A Coffee Chat With Natalie Lewis, Author of Wholeheartedly
Hello, Tirzah readers!
It's Elizabeth Atkinson, managing editor at Tirzah. I'm happy to introduce a new series: interviews with Christian businesswomen, bloggers, authors, other magazines, and more.
First up is Natalie Lewis. I was able to catch up with her in her hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana. She blogs at nataliemetlewis.com and is a wealth of encouragement and advice to single women. She recently published a devotional for singles entitled Wholeheartedly and is newly married to hubby Josh Lewis.
So, grab a cup of coffee, take a break for a few minutes, and eavesdrop on our conversation as we discuss her devotional, finding purpose, and much more!
Name: Natalie Lewis
Location: Lafayette, La
If you had a group of Tirzah readers sitting with us today what would be something that you would want our readers to know about you?
That I’m a mess! So often we feel intimidated because we think everyone else has it all together. I really think that there are some people that do have it all together. They don’t just appear like they have it all together - some of them really do! Some of us don’t. :)
Favorite scriptures are kind of like best friends. You can have more than one! Which is the category that I fall into and maybe you do too. What is your favorite passage of Scripture and why is it your favorite?
For my bridal shower, someone asked me to pick out a favorite Scripture. Ephesians 3:20 says,
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” (NIV)
I picked this verse because I feel like over the last couple years, God has proven that to me. It’s one thing to hear it. It’s another thing to see that no, He really HAS done everything that I could have imagined in my life and so much more. You have that moment to look back on in the future. I just need to be open to whatever He has for me. It may not be better by my sense of “better” but it will be better by His sense of “better,” which is always best. :) And it’s not just a little bit better - its IMMEASURABLY better!
For some people, it’s a well thought out process, something that they always saw themselves doing. Some people, if you ask them, would never in a million years dreamed that this is what they would be doing or that it would be so well received or successful. What prompted you to start your blog and write your devotional? Did the blog come first and then the devotional?
Yes, the blog came first and then the devotional. I never pictured that this would be what God had for me. During my twenties I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing for God. My twin sister always knew what she was supposed to be doing. It made me feel super lost, wondering “Did God forget about me?” It wasn’t until right after my thirtieth birthday that my sister Valerie said, “I think I know what you are supposed to be doing. I think you should write a devotional for singles.” And I knew - yes! That’s it. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing. What I had pictured for my life was not even close to what God has given me to do. I would have been missed out on this opportunity if I hadn’t reached the place where I said “Yes, God. Do whatever you want in my life.” If I wouldn’t have said that, I wouldn’t be here.
What does “Bible Study” or devotional time look like for you?
Ideally, I would love to wake up in the morning and read for an hour or two. I was on a plan to read through the Bible in a year. It took me three years to finish it. When I got to the Gospels and New Testament, I really slowed down and studied through it. I have a journaling Bible and I love reading commentaries and different versions of the Bible. I think it’s important before you read the commentaries or other versions to really try to get your own impressions of what a verse means before you invite other people’s perspectives into your thoughts. I love the mornings, I love my little quiet office, and my time alone. It doesn’t always happen like that but ideally, that’s what I like my devotional time to look like. :)
Did you ever grow impatient with “not knowing” what your calling in life was? Did you ever feel “stuck,” like there was something ELSE out there that you were meant to be doing?
Yes, I did. I nannied through college, and when I graduated with a business degree, they had a furniture that they were like “Why don’t you come manage our store?” I went straight into that and was there for a couple of years. My family had a position open up working in their housing development and I had helped my sister Valerie with her wedding planning business. The neighborhood development felt like it was my mom’s dream, the wedding planning felt like it was Valerie’s. I felt like I was helping people with their dreams and I was desperate to find my own dream. It was hard for me. I wanted to have something that I would go home at night and be like “I want to stay up till two o'clock in the morning working on this!” because I was so excited and passionate about it. I always felt there was something more. I think that’s one of the reasons I kept searching because I felt like I knew God had something more for me.
What would you say to someone in that situation right now?
If you feel stuck, don’t! I felt like it took so long because all of that stuff had to happen to prepare me for what I was supposed to be doing. There was a purpose in the waiting. Some people question “Is it because I’m not close enough to God? Is that why I can’t find my calling?” That could be the reason but sometimes the reason is just that it isn’t time yet. I feel like if you are close to God and you are listening to Him, He’s not going to let you just miss out on your calling. I feel the same way about dating. If you are listening, He’s not going to let you bypass the one you are supposed to marry.
