A Very Real Miracle

I must admit that this post has been building in my mind/heart for quite some time now. This is not the typical subject I blog about but I can’t help but write down my thoughts, especially because it is such a huge focus of my life right now.

I am 21 weeks pregnant as of this week and I couldn’t be more excited/scared about starting our little family!! We are having a sweet baby boy and my husband and I are constantly discussing things related to this little man…his name, his nursery, what he will be like, if we will be good parents, etc. It is a really special time in our lives, and we are loving every minute of it!

Like many expecting moms I think, I have been reading different blogs/articles/books about having a baby and all that comes along with that process. One of the things I have put a lot of thought into is what I want my birthing experience to be like. As I read about some of the different options of childbirth, something began to really bother me about the information I was presented.

From the very beginning of this process, I have been very comfortable with the idea of having an epidural to alleviate some of the pain involved in childbirth. It was a personal decision that I felt like I had made based on at least some knowledge and understanding of the process. But obviously, I felt like I should do some more reading and studying to find out what was best for my baby and I. It was at this point that I found myself feeling guilty about my decision. And here is the crazy part…it wasn’t because of scientific or medically based research that I found, it was because of the hurtful comments, and sometimes unintentionally degrading opinions of other women. It was interesting that after looking at the medically based research of using epidurals I felt confident in my decision to receive one before giving birth, and yet, after spending some time reading the opinions of women who believe in a strictly natural birthing process, I was left feeling like less of a woman because of my decision.

Now I have to say that I am not at all an expert on this subject. Yes, I have done some light reading, but I would never pretend to know all there is to know about the process of childbirth. From what I’ve seen there is research to back up both sides of the issue of whether or not epidurals should be used, and it would be easy to come to a conclusion on either side. I have very close friends who have decided to have completely natural childbirths and I have nothing but respect and admiration for them! I am a firm believer in doing what feels right for you in your personal situation.

What I have a hard time dealing with is the fact that I felt like only one side of the issue being presented was trying to make women on the other side feel bad. I read comment after comment that said things to this effect:

“I am so happy to see that there are women who are willing to get back to the natural process of childbirth!”
or
“Women who give birth naturally are so strong! That is the way it is supposed to be!”
or
“I want to applaud you for having the courage to give birth the right way.”
or
“Having a natural birth is the only way to ensure that your baby will be healthy.”
or
“If you were truly educated about the natural process of childbirth you would never dream of drugging your baby.”

I even read an article on a midwifery website that described the process of getting an epidural in this way:
“Not until long after she has verbally agreed to the epidural and the IV is loaded and the woman is beached in bed with her monitor, only then will a distant, impossible-to-track-down anesthesiologist appear. Like street drug pushers, the anesthesiologist often seems to makes him or herself scarce. In the same monotonous tone, without ever making eye contact, the anesthesiologist pushes the consent form and pen into the woman’s lap, rattling off all the possible bad effects of epidural while the woman is sitting up on the bed, already in position to have the epidural, and often while having a contraction and unable to pay attention to what is being told to her. The anesthesiologist is reluctant to answer questions. In response to questions, there is usually a “I have better things to do” tone of discourse.”

So wait, am I not a real woman? Am I not giving birth the right way if I choose to get an epidural? Does getting an epidural make me a weak person? Will my experience be less of a miracle because of it? Am I not educated enough because I don’t want to experience so much pain? What about the women who don’t have a choice to have a natural childbirth? The women who, for the safety of their baby, have to have a C-section and receive aneasthesia for the procedure? Am I being selfish by choosing an epidural?

Those were some of the very real thoughts that crossed my mind as I read these things. I am not in any way trying to say that all women who want to have a natural childbirth feel this way or look down on other women who choose not to. But the reality is that people do make these kinds of comments all the time and it can be very hurtful to women who feel otherwise or who end up not having a choice in the matter. I just think it would be helpful if people were a little more sensitive in the way they talked about childbirth. It is important for people to have and voice their own opinions, but I don’t think those opinions should diminish someone else’s experience.

For the record, I don’t think one way is more “right” than the other. I have heard a million stories about people who suffered horrible things because they had an epidural, and have heard a million more stories about people who had wonderful experiences because of their epidural. I have heard horror stories of the problems an epidural will cause your baby and I have seen/heard a thousand birthing stories where epidurals were used and perfectly healthy babies were born.
The point is, I don’t know everything, but I do know how I feel.

I know that I am carrying a human being right now. I know that I want to have a peaceful experience in the hospital while I am giving birth to him. I know that I want to be surrounded by medical professionals who have many years of education that qualify them to help my baby and I through this process. I know that childbirth is a natural process, but I also know that advances in medicine have created safe opportunities for me to avoid unnecessary pain. I know that I have a qualified doctor who will answer my questions to the best of her ability based on her medical training. I know that I don’t want to be in so much pain that I can’t appreciate the beauty of what is happening. I want to enjoy my family and I want to enjoy the companionship of my husband. I know that Heavenly Father has blessed me with one of his children and entrusted me to raise him and care for him. I know that not every woman has that opportunity and I am grateful and humbled that I am able to go through this process in this life. I know that I am making the best decisions that I can for my body and my baby. I know that I am an educated woman who is strong and determined to ensure that my baby is healthy in every way that I can. I know that I can’t control everything and that I will do my best to handle any situation or difficulty that I may have to face as I become a mother and care for this precious baby boy. I know that women who have their children naturally are brave, but I don’t think that I am any less brave for choosing not to.

