“’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,’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Ever since I can remember, I knew the plan the Lord had for me. He had clearly revealed to me I was called to be a teacher. I grew up in a pastor’s home, and my parents were dedicated to kids ministry. Many days were spent planning, preparing, organizing and inviting children to church. From an early age, I was taught how important it was to pour into the next generation.
words + photographs TABITHA EUTSLER
The Lord has blessed me with gifts and talents to teach, build positive relationships with students, and to speak to groups of people. Throughout my 13-year career as a third grade teacher at Jeffries Elementary in Springfield, Missouri, the blessings have been abundant. The Lord has showered His plans of prosperity upon my life. Due to His plans and the amazing community of teachers at my school, it has been an honor to be recognized as the following throughout my career:
- 2021 ~ Missouri Council of Teachers of Mathematics Outstanding Elementary School Mathematics Educator
- 2020 ~ Central Bank of the Ozarks Teacher Tribute Honoree
- 2016 ~ 20 under 30 BIZ 417 Magazine
- 2016 ~ Kansas City Chiefs Educator of the Game
- 2015-2016 ~ Springfield Public Schools Teacher of the Year
- 2011-2012 ~ Missouri State Teachers Association Southwest Region: Rookie Educator of the Year
- 2010-2011 ~ Missouri Association of Colleges for Teacher Education: Outstanding Beginning Teacher in the State of Missouri
However, in the midst of the recognition and numerous opportunities to speak to groups of teachers, no one around me knew the struggle of sadness, frustration and anxiety I experienced on a daily basis.
Throughout my childhood, I was – and still am – an achiever. I felt it was my job to work hard, do the best I can, and achieve at the highest level possible. Being an achiever was not a trait I viewed as negative. Yet due to my obsession with achievement, it turned into something unhealthy. I thought my achievements and attempts at being perfect would lead to happiness. It was a fleeting feeling, lasting only a short time before I was right back to thinking who I was was not enough. I now realize for many years of my life, I was caught in a cycle of achievement-perfectionism-control to gain a short-lived feeling of being good, accepted and enough. These flaws controlled my life and led to hiding my anxiety and unhappiness for many years.
On the outside, I had it all together. On the inside, I was broken.
In January of 2019, I pursued counseling (mycounselor.online, Truth & Counsel) to help me find the quality of life I knew God had for me on the inside and outside. Fast forward to the present day, and I can tell you sharing brings healing. Once I started to share my feelings and struggles, a community of people surrounded me, prayed for me, encouraged me, held me accountable and pushed me deeper into my relationship with Christ. It was honestly the opposite of what I thought would happen. I thought people would think less of me, judge me, not want to be around me anymore, and would somehow use my struggles against me. But God! He sent people my way who had always been there; I had just refused to let them inside. They loved me with grace and truth.
I thought people would think less of me, judge me, not want to be around me anymore, and would somehow use my struggles against me. But God!
I began to discover my identity is not in what I achieve or what I do. Instead, it is found in Christ and what His Word says about me. Not only did sharing bring me healing, but many people have been encouraged and uplifted through my story. It has validated their feelings, helped them realize they are not alone, and it has given them hope. I have had multiple opportunities to share my story in Bible study groups, women’s conferences, church conferences, and more. I truly see how God’s plans are to prosper, not harm, us. As we experience those plans, it requires us to take captive each thought and align it with God’s Word. I have to remind myself daily my choices must lead my life, not my feelings. In order to do that, it requires me to release my control of life to the Lord. As I surrender my flaws and my gifts to Him, He has shown me over and over again He can do so much more with my surrender than my control. TE
Tabitha Eutsler is a third grade teacher at Jeffries Elementary in Springfield, Missouri. She graduated from Evangel University with a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary/middle school education and Drury University with a Master of Arts in instructional mathematics K-8. In addition to teaching elementary students, being named #TeacheroftheYear, hanging out on the Kansas City Chiefs football field and such, Ms. Eutsler is an adjunct professor at Missouri State University.
COVER Tabitha on the field at a Kansas City Chiefs game in 2016 in which she was named Kansas City Chiefs Educator of the Game.
When we hear the term “superstar,” most of us think about someone who is high profile or an extremely successful performer for the entertainment of others. Almost 20 years ago, I used to think along the same lines when I…READ MORE