How do you think society shapes our perspective of singleness and marriage? Do TV shows and phrases like “It’s Your Day” and sites such as Pinterest play into this?
One of the first few chapters in Wholeheartedly talks about a verse in Luke that basically says the things human beings value most in life are worthless to God. It’s talking about money but I feel like it’s true about different things as well. What we value is most of the time opposite of what God values. The world views marriage as the ultimate goal, it’s where your headed, that singleness is like a curse. But when you read the Bible, there is a mission in singleness. Paul talks about it being better to be single, because you can focus solely on God’s work! That’s the first place to start - stripping away the lies and replace it with truth. You have to figure out what the Bible says about things so you replace the lies of the world with truth. If you don’t replace it with truth, the next time you hear something you will just think, “Oh well, guess that is true” because you don’t have anything to combat it with.
In your post, Thee Heart Behind Wholeheartedly, one of the missions for your devotional was wanting girls to ENJOY singlehood. What did “enjoying” singlehood look like for you?
I remember writing down things that I was thankful for that was specific to being single. One of them was “Going to Target by myself.” I would see all these moms with their kids being a nightmare and I thought, one of these days I’m not going to be able to do this. I loved my cozy, girly apartment. I could read my Bible for three hours in the morning if I wanted. I could work out when I wanted. I went on girl’s beach trips. It’s really just realizing the uniqueness of the time and appreciating it because it won’t be there forever. I feel like there are so many opportunities that it brings and you don't realize it’s an opportunity until it’s gone. What if you are single for 15 years? Are you going to be miserable for 15 years? Just enjoy it. It really is what you make of it. You can almost bring the “singleness is a curse” mentality on yourself if you always choose to be sad about the fact that you are single. And spiritually speaking, the intimacy I had with God was unlike any other time period in my life. It’s not that you can’t have that when you are married. It’s just that its so much easier when you are single. So take advantage of it and build this foundation while you have this opportunity!
When you are single and your friends aren’t, there is the ever common “third wheel” feeling. There is also another feeling I have dubbed the “Left Behind Syndrome” which often induces some panic. How did you cope with other friends getting married/getting engaged while you were single?
Celebrate! You have to celebrate other’s blessings. Especially if it’s something that you want and your friend received that blessing, it would be weird not to celebrate. I got to the point where my focus was completely on them. You can’t let what other have turn the focus on you and what you don’t have. It could create a lot of bitterness and bad habits. Later on, you may have a hard time getting pregnant. It can’t bring you to destruction every time hear about someone getting married or see an announcement. There are emotions that come with it - no one’s arguing with the emotions. But by dwelling on them, you are only making yourself miserable. Learn the lesson now and be happy and celebrate. Let’s say that you get married and some of your friends are single. Think about the way you would want to be celebrated and then do that for your friends.
You spoke about what you learned from your exes. I thought this was extremely insightful. (Joshua Harris wrote the book Boy Meets Girl. This is also a prevailing thought of the Duggar family and some other religious circles. I don’t ask this to in anyway cast off on the idea of courtship. Ultimately, I think everyone’s goal is the same - develop a relationship with Christ and fall in love with Him before committing to marriage. The idea behind courtship is to save yourself from any regrets, which is good. Yet, I also feel that God uses those we date to teaches valuable lessons about ourselves. There really is a lot to be said for both ways of thinking.)
Why did you choose dating over courtship?
I hate it when I see moms judging each other so I’m not going to ever be one to say that you shouldn’t date or you shouldn’t court. I don’t think these are black and white issues that are core to my belief in God that would cause me to say no, there is only one right or wrong way to do this. I think that the idea of dating, courtship, or online dating has to do with your heart and your motives. Are you surrendered to God? I never felt like God said “You shouldn’t date at all.” I did feel like there were times that I started to date someone and I would feel like “No, you need to break up with this person.” There were times that I listened and times that I didn’t.
Right before I met Josh, I decided I wasn’t going to date anyone until I was 30. It wasn’t that I felt that dating was bad. I was just getting all this pressure from the world to find someone before I turned 30. In my head, I was putting so much pressure on myself to at least meet someone before I was 30. I decided to take control and not date anybody until after I turn 30 so I don’t let this fear of turning 30 and being single dominate me or make me do something stupid. That was probably the first time I made a commitment not to date.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with courtship. Some people say that you have to date. I don’t think that’s true either. My sister married her first boyfriend. I don’t feel like there is any one right way to do it. If you are listening to God, He will guide you to do the right thing. And if He calls you to court, don’t feel like it’s weird to do what He is asking of you. With dating, however, you must have boundaries when it comes to areas like physical intimacy.
