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.

 

The Rain

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The Lord is doing something in me that is difficult, painful, and more precious and beautiful than I deserve.
I know He is because for the past several weeks I have felt on edge and highly unsettled.

I have been anxious and sensitive.
Not that the struggles of the past 3 years hasn’t made me more sensitive already, but this is a little more than that.
The slightest things that I would have easily shaken off in the past have sent me running to my car on a lunch break to choke back tears, lecture myself on the art of getting it together, and reapply my make up.

One misinterpreted look or the lack of acknowledgement altogether.
One single word unknowingly misplaced and insensitively delivered.
One minute too long to sit and dwell and gradually begin to hear the not-so-subtle whispering lies to my heart that strike cords with my deepest fears and insecurities.

The past several weeks I have felt shaken and I haven’t really been able to pinpoint the moment or circumstance that started this process. I just know that because of it, I haven’t felt like myself lately. I sometimes feel like I don’t even know who I am anymore.

Maybe it is because I started a new job and I am still trying to figure out where I fit/belong and where I can find some consistent intrinsic purpose in my work as a lowly admin.
Maybe it is the fact that my sweet Granny isn’t here anymore and any time I think of Christmas, hear an Elvis song, or walk into a craft/fabric store my eyes instantly well up with tears.
Maybe it is because I am navigating the waters of a new friendship and those waters are both simultaneously joyous and murky.dancing-in-the-rain (1)

Or maybe… perhaps a big part of it… it is just because ever since I found out that it would most likely be a long and difficult journey until my achingly empty arms would be filled only by God’s faithful gracious mercy, I have struggled every single day of that journey to feel like I belonged somewhere….. anywhere.

Yet, this is the tender place where I find my heart and my thoughts with God. When I come to Him in these moments of restlessness and insecurity….I am realizing once again that my sense of belonging shouldn’t be in tied to these roles I identify with.
I may be a wife, sister, daughter, or friend, but when it comes down to it:  I am HIS. I am my Beloved’s and He is mine.

The roles I identify with are not the true me. They are only the costumes I will wear for a short time in this life. The type of wife, sister, daughter, and friend I am to others matters, but only because other people matter.
Love matters.
These roles do not define me and should not determine my happiness.
Jesus and who He is determines that.
He determines everything.

It will take a significant amount of rain to wash away all of my expectations, my perceptions, my needs, my wants, my entitlements, and my identity.

“Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.” – John Updike

The struggle over the past several years has been to let go of my identity as a mother. Not giving up on the dream, but not letting the lack of this role define me.
I have wanted to be a mother since I was 3 and carried around more baby dolls than I ever did Barbie dolls.

Every single day I battle an onslaught of reminders that reinforce the fact that I am not a mother.

The onslaught on my heart includes things like not being invited to a friend’s house to hang out because it is more of a ‘play date’ and I am not a mother. You have nothing to contribute or offer.
It includes people at church wondering why I volunteer in children’s ministry if I don’t have children. What could you possibly know about children?
It includes Facebook photos and updates for everything child-related under the sun. Look! I am living the life you can only dream of.

And so much more.download

But I hear my Beloved whispering over the sound of the storm…You are mine.

I am His.

I spent most of my 20’s trying to discover who I was and why I am the way I am. I spent many nights journaling every single heartache, confusion, and question in my soul. I spent hours talking with counselors and mentors, trying to navigate from the rocky waters of my childhood, so I could discover who I was and how to successfully join society. I learned so much about who I was, my personality (INFP!), how to love others well, and where I fit in. I felt confident and whole for the first time in my life.

Now that I am working my way through my 30’s and battling infertility, all of that confidence and self-identification is being stripped down off of me. Not that I am back to where I was in my early 20’s necessarily, but more so that Jesus is lovingly – yet painfully – peeling back the layers of who I am so as to make room for more of Him.

As backwards as it may seem, I can see God using even something as broken and ugly as infertility to birth peace, wholeness, and life in me. Infertility has made me realize (slowly!) more and more that this life does not matter as much as we act like it does.

I am learning little by little that I do not love people because I have learned how to be a good friend.
I love people because Christ loves them: passionately, vulnerably, whole-heartedly – no matter what it costs.
(And You know what? Loving people is not for sissies! Loving people is raw and real and requires so much of you with the expectation of so very little in return. The truth is…. people don’t owe you their time, their gifts, their support, or their love. But love gives and gives anyway and Jesus fills those spaces in us that we have given away, so that we can give more.)

