Natalie Grant is a woman who wears many hats: mom, wife, artist (one of our favorites, we might add!), writer, and abolitionist. Despite the impressive resume, though, she used to struggle to keep up with the appearance of perfection and live with purpose.
In her new book, Finding Your Voice: What Every Woman Needs To Live Her Passions Out Loud, she shares personal stories of how she was able to stop feeling inadequate and unearth her true voice. Through her reflections, she hopes to encourage all women to discover their God-given passions and voices, too.
To learn more, Milk & Honey Magazine caught up with Natalie to discover what it means to find one's voice, how we can live out our purpose as we are meant to, and what she's learned through her faith and health journey.
What is the importance of finding one's voice?
As women of God it's important to find our voice because if we don't find it, and if we don't find it rooted in Christ, our culture will find it for us and will dictate what it is. That's why it's so important to find our voice, and also to find our passion. There's a difference between passion and purpose. The way we live our purpose depends on our passions. Our purpose as Christians is the same: to live for Him and walk for Him. But our passions are different, and it's crucial to find our passions because if we don't, our voice will be drowned out by the messages that are prevalent in our culture -- a fact I know from personal experience.
In the book you write, "The search for your voice begins and ends at the cross." How does faith inform your understanding of your voice?
Faith informs everything in terms of who we are -- including your voice. For so long I thought my voice, my singing, and my career defined it -- even under the mask of faith-based music. It seemed like I was doing everything right, but until I let the cross really become my identity, the rest of it was just hot air. I had to allow my faith in Christ and what the cross means in my life -- the freedom, the purpose and the identity that comes from it -- help define my true voice.
As a mother, how do you hope to see your daughters use their individual voices?
It's so interesting to try to raise girls in this time. I'm sure my mom said the same thing in her time, but every progressive generation truly comes with its own sets of challenges. Having three daughters, I didn't know the drama would start so young. At 9 and 6, they're already concerned with how they look, and trust me, they are pretty sheltered. They go to a small church, a small, private Christian school and I'm very strict about what TV they watch, if any, and yet they still have this natural insecurity of wondering, "Am I pretty enough?"
I hope they find their voice by listening to the voice of God. To be clear, I've never heard God's voice audibly, but I do recognize what the Bible calls that "still, small voice," that gut pull to the right or the left. I want my children to recognize that still, small voice, too, because recognizing that voice helps us drown out that other voice -- the one whispering lies in our ear about our worth. There are some days when those lies win and we go to bed feeling discouraged, but the more we replace the lies with the voice of God, the more those voices become drowned out.
What tips can you offer young women discerning their God-given talents and purpose in life?
I can't stress enough the importance of rooting your life in the Word of God. Scripture can be hard to understand, so whatever translation of the Bible speaks to you, find it, read it, learn it, hide it in your heart, and memorize it. I love the practical application of putting it on my mirror, my computer screen, my car's dashboard, because the only way to get it in you is to see it consistently -- especially if you're a visual learner like I am.
There are so many great books out there and ways to learn about faith, but there's no replacement for the ultimate guidebook, which is the Bible. For young women to fully understand who they are and who God says that they are, they need to understand His Word.
In terms of purpose, I love the example of the woman at the well because Jesus talked to a Samaritan woman who was looked down upon. This was not by chance; it was a big deal that He chose to speak to her, of all people, and to tell her of the freedom she could have to replace her shame. I almost get choked up talking about it because that woman, whom others would have dismissed and ridiculed, was elevated because of Jesus, and was able to tell the truth about who He was to her village.
And now, even in 2016, Jesus will take a moment for us just like He did for that woman. Her story informs so much today about how much He thinks about us and values us. No matter how many times you feel defeated, Jesus has unbelievable trust in you. Once we know that, we can have the confidence to really lean into our passions.
You recently lost 40 pounds. What are some practical ways you've been able to maintain a healthy lifestyle since?
There's this idea that the more you give, the more you do, the more you serve, the better you are -- like, if you're completely drained at the end of the night, you've made it. For some reason, we celebrate exhaustion. I had this idea growing up, especially in the faith-based world, that self-care was selfish, and that we were supposed to only focus on everybody else. I wore so many hats that I lost my own identity: I was a singer, a wife, a mom, a writer, an abolitionist, and I forgot who I really was. First and foremost, I am a child of God.
Self-care is rarely talked about, but the Bible says to "love others as you love yourself." I read that and thought, wait a second; you can't love anybody unless you love yourself. So, you first have to love yourself, and one of the ways to do that is through self-care and taking care of your health.
That's what led me to start losing weight. To be honest, losing weight is difficult. It seems that if I even just look at people eating, I gain five pounds! It was hard for me, and it was hard to be public about it. It's one thing to know you're overweight, and it's another to acknowledge it out loud, but it holds you accountable. If you're serious about getting healthy, tell others and have them hold you accountable. We're not built to do anything in life alone. We're built for community!
Can you tell us about your diet and exercise regimen?
As far as exercise, I found a trainer and I needed that. I am not one of those people that gets a runner's high so I needed a trainer that I knew would help me. I know some women can't afford that, but they can afford to have friends work out with them. I don't even think it's about a workout, I think it's more about just moving in general.
In terms of food, I am a sugar addict. The more I eat it, the more I want it! I had to cut it out of my life. That doesn't mean I never ever have it, but on the whole, I've had to take it out of my diet. I think sugar is the root of all evil [laughs]! I had struggled with back and neck and joint pain for years, but the more I took sugar out of my diet, the more the aches and pains went away. So I became more of a clean eater and I eat little processed foods, lots of green vegetables, and smoothies.
If you don't actually change your thought pattern and the way you think about food, you won't be able to make a long term change. You have to get really serious about what you put into your body. I waited to have my kids until I was in my 30s. I am about to be 45 years old, and I have a little girl that's just about to start kindergarten, so I want to be healthy for my kids. What we eat and put into our body changes how our body operates.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
I believe 40 is the new 20. At least that's what I tell myself! I used to put so much pressure on myself in my 20s to reach certain milestones by certain ages. When I was 25, I wasn't married and I thought I was failing because so many of my friends were married. So, my first piece of advice is to remove the pressure from yourself. You do not need to have your life figured out in your 20s. I had the idea that certain milestones would complete my life. I've now been married to my husband for 17 years and I love him, but he does not complete my life.
Knowing that, I would go back and save myself a lot of heartache, an eating disorder, and so many other things because I had all this pressure on myself to achieve things by a certain age. So number one, take the expectation off yourself, and remember that your timeline and your life are unique to you; don't compare your timeline to someone else's. Look at every season of your life as an adventure and not an arrival, and you'll be so much better off.