I was excited to receive this word, expecting great things throughout the year that would provide great joy.

Instead, I’ve had trials. Lots of them. Through the trials, I’ve realized that JOY doesn’t come instead of trials; it comes in spite of them, if we remember to keep our focus on Jesus. (It’s still the summer as I write this, so it didn’t take a whole year to learn this particular lesson!)

I’ve also learned some other things this year – and it seems quite the hodgepodge. Read more

12 Jul 2013 TracyRuckman

Ever Ponder the Psalms?

No Comments School

Regent University - writingLast session, I took a class that is possibly one of my top three favorites of all my classes thus far: Psalms. Going into the class, I admit I thought it might be a dry reading and history lesson more than anything else. Then I saw the textbooks, and worried that it would focus mostly on the poetry of Psalms. Although I am a writer, I’m not a poet, nor am I much a fan of poetry. I never have been one to “hunt for hidden meanings” and “read between the lines” so most poetry classes perplex me. Read more

29 May 2013 TracyRuckman

Public Speaking, Anyone?

No Comments School

Regent University - student speakingAlmost more than Biology (I did say almost), I dreaded taking the COMM 110 course – or Public Speaking 101 as it’s known in some colleges. I am not, nor have I ever been, a public speaker. Yet on occasion, I’ve had to do that very thing. And in my career, it is becoming necessary to do it more frequently. Read more

21 May 2013 TracyRuckman

Comfort Zone or Danger Zone?

No Comments Home, Work

Regent University - danger zoneHave you ever been asked to step outside of your comfort zone, or do you regularly do it without a second thought?

For the past several years, I’ve lived the life of a hermit. I work and go to school from home (home-based small business), and we even do home church. My husband and I haven’t traveled much since 2009 when my husband was laid off. Home has become my comfort zone.

At the end of 2012, the Lord impressed upon me that my time of being a homebody was coming to an end for a season. I knew that the year of 2013 would be full of travel, and I tried to accept it.So I’m trying.

This year, I’ve been invited to several conferences already. The first conference was in March; I met with writers and critiqued manuscripts. It was great, and I enjoyed meeting several friends I’ve known for years but had never met in person. Read more

20 Mar 2013 TracyRuckman

Do You Need a Hobby?

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Regent University - cookingDuring our recent school break, I decided to take time off from work too. I asked my Facebook friends for hobby ideas. Most of them laughed at me, knowing I had little time to take up anything, but I needed to do something with my time. I’m not one who can sit for hours in front of a TV watching movies. And I don’t have the budget to travel like I wish (Travel is indeed one of my passions).

I actually rested and enjoyed free time with my husband the first few days, but then cabin fever set in. We decided to take a couple of days just to loaf around town, and that’s when I discovered a new hobby.

I’ve tried crocheting – but it bores me easily. I thought about painting – but I have less artistic ability than a flea.

In our outings, we gravitated to farmer’s markets and grocery stores and there I discovered (admitted) I’m passionate about cooking. I miss cooking for my husband because my busy schedule usually reduces us to homemade burgers, or quick 30-minute throw together meals. And it had gotten boring. Read more

15 Dec 2012 TracyRuckman

Going Through the Motions

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Regent University - nativityAs I write this, Christmas decorations are being put up all across the world. Here in the States, the air is nippy in some areas, downright cold in others. Twinkling lights, Christmas carols, and shopping ads come onto the scene as everyone rushes around trying to make the season just perfect.

But I find myself in an oddly familiar place once again this year. As my husband pulls out the Christmas decorations, I seem to be in the same state of mind I’ve been before –a place of just going through the motions. I find myself reflecting back on the year, and again repeating what I said last year, and the year before that – it’s been a hard year. Oh, this year wasn’t nearly as hard as other years, or anywhere near as hard it could have been, and I readily admit that – but still, it’s a year that has taken a toll on me just the same.

So I sit a moment and ponder these things.

Is every year going to be hard from here on out? Is this our “new normal”? Is it just us, or are others struggling through the same kinds of things?

I belong to several prayer groups and loops, so I can answer the last question easier than the others. It’s not just us. In fact, it’s too many others too. So many others that our hard times don’t look nearly as hard as others. This past week, I sat at my desk crying. My husband walked through my office and asked what was wrong. I shared with him that a friend was going through a very difficult time. It was a situation I’d been through myself years ago, and my heart just felt like it was breaking all over. I wanted to fix her problems, although I knew they were so enormous that only God could truly fix them.

But it’s practically impossible (not totally – because I’ve experienced this as well) to see that GOOD can and will eventually come out of something so horrific. So I cried for my friend. And I prayed for her. And for a brief moment, I wasn’t going through motions of anything. Resting in Him, trusting Him, loving Him.

Then it hit me.

