Because dating apps have taken over

If you’re not currently in the dating world, I applaud you.

Because it’s a rough place to be.

Honestly, I don’t know if I can even consider where I am as “in the dating world” since I’m not actually going on any dates with anyone. I did, however, decide to try the life of a dating app girl again, and I can tell you that it’s just as unenjoyable as I remember.

This is how dating apps make me feel.

I’m not trying to be a negative Natalie, because there are surely a number of positive reasons to use the apps, and I know many people who have met their husbands and future husbands this way, but the amount of success I have experienced is currently sitting at a number less than zero, and I’m beginning to lose all hope in humanity.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I hate that ghosting is a thing. Like, why is it OK to lead a person on and then disappear? And it’s incredibly easy to do on these apps with people you don’t even know yet. I was talking to one guy in the app who suggested that we should meet. He seemed like a nice guy and messaged me the next day asking me how my day was. I replied and then never heard from him again. Most of the stories I have are pretty similar: We’re having conversations, make unconfirmed plans to get together, and then nothing.

If you’re not interested in someone, that’s perfectly fine—everyone is not for everyone. But I feel like it’s better to be honest than to leave people wondering what in tarnation just happened.

I miss Monique. Cali seems far sometimes.

I was chatting with my sweet friend Monique recently, and we were sharing our frustrations with the current reality we face (and, yes, we are completely aware that it’s a first-world problem and that there are much more pressing concerns that people have on a daily basis). She mentioned that she doesn’t think it’s too much to ask to want a guy who will text her back in a timely manner and then said something that was funny and so true: You don’t even have to give my dad any goats!

Seriously, fellas. You have it a lot easier than some of your bros back in the day.

I think one of the most important things to remember—whether you’re using dating apps or miraculously meeting people the more old-fashioned way—is that your worth is not determined by someone else’s opinion of you. It can be easy to start questioning yourself for multiple little things: Do I not look good in any of the pictures I chose? Did I not say something clever enough on my profile? Was that a stupid response? Why did he match with me and not respond at all? Why did he stop talking to me? Why aren’t any guys interested in me?

And so many more—these are only a handful of the ones I’ve heard more than once. If you met your person online or through an app, I commend you for your perseverance. I’ve all but thrown in the towel and joined a convent, but there are qualifications I don’t meet that prevent me from becoming a nun.

For those of you single gems out there, I don’t have much quality advice to offer you regarding how to meet your lobster. I even messaged a guy I don’t know on Instagram to tell him that he’s cute, and that went nowhere. So I’m clearly no expert.

I’m just happy to be here.

But I would encourage you not to lose hope. Sometimes you have to go through a lot of crud to get to the good stuff. You might get your heart broken. You might get your feelings hurt. You might hear more than one pie-crust promise. You might experience frustration and confusion and discouragement. You might spend more than one Saturday night watching Modern Family reruns while eating Gushers on your couch. You might legitimately research the requirements to become a nun. You might go through a heart-wrenching time and expend more energy than you ever wanted and ask the question “WHY?” more times than you can count.

And you might just discover that you’re a heck of a lot stronger than you ever knew.

It’s great if you want a relationship—there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having that desire. I’m right there with you. But know that it won’t ever complete you, no matter what Jerry Maguire says. Your sufficiency and your identity can’t be found in other people. Whether you meet someone on a dating app or in person or not at all doesn’t change who you are and how valued and loved you are.

Because it’s a value and love that can only come from the One who would never swipe left or even think about ghosting you.

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.

Because one person can change your life without even knowing it

Every once in a while, one person comes into your life and changes it in more ways than you ever could have imagined.

And that person may have no clue that he or she did.

About two years ago, the pain of a broken heart that still isn’t fully healed began. Maybe I should have seen it coming; maybe there was no way for me to know. Either way, it happened, and it hurt. A lot.

Best.day.ever.

Right around that same time, though, this tiny human entered the world—sweet Olivia, the precious little girl who made me an aunt for the very first time. As soon as I saw her and held that angelic little body in my arms, I was smitten. Little did I know, this little girl would walk alongside me through a dark season that was filled with more crying than just her baby tears.

From the day she was born, I committed to be a big part of her life, and I certainly wanted her as part of mine. I went over to my brother’s and sister-in-law’s house at least once a week to spend time with her, and that hour or so each week was more dear to me than I’ll ever be able to explain fully.

Unfortunately, Olivia suffered from colic, which is such a horrible condition that’s quite common for many infants. It causes them to cry and cry and cry with no apparent cause or ways to calm down. I could sometimes get her to stop for a little bit, but it pained me to see her turning so red and crying so much. I know I’m not a parent, so I don’t know the complete pain it causes people with kids to see their own children hurt, but I know that it caused me enough pain to know that it’s got to be absolutely unbearable.

I mean, seriously. How cute is she?!

When homeboy hurt me, I cried more than I usually do. You know who was always there for me? That sweet little baby girl. She listened to me, she let me cry, she cried with me, and she reminded me that there are so many other people in my life who value me and who mean the world to me. Whether she knew it or not, she reminded me that, even when one guy makes me feel like I’m not good enough and not pretty enough and not worth enough of his time and energy, I am still enough. She made me feel loved when I felt completely unloveable.

I know that God brought her into this world in His exact time and with His exact purpose—Olivia is going to continue to change people’s lives for the better, and I’m absolutely certain of that. I met her right when I needed someone to walk with me through my heartache, and she’s continued to walk with me through that pain since the day she entered this world. Even though I live thousands of miles away, I still FaceTime with her every week and get to spend as much time as possible with her when I’m in town visiting my family.

There were lots of pics with my homegirls that day, but I promise that they were both happy. We’re still working on our photo opp faces.

