I had the great pleasure of interviewing Natalie Lloyd, author of the book Paperdoll and columnist for Susie Magazine. Natalie is an absolutely amazing women of God! She is fun, exciting, very knowledgable and someone, I believe, every girl and women should look up too! I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I do!
How do you spend your quiet time with God?
I adore this question. I wish you were here so I could hear your answer too. I love hearing about how people get to know God better.
If I’m being totally honest, there was a time I asked folks this questions because I thought maybe there was some cosmic quiet-time secret I wasn’t privy to. I’ve decided that’s not the case though. My quiet time doesn’t always follow the same structure and it doesn’t last for a certain amount of time. For me, the core of my quiet time is getting to know God better through His Word and through prayer. How I spend that time is always evolving and changing, and I think that’s a good thing.
Lately, I’ve started my quiet time with a Beth Moore study called Esther. I love Beth Moore’s work because she makes both parts of my brain – the creative part and the think-harder part – work together.
After that, I usually read a day’s segment in my Daily Bible, which is a resource I’ve used since High School and adore (it’s called The One Year Bible – the translation is NLT). That particular Bible has a segment from the Old Testament, the New Testament, a Psalm and a Proverb all together in a day’s reading. As I’m reading my Bible, I keep a notebook handy. There’s usually at least one verse (but most often several) that make my heart kick a little bit harder. The verse might speak to an issue I’ve been struggling with or it might be a not-so-subtle nudge to get something right in my life.
My favorite verses – obviously ;) – are the ones that remind me that I’m loved by God, and that He’s working every situation out for my good, and that He has a plan for my life. I try to always find one verse, the one that speaks most specifically to me, to write down. I might make that verse into a prayer. Sometimes I actually write that prayer onto an index card, so I can keep it in the wild abyss of my purse. The Bible has become more meaningful to me as I’ve learned to interact with it: I mark my Bible. I ask questions about what I read. I wrestle with what I don’t understand. I reach for it when I’m lonely and I read the verses He put there to comfort me. Sometimes, when I find a verse I love, I pen the date beside it. That’s a sweet experience; reading through the Bible and finding a date from five or six years ago. I may not remember what specifically was happening on that date, but it reminds me of God’s faithfulness to me.
I spend time in prayer too. I don’t always journal my prayers, like some people do. But I do keep a list of ongoing requests so I can see how they’re answered. Two great resources that have helped me learn more about prayer are Kenneth Boa’s Face to Face and Bill Hybels Too Busy Not to Pray. I struggle with prayer. I feel more connected to God when I’m reading His Word than I do when I pray; but I’m learning. Mostly, I’m learning to be genuine.
Also, I’ve come to realize there’s no big secret on how to do a quiet time “right.”I’ve never heard God speak to me audibly. I don’t always understand what He’s teaching me or where He is leading me. I spend lots of time praying fill-in-the-blank prayers. Know what I mean? I want to know specifics. I don’t typically get specifics. But truly, way more than I probably realize, my heart’s desire isn’t just to know what happens next. My desire really is to know more about God: I want my eyes wide-open to how He loves and how I can love back. Some days, I just use a devotional book and pray for a while. There are days I don’t even have a structured quiet time. I try every day though. My heart feels more settled when I do.
I had a girl’s day with my sister last weekend, and we were listening to Jason Gray’s new album “A Way to See in the Dark.” There was one song in particular she wanted me to hear and I liked the song so much that it was pretty much all we listened to. There’s this great lyric he sings: Remind me once again/ who I am in you.
That’s what my quiet time does for me. When I’m in God’s Word, and when I’m seeking Him through prayer, what other people think about me doesn’t matter as much. Their words definitely sting, but they don’t go heart-deep when I’m close to Him. He inspires me and He makes me want to do something good, to stop wasting time. My quiet time recalibrates my heart in the best of ways.
I guess the best advice I could pass on is to make the time you spend with God authentic. Make it yours. Listen, ask questions, wrestle with the scriptures and bring your whole creative self to the process. Don’t hold back.
(… Did I mention I get a little long-winded sometimes?)