That’s where He wants us.

God doesn’t want us just going through the motions. He deserves our full worship because Christmas is not about us. It’s not about living that wonderful life, warm and fuzzy and perfect. It’s not about stuff – giving or getting. It’s not about doing – even when the doing is something good. It’s not about decorations, or cookies, or egg nog, or divinity. It’s not about shopping til we drop, getting good deals, filling the empty space under the tree with more boxes than it can hold. It’s not about gathering with family and friends in a warm kitchen or around a gorgeous, overflowing Martha Stewart kind of table. It’s not even about helping out at the food bank, or picking a need from an Angel Tree, or handing out mittens to the homeless.

This season is about JESUS.

We’re celebrating our Savior’s birth, and His death. Jesus came to earth as a baby, lived a human life, and then died for us – innocent and perfect, yet He chose His Father’s will over His own, so that we could live forever with Him.

The prophet Habakkuk lived during a time of oppression and lawlessness, a time that sounds eerily familiar today. But Habakkuk was wise, and penned these words of encouragement that we all should take to heart this holiday season. Habakkuk 3:17-18 in The Message Bible[1]:

Though the cherry trees don’t blossom

and the strawberries don’t ripen,

Though the apples are worm-eaten

and the wheat fields stunted,

Though the sheep pens are sheepless

and the cattle barns empty,

I’m singing joyful praise to God.

I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God.

Counting on God’s Rule to prevail,

I take heart and gain strength.

Let us all take heart and gain strength this year, regardless of our circumstances, and remember the true reason for this season. Let us REJOICE, for our Savior lives!

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

[1] The Message: Remix. Eugene H. Peterson. Colorado Springs: NavPress Publishing Group. 2002. Print.

31 Oct 2012 TracyRuckman

Celebrating the Breaks of Life

No Comments Home, School

Regent University - celebrationWhen I first started back to school, working and going to school full-time, I thought the breaks between sessions would be my “catch-up” times. I planned to use that time to catch up on all the housework that fell behind because of my schedule, or on the work I could get done before the new session started.

But after a year of doing that, I realized I was burning myself out. So now, I’m more strategic in my planning, and build in some fun and relaxation during those down times.

As crazy as it sounds, we clean house and put out many of our Christmas decorations during our fall break in October. This gives me more of an opportunity to actually enjoy them, rather than trying to scurry around during our short Thanksgiving break to get it all done. By at least having them upstairs (rather than their hiding place in the basement), I can do a little at a time to make special arrangements all around the house.

I try to plan a vacation for after Christmas. This year, we have a longer break before school starts back, so that gives us more time to wind down and really relax. As Session A winds down and Session B begins, I’m already counting the days!

Here are some other ideas for celebrating during breaks:

  • Take a road trip. With current gas prices continuing to rise, your “road trip” might just have to be to the grocery store, but make an adventure out of at least one journey.
  • Visit local museums or tourist attractions. Playing tourist for a day or two is almost as good as a real vacation!
  • Read a book for fun. Okay, so maybe you read books regularly for fun, but with my work and all the textbook reading, I have to plan when to read for fun, and I use the breaks to do it. Getting lost in a delightful novel is a great escape.
  • Read an entire book of the Bible during your break. Digging into the Word restores, refreshes, and rejuvenates more than any other activity. Don’t believe me? Spend a week in Acts and watch what happens!
  • Throw a party! Most younger college students don’t need an excuse to have a party, so why should all of us non-traditional students? Invite friends or family over for a meal, or for coffee, dessert and conversation. Doesn’t have to be extravagant – the point is just spending time in fellowship with friends and loved ones.
  • Take a hike. Have you checked out any of the state or national parks near your home? Throw some picnic foods in a backpack and hit the trails – getting into nature is a great way to refresh.
  • Volunteer for some mission work. Check your local homeless shelter, food pantry, or senior center and see if they could use some help for a day or two during your break. Giving of yourself to someone in need is a great way to acknowledge appreciation for the blessings of your own life.

As I wrote this post, I learned of the death of a very special lady. I never met her in person, but we both belonged to the same professional groups and had been acquainted online for many years, exchanging occasional e-mails, prayer requests and Facebook comments. Her sudden death was a surprise to everyone, and caused all who knew her to pause. We all just stopped for a few minutes or a few hours, pondering life and death. She was a Christian and she shared her love of Jesus with everyone. We don’t wish her back, because we know she’s happy and well with Jesus, but we do reflect on our own lives.

Life is too short. Make the most of every break, the most of every day – live your life with gusto, so that when you’re gone, people will pause. Celebrate life in such a way that people will want to know what you have, and then you can tell them what Jesus means to you.