And I know that my husband and I are a part of a miracle and whether or not I decide to have an epidural or any other source of pain relief will NOT cheapen my pregnancy and will NOT make me any less of a woman or this experience any less of a “real” childbirth. I will have carried my baby in my belly and I will have experienced all of the crazy emotions and feelings that go along with that. I will love and cherish this experience and pray for a safe delivery and healthy baby boy. I will not worry about whether other women think I’m brave or strong or healthy enough, and I will make an educated decision about my birthing process when the time comes and it will not be based on anyone else’s opinions or beliefs.

And I hope you will too!

We should be celebrating the beauty of this process for all women, not just the ones who do it a certain way.

Keep hoping:)

Raquel

College, it may actually be all that it’s cracked up to be.

Okay, okay, so it finally hit me.
Many of you told me this moment would come, but who knew it would be so soon? I figured I would at least last until the surreal graduation ceremony that provides you with endless hours of sitting time, reserved exclusively to contemplate the many mistakes and victories of your college career, as well as the terrifying abyss of uncertainty that is your future. Even as I type this blog post I still have two excruciating finals to study for and 300 more words to write for an essay that sums up my entire theory on the human personality. Painful, right? The fact that I’m taking the time to write this is my last attempt at strengthening my superior procrastination skills that college has so dutifully armed me with. So why the feelings of nostalgia, and yes I admit it, even sadness? Well, my college undergraduate experience is finally over. And while most of you who know me, know that I couldn’t be happier about the fact that I get to leave this place in just FIVE short days, I also can’t help but think about what the past four years have meant to me. Not in a cheesy, “It was the best four years of my life!!!” way, but because of the people I have met and the person I have become.

I realized this afternoon that I have spent the past three semesters wishing I was somewhere else, and at times, I forgot to be where I was. So in this surprising, and yet welcomed, moment of clarity I achieved today, I decided to take a minute to truly be where I am and focus on the many joys and struggles of college life. First of all, no I don’t believe that college is or ever will be the highlight of my life. Hopefully, I have many greater and fulfilling experiences ahead. However, in this moment, it has been the most influential/miserable/exciting/intimidating/wonderful time of my life. It is something I always knew I would achieve, yet never thought I would actually be done with.

I started my college career at Texas Tech University, and then quickly realized that it wasn’t where I was supposed to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always be a Red Raider at heart (hopefully officially again for graduate school, fingers crossed!) but it was not where I needed to be at the time. I transferred to BYU-Idaho in 2008, and despite the never ending jokes about potatoes…which do in fact get old, it was by far one of the best decisions I have ever made. It may be a school with an honor code, and rules that don’t always make sense to a 19 year old, but its blessings far outweigh any minor inconvenience it may cause to your warped and immature sense of independence and ego. I was taught by professors who truly cared about who I was and what I wanted. They taught me far more than what was outlined in the textbook and took an interest in every aspect of my well-being. I honestly could go on and on about this place, but all mushiness aside, I will forever be grateful for this school and everything it stands for.

Along with the massive amount of information on human psychology that is now floating around in my head, some of the most important lessons I learned were found somewhere between the feelings of freedom and invincibility that came from moving 1,176 miles away, the insane amounts of homework, the building of life-long friendships, the all-nighters filled with painful attempts at studying, the parties, the stress that often brought me to tears, the awkward dates, the caffeine-induced laughter, the ever-dreaded group projects, the impulsive decisions, the failed attempts at cooking that usually resulted in junk food, the long distance relationship, the crazy roommates, and the joy that came from the tiny mercies of college found in the form of cancelled assignments and classes.

So here’s to college, it may actually be all that it’s cracked up to be.

You learn that sometimes it’s more important to stay up all night with your roommate who just had a bad break-up than it is to study for your exam the next morning, that sometimes getting an A isn’t the most important thing, that you’re not always right, that you can make a difference in people’s lives simply by being who you are, and most importantly…

You learn that you can do hard things.

So as I embark on the painfully long trek back home to Lubbock, Texas, the list of things I’m grateful for this holiday season will grow by one. Underneath my wonderful family and parents who made my education possible, my amazingly patient boyfriend who somehow survived all of this with me, the friends who changed my life forever, and my Heavenly Father who unfailingly carried me through this, I will simply add the word “College,” because that one word embodies so much more than you initially realize on that first day of class in that intimidating lecture hall.

You start out as a naïve and scared freshman and become a slightly less naïve and scared adult.
You survive things you never thought possible, and as you reach that elusive light at the end of the tunnel, you can look back and see that the good far outweighed the bad, you gained more than you lost, and you became more than you were.

As my friend Kaitlyn would say, “Bravo college, bravo.”🙂

Keep hoping,
Raquel

Criteria for Love.

I get really excited when I hear something that causes me to think for days. Thoughts that truly change who I am, what I believe, and what I want for my life. This week, those thoughts came from the same professor I blogged about previously. His class has been such a blessing to me this semester. I wish that everyone could have the opportunity to take it.

I’ll share his experience first and then my own thoughts on the subject.

My professor had a student come into his office who was struggling with many different aspects of his personal life. The student broke down in tears and shared his frustrations, with dating in particular. My professor then asked him to describe his idea of the perfect woman. His list included things like skinny but not too skinny, tall but not too tall, sassy but not too sassy, and so on. My professor continued to talk with him, and then left for the day. As he went about the rest of his week he kept thinking about the things he had discussed with the student. He began pondering the criteria that he had used when deciding to marry his wife. He decided that the one reason he ultimately chose to marry his wife was because she understood everything about him in a way that no one else had or could. She understood his strengths and most importantly his weaknesses, and still wanted to be with him.

