My name is Natalie. I go to therapy.

psychology-531071_1920The stereotypes are endless.

Only messed up, crazy people need therapy.

Therapy will only screw you up more.

Therapy is just an excuse to blame your parents for everything.

The list goes on and on. For me, I am messed up. But I think everyone is, to a degree. Therapy has not screwed me up, it’s actually been very beneficial. And finally, it has not given me an excuse to blame my parents for everything. OK, maybe a few things, but not everything.

If you have never been to therapy, here are some things to consider:

Therapy doesn’t look like you imagine it does.
The word “therapy” often makes us think of a man or woman with a notebook, wearing glasses and frantically taking notes while the patient lies on a couch, stares at the ceiling, and talks for an hour. I’ve seen around five different therapists in my life (from living in different cities), and not once have I laid down on a couch. I’ve even seen a few therapists who don’t even write anything down while we meet.

Rooms for therapy are often very inviting and lit by a lamp and not harsh fluorescent lights. I’ve had multiple therapists who diffuse essential oils. They typically want you to feel relaxed and comfortable, so creating that type of atmosphere is important.

You will do most of the talking.
It’s interesting, to pay someone to sit there and listen, but it works. There’s a misconception that therapists will give you advice. However, therapy isn’t someone telling you what to do when you need direction. Instead, they will guide you in making the decision yourself. They will ask a lot of questions, and you will do most of the talking.

You will leave feeling refreshed.
Even on really bad days where I word vomit on my therapist about certain things and get really emotional, I leave feeling better. There’s something about telling a stranger your struggles that really feels like a release. It’s almost like a cleansing of toxic thoughts. Yes, therapy will bring up some ugly things you might not want to dig up, but you will still likely leave feeling a little bit better than when you went in, if you have the right therapist.

It’s OK to find a new therapist if you don’t click with your current one.
You HAVE to feel comfortable and trust your therapist. If you don’t, it will be a waste of time for both of you. I was seeing a therapist in November and December who did not make me feel comfortable. I left each session thinking, “That was a waste of time.” I finally made the decision to stop seeing her, and ended up finding someone who was a much better fit.

Therapy can be expensive, but it’s worth it.
Some employers have special benefits that include therapy, but it’s often only at one specific place. I tried this once and it was awful, as the therapist was a young kid just out of college who seemed to have no clue what he was doing. I found a therapist who is in my network, not free, but it was worth it. We join gyms, pay more money for organic food, and other things for our health, it’s OK to spend money on your mental health as well.

Therapy isn’t for everyone.
You might hate therapy, and that’s OK. I just hope you’ve given it a fair shot. Try at least two or three therapists before giving up on therapy completely. Then, you might come to the conclusion that therapy just isn’t for you, but I certainly hope you have other avenues to help your overall mental health.

Therapy doesn’t mean you don’t trust God.
I can’t stress this enough. Therapy doesn’t mean you don’t have faith or that you don’t trust God. It’s certainly not a “God replacement.” I’ve been fortunate to find a therapist who isn’t an advertised “Christian counselor,” but she IS a Christian, and she works faith into our sessions. Find what works for you, but don’t let anyone tell you that it’s wrong to be a Christian and go to therapy. For me, and I bet many others, therapy has only enhanced my relationship God. I allow Him to work through my therapist.

I’m a huge advocate for therapy, especially for people going through a tough time. Going to therapy really helped me make the decision to leave my current job. My therapist knew I was unhappy and facing a lot of stress-related health issues, and she helped me see that I wasn’t going to solve any of the issues at work. It was time to go. While she didn’t come right out and say that, she helped lead me to that conclusion.

If you’re considering going to therapy, please do. And don’t give up if you don’t find a good fit right away. Therapy should bring enlightenment and clarity to your life. There might be tough days and tough decisions to make, but in the end, you’ll feel so much better.

I’ll conclude with the verse I received at my very first therapy session, when I was a recent college graduate living in LaGrange, Georgia. It’s helped me in time of stress and anxiety:

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy
think about such things.”
Philippians 4:8

Setting yourself up for disappointment

I’m an unmarried woman with no children. For years, I have seen friends and acquaintances lose their identities in their spouse or children.

How could they? I’d often think.  It would seriously annoy me, as I knew that our identities are in Christ.

