Coffee, Please!

“Pour some sugar on me”, whispered the coffee to the spoon.

Now, we will take a moment of silence for the fact that I haven’t had coffee in 5 days. FIVE. DAYS. That’s almost a week or in coffee terms, eternity. My life is a hoot because guess what show I decided to binge during my coffee-less days? Gilmore Girls. I mean, Lorelai’s coffee addiction is a main character in itself. Instead of focusing on Rory, Jess, and Dean’s love triangle or if Jackson gets the nerve to marry Sookie, I’m wondering if Lorelai drinks her coffee straight up or does she have a hint of hazelnut creamer or caramel drizzled inside the to-go cup. The coffee thoughts are endless.

Mouth is literally watering. Let’s proceed.

Coffee is a no-go for me because, per the ER doctor, I had a severe panic/anxiety attack last week. He gave me a list of things to do and not do- sadly, coffee is on the naughty list. Quarantine started the anxiety flame back in March. There were days when my fear precisely told my brain that I was short of breath. I checked my temperature more than I checked my phone. I washed and sanitized my hands until my skin was so raw that I got dry cracks and rashes. I Lysol wiped  E V E R Y T H I N G.

I didn’t leave our house for 11 weeks. However, around week 4, when I realized our household was safe and clean, did I start to calm down. I started to enjoy the backyard conversations with the parents. I tried my hand at yard work- I unevenly trimmed the shrubs, but hey, they cute. I re-re-restarted a routine of nightly devotions and quiet time with God. I baked sooooooo many banana breads, muffins, Coca-Cola cakes and did a good majority of cooking dinner. The kitchen appliances aren’t an enemy after all. We enjoyed family dinners on the back patio, laughing, chatting, and listening to nature. Quarantine life wasn’t so bad. I actually got to a point where I dreaded going back to the normal hustle and bustle of life.

The last week of May was the first time that I stepped inside a store. Of course, I had a mask on and a bottle of sanitizer in my purse and looked at people like aliens from space, but I did it. As life started back up, I found myself becoming anxious again. I mentally wasn’t ready to return to work and even though summer was still ahead, it felt like we’d have to jump right back in. I was nervous about returning to church. I was terrified of my not-in-the-best-health parents braving the world again because they were very excited about things being open. Sheltering in place made me feel so safe that returning to normalcy scared me to death.

The parents planned a long weekend to my grandparent’s cabin in TN and after EXTREME deliberation, I tagged along. I was paranoid the entire time…about everything. Bears in the yard. Cougars on the roof. Snakes in the toilets. Scorpions in the bed. About 20 hours into the trip, I couldn’t wait to get back home. I had a long 4 days ahead of me. Returning home meant facing another beast: buying a new house. I have lived with the parents since December and have been paying off some bills and getting my student loans current. This part has been super stressful and worrisome.

Anyway, a very long story short, all of this has been weighing on my mind. Even when I’m not actually thinking about it, I’m thinking about it. If that makes sense. I’m trying to be a responsible adult, homeowner, foster Momma in waiting, successful grad student, energetic teacher, dependable daughter, better writer, drama free, and most of all, more Christ-like. It’s a lot. It’s intense. I’m a perfectionist.

Unfortunately, and utmost frightening, it caught up with me.

I’ve always had headaches (thanks stubborn sinuses), but the headaches changed. The pain traveled down to my neck. I couldn’t sleep. I was restless. I was sluggish. I was irritable. In my heart of hearts, I knew I was the cause of the pain. I was making myself sick. I knew it, I just didn’t want to admit it. Instead, I Googled causes and symptoms and scenarios which led to tumors and aneurysms and cancer. I freaked myself out SO much that I locked myself in the bathroom last week, crying and begging God not to let me die. No joke, y’all. Paranoia in its finest.

After spending some time in the ER and having the doctor reassure me that I was not about to get wheeled into an OR room or that I wasn’t going to die during brain surgery like Dr. Derek Shepard (still not over that, btw), did I start to calm down. I worked myself up SO much that my blood pressure was almost in the 200s.

I did this to myself. I made myself sick, literally physically sick.

It’s been almost a week since my “episode” and it has been a daily struggle to keep myself calm. I do stretches throughout the day. I meditate and pray more. I sit outside alone and soak in nature and His creation. I journal. I lay on the floor in the dark with spa-like music to center my mind. Sadly, I have to constantly remind myself that I am not sick. I am healthy. The doctor said it. I know it. But it’s so hard not to give in to the panic and worry as to why my neck is still stiff (new pillow is on its way) at times or that the pressure behind my eyes and nose is due to my twisted allergies and that maybe I should be wearing my glasses more. It’s incredibly difficult not to succumb to anxiety and fear.

