Expanding

I find it interesting that when people find out you’re about to become a mother for the very first time, they will often say things like, “Get ready to never sleep again!” or “Life as you know it is over! It’s all about the baby now!”

While it may be true that every mom sleeps less and that so much of their life revolves around the baby, I find these statements to be untrue and misleading. They always sounds so foreboding and ominous. It is a fact that I sleep MUCH LESS than I did before, and some friends of mine who are mothers sleep even less than I do since our little guy has always been an abnormally great sleeper. I also think about Travis and his well being every second of my day.

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For instance, the past couple of weeks Travis has had a cough that has kept the both of us awake off and on throughout the night. After such erratic sleep, I still have to wake up around 5am, nurse him, get myself ready for work, pack the gazillion bags I now tote everywhere, commute 45 minutes to work, work for 8 hours or so while taking 2 breaks at work to pump, commute back, pick up Travis from daycare, nurse him again, make a healthy dinner since Chad and I are trying to be healthier, do dishes/wash bottles, throw a load of laundry in, get Travis ready for bed, nurse him again, and lay him down to sleep while I read homework for my graduate class while trying to keep my eyes open. (Disclaimer: Chad helps SO much in all of this busyness with the exception of nursing!)

What message wasn’t portrayed to me leading towards becoming a mother for the first time was how very joyous these things, among others, would be. When my boy wakes up from a coughing fit, he wants ME. He snuggles sweetly into my chest and immediately calms down. His breathing softens and deepens until we’re both back to sleep…at least until the next coughing fit. When I wake him up in the morning to nurse, he gives me the biggest sweetest smiles that remove all the exhaustion from my mind. I smile back with a soft, but enthusiastic, “Good morning, handsome!” When I pick him up from daycare, his eyes light up again. Someday soon he will reach his arms towards me and say, “Mama!” because we belong to each other. When I am giving Travis a bath, or reading him a book, or putting lotion on his dry winter skin before placing him in a clean pair of soft jammies, he wraps his chubby little fingers around my thumb and ‘talks’ to me about his day. He is my boy.

These things are incredibly exhausting, but – as everyone says – absolutely worth it. What has been the most unexpected thing is feeling as if who I am has expanded. I have not been replaced with a new version of myself; I have expanded to become something more than I once was. It is difficult to explain, but I still feel so much like myself and like someone else new on top of that. I am still a wife, a friend, a sister, a student, etc. I am just now also a mother on top of those things. I was tired before and I am tired now, but I am somehow now able to function better than I could have imagined on very little sleep. I am not just Travis’ mother; I am Tasha. Adding mother to the growing list of things that make up who I am has only expanded what I am capable of and it’s so much more than I thought was possible.

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It’s true that I hold more tightly onto my free time than before because I have less of it and that my priorities have understandably shifted, but that is mainly a dual combination of motherhood and graduate school – neither are for the weak! It used to bother me so much when people would say that being a mother is the greatest calling God could ever ask a woman to do. What an isolating and discouraging statement for those women who cannot have children of their own or who choose not to.

As many of you know, for the past 4 years I wasn’t sure if I would ever have my own children. The women in my life who haven’t or who have chosen not to are extraordinary women! They are passionate and ambitious and contributing so much to the world. Being a mother shouldn’t be this glorified status symbol that graduates someone to being a ‘real woman.’ Being a mother is just another role that some people get to add to the ever growing aspect of who they are. If I had never gotten pregnant, I would still be me and capable of doing extraordinary things for God and this world. I am still me; I am just also joyously responsible for loving and raising a chubby little 20lb version of myself (and Chad!) to be the best young man he can possibly be.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I am surprised that I am still me. People made it seem like I would lose myself in motherhood, but I feel as if the opposite has happened and I feel more like myself than ever before. I still love to read. I still love to create and to write. I still love cats and to travel. I still struggle with all the same flaws I had before and I still value the same things I have always valued. I don’t just want to sit and talk about my baby all the time and nothing else – I’ve never wanted to be that person… But you can bet that the best part of my day now is getting off of work and picking up my sweet little boy and kissing his face.

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The journey to motherhood has made me stronger and becoming a mother has expanded who I am and what I am capable of….. It is certainly one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it is also one of the best things to have ever happened to me. It is a joyous gift, but not something I can place on a pedestal as some kind of ultimate achievement of identity or success. The only thing I can glorify is who I am in Christ. He is everything. I can’t be a mother without Him. I can’t be anything without Him. All that is mine – including Travis – belongs to Him and I don’t want to glorify what He has given me, but rather I want to glorify who He is through these things. He has expanded me to be and do more.

Travis is my gift, but Christ is my treasure.

 

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One Hundred

So I don’t typically jump on the bandwagon of internet “hot topics,” but the recent death by suicide of beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams and his depression hit a little too close to home for me and made it difficult for me to be okay with the barrage of negative and judgmental commentary on Facebook about the choice he made. Let me be clear, I do think suicide is a choice. However, I understand and sympathize with the heavy feeling of deep darkness and hopelessness that accompanies depression and I could easily see how living with that depth of hopelessness for so long would make suicide seem like a good idea or the only escape, even if it’s not.