Then he began thinking about the reasons his marriage is successful today. He decided on two main things: fish and lights.
Now you’re probably just as confused as I was when he said those two words, but as he explained the simplicity of it, it resonated with me in an emotional way.

Fish: He described how much he LOVES fish. He could eat fish everyday and enjoys all different types.  His wife on the other hand, hates fish. She hates the smell, she hates the way it looks, she hates the way it tastes, everything about it. It is probably one of the few things she truly hates. Despite this though, she cooks fish for him once a week. She never eats it, and he described with a smile, how she usually has to wear a mask while she cooks it in order to avoid the potent smell. But still, every week, she cooks it.

Lights: He then explained that he loves to go to sleep early, but that his wife loves to stay up late and read. She starts reading around ten and will read till one in the morning some nights. They have a light in their room that she leaves on so that she can read while he goes to sleep. He hates the light, it has a way of shining directly in his face every night and makes it hard for him to get to sleep. Every night his wife will turn to him and ask if the light is bothering him, and every night he says no. He is constantly reassuring her of that, simply because he doesn’t want her to leave the room and read somewhere else. He wants her right next to him in bed while he sleeps.  He wants her next to him, no matter what the cost.
He realized quite simply that fish and lights are what make their marriage successful, when so many others are falling apart.

Does this seem trivial to some? I’m sure it does.
If that is the case though, I would suggest that you take another look.

After sharing this with us, he told us that he was pretty confident he knew a girl who would be perfect for the young man in his office, but that they would never get the chance to explore anything, simply based on the fact that she didn’t meet any of the criteria that he had created.

So the question becomes, what is your criteria for love?

I think it is easy to hear this story and make judgments about the student in the office, but maybe we should focus on ourselves instead…
I’ll be the first to admit that my “list” has often contained many “tall but not too tall” type criteria. For example, my list seriously contained the criteria “must wear nice jeans.” I’m not proud of it…but I also didn’t have to give that one up:)
Physical attraction is important in a relationship and it seems to be pretty normal to make judgements about people based on appearance, whether we’re proud of it or not.
BUT, what we should be asking ourselves is are we prepared to look past our criteria when we need to?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is very important to know what you want in the person you hope to share your life with. That is one of the reasons dating is so important, you learn a lot about what you’re looking for, what you want and what you don’t want.  However, the purpose of dating is not to decide the perfect and only acceptable height of your future soul mate. 
How many people are missing out on happiness because they’re too busy focusing on superficial requirements? Too busy being selfish? The problem with selfishness is that it will follow you into your future relationships and marriage, whether you find the perfect criteria or not.

When I first met Adam there were a few things about him that didn’t match my preconceived list of criteria (not my criteria for looks, he had that down), but other criteria that initially caused me to count him out in terms of future potential. I’m sure he probably struggled with some of the same criteria with me. The key was looking past my list and seeing something more. The key was being unselfish. And after that, things became pretty simple. Not easy, but simple, because each of us wanted what was best for the other person. We were both looking past our own lists to see what the other person could offer. And it worked for us. Almost one year later (one week away!), I still consider Adam to be the most selfless person I have ever met.

Yes, I know there are things on your list that should be there. There are areas that you should never settle in.  And I promise not to question or judge you if you truly believe that blue eyes are a “necessity.” I’m just suggesting that if someone comes along and gives you a reason to question yourself, you should jump at the opportunity. Never underestimate the fact that you may be wrong about your list. That someone else could be right for you.

In the end, the only criteria that should matter is how well the other person truly knows you and wants to understand you and take care of you.
The question should become, would I be willing to cook fish for this person every week, even if I hate it, simply because it makes him or her happy? And would they do the same for me?
…or something along those lines:)

Ask not what your criteria means for someone else, but what glancing past your criteria can mean for you.

Keep Hoping,
Raquel

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Let’s Hear it for the Boys.

Here it is, my tribute to men. Try not to be too shocked, it is Father’s Day:)

If there is one thing we women can’t deny about men it’s that we couldn’t live without them. Some of them suck and make our lives emotional messes, but then there are those redeeming few, those men who have shaped and molded us for the better. Those men who  have changed our lives.
All things considered, I am a very lucky girl. I have been blessed with some pretty amazing men in my life. Men who have helped me rise above my own insecurities and doubts, and given me unfailing hope in my future. Whenever I think the world is lacking in the good men department, pictures of these men are there in my mind, a constant reminder of the truth. A truth of love, devotion, commitment, and  real-life knights in shining armor.

So on a more serious and personal note I want to express my appreciation for those men.
I feel compelled to begin with my Grandpa Shumway, who passed away a few weeks ago. It was my first experience losing someone close to me, and a very difficult one at that. Even writing about him now brings steady tears down my cheeks. He was close to my heart in a way that only a grandpa can be and fulfilled that role for me, and all of his grandchildren, with nothing less than perfection. He was kind, loved by everyone, and told the same jokes over and over, yet somehow always managed to make them funny:) He shared countless stories with us, gave each of us an endearing nickname (mine being cupcake), and talked about my grandmother in a way that I always hoped my future husband would talk about me after 60+ years of marriage. He was and always will be that perfect example to me of what a man and husband should be. My thoughts about him can hardly do him justice. I’m simply grateful for the happiness he brought to my life and the hope and example he was to me. I am so thankful for eternal families and the knowledge that I will one day be with him again. Everyone should at least get to meet one man as good as he was, I was just lucky enough to have him as my grandpa.

