What is normal?

The last two weeks have been pretty good. Some days I almost felt “normal” again. But then I’m not sure if I really know what “normal” feels like. The reason I don’t know is because the change came so gradually. I can’t really look back and pinpoint a time when I stopped having energy or when my mental health started declining. When I start trying I realize some of it goes back pretty far.

Back to eighth grade when I decided to lose weight. I did lost weight. But skipping lunch or eating just a granola bar and yogurt wasn’t probably the best idea.

Back 5 or 6 years when I had a spell of no energy. I started taking B vitamins and that seemed to mostly take care of the problem.

Back to when I worked an office job 4 days a week. Since I was sitting all day, I had to fight against gaining weight. So, what did I eat for lunch? Most days a granola bar and yogurt, which took about ten minutes to eat; then I could go on a walk for the rest of my lunch break. Then at the end of the day I would have a sugar low so I’d have to eat a candy bar to get my sugar back up so I could drive home from work. 

And, I’m sure the list could go on. But I’ll get on with the story.

I hesitate to even write about my health problems because I’m sure everyone will be like “Hey, you need to try this product,” or “This is what you should be doing.” And I don’t tell my story to bring pity to myself. I share it to help bring encouragement to those who may be facing similar struggles.

The other day I was sharing with one of my friends about how the last couple weeks have been. I was telling her how I decided I need to take time each day to walk or work out, even if it is just for ten minutes. I was exclaiming over the fact of actually having the energy to desire to do this. She wondered how I ever made it teaching school when I had no energy.

I said, “I don’t know how I did it.” Mostly by God’s strength. By taking one day at a time, one moment at a time. Looking back now it is kinda a fog. It’s like I knew things were bad, but I didn’t really realize how bad at the time. I knew I wasn’t the teacher I wanted to be. I didn’t feel well most of the time. I had headaches a lot, stomach troubles, back pain, and no energy. Some days I had to admit to my students I didn’t feel well because I just didn’t feel well enough to play at recess.

I’m not sure when it all started. I had headaches some the fall before, but then they mostly went away. I did have stomach struggles last school year. Also I developed a pain in my lower left back. And till I went home to Virginia in the spring I had a pain in my heel. I had no idea why I was having these issues. I really didn’t want to spend the money for the chiropractor last spring so I hoped that once school was out for the summer I would be able to relax and the pain would go away. But it was not to be.

My summer was good but super busy. I felt like I never really had time to recuperate from the previous school year. Till the end of summer the pain in my heel did go away. When I got back to Colorado in the fall I was not really feeling ready for another school year. But there was no choice as I was already signed on for the job. I went to the chiropractor and got several treatments for my back. It seemed to help, but not totally take care of the problem. I soon came to discover that the root cause seemed to be stress. Anytime I was under a lot of stress, the pain in my back would flare up. I decided that is also what had caused my heel problem. And I figure, most of my stomach problems too.

All fall I never really felt on top of my school work. In fact, it felt on top of me. I felt like I had no life. I did school all day till almost 6 in the evening. Then we came home and had supper; and after supper it was back to school work. And since it was late till that got done, I didn’t do any other projects but just went to bed. Any time the other girls wanted to do something, there I would be dragging my schoolbooks along so I could get my checking done. Or else, I would be fretting and couldn’t really enjoy myself because I knew I had work waiting on me. I felt like a workaholic. To get away from it I would stay up at night and watch something on YouTube just to give me a break from reality. But that wasn’t really helpful as it made me lose sleep and then I couldn’t function properly.

I had a student who advised me to relax and enjoy life. But I couldn’t figure out how. How could I when I had all this school work to do? I couldn’t remember how I had managed to functioned before.

In November I realized I was in a terrible pit of despair and made the initial step toward trying to get out. But my schoolwork didn’t vanish and I still had to figure out how to juggle life. Till Christmas break came I was exhausted. I was so tired I couldn’t even keep my words straight when I tried to teach classes. My brain was a jumble and things just wouldn’t connect. As terrible as it sounds, I wasn’t even excited about Christmas or about getting to go see my family. All I wanted was to go to bed and sleep for about a week. I was emotionally and physically exhausted.

I did have a good Christmas vacation with my family in VA and was able to take some time to relax.

I still felt very overwhelmed at times over the next several months, but I think it has gradually been getting better. I’ve been trying to step back from my school work a bit and not let it control my life. I feel that my student had some very good advice about relaxing and taking time to enjoy life.

