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

Babies. Hummus. I’ll pass.

hummus-812675_1920I don’t like hummus. The texture. The taste. I just don’t like it.

I knew after the first time that I tasted hummus that I didn’t like it. But, everyone around me loved hummus. Let’s face it, nearly everyone on the planet loves hummus. So literally every opportunity I had, I tried hummus. Different brands, different flavors. I hated it every single time.

It took me awhile to give it up and finally admit it. I hate hummus.

And that’s OK.

Hummus isn’t for everyone.

And neither are children.

I once went with some friends from work to an event just for women. A lot of it was about women empowerment. In the venue there was a big wall where women were encouraged to write down the best thing about being a woman. A woman in our group said with enthusiasm, “Duh, we get to have BABIES!”

I felt like crap. I don’t have babies. I don’t even have A baby. I’m 37 and time is running out! But then I realized, I don’t even want to birth children. I’ve NEVER wanted to birth children.

Why was I letting someone’s comment make me feel bad about something I didn’t even want? Why did I keep trying hummus when I knew I hated it?

Simple. I felt like I was missing out on something. I was missing out on this delightful, healthy treat called hummus. I was missing out on babies, even though I have never wanted one.

Sure I had baby dolls when I was a little girl, but I was much more into Barbies. My Barbies traveled the world and had fun jobs. And my mom will tell you, the words, “I can’t wait to have children,” have NEVER come out of my mouth.

A few months at a wedding there was this precious little boy in front of us who kept turning around and smiling. A co-worker next to me said, “Aww! Look at that little…” and she stopped mid-sentence. “Oh I forgot, you hate kids!”

Nope. Not even remotely true. While yes, I’m horrified of holding a newborn, there is not a single bone in my body that has any sort of hatred of children. As a matter of fact, I would love to marry someone who already has children, or to adopt someday. I simply have zero desire to birth children.

IMG-2722There are some people in my life who refuse to accept that. They say I will change my mind. They say I’m missing out. I wonder if they’d say those same things to a woman who physically CAN’T have children. Let’s hope not.

I also have a few married friends who have decided not to have biological children. They might adopt one day, or even welcome foster children into their homes. The backlash from some of their friends and family for not having biological children is heartbreaking.

Please, stop with the “be fruitful and multiply” verses from the Old Testament. Each of those scriptures refer to animals and the Israelites, and were also in specific cases to fill up the earth after creation and after the flood.

IMG_9361 (2)And if people are so concerned with their interpretation of “be fruitful and multiply,” what about all the verses about taking care of orphans? DIRECT words from Jesus Christ Himself!

 

I realize I am in a minority group of women who don’t want to birth their own children.

I realize I am in a minority group of people who hate hummus.

And that’s OK.

There’s nothing wrong with having babies or liking hummus, but there’s also nothing wrong with NOT having babies or liking hummus.

So… what’s your hummus? What is it that is making you feel like a failure or a crappy human being because you don’t like it or want it?

Maybe it’s that you don’t dream of having babies.

Maybe it’s that your children don’t play sports.

Maybe it’s that you don’t travel the world.

Maybe it’s that you don’t make your family eat gluten-free.

Stop letting people make you feel bad for things you don’t even like, or things you don’t even want. You do you, and no one else. You are the only one who has to live your life. Don’t try to fit into the mold that other people want you to fit into.

I don’t like hummus. I’m going to stop trying hummus, even though people keep wanting me to try new flavors and brands.

And I’m going to stop allowing myself to feel bad about not waning to having biological children, even when people flat out tell me, “Yes you do.” Because, you know, they apparently know me better than I know myself.

God didn’t design us to all be the same. And although people may have a problem with it, I don’t want biological children, and I hate hummus.

“She is clothed in strength and dignity.
And she laughs without fear of the future.”
Proverbs 31:25

My 2017: Cancer, Confidence, and a Cat

26113828_10154926156416573_1909445423053074190_nThere are three things that sum up my 2017: cancer, confidence, and a cat.

I can only imagine what I would have said if someone told me a year ago that in 2017 I’d be diagnosed with melanoma on my face, have plastic surgery to remove it, end up feeling more confident afterwards, and that I’d get a cat. There was just no way I saw any of this coming.

The big story of my 2017 was supposed to be that I bought a house. But no, God had other stories that headlined my life in 2017.

Cancer
Even though I’d gotten the phone call, even though I’d had the surgery to remove melanoma from my face, and even though I’d met with an oncologist, it wasn’t until a few months later that it actually “clicked” that I had cancer.

IMG-0076I was at an unrelated doctor appointment when the nurse said to me, “I see here that you had cancer,” she said in passing as she reviewed my medical history. Oh, I thought to myself, I guess I did. 

Cancer doesn’t look the same for everyone and every type. Mine was in the form of melanoma, and lucky for me, it only required a single surgery.

So, yes, I had cancer in 2017. Certainly not something I expected, but certainly a headlining story in my life this year.

Confidence
I’ll be honest. For a period of time before my surgery, I was really worried about what I would look like afterwards. I had a major pity party for myself that went something like this:

I am so screwed. I’m already apparently not pretty enough for someone to want to marry me. I’m going to have this giant scar on my face. NOW who is going to want to be with me?!

Before you tear me to shreds, know that those thoughts didn’t last. God intervened and reminded me that He wouldn’t let a silly scar keep me from finding someone to spend my life with. He also gave me peace and confidence to go through everything with my head held high.

It seems backwards, but I almost have MORE confidence with the scar on my face. I often forget it’s even there. It keeps healing and will continue to heal. I’m fine with it being there. Somehow God has used it to make me even more confident. I’m not sure how, but it’s not the first time He’s done something I don’t understand.

Cat
When my friend got a job at the SPCA, I avoided the place at all costs. I knew that if I visited, I’d come home with a pet. Then, one June afternoon, she talked me into a visit.

That’s when I saw a handsome grey cat who stole my heart.

A few days later, I returned. And I went home with a cat.

IMG-2998I never knew an animal could have such a huge impact on my mental health. Mr. Glitter Sparkles has changed so much for me. He’s given me a buddy and a reason to smile when I come home to an empty house.

I am beyond grateful for my amazing cat, Mr. Glitter Sparkles. I can’t imagine going through melanoma, heartbreak, and other bad days without him.

Cancer? Check.
Confidence? Check.
Cat? Check.

I’d love to speculate what I’ll be writing about a year from now, but only God knows. Maybe life will be better, maybe it will be worse. But as always, my faith in God will get me through whatever lies ahead.

Well… that and Mr. Glitter Sparkles.

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.