45991445_2111149768905157_4940590585275744256_nAnd then I realized last week that I, too, wasn’t finding my identity in Christ. For the past three and a half years, although not a super long time, I’ve found my identity in being the Director of Marketing & Communications for The Rescue Mission, a ministry that serves the homeless.

It’s actually been time to leave The Rescue Mission for months. Maybe even a year. I love The Rescue Mission with all my heart, but for various reasons, I had become miserable. Still, I couldn’t leave. What would people think? I appear on local news channels for my job, representing The Rescue Mission. I’ve given up holidays with my family to work, even though I didn’t always have to. When things started to get messy, my health took a nosedive, and I had three different doctors, including a psychiatrist, tell me to quit my job.

But I just couldn’t. I realized last week why – my identity was in my job. Let me tell you, be it your job, your child, your spouse, or whatever, finding your identity in anything other than Christ will set you up for disappointment.

I’ve always SAID my identity was in Christ, but I’m honestly not sure I’ve ever actually lived that way. In the past I’ve found my identity in jobs, boyfriends, mission trips, friends, and even church. And every single one of them let me down.

Having your identity in Christ doesn’t mean you won’t get hurt by others. What it means is that when you DO get hurt (and you will), you are going to be OK. You are not who your boss says you are. You are not who your ex-spouse says you are. You are not who that stranger on Facebook says you are. You are who God says you are. You are a child of God. Always.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His light.”
1 Peter 2:9

Christ is the only one who can pull you out of darkness into light. So why put your identity anywhere else?

IMG_1458A week ago I accepted a new job and turned in my resignation from The Rescue Mission. It wasn’t an easy decision, and it’s been one I’ve been wrestling with for quite awhile. But it’s OK. I can leave The Rescue Mission and still be Natalie. I’m actually hoping I can be a better version of Natalie.

My new job has very similar duties to what I was doing at The Rescue Mission, but it will be for a secular organization. (In all honesty, I will likely never work for a ministry again, but that’s another blog post, maybe even book, for another day in the distant future.) I am beyond excited about this next adventure in my life, and I plan to be the best Marketing Communications Specialist my new employer has ever seen. But it will NOT be my identity. If it is, I’ll surely end up burnt out. I’ll definitely end up disappointed.

And I’m tired of being disappointed.

Although I’ve always been quick in my mind to notice others whose identities are in the wrong thing, I’ve also struggled with it myself for as long as I can remember. I have to make a change.

My identity is not Natalie, Director of Marketing & Communications of The Rescue Mission.

It’s not Natalie, mission-trip-taker.

It’s not Natalie, cookie maker.

I’ll still be some of those things, but they will not define me. It’s time to be Natalie, child of God.


I’m working on writing and publishing my first book! I’ve created an author page on Facebook, and I hope you’ll “Like” it and come on this crazy journey with me! Click below to visit the page. 

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Revenge: a dish best not served

IMG_4643A friend text me a few weeks ago. “How’s your day going?” I had been crying. I took a selfie with watery eyes and smudged mascara. “This is how my day is going,” I responded.

I had been hurt. Wounded. Blindsided, and even feeling a little stabbed in the back. It was not a good day.

Maybe it’s just me, but I have the potential to be a vengeful, hurtful person. Not that I am, but the potential is there. If you hurt me, I can think of even more hurtful things to say back to you. And sometimes, I really, REALLY want to.

A few weeks ago was one of those days. Even in the days following, I plotted out the terrible things I wanted to say to the person who hurt me. It kept me up at night, making a mental list of everything I wanted to say.

But God kept slipping the word “grace” into my mind, which just made me even angrier at first. Why should I show this person grace when they didn’t show me an ounce of it?

Because it’s the right thing to do.

UGH. Sometimes I hate doing the right thing. I always think back to this: “Doing what is right is never wrong.” Never. It’s never wrong to do what’s right. And doing what is right is swallowing my pride and biting my tongue.

Right now it still doesn’t FEEL right, but many tough decisions can’t be made based on feelings. Decisions should be based on what’s right. What’s right is to not serve up a piping hot plate of revenge, or even a cold one.

“See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15

It’s funny to me that non-Christians probably think it’s easy for us to try and do good all the time. I’m not afraid to say it: it’s not. Our nature is a sinful one, just like everyone else’s. Luckily I have a God whose Son died on the cross for that sinful nature so I don’t have to suffer eternal consequences for it.