I am learning that being a friend/sister/daughter/cousin/niece/etc may be much different and more difficult than what I wish it was, but my Savior wants me to be His hands and feet to others no matter what I receive in return.  So if that means lonely weekends, chronic family conflict that never seems to heal, and never feeling quite like I belong, then so be it. I belong to Jesus. Starting to learn this doesn’t fix the issues, but it makes the burden a little bit lighter.dancing-in-the-rain

I am learning that being a mother is so much more than physically birthing a child. Maybe in this life that is what defines it. Maybe in this life people will say, “You can never understand what it is like until you have had your own.” Well, maybe that is true and maybe it isn’t. But I do know that Jesus created the heart of a mother and He can create one in me. I may have babies of my own one day and I may not. I may adopt as many kids as our budget can handle and I may not. What I can do right now is wait and trust and hold onto hope with fists clenched tightly while I am a mother to the kids in our church nursery, our AWANA ministry, my friend’s kids, my nephews and niece, and any other child in need of a hug, a laugh, or a listening ear.

I am learning that none of the things we view as important that have so much to do with us, us, and US even matter.

I still don’t know how my life is going to pan out.
I don’t know how or when or if I will ever see my dreams come to fruition.
I don’t know how long God will continue to strip me of myself and replace the broken pieces of me with the sustaining pieces of Him.
I don’t even know how much I have left to give sometimes.
I have never cried so much in my life.

But…. I know He is faithful.
I know He is mine.
I am His.

So Jesus, wipe away my tears when life is just too much and people don’t seem to notice or have time to care.
Hold me when I have gone too many days without a decent hug.
Remind me that I have worth and a purpose and that I belong when those things seem to elude me too often.
Give me courage to face whatever you have in Your plans for me.

And let the rain continue to fall relentlessly and wash away every broken piece of my heart and my identity until you have it all….until all I desire is You.

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Misunderstood Identity

I can’t tell you how many times I hear someone say or imply that people who are shy, awkward, or socially inept are introverts.
It makes me want to punch a small animal.

Okay, maybe not that bad… but it seriously gets under my skin.

To me, introversion is one of the most misunderstood labels.
I understand that it can be hard to pinpoint in someone, but the blanket stereotype that connotates social malfunction or people phobias is just taking it way too far.

About 10 years ago or so is when this all started for me.
I remember being “diagnosed” as an ENFP at Teen Mania through the Myers Briggs Type Assessment (ENFJ at first, but that was later amended).

Looking back, I think I chose some answers that leaned more towards Extroversion because being an Extrovert in our society is deemed more acceptable, and I so badly wanted to be accepted. If a question on the test asked if I preferred “going to a large party” vs. “staying home alone or with one friend” I probably falsely chose “going to a large party” because I wanted to make friends in this new season of my life.

I struggled constantly with this tension between loving my friends and being around people vs. all those people and friends driving me crazy after about 4+ hours of their company. I wondered why I was so difficult? Everyone else was fine if we hung out ALL DAY doing loud and crazy things. Everyone else was fine if the chaos never ended and people never went home to their own beds. Why was I so cranky all of a sudden? Why did it make me so tired to have to fight for a word in a conversation, or to be constantly interrupted?

After too much social effort I would become withdrawn, irritable, and snarky.
And I didn’t know why.

Fast forward 3 years …

I was literally browsing the self-help section of the Barnes and Noble in Tyler, TX for answers to my problem.

The first book I picked up was about HSP syndrome.
HSP = Highly Sensitive Person
I felt like I fit some of the criteria, but not all of it.
I put the book back on the shelf and kept looking.

The next book I picked up was called “The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World” and was written by a bunch of doctors.
I didn’t think I was an Introvert because of the stigmas attached to that title, but as I browsed the Table of Contents (always a good indicator of a book’s relevance!) Chapter 6 caught my eye… Chapter 6 was titled: “Socializing: Party Pooper or Pooped from the Party?”

As I began reading it my life was LITERALLY changed.
I quickly realized I was a closet Introvert.
I quickly knew I wanted to read and buy this book.
I knew I had to re-take that Myers Briggs test again. (I did, by the way, and I was a full blown INFP!)
I finally had answers to my questions.

The point of all this is this:

I had to know myself to figure out how to thrive.
Introversion was not a shyness or social phobia, but a way of coping with stimulus.
I did love my friends.
I did love a good party.
I did not have a social malfunction.
I simply became emotionally and mentally and physically drained from a certain degree of activity or commotion.

I learned that some people in my life did not drain me at all.
Some people I can be around all the time for as many days as you can count and I am totally fine.
Other people I can only be around for about 30 minutes and I need to get away.
I love quieter environments and non-obnoxious people.

I watched this video tonight that talks about the way our society has oriented itself around an Extroverted audience.
This video is what prompted me to write this post and share my story.
It is worth watching, though kind of long.
I highly recommend it.

I also highly recommend getting to know who your friends, significant other, co-workers, etc really are.
Don’t assume that just because they didn’t want to go to that loud bar or concert with you that they don’t like you and don’t want to be your friend.
Chances are they do, but the thought of such an event leaves them exhausted.
Don’t assume that because they are quiet or non-charismatic that they are awkward or insecure.
Chances are they so confident and secure that they don’t need to fill the silence all the time. 🙂

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p.s. – If you’re an Introvert, use the comments to give a little  shout out for yourself. (It doesn’t have to be a loud shout.)
😉