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Have you ever felt like you don’t belong anywhere? When I was a child, I often thought I must have been adopted. I loved to read and preferred to stay in the house while the rest of my family loved the outdoors and rarely opened a book unless they had to. I was and am very blessed to have a wonderful family, but in some ways, I’ve always been and will always be the odd one out.
I felt the same way in school. I was smart and respected and had a close circle of friends, but I wasn’t athletic, and boys always liked me as a friend instead of a girlfriend, and I wasn’t a party-er and I didn’t dance because I was a Baptist. I read the Betsy Tacy books and wished more than anything that I would someday be part of The Crowd, but the truth was, I never really fit in. After I graduated, I went to Wheaton College, which might seem homogenous at first glance. But to me, it was a place of great diversity. I met people who were far odder than I, quirky individuals who bucked societal norms, did their own thing and didn’t care what anybody thought of them. Despite the occasional forays into uniqueness, there was still a typical Wheatonite – pre-med, ultra talented, superior intellect, old money or conversely, humbly raised children of pastors and missionaries – none of which fit me.
I got married to an officer in the army after two years of college. Our first duty assignment was in Augsburg, Germany. I won’t go into the mismatched marriage I was in at the time, except to say that in the midst of the ill-conceived mess I was in matrimonially, I felt very at home in Europe, and I found a great deal of acceptance within the military community. For the first time in my life, I started to feel like I belonged. Perhaps it was because the military attracted such a hodge podge of people. There were Okies from Oklahoma, hillbillies from Tennessee, southern belles from Charleston, South Carolina, proper to a fault West Point grads, gentle giants with black skin, and once I got there, a naive Midwest farmer’s daughter. I felt like I’d finally found my niche – and it lasted for all of about 10 minutes. Because the military is one of the most unstable, constantly shifting, always changing things in the world as far as places and spaces go. Command shifts, families transferring to different duty assignments, people staying in and getting out of the military, all set against the backdrop of a topsy turvy world where you’re always on alert, waiting for the next big things to happen – and it usually does.
I felt I’d finally found my place in the world, and that that place only existed for a few short months in the space time continuum. Here today, gone tomorrow. When my marriage met a similar fate and poof – one day didn’t exist any more, it was a very hard thing. My ex-husband’s family had become mine, and then suddenly, they weren’t anymore. Disconnecting from the marriage and my role as wife was hard enough, but severing myself from the extended family was far worse.
I’m a farmer’s daughter. I was never a particularly good farmer’s daughter, but I was raised to put down deep roots, to commit for life, to count on people and things being there for a good long time if not forever. But the reality is that the whole world is like the ocean, or the sky – constantly changing, shifting, eroding, becoming more and more unrecognizable with every day that passes. And me?
I’ve gone on to make my way in the world quite nicely. I’ve met with some successes, had a few dreams come true, and done quite well for myself. But in many ways, I still feel like I’m a misfit. I’m not a mother. I wear funky hats. I wouldn’t caught dead in nylons and can usually be found lazing around in Birkenstocks and slouch socks. I’m a far from perfect pastor’s wife. Each of the walls in my dining room a different color. I’m awake when most people are sleeping, and asleep when I should be awake. If left to my own devises, there are more weeds than flowers in my garden. I play the piano but never the notes that are on the music.
I make round pancakes instead of flat. I write books with steamy scenes and God sightings – in the same chapter. I raise eyebrows, and have my own quirks, and march to my own drummer. I’ve never quite fit in and have finally starting to realize that I kind of like it that way.
So Merry Christmas from the Island of Misfits. I rather like it here. If you’re ever inclined to visit, please pick up one of my books… Jensen from Night and Day, Rae from stormy Weather, Michelle from Water Lily, Tracy from Merry Go Round, Hope from Love Notes, and soon, Rose from Wild Rose… characters who are full of foibles, characters who are sometimes a little off kilter or at odds with the world, characters who desire more than anything to find someone to appreciate them and love them just the way they are.
Of course, there’s only one place in the world where we can truly find unconditional love, from someone who certainly knows what it felt like to be a misfit. That’s what makes Christmas such a grand celebration!
It’s the day after Christmas, and it’s time to move on!
My husband, the pastor, has been practicing his sermon on me again. Maybe he thinks I need to hear it more than once so it really sinks in – I couldn’t say. But I’ve gotten kind of used to already knowing the punch line when it comes to church on Sunday. So a spoiler alert – if you’re going to worship at Emmanuel Lutheran in Grafton, Iowa tomorrow, read no further until you get home from church.
Actually, it’s only fair that Mark practices his sermons on me. When it comes time to edit my books, he’s my first line of defense. We start by reading the book out loud to each other. It’s amazing, the errors you hear, but don’t see. By the time I’m done writing and getting ready to send my book to my editor, he’s probably so sick of the storyline and the characters that he never wants to see or hear about them again. But being the good, loving husband he is, he is always willing to read a scene one more time just to make sure it’s the best it can be.
Tomorrow is the first day of Advent. The Scripture Mark is preaching on is Mark 13. In verse 31, Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” This verse has convicted me that I need to start putting first things first, or prioritizing. Am I living my life for temporary, breakable things like my computer or cell phone, where I spend and waste untold hours of my expendable time? Am I spending my leisure time playing Farmtown or Zoo World or Sorority Life, or in Christian terms, am I doing something meaningful like getting to know Jesus better? (In writing terms, am I getting my next book written or edited, am I getting down to business and doing what needs to be done, or am I frittering away my time doing something virtually worthless?) Am I obsessed with making more money or buying more land or building a bigger house to make room for the things I buy, or am I living for Jesus, spending time with the people who love me, accomplishing great and mighty things whose after-effects will last for generations, maybe even eternity?
In a few years – maybe even months or days – my electronic gadgetry will be broken, hopelessly outdated, stolen or lost. The new appliances in my house will quit working. Jesus will still be here. Nothing on this earth lasts forever – not our good health, our things we build, or the people we love. The only thing worth living for, the only one you can trust to be there FOREVER, is Jesus. I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to live my life in a way that reflects the important things. It makes me want to forget Farmville and write the book of my heart. My books are my legacy. They’re my chance to say what needs to be said, to touch people’s lives, to leave something to be remembered by. I am so blessed to even have the option of how to spend my free time – and with that, comes an overwhelming sense of responsibility that whatever time I have left here on earth should be spent doing good things – helping others, being true to myself, using my talents, and letting my light shine brightly in the night.