Something I decided a little more recently is to try to start each day with worship and praise of the Almighty God. Through the Bible App on my phone I can access a lot of different devotional plans. The last ten days or so I did one called “10,000 Reasons.” I’m excited to start another one. It definitely seems to help my day flow better to start it with a focus of worship.

Another thing I have realized is that when other people annoy me or say something against me, I need to pray for them. They may be going through a rough time which is causing them to act or react they way they are. As a rather insecure person, I tend to take things very personally and become even more insecure. But asking God to bless the person who has hurt me has helped me in releasing these hurts and becoming more secure in Christ. 

And sometimes the hurt is totally unintentional. Like when someone ask you about some plans for later in the week because they know you “tend to get overwhelmed.” And you know they mean well, but you can tell they totally don’t understand what it is like to be completely and utterly overwhelmed. The way they come across makes you feel like they think it is ridiculous or stupid that you can’t handle life.

Or when someone accuses you of being secretive when the only reason you’ve been quiet is because  you are so overwhelmed by life that your brain is a scramble. I recently saw a quote that I felt fit perfectly: “When she is quiet, there is a reason. She is sorting through all the chaos in her head…”

The last two weeks have given me hope that I am moving forward and progressing.

Thanks to all my friends who pray for me! I know this has been a huge help in my spiritual journey. I am blessed by many amazing friends.

If you made it this far, congratulations! I know this was a lot to get through and it felt a bit scrambled even to my brain. I have so many thoughts rolling around in my head but it is hard for me to get them to come together into something sensible and readable. I feel like there is so much more I could say, but I’m not sure how to fit it all in.

worship

Leap of Faith!

Here is a post from my Instagram a couple weeks ago.

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Let go, Let God

Although I know this is true, it is so hard to do. Pray for me that I could let go and trust God. I want to follow Him, but taking that leap of faith when you can’t see the landing is very scary. It’s hard to let go of the edge for fear of falling.

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For the past month or so I have been struggling with the question of whether I was to teach school again next year or not. Soon after Christmas I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t teach again and I had peace about that. But, that peace only last for a day or so before doubt began to arise. I thought, Well, maybe I’ll say I can teach if I have fewer grades. Because it felt scary to quit my job, which would mean I would have no job, no car, and no money. How could I get another job if I had no vehicle, but how could I pay for a vehicle if I had no job?

I continued to pray and seek God’s will; but I was still hanging on to the edge of the cliff, scared of what would happen if I let go. I thought, If I can just teach for even another year, I could buy a vehicle and pay it off and be set for another job.  And so it went. I felt like before I could quit one job, I had to have planned out what would happen next.

Finally it came to the third weekend in January—the weekend of our church’s deacon ordination. As I sat in church Sunday night I thought, If I could just take a lot and know one way or the other. Then it would be decided and I would just have to accept whichever answer it would be. Then we sang the song “I Surrender All.”

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All to Jesus I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
Refrain:
I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.
All to Jesus I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.
All to Jesus I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.
All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
Oh, the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!

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And I realized that maybe I hadn’t truly surrendered all to the Lord. I was trying to be in control rather than giving it over to Him. So I sat there and struggled through the service with this heavy on my mind.

The next morning in my devotions I read this statement: “Very often it is not until we let go and commit a situation into the Lord’s hands—perhaps fearing the worst—that God works it all out.” And I posted it to my Instagram and Facebook, asking for your prayers. The struggle was very real that day. The intensity gave me a major headache. But till the end of the day I had my answer. My answer to the school board would be “No.” The peace didn’t come right away. It wasn’t until the next day that I felt the peace of surrender. Thanks to all of y’all who were praying for me! I could feel your prayers strengthening me.

And, it wasn’t half as scary making that leap off the edge as I thought. The whole time I was clinging desperately to the edge of the cliff I didn’t have peace, but now I feel completely at peace. No, I still don’t have a vehicle; I still don’t know how I’m going to survive after my last paycheck. But I do know that God holds the future and I don’t have to see what is next. I’m excited to see what He has for me!

So, I would ask you to pray for me as I seek God’s will for my future.

Also I would ask for prayers for the school here and the need for an upper grade teacher. This is something else I have to give over to God. It is hard to entrust “my” children into someone else’s care. But knowing that God has led me to quit I know He can provide the teacher that they need.

Change of Plans

Right now I am really struggling. What over? A change of plans. I know it sounds absolutely silly. It makes me feel like a kid who cries when he doesn’t get his way.

I would say I’ve had a pretty good week. Although I was not feeling top-notch, things were going pretty smoothly. Today started out pretty well. I woke up feeling decently well and excited for the day. Then, just like that, someone stepped in and totally wrecked my plans.

