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By Natalie Gessel



In fourth grade, I was in a girl band — the You Go Girls. We rewrote lyrics to Backstreet Boys songs, practiced for days in Nikki’s mom’s classroom, and then performed them on the playground for an audience of maybe three unfortunate souls who had their game of teather-ball invaded because that was the most visible spot on the black top… duh.  

We even had a rivalry with the Spice Girl Wannabes. Both groups performed in the multipurpose room for a few other 4th grade classes. Them clad in cheetah print and platforms, and us in sundresses and sandals. I had to borrow a lemon sundress from a fellow bandmate because I didn’t know what a sundress was.

After our performance some boys laughed at us and repeated some riveting lyrics from our song back to us … “I’ll have to say buh bye- the end.”

At that moment I found myself knocked-kneed and beet-red, thinking —

Who am I?! What am I doing here? What is this lemon yellow linen sundress I am wearing?

In 6th grade I went to a youth night at church, my first one. I was beyond excited to finally be there, now the ever-mature age of 12, ready to contribute to the “cool-kids club.” Well contribute I did, even though our activity was just repairing the old hymnals in our chapel and then eating at In-n-out. I remember at the end of the night, in the In-n-Out parking lot, wired from excitement, running from person to person laughing, screaming, yelling all sorts of positive and appropriate expletives (if that could be a thing) and sweating. There was a lot of sweating. When I got in the car and finally took a breathe, my first thought– I have a headache. Second thought — Who is this crazy person? Who am I? What am I trying to do here?

Once, during the first week of my freshmen year of college, I got so tired of the mundane, get-to-know-you question, so I created a new identity. My name was Gwen and I used to be a Texas state ultimate frisbee champion (everyone in college is into ultimate frisbee). It was fun for a few hours, but then I’d fess up and reveal the true me.  My “new best friend” would be confused, creeped out, or occasionally amused.

Then about 3 months into school, I heard “Gwen! Gwen!” being yelled in my direction, and I unexpectedly found myself face to face, with someone who still thought I was Gwen.

Who am I? A pathological liar? What am I doing here?

Then came an awkward conversation.

Just about a month ago I was sitting at the top of my stairs, now a mother of two and a wife to a resident physician, listening to my second baby scream for about an hour in his bed because he refused to let me help him fall asleep. Again.

There I sat late in the night alone. Again.

I thought about how horribly our day had gone. Again.

I started to cry. Again.

Who am I? How did I get here? What am I doing? — My thoughts, again.

What am I doing with my life?  What have I ever accomplished? Why did I want to be a mom so bad? I don’t even recognize myself anymore.

These moments of question in my life come often, some at random simple moments when I’ve done something uncharacteristic of myself and some when I’ve found myself in a dark hole of anguish. It’s in those times that God places a small seemingly insignificant miracle made just for me — playground friendships, a book I can’t afford but want so badly posted online for everyone to read for free, or a friend to hold my babies at church so I can go to the bathroom or listen to teachings peacefully for a half hour — as if to say, “I know. You are my daughter and I know.” I am reminded of a simple truth that has been  shown to me countless, peaceful times.

God knows who I am. He knows who I am even when I don’t.

I may still be figuring out where I want to be in this life, or even how I got to where I am, but God knows. God has a path marked “For Natalie: she’s going places,” and if I put my faith in the truth that He knows me, He will make me into the person I want to be, the person He knows I am.

He will help me know who I am.

I think back to the greatest accomplishments of my life, the times when I was happiest, the times when I’ve grown the most, the times when I’ve made great decisions, and I see God there. Maybe I didn’t see him there at the time, but now I do. He was there pumping power, joy and love into my thoughts, my heart and my veins through the knowledge of who I am. I was able to do those things, make those decisions, be happy because I knew.

When I know who I am, I can love others, I am grounded and sure of myself, and I can give.  I have faith because I am a daughter of God. He knows who I am even when I don’t.


  1. It has been difficult for me to see the little miracles in my life lately. There are so many things that demand attention from us daily, and those moments we wonder what we’re doing and who we are come up frequently for me. This reminder to be see miracles is just what I needed. Thank you so much for writing this post!

    • Natalie says the best things, doesn’t she? So glad this story hit home with you. Keep hanging in there, He loves you and so do we!

    • I am so glad you enjoyed it! And thank you for commenting! It really means a lot to hear of someone being positively affected by a story I’ve shared. So glad you’ve joined us at The Faith Collective! We need you here!

  2. Oh goodness, I just love you Nat. I love what you said about being more equipped to love and to give when you know who you are. This was very inspiring to me! Thank you for sharing!!!

  3. I can feel all these emotions with you! Thank you for sharing! Just as you see your children emerging with their personalities and trying things out for size, each of us has to discover truth in ages and stages. I have always felt the love and desire for good in you, and as life goes on, trust that the love will get deeper and the wisdom greater! I love you!

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