Finding Belonging in our Loneliness

Out of Place – Joy’s Story

On an Irish summer day, overcast with a gentle breeze, a fourteen-year-old girl sits alone.  A stranger in this place, she has found comfort in the whispers of the ocean.  Her free time finds her wandering the trails along the coast.  Today, as she sits on a large rock, her gaze is focused out over the Irish sea, waiting for the sky to clear enough so that she might catch a glimpse of the mountains in Wales. 

Thirty-plus years have passed since I was that fourteen-year-old girl, and yet I can still close my eyes and see myself in that place as if it were yesterday.  Our family friends owned a guest house in Bray, Co. Wicklow, half a day’s drive from where I was living at the time.  They had invited me to come work for two weeks during the summer.  This guest house was a beautiful place sitting on the hill overlooking the sea, and we thought it would be an excellent opportunity for me to learn, earn a little money, and experience something new.  

Stepping into a different world

Clueless as to what I was walking into, I bravely headed off on this new adventure.  When I arrived, the experience was not what I expected.  I found myself in a world in which I didn’t belong. While the owners were kind, I lived in a dorm room with other summer staff, all older, primarily college-age students.  The girls were not unkind, but they lived in a way unfamiliar to my fourteen-year-old self.  When they weren’t working, their evenings and days off were spent headed into the small town to join the locals at the pub, attend parties and immerse themselves in a world I did not understand.  

Today with cellphones and the internet, I imagine I could have escaped where I was and remained connected to my friends at home, but this was a time before cell phones, and any phone calls were expensive.   When I wasn’t cleaning rooms, serving meals, or afternoon tea, I found myself feeling completely alone.  Not knowing what else to do, I wandered along the cliffs overlooking the sea.  

Responding to God’s invitation

It was there in those moments that I began to hear God speak to me; in the solitude, in the loneliness.  Living in a place I did not belong, God whispered, “You belong to me.”  In this season, I began to take pen and paper out with me on those walks, writing, praying, and in my fourteen-year-old way learning how to talk to God as my friend, my comforter.

Finding myself in that place where I so clearly didn’t belong and was alone provided an opportunity, space for God to meet me and remind me he was always there for me.  Today there are still times in my life where I find myself feeling as if I don’t belong.  And in those moments, I pray that I do not miss out on allowing God to fill that space. For with God, I am never alone.

Don’t be afraid; I’ve redeemed you.

    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.

When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.

    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.

When you’re between a rock and a hard place,

    it won’t be a dead-end—

Isaiah 43:1-2 (MSG)


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 Joy Marker

Joy Marker is a hope*writer who reflects on ordinary everyday moments and the unexpected and difficult journeys we sometimes are called to travel. After an unexpected diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, she felt called to share her story and journey with others. Believing that we can not always choose our circumstances, we can always choose how we live them. She writes to encourage us all to live well; a life lived on purpose. You can find Joy writing at randomreflection.com and on Instagram.

*Feature Photo by Jason Zeis 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.

One thought on “Finding Belonging in our Loneliness

  1. Joy, your words are always beautiful! I can relate to so much in your story. I was extremely shy as a kid and so often felt alone and out of place. I developed a closeness with God during those years, though, that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

    Liked by 1 person

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