What Next?

So, maybe most of you know by now what I am planning to do next, but this is for those of you who don’t; or those who would like to know some background.

For those of you who would rather not read a long, wordy post explaining all the details, here is the short version: I am moving to Guatemala.

For most of my life I have had family living in Guatemala. When I was 7 or 8, my parents went there to visit my dad’s brother’s family. Before they went Mom listened to Speedy Spanish tapes and used the Rosetta Stone Spanish program on the computer. I grew up hearing about Guatemala and desiring to learn Spanish.

When I entered high school, I signed up for the Spanish course with the thought in mind of going to Guatemala as a missionary someday. I got my passport in 2010? with hopes of going to visit my cousins in Guatemala, but that didn’t happen right away. But, finally, in 2013, my cousin Connie and I went for a 16 day visit. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with our cousins in Guatemala! We helped Holly around the house, visited the school one day, and spent some time at the clinic. We also got to go swimming, zip lining, and shopping. Benj told us we could move there whenever we were ready. Winking smile

Well, time went on and I wasn’t sure if God was actually calling me to Guatemala. Maybe that was my own plan and not what He had for  me. I decided not to push it. I had found my niche teaching school in Colorado. For the time being that was my mission field.

Then I decided it was time for a break from teaching. I tried, in my head at least, to have a plan laid before I said, “No.” I thought maybe I could stay in Colorado even if I wasn’t teaching.  I wanted to so badly!! Someone wondered why I would rather stay there than live in Virginia. I found it very hard to explain or put into words. Now I might be able to put it more into words. I felt like Colorado was where I truly found myself; where I could just be me and be liked for me. Not judged on how conservative I was or how well I could play sports or by what my family was like. I also love that there aren’t near as many people in the West. I love the wide open country, the beautiful mountains. It’s something I feel inside. I can’t really put it into words. But it is there nonetheless.

As is natural, when people found out I wasn’t teaching, they  wondered, “What are you going to do next?” My reply, “I don’t know yet, I am just waiting for God’s leading.” Sometimes I got tired of saying this. You know, most people have things more in order. They don’t just quit a job with no other job on the horizon.  I felt a little weird, but at the same time I was at peace with my decision. I knew God was leading. As the school year wound down, though, it was hard to still not know what was happening. I wanted to demand an answer from God but knew I could not. I knew He would reveal the plan in His own good time. But it was hard to have patience.

Things just didn’t seem to be working out for me to stay in Colorado, but I kept hoping, not really letting go of my desire. Then I heard of a mission opportunity. It seemed like maybe that was what I was supposed to be doing.  I prayed about it. I talked with people about it. I wasn’t sure about it, but it seemed like maybe God was opening a door. So, finally I checked into it. I kept praying. In the end, that did not work out, but it accomplished something for me. Through that, I was able to give up my desire to stay in Colorado.  So when I got asked to help my cousins in Guatemala I had already processed the thought of leaving Colorado. I still had to pray about it. Think about it. Ask people’s opinions. Find out more information. But in the end, I agreed to go. It felt so good to be able to tell people, “I am moving to Guatemala next.”

But then there came another question that posed a problem, “How long will you be there?” My answer, “Indefinitely.” Now, this does not mean I will be there forever. It just means I don’t know how long God will have a purpose for me there. I plan to be there until God leads me somewhere else.

And, as others have, you may be wondering, “What will you be doing there?” This is somewhat easier to answer. I will be helping my cousin Benj and his wife Holly and their 5 children. In Holly’s words, I will be her “personal assistant.”

People also wonder, “Are you excited about going?” This has been a little harder for me to answer. At first I was just getting out of school and trying to recover from that. Going to Guatemala was a distant happening that I had no strong feelings about. But, as the time draws nearer, Yes, I am excited. Excited and a bit apprehensive. I loved it there when I visited, but I know moving there will be different. I know it will present lots of challenges. Sometimes I wonder if I am up to that. But I know that I need stretched. That it will be good for me to get out of my comfortable little box.

So I have been trying to study some Spanish. Trying to get things in order here so I am ready to head to Guatemala the beginning of September. I feel like things are not coming together as quickly as I would like, but I am trying to not let all the things I want to get done pile up in my mind and weigh me down and stress me out. I am trying to stay calm and hand my problems to God. But if you don’t hear from me much the next while, don’t be surprised. I have a lot of things to get done and a lot of people to spend time with.

Another question I got tired of answering was, “When are you leaving for Guatemala?” I had to keep answering, “I don’t know. Maybe the end of August.” When I got asked to go to Guatemala, I told them that I was willing to go, but wanted a few months at home with my family. Some time to recuperate from the school year. A chance to catch my breath. And they graciously agreed. My summer has been fairly busy, but I have had some relaxing days. Some healing days. For which I am very grateful. I appreciate everyone’s prayers! I would ask for you continued prayer support as I go to Guatemala. I feel I have come to understand more about myself and how to deal with being overwhelmed, but I still covet your prayers! I decided when to go to Guatemala by when my cousins were coming for a short furlough. So once they had their tickets I had a more definite answer. I will be traveling back with them after they are in the States for a few weeks.

If you would like to do more than just pray for me, you can help support me financially while I am in Guatemala. If you are interested, you can email me at tropicslvr1992@gmail.com or my mom at kmsewsalot@gmail.com and we can give you more information about that.

Adios! Buenas noches!

-Raquel

P. S. 1 – I still hold a dream of possibly living in Colorado some day, but only God knows. Smile

P. S. 2 – Did I ever write a blog post about my visit to Guatemala? I’ll have to check. Anyway, here is a picture from my time there.

Guatemala 456

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.

*************

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.

************

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.”

*************

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!

*************

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