At first, I wanted to strike back and say, “Don’t you realize other people besides you have plans? You’re being selfish! Don’t you know how hard I’ve worked at making MY plans?!” Then God convicted me. I realized that I needed to pray for that person. I have no idea what they are going through. They may be having a very tough time and need my prayers.

I also have to realize that God knew exactly what was going to happen and He made the choice to LET it happen. Knowing that, I want to submit to His perfect will. I want to allow this experience to help me grow, to help me learn to let go and enjoy where God is taking me.

God has really been working on me to just let go and give everything over to Him. But, I hold back, afraid of what will happen if I let go of what I know. It’s scary to make that leap of faith when you can’t see the landing point. It’s so easy for me to get stressed and depressed over my finances (or lack thereof), my job, lack of vehicle, etc. But, getting stressed over it sure doesn’t make life any easier. I’ve already tried that way and know it doesn’t work. I ended up physically hurting all due to stress; and I was in a dark place that I don’t want to go back to. I’ve been trying to let go and it is freeing, but I still have a long way to go.

I don’t know why today is so tough on me. Perhaps being physically worn down from not feeling well and crazy hormones. But whatever the case, I would just continue to seek your prays. I’m so blessed with many wonderful friends! I accept Hugs and Prayers at any time! Smile  And if you ever need someone to pray for you, please let me know. I would love to do that for you!

This was my inspiration this morning from my devotions about Joseph. “Even if you are in a pit today, God can still raise you up and do great things in you and through you!” –Joyce Meyer

When I realize what other people are going through, it makes me realize how small my problems are. And I ask myself, “Why am I getting upset over a minor change of plans, when some people are facing much more devastating, life-changing circumstances?” I would ask you to pray for my friend Sharla who has just found out that she has Stage 4 colon cancer. It is devastating to her family. Pray that they could have strength through this time, wisdom as they decide what treatment to pursue, and the peace of God as they rest in His will. 

Attack!

The other evening I had a very bad evening. And, although I’d like to put the blame on someone else, I have to admit it was my pride that made it such a hard evening.

I had a run-in with someone. The issue wasn’t really about me, but about something else. But we didn’t agree. I went away feeling like they thought I couldn’t do my job properly. I wanted to run far far away where no one could find me. I felt like quitting my job right then and there. Or, at least going to bed and not getting up in the morning and to face another day. I felt like I was a failure, like I couldn’t do anything right. I felt like saying, “Fine. Just do the job yourself then! Maybe it wouldn’t be as easy as you think!!” I wanted to shrivel up and die and see if anyone cared.

Thankfully, I had a friend to talk to. It was good for me to be able to discuss the issue with someone who was not involved in the problem. But when I was discussing it with them I didn’t really get to the heart of the issue—my pride.

That evening as I prepared for bed I was still feeling quite disgruntled. I got out my Bible and just started reading. I opened to Psalm 143.

Psalms 143
1. Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.
2. And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.
3. For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead.
4. Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate.
5. I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.
6. I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.
7. Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.
8. Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.
9. Deliver me, O LORD, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me.
10. Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.
11. Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.
12. And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.
(KJV)

I read this and I cried out, “Lord, this is me! Please hear my pray! Deliver me from my enemy! I can’t do this on my own strength; only through You can I overcome!”

As I spent time reading my Bible and calling on the Lord in prayer, I realized this was an attack of Satan. Things had been going pretty smoothly. I had been working to climb out of my “pit of despair” by finding things to be thankful for each day. But, here I was, down in that pit again. Realizing what was happening, I cried out to God and he heard me and lifted me up. Even though I felt weak and helpless, when I called out to Him and asked him to take my pride away, He came and fought for me. On my own I would have shriveled up and died. But, thankfully, that is not my story. Praise the Lord, Satan did not win that battle! With the Lord fighting for me I was able to have Victory!

Thanks to all of you who have been praying for me! I am blessed with so many good friends!

Psalm-143-1

Teaching Teenagers

Today was a good day. Yes, not all of it was easy, but I came through much better than in the past. It felt like such a victory to be able to deal with a hard situation and not come out crushed by it. In fact, I felt encouraged. I felt like celebrating the good day.

In the past people have made statements to me such as: “I wouldn’t want to teach the upper grades and have to deal with all the attitudes.” I always assured them that in my small class I had good students and didn’t have too much trouble with adolescent/teenage attitudes.

