The missing person I hope is gone for good

It might be time to put out a missing person’s report… for myself. The girl who got on a plane a little more than a year ago and moved to Uganda is no longer the same. I’m not sure where she went, nor was there anything wrong with her, but I’m glad she’s gone.10427690_10152090158296573_1541129307916478648_n

At first I wasn’t sure how I had changed. But as I was home back in America longer, it was pretty obvious. Finances changed,  friendships changed, priorities changed, and my overall sense of peace and contentment with life changed.

Financially

The great thing about living in a third-world country for a year was that I returned to America and decided there were a lot of luxuries I could do without. Starbucks, the mall, pedicures, makeup, television and even flat-ironing my hair were a part of my past.

If you know me, you know this isn’t even remotely true. I’m still the first to jump at a trip to Starbucks, and I do my hair and makeup pretty much every day. I love shopping, Target, Macy’s, and fancy perfumes. The difference is, now I appreciate them so much more. There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t look around me and think, “Thank you God! I have so much!”

Sure, I have changed my spending habits. I no longer have to have a Coach purse (I sold them ALL before moving to Uganda- there were lots), and I’m satisfied buying my jewelry at places like Target instead of from Premier Designs. But I’m not going to start doing all my shopping at Goodwill and going Starbucks-free because of my experience in Africa. That’s just not the type of impact it had on me.

Friendships

There were a few friendships I was really excited to come home to. I had warned some of my friends that I had changed, but apparently some of them weren’t ready for those changes. While it breaks my heart to see some of my friends make poor choices, like cut out someone like me who is a positive person to have around, it’s not my job to try and “save” anyone from making mistakes.

I’ve returned from Africa realizing I’m worth more than being anyone’s doormat. I’m not the girl who sits back and lets people walk all over her. Loyalty always has been and still is one of the very top things I value in friendship. When that loyalty was broken in the past, I would feel very hurt but probably let it slide. Not anymore. Life is too short to let some things “slide.” If that changes the degree of some of my friendships, so be it. I’ll never stop loving certain friends, I’ll never stop calling them “friend.” We simply have less in common now and aren’t as close. I’m pretty sure that’s just a part of life.

fortwaynerescuemissionPriorities

Volunteering was something I did on occasion before I moved to Uganda. I always wanted to make it a priority, but for some reason I never went through with it. Since coming home, I have felt an incredible tug at my heart to volunteer on a regular basis. I feel like I’m just not me if I’m not doing something to help those who need it. So, on Wednesday and Friday mornings I head to the Rescue Mission at 6 a.m. to serve breakfast to the homeless. Yes, it’s early. It’s hot and stuffy in there, and I leave smelling like sausage, but the smiling faces of the homeless keep me going back.

I’ve also added working out and reading/learning to my priority list. There’s so much to learn about the world and God, and I believe we should take the time to do so.

My Disposition

I’m different. Maybe it isn’t noticed right away, but I’m different. Things don’t bother me like they once did. I’m not chasing after things or people I know God doesn’t want me pursuing. I am… content. With what I have.

This changes everything.

It changes the way I treat people. It changes the way I see myself. It changes the way I see my future. It changes the way I handle hurt. It changes the way I generally feel on a daily basis. I am content. There is nothing else I “need” to be happy.

These changes didn’t happen overnight. I was nothing like this while I was in Uganda. Uganda was almost like a detox for my soul, and I didn’t reap the benefits of it until I came back to the United States. It reminds me of this verse from Galations:

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”
Galations 6:9

I might seem like the same Natalie I was before I lived in a third-world country. The outside of me hasn’t changed. But know that on the inside, I’m completely brand new. God used Uganda to do so many crazy and unexpected things in my life and in my heart. I will thank Him every single day for the hurt, fear, struggle and heartache, knowing that it’s what got me to where I am today.

Lessons everywhere in 2012…

I’m glad that Tuesday is a new year. Not that 2012 wasn’t good, I’m just positive that 2013 will be better. Once you truly believe that God has an awesome plan for your life, you actually look at the future with hope.

