To my new church “home”…

architecture-1868940_1920Dear my new church “home,”

I wanted to write you and be up front with you about a few things. It’s kind of like on The Bachelor when a woman tells the man, “I think there are some things you need to know about me before we get more involved.” And then he ends up sending her away. Not immediately, he would look like a jerk, but eventually, he sends her packing. Her baggage is too much.

Well, that’s me. I have a lot of “church” baggage, and I want to be up front about it.

There are gory details that I won’t share, but I will say this: my heart is broken. It’s been beaten down. Sometimes it was my fault. Sometimes it wasn’t. But overall, I am wounded. I have been wounded for years. And let’s face it, while your gym or internet provider wants to know why you left and begs you to stay, people in churches just don’t do that. They often take more of a “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” type of stance.

I was to the point a few months ago where I had given up on church. Not on God, I’ve never given up on Him. But I was at the point where I decided I didn’t need a church family. I simply could not put myself through the hurt again of trying to find a church and not being accepted. The idea of trying to fit in and being rejected was too much to handle.

Then, on Valentine’s Day, I read Kelly Minter’s blog post “Valentine’s Day from a Single’s Perspective,” and she spoke of how important her church community is to her. How its made her singleness less lonely. How it’s encouraged her.

“I want that,” I realized. And I decided I wouldn’t stop until I found it.

My church hurts run deep. Really deep. Like many, I’ve been pushed around, beat down, judged, ignored, given empty promises, and flat out lied to by people in the church. Because, let’s face it, churches are made up of people. People are flawed. There will never be a “perfect church” until we get to heaven.

Still, I desire a church that will at least accept me and all my baggage.

A church that will help me grow in my walk with Christ.

A church that will treat me as more than an unmarried woman.

A church that will realize I have things to offer, even though I don’t have a husband or children.

A church that will challenge me to spread God’s word and to go outside of my comfort zone to do so.

A church that will wrap its arms around me and see that I have value.

Despite my greatest efforts, I haven’t felt valued by a church in years.

So, new church home, I hope you will accept me. I hope you will let me be of service to you. I hope you will value me, and I will value you. I will let your pastor and people guide me. I will use my God-given talents to help the church.

I am scared. I am skeptical. I don’t want to get too excited. But I am hopeful that God has a place for me in your church. I hope you will be my church family. I pray I have found where I belong.

Sincerely,
Natalie, a very broken church goer

“We have created being married with children
as the superior status in the church,
but we serve a Savior who was single.”
Panelist at IF:Gathering 2017

 

 

No words.

profileI haven’t written in more than two months.

I feel like I can’t find the words I want to use to express the plethora of emotions I have right now about 2016.

No words to give God the glory He’s due for everything He has done for me.

No words to fully describe my broken heart.

No words to show my thankfulness for my place of employment.

No words to convey how I feel about what’s happening in Syria.

No words to express how much I love the homeless men, women, and children at the Mission.

No words to express my frustration with the church in America.

No words to explain how blessed I feel to have the family I have.

No words to illustrate how the Christian community is the toughest community for a single person.

No words to convey the slow healing from my experience living in Uganda three years ago.

No words to disclose that adequately show what amazing friends I have.

I am hurting. I am also blessed. I am scared of the future. I am also optimistic about it.

But to go into detail about anything right now, I just don’t have the words. I guess I’ll share them when I do.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understand.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-6

“God is so good,” she said.

My beautiful co-worker and friend was beaming. Her face was glowing almost as much as the gorgeous engagement ring on her finger. The love of her life proposed to her yesterday, and life couldn’t be better for the 26-year-old.

kia-s-ring-1-1427430“God is so good!” she exclaimed.

It was the first time in a long time that my single, 35-year-old self thought, “Is He?”

I felt guilty for even having that thought. Of course God is good. He continues to forgive me for foolish choices and selfish thoughts. He looks out for my best interest. He has a plan tailored to exactly what His will is for my life. I have the love of family and friends. I am healthy. God loves me. There’s no doubt about it- God is good.