As I’ve reassessed some things these few days, I have realized that our minds are powerful tools. It has to repeatedly be fed with positive thoughts and facts. It needs time and space to recenter. It needs pep talks and reminders. It needs adequate sleep and rest. It needs less FOX and CNN and more Hallmark and Animal Planet. It needs less world and more Jesus. In my 30 years (holy moly that’s still weird to say), I have never been more aware of my mental health than I am right now.

Wrapping up this vent sesh, I want to encourage you to take care of yourself. The first half of 2020 has definitely been unprecedented and apocalyptic- so to speak, but we can turn the last half around. If not for the world, for yourself. I plan to turn it around for me. Time is precious, don’t let Satan steal your joy. I’m preaching to myself too.

Remember…

  1. He has overcome the world (aka anything you’re going through)
  2. Fear is a liar (repeat that daily)
  3. Cast all of your cares upon Him for He cares for YOU

Oh, and someone have some coffee for me, pretty please!

Until next time,
Rach

COVID-19 EDITION

It was a warm, sunshiny Thursday. Disney was packed with people like a cubed can packed with sardines. Some parts smelled like sardines too- can you say B.O.D.Y O.D.O.R?! Jungle Cruise was my favorite ride, Dole Whip tasted like pineapple Heaven, and the company was delightful. It was the perfect outing for Spring Break.

And with a snap of a finger, the planet we call earth came to a screeching halt. Before we could blink, churches, schools, malls, theaters, theme parks, and dining closed. Students and teachers were thrown to the great white shark that is virtual learning. Mothers were now homeschool teachers and doing foreign math that aliens invented. Fathers were out of work. Grandparents were forbidden to leave their home. Pastors were forced to preach to an empty room as they record for Sunday service.

What is this thing called COVID-19?

The first few days of quarantine were eventful. Breakfast and coffee on the back patio at 9am. Casual pee breaks (let’s be real, teachers pee like twice a day). Teaching in my pj shorts while soaking up some sun. Late night writing because…no alarm clock. I mean, It. Was. Grand!

Until my leisure turned into paranoia. What if I don’t get to see my students until next school year? We didn’t even get to say goodbye. What if my paychecks stop? What if this scratchy throat isn’t my allergies? What happens if my mom gets sick and they isolate her and I can’t be near to help? What if I get it and die alone in my bedroom? What if I have to be put on a ventilator? Those freak me out. Worse! What if I have to be tested and they stick that massive q-tip up my nose? Nope, that’s where I draw the line. What if these vitamins I take religiously really aren’t helping me through all of this? Oh my gosh, my fever is 98.7…is that normal? WHAT IF WE RUN OUT OF TOILET PAPER?

Those were some of the few thoughts that ransacked my mind for days straight. I found that my curiosity killed the best of me. I was glued to the news, constantly reading articles and staring at the global map of hotspots. I hung on every word that came out of Dr. Fauci’s mouth. I didn’t sleep. Like, at all. I played reruns of Golden Girls into the wee hours of the morning before I felt normal enough to fall asleep.

After almost two weeks of pretending to feel okay, faking a smile, or sharing something positive on social media, I lost it. Night had fallen and the house was dark and still. I tiptoed to the bathroom where I locked myself in the small space and cried. I cried because of the sickness. I cried because of the thousands of death. I cried because I can’t imagine a world without my mom. I cried because my student’s safe place is temporarily closed. I cried because I didn’t feel well in my own body and was scared. I cried because I didn’t understand what God had planned from all of this. I cried until my head hurt and eyes were too weak to open.

As I dried my swollen eyes, I searched for scripture to soothe my soul. Verse after verse until John 16:33 leaped from the screen. It says, “I have told you these things so that you may find peace in me. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, for I have overcome the world.”

It speaks for itself. Humanity is in trouble. We’re fighting a lethal virus. We’re literally sheltering in place to save our lives. Yet, He already told us this so that when trouble comes we can find peace in Him. That we can take heart, take courage, because He has overcome. He has overcome COVID-19. He has overcome my fears. He has overcome my anxiety. He. Has. Overcome.

We have an uncertain road ahead of us. We don’t know what tomorrow holds. However, we do know who holds tomorrow. Take heart, for He has overcome.

Stay kind. Stay healthy.

~Rach

This is my story…

I’ve been entertaining the idea of sharing my story for a while now, but I always think of reasons and make up excuses not to. I’ve always been afraid of what people would think of me. Until today, when I heard two different stories and saw the strength and courage it took to share their scars and history, so I feel there’s no better time like the present.

