When You Feel Like An Outsider

by | Jul 2, 2012 | Uncategorized


I brush my daughter’s arm with my hand while we’re sitting in church, our eyes meet and she knows what I’m saying without words. Stop playing with your hair, its distracting me from the sermon.

I’m hanging on to every word he says because I’m feeling desperate for a phrase, a word, a song, a paragraph, a comet to land and split the roof open. Anything to help me understand why I’m here. And just when I’m doing the self-talk, wondering if I should just let her be herself, braid her damp hair in church, the pastor says it.

God is silent in the bible more than He speaks. While He is silent, He is never still.

Journals stack full of conversations with Him on my desk. Whispers of hope and purpose and future all written down in black and blue. I’m re-reading them, quite a lot lately. Because when He speaks, it changes me.

But right now, it feels like I’m stuck among a five-lane pile-up during rush hour in Los Angeles. I’ve been sitting in the hot car so long; I forgot where I’m going. And He’s in one of his more familiar moods – not very talkative. It doesn’t mean He has nothing to say.

Then the pastor, he reminds me that God usually speaks when we least expect it.

Levi met Jesus in the line behind his desk spread out with ledgers, calculators and a moneybox. Instead of talking taxes, Jesus leans over, looks him in the eyes and says, “Follow Me.” And Levi, he did.  He folded up all his books in his brief case and left those people standing in line. (Luke 5:27)

God told Abraham to leave everything: the family home, all the ancestors parked on the lawn for a family cookout, the acres of land beyond them dotted cows and sheep. I can’t imagine that, but Abraham, he did it. (Genesis 12)

While Moses walks heavy with guilt about killing that Egyptian, God shows up in a burning bush and tells him to lead five million Israelites out of Egypt for forty years. And after Moses airs all his self-doubt, his reasons why he isn’t the guy for the job, he does it. (Exodus 3)

Because contact with God, it changes us, transforms us into the people we can’t imagine.

I know this isn’t exactly how each of these stories pans out, but my contemporary version, it helps wash away the despair and hopelessness that falls in the cracks sometimes and tries to grow there. I’m Moses with all the reasons why, desperate to see with binocular vision.

Following Jesus at a moment’s notice must’ve gone well for Levi. He threw Jesus a dinner party and included every sinner he knew on the guest list. And all those church people at the party? They had a fit about it. And Jesus’ response?

“Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders—an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.” Luke 5:31, MSG

I’m reciting the benediction in a whisper through the lump in my throat now.  He’s here in the room for me, an outsider with a broken heart.  And just like the silent exchange between my daughter and me over her hair twirling, we don’t need words to know He speaks.

Whenever he chooses to talk to me, I’m saying yes.

Counting gifts today with Ann because I this changes me:

For the rumble of  thunder at sunset, a period to the day’s end 

A stack of finds at our local used bookstore, like excavating hidden treasure.

Laughing with my daughter while she makes bracelets and I take a writing break.

Five opportunities to guest post with wonderful friends.

Dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

I’m taking a break from regular posting this week to take some time to listen and be with my family, to celebrate our independence.  Happy Fourth of July, I’m so grateful for each one of you.

 Linking with Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, Playdates With God, Soli Deo Gloria, Just Write, WLWW, God Bumps, Life in Bloom, Thought Provoking Thursday

Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. nonoymanga

    Good Read, very nice texture for the photo!!! Cheers Nonoy Manga

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thank you, glad you stopped by. And I do love the way those photos turned out too.

  2. caallyn

    Hello Shelly,
    I am sitting at one of our local beaches with my new son and my husband when I receive ÿour post. Ÿour words hit my heart and I feel the sting of tears quietly filling my eyes. I understand the self talk perfectly. Just moments before we left our car to walk along the beach, I talked about change and reading ÿour words just put more emphasis on my own thoughts. So, friend, thinking of you on my Canada day as you will soon enjoy ÿour own holiday.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Love you Celeste. I’ve been thinking about you so much and wish I could give you a big hug on the beach. I’ve been thinking about all my Canadian relatives and friends today, just 20 days till we head to our cottage. I can’t wait. Continuing to pray for you friend.