Revenge is a dish best not served at all. It still feels wrong. I still want to retaliate, but I won’t. There have been times people in my life extended grace, and now it’s my turn to do the same for someone else. It’s not easy, and right now it doesn’t offer the satisfaction I’m looking for, but one day it will. And it’s the right thing to do.

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
James 4:17


I’m working on writing and publishing my first book! I’ve created an author page on Facebook, and I hope you’ll “Like” it and come on this crazy journey with me! Click below to visit the page. 

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Happiness not wrapped up in a spouse

IMG_3405A few years ago I read an incredible blog post by a woman who talked about how she desired being married someday, but that in the meantime, she was content being single. I could completely relate. And I can still relate. I want to be married someday, but right now, I’m happy. I’m content.

Some troll jumped in and commented something about how single women need to stop lying to themselves. That if this woman truly desired marriage, there was no way she could possibly be happy without it. I jumped to her defense, then she got involved, and a few other people, and it got kind of ugly.

It’s irked me ever since. Even years later. Can you be content and happy even if you don’t have something you desire? You tell me. I desire to win the lottery (even though I don’t play it), but I’m happy without it. I desire the body of a Victoria Secret model, but I’m content with what I have. I desire to work from home and make more money, but I’m still satisfied without it.

What really makes me laugh is when people don’t understand how I can be in a long-term relationship without marriage (for now), and still be happy, and yet many of those people ARE married… and miserable. And yet apparently having a husband and children is the only acceptable way to be happy in this country.

I love my boyfriend, who, yes, when the time is right, we will get married. We’ve discussed it. It’s between us. It’s interesting that I have to keep explaining that to so many people. I should start asking married people, “So, are you going to stay married? How do you know? Can you explain to me what your plans are for the rest of your marriage?” Sounds ridiculous, but that’s how I feel when people pry into why I’m not married yet.

My life isn’t perfect, but I’m definitely happy. I have bad days, I have breakdowns, but most days are great, and I honestly don’t have much to complain about.

Throughout my 20’s and early 30’s, I was just sure that a husband would solve all my problems. I’m not sure why I thought this, especially when I had many friends who WERE getting married, and they honestly weren’t any happier than I was.

Happiness isn’t found in a spouse. If you aren’t happy before you get married, you won’t be after. For me, the greatest happiness and peace I have found is through a relationship with Jesus Christ. (Feel free to contact me if you want to know more about that!)

As I thought about my happiness, and how so many people are skeptical of it simply because I’m single and childless, I decided to reach out to other amazing single women, and see what they had to say about how they remain happy while being single. I also gave them the option of NOT responding, because let’s be honest, there are plenty of single women who are NOT happy. So this post is for them.

It’s also for those of you who don’t understand. You don’t understand how we can be happy with our lives without a spouse. There’s plenty I don’t understand about your lives as wives and mothers, but you won’t find me judging you for it. I’m just thrilled to see you happy and loving life, just as I am.

Here are some responses from some of the women who replied to my request:

The question: You’re not married. How in the world are you happy with your life?

“I know I can be happy without a husband in my life because I always have God as number one. Now on a funnier side, I can eat when I want, can do my dishes when I want (no dishwasher), watch what I want on TV, and not have any one to tell me what to do.” Age: 60’s

“I’m not married, but I’m happy with my life because I am so sure of myself and the strong individual that I am. I am still learning about myself and evolving as a woman in this world. I am (and am becoming) the strong, sensitive, independent, compassionate, fiery, confident woman that God created me to be, and I don’t necessarily need a husband to accomplish all of that.” Age: 27

“I was raised that I can do anything I want if I work hard for it, and I don’t have to rely on anyone else to do something. That includes my happiness. I am still looking for mister right, but I find my own happiness. If it is in God’s plan for him to come along it will happen. If not, I am content with that and won’t just settle with the wrong guy to say I am married. I won’t do that for me and my kids’ sake. It has to be right.” Age: 46

“Being a single women has truly allowed myself to find who I am as a women and learn how to love myself. Through the years I have learned my strengths and weaknesses and that has helped me become the women I am today. Also, I have pushed myself to limits I never knew I could achieve and I achieved those limits without a man helping me get there.” Age: 34

“I consider myself married….to my husband who is my Lord and Savior. I keep busy in His work and I desire only his will in my life. I live content for the majority of the time because I trust His ways for me. I get the same question. I have been single over 25 years and not without asking the same question of God. But he knows best and ‘this is only a sliver of the sum’. I trust…” Age: 50’s

“The reason I am happy and single is because I am happy with who I am in its entirety, I have accepted me and love me. You can not be truly happy in a relationship/marriage if you do not know how to be happy as a single.” Age: 35

Social media’s shocking reveal: we’re different

IMG_1556

One of my earliest selfies was in the 8th grade.