One of the countless blessings that my grandpa has given me is my dad. I hardly know where to begin.  My dad and I are very different people, something about the process person in me, right dad?:) Sometimes my siblings and I joke about who my dad’s favorite child is, and although I rarely seem to be chosen to hold that title (considering our differences), I think my dad and I both know that we have a unique bond of love between us that no one else could understand, explain, or replace. My dad has been the kind of father to me that I’m sure every little girl dreams about. He is endlessly funny, protective to a fault, and filled with unconditional love. He expresses his love not only through actions, but through words. I know he loves my mom because he tells her, I know he loves each of his children because he tells us over and over again. And most importantly, when the chips are down, he is always there to show it. He has taught me so many things. He taught me to say things when I feel them, to give charity to others, and to gain a testimony of what I believe in and live true to it. I have laughed with my dad during some of my happiest times, yelled with my dad during some not so happy times, and cried in his arms during some of my lowest and most painful times. One of the greatest sources of comfort in my life has continually come from my imperfect dad, who has loved me perfectly. I will forever be grateful for the example he has been to me of a faithful and loving man. He will always have my heart and I will forever be his little girl.

I guess I’m just grateful, today especially, for all of the wonderful men out there who are constant examples of Christ in all of their relationships.
Just to name a few others:
– –Adam Cruz. He loves me in a way that surprises me every day. He is constantly teaching me how a man can bless your life. I have no doubt that he will be the perfect dad someday to some very lucky children.
– –Tim Morris. I don’t know that I could even begin to express my love and gratitude for this wonderful father. I will be eternally grateful for the man that he is.
– -My brother-in-laws, Jeremy and Ben. For loving my sisters, and giving them and their children the happiness they deserve.

These men are such a big part of my life today. They have taught me through words and most importantly, example. They have given so unselfishly of themselves and loved so endlessly. I know that they have influenced so many lives, but mine in particular. I have hope in so many things because of them…love, eternal families, trust, and forgiveness.
It always makes me think of those diet dr pepper commercials, they do exist!:)

I know that not everyone has been given the opportunity to have these kinds of fathers or men in their lives, and my heart goes out to them in the most sincere way. No one can replace that void,  but we can have hope for the future. We can move on, we can be better, and we can meet someone who will live up to all of our expectations and bless the lives of future generations.

So let’s hear it for the boys, the fathers, especially my own. I think I love my dad more every day as I continually learn about the sacrifices he makes for me. We understand each other in a unique way and have been to hell and back together and he is still by my side.
He loves me, and I have never doubted that.
And what more can you really ask for?

Happy Father’s Day!:)

keep hoping,
Raquel

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Trust: it’s not just for the naive.

Lately, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about trust. Maybe it’s because I’m currently in a long distance relationship. Or maybe it’s because for the first time in my life, I am in a relationship where I do trust, not blindly and ignorantly, but with complete vulnerability and faith.

The first people to teach me about trust were my parents. And believe me, the lesson did not come easily. There were tears, lectures, and lonely weekends without my friends or cell phone. Like most “know-it-all” teenagers, I made my share of stupid mistakes while growing up that consequently caused my parents to lose trust in me.

I continued to learn about trust as I began to form friendships with other girls. Let me tell you, THAT takes a lot of trust, and I quickly learned it was often in vain. Likewise, my first experiences with trusting guys often resulted in the same loss of trust. From those experiences I learned that secrets were anything but secret, “love” meant “there’s an ulterior motive,” and the truth is never louder than the gossip. Sadly, I have even experienced a loss of trust in some adults. Adults who think they have a reason to tell your story, a story that was never theirs to tell.

We have all faced experiences like this before right? The sting of betrayal, the deflating feeling of regret. It seems like life teaches us over and over again that we simply can’t trust people.

So it begs the question, why do we? Why in the face of all of this evidence that the universe is constantly throwing at us, do we still choose to put ourselves back together and trust? Why do we give people a second chance? Why do we let new people in who have to potential to hurt us just as much, if not more than the last person?

I would venture to say that hope is the answer once again.
Our basic human nature wants to trust other people. We want to believe that we can hand someone our ideas, our secrets, or our hearts and they will be keep them safe, protect them from the world. We want to believe that people really can reach their full potential. We picture those people in our lives who HAVE been trustworthy and we want to make them the rule, instead of the exception.

And truthfully, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. If we didn’t have that resilient and optimistic reasoning hard-wired into us, we probably would have given up on people a long time ago, because people definitely are not perfect. We aren’t perfect. I’m not perfect.
For every time we have been let down, we’ve probably also been on the other side of the fence. Disappointing someone we love, lying, gossiping, giving somebody else a reason not to trust.

So what do we do when our optimism betrays us and we get hurt? Or we are responsible for the hurt?

I know I have let people down before, like my parents for example. But here’s the key to trust, what my parents taught me over and over again…
After the lectures and crying, my parents would tell me that I had to earn their trust back. Something that always seemed like an impossible task. They would tell me that I couldn’t do certain things until I proved that they could trust me again, but here is the important part…
They would then slowly allow me to start doing things again. Going out with friends, using my cell phone, and so on.
That’s the funny thing about trust. We can only earn it back if those who we hurt grant us the mercy of allowing us to. Ultimately they have to make the first move, they have to be willing to give you a second chance. They have to put themselves out there one more time, scars and all, and hope beyond all reason that they’re right about you. They have to trust you again in order for you to have a chance to prove them right. You can’t earn trust back without receiving some for free first. I think it’s more of a learning experience for those who get hurt, they’re the ones who put themselves out there. They are the ones who prove the true meaning of love. This idea is so powerful to me. So simple and yet so complicated. It’s hard to feel like you have lost someone’s trust, but it’s even harder to have the faith to trust someone again who hurt you.