  3. Annie Danielson

    Shelly, Your words are truth and balm and blessing…have a wonderful week. I pray you are refreshed by the long cool drink of just being and celebrating with them xo! Annie

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks Annie, your words to me the same – balm and blessing to this soul. Appreciate you.

  4. consolationofmirth

    I have been there. Silence feels so scary at times. You reflect on the silence with honesty and courage.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I do hear Him every day but there are some things I just don’t understand and He’s silent on those things. And I really wish He wasn’t some days more than others.

  5. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    These photos are exquisite… as are your words. They look like paintings instead of photos.

    Have a beautiful week, Shelly. You are in my prayers. I know He is listening to both of us… 🙂 Sometimes “silence” is the prelude to fresh rain and mountain greenery..

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I had some fun with editting Pam. If you could see them before, you wouldn’t believe they were the same photos. I love the hope in your words, thank you for praying.

      • Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

        I just read your comment about meeting with your mother and will keep that in my prayers…

        • Redemption's Beauty

          Pam, thank you and just to be clear, I’m not meeting with her. Haven’t seen her in a long time but the holiday just conjures up some things that make my heart ache a bit.

  6. debra elramey (@elramey)

    The photos are divine, as well as the message God does seem to speak when we least expect it.
    God is silent in the bible more than He speaks. While He is silent, He is never still. He speaks in myriad ways, not necessarily in the language of words, but in the language of heart. So beautiful!

    • debra elramey (@elramey)

      Punctuation correction. A period should go after message. 😉 How tired I am!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I heard him today loud and clear Debra. But there are some things I ask Him about repeatedly that He remains silent to respond. And I get a bit despairing. He speaks to me here, through the encouragement of wonderful people like you. Thank you.

  7. Diana Trautwein

    Yea and amen, Shelly. Glad you got a word that soothed that sometimes fevered brow that seems to be part of this journey we take. Hope your week away is blessed in every way.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks Diana. I don’t look forward to this holiday. Its my mothers birthday, who I haven’t seen in fourteen years, brings back not so good memories. And we are often alone without family to celebrate. I’m always glad when its gone.

      • Diana Trautwein

        I am sorry, Shelly. Sorry for the sadness of your story (even though it has given you some beautiful gifts to share) and sorry for the estrangement (though I can imagine its necessity for your own sanity). One day soon, your children will be old enough to have their own children and you’ll be amazed at how your circle has grown. And soon, you’ll be in Canada, right? Love to you this day.

        • Redemption's Beauty

          I’m sorry I dumped that on you Diana, it just came out (for the world to see). And I know you are right, about watching the circle grow, getting past it on to the beauty that lies ahead. Thank you for being so pastoral. I appreciate you so.

  8. kd sullivan

    I am totally with Moses…self-doubt pouring from my praying lips. But I am determined to do what He as asked anyway…just looking for Aaron. 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I ditto your sentiments Kim. Hope you have a nice break from work on the holiday.

  9. Leslie Durham

    I really needed to hear these words today. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      A timely word is like snow in summer. It’s in proverbs. I’m thankful for His grace, in our meeting, in you coming here to read. Thanks for the tweet btw.:)

  10. Wendy @ E1A

    Another beautiful post!

  11. Beth

    Christ does indeed change us. And I’m so thankful He does. Don’t know where I’d be if He didn’t. Thanks for this inspiring post, Shelly.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh me too Beth, me too. Can’t even imagine, don’t want to either.

  12. tereasamansfield

    You always have a way of speaking straight to my heart. Enjoy your holiday!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Prayed for you this morning Tereasa. You are on my heart today. Hope you have a good holiday too.

    • MaryBeth@NewLifeSteward

      She does have quite the way with words, doesn’t she? A timely reminder written beautifully. Thanks Shelly.

      Mary Beth @newlifesteward

      • Redemption's Beauty

        Thanks Mary Beth. Really enjoyed your piece at Incourage too. It definitely resonated here.

  13. wynnegraceappears

    Shelley, how very beautiful are your words crying out as you seek to hear from Him. This gives such amazing insight into how deeply personal that process is but at the same time how we all share this longing to hear from Him deeply and personally. And your photography speaks volumes too. Love to you as you seek Him anew.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Hope you have had a nice time away Elizabeth. Nice to see you here and connect. Thanks as always for your encouragement.