It was 1995, and a group of us were at a retreat. My roommate and I were up all hours of the night, of course, talking about what boys we liked from the other schools, playing MASH, and just plain being silly. Apparently, at some point, I also took a selfie with my disposable camera. The moment is forever memorialized in my 8th grade scrapbook.

It wouldn’t be my last selfie.  It certainly wasn’t the last time I took a ridiculous amount of photos at an event, vacation, or just a general day in the life of Natalie.

I remember our first big family vacation. I was 8 years old. My mom gave me a notebook and told me to write in it every day about what we did. “You’ll want to remember this trip!” she told me. I still have that little notebook.

IMG-1560I have more than 25 scrapbooks. That doesn’t even include the fancy books we can make nowadays online, which I have about a dozen of those. But I’m talking full-blown, photos glued to paper, scrapbooks. I have chronicled most of my life via scrapbook.

Now, I chronicle most of my life via Facebook and Instagram. I post selfies. I post fun or interesting things I’ve had to eat. I post my feelings. I share memories. It’s just how I am.

And compared to you… that might be different.

Nothing compares to social media when it comes to highlighting our differences. Our political differences, our religious differences, our differences in personality. Those differences have always been there, but now they are highlighted for the world to see.

Maybe you think selfies are ridiculous. Maybe you would never take one. Perhaps taking a photo of your food would be too embarrassing for you, or you just think it’s silly. That’s OK. Not everyone is like you. Not everyone is like me.

I get it. I struggle with everyone not being like me sometimes. I want people to care more about some issues and less about others. The truth is, however, that we’re always going to be different. And that’s not an excuse to cut people down.

I hear such hateful speech from some people about the most random things. And I’m not going to start apologizing for Instagramming my Starbucks or posting a selfie on Facebook. This is who I am. You might find it stupid, but that doesn’t mean I am stupid. And just because it’s not your personality to do those things, doesn’t mean it can’t be mine.

(I do NOT believe, however, that “This is who I am” is an excuse treat people poorly. But that’s another blog post for another time. God did NOT create you to be a jerk!)

starbysWe’re DIFFERENT. Have we forgotten that in society? If I drink pumpkin spice lattes and you don’t, that doesn’t in any way, shape, or form mean I’m “basic” or unintelligent. We simply have different tastes.

Teasing is one thing, and I am surrounded by many people who love to tease, and I tease back! But I have also noticed some people in my life who aren’t teasing. They’re judging my very personality and the things that bring joy to my life and have since I was younger. So it’s time to create some distance.

Don’t let people make fun of you because of who you are. God made us each unique. Highlight that as much as you want to on social media. Or don’t. Either way, you were wonderfully and fearfully made by a God who loves you. (Psalm 139:14)

One more thing to all my single ladies: There is a man out there who will love you for who you are. He might think having an Instagram for your cat is ridiculous. He might tease you repeatedly for using Snapchat filters. But he will love you, and none of that will matter. Be YOU. It’s an incredible feeling to be loved for being 100% authentically YOU.

“Everyone is replaceable.”

Sometimes I think I need to do a TED talk. I have so many thoughts and ideas about company culture, that I could probably write a book. (Add that to the list of about a dozen other books I want to write, but haven’t yet.)

natalie
My first year teaching at Troup High in LaGrange, Georgia was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced when it comes to workplace culture. It was truly a special place under the leadership of our principal.

I think we all have opinions about company culture, and what could improve it at our respective places of employment. For me, since graduating college 15 years ago, I have worked for seven different companies, schools, organizations, etc. I’ve seen only one place truly understand company culture and how to keep its employees happy while also getting the job done.

I’m willing to bet most people have never worked at a place with excellent morale or culture.

Granted, that doesn’t mean the place of employment doesn’t SAY they have excellent morale and company culture. Actually, most, if not all, leaders of organizations are convinced they DO have it together. That their employees are happy. That everyone feels valued.

While I could go into a lot of different areas concerning this topic, today I want to talk about what I believe is one of the easiest ways to show your employees that they are NOT valued. Simply utter the words, “Everyone is replaceable.”