Enter year 2016-2017 with nine students and six grades. The first weeks went pretty smoothly. I felt the Lord had answered the prayers I had been praying all summer. Then someone flipped a switch. Now I’m dealing with teenagers who question everything I ask of them and push me to the limit. Some days I cry out to God, “God, I’m only 24. I don’t have the wisdom and experience to handle these teenagers!” I cry out for wisdom and guidance because I don’t know how to get through to them and help them understand WHY they need to do what they need to do.

Although today was a good day, it was a day that left my mind rolling and boiling. Did I handle the situation the correct way? Could I have said something that would have been more effective? Did I get through to the student? What is tomorrow going to be like? Did we get to the bottom of the problem or is it going to keep surfacing?

I don’t have the answers to all these questions.  But I was encouraged by the strength I felt from God to handle this situation. I was able to come out still on top, not buried under the problem. That in itself is huge!

I was also encouraged last week when my students voluntarily did something they had made a huge fuss about a few days before. It showed me that even though sometimes I may feel like I am getting nowhere, something is actually getting through to my students. It felt like I had won a battle. And when another student played recess without complaining today, I was so proud of him! It makes me so happy when my students choose to do the right thing!  

My prayer is that I would have wisdom and patience to be the teacher my students need to help them grow. Only by God’s strength can I carry on. Praising Him for his strength this week!

 

P.S. I now understand why my 7th and 8th grade teacher felt overwhelmed with 30 students! (We definitely weren’t good little angels!) I have my hands full with 9 students! (Things look a bit different when you are on the teaching end of it. Winking smile)

 

THANKSGIVING—and my stressful life

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

I have been seeing this verse on my calendar every day, but not until the other night did it really sink in to me. It was exactly the verse I needed and it had been in front of me the whole time, I had even been reading it quite often.

I tend to let myself get very stressed out. And I don’t handle stress very well. And stressed out and teaching do not go very well together. The past several weeks I have really been fighting it. Some days I felt so overwhelmed, like I was drowning in this sea called Life; I would barely get through one wave and another would come crashing down on me. Some days I just wanted to run away and never look back, run far away to a quiet place where no one could find me; where life wouldn’t overwhelm me. Sometimes I just felt like having a pity party for myself…I knew this wasn’t the answer and I tried to pray, but at the same time I was hanging on to the ‘poor little me, I have life so rough.’ It didn’t work out so well. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. The tears came against my wishes…When I was younger I never cried; I despised having people see me cry. Now it seems I can’t stop the tears, they just pour down whether I want them to or not. But with them, some of the stress does seem to flow away.

It just seemed like every time I took care of one problem, there was another one staring me in the face. After an especially tough day, I remembered Isaiah 40:31—“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” I felt weary and like I was fainting by the way and this just spoke to me. I prayed, asking the Lord to support me with his wings. The next day this verse kept going through my mind and I kept praying. I thought, Maybe God let me get low so I would seek him out more deeply. In all my stress, I haven’t been taking the time for God that I should. I’ve been putting my focus in the wrong place. And, although I wasn’t feeling very well that day, it was definitely a better day. And the next day was even better.

The battle is far from over. I have won a victory, but the Enemy is still there; now more determined than ever to drag me down into that dark sea of despair and self-pity. My challenge to myself is to spend more time with God and keep my focus on him rather than the stresses of my life.

Through it all though, there were bright spots. One night when I was feeling especially overwhelmed, I got a phone call releasing me from one of my responsibilities for the evening. They probably had no clue how much it meant to me; but I felt it was an answer from God—a chance to get my head a little higher out of the water. Another was getting invited to a friend’s for supper one evening just for anyhow. It was so good to have her little boys come and sit on my lap and want me to hold them because they love me. How can you not respond to that? There were other things, too, although I don’t remember them now.

I debated about writing this, I didn’t want to come across in a way that makes people pity me. Also, it is hard on my pride—what little I still have. I’ve always been the “tough one.” The one that is there for everyone else in their troubles. It’s hard to let people see inside my exterior to the real me who really isn’t tough at all. But I’ve found I love reading people’s blogs who are honest about life and what they are experiencing. Those are the posts that speak to me. So, I hope through this post you can be drawn closer to God and encouraged in your walk, not focus on me. This Thanksgiving, don’t let anxiety get in the way of your thanks giving!

P.S. On a brighter note, my students have kept me laughing the last couple days, as they have suddenly become my matchmakers. They provide me with great entertainment! No time for despair when they keep me laughing. Smile

Insecurities Revealed

So, I haven’t posted for quite awhile in the busyness of life, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking. The other day I read a blog post by one of my friends and it got me to thinking. All that night while I ironed, I thought how to write out my blog post. Well, it was late till I got to bed that night; so I didn’t take time to blog since I had to get up and teach school the next day. Now, I feel that my thoughts have floated away from me, but I have decided to try to pull them back and attempt to put them in some kind of sensible order.

