From Lost and Frazzled to Saved and Strengthened
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (NIV Jeremiah 29:11).
I prevailed over feeling paralyzed by my own anxieties to realizing that I am fearless with the love of my Lord. In my mid 30s, my hardworking husband lost his job and our life as we knew it was turned upside down. I clung to this verse with white knuckles. We kept our faith in God strong to regain a life that is more rooted in Biblical truths, love, and forgiveness.
Yes, I realize the above picture is not the most Instagram worthy photo, but this is really who I am on any regular day, Western Day to be exact! I want you to know who I really am. My tribe knows all the soaring highs and the deepest of lows. This is my story. A character/problem/solution kind of story...where everyone lives happily ever after, because Jesus loves me this I know. The Bible tells me so :)
I grew up in Katy, Texas and have fond childhood memories of our neighborhood crew riding bikes, running around outside, playing school, and lots of swimming. I was raised in a Catholic home where my mom stayed at home with us and my dad worked in the oil field.
I have always liked school. One of my most cherished childhood memories is of my pretty 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Kennedy, who tutored me with my multiplication facts outside of school. I remember how sweet and kind she was with me. I remember the feeling of confidence that she gave me helping me overcome that obstacle. She is one of the only teachers I had that I can still remember their name. I think God put her in my life back then for a reason. There are few days that go by that I don't think of her loving energy in my own classroom. A little seed to love and share learning was planted in my heart.
As a child I would play "school" all the time! At the end of each year, my teachers would always have leftover resources that they would give away. Those days were like winning the lottery for me. I would scoop up as many as I could shove in my backpack, because you know..."Sharing is caring Danielle." Student workbooks, teacher editions (loved these), extra worksheets, manipulatives, scrap paper, and the Holy Grail...transparencies!!! I would bring these home and have summers full of "teaching". My stuffed animals and younger siblings were so lucky to have an in house tutor. I have always wanted to be a teacher. I feel so lucky that God placed that gift so strongly in me.
My high school years were the hardest years in my life. Somewhere in the 80s, amidst the cloud of Aqua Net, my parents decided to go their separate ways. I dealt with that in very typical Libra fashion. I tried my best to be diplomatic and understand both sides, but I didn't do that very well seeing as the rational part of my 15 year old brain was not fully developed yet. In my need to feel balanced, I emotionally could not take either side to the extreme and chose the middle road in order to somewhat please everyone. This left me feeling alone.
In my need to fit in somewhere, I ended up making choices that I would regret for a lifetime. I grew up swimming. I swam for fun and I swam to compete. The pool is where I found peace. It was quiet under the water and I was good at it. I was really good. God gave me the natural ability to get in the water and just go fast. It was effortless. I ended up taking that for granted. My freshman year I made the varsity swim team, which is not easy to do, and got my letter jacket that year. I was so proud of that jacket. I wore it all the time even when it was not cold, which in Texas, is pretty much year round. I swam on the varsity team my sophomore year as well and broke many records at my high school for both individual and relay events. At the end of that year, my need to fit in took over and I quit swimming. I regret doing this to this day.
To fit in, I started to partake in the all too typical teenage angst activities: alcohol, promiscuity, and recreational drugs. I thought by doing these things they would help me feel less in the middle of the road and more belonging somewhere. Anywhere. They did for a while. I felt like I fit in. I felt like I was in control of everything because I was still making good grades at school and not getting in trouble. The learning part in school was easy for me. It was the social part where I was just a mess. I am petrified of my own children feeling like this someday and pray daily that they won't. It was so sad and hard and lonely.
This "I've got everything under control" lifestyle continued into college where I was following my dream of becoming a teacher. This is also where my drinking to numb any pain got out of control. I again still made good grades, had a fun job waiting tables, paid most of my own bills, and on the outside had it together. When family issues would arise, or breakups, or stress of any kind, my answer was to wash them down with Jager Bombs. This lead me to blacking out, being reckless, and dangerous to myself and others. After years of drowning out any negative feelings, they started to manifest in the form of anxiety and the panic attacks started happening.
One day, after waiting tables, I was in a gas station getting a drink and it hit me. The back of my neck started to feel hot, I got very short of breath, my hands started shaking, I started to get tunnel vision, and my legs felt like they were going to give out on me. I was terrified. I remember being so confused. I managed to check out in the midst of what was happening to me and stumbled out to my car. I sat in my little black Civic for a long time feeling like I wasn't going to make it out. My first panic attack. Just like that, my journey with anxiety started right then and there.
My anxiety began to paralyze me in my 20s. I could no longer do some of the things I wanted to due to the fear of having another panic attack. The panic attacks were scary on their own. Now they were paired with the embarrassment that came with them for feeling like a weirdo in public or having to explain my actions to loved ones. I used to drive down to New Braunfels from Austin on the feeder road (about 40 miles) to visit my sister because I got panicked on the freeway once and didn't want to risk it again. It was crazy. I had to do something about it. I finally went to a doctor and got on some anti-anxiety medication, but the habit of numbing out the pain or stress with alcohol was still alive and kicking.
Enter in stage left...my husband. We met on one of my trips to New Braunfels to visit my sister. My sister and I are both teaching at this point during the week, but living our college lifestyle still on the weekends. New Braunfels is known for its beautiful river that people from all over come to tube down. We had been tubing that day and continued the fun at a local ice house. I stole a beer from his bucket, we danced, and he asked me over for a yummy dinner the next evening. We have been together ever since.