It’s not that it isn’t true. But just because it’s true, does that mean you have to say it?

If you found out a friend had cancer, would you tell them, “Some people die from cancer.” Yes, it’s true. Some people die from cancer. But just because it’s true doesn’t mean it has to be verbalized. Especially if it will make someone feel like crap.

Guess what? Your spouse is replaceable. Go ahead and see how they feel if you go and tell them that today. (Please, DON’T!) That’s not something you would say to someone you value and care about. So don’t say it to your employees.

Supervisors, leaders: stop saying, “Everyone is replaceable.” It makes employees feel undervalued. And guess what? Employees who feel valued do a much better job. It’s a win-win for everyone if you stop telling people they are replaceable.

Also, look at the cost of hiring someone new. If you have an all-star employee you deem as “replaceable,” and they feel undervalued and leave, you’ve now got a position to fill, which takes company time, resources, and money.

But hey, “Everyone is replaceable.”

A simple way to improve your company culture- stop telling people they are replaceable. Even if it’s true. Stop saying it.

Imagine a company culture where every employee felt valued and important, not like they could be easily replaced. An organization with a culture like that would THRIVE.

I should note that I’m not pointing fingers at any one specific place I’ve worked. I’ve heard this phrase uttered at many places.

So, leaders, consider removing the phrase from your vocabulary. Just because it’s true, doesn’t mean it has to be said. As a matter of fact, I’d even say go so far as to make your staff feel like they are IRREPLACEABLE.

 

The Notebook (no, not THAT one)

I loved Nicholas Sparks’ “The Notebook.” The movie was great, and the book was even better. But that’s not the notebook I’m writing about today.

IMG_5616In December 2012, a friend of mine gave me a journal. I decided it would be my “spiritual journal,” where I would take notes during church.  It was a hot pink notebook with a Jane Austen quote on the cover: “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.”

The notebook even came with me to Uganda when I moved there in 2013. Unfortunately, my pen DID dwell on a lot of guilt and misery, especially during my year overseas. And when I returned to the United States in 2014, I decided that it was time to be done with the guilt and misery in that notebook, and I bought a new one.

This new notebook was the same style as the other one. It had a soft leather cover, an elastic loop that kept it closed, and a shiny ribbon to keep my place. The only difference with this one was that it was teal instead of pink.

My first page of notes in this notebook was on January 10, 2015. The church was Emmanuel Community Church. I always put the date and the location in the upper right-hand corner. The notebook is flooded with notes from sermons, devotions, conferences, and, rarely, journal entries about how I was feeling.

What I love about these notebooks is the fact that I go back to them when I’m in search of wisdom or guidance, or when I want to remember something from a specific sermon. If there was something I really liked, or something that convicted me, I would circle it or star it, knowing that I’d want to read it again later.

IMG_5615As we approach 2019, it’s time for another new notebook. This little teal notebook has treated me well over the past three years, but it’s time to move on. Before I do, though, I decided to flip back through it and share some of those circled verses and notes that I took. Maybe they will inspire you as much as they did me.

“Jesus was showing once again that He values RELATIONSHIP over RULES, and that the new way of furthering God’s kingdom is through COMPASSION.” 

“Jesus + Nothing = Everything”

“Our Heavenly Father is kind, and He is merciful, so we should strive to be the same way.”

“Understand that you don’t deserve God’s grace, but treat everyone else as if they do.”

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:17

“God is not my boss, He is my Father.”

“Christians need to understand that God is still in control.”

“Faith is not a ‘magic feeling’ that makes us do great things. Faith is believing that God will do what He said He will do.”

“Stop trying to be like other Christians and be like Jesus!”

“We need to spend much more time seeking the FACE of God, and less time seeking the hand of God.”

“True freedom is living according to God’s design.”

“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex. Your workmanship is marvelous.” Psalm 139:14

“Mercy is undeserved forgiveness and unearned kindness.”

“Jesus is more willing to give you mercy than you are to receive it.”

“Stop trying to prove who you are to people and God.”

“Stop assessing God’s goodness by how your life feels at any given time.”

“People who do not believe are living all around you. Live such good lives that they will see the good things you do and will give glory to God.” 1 Peter 2:12

“His love isn’t based upon who YOU are, it’s based upon who HE is.”

Happy New Year, everyone! May God bless us all with another year of joys and wisdom to better serve Him.