“I’m fat.” “I’m ugly.” “Nobody likes me.” Have you ever thought or said any of these things? I have. Or maybe you looked at yourself and said, “At least I’m not as fat as she is.” Or “I’m a better volleyball player than her.” I’m guilty.

This past year has been one of much growing for me. I came to realize that I was a very insecure person. No, this realization did not just come to me like a lightning bolt. It was more like a gradual light, like the rising of the sun chasing away the darkness of the night. I never thought of myself as an insecure person. Of course, I could see when other people were insecure. I mean, it was so plain!!! Or, maybe not. Anyway, I came to realize I had never really accepted myself and my body the way God made me. Oh, I thought I had; but in the end, I really hadn’t.

When I was younger, I was rather pudgy, or shall we say, fat. I mean, 110 lbs at 10 years old isn’t exactly small. Well, there were some children who called me fat. Oh, I don’t think they were even totally serious about it and I know they liked me; but I let that lie start taking root in my mind. This lie led to others without me even realizing it. I didn’t really have close friends. Then I did make a close friend, only to be betrayed. I built walls around myself, letting no one close to me. Oh, it wasn’t that I didn’t have friends. I did. Great friends. But, just not someone whom I could share my heart with. I wrote all my feelings down to get them out of me since I had no one to tell them too. As time went on my cousin Connie became my best friend. I don’t know where I would be without her.

Time moved on and I became a school teacher in Colorado. It has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. A lot a stretching and growing has happened. In Colorado, no one knew me; I felt like I could get away from my past and start fresh. No one could judge me because of my family. They wouldn’t have any preconceived notions about me. I could just be me. But, I was still insecure me. I brought myself right along.

But, I met some really great people here that have helped me grow. People who have come through hard times themselves. People who have accepted themselves as God made them. People who have been willing to share their struggles with me. The first step, small as it was, was when I was told I was good at volleyball and asked to play in a tournament. I was not a person who was confident in my abilities. I didn’t think I played well. But, with some encouragement, I found confidence in my volleyball skills. I learned not to think negatively about myself as it related to volleyball. Although you might not think that sounds like a big deal, that really was my first step in the right direction.

Something else that helped me was my students. I always thought of myself as overweight and I would make negative comments about myself. Well, my students would tell me, “Miss Rachel, you are not fat.” I didn’t used to really listen to them. Yeah, sure they could say that. They had no weight problems and wouldn’t understand how it was to be me. But, somehow this last year, I let it start sinking in. I realized that in not accepting myself, I was judging those around me. I realized that I couldn’t lead my students to accept themselves if I couldn’t accept myself the way I was. But, most of them are way ahead of me in this. I admire their confidence in accepting themselves the way the are. Let me just say, I have some super amazing students! They may try my patience at times, but in the end they are what keep me going. Knowing that they care about me and believe in me means more than they will ever know!

A third thing that was very beneficial to me was reading the book “Lies Women Believe.” I came to see the lies I was believing and found the truth that could set me free! I would highly recommend this book! But, I will warn you, the book will do you no good unless you choose to believe the TRUTH. And it is a repeated process. We can’t just say once that we believe the truth, but it takes much repetition. Every time Satan brings a lie to us, we have to fight it back with the truth. It isn’t a once and done battle. But Thank the Lord, there is VICTORY for all those who trust in Him! He is more than happy to help us fight our battles; we don’t have to do it on our own. We CAN’T do it on our own. On our own we are nothing, but with Him we are more than conquerors! So often I have to fall before Him, asking Him to fight for me because I don’t have the strength. The more I focus on God, the less I am focusing on myself and what others think of me.

I realized that in my insecurities about myself, I had pushed others away from me. Because I couldn’t accept myself, I couldn’t accept them. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them; I did. But because I was afraid of what people would say about me if I was friends with them, I pushed them away. I wish I could go back and do things differently. Not for my sake as much as for the sake of people that I may have hurt because I didn’t understand myself.

I still have a long way to go, so be patient with me. For so long I have found my security in those walls I built around myself. In tearing them down, I find myself feeling very vulnerable. Like I am putting myself out as prey to be hurt. I know God’s arms about me are so much better than those walls, but trusting is much harder than it sounds. So, if you made it through this long rambling post of my thoughts and feelings, you can pray for me as I journey on.