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When you’re depressed you don’t think rationally and you don’t think very far ahead. It is quite difficult to see past the hollowness you feel in each empty, unsatisfying moment of your day… of your life. For me, the only way I escaped was with the support of dear friends and the constant gently nudging assurance of my Savior reminding me that He is holding me and that He is enough to satisfy. Robin Williams, for whatever reasons he had, felt he was out of options. He left a monumental amount of pain in the lives of those who loved him by choosing to end his own life, but I know that there is a God who loves and comforts. I pray for people to rise up around his friends and family to comfort them in their grief in this sudden season of loss. I grieve that Robin Williams didn’t seem to know the hope and comfort of God’s embrace. Without that, I would imagine that pulling yourself out of a clinical depression would be an insurmountable task.

A while back I read a book that changed my perspective on how to respond to disappointment, sorrow, and discouragement. The book “One Thousand Gifts” by Anne Voskamp states simply that life is full of countless blessings we often overlook and that it is next to impossible to remain sad or discouraged when you begin to recount to yourself all the blessings in your life. It is even better if you take the time to write them down. Blessings can take many forms. Any single thing from the comforting hug of a close friend to the way the sun seems to warm your skin from the inside out. Nothing is off limits if it’s something that brings you joy.

So I made a list.

I began my list back on 03/10/2013.

So far I have physically written down in my journal 230 things that I have been thankful for. I hope to keep this going for a long time, but my goal is to get to 1,000 things. I wasn’t always consistent and had gaps of times between reflection and journaling. Sometimes I would repeat something I was thankful for that I had written down several months earlier, but I didn’t want to create any inhibiting rules. I simply wrote down the things I was thankful for – the things that brought me great joy and peace on each particular day.

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So in honor of my 100th WordPress blog post (Woohoo!!!), I am going to select and list out for you 100 of those things exactly how I wrote them in my journal and the dates on which I wrote them down. Enjoy. 🙂

3/10/2013:
1. My husband Chad
2. Memories
3. Green Ink Pens
4. Ice Water
5. Straws!
6. Our Temperpedic Bed
7. Candlelight
8. The first signs of Spring

3/16/2013
9. Comfy Leather Chairs
10. Hazelnut Mochas
11. Kimmie
12. Unlimited cell minutes
13. Cardigans
14. Vineyard church
15. Sleeping with the windows open
16. Netflix
17. Pumpkin, our circus kitty
18. Soft fuzzy yarn
19. Sense of smell
20. Stories

3/22/2013
21. Cool rain
22. People I can be myself with
23. Portland, OR
24. Outdoor patios
25. Tall trees
26. Brick courtyards
27. Pita
28. Slip on shoes
29. New friendships
30. Spontaneous compliments

3/24/2013
31. The breathing room of flying first class
32. Vodka cranberries
33. Laughter that replaces breathing
34. An assuring gentle touch
35. The company of like-minded people
36. Recognition for a job well done
37. The feeling of leaving the ground behind
38. Fog lifting off the water
39. Meeting Anne Fadiman

3/29/2013
40. Moments of reflection
41. Paid holidays
42. Pumpkin flavored things
43. Honest thoughts with God
44. Changing seasons
45. Building anticipation
46. Assurance that hard times have an expiration
47. Skin turning pink in the sun
48. Zeph. 3:17
49. The joy of blessing someone unexpectedly
50. Inside jokes
51. Ever-increasing comfort with another person
52. Finishing a great book

3/31/2013
53. Church family
54. Serving in Children’s Ministry

4/15/2013
55. Advancement of medical science
56. Kind nurses
57. Small needles
58. My good sense of direction/navigation

4/20/2013
59. Lazy Saturdays
60. Thick green grass
61. Banana bread with walnuts

4/26/2013
62. Gentle touches
63. Free fertility meds!!
64. Footstools
65. Time off on rainy days
66. Surprise phone calls
67. Plane tickets to loved ones

5/9/2013
68. Sunsets
69. Quiet places to just “be”
70. Just the right song lyrics

7/29/2013
71. Comfy colors like grey, plum, and navy
72. Jacket weather
73. New books to read
74. Warm fires

9/9/2013
75. Warm beds
76. Kitties snuggling at my feet
77. A good cry

10/3/2013
78. Melody Morgan
79. Matt Chandler podcasts
80. Pumpkin Spice Lattes

1/6/2014
81. That I am not homeless

2/3/2014
82. Thankful that my Granny is finally at rest

4/22/2014
83. That Pumpkin knows when I need kitty snuggles
84. That I got a really good hug from Deena today.
85. For friends like Jennifer who text just to check on me and make me feel very loved
86. That Kimmie prays with me on the phone and loves me 12 years later still…
87. For a husband who knows the perfect silly face to make me laugh when I need it the most…

5/2/2014
88. For new beginnings

6/25/2014
89. Feeling known
90. Feeling understood
91. Ocean breezes on Florida beaches
92. Aloe Vera gel/lotion
93. Tiny hands holding mine
94. Judah’s maniacal laughter
95. Late night movies with the Carters
96. Walks with Emily Donnelli
97. Direct flights
98. A really good back scratch
99. Chad missing me

