I don’t know what to say. People stare at me and my mouth falls open and I start sputtering as my IQ drops several points. I should have a formulated answer, but I haven’t figured out the question.
It’s not a complicated question, most people could answer it with ease: Where are you from?
The truth is ridiculous, I’m not really sure. It’s not that I don’t know where I was born. I can easily state I was born in Houston. It’s not that I can’t determine where I have spent the majority of my life, if I add up all the years spent in various locations, then I would have to say that I spent most of my life in the suburbs of Chicago. And though I loved the culture, the theatre, the education, museums, and the perspective living there brought me, I wasn’t born in Chicago, so I don’t think they would claim me. Had I not lived in Chicagoland, I might have continued to assume most people believed as I did and grew up as I did. I lived in the suburbs of Houston for almost as many years as the suburbs of Chicago, but they were not consecutive, and they were so long ago that I doubt people from Houston would claim me. But I did live there during most of my elementary school years and had one of the best teaching teams imaginable. They taught me to value education, champion imagination, and dream huge dreams. I will forever be grateful for the portion of my childhood spent there. I could say that the majority of my life was spent in the suburbs, except for the years spent moving around Venezuela for my father’s job, my college years in Hannibal, MO, and my recent years living in rural Texas. If I begin to add these years up, some might argue I don’t really have a suburban mindset anymore and can’t be considered “from the ‘burbs.” I have spent the majority of my life actually living in some part of Texas, but as a first generation Texan born to parents from Alabama, true Texans scoff at this … especially considering I lived nearly inside the major cities of Houston and Dallas. Ask any true Texan, Houston isn’t Texas. For that matter, I have been told that Dallas isn’t either. For the last nearly eight years I have lived in rural Texas, but I live “in town,” and I have been told you must live here for generations before you are actually from here. Which brings me to my first point, I don’t know what to say when people ask, Where are you from?
When I was a pre-school teacher, I used to love to sing, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands!” I loved the wonder that would light the eyes of the children I taught, including my own, as we would add all the verses about who He has in His hands. As I have travelled through these past days and weeks, I begin to recognize it’s not just about where I am from, or where I am now, not even about where I am going. It’s about WHO is holding me as I travel forward, WHO has always held me securely in His hands. I look around me and see in amazement the wonder of creation, the perfect balance of the sun, moon, and stars. Though I am not very scientific myself, I am in awe of the fragile state of our environment, how delicately it rests, but also how it bounces back. I peek in on my children, see them resting safely in a home I should not, but for the grace of God, be able to provide during such a cold season.
In the mornings, I struggle to wake, prying my eyes open to count my blessings even as I feel acutely my loss. I dreamt the other night of my mother, she was reading the Bible and speaking to me as though she were still living here on earth. I woke confused and clung tightly to God during the rest of the day, knowing that I am in His hands, and that He has her as well. I have a long way to go, a great deal to learn. I’m grateful for all the places I am from, I am grateful for where I am now. I am grateful for how God uses people and places to shape me and change me.
Where are you from? How has God used it to shape you?
For further meditation:
Psalm 19 and 23