Let’s be honest, not everyone deserves our trust. I’ve met a few people who proved that to me time and time again. I’m not suggesting that you trust everybody without question. But it can be a powerful thing to choose to trust in someone, or trust them a second time, and allow them to surprise you. I’m not talking about the kind of trust where you have to keep one eye shut, but truly trusting someone with your eyes wide open, and your heart on display. That is the kind of trust that can change people’s lives, the kind of mercy and love that most imperfect people deserve. That’s the kind of trust that real love cultivates.

And really, you don’t have any choice. You have to be willing to trust, or you will find yourself building walls between yourself and every relationship that could have been. You will spend your life shutting people out, and with them, every chance of happiness and fulfillment.

So here’ s to trust.

It can be found & it can be replaced.
You just have to be willing to tip the scales of justice in favor of mercy.
Because isn’t that what we all need?

Keep Hoping,
Raquel

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Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places.

 The other day in class, my professor shared something with us that I couldn’t stop thinking about. Something that I can’t help but write about, even though I probably won’t do it justice. It was almost more about how he said it, rather than the actual words. But I think the idea is extremely powerful for so many people who are constantly searching for love, acceptance, and happiness in all the wrong places…

He shared a story about a girl who had been overweight her whole life. She had also been single most of her life, and so at the age of 26 she drew a correlation between the two. She decided that the reason she hadn’t met anyone was because she was overweight, and that the solution to finding a boyfriend and being happy was to lose weight. And so she began an unhealthy and unsustainable diet. She quickly lost around 120 pounds and found herself looking the way she had always dreamed of. She also began dressing in a way that she hoped would help attract the kind of guy she had always wanted attention from. Soon enough, she found exactly who she had been looking for, and eventually they were married.
Unfortunately a few years down the road, because of the unsustainable nature of her diet, she quickly gained almost all of the weight back. She also found herself meeting with a therapist and explaining through tears that her husband no longer wanted anything to do with her.

He then stopped and shared an experience he had while visiting his grandparents who had been married for 65 wonderful years. They were both very old, and his grandma suffered from short-term memory loss. He observed them as they baked cookies together and couldn’t help but laugh as he watched. They would add eggs, or another ingredient to the mixture, and then she would immediately forget and insist that they still needed to add it. Her husband would then gently assure her that they had already put it in and try to move on to the next ingredient, but it usually took him two or three times of reassuring her before she believed him and was ready to move on. Yet, he still sat there patiently and sweetly, and guided her through the process. When it was all in the bowl, they laughed together about the fact that neither one of them were strong enough to mix it all together. 
Later that day his grandpa told him that he would hold on as long as his wife did because they needed each other to survive, and he wouldn’t want to live a day without her anyway.

Two very different stories. One important connection.

How many of us have found ourselves yearning for the attention of someone we thought would make us happy, maybe for purely superficial reasons? How many of us thought we knew what was important in a relationship, and later found out that it really didn’t matter at all?
Drawing from my own personal experiences and those of my friends, I’d be willing to bet that we’ve almost all been in that boat before.
High school, when all that mattered was whether the popular guy was your date to the football game, or even college, where it seems like dating is almost a competition sometimes…of numbers, status, attractiveness, and everything in-between.

What’s that saying?  We get what we continually focus on?
Sure it’s important, even crucial, to be attracted to the person you’re with. But, if your only goal is to be with someone who notices and wants you for your looks, don’t be surprised when they leave you for the same reason when your looks begin to fade.

The good news:
Hopefully we grow up. Hopefully we realize what is really important when looking for love and acceptance…what and whom will ultimately bring us joy. And hopefully it isn’t too late.
Because, who wants to find themselves alone because their boyfriend or husband doesn’t find them attractive anymore? Who wants to marry the kind of person who only likes them because they’re a certain size? Who wants to be with someone who sets conditions for their love?

Don’t we all want the fairytale instead?

Because in the real world, a fairytale isn’t usually about a  gorgeous prince and a perfect castle. Happily ever after isn’t about riding off into the sunset, it’s about waking up next to someone 50 years from now who still loves you, not only because of the memory of who you were, but for the person you’ve become. Someone who finds you more attractive every day they see you. Someone who loves you without conditions. Someone you can trust, who will patiently and gently remind you over and over again that you already added the eggs. Someone who will laugh with you endlessly and sweetly hang on to life because they can’t imagine a day without you.

That’s the kind of love we should be searching for, or holding on to if we’ve already found it. The kind of love that can make grocery shopping fun, sweat pants sexy, trials bearable, and every moment precious.

Fact: One day we’ll all be old and wrinkly. The question is whether we’ll all have someone there to love us regardless.

Keep Hoping,
Raquel

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Going the Distance for Love.

I’ve always had a hard time expressing my thoughts/feelings out loud, but give me a piece of paper and pen and all of my jumbled ideas suddenly become as clear as day. Those who can’t speak, write. That’s me.
And I can only write about what I know. Or better yet, what I think I know.
There are a few things that I think I’ve come to know in my short 22 years of life. For example: every girl looks better with a little blush on, my mom is always right, and 90% of men suck. Okay 85? Somewhere around there.