Can you remember a time when you found yourself completely in awe of God’s wonder and power?
I do this pretty often, especially when it comes to nature. I’m a total sky freak; I’m constantly taking pictures of sunsets and storm clouds. I forget time completely when I’m staring at the stars. This summer, my brother and I took a trip to the Pacific Northwest. As soon as we got off the plane, we drove to Mt. Rainier National Park. It blew my mind. At first, I just saw glimpses of snowy mountains, glancing over the tips of the pines, peeking out from the clouds. Then the mountains come into full view: black and snow-capped and jagged and gorgeous. The air was so clear and the sky was blue and the mountains surrounded us. They were scary-beautiful. I got out of the car to take a picture and ended up crying. I cried over a mountain. J I think I was overwhelmed by the enormity of it, first. But I also couldn’t stop thinking about how the same God who created Mt. Rainer also created fingerprints. I think God loves to see the look on our faces, that uninhibited joy in our expressions, when we’re wowed by His glory.
More often, the moments I’m bowled over by God’s wonder have to do with people –particularly my niece and nephew. They’re both so cool and compassionate and imaginative. Watching them grow up continues to blow my mind. And when I find something in God’s Word that wraps around my heart and comforts me … I’m done for. I’m wowed by that too; that I even get to hold His Word, much less read it. He made the mountains. He made fingerprints and heartbeats and music. He shapes my days into something beautiful. And He loves me. I’m wonderstruck over Him.
Who do you look up to in life and why?
I’m blessed to have many people in my life that I admire greatly. Most of all, I look up to my parents. They’re such genuine people – kind and funny and smart. They love the Lord, and while they don’t mind talking about Him, I see His love evidenced even more in the way they live their lives and treat other people. They don’t use churchy words when they talk. They’re not judgmental. They don’t pretend to understand everything that passes down. They’ve both been through some setbacks in the past few years –health and otherwise – but they still take on their days with so much resolve and so much faith. And I know my parents love me unconditionally. They tell me frequently how proud of me they are. They’ve walked with me through some dark places. I don’t deserve to have them in my life, but I am endlessly grateful.
Can you tell us about Connection Weekend?
I would love to! Connection was an event for teen girls in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The whole event had a mission emphasis but, within that, there were a bunch of sessions on different topics that would encourage girls in middle school, high school, and even college. It was a great event. It’s a yearly shindig, so if you’re anywhere close to East Tennessee, you should definitely round up your girlfriends and come down!
What did you talk about there?
My session was called “If Cinderella Wore Cowboy Boots.” Ha. J I talked about what it means to live a good story: to find confidence and healing and hope in God’s Word. Specifically, I talked about how to pray God’s Word: using specific verses to come through dark places, to remember who God says you are. That’s always been a tough one for me: how do I internalize who God says I am? The only way I know to do that is to get in God’s Word, personalize those verses, and hold on tight. I hope the girls who came were encouraged. They were such a major encouragement to me.
What inspired you to write Paperdoll? Where did your inspiration come from?
I wrote Paperdoll during grad school. I was 25 and feeling stuck and insecure and very, very unsure. One night, I got back to my apartment late and decided to skim through my Bible before I fell asleep.
My bookmark (aka: my most recent Starbucks receipt) was in John 4. As I read the story of the Samaritan woman, something clicked. I already knew her story. I’d heard it before. I’d even taught it before, way back when I taught Sunday School. But the whole story felt new. Because I realized she was asking Jesus the same questions I was asking: about what religion really is, about romance, about worth. I loved that she didn’t bottle up her questions. She saw him there and she asked.
And I loved how He responded. I love Jesus for many, many reasons. But one of my favorite things about Him is that His earthly ministry was so focused on people on the fringes: outsiders and outcasts and people who felt worthless and broken-hearted. I hear people say that Jesus “went out of his way” to meet up with lonely people. I’ve probably said that too. But I’ve come to realize that was his way. That is his way. Loving people, all people, is his way. Even at my worst, at my most insecure, at the moment I think I’ve screwed up too much to ever be redeemed, He’s reaching for me. He didn’t condemn the Samaritan woman or rebuke her or anything like that. He answered her questions and gave her a new story to tell. He helped her see she was made for more.