09 Oct 2012 TracyRuckman

Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

No Comments Work

Regent University - comfort zoneButterflies in the stomach. Sweaty palms. Inability to focus. Restless sleep. No, not from the Mexican food I had for dinner, but from stepping out of my comfort zone.

I recently spoke and taught at a writer’s conference in Atlanta. I spent several weeks preparing for the conference, making my PowerPoint presentation for the workshop, and trying to write my keynote address – but it just would not come together. I had the basics down – an idea, a general outline, and I even started building a PowerPoint presentation for it. The night before the conference, the ending finally came to me, but the middle was still a mess. I left for the conference confident I’d have time that night to work on it.

The first keynote speaker presented that night and in her talk, she mentioned something in my own speech. I pondered that. But when I got back to my room that night, school work was due, so I focused on it and then went to bed exhausted and worried that I’d never get the speech done.

The next day, another keynote speaker took the platform. He, too, mentioned another part of my speech. That really got my attention and all day I prayed, asking God whether I should change my speech. I sure didn’t want to look like a copycat. But that night, my speech flowed together and I was finally able to put the finishing touches on it – tweaking it to acknowledge the two speakers who had already mentioned those particular areas I’d already written.

One more keynote address before my own. And yes, she too, mentioned something that was in my now-finished speech. To the world, that might seem a bit spooky, or perhaps just a simple coincidence.

But I don’t believe in coincidences, do you?

The Bible says, “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13 NIV).

He took hold of my right hand and guided me through the whole conference. God orchestrated the entire event, down to the tiniest details. He knew what each of the keynote speakers were going to say, and He knew what He was going to have me say.

I was terrified to step out of my comfort zone, when God was preparing every step of the way for me. He even saw to it that my hotel room included my favorite two-digit number. The conference gave me an opportunity to meet some incredible writers and make several new friends. Stepping out of my comfort zone blessed me in unexpected ways because God never left my side, and He’ll never leave yours either.

The beginning of each school year always takes me out of my comfort zone. Am I too old to be in school? Can I keep up at my age? With my full-time job? New classes, new professors, new books, new syllabi – all of it can be overwhelming at times.

Take a deep breath. You’re not alone. God knows where you’ve been and where you’re going. And as one of the keynote speakers said, “He’s got YOUR back!”

07 Jun 2012 TracyRuckman

Do They Offer a Degree in Juggling?

No Comments Home, School, Work

Regent University InteractionJuggling responsibilities of home, work and school can be a full-time job all by itself. I enrolled as a nontraditional student at Regent University in 2010 (after a 28-year hiatus), and then in 2011, I reorganized my business and launched two publishing companies. Talk about juggling!

Five things have helped keep me sane (or at least keep what little sanity I had left.)

1)      Prioritize. Every night, I make a list of all of the things that need to get done the next day, or the next week, and then I prioritize the list, based on deadlines, available time, and speed with which I can get that particular task done. School deadlines for discussion board posts and papers are prioritized by due date and by difficulty of assignments. Last session, I had two upper-level classes, each with a 10-page paper due toward the end of the session. Both classes required much research and a great number of academic sources, but one class had even more restrictions and guidelines. I focused intently on that paper for five weeks, while gathering my sources and formulating ideas for the other paper. As the deadlines approached, the priorities shifted.

2)      Delegate. I went back to school because my husband was forced into early retirement due to the economy and company layoffs. Since he’s now at home fulltime, he offered to take over some of the household chores. Busy moms can enlist help from friends, family members, and even age-appropriate children. Delegation is a tremendous time-saver and stress reducer. My husband’s contribution is an investment in our future, and I could not do all I do without his hard work.

3)      Focus. One of my friends, a life-coach, recommends putting various aspects of your life in mental “boxes.” When you tackle the top priority on your list, keep the lids on all those other boxes closed until you finish with the first box. Then when you’re done, put the lid back on, and move to the next item on the list. This compartmentalization allows you to focus on one thing at a time, without worrying about what’s in the other boxes.

4)      Play. This one is hard for me because I tend to give my all to everything – work hard, play hard. But I don’t always have time for play, so it got pushed to the side until I learned to play in tiny increments. Even if it’s 20 minutes a day, take time to just play and unwind. Do something that makes you laugh – be silly. The refreshment will surprise you.

5)      Rest. The busier our week gets, the more tempted we are to push things to the weekend so we can get caught up. But don’t neglect one day of rest. Make yourself unplug – no phones, computers, internet – for 12-24 hours, more if you can stand it. (I try to unplug from sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday, then I’m not so swamped first thing Monday morning.) Trust me, the world won’t collapse while you’re gone and you’ll be stronger for it.

Balancing work, school, and family life is indeed a challenge, but there are benefits. Discipline, perseverance, determination, focus – these benefits are not listed on our degrees, but they are character traits not easily attained. Who knew juggling offered such reward?