Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Club for Misfits


It's been months since I've written. I haven't felt like I had a whole lot to say. Not that anyone has been frantically checking! I know blogs are passe. We've all moved on to Facebook. Or, not we. I'm not on Facebook. But I know everyone else is. And that is quite alright with me :) I have just felt a little more comfortable with my writing than with my "face" - by that, I mean with pictures and quickie updates about day to day life. And then I wasn't okay with my writing, or with anything really. When I last wrote in August, I mentioned having a really hard time. The best way I could describe the way I was feeling, the way I had been feeling for months and continued to feel, was just lost. I think there was this feeling of being a thirty-five-year-old (make that thirty six now!) mom of three, living in Iowa, of all places, and what in the world am I doing. I never have really figured out what I want to be when I grow up. And with my youngest starting school last year, I got a lot of "what are you going to do with all your time now?" And you may know that it really isn't that much time, but it's certainly more than I had when I had preschoolers at home. And being someone who has been passionate about ministry and is married to a minister,  someone who felt that being a stay at home mom of preschoolers was very much picking up my cross, working at a flower shop seemed very inconsequential. Why did it matter? What eternal value could there possibly be in answering phones and helping people pick out what to send to a funeral or how much to spend on a centerpiece for the shower they're hosting? It seemed like I was wasting my time. And the process of soul searching, the "well, if you could do anything you wanted..." discussions that I seemed to be having with so many people, had me feeling more and more certain of only one thing. I wanted to go Home. I did not belong here. I belonged in the South. And yet, here I was.

And I had tried so hard to be here. I had tried so hard to be myself and love and be loved, but it just felt like a square peg in a round hole. I had a coworker shout at me one day when I got off the phone with a customer, "Ugh! You're just too nice!" Another day, I had a customer comment on my accent over the phone at work and when I told him yes, I was from Tennessee, he asked to speak to someone else. It was just things like that. I was (and still am) daily reminded that I am not from around here, often with a definitive air of distaste. After many tears, and several enlightening conversations, I finally understood two things- people thought I was too fancy (and maybe a little fussy as well) and they thought I was insincere. How discouraging it felt to try to shine my light in the only small ways I could think of and feel hugely rejected and misunderstood. See, I'm really not very fancy! I just like to dress our family and our home and our table nicely- not expensively, just nicely. I use real plates when I have people over instead of paper plates, and I don't wear jeans (or pajamas) to church. But here, that's fancy. And I'm not insincere either. I like talking to people. I like to make friends, even if only for a few minutes, with someone in line at the checkout or looking at the same sale rack as me. And I really am inclined to think we'll get along great because we have this interest (this sale, this store, this item) in common! How much more do we have in common if our children go to the same school or you love to send flowers and I love to work with them?! But evidently, that's weird outside of the South.  And, as Southern Socialite as I may somehow seem up here, there's a part of me that has long feared returning to the South because I'm really not fancy enough or polished enough in social graces to really hold my own in many situations. Sorority rush at Auburn was rough for me! But I really wouldn't have made it at Alabama or Ole Miss! Talk about fancy!!! Those girls would have thought I was a hillbilly! So, like I said, I felt really lost. I felt like I really didn't fit anywhere! As the years have passed since I first wrestled with who I was going to be, college, marriage, motherhood, all the moves hither and yon,  I've grown up and become more who I am and who I'm going to be. But I don't feel like I belong anywhere. "My roots have grown but I don't know where they are."

I hope my tone is coming across in my writing today. I'm not upset anymore. I'm not having a hard time over this anymore. I am not exactly sure why. Some of it has to do with anxiety medication. The whole situation became too much and George took me to my doctor and I have been on a very low dosage of "chill pill" that has been a huge blessing! I know that's a controversial thing in many circles, but I'm here to say, it has been a huge help to me and I am so grateful that the Lord has provided this for me and given me a caring husband who took the initiative to get me the help I needed. Beyond that though, I'm still very much myself and have full awareness of my identity as a misfit.