  14. Lynn Morrissey

    Shelly, why did I have this impression that you didn’t journal? Somehow, I think you told me this. And yet, here on your blog, I realize that you are re-reading stacks of conversations with Jesus and are being changed. I love harvesting my journals. I can see the trace of His face in these written reflections. He does whisper through the words He leads me to write and even between the lines, in the spaces, in the silence. I must admit that I smiled when I read that your words are “written down in black and blue.” I’m wondering if this were an unintentional double entendre? Sometimes I come black and blue to my journal pages, bruised and bloodied from life. And yet, as I pour out my black-and-blue soul on the pristine pages (which represent to me Christ’s purity), He absorbs the pain and leads me to wholeness. I pray that as you harvest your journals and continue to plant written seeds into them, God will give you a bumper crop of peace and purpose. (You really *do* have such a beautiful purpose, you know?) May He speak into your soul and make you whole. Enjoy your independence in Christ this week, Shelly. Only Jesus sets us free! Love, Lynn
    PS Your photos are exquisite. I love the tapestry effect!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Well, I do journal, just not not with regularity. I have that same problem with taking vitamins. And I did write that black and blue double entendre on purpose. Sometimes it feels that way when I write, but not always. I’m really so grateful that I have written down some important markers with Him on this journey. They are like stones of remembrance along the way, to see how He has led and been faithful every step. Because I think I’m going to remember all these things and I just don’t. Thank you for the words of encouragement on purpose. I know I do have purpose but sometimes there is a bit of fog hindering that view and the only way to see clear is to rest with Him for a while. I hope you have a wonderful holiday too.
      I had some fun with editting on those photos and I have to admit I love the way they turned out.

  15. Jillie

    Do have a wonderful break with the LORD and with your Family, Shelly. Pray you will hear clearly from Him what it is you are seeking after. We are enjoying our Canada Day long weekend here. It’s been sunny and beautiful. Praying the same for you. GOD bless. (Your photos DO look like paintings. Absolutely gorgeous!)

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Jillie, I’ve been thinking about all my Canadian friends and family over the past 24 hours. Wearing my union jack t-shirt today in your honor. Hope you had a nice holiday. Thanks for the prayers and hope you are doing well.

  16. kelliwoodford

    Amen to all of this.
    And props to you for taking time to be still and listen.
    To live out what you preach.
    Leaving inspired to do the same . . . thanks.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks Kelli, we all need to take that time now and then don’t you think?

  17. Laura

    Hello, sweet friend. Oh, how I understand this quiet. I just read your comment to Diana and want to say just how I am wrapping you in love–how I know the way a holiday can leave a girl soul-sore. I am looking at your beautiful roses and I am asking, “how did she do that?” and it’s the same with God. Hoe He brings comfort in the most unexpected ways. Love to you, Shelly.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks Laura, I wish every year that I could get past it but there it is once again. And it’s really God’s grace to me you know? He knows there is more to be done there. BTW, I used Picmonkey for the pictures. Orton and Smudge. I feel your love over me Laura and it really means so much.

  18. toshowthemjesus

    “Because contact with God, it changes us, transforms us into the people we can’t imagine.” Yes! I love the stories of Moses, Abraham, and seemingly everyone else in Scripture–insufficient people made sufficient and extraordinary by the power of God. May He give you that power as well. Blessings!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It’s why storytelling means so much to me, we read the stories of those in scripture and they help to shape us, give us hope.

  19. Jen Ferguson

    This post bursts forth a dam in my heart and I am fighting the overwhelm of tears.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It seems that God has you in the crook of His arm Jen. Praying that you hear what He is whispering while you rest there.

  20. Jennifer Johnson Camp

    Shelly, your words lift me from a hiding place and make me want to be found. Thank you, friend, for your tender wisdom and powerful authenticity. I needed this.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Powerful words here Jennifer. Let’s link arms and come out of hiding together, shall we?

