Out of Place Series – Twyla’s Story
I paused at the line for “nickname” in the application for my first solo mission trip.
Something in me leapt at the possibility of beginning afresh.
No one would know I’d never been called this nickname before.
Perhaps no one would guess that I was shy and desperately insecure, a girl who hardly said a word posing as someone else. Someone more confident. Anyone but myself.
Perhaps no one would know that this was my desperate plea to belong, to step from outsider to insider, to not be trapped inside the impression I thought most people had of me.
All this had been rattling through my head for what felt like hours as I sat with my mom, working on my application. Really, mere moments had passed. I spilled my request to list my nickname as Kat hurriedly, absently, hoping to downplay how very much I felt I needed it.
Her answer was no, as I could have predicted. I slumped.
My true identity
So when I left on plane a few months later, thirteen and still forlorn and shy, I had little hope that anything would change. I would be surrounded solely by people I had never met before—a rare opportunity to make a new first impression–yet I still felt stuck and out of place.
And it continued to trail me, this unshakable feeling that I didn’t fully belong wherever I was. That nobody really knew me because I didn’t know how to let people in.
I had wanted a new name and a different identity, but I didn’t realize how much I needed a new name and my true identity. And the name I needed wasn’t Kat, it was Beloved.
It was on another mission trip that I began to learn this, that God liked me and immensely enjoyed the time I spent with Him. I found He was near in ordinary moments, not just when I was at a worship event or youth conference. I discovered, too, that the more time I spent poring over my Bible the harder it was to stay away from it.
Claiming my identity
There was also a new practice I picked up on this trip that did wonders in teaching me to look to Christ for my identity and confidence. Trailing into the room at a Christian camp in Auckland, New Zealand that was to be our home for the summer of 2012, our thoughts we interrupted as one teammate broke the silence. It was time to pull out the paper and pens, she declared, and start putting scripture verses up on the walls. She stated it matter-of-factly, as if it were common sense. And like that, I was hooked.
When I returned home that summer, scripture verses soon filled my bedroom walls. Having truth about who I was in Christ ready for my eyes to intake was like standing under a constant drip of evidence of my true name and identity.
Truth began to fill my empty spaces like a sponge as the words came alive.
“You shall also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God” (Isaiah 62:3, NKJ). I read the New King James version those days.
“Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 17:8, NKJ). My Bible began breaking from constant use. I reinforced the cover with duct-tape and a collage of quotes and magazine cut-outs that reminded me to pray and a maple leaf that reminded me of how I move His heart.
“This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face. Selah” (Psalm 24:6, NKJ). As I learned to seek His face instead of others’ approval, I found it easier to open up and let others in. I was no longer trying to curate an impression but living from the overflow of a heart that was learning to breathe.
My longing heart wanted more. To be with Him. Everywhere. To know how close He was every moment. Not because of a conscious commitment to listen solely to worship music, but because it’s all I wanted to hear, I played worship songs loud and on repeat. The margins of my Bible soon filled with worship song lyrics that were playing as I read. From floor to ceiling of my room and cover to cover of my Bible, truth emanated—His words and words of adoration in His honor alike.
In Him alone we discover who we really are and how we belong.Tweet
Perhaps today, you, as I did, want an out to feeling out of place. And perhaps, like me, you too need a new name and a new identity. May you know with all certainty that from the moment you were born, you were “beautiful in God’s sight” (Acts 7:20, CSB). In Him alone we discover who we really are and how we belong. And with a new name He likewise gives us a new purpose: to make the Name of the Name-Giver great.
But you are God’s chosen treasure—priests who are kings, a spiritual “nation” set apart as God’s devoted ones. He called you out of darkness to experience his marvelous light, and now he claims you as his very own. He did this so that you would broadcast his glorious wonders throughout the world. 1 Peter 2:9, TPT
If you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong, this series is for you! Every Monday, we’ll hear from someone who has also struggled to belong. Be sure to subscribe below to get The Scoop so you never miss a post! As a thank you, you’ll receive access to belonging-themed scripture cards and adult coloring pages in the free for you library!
Twyla blogs about her passion, neighborhood missional living, hoping to make it feel less intimidating for others to begin to open their own hearts, lives, and homes to their neighbors. She sees our call to fulfill the Great Commission as an invitation to be disciple-making-disciples not just in the faraway places, but also right where we live—in our own neighborhoods. Twyla writes weekly at The Uncommon Normal, and an audio version of the posts is now available as a podcast under the same name. You may also connect with her on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter.