When Life Changes You

Sometimes we face something throughout the course of our lives that will change us.
I’m talking down to the core, complete and total transformation in one area or another.
It isn’t sudden or abrupt, but one day, you wake up and realize you’re different than you used to be.

There’s no universal cause for change. It’s different for different people.
Some face life-threatening illnesses.
Some fight through extended periods of depression.
Some struggle with physical and/or emotional issues that have no visible symptoms for others to identify.
Some endure long seasons of singleness.
Some become parents and a year or two down the road realize that their desires are different, their priorities are different…
They are different.

Sometimes we change for the better. God has a way of doing that to us and for us, doesn’t He?
But sometimes, it isn’t a change that we would choose for ourselves.

I read an article the other day that pointed out that while having children does, in fact, change everything, not having them changes everything as well.

Infertility has changed me.

I had noticed a few changes to my personality here and there, but wasn’t aware of how deeply I had been affected until recently.
As much as I hate to admit it, I’m not the person I was a few years ago.
People who have known me well know that I used to be incredibly outgoing. When I met a person, we typically weren’t strangers for long. I was comfortable in most situations and could talk to anyone.

Guys, I am SO not that way anymore.

My confidence and ability to be right in the middle of things has been replaced with insecurity and the desire to be away from everyone’s eyes and attention.
My adaptability in situations with crowds where I know no one has plummeted to the point that I am now barely able to be in a crowd of 6 or more people I know well without wanting to fold in on myself and disappear.
Instead of being outgoing, I want to stay home. I think I may be only a few steps away from bonefide hermit status.

As I realized the extent of these changes the other day, I was overwhelmed with sadness. Where did the smiling, happy person I used to be go?
There was a particularly difficult period my sister and I experienced as teenagers, during which we adopted the first line of an old song as our own:
“If there’s a smile on my face, it’s only there trying to fool the public.”
I’ve found myself reverting back to that an awful lot recently.
The smile on my face doesn’t quite reach my eyes or my heart.

What was the cause of all these changes?
Although I’ve always been overweight, that never affected my confidence…until a few years ago. I went from walking with my head held high to looking at the ground and avoiding eye contact and conversations at all costs.
I see families with children and feel incredibly insecure as a woman because my body doesn’t do what it is supposed to do….and in my mind, everyone knows and is thinking of that. Of course, I’m sure that isn’t the case, but our minds aren’t always kind to us, are they?
Going out in groups of friends has become increasingly difficult because the conversation inevitably centers around their children. I don’t blame them for this, of course. This is their life…but it is just another reminder that it isn’t mine.
I never know what innocent statement will break my heart and leave me fighting tears (often unsuccessfully). It’s just easier to stay at home.

As I examine all the evidence, the obvious conclusion is that weeks, months, years of *not* having children have changed me to the point of unrecognition. I feel like a shell of the person I used to be…and I hate it. I just don’t know what to do about it.

The other side of my unwanted transformation is this: through it all, I’ve learned more about the grace, peace, and comfort of God than I ever would have under other circumstances.
Nights when I cry in silence until there are no tears left, He lets me know He hears.
Days when I duck into the restroom at work and cry over one of our littles asking if she could have a bite of my food and having to say no because she isn’t mine, He lets me know He sees.
When I spend too much time brokenhearted and weeping over what may never be, He lets me know He understands.

I may not have the blessing of children, but I have the blessing of a Father.
I may not have little ones to tuck in at night, but I have One who allows me to rest in Him.
I may have a broken heart, but I also have a God who specializes in healing broken things.
I may be overwhelmed and want to hide, but He gives me green pastures, still waters, and a place to rest while He restores my soul.

I don’t know that I’ll ever truly get back to the bubbly person I once was. I may be able to, one day, but even if not, it will be okay.
I said on New Year’s Eve that I feel more settled and accepting of my circumstances. That’s still true, but grief over the absence of little ones remains.

I don’t know that there will ever come a day without a trace of sadness, but that’s okay too.
Through the sadness and the tears, I’m reminded I’m not alone.
Jesus wept with Mary and Martha, and He weeps with me.
Through the pain, He bottles my tears as He makes me into what He wants me to be.

Situations in life have changed me.
Replaced my laughter with tears.
My smile with scars.

…But through these unpleasant situations, Christ has changed me.
Replaced my turmoil with peace.
My sorrow with hope.

So today, I cling to that hope.
Hope that a brighter day is coming.
Hope that this pain won’t last forever.
Hope that through my brokenness, His glory will shine.

When life changes you, there is still hope in Jesus.

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