8/2/2014
100. Seeing God stir something beautiful deep in Chad’s heart

 

Life-is-beautiful
If you made it this far and you’re still reading this, congrats! 😉
The funny thing about recognizing and being thankful for all the big and little things in your life that God has blessed you with is that it makes it hard to complain, feel sorry for yourself, and it is even difficult to obsess over the things you don’t have. As many of you know, these past few years have been incredibly hard for me (with the past year and a half being the worst of them). I have had so much pain and so much longing. I have fixated on the beautiful blessings God has given nearly every single person around me and sobbed over the fact that I did not have those same things. So it is amazing to me to look back over my journal and see the progression of where God has brought me and the blessings he gave along the way. On bad days he gave me friends to hug and friends to pray with me on the phone. On good days he gave me sunshine and Pumpkin Spice lattes and great books. Every time in between He has blessed me in one way or another.

So if you ever begin to feel like life is hard, overwhelming, or just plain hopeless and you can’t see a proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” in sight…. begin to write things down.
One at a time.
Write down what you’re thankful for, even if it’s hard to think of something.
I promise that on your very worst days you have been blessed with something.

If you have a friend who is struggling with depression or anxiety, please PLEASE do not ask them to “cheer up” and “think of what they could be grateful for.” Instead, buy them a latte, give them a hug, invite them over for a movie…..

BE the blessing from God.
BE the reason they have to smile and the reason they’re thankful.

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Lost the Plot

I’ve been in a mood lately. Well, actually I have been in several varying moods lately, but this one in particular has been to listen to a lot of the music from my childhood/teens. Most of the music is Christian stuff, since that is all we could listen to when my Mom was monitoring. 😉

But thankfully, growing up in the mid-late eighties and nineties means Christian music was actually pretty good (at least I think so!) and contained, in my opinion, some pretty amazing, revolutionary lyrics depending on the song/band. My personality tends to be drawn towards sad stories in books, music, and movies – but I am also drawn to really serious, heavy stuff. Not heavy metal music, but heavy lyrics. Lyrics that call unto the deep places in us that we bury and hide and distract ourselves from far too often – places that when sparked produced butterflies in our stomach and a tightness in our chest.

One song that popped up on my playlist today from 1996 was exactly like that. It touched a deep place in my spirit as a 13-year-old girl and it continues to reach me as a nearly 30-year-old woman: Lost the Plot by the Newsboys. Despite this band having way too many cheesy or funny songs, this song (and handful of their others) is powerful and moving and leaves me with a reverent and healthy fear of the Lord once again.

Have you heard it?
No?
Remember the song, but not the words?


(Below are the words, since that is the whole point.)

With all the media hype surrounding political and social changes, it can become confusing why we’re really here. Our happiness, the American Dream, and society’s acceptance of us are not the point of the story we’re here to live out. Though Christ calls us to love, he calls us to direct people to Him.
He is the story.
He is the plot.
He is the happy ending.
Allowing ourselves or others to live in our comfort and sin leaves us comfortable, distracted, and apathetic. Grace is a means to enter the throne room. God’s kindness is so we can be led with grace to repentance.

Grace is not our reason to live comfortably, while we ignore the voice of our Shepherd for the lure of our culture.

May we not be so easily distracted.
May we remember the greatest story ever told.
May we not become a free-range sheep.
May we remember that Christ is not Santa Claus – our happiness is not the plot.
May we remember his sacrifice.
May we remember the joy of our salvation.
May we remember our first love and count the days until His glorious redeeming return.

When you come back again, would you bring me something from the fridge?
Heard a rumor that the end is near, but I just got comfortable here.

*sigh*
Let’s be blunt.
I’m a little distracted.
What do you want?
Headaches and bad faith are all that I’ve got.
First I misplaced the ending then I lost the plot.

Out among the free range sheep, while the big birds sharpen their claws.
For a time we stuck with the Shepherd, but you wouldn’t play Santa Claus.

*sigh*
Let’s be blunt.
We’re a little distracted.
What do you want?
Once we could follow, now we cannot.
You would not fit our image, so we lost the plot.
One we could hear you, now our senses are shot.
We’ve forgotten our first love – we have lost the plot.
Lost the plot.
Lost the plot.

Yeah when I saw you for the first time, you were hanging with a thief and I knew my hands were dirty and I dropped my gaze. And then you said I was forgiven and you welcomed me with laughter. I was happy ever after – I was counting the days.
When you come back again, we’ll be waitin’ for ya.
When you comin’ back again?
We’ll be ready for ya.
Maybe we’ll wake up when – maybe we’ll wake up when – you come back again.

LIES.

Let’s be blunt.
We’re a little unfaithful – what do you want?!
And are you still listening?
Cause we’re obviously not!
We’ve forgotten our first love – we have lost the plot.
Why you still callin’?
You forgave – we forgot.
We’re such experts at stallin’ – now we’ve lost the plot.
Lost the plot.
Lost the plot.
Lost the plot…

When you come back again, could you bring me something from the fridge?
Heard a rumor that the end is near, but I just.
got.
comfortable.
here.