The point: There are still a million things I don’t understand, and probably never will. But I am learning constantly, and one of the best conduits to learning is experience. I do think that my knowledge and experience matter, at least to my life and the lives of those who surround me. Because knowledge affects the way you act.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about something that I’ve been learning about my whole life, and at the same time I feel like the learning process is just now beginning- -And that is love.
I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by love my whole life. I have knowledge of a loving Heavenly Father, I have loving parents, loving siblings, and loving friends. So because of those experiences I’ve had with love, I feel like I’ve learned a few things…
1. Love is more about actions than words.
2. #1 doesn’t take away from the fact that you should ALWAYS express your love in words too. (I have this unrealistic fear of not saying “I love you” to the people I care about, and then never getting the chance to again…so I say it. A lot.)
3. We accept the love we think we deserve. If people realized their true worth and the kind of love they had a right to, there would be a lot fewer unhealthy relationships.
4. Love is unconditional. Which I’ve mostly learned from my Savior, and my amazing parents.
5. People feel and recognize love in very different ways. Which is important to know if you want to show someone love in a way that they will understand (if you haven’t heard about love languages, you should check it out).

Now those are the aspects of love that I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on. Not that I’m perfect at practicing them of course, but that I can comprehend them. But currently I find myself learning about a new kind of love. A love that despite the healthy, wonderful and lasting examples I’ve been presented with, like my parents’ relationship, I’ve always been terrified of.
I’ve never been the girl who always had a boyfriend, in fact, almost the opposite. I have a history of being “fickle” as my mom would say. The few guys I have “dated,” are chapters in my life I would rather just erase. Not that I didn’t learn valuable lessons from my experience with guys in my younger years, such as the 90% rule I talked about earlier:) But very simply,  they tended to take more away from my life than they added to it. Like I said before, knowledge affects the way you act. If all you’ve learned about men in the dating world is negative, chances are you’ll begin to act in a way that allows you to avoid those feelings at all costs.

So imagine my surprise when I met someone who challenged all of my knowledge. Someone who I constantly expected to let me down, and instead always lifted me up. Now he’ll be the first to tell you that I didn’t give in very easily at first. My past experience definitely snuck its way in to the first few months of getting to know each other. But when the way I reacted to him didn’t affect his actions or the way he treated me in return, I began to take a closer look.

Now 9 months later, I find myself experiencing a kind of love I never thought I would find, and that I still don’t really understand (definitely not claiming to be an expert on love). Our relationship isn’t perfect but I think we both want it to be, and try to achieve that on a daily basis. I’ll try to spare you all the cheesy, annoying details because that’s really not what this post is about, I promise:)
But it is about the power that love can have in our lives. The concept of love fascinates me because it has this ability to take all of our past negative experiences and make them irrelevant. All of the things we thought we knew about ourselves and other people is changed. We are changed. If love is treated the way it is supposed to be, the way the Savior modeled it for us, it has the potential to be the most driving and powerful force in our lives. It inspires change, eliminates selfishness, and breeds happiness. Not just in romantic relationships, but all of our relationships with others. 

I know there are people who have never experienced that kind of love in a relationship with the opposite sex, and for a long time I wondered if I would be one of them. I don’t know all of the answers as to why some people find it so quickly, others have to struggle to find it, and some may never find it in this life. But I do know that those who miss out on it because of their own selfishness, independence, or desire to have “fun,” will never be as happy as they could be. Love is possible. And if there is anything that Adam has given me, it’s that. The knowledge that there are men out there who truly want to love and bless your life in any and every way they can. He didn’t erase my past, but he is changing my present, and my view of the future. Love is powerful, it is life changing, it is not something we give up on.

Right now I find myself in a long distance relationship, which I assumed was not something I would ever be able to do because of my utter lack of trust in the opposite sex. But here I am doing it. Trusting my heart with someone who is a thousand miles away. And why am I doing it? For love. For the simple fact that it doesn’t matter who I didn’t trust in the past or why I didn’t trust them, because now I trust him with everything. That’s what love can do. Love is an action word. Not only because we have to use our actions to truly show love to someone, but because it actively changes us as a person when we allow it into our lives.
If you asked me now, I would almost  recommend having a long distance relationship for a period of time…a SHORT period of time preferably. Because if you’re dating the right person, the distance simply doesn’t matter. It’s horrible, don’t get me wrong. But there’s this small part of me that sees the benefit in having to constantly reassure each other of how you feel, having to put your emotions into words because you’re not there to show it, allowing them to comfort you at those times that you’re showing the most weakness, and cherishing every moment you’re given together.

So here’s to love. It’s not some elusive phenomenon that can’t be attained. It’s real, it changes lives, and everyone deserves the right kind. When you have the knowledge of love it changes the way you act, for the better. And despite my pessimism about men, there are some out there who are worth all of the vulnerability. So don’t cheat yourself, go the distance for love…no matter how far.

It’s not like the Easter Bunny that your parents have been lying to you about, it does exist.
Keep hoping,
Raquel

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The Faces of Happiness.

One of the best things about this life is that we are constantly learning an assortment of lessons, whether we want to or not. Sometimes life even grants us the mercy of teaching us the same lesson repeatedly….I guess both fortunately and unfortunately.