So why did it hurt so badly when my newly engaged friend connected God’s goodness to her spending the rest of her life with the man she loves? The answer is obvious- God hasn’t given me that. There is a man I want to spend my life with, but because of multiple reasons, we aren’t spending our lives together. To put it simply, “It’s just not fair.”

I have a friend who wants to travel so badly. She wants to see the world. She wants to experience different cultures and see the things she’s only dreamed of. But because she has a family to support, because she doesn’t have the money, that’s not an option right now. She looks at me, my travels, my freedom to go here and there, and she thinks, “It’s just not fair.”

I have another friend stuck in what she believes is a meaningless job. She can’t seem to find a way to connect with people and truly make a difference in people’s lives. She feels stuck. She looks at my job and the fact that I see lives transformed every day, and she hates that she doesn’t have the same job satisfaction. “It’s just not fair.”

Maybe someday my friend will find a job where she feels fulfilled. Maybe someday my other friend will have the opportunity to travel to another country. Maybe someday I’ll marry the man I just can’t seem to stop loving.

Or maybe… none of that will happen.

But still, “God is so good.”

Engaged or not, God is so good.

Married or not, God is so good.

Fulfilled or not, God is so good.

Children or not, God is so good.

President Trump or President Clinton, God is so good.

No matter what happens, no matter where it happens, no matter when it happens, God is so good.

Thank you, Jaida, for reminding me of that today. I might not be where I want to be in life, but I trust in God’s timing because, “God is so good.”

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”
Psalm 107:1

A breakup of a different kind…

broken-heart-pic-1150866My first breakup was in 8th grade. It was short and to the point.

“Andy don’t wanna go out with you no more.” Click.

My boyfriend of four days (we had started “going together” at Friday’s football game) had his best friend call me after school on Monday to give me the bad news.

It hurt, but I managed. Little did I realize that I’d go through so many other breakups, too many to count, and that they’d increasingly get more difficult.

I’ve been through breakups that I initiated. I’ve been through breakups where I was flat out dumped. I’ve been through a breakup where I considered a restraining order. I’m 35. I’ve been dating since I was 16. I’ve seen my fair share of breakups.

 

Breakups as an adult are especially difficult. It’s not mature to take to Facebook and announce how your feeling or what happened, and if you’re like me, your “relationship status” isn’t visible on Facebook anyway. But if you’ve often posted pictures of the two of you doing life together, and all of a sudden they stop… some people do notice. And some bold people even ask, “Are you two still together?”

And then what? You don’t want to lie, but you also don’t want to get into what happened. Unless…. well, unless you do because you want people to know that your love story was beautiful, but God had something else in mind for the future.

My mom will read this and probably call me before she’s finished reading, just to say, “Why are you putting your business out there? Does everyone really need to know about your breakup?” My answer is, “Because I’m a writer. It’s what I do. And because I want to share how this breakup, the toughest of my entire life by a long shot, hasn’t completely destroyed me.”

Nearly three weeks ago, my boyfriend and I broke up. We’d been together for a year. One blissful, amazing, out-of-this-world year. All the while, we both knew there was something that could eventually end our love story.

He loves me. I love him. There was no falling out or fight. We still love each other, but there are three boys in Iowa who need his love more than I do. Him moving to be with his sons, because he wants to be a good father, just makes me love him more.

Although he’s doing the right thing, it was a devastating decision for the both of us. Two people who love each other, who had a virtually flawless relationship, who put God first, who had just spent a year together, could no longer be together. Our hearts were ripped to shreds. No one had done anything wrong. No one had been unfaithful. It was just time for things to be over.

I remember when he first told me he loved me. It was in September, about four months into dating. It was the most meaningful and beautiful moment of my life that I had ever experienced with a man. I knew I was all in after that. This man was unlike any other man. I was right there with him, and I had no hesitation in saying it back. But that night, when I went to bed and said my prayers, I told God, “Thank you for sending me such a wonderful man. I love him so much. But God, I love you more. I will always love you more.”