But aren't we all misfits? That's my heart for ministry. When I was working with Reformed University Ministries at Ole Miss, I found myself gravitating most toward and relating best to the girls who weren't in the "top" sororities and who didn't come from a long line of reformed theologians. Even though I was a Chi O who grew up in the PCA, I guess I saw a bit of myself in them as "misfits" (although they were all adorable, beautiful, and delightful to hang around with- hey! just like me!). I get the whole lost thing-- not so much lost apart from Christ because I've been blessed to have one of those stories where I grew up always being taught about his love and salvation, but lost in the world and what is God doing with me? Does he even care? And what the heck do I do with myself for the next seventy years or so? And I get the whole, in the words of Meredith from my favorite movie, The Family Stone, "isn't there anyone who loves me?!"question. The answer, of course, is yes! And we misfits know that, we know that Jesus loves us, but for some reason, some of us have a hard time feeling it. We long to belong- to a group, to a family, to a purpose. Sometimes our purpose is easy to identify as with motherhood during the preschool years. It's not glamorous, but it's pretty clear that we're meant to care for our young children. But for me, when that time was over, it exposed my uncertainty about where I belong all over again. 

There are plenty of platitudes people will throw at you if you talk about not knowing where you belong. You will hear "bloom where you're planted" and "wherever you go, there you are" from well meaning people who truly think they are saying something helpful. I've been doing my own searching for a while and I have a few words for you too that I have found more helpful than phrases one might find cross-stitched on a pillow. There are several books I have found over the years that have really touched my heart in that lost and lonely place that longs for direction and certainty and just to be loved for who I am and where I am. I've listed them here for fellow misfits who are looking for a good word. Read and be blessed! 

Book number one for misfits, the book that changed my life and helped me start to understand in a way that I could feel it, is Love Walked Among Us. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love that book. Love it, love it, love it. I give it to friends often. One friend I sent it to recently told me it should be required reading for all Christians! I don't know about that, but I think it certainly blesses whoever reads it. The love of Christ- it can't be emphasized enough. The book flips the old familiar stories from the gospels on their ends and gives you insight into the compassionate character of Jesus. We are so often taught some sort of grumpy, serious, exasperated Jesus. Paul Miller illuminates how these stories actually show the loving, caring, personal character of our Savior. 

About this time last year, I mentioned another book that I love love love called You're Already Amazing by Holley Gerth. That's my book number two for misfits. I think I said before that the message of this book can be summed up as "you be you and that alone is good." I ought to add, [and that alone] before God [is good.] He's created us and called us to something very special. If you have trouble believing that, this is the book that can help! If you've grabbed hold of how Jesus is actually very personal from the first book I mentioned, this book will help you see how the personal Jesus sees and delights in the personal you. I know it sounds cheesy. I said that last time too, but it matters. Just like a Valentine's card for your husband that tells him he is a gift to you is cheesy, it matters, and you want him to know. This is a cheesy Valentine for you that reminds you that you matter and you are precious gift- but you need to know it!

Soon after meeting Miss Holley, I discovered another delightful writer by the name of Emily Freeman who I loved even more. She wrote a book called Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life and it is pretty awesome! You can probably tell by the title if it is a book that would be helpful to you (I'm guessing "yes!"). It pretty much delivers. There is a teen version called Graceful and it is actually the one I picked up first for Miss Amabel. I had no idea it would bless me so much! Fast forward to this fall, a new book called A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by the same Emily Freeman arrived at my door. I had pre-ordered her upcoming release way back last May, and after seven months of waiting, read the book in about two days. I drank it up! It's an easy choice for book number three for misfits. What art was I made to live? I still don't know. It's not completely uncovered, you see. But the things Emily points out that show us a little about who we are, things we often take for granted in ourselves, stay with you so that you find yourself learning more about your art as you go forward in your day to day life.

That's where I am. I'm learning about myself and seeking God's calling for me in a new season. It's true you know, wherever you go, there you are :) These books have helped me trust more deeply that the Lord is there with me, that he loves me and is pleased with me where I am, and that he does, in fact, have a plan for me. And I am certain all of that is true for you too! 

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