On that note, something I was unwillingly taught for the millionth time this week is that it is a lot easier to see the silver lining of the cloud before you’re in the midst of the storm.
My previous post talked a lot about the joy and hope that I had in the goodness of life, despite the fact that I was moving 1,176 miles away from my life as I knew it. I talked about the need to hold on to those moments of pure gratitude and snapshots of perfect happiness, so that we can pull them out when we need them most- -the problem: when I try to grasp on to those pictures now, the colors seem to be fading, the edges curling, and the picture itself slipping out of my fingertips.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’ve forgotten everything that I’ve been blessed with and the amazing opportunities and people I have in my life, but rather that seeing those things reflected  in the daily, mundane activities of my “new life” is a much greater task than I originally planned on.
And let me tell you, it’s been hard…really hard. In this alternate universe  it’s difficult to stay positive about the blessings in my life when so many of them are so far away. I feel like a freshman again, a scared, clueless girl with a bad case of homesickness. It seems silly. I’ve already been through this stage. I left home almost three years ago  and have dealt with all of these feelings before, well most of them at least (adding love into the mix cuts the feelings right open and pours salt all over them).
But that’s the point of this life isn’t it? The ironic beauty of it all? 
We can’t always rely on the past to get us through the present. Sometimes we have to stop, rewire, and try to survive all over again. We have to be tested, tried, and broken multiple times before we’re truly refined. And each time, we have to create a new picture of joy that may not look like we want it to at the time, but one that will carry us forward nonetheless until we find ourselves back at that “perfect” joy that we captured previously….that is until the next storm comes along and forces us to take cover and start all over again.

So on my journey to create a temporary means of happiness for myself, as happy as I can be without my family, boyfriend, and closest friends by my side, I started looking for joy in other areas.
Thankfully, one of my good friend’s Jake is currently serving a mission and I have the blessing of getting the weekly emails he sends out to friends and family. In his past email he talked a lot about improving ourselves. He suggested a talk by Marvin J. Ashton and then shared a quote that was in it. He wrote:

“If you are not in the process of becoming the person you want to be, you are automatically engaged in becoming the person you don’t want to be.”

For some reason this really struck a chord with me and it became my way out of this rut I’ve found myself in. Every day that we aren’t focusing on improvement, we are slipping further and further away from who we truly want to be. Suddenly this idea made so much sense to me (another one of life’s redundant lessons) and I began actively focusing on things that would help mold me into the person I hope to become, rather than allowing myself to turn the opposite direction. For me, focusing on improvement is a picture of happiness I can achieve right now (and hopefully for the rest of my life). So instead of being miserable, I choose to be grateful for the areas of my life that I can use this time to improve in: going to the  gym, scripture study, tithing, new friendships, education, and prayer. What other time in my life will I be able to be this selfish and focus solely on improving myself? Better use it to my advantage.

Happiness has many faces…I’m just getting used to a new one.
Keep hoping,
Raquel

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Life is joyful, still.

I haven’t blogged in literally forever, but I have this overwhelming need to put my thoughts into words and try to wrap my head around how completely grateful I am for life. Let’s be honest, life can be rough, and sometimes it seems like all of the cards are against us. But those small moments, those fleeting glimpses you receive of everything you have been blessed with, should be written on your heart and memorized by your soul. Like a picture that can be pulled out when everything seems to be slipping away, a picture to remind you of how lucky you are.

I had one of those moments recently when I was almost desperate for it. Funny how they turn up when you need them most. Not likely a coincidence.
This moment came as a result of an in-depth conversation with my best friend of 12 years about things that are truly important, not just made to seem important by the world. It came about by sharing the best and happiest day of my life with a man who I love more than I ever thought I was capable of. It came about by realizing that an important date of a life changing experience that has helped mold me into the person I am today is coming up.
I have been thinking a lot about the direction my life is going in and comparing it to my past, a past that is both a joyous and heartbreaking one. The difference is vast and the changes are powerful.
I stumbled upon a quote recently that said: “Life is good, if we live in such a way to make it so.”
I have come to realize in my old age (22, yikes)🙂 that there is almost nothing as true as this statement. When we’re truly living the way Christ would want us to live, then we can avoid so many of life’s pains and put ourselves in the position to experience the things we should, meet the people we’re supposed to, and learn the lessons we need to. Life will still present challenges, but they will not be challenges that we created for ourselves. Life can be so good, not just FUN, but truly JOYFUL when we are living the life that we are supposed to. The difference in my life now and what it was five years ago is astonishing. The difference comes from the chances I have had to go places and meet people who have completely changed and redirected my life. The difference comes from my decisions to live life in a certain way.

I’m leaving home this coming week, a home that my heart is even more connected to now, in order to finish up my last two semesters of school at a place that I have very mixed emotions about. My decision to go there was one of the best I ever made. I met people who changed my life and my existence in such an intense way. I learned and grew there in a way that I never could have if I had not gone. But now I face myself going back with almost none of those same people and leaving behind some of the most important people in my life. I will be going back to a place that has been such a big part of the changes I have made, but also a place that now often fills me with loneliness and tears. I know it will be hard, but I also know it will be one of the best feelings in the world when I finish my time there and am able to move on to the rest of my life. I guess I’m just grateful for the opportunities I have had to be in the right places at the right times and have faith that it will continue to bless my life if I continue to do so.

Last night, one of the people I hold dearest to my heart told me that she felt like the “real” Raquel was finally coming back. Actually, she gave all of the credit to my boyfriend Adam (which I can’t really disagree with🙂 )and thanked him for putting the light back in my eyes.
That comment was the final puzzle piece in the picture that led up to this wonderful moment for me. I do honestly feel like I’m in the midst of a new beginning and there is a sure light in my eyes. It’s a new beginning that is definitely still going to be tough, especially since I still have a year away from home. But one that will ultimately be worth it. It will be good, because I’m determined to live in such a way to make it so. It will be good because I met someone who always wants to make my life better, someone who helped pull me out of a place I never thought I would escape, someone who will help me survive this year simply through his sheer positivity and love, someone who definitely is responsible for the light in my eyes. It will be good because I have the most amazing friends and family in the world who remind me of what is important and constantly give me hope.

