I will not apologize…

IMG_2961On Sunday I turned 37. There’s lots I could write about.

I could write about how 36 was spectacular. I could write about how 36 was awful.

I could write about how 36 saw love, heartbreak, melanoma, surgeries, a cat, Las Vegas, new friendships, broken friendships, moments closer to God, a few times of anger with God, the passing of my final grandparent… the list goes on and on.

But instead, I’ve decided to write about things, now that I am 37, that I will not apologize for. That sounds harsh, but it’s not meant to be. For my birthday, a good friend from work got me Brene Brown’s book, “Braving the Wilderness- The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone,” and after just the first chapter I’m already inspired to be myself more and stop trying to please everyone.

Basically, I won’t apologize for being me. This is how God made me, and as a newly 37-year-old, I will not apologize for, or feel bad about, the following:

Proclaiming that I follow Jesus
Sometimes, I do want to apologize for being a Christian. We don’t exactly have the best reputation these days (I’m sure Jesus is thrilled about that), and many Christians are on more of a crusade to preserve their rights than they are to actually lead people to the Lord. But I will never, ever apologize for loving Jesus and talking about it. He is my hope. My strength. All I need.

Drinking Starbucks (especially PSLs)
It’s amazing how society has taken a drink, the pumpkin spice latte, and created a stereotype around the people who drink it. It’s a drink. It’s a coffee shop. It says literally nothing about who I am as a person. I love Starbucks coffee, and pretty much everything else they have to offer. I will not apologize for my taste in coffee.

IMG_1925Being a “cat lady”
I’ve wanted a cat for years. However, I never went through with it because I didn’t want to be that single girl in her 30’s with a cat. As I grew to care less and less what people think, in July I decided to get a cat. Mr. Glitter Sparkles might make me a cat lady, but that little ball of fur brings so much joy to my life! As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, getting a pet was one of the best choices I have ever made for my mental health.

Dating outside my race
I’ve dated white guys. Black guys. Hispanic. Korean. Ugandan. If I’m interested, he loves the Lord, and we have chemistry, I don’t see why I wouldn’t date outside my race. For years I kept this hidden, or at least didn’t announce it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, so I will never apologize for dating outside my race.

dimsumTaking selfies and photos of food
I take selfies because this is my life- me. No husband. No kids. Just me. So sharing my life on social media, it’s going to include selfies. And as far as food, I’ve always taken pictures of my food, even before social media was a thing.

Not wanting biological children
When I was a little girl, I didn’t play with a baby doll and dream of the day I’d have my own baby. Instead, I played “college.” I’d wake up on Saturday mornings, ride my bike around the neighborhood going to “class” with my imaginary college roommate named Jenny. I do not have a desire to have my own biological children, and I never have. This is something I often apologize for, which is crazy. I’m open to marrying someone with children, and I’m very open to adoption. Me not wanting to give birth isn’t something I should have to apologize for.

Having a heart for people who are homeless
I work for a homeless ministry. The people we serve… wow. I can’t even begin to tell you how THEY have changed MY life and how I look at the world. It’s easy to look at a homeless man and think, “Bum. Get a job.” But you don’t know their story. You don’t know their trauma, their mental illness, the reason they can’t just go out and get a job. My heart for those facing a homeless crisis grows every single day.

1012333_10151453432236573_275048135_nHaving a different world view
This certainly doesn’t make me any better than anyone else, but the fact is, I’ve been a lot of places. I’ve seen a lot of things. I’ve visited third-world countries on two continents. I’ve spent time with young girls who were victims of sex trafficking in Thailand. I’ve met a boy in Uganda who was a victim of child sacrifice but amazingly survived. My world view is going to be different. While stateside Christians are angry about kneeling football players and liberal Hollywood, I’m angry about poverty, sex trafficking, child sacrifice, homelessness. That’s all due to my different world view, and I won’t apologize for it. In all honestly, I should probably speak up about it more.

Blogging the truth
I hold back a lot. I have 38 blog posts I’ve written but not posted because I fear people won’t like what I have to say. Then again, that’s kind of part of being a writer. I was once telling a friend about a blog that a woman from her church writes. She’s a phenomenal writer, and I said I admired her talent. My friend responded, “You’re talented, too. It’s just that her blog is like a warm hug, and your is like a kick in the ass. But readers need both!” My friends are awesome.

I have a feeling that 37 is going to be amazing. Every year I become more and more like the person I desire to be and the person God wants me to be. I will not apologize for that. And I just might do it while drinking Starbucks and taking a selfie.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”
Psalm 139:14

I’m turning 35. I live with my parents.

965154_10151383892161573_1762578868_oI’m not living the life I envisioned for myself years ago. As I turn 35, I imagine that my younger self would have a Grand Canyon-sized panic attack if I were told that I’d be living with my parents in my mid-30’s.

Hi. My name is Natalie. I am turning 35 today, and I live with my parents.

And believe it or not, that’s not a bad thing. While there was once a major stigma attached to being an adult and living at home, I’ve found that most people’s reactions are, “You live at home? Sweet! Way to pay some stuff off.” I actually know quite a few 30-somethings who live at home these days.

It all started in October of 2012 when my lease was up at my apartment here in Fort Wayne, Ind. Since graduating from IU in 2004, I had lived in three apartments in LaGrange, Georgia, and two apartments in Fort Wayne. I wasn’t sure what my next step in life would be, so my parents suggested I watch their house for them while they spent the winter in Florida. Something was tugging at my heart saying, “Don’t get locked in to a lease.” So I gave in to that feeling, put my belongings in storage, and agreed to stay at my mom and dad’s house for the winter.

970446_10151513086436573_1019058821_nIt turned out to be a good move. It was in March of 2013 that I decided to move to Uganda to teach high school English. I jumped ahead of God a little bit in deciding I would probably be there for many, many years, so I sold everything. All my furniture, pots and pans, etc. etc. All that was left was me and the suitcases I took to Uganda.

I often wonder if God chuckled when I sold everything. He knew I’d only be in Uganda for one year. I didn’t realize it until I spent most of my year oversees being sick, and had to return to the US for better medical care.

So there I was in 2014,. Back from Uganda, seeing every doctor and specialist in town who would try to solve my mysterious illness, my medical bills growing larger and larger, and I had no furniture to put in a place of my own even if I could afford my own apartment. It made sense: move back in with mom and dad.

I decided I would spend another winter in my parents’ house and find my own place in the spring. But the medical bills were outrageous. I still had no furniture. Mom and dad were awesome enough to suggest I stay through just one more winter.

My medical bills are nearly paid off. I’m making major dents in my other debts. Although I’d love to have my own place with my own furniture and belongings again, it’s kind of irresponsible of me to do so when I have this opportunity in front of me.

I’m incredibly lucky that my parents allow me to stay at their home for a very low cost. And they don’t really even spend just the winters in Florida anymore, it’s turned into fall and spring as well. They’re pretty much only home in the summer and for a little bit around the holidays.

For me, this all goes back to selling everything and moving to Uganda. Would I do things differently? Not a chance.

I’m 35. I live at home. I’m paying things off. I’m saving money. I’m building myself back up to where it makes good financial sense for me to get my own place again. I’m not a failure because I’m living at home. My circumstances have brought me here, and I’m making intelligent financial decisions. 12109054_10153064174206573_3760829934399799715_n

I can’t say what 35 has in store for me. Maybe the time will come to start buying furniture and get my own place. Maybe something completely unexpected will happen that I can’t even imagine right now. All I know is that I’m resting peacefully in God’s hands, and His plans for me are better than any others.