I prayed that every single night after that. And it has made all the difference in the world. I have a peace about this breakup. I know God has a plan for each of us. I have faith that God knows what He’s doing because He has NEVER steered me wrong.

So did we breakup, hug, and then I skipped away into the sunset? Not on your life. I cried, he cried, and to be honest, I still cry every night because my heart hurts. I miss him more than I’ve ever missed anyone in my entire life. I still hold onto hope that maybe God is just breaking us apart for a few years and down the road we’ll end up back together. I’m still going through all the grieving that is involved in a breakup.

But it’s different this time. It’s unlike all the other breakups.

Why?

God.

I’ve always had God. He was there when I went through all my other breakups. But I ignored Him during most of those relationships. Having Him at the center of my life while also being madly in love with someone made all the difference in the world.

A person cannot be the center of your universe.

I repeat: a person cannot be the center of your universe. Not your boyfriend. Not your husband. Not even your children. (Check out Matthew 10:37) People are flawed. People are selfish. People will leave you, either by choice or by death. You have one being in this world who will NEVER leave you. And that’s God. He is the only safe choice to put at the center of your universe.

That’s made all the difference in this relationship and breakup. It’s actually made all the difference in every single part of my life. I trust God has a plan. Sometimes His plan involves pain, but it’s always for the best of the “big picture,” which we don’t always see.

This breakup has been so different for a number of reasons. It’s breaking my heart in a way it’s never been broken,  but I’m OK. I’m not destroyed. I’m certainly not interested in dating again for a very, very long time (if ever), but that’s OK. Finding a guy isn’t what life is all about.

“And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

His purpose. Not mine. I trust He has something amazing planned for me that I can’t even imagine. He’s proved that to me time and time again.

 

You can’t walk in shoes that aren’t yours

305“Get over it. People are so paranoid. People take everything personally. Get the chip off your shoulder. Stop being so paranoid.”

Ever had any of those thoughts go through your mind? If you’re like me, you’ve had them go through your mind a lot this past year. It’s so easy to look at someone who says they are hurt or offended and think, “Oh come on!”

It’s easy to think that until… well until you’re the one who is offended.

I remember a few years ago I was having a discussion with my friend Ashley. I am white, and Ashley is black, and we often have insightful conversations about race. During this particular conversation, I mentioned something about maybe some black people are just paranoid about racism. Then she said this: “You’ve never been black. Unless you’ve been black and walked into a store and gotten the stare-down, you don’t know what it’s like. You never will. Because you’ve never been black.”

Touché, my friend. Touché.

All over Facebook I see people, especially Christians, posting about how they are so sick and tired of people taking things personally or getting offended, and yet Christians seem to be the most offended people of all.

But really, we can’t look at someone and tell them they can’t feel how they feel. Are there people who ARE paranoid and over-the-top? Of course. But sometimes, what if people really are hurt? Who are we to pretend that we can walk in the shoes of someone who is something so completely different than we are?

I stopped dismissing people’s feelings on being a certain religion, race, etc., when I realized I had my own “chip” on my shoulder – being single in the church. It’s so frustrating because no one understands, unless they are a fellow single.

When I discuss my issues with my married friends in the church, they don’t understand, and sometimes the things they say are hurtful. They think singles want a group all their own to meet potential mates. Not at all. And it extends beyond having a specific group for singles. It’s the fact that no matter how hard I’ve tried, I’ve not been fully embraced by any church I’ve attended as an adult, and I do think it’s because I’m single.

Before you react. Before you judge. Before you comment… are you a single 30-something who has attended all the churches I’ve attended?

About a year ago a local homeless shelter held a fundraiser where you could spend a night as a homeless person. I thought it was a great idea! It raised a lot of money and gave people a small taste of what it was like to be homeless. However, I volunteer with the homeless, and they didn’t think it was such a great idea at all.

