Out of Place – Jennie’s Story
“We really don’t fit in anywhere, do we?” I finally admitted it out loud to my husband. We never quite fit the mold provided for us by society. Looking back over the years we’ve been married, we have tended to run from the mold, which has made it difficult for us to feel as though we belong anywhere.
If anyone was to ask about my life, I’d have to ask them which part? You see, I have my childhood as a missionary kid in Chile and then a pastor’s kid in Wisconsin and then a church planter’s kid in Nevada. Then there’s the part where I met my future husband in high school, and we got married and began our journey toward achieving the American dream. Life took a bit of a turn and we moved to Texas and then back to Nevada after a year. We then moved back to Nevada and worked to help rescue victims of human trafficking and then lived in an intentional community on a farm, raising chickens and goats. When that fell apart, we went back to living the American dream again.
After a couple of years, we bid farewell and good riddance to the American dream by moving our family to Europe to live like nomads for two years. Now, here we live in Southern California, still trying to figure out a way to live that lines up with our gifting and values.
A God-given desire
Yes, my life has been quite an adventure, but I have found that this adventurous life can be lonely and challenging to find a place to belong. Each time I’ve moved as an adult, I’m reminded of when my family moved to Nevada the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school. My siblings and I would sit on our front porch and take turns yelling, “Hello, I’m from Loserville, population 1. I have no friends. Will you be my friend?” as each car drove by our new house. We were desperate for deep and meaningful friendships. The same is true for me today. That deep, heartfelt desire for belonging never seems to go away.
With all of the searching for belonging I have done, I have learned that belonging seems to be unique to the human experience. We all are knitted together with this God-given desire. Yet, so few of us ever find it in our relationships with others.
This is where I found myself a couple of months after our final move to California. Instead of looking to others for a place of belonging, I asked myself, “What if I became the kind of person that made others feel at home, comfortable, and as though they belonged? What would that look like?”
Reaching out to belong
That was when the light bulb went off in the depths of my heart. I began to ask God to create in me a heart that loved others, was hospitable, and gracious. I asked Him to show me ways to reach out and begin to foster relationships that were safe, deep, and meaningful. I realized this would take vulnerability on my part. Yes, I also realized this road could be a painful one of rejection, so I also asked God to protect my heart. I wanted to know that if I was met with rejection, He would remind me of His love and acceptance of me.
Then things began to happen. I prayed and then looked for ways to be that safe place of belonging for others. Then the children in the neighborhood began coming over and playing at our house. That fall, we invited our neighbors over for a neighborhood pumpkin carving contest and everyone had so much fun, we invited them back over for a gingerbread house-building contest when it got closer to Christmas. It took our neighbors asking if we would host Friday night movie night outside in our driveway for me to realize that God was answering my prayers. As I prayed and began to pay attention, I was able to see God create opportunities for our home to be a place of belonging for our neighbors.
I am so grateful for the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I hope and pray that I continue to pay attention to the people God brings into my life who are looking for a place to belong. I also pray that I continue to become the kind of person who is a safe place for others to feel as though they have a place to belong.
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!
Meet Jennie Denney
Jennie Denney is an author, writer, poet, seminary student, wife, and mom to four children, ages 9-16.
In 2019, she published a journal called Soul Cries: A Journal, where she combined her poetry and photographs with space to write, reflect, and process. She writes a weekly blog post at http://Jenniedenney.com on finding beauty, peace, and hope in the ordinary.
She loves to listen and encourage others as they are shaped and molded into the likeness of Jesus through their own mundane…and sometimes not so mundane experiences. As a result, each Tuesday she shares a Tuesday practice at @jennie.denney, where she encourages her readers to take some time out of their day to connect with God in a deep and meaningful way. She has connected with various artists and, together, they are working on a collaboration project that will take twenty-one of her Tuesday Practices and combine them with artwork into a journal. She hopes this beautiful journal, along with these practices will become habits in the lives of her readers, helping to mold and shape them to become more like Jesus. Stay tuned for more information leading up to the release of this new project!