You recently got married. Maybe there are some readers in our audience that are in this place in their lives and could use some direction from someone that has already answered this question. How did you know that he was the ONE?
I don’t believe in the idea of a soulmate. If that’s the case, then any one wrong move you make could cause you to miss that person. But I do feel like God has plans for you. Just because you want to marry somebody doesn’t mean he’s the one. The part that gave me the most confidence in saying yes was his character and who he was. I do believe that any two Christians can get married and have a good marriage. Some may be better matches than others but it wasn’t like I was making a mistake by marrying Josh. That helped me not to freak myself out that I was making a mistake. I prayed about it so much and I knew that God had never let me get married to any of the other guys I had dated, even though I may have wanted to. I had confidence that if it was something that was not supposed to be, that He would tell me because He had told me in the past. All of that together gave me the confidence to know that Josh was the one.
What are 4 books that you would recommend for single girls? (Other than Wholeheartedly, of course)
- Sacred Singleness by Leslie Ludy. It put such an emphasis on enjoying God’s presence.
- Beauty of Beholding God by Darien B. Cooper. I read this book every time I broke up with someone. It wasn’t like a magic pill but it shifted my focus from me to God.
- Restless by Jennie Allen
- The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller. This book gives you a more realistic perspective of marriage, much more so than watching movies. It talks about how you are meant to refine each other and makes it less fairytale-ish and more realistic so you know going into it what to expect. He also has a chapter on singleness in there. It’s a different perspective. It’s a Biblical perspective and it’s totally different than the world’s perspective.
What are 4 books that you would recommend for wives?
- You, Me, & Forever - Francis Chan. His perspective is marriage in light of eternity. His emphasis on eternity is the perspective that I want in my marriage.
- The Meaning of Marriage - Tim Keller
- The Power of the Prayer Wife - Stormie Omartian
- The Five Love Languages - Gary Chapman
- Sheet Music - Kevin Leman. Or some book on physical intimacy. Get a healthy, Biblical perspective on it and why God created it.
If you could choose a theme song, what would it be and why?
Overwhelmed by Big Daddy Weave. So this is the story behind it. I had gone to retreat and the speaker was talking about Hannah. God told Hannah, “You were praying for a child, but what the world needs is a prophet.” Well, I felt like God told me that this was His word for me at this retreat but I didn’t really know what He meant by that. Maybe my husband was going to be a speaker?
So, I’m driving to Lake Charles to a friend’s house, listening to Overwhelmed, probably crying. I was just overwhelmed by God’s presence in my life, which was new for me and amazing all at the same time. God spoke to me clearer than ever before in my life and said, “You were praying for a husband but YOU are actually my prophet.” Not a prophet, in like I would be prophesying about the end of time but like someone who speaks God’s word to His people. I was loving life, God speaking to me, He was calling me to my purpose. I met Josh that night. Several weeks before that was when I was really praying “God, You can have everything. What do you want me to do?” I was genuinely surrendering.
This song is special to me because it’s been there in some of the most significant moments of my life. So, for us to have it as the first dance song at our wedding, this is so fitting because I was overwhelmed that this is what He had for me. It’s like my favorite verse - it was so immeasurably more than what I could have imagined!
The phrase “set-apart life” is mentioned more than once at Tirzah. What does it mean to you personally for a young woman to live a set apart life in the modern world?
I think that it’s kind of like what we were talking about earlier with the worldly view and the eternal perspective. First, it's recognizing how different they are from each other and and then living out that difference. I found that once I got this concept in my head of “I LIKE doing the weird thing,” I became bold about it. Like “Oh, you think what I’m doing is weird? You are supposed to think it’s weird!” It’s having confidence that God is calling you to be weird and it’s going to look very different and people won’t understand it and you are going to have to be confident in it. By being confident, you can help shape the way people respond to you. It’s also understanding that we aren’t created to please man. We were created to please God.
Thanks so much for making the time to talk with us, Natalie! Your passion for your writing, your servant's heart, and your desire that all single girls live fulfilled really shines through. I wish all of our readers could have been there. It was so very inspiring and encouraging. Be sure to check out her blog and stop by her Instagram to say hi!