“It’s insulting,” one of the homeless men told me. “This isn’t what it’s like. We don’t have tents. We don’t have hot water. We don’t have an indoor bathroom to use in the middle of the night.”

I felt like my homeless friend was overreacting at first, but then I applied my friend Ashley’s words to the situation: I’ve never been homeless. I can’t claim to know what it’s like or what would upset me.

When it comes to walking on eggshells because we’re afraid we’re going to offend someone or not use the politically correct term, I absolutely believe that has gotten out of hand. But what I’m saying is….

If you’re not black, don’t pretend you know what it’s like to walk into an upscale store and get stared at.

If you’re not Christian, don’t pretend to know what it’s like to watch your country take your Savior out of everything.

I could go on and on with many more examples.

You can’t walk in shoes that aren’t yours, but you can have the compassion of Christ when someone tells you that their particular pair of “shoes” cause them pain. Paul actually tells us to take on that pain anyway:

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Galatians 6:2

Be kind. Be compassionate. If we all attempted to understand each other a little better, the world would be a better place.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other,
just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Ephesians 4:32

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved,
put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
Colossians 3:12

“Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor,
and let none of you device evil against another in your heart.”
Zechariah 7:10

 

Insecurity, weakness and manipulation: run away quickly, ladies!

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My dad and three brothers – good examples of great men who are strong and secure!

I haven’t always seen my worth. I may have said it, but I didn’t believe it. We all say we are worthy of love and friendship and an amazing career and great life, but we don’t always believe it. When you realize that you are worthy of all those things, everything changes, especially how you see men.

Over the years I’ve put up with a lot. I’ve dated an alcoholic, cheaters, jerks, liars and more. And I put up with it. No one held a gun to my head and said I had to be with men like that, I willingly participated. While not every guy I’ve dated has been terrible, many of them have been. I put up with it because I didn’t realize that I was worthy of more.

But aside from the glaringly obvious reasons to stay away from certain guys (addiction problems, abuse, etc.), there are three, more subtle, qualities that I believe should send all women running. If you don’t truly understand your worth, you’ll stick around. And trust me, it will be disastrous. It will not end well.

I’ve dealt with only a few guys since I returned from a year in Uganda, but I have been proud of myself for not allowing myself to deal with any of the following types of guys, especially those who embody all three:

An insecure guy

It’s possible to have insecure moments without being flat out insecure. But a full-blown insecure guy is something you don’t want to deal with. This can be tough because often the hottest guys are the most insecure. Their entire lives they’ve been judged by their appearance, and even though it’s because their appearance is good, it makes them question people’s motives.

Whatever he looks like, an insecure guy won’t trust you. Wanting a healthy dose of affirmation is understandable, but a guy who constantly asks if everything is OK, if he did something wrong, and if he constantly apologizes when an apology isn’t necessary, you might be dealing with someone who is insecure. He’s afraid he’ll mess up, he’s afraid he’ll lose you, he’s afraid you are interested in someone else. It’s exhausting to date someone who is constantly insecure.

A weak guy

A guy who is weak cannot handle stress. He’ll often turn to alcohol, drugs or other unhealthy things in order to deal with life’s tough moments. Granted, tough times will come, and people make mistakes in dealing with hurt. It happens. But a guy who is weak will take any little argument or bad day and turn it into something much bigger than it is. It’s almost like he’s a drama queen.

You don’t want a man who is weak. A man who can never deal with his feelings is pretty depressing to be around. Of course your job is to support your man when he has moments of weakness, but if he is constantly weak and not handling it like an adult, you’ll feel like you’re dating a child.

A manipulative guy

Chances are, if he’s insecure and weak, he’ll probably be manipulative. These guys are the worst, and this is probably my biggest pet peeve. A weak woman will fall for a manipulative guy. She’ll take the manipulative things he says and take them to heart. She’ll believe the things he says. She’ll feel bad. She’ll get herself into a terrible and sad situation.