Now Olivia has an adorable little sister, Evie, and she’s also been such an added blessing to everyone who meets her. There’s something about being an aunt that’s more special than froyo, and I don’t really know how to put it in the best words (even though words are supposed to be my thing). I honestly might not ever have kids, and that’s fine, but being an aunt brings me enough joy to fill all of the oceans. I think part of the reason for that is because of the way Olivia changed my life in ways she doesn’t yet understand.

But I don’t think that you have to be an aunt or uncle for something like that to happen. We often meet people who touch us and change us in incredible ways, and it’s not necessarily always because of anything significant that they did—it’s simply because they let us be who we are and reminded us that we are loved just as we are.

And you could also be that person to someone else.

You never know what storms other people are facing. There are so many different reasons people hurt—broken hearts, deaths of loved ones, lost jobs, financial hardships, broken friendships or family relationships, illnesses, uncomfortable or anxiety-causing situations at work or school—and we don’t always know what’s going on in each other’s lives. That’s just one more reason why it’s so important to show each other love when the world around us continues to fill itself with lies and hate.

For far too many years, I believed lies about who I was and what I wasn’t—too talkative, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not dateable, unloveable, unaccepted, rejected, too broken, too much of a mess. While I definitely don’t have it all together, I have much more confidence in who I am, and I don’t focus as much on what I’m not. That’s not important. What’s important is that I continue to live and love boldly so that those around me can see Jesus and know that they are sufficient in Him.

She truly makes this world a better place.

Olivia helped to remind me of that, and she didn’t even have to use any words to do so.

Maybe you’re doing really well in life right now and are fortunate enough not to be going through any tough times or hardships. Or maybe you’re in a rough patch full of more tears than all of your years combined and feel like you’ve been forgotten. Or maybe you’re even somewhere in the middle and have a lot of great things going for you but also have been struggling at times.

Whatever season of life you’re in right now, I hope that you know that you are valued, you are loved, and you matter. I hope that you have someone like Olivia come along and remind you of that, and I hope that you can be an Olivia to someone else, as well.

Because the more love we show to others to let them know that we care for them—their hurts, their celebrations, and simply their existences—the better this world will be.

The pressures caused by labels

Labels are great for some things, like moving boxes and folders in file cabinets; labels are not great for other things.

Like people.

Obviously I take things a bit more slowly than a lot of people (I mean, I didn’t even have my first kiss until I was 27), but I can’t help but feel like sometimes things just move way too fast in relationships—and perhaps faster than some individuals want them to. As a high school teacher, I see it far too often in the lives of teenage girls. They want attention from the guys so badly, and they tend to rush things. I can’t tell you how many girls I’ve seen cry or have looks of pain on their faces simply for giving their first kisses away to guys who ended up casting them to the side the next week.

And it breaks my heart every single time.

I was watching a rerun of “FRIENDS” the other day—and, let’s be real, this is a show I have loved and watched religiously since its first season—and I couldn’t help but be a little upset with what I heard. Now, I know this show is pretty well known for having people sleep around quite often, but I guess I didn’t really fully grasp that concept when I was younger. I thought it was more just part of the show and not something that actually happened in real life. (Obviously I learned the truth later.) It was the episode in which we see what the characters’ lives would have been like if they had all taken different paths. Rachel is talking to Monica and exclaims, “Oh my God, you’re a 30-year-old virgin!”

Wait, what’s wrong with that?

Monica gets uncomfortable with admitting it and also afraid that other people around them heard. (By the way, it’s still so weird for me to think that their characters were the age I am now. Watching the show back then, they always seemed so grown up. I guess that makes me a grown-up now? So.strange.) And Monica suddenly really wants to get rid of the label of still being a virgin at that age.

And I still wonder why we worry about the pressures from others for decisions that should be completely our own.

boats-of-colour
You’re different for a reason

I see nothing wrong with a person being a virgin at 30. Or 40. Or whatever age. I hate that both women and men feel like they have to have sex or do a number of other things in life simply to validate themselves. (I’m not saying that’s why people have sex. I’m saying that’s why some people have sex before they truly want to.)

Honestly, I don’t think I was ready to give my kiss away, but I did. You know why? I got wrapped up in the moment and thought that if I pulled away and didn’t let him kiss me that he wouldn’t care for me anymore. Well, it turns out he actually didn’t care for me as much as I’d hoped, anyway. And don’t tell me, “It’s just a kiss.” To me, it was more.

I’m definitely not judging anyone. I am looking at this more from a broken heart standpoint—I truly hurt for the girls I know who have given themselves away before they really wanted to. And I hurt even more when I know the emotional pain they went through when those guys didn’t turn out to be the forever loves they might have thought they would be.

You are valued. You are loved. And you matter. I will continue to keep this as my mantra and share it with people, because I want everyone to know that it’s true. It’s true of you. Your worth isn’t found in another person or anything you do with that person. Your worth isn’t found in accolades or titles or awards. Your worth isn’t found in how much money you make. Your worth isn’t found in what you’ve done and by what age.

I’m not perfect. I never will be. I mess up so much that it’s ridiculous. I’ve tried to find my worth in other things in the past, but I always come up short. People have let me down; jobs have let me down; my accomplishments have let me down when I realized they didn’t mean as much as I thought they did; running has let me down; ESPN has let me down (I hate admitting that); cities have let me down.

But Jesus has never let me down. I don’t know why He continues to care so much after all I do wrong, but for some reason He still loves me.

And that’s why I don’t want to concern myself with so many of the various labels I could allow myself to be given by others. I’ve got some more meaningful labels that overshadow those, anyway.

Valued. Loved. Matter.

And so do you.