He has said that I have "high walls". I think that is because I had felt like I have been in that middle of the road area for so long that I have only had the energy to look out for myself. I guarded my little hard heart so much that it was very difficult for anything or anyone to get in and soften it. This attitude and alcohol do not go well together. He has really seen the not so pretty sides of me, but yet still thinks I am the most beautiful person. This is one of the big reasons why I love him. He has showed me that love from the get go and still does everyday. That is Jesus' love. We both grew up Catholic and went through all of the sacraments that you were supposed to before you get married and got married in New Braunfels in a gorgeous Catholic church with traditional ceremony. It was fun and full of love.
The only 2 things I knew for sure God put in my heart that I could feel from the get go was that I wanted to be a teacher and a mom. We could not wait to start a family. To do this I had to slowly get off of my anxiety medication. I never had any issues with anxiety while trying to get pregnant the first time or for the 7 years and another child later. I think I was in such "mombzie" mode that my issues were cast aside while I was raising my kiddos. I have no other explanation why it would suddenly just cool down. During these years life was good, but I felt God urging me to go to church. In my childhood we had gone to church on Sundays, but it wasn't particularly my favorite thing to do and I do remember skipping Sunday school many times and just roaming around the grounds. The deep feeling of something missing and feeling lost was creeping in again. But this time instead of going inward, He lead me outward which was new territory for me.
We first went to the Catholic church that Brad and I got married in. It was the same as every service I remember from growing up, not that there is anything wrong with that. It just was not filling the thirst that I was currently experiencing and left me feeling indifferent. So, we tried another church. This one was a baptist church and the largest church in town. I liked the feeling there. It was a good mix of traditional feel with more technology and everyone carrying around their own Bibles (which I had never owned before let alone have a cute bag for it to carry around), but Brad was concerned with "all that singing". So, I tried another one. This time on my own. This one was non-denominational and so different than I was used to that I left feeling really out of place. Time and life passed on. I felt like I didn't find what I was looking for, but kept feeling all the little things God was putting around me to remind me to keep looking. We, now as family of four, tried another church. This time it was Lutheran. We liked it. It was more traditional like we were used to and nothing had us running for the hills. The entire sermon though was spent passing out Goldfish crackers and trying to keep the kids quiet so we could actually learn something. It just didn't work for me. I wanted somewhere where Brad and I could listen to the sermon while the kids went to Sunday school. Coming from a teaching background, my feeling is that it was not age appropriate to expect a child that young to sit quietly for over an hour. I wanted my kiddos to be learning like we were, but on their own level. I was starting to feel like finding a church that felt like home was a lost cause. So we stopped going for a while. In comes one of my neighbors, Niki.
She would casually drop that we should try her church again while playing outside with the kiddos. She went to the large Baptist church. I liked it there, but the baptism in the water well was so different for me. I had already been baptized as a child in the Catholic church so I felt strange at the time. I would occasionally ask her questions about God, Jesus, and stories from the Bible while we watched the kids play, but decline invitations from her to join her family each Sunday. This went on for months. One day God was really trying to pull me in and I didn't resist. We went to church that Sunday and we have been going ever since. I don't even remember what the sermon that Sunday was about. All I remember is a feeling of being home. I felt so good. The pastor's words spoke right to my little hard heart and softened it just a bit that day. I signed up for my first ever Bible study soon after that. It was called Uniquely Gifted by Jeri Lynn Scott. She actually lead her study that session and I feel forever grateful that God lead me there. I loved listening to her speak about the truths in the Bible and learning about who God is and who he says I am. I had grown up going to church, but my heart was never open to receiving until then.
About two and a half years ago I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and got rebaptized through our amazing home church. The one with "all the singing" which now is my favorite part of service and how I love to worship. Watching my kids sing in the car with their little imaginary microphones to worship songs reaffirms that I am right where God wants me to be. Believing, momming, teaching, trying to get back into swimming and giving all the glory to Him. I even have my own Bible now, thanks to my loving neighbor, with a Bible bag filled with goodies. I would be lying if I said I no longer get anxious or that our life has been easy since being saved. My husband losing his job and being out of work for 8 months in the middle of my spiritual rebirth was probably the best time that it could have happened. It has been a long and hard road coming back from that. My faith and hope have only been strengthened because I know God has got my back and my families.
My walk with the Lord has led me here. I am bad with technology (everything I touch somehow "breaks", sorry Brad LOL) and I am really more an old school pencil and paper kind of gal. I am scared silly about starting this journey of a blog online, but it is an adventure that God has put on my heart so here we are.
I am currently teaching a mixed Kindergarten/First Grade class of lovely littles and come home to two babes of my own and a loving hubby. It is running joke around here how everything always comes back to how I can turn some moment into a lesson LOL. I just have a teacher brain and a huge love of learning so it never turns off! I also love to make my friends laugh, cook, organize, plan, and serve others. When I took the Uniquely Gifted class I learned that God has given each of us unique gifts that make us who we are and one of a kind. This is a place where I can share the gifts God has gifted me while maybe encouraging other moms along the way.
I am often on Facebook and Instagram sharing fun tips, ideas, and recipes. I would really appreciate it if you would show some love and Like, Comment, and Share :) I have also just started to create resources for purchase that you can use in your classroom or at home. You can check out my Teacher Pay Teacher store here. If you leave feedback on anything you purchase, you earn credit toward future purchases!!!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story. I can't wait to hear from you and learn about yours!!!