Manipulative guys love to make you feel bad. They thrive off of telling you lies that make you believe you have hurt them in some way. In doing that, they have complete control over you. If you aren’t ready, you’ll fall for it. If you don’t see your worth, you’ll stand for it. And that breaks my heart.

Just a heads up, it’s actually quite entertaining to call out a guy who is trying to manipulate you. Once they realize their tactics won’t work on you, they’ll stay away. And you’re much better for it. Just like a strong man wants a strong woman, a weak man wants a weak woman.

At my age, the first signs of insecurity, weakness and manipulation send me running, and I wish more women would do the same. Sure this means I go on fewer dates. It might prolong my singleness, but I’d rather be single than dating a guy who is any of the above types.

Do you know your worth? If you do, you’ll realize that you deserve someone who is secure and strong, and someone who won’t try to control you. Those aren’t unrealistic qualities to desire in a man.

Who wins in the “my life is harder” competition?

enrapture logo with email
When I became a YL distributor and started my own business, “enrapture”, I found out quickly that I was in the minority as a single woman and as a woman with a full time job outside of the home.

I was at my first Young Living seminar back in August when I was surrounded by mothers, the majority of them stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs). We heard from many successful women, all of whom were SAHMs. Every “success story” I’ve read about Young Living distributors has been about SAHMs. So I was curious as to whether there were any great success stories of single women, with no children, who work full time jobs away from the home. I was looking for some encouragement and inspiration!

After I asked my question, I realized what was about to follow- a backlash of, “Stay at home moms work just as hard as people with full time jobs!” and, “Being a mom is a full time job!” And on, and on.

Totally misunderstood (no one could really even give me a good answer because they couldn’t get past what they THOUGHT I said), I crawled into a hole and died. I considered leaving the seminar. I held back tears. Part of me wanted to quit Young Living completely, but I stuck it out.

Then, the other day someone posted a similar question on a Young Living Facebook group. They had a friend who wondered about the success rate of women in Young Living who work full time jobs and are not a SAHM.

WOW. The responses were horrifying. One woman even said, “I know for a fact that stay at home moms work much harder than anyone with a full time job.”

Excuse me? Have you talked to every woman on the planet to know exactly how hard each woman works at her job each day? Who are you to tell another woman that her life is easier than another?

Who wins in this competition of, “My life is harder”?

How about we stop this competition completely?

Most of the time, we all work hard. We all want to be the best at what we do, and it’s a challenge for every woman. Whether its taking care of your children at home, taking care of children at a school, running a business from home, running a business at another location, etc., etc., isn’t it always hard work?

Some people think if you’re single, you’ve got it made. You get to come home from work and relax. You have all evening to enjoy life and not worry about a husband or children getting in your way. Well, do you know how many of us would love to have that “difficulty” of a husband and children? You might be stressed out because of your children and husband, but some of us are alone with our thoughts for hours on end. When is the last time you were alone with your thoughts? It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s actually quite terrifying. So while you’re chasing your children around, trying to get them into bed and yelling at your husband for not fixing the dishwasher, there are some of us wondering why we don’t have exactly what you have. And on top of that, we have to fix the dishwasher ourselves.

Can we all agree that no matter what stage of life we are in, life is tough? As women, we work hard. We have to because there’s often something we have to prove. Instead of getting into a ridiculous debate about whose life is harder, we should focus on supporting each other, building each other up.

You may think you know someone else’s life, but most of the time you have no idea. SAHMs have struggles, and so do women who work away from the home. Both work very, very hard. Married women face challenges, as do single women. Mothers have hurts and broken hearts, just as women without children do.

We should be in this together. Let’s stop passing judgment on another woman’s life and telling her that she doesn’t work as hard as you do. You have no idea the struggles she faces.

And as far as Young Living goes, I am definitely in the minority as a single woman and as someone who doesn’t work at home. But I’m not going to let that stop me from trying to be successful in sharing products that have drastically improved my quality of life. Shameless plug: Follow my essential oil blog HERE! And “Like” my Facebook page HERE!