Life is joyful, still.
Keep hoping,
Raquel

Calling Someone Ugly, Doesn’t Make You Any Prettier.

So here goes another try at blogging. I’m not promising consistency, all I can promise is quality:)

Lately I’ve found myself trapped in girl world…which is not really a fun place to be, surprisingly. I’m surrounded by people who are having emotional breakdowns every other day, and only talking when it’s behind other people’s backs. And sadly, the only insight I’ve gained from witnessing all of this, is the fact that I would be blissfully happy never living with girls ever again. 
Now, I’ve never really been the type of girl who is a magnet to millions of girlfriends, and I blame that on the fact that I have a hard time relating to most of them. Through experience, all I know is, those times when I have actively tried harder to build relationships with girls, I found myself dealing with a lot more problems that I didn’t care about.

Currently, I live with five girls who I am seemingly forced to be friends with, and I am reminded once again why I would much rather keep company with the opposite sex.
The one word that comes to mind when trying to expand on the subject is: drama. A word that I almost passionately hate and have done a relatively good job of avoiding most of my life. From what I’ve witnessed, most of the girls who are constantly complaining about how dramatic their lives are, well they’re usually the ones creating it.
Side Note: Before we move on, let’s not forget that there have been multiple times in my life when all of the “drama” in my life was created by men, or rather boys, who couldn’t see past their own reflection in the mirror. I’m a firm believer that men can be just as dramatic…just throwing that out there.
With that being said, we all know who the most common culprits of this sick cycle are- -women.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as likely as the next girl to fall into some of these categories. I’m definitely not perfect, but I also believe that there are way too many women out there who rise above and beyond in the drama department.

But instead of exploring all the details of their crazy, painfully pathetic insincerity, let’s get to the point of all this:
In the midst of this circus I’ve been dealing with concerning my roommates, who seem determined to create drama, I found myself becoming someone I didn’t know or like. I was constantly talking about it, almost like word vomit. It was such a big part of my life that I was always describing it to people and worrying about it. Even now after much of it has subsided, I find myself talking about it more than I would like. I’ve realized that I’ve spent a lot more energy being negative this semester, than I’ve spent being grateful for what I have and the person I am. I’ve always considered myself to be  a glass-half-full type of person, but I’m not so sure that the people I’ve talked to lately would agree. One of the things that bothers me the most is feeling like I’ve given someone else the power to control how I feel. It’s a vulnerability that I’m not very comfortable with. So in an effort to self-improve, the rest of this blog is dedicated to only the positive aspects of my life, which is an overwhelming amount.

  1. I have been blessed with a few unique girls in my life that constantly bring me up. They aren’t perfect, but they have been perfect friends to me. Something that I’ve learned in my life is that there are few people you can trust with your secrets, your fears, and your heart, and I was lucky enough to find a few good girlfriends who keep those things safe for me. I will be forever grateful for that. Let’s be honest, when everything else in your life seems to be falling apart, your girlfriends are the only ones who keep you going.
  2. I’m so grateful to have my little sister at school with me. She probably understands me better than most people…I know she would agree:)…and it’s nice to be able to see her and be reminded of what’s important. My family is the best part about my life and having a mom you can call and cry to, is one of life’s greatest blessings.
  3. I was lucky enough to meet a guy who constantly makes me change the schemas (there’s the psychology word of the day) I’ve created in my mind about men. He always seems to say exactly what I need to hear and he’s an optimist to the core. He makes me feel like I can do anything. I will be forever grateful to him and the simple happiness he brings into my life. There’s no drama with him, it’s just easy.
  4. My overwhelming desire to not develop close friendships with people who are crazy has had an amazingly positive effect on my grades:)
  5. Having the gospel in my life is a constant blessing that always contributes to my optimism. I’m a great believer in the power of prayer and the comfort that Heavenly Father can give us. I’m grateful that because of Christ, I don’t have to be perfect. I’m grateful that every time I go to church I am able to put things into perspective and feel a little bit better, and a little bit more able to do a little bit more.
  6. I’m especially grateful for music…which may sound cheesy but I don’t care. Music is a constant reminder of the times that were simple and happy, the times that were hard but I survived, and the times that I never want to forget. Even when everything else sucks, music is always the same. I’m kind of obsessed. I also believe that one of my careers should be writing lyrics, and if I had any musical talent then I might pursue that. I’m good with words, not singing in tune:)

I could go on forever but I’ll stop there. The point is that every person out there has enough to be grateful for that they shouldn’t even have enough time to put other people down and waste energy on negativity. There are a lot of life lessons that can be learned from the movie Mean Girls:), and this is just one of them:

“Miss Caroline Krafft seriously needed to pluck her eyebrows. Her outfit looked like it was picked out by a blind sunday school teacher. And she has some 50 cent lipgloss on her snaggle tooth. And that’s when I realized, making fun of Caroline Krafft wouldn’t stop her from beating me in this contest. Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone else stupid doesn’t make you any smarter. And ruining Regina George’s life definitely didn’t make me any happier. All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you.”

I think that about sums it up. Let’s be honest, you have enough issues to deal with that you don’t need to worry about other people’s. Remember what you have to be grateful for, and even when you think the glass really is half empty…it always fills back up.
From my glass to yours,
keep hoping.
-Raquel

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