When you know that you’re fully known

It’s nice to be able to go new places and meet new people.

But it’s also really refreshing to go places where you know people who make you feel known, too.

When I initially moved back to Dallas, I figured things would be pretty simple—I’d immediately feel right at home, and everything would be great. I wasn’t expecting all of the challenges I would face and how tough it would be to feel known again.

No, I don’t for one second regret moving back. It’s where I’m meant to be, and I’m confident in that. I’m forever grateful for the time I was able to live in Orange County, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. But I will admit that, other than the ocean and the people I met there, I truly miss the feeling of being fully known.

When I moved to California, I knew zero humans. As soon as I met people, I would ask them to go to coffee with me—and I don’t even like coffee. I was desperate for community, and I was willing to do whatever I could to get to know as many people as possible so that my new home would actually feel like a welcoming place.

Like most people in this world, I didn’t want to feel like a complete outsider.

It wasn’t long before I had found a church home and got as plugged in as I could. I served in the high school ministry. I served on the welcoming team. I served in the women’s ministry and eventually led a bible study. I joined a life group and then led it for a season. I knew people at my church and within my community, and they knew me.

And being known is a beautiful feeling.

It’s not easy to feel like you’re starting all over. Yet again. I guess I assumed that, because I’m from Dallas and have spent most of my life here, it wouldn’t be a huge adjustment moving back after being gone for only a little more than a year and a half. I also guess there’s a reason why that saying about assuming things exists.

I’m attending a different church than the one before I moved, and I’ve started to get connected there. But, like with anything else in this life, it takes time. I’m on a serve team that allows me to meet new people every Sunday, which has been tremendously helpful, but it’s also been weird not already knowing everyone and being a go-to person for others when they need help with something. It’s certainly a transition going to a place where no one knows your background or what your heart’s desires are.

I don’t mean to sound whiny—I’m truly grateful for where I am and the opportunities that I’ve been given. But I’m also giving myself permission to acknowledge that any big life changes bring a number of different challenges with them. They create seasons of struggle at times, and it’s OK to admit that you’re going through some rough stuff when you’re in the midst of it. And I’m in the midst of it.

I think we all have the intrinsic desire to be known by people—for them to know our likes and dislikes, our quirks, our faults, our strengths, what makes us laugh, and a bunch of other little and big things that make us the unique individuals we are. It’s one reason why the show Cheers was so successful and why the theme song is one so many of us sing with happy hearts.

Because we really do want to be where everybody knows our names.

I’m single. If you know me (or if you don’t, probably), this is not news to you. I was talking with a friend recently about relationships and how, although I will accept if I’m meant to be single forever, it would be nice to be in love and find my lobster. I love how people in relationships truly and deeply know each other. I’m not big on games at wedding showers, but I do get a kick out of the videos people make in which the groom is on camera answering some questions the way he thinks the bride will answer, and then she answers them in real time, and the video plays to see if he was right. (I did a somewhat poor job of explaining that, so hopefully you know what I’m trying to describe.) The videos are usually super cute and funny, but it’s also rather endearing to think that two people can know so many things about one another that other people often don’t.

It’s two people who are known by one another and love each other in spite of all of their combined imperfections—and it’s beautiful.

I love nicknames. They’re personal and often have backstories to them. Even if they don’t, they’re usually only used between people who know one another well enough not to use formal names. (I tend to give people nicknames almost right off the bat, so just assume we’re immediate BFFs if I call you something else very soon after we meet.) I like my name, but when people call me Nat or NatMer or Nattles or Nattie or Nat Nat, I get really happy, and I think it’s because, in those moments, I feel known and loved.

Sweet Fritzy. I don’t think I’ve ever called her by her first name.

It’s truly a beautiful thing when someone—whether it’s a significant other, a family member, a friend, or another meaningful person in your life—knows you completely and still loves you relentlessly. Because that’s the way God loves us. I know that I’m always fully known and fully loved by Him, and it’s a knowledge and a love that surpass any that I could find on this earth.

And that’s what I have to keep reminding myself and what I hope you will remind yourself, as well. There will certainly be times in life when we feel like we’re on the outside looking in and like we aren’t seen. But we are. You are seen. I am seen. And we’re so dearly loved that it’s pretty ridiculous.

I’m thankful that God gives us humans for us to love and to show us His love, even though ours is a more imperfect version. I hope that, regardless of what type of season you’re in right now, you know that you’re valued and loved as you are and that you matter dearly.

And I hope that you’re able to go often where everybody knows your name.

When you let yourself be fully known

I certainly don’t know everything in life, nor do I want to (I’m looking at you, science), but there’s one thing of which I’m absolutely sure.

I want to know people.