  21. Dolly@Soulstops

    This sentence of yours:”Because contact with God, it changes us, transforms us into the people we can’t imagine.” So glad He spoke to you, and you passed the gift onto us…Thanks, Shelly 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      So glad you stopped by Dolly, He is transforming us all into His likeness as we seek to hear Him, see Him, understand his ways.

  22. kendal

    i’m always glad to visit here. your writing is poetry and divining….

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Aww, Kendal, thank you. That means a lot to me.

  23. Denise J. Hughes

    Oh my goodness. I do the same thing with my daughter! I think she’s a compulsive hair-twirler. It’s so distracting, if to no one else but me. Ha, ha. 🙂

    Feeling like an outsider is the worst feeling, especially in church sometimes. I’m so glad your pastor spoke words that ministered to your heart.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I grapple with this for ten years now, as God moves us from place to place, both geographically and spiritually. It’s a lonely place most of the time, but a classroom in the school of living for an audience of one for which I am eternally grateful. Nice to know we both share girls that like to twirl their hair!

  24. Gianna

    I’ve thought something similar.
    In the season of winter, everything looks dead. But just because it looks like nothing is happening, that doesn’t mean it’s not. Sometimes the biggest things are growing unnoticed and hidden waiting to be revealed at the right time. You may seem like you are in a season of winter right now, but you are changing more than you realize.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Gianna, your words minister to me here. I do believe you are right my friend. Thank you.

  25. glendachilders

    It is hard to hear in those silent midnight times, indeed. Praying with you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’ve had a beautiful couple of days hearing him Glenda. It’s good to break routine and remember what matters most. Thank you.

  26. joepote01

    “God is silent in the bible more than He speaks. While He is silent, He is never still.”

    So true! 40 years of Moses living in Midian…400 years of Israel living in Egypt…a lifetime of Abraham wandering around Canaan…

    We tend to focus on the time of activity that takes up all the writing space and forget about the many years of in-between waiting on God to speak.

    Thanks for sharing, Shelly!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      That is such a great perspective Joe. Love that. I actually hadn’t thought about that in the context of the bible, the stories that we read that give us hope.

  27. Joanne Norton

    There are so many times He speaks to me quietly… tapping me on my shoulder. Other times He has very dramatically through dreams or special moments. Now, can’t say it happens often, daily, etc. But it occurs when He is planning a life for others and myself. One big one: Two years ago, on a Saturday afternoon in May, I heard Him say “Walk up to Benson.” [Our district area.] While walking past a park a couple blocks away, I met a Bhutanese couple. Now in their extended family, some here at the time and MANY more arriving, I have approximately 60 of them as my “family”. It opened up a whole new life for me. A five minute difference could have stopped that. Ram and Dawa would have been finished with their walk area. I’ve been amazed. And SO blessed by my dear ones. They think I’m wonderful and helpful and funny… and even when I’m cranky and pushy [trying to deal with so many bits on their plates that I’m now a local helper for], they laugh and just let me know they love me. And I SO love them, too. So, glad HE spoke that time. What a blessing He is. [BTW, you are, too. I’ve enjoyed your posts very much.]

    • Redemption's Beauty

      What a lovely story of hearing and then obeying. We have friends in Phoenix who reached out to a Bhutanese refugee area of the city and ended up leading a family to Christ and they are now a big part of the church. God is good. And your story inspires hope.

  28. Mari

    Beautiful pictures but the words are even better! I am struggling to hear God, because it has been so long. I love the quote from your pastor. He is never still. I’m tucking that away today.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yes, thankful that when his voice is mute it doesn’t mean he has left the building. 🙂 I’ve had some sweet times with him this week, praying you will too.

  29. Tanya Marlow

    LOVED this. I too have been thinking a lot about the silences of God, and have been so encouraged by what I have found in Job. I feel like we’re on a similar journey! Love your observations about what it means to meet with God. Blessings, friend!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      There is so much to learn from the way Job responded to adversity isn’t there? Yes, it seems we are on a similar path Tanya and I’m grateful to be sharing it with you.

  30. Jennifer@GDWJ

    Really, really lovely. And the timing for me is just right, Shelly. I so appreciate the peace in this place.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      So glad Jennifer. It never fails to amaze me, the way God speaks to each of us.

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