I didn’t sleep that night. I stayed up making notes and drinking coffee that I found in the back of the fridge that had probably been there for a month. When the sun came up, I turned up a Vicki Beeching song called “Captivated.” I listened to the song and looked around at the mess of my heart: a paper cup and pages and pages scattered on the floor and many more pages on the computer. All of those notes and thoughts and dreams eventually (a few years later) became Paperdoll.
Your book is based around the story of the Woman at the Well. Was the girl from Samaria (Sam) in your thoughts for Paperdoll?
Definitely! This probably seems ridiculous, but one of the biggest mistakes I sometimes make in reading The Bible is forgetting that the people in there actually lived. They had best friends. They had a favorite food. They had sinus problems. Most importantly, I sometimes forget that those women and men only saw the minute they were in. They didn’t know things would work out. They all had to step out in faith and take a risk. Or two risks. Or a hundred risks.
The Samaritan Woman (whom I started calling “Sam” in my notes) truly ceased the day. She was so brave. I loved that she was bold enough to ask questions. I also love that she had a very visceral response to what she’d learned. Suddenly a woman drawing water all by herself was running back into a village, a village that most likely gossiped about her like crazy, telling them that her whole life had changed. She didn’t run back to town all preachy and judgy telling folks what they were doing wrong. She didn’t feel like she had to “make something of herself” before she went back. She went back and said, “Let me tell you what He said to me.” When she realized how much she was worth to Him, everything changed. What they thought of her didn’t matter anymore. She was secure in Christ. That floored me.
As far as similarities go, I was most inspired by Sam’s question about religion and worship. Religion is defined a bunch of different ways, in her culture and in ours. She wanted to know what the truth was: what’s really real. I so get that. I want my faith to be mine, not just something my parents believe or something my culture dictates. I want my faith to be genuine. Studying the Samaritan Woman reminded me that Jesus is genuine. I sometimes get put off by the church (not a specific church, the church as a whole). I get feisty over people who use religion to justify abusing people, hurting people, or carrying out some psycho scheme.
I’ve done stupid things too. I know I’m guilty of sometimes making my faith into a list of rules. I get gossipy and/or lazy or judgmental.
But when I get bogged down by the mess I make, or the mess I see around me, I turn my eyes back to Jesus. Jesus is genuine. He is real. There’s an old hymn that says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”That truth became so apparent to me as I studied the Samaritan Woman.
In fact, I’m a little bit jealous of Sam for that reason. She got to talk to Jesus; verbally. She got to look into his eyes. I know we get that in Heaven. I know we can know about Jesus through the Bible here on earth. But she actually met Him while He was on earth. I wonder if that’s the story she told her grandkids, if even when she was old, her eyes went starry-wild when she talked about the day she met Jesus face to face.
While writing Paperdolldid you ever get discouraged? Did anyone discourage you? If so, how did you deal with it?
Oh goodness. I get discouraged pretty often whether or not somebody is discouraging me. I am, most assuredly, my worst and toughest critic. I’ll never be a writer brimming over with confidence. But yes, as far as the actual process of making a book, there are always a few (or a big-ginormous-bunch of) people who discourage.
Discouragement comes at every point in the writing process: it might happen when you’re still drafting, still trying to wrangle the book into what it needs to be. It might happen you’re looking for an agent. And then, when your agent sends out your book, rejection might come from editors. And then, once the book comes out, rejection can come in the form of some seriously awful reviews. Rejection never stops. In my opinion, it never gets easier either. I often read advice from other writers that tell me to develop a thicker skin. To some degree, I guess that has to happen. You have to learn to deal with criticism. The best way I know to deal with it is to keep writing. That is often the last thing I want to do when I’m down; but that’s also the best way I get through it. (Note: Some criticism is good, by the way. Constructive criticism stings but it can make a project so much better. I’m speaking more to the all-out rejection part of writing.)