I learned a lot in 2012. Some lessons were new, others I was just reminded of. Here are the top things I learned in 2012:

A liar to others is a liar to you. I should have seen the light earlier. When you have a fairly new friend and you realize she doesn’t keep friends long, that should be a red flag. But you know me, I stayed friends with her, let her manipulate me throughout the entire friendship, and I believed all her lies. It was silly to believe her when I knew she was lying to pretty much everyone else in her life about the most random things. Never have I felt so betrayed by a friend in so many different ways. I don’t know what she’s like now in her friendships, but I know that for me, I’ve become a much better person since I cut off the friendship and her lies last February.

Some of my TRUE friends, who I love with all my heart!
Some of my TRUE friends, who I love with all my heart!

Guys will never ever understand some things. I’ve learned that with a person like I mentioned above, guys will never see it. A girl can sit there and lose a female friend after female friend on a consistent basis, but guys will never see the girl’s true colors. That’s because she won’t reveal her true colors to them. I learned this years ago because I’ve seen it my entire life. Just a lesson from the past that I had to learn again in 2012.

Life is short, don’t save things. I’m not talking money for retirement here. I’m talking about gifts, perfume, vacations, etc. etc. I have gift cards from last Christmas that I still haven’t used. I have a spa gift certificate (that never expires) from COLLEGE. I let my favorite perfume sit on the shelf unless it’s a special occasion. That’s crazy! Life is too short to save so much for a “better time.” No time is better than now. I’ve learned that I need to enjoy life and the gifts I get when I get them. No need to wait.

I’m tired of going “out”. I’ve been tired of this for quite a while actually. I really didn’t go out much in 2012, but it was enough to annoy me. This is a blog post in itself. It’s hard when you’re single and want things to do and want to meet people and there are so few options of ways to do that.  I’m not saying I’ll never go out again. I might step out for a birthday or something, and I’d really like to do some entertainment writing, but for strictly social reasons, I’m done. I don’t need that “escape” or that atmosphere to feel better about myself.

That's me, happy as a clam just out to eat with my parents!
That’s me, happy as a clam just out to eat with my parents!

I can move on from someone I thought I’d always be in love with. This is an amazing lesson to learn, because at the time of the breakup, it seems so impossible. I thought I would never, ever get over my ex from a few years ago, but I did. Not only that, but I’ve realized his purpose in my life, I’ve realized how our failed relationship taught me so much. And he’s become one of my very best friends. I learned that I can move on, because in early 2012, I did move on. So while I’m sitting here now trying to mend my broken heart from someone else, I can confidently say that I’ll be OK. I will move on. It gets easier every day.

You can’t make someone love you. We all know this. So why do we try? Why do we constantly think that there’s something we can do to make someone love us? We can’t. There is nothing you can do. It’s exhausting and pointless to even try. You have to let go. There’s no other choice. Even though it hurts and literally feels like someone is ripping your heart apart, you have to let it go.

Blogging changed my life. I started a blog that no one knew about. I was crazy honest in it, and random people from around the world read about my most personal experiences and commented on them. It was amazing. The support from people who had never even met me was overwhelming. One specific person has turned out to be one of my best friends. How crazy is that?

I don’t need a gimmick to lose weight. I’m not against Body by Vi or any of those weight loss programs, but I’ve learned that you can lose weight without them, simply by changing your diet and exercising. I’ve lost 15 pounds since October by counting calories and exercising. I’ve only been exercising twice a week most weeks, and I’m going to kick that up a notch in 2013. I have another 30 lbs I’d like to lose!

The Jorgensen YMCA where I work out. Zumba twice a week! About to start yoga and belly dancing in January.
The Jorgensen YMCA where I work out. Zumba twice a week! About to start yoga and belly dancing in January.

Peace can only truly be felt when you accept the fact that God’s timing is perfect. To say I’ve grown spiritually in the past four months is an understatement. By accepting the fact that God’s timing is perfect, I’ve got a new peace in my life that I haven’t felt in a long time.

Happy New Year everyone! Have a wonderful and blessed 2013!