When I was a little girl, I was a bit shy. That’s definitely changed now (in fact, I will talk to anyone and everyone and sometimes have to remind myself to shut my mouth at certain times), but one of my aunts used to have to bribe me with grapes to talk to her. She knew that if she offered me grapes, which I love, I would actually speak. She really knew me.

I enjoy being known by people and getting to know them well so that I’m familiar with all of their likes, dislikes, quirks, and things about them that make them the unique individuals they are. I think it’s challenging for us sometimes, though, to let ourselves be known by others, especially people we haven’t known for long periods of time.

In the past, I know there were situations (especially in those awful middle school days—seriously what I consider to be one of the worst eras of life) in which I was afraid to be completely myself. It can be scary to have people know the real you when you’re nervous that you might be judged for being who you are. Have you ever felt that way—hesitant to let your true self show because it might be too different for those around you?

Thankfully, I’ve become comfortable with who I am. I know that I’m very flawed, and some people might even consider me weird (after all, I do carry a sandwich bag of Wheat Thins with me at all times and bust them out at every meal, regardless of where I am), but that’s OK. At least they know the real me.

I was thinking about this a lot last week as I traveled to Utah to visit a friend. When I was on the shuttle from the airport to the rental car place, I started chatting with some of the people also hitching rides, and I asked a few of them what they had in their excessively large bags. They told me they were skis and looked at me like I was silly to ask such a thing, and I made a comment that they could have been poles for pole vaulting (these guys didn’t strike me as track and field guys, but you never know).The guy next to me made a joke about me being afraid that they were weapons, and I told him that if I’m going to travel in a shuttle with a murderer, I’d like to know.

I continued to chat with the older man (Jerry) sitting to my left, and I asked him if he went to UT. He had no idea what I was talking about—apparently UT doesn’t stand for the University of Texas to everyone—so I pointed out that the cooler he was holding was burnt orange and had a longhorn on the front. He told me he bought it because he liked the way it looked, and I then learned that he was actually from Toronto and had a bunch of shrimp in the cooler to take to his family members.

At one point, he looked at me and said “You sure do ask a lot of questions.” I told him that I just really like people and getting to know them and hearing their stories. I thought he might be annoyed with me about that time, but then he said something that surprised me a little: “Well, I appreciate it. It’s better than riding next to someone who pretends like you’re not even there.”

Meet some of my Cali family. They don’t like that I put ketchup on my mac and cheese, but they still love me.

I think that, deep down, most people want to be known by people. Sure, it can be scary in some situations, and you might be afraid that it can steer people away, but the ones who truly care about you are going to accept you for who you are. I used to hesitate in being my complete self with guys I had feelings for because I thought that I wasn’t good enough just as I was. That was a complete lie, and I never intend to live like that again. I am who I am, and if a guy doesn’t love me that way, then he can find someone else who fits his image of the ideal woman.

I can’t put into words how much I adore Kerry and Nick. We rode a ferry and sat on a lifeguard tower to watch the sunset Saturday, and it was the best.

And, friends, let people know you, because you are enough just as you are, too.

When I first moved to California, I had a number of really tough days of feeling alone and like no one really knew who I am or anything about me. All of my people back in Dallas know me so well, and I know them. But here, everything felt so different, and I questioned whether or not I truly belonged. It’s amazing how quickly your situation can turn around simply because people care enough to know you. My friend Ashley and my friends Kerry and Nick were my first friends out here, and they took time to invest in me. It’s been a little more than six months now, and I’ve found a true community of people who know me well and accept me as I am—and it’s really nice to feel known again.

This gal is pretty much a walking heart. Precious time with Janae was just what I needed last week.

I had lunch with my sweet friend Janae during my trip, and she’s one of those people who deeply and genuinely cares about others. She listens, and she accepts people for the individuals they are, even when they are complete messes. We’ve all been there, and we all have our storms we battle through at times. Chatting with her made me feel more at peace with myself and where I am in life. She knows me, and she cares for me just like I care for her and the encouraging and brave woman she is. I don’t have everything figured out, and I’m still as single as they come, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Ashley and I are starting a nonprofit organization called Tower318, and our mission is to spark boldness in young women to walk with confidence. We want them to know how valued and loved they are and how much they matter—just as they are. It took me a while to realize that, and Ashley and I hope to be able to share with them and inspire them to live boldly and confidently.

And I hope that you will live the same way.

We are fully known and fully loved by God, and I think it’s important to show others that they are fully known and fully loved by us, too. That’s one reason why I think it’s necessary to make time for people. I know that life can get ridiculously busy, but you make time for the things that you want to make time for in life. You never know just how much those precious minutes or hours you give to others can impact them.

And you never know just how much letting them be fully known by you can spread love like a wildfire.