I’m going to give brief tidbits of parts of my past that have impacted me the most, positively and negatively. I pray you read this with kindness in your heart and walk away keeping me in your prayers as I continue to be the best version of myself.

My family split when I was six years old. As it happens with most young girls, when dad leaves, daddy issues begin. For the longest time, I was anti-male as in every male was just like my father and every male was out to hurt women. Teenage years creeped in and my outlook on males started to change. Maybe all males weren’t like my father.

I had several crushes throughout school, but deeper feelings were always kept at bay – mainly in effort to protect my fragile heart. Looking back, 20 was young to fall in love and know you found the one you want. At least, it was for me – college oriented, career minded, not getting married til I’m 30 girl. Yet, I fell hard and it was the real deal. It was the first time I ever let my guard down to a guy. It was the first time a guy treated me like I was worth something.

Everything about this was natural.

Everything about this was sweet.

Except nothing about this was good.

I was in love with a married man.

I know, I know. Go ahead and gasp loudly, choke on your coffee, or drop your jaw. Life happens and I’m not perfect in the slightest way. While this is definitely not the kind of relationship God ever intends for any of us, I still stand completely behind that you can’t help who you fall in love with. Some may argue it, but sometimes love comes in many forms and when we least expect it.

There is a line from a Tim McGraw song that always reminds me of my first love. It says, “time can make a feeling fade, but the memory of your first love never fades away”. I can’t tell you how true that is. The memory of my first love is with me every day and not necessarily in good ways.

Most days, my actions back then haunt me. I’m 29 years old, no worthy prospective candidates for a hubby, no children, and with two (soon to be three) pets -don’t snicker.

Flashback to 16, when a doctor told me that I may likely never be able to have children. With no intention whatsoever to have children any time soon, the news didn’t affect me much. It wasn’t until several years later, when I fell in love and two more doctors confirmed this, did it affect me.

The relationship ended, the love subsided, and life went on. However, in the back of my mind, I was constantly troubled by the thought of not being wanted or loved because I was damaged goods. Years went by and life grew busy that I didn’t think or have time for a relationship.

Jumping back to 29, I have been troubled by the things of my past. Let me explain. Sure, I’ve asked for forgiveness – many, many times. But I want to find a best friend to travel the world with and who happens to turn into a boyfriend, fiance, and husband. I want an epic wedding reception. I want to come home every day to a man that loves me. I want a family. I want to be a mom (to a human, not another animal lol). I have prayed for these things, oh so many days, weeks, months, and years.

But here’s the catch… what if God didn’t forgive me. What if God hasn’t seen that I’m not the person I was. What if God hasn’t heard my prayers regarding my desires. The biggest kicker? What if God IS PUNISHING ME? Punishing me for my sins – for loving someone who was spoken for and wanting him to be mine and not hers. Maybe this is why I’m not married. Maybe this is why I can’t have children. Maybe this is why the most personal things I pray for aren’t coming to fruition.

I’m going to be brutally honest, these thoughts have become real in my life. It’s why I’m not as close to God as I used to be or should be. Most days, I keep God at arms length. Remember daddy issues? That applies to the Heavenly daddy as well.

One story I heard today spoke of promises being overused and abused. We tend to throw out promises (and break them) so much that the true importance of the act doesn’t mean anything. Because of this, we tend not to believe the promises of God. That hit home and stuck with me all day. I instantly realized what’s wrong with me. I’ve been promised so much by various male figures in my life, and crushed by those same male promises, that I don’t believe or trust the only man that matters.

Mind blown? Yeah, mine is too!

As I continued to ponder on this this evening, I have to think that if God can forgive and redeem murderers, prostitutes, liars, betrayers, and pure wickedness, then I too can be forgiven of my past. In the second story I heard today, was that our sins are forgiven instantly when truly asked and God is like ‘I’ve already cast that aside’. Often it’s not that God won’t forgive us, but we won’t forgive ourselves.

As for desires I used to pray about, maybe one day I’ll pray for them again. Right now, I’m learning to accept that maybe my purpose isn’t to live the traditional American life of a cozy home with marital bliss, four kiddos, and a yard of pets and toys. I’m a high school teacher now and I like to think of my work there as my mission field. Maybe my life will be to open my home to displaced kids or fostering. Maybe my children will be the hundreds of students that walk in and out of my classroom every year. Maybe I am never meant to be loved by a man again. Maybe my story and purpose is meant for something more than what I ever imagined for myself.

Only God knows.

I do know one thing… I was meant to hear those stories today.

I am forgiven.

I am redeemed.

I am enough.

No matter what I’ve done to my temple, if I have Jesus in my heart and life, then I am holy, pure, and clean.

You can be too.

-Rach