However. I don’t have, and will never have, a thick skin when it comes to writing. I’m sensitive to it. I can’t help it. Quite honestly, I like being that way. I think vulnerability is what makes you a better writer. The rejection part stinks, and it usually sends me into a sinkhole for a while. But somehow I climb out of the funk and keep going. I am endlessly encouraged by girls who write and tell me about what the book meant to them. A sweet reader sent me an email about Paperdoll that I re-read pretty often. She said: I never knew God’s grace was real for me too. But I read this book and now I know God’s grace is real for me.
That’s why I wrote the book. That’s everything.
Do not let the discouragement sink you, you brave and snazzy writer-types. Keep writing.
What encouraged you to add the study guide in Paperdoll?
My editor, Kim Bangs, came up with the study guide idea. Kim is incredible. She’s sassy and smart and creative (she’s the sort of editor who gives excellent constructive criticism). From the beginning, Kim was so excited about the potential in Paperdoll. She was always trying to think of how to make it a more personalized experience for a reader. She thought a study guide would be a cool resource to add. And that excited me too. I have a background in student ministry, and I was always on the lookout for a fun curriculum (especially a curriculum that I could personalize for my girls). We did not want the study guide to feel like homework. We wanted this study guide to be creative and interesting and different. I’m so happy with the way it turned out.
How did you come to add the ‘Confessions’ part of the book to Paperdoll?
‘Confessions’is a candid prayer written at the end of each chapter. Those pieces are shorter and, while they certainly aren’t nonsensical, I wanted them to have a more poetic, freeform vibe. I wanted them to feel a little bit rough. When people talk about “a quiet time,” that always makes me think of something a bit more formal. But my time with God isn’t limited to my quiet time or an hour in a worship service. Most of the relationship comes together in the daily part. ‘Confessions’represents the kind of prayer that happens all day long; my heart’s unedited response to God.
Sweet! This part is so fun!
Definitely fall! I love it when the leaves change color and the air gets prickly. I’m also a major proponent of boot-wearing. On September 1, even if it’s 100 degrees here (which it usually is … I’m fairly certain I live in a volcano), I slide my favorite pair of boots over my jeans and stomp outside and defy the heat. Fall is peaceful and pretty but somehow it energizes me too. I feel most inspired in fall. Fall is a good transition. I wish transitions always felt this peaceful and pretty.
I’ve been on a Netflix kick lately with Avonlea. Avonlea is a TV show that aired in the 90’s, based on a couple of LM Montgomery’s books – The Golden Road and The Story Girl. I loved Avonlea when I was younger. As I’ve been re-watching it, I’ve realized that my affections haven’t changed. The characters on this show are incredible. That’s the thing for me. Whether it’s a book, or a movie, or a TV show– the characters make me fall in love with the story. Characters are way more important to me than plot. The characters in Avonlea are sensational. Hetty King is my absolute favorite. And, of course, if we’re talking Ms. Montgomery, I need to give a shout out to Anne and Gilbert. They’re the best. Anne with an“e” is, in my opinion, one of literature’s greatest heroes.
Coffee or Tea?
Coffee. I’ve started warming up to tea, but coffee makes me so happy. Jittery-happy. I’m always up for trying new teas though. So let me know if you have a fun suggestion!
Vanilla or Chocolate?
Chocolate. I wish I didn’t like it so much. Chocolate is my kryptonite. ;)
Fine tip Sharpie pens. Skinny jeans. The Gillian Welch station on my Pandora. My dog (she’s an always obsession – seriously the sweetest little puffball ever). Knee boots. The song“Slumber” by Needtobreathe. Creamy Hazelnut Coffee from Fresh Market. Zephaniah 3:17. And blogs like this. I’m not just trying for suck-uppage either. I love the way you encourage each other, and encourage your readers. I’m so floored that you asked me to stop by! You Lilies are the coolest ;)
Okay readers, we are giving away a copy of Natalie's book Paperdoll!! To enter in, follow Natalie's blog and leave us a comment!!! We will announce the winner on the 17th!!!!