Finding Belonging on the Road to Vocation

Out of Place – Shanelle’s Story

Mom was a trainer and teacher of the trade. Her long legs moved with grace as her fiery bobbed hair swished around. Her speckled arms could wrap around me for days. If a horse was there, it followed. Students waited for her every word. I used to sit on the front porch watching everyone go out with mom. The cool of the evening was setting in, that was the optimal time to ride on hot summer days, but my bed time loomed ahead. I only got a glimpse of what transpired in that arena. I longed to sit atop one of those magnificent creatures and participate in learning what mom taught. I longed for a turn to ride.

Then, came my pony. A short dapple-grey guy who could move quickly, but carried me with delicate steps. Our bodies would move as one across the sandy surface. The ride always felt like flying, with every exhale my body would relax in all the right places.  Thundering hooves with a quick dig in the sand would bring us to an abrupt stop. My veins would pump and my soul would smile. Finally, it was here.  I wasn’t the one riding the sharp wires between steel stakes or watching from afar. I was inside the arena atop my dapple-grey friend with my mom.  

A year later on the drive home I sat in the front seat of mom’s van. It was nice to sit up above the road, it reminded me of riding my pony. I remember the black top, yellow stripes, and faint shadows of trees as mom told me she had some bad news. My dapple friend wouldn’t be at home waiting for me. He was gone. He had died while I was away. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. The dapple pony was not only my friend, but my ticket to fit, to be a part, he gave me a matching identity to my family, but he was gone, and my belonging seemed to leave with him.

That ache to belong rang in my heart as I sat on my bed thumbing through the catalog of classes. “I’m tired of not being like them” rattled through my mind. “I just want to fit”, clunked through my soul. Dad had made it clear I was to not pursue Ferrier college (where you learn to put shoes on horses).  The Ferrier college is where mom and dad met. So, since I was a woman who could make decisions for herself, I took charge and decided to be a vet.  I promptly registered for my first pre-med semester chalked with a full 18 hours of class, before now I had only taken 12. There was Zoology, Chemistry, Trigonometry, and three other classes I couldn’t remember…well…because I spent my semester trying to save my GPA. I’m certain I used trig formulas in chemistry and chemistry formulas in trig. Zoology was the easy one. I had no context for the terms. Was I in a foreign country? It must have been the better grades in my other 3 classes that carried me that semester.  All I can remember is 2.0 and go, the tears shed over the continual D’s on my work and the long nights trying to decode trig and chem.  I didn’t really connect with the people in these classes either.  They were nice and kind, but I didn’t connect.  Talk about being a square peg trying to cram its way into a round hole.

When summer came I was ready to run, and I ran right into God’s plan. A summer ministry job. While working that close to God and His word, I thought I would include Him when I registered for my next classes. 

I thumbed through the grey paper catalog with the phone next to me. It was my day to register. “Lord, what classes would you say are for me?” shot from my mind into the clouds. As I thumbed the catalog, classes began sticking out to me…public speaking, intrapersonal communication, persuasion, argumentation. A peace settled over me, and I was registered for class without a snare. 

When I did my work for class, it came with ease, good grades weren’t fought for, they just came. Friends were easily made. There was no chaos in keeping up with my responsibilities, there was a skip in my step and a joy in my heart.  I had a true delight in doing my work, dare I say I looked forward to it. These were experiences I couldn’t recall having before, except in my summer ministry job.  

The stark differences between semesters etched a truth deep in my heart. This is the year He began showing me I was His. He had a specific plan for me, I was set apart to be His and do a work that He made just for me. That is the place where I will have the greatest sense of belonging. When I try to fit in my own way and understanding I will find resistance, clamor, striving and struggle, because I am not my own, I am His. 

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!

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Meet Shanelle Wagner

Shanelle is known for being passionate, fiery, and sweet. Her passion is fueled by her relationship with Jesus, and the freedom she has found in His truths. She loves to help people embrace and live out their identity and freedom in Christ through surrender. She has been married to her best friend for 23 years, and gets to be mom to two active boys. Her adult life journey includes being a Wife, Preschool and Kindergarten teacher, Mother, Women’s Ministry Director and now Writer. You can connect with her on Facebook and on her website.

*Feature Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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