Monday, February 17, 2014

Introverted Perspective

Hi, My name is Tonya and I am an introvert. I never really questioned why I am what I am. I suppose I always thought that was how God made me. That would be my response if someone teased me about it. But now I am wondering, did God make me an introvert? Or did the circumstances and trials of life turn me into one?  I never questioned this before, as I was quite content with my rainbow & butterfly existence. (In the states), I would go to work, do my job to the best of my ability, talk with coworkers, students and parents. Then I would drive to my safe-haven: my home. Once home, I could shrug off the cares of the day, relax and be myself. I didn't have to worry about my facial expressions, whether or not I said the right thing, or mull over what someone else said and wonder "what exactly they meant". At home I could be quiet. At home, I didn't have to paste a smile on. At home, I didn't have to talk to anyone. I could just sit in my recliner and be me.

Growing up, I was always the quiet, shy child. I never was one for conversation. I was content to sit in the corner and listen to everyone and watch what was going on around me. I was a deep thinker. Even at the age of 6, I can remember being in deep thought about heaven, the after life, and God.  We moved around a lot. I was in at least (that I can remember) 12 different elementary schools from grades Kinder to 6. Two different middle schools and 2 different high schools.  I often heard comments that were negative and not at all encouraging.  I had some horrible relationships that just were not healthy. By the time I was 17, I tried several times to end my life.  Thanks to Jesus, things leveled out some during college. I still struggled with social situations. Found the whole college roommate thing quite difficult. In the end, I was able to room alone the last 2 1/2 years. During college, ended up in another bad relationship.  It caused me to further draw in to myself and away from others.

I say all of this NOT for any pity, but to just to bring up the question, why am I an introvert? Did God make me that way? Or did some of my life experiences make me that way? Perhaps God did have a hand in my personality, but life experiences distorted it and made it into something it was never suppose to be: a safety net.   Drawing into myself and away from others was self protection. "You won't hurt me because I am not giving you a chance."  I have spent the last 7 years fighting this. I was told on several occasions that I built up walls. And, they were right.  So, I have really worked on my social skills. I try to smile, engage in small talk and take an interest in others.

The last 2 years, my heart cry has been that others see the Love of Christ in me. I did not want my introvertness to get in the way of my Christian witness. So, there is the rub! At what point is it "my God-given personality" and not a selfish gesture meant to keep people at arms length?
I find myself in a position where I once again have roommates. I dearly love all of them. But I admit to spending a bit too much time in my room. Once I am home, my first inclination is to go to my room and decompress. The problem is, I tend to stay there. Yes, I do socialize when asked, 80% of the time. Ok, maybe 70%. ;)  I struggle to find that balance. I am just one of those people who needs a bit of alone time.  That is how I energize myself after a long, hard day of herding cats, I mean, first graders.  :-)  But at the same time, I worry that I am not loving enough or trying hard enough.  **sigh** It is a catch 22 for me.
It is a source of constant prayer for me. "Lord, help me to love others as you love me. Help me to reach out even when I'd rather stay in a book. Forgive me if I've caused anyone to stumble or feel unloved. "

This wasn't my typical blog post. Just thought I'd give you a glimpse into what goes on in my introverted head. Hahahaha. :-)  Prayers are always appreciated.  Things here are going well. Still loving my students and being here. I know this is where God wants me for this season of my life. He has been showing me so many things.  I guess that is why the introvert issue has been so heavy on my heart. I am suppose to be here to minister and to serve.  I just need to find the balance of serving, and refueling.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

January update

Well, I titled this post "January Update". Then realized today is actually February 1! How in the world is it already February? Time is passing too quickly.

Well, as most of you know, I did get to go back to the states for Christmas break. Very thankful for the Lord's provision. I had a good visit with Shelby and some great friends. It was good to be with my "church" family. I have missed them.  When I arrived at the Valdosta airport, they were all there. It was such a happy surprise.

I arrived back in Suriname January 4. The students came back on the 7th. It was so good to see them. I had missed them. Although, that first day back, I only had 8 out of the 16 that are on roll. Some took an extended vacation. :).  We quickly fell back into a routine.  I am loving these first graders.  There is never a dull moment in our class. One of my students will be leaving this week. He is returning to Italy. My heart is going to break! I love that boy. He played hangman with me one day. I could NOT guess the word. I got down to just two spaces left. He then looked at me with this sly grin and said, "Now I give you a word in English." LOL. It never occurred to me the word he gave me was Italian! ;-)

Tidbits since my last update:

  • Got a new student in January. He is from America.  
  • Driving on the left side of the road still terrifies me. I avoid driving as much as possible.
  • I am able to join my home church service on Friday nights thanks to Google hangout. IT is my life line. 
  • Finally beginning to adjust to life here. Still haven't quite found my niche, but it is definitely feeling a little more like home.  Bringing back a few homey touches from the states for my room here has helped to make it a little more comfortable. 
  • I've not been able to post a lot of pictures lately because my laptop has died. It is hard for me to upload them to facebook from my phone.  
  • I eat at McDonald's here WAY more than I ever did back in the states. Here, they serve spicy fried chicken. It is so good. I went one day last week, and they were OUT of chicken. I nearly had a melt down right in front of the worker. lol. 
  • Still having trouble shopping cheaply for groceries here. I just can't quite get the hang of it.  Maybe if I ate differently.....
  • A few weeks ago, it hailed here in Suriname. A very unusual occurrence. The locals said the last time it hailed was over 70 years ago. All the neighbors were out side in it. I couldn't understand what they were saying. But based on their voice tones, they sounded excited and awe struck. Yes, I was outside with them. :)
  • The thing I find I am missing the most: a bath tub.  Bath tubs are not common here. And there are some days that would just end much better if I were able to take a nice long, hot bubble bath.  :)
  • Went to my first foreign birthday party. It was fun! One of my Brazilian students. The invite said 5 to 7. My American mind would interpret that as "arrive at 5 and leave at 7". Nope. It meant, arrive between 5 and 7. You stay as late as you like or until the party ends...whichever comes first. ;) A lot of good food!
  • My introverted self is trying very hard to be a little more extroverted. But I must say, when faced with the choice to read or socialize....sometimes reading just has to win. You know? :)
Overall, things are going well. I am learning to completely trust in the Lord. There are times I feel very insecure and wonder what I am doing. BUT one thing I do know for sure, I am suppose to be here. I just need to remember that He will equip me and give me what I need to do what He has sent me to do.
When you pray, please remember me and my sweet students. 
Blessings to you all, sweet friends!