Where Are You From?
It’s a simple question: “Where are you from?”
The question seems innocent enough, but I never know what people are actually asking. From where did you drive to arrive in this place? What does your license say? Where did you grow up? Where do you call home?
North Carolina. Tennessee. Arkansas. My car.
Four (at least) possible answers to the same question. As I exist in a season of “wandering,” I’m constantly asked this question. I typically respond that, “I’ve spent the last six years in Tennessee.” It’s the easiest way to segue into a conversation that seems normal. But eventually people ask, “When are you heading back?” or “What do you do there?” or “Have you met any famous musicians?
That’s when things get messy. I don’t know when I’m going back. I’m currently working remotely, managing some operations for a small Nashville nonprofit. And no... I don’t know anyone famous.
Now you see why this question is complicated.
It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed and lost in the details - where I’ve been and what I’ve done and where I’m going and… but then I remember something really important.
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Even though I feel a little lost and overwhelmed during this season of physical wandering, I know that my spirit can be at rest. In the midst of travel and coordinating a place to sleep and finding a washing machine for the over-ripe pile of clothes in my back seat, that can be easy to forget. So during this season, how do I cling to the knowledge that my soul can rest in a citizenship that is not of this world?
Read my Bible
Confession time: I’m not always good at this.
I know what it’s like to be overwhelmed by school, work, relationships, or all of the above! First thing in the morning, you’re out of bed making coffee and diving into work. And just before your head hits the pillow, you’re already starting a to-do list for the next day. Sister, I get it!
But you’ve got to stay clued into why you do it all... and who sustains you through it all. I don’t want you to start reading through Leviticus right this minute. You can keep it simple... spend some time in the Psalms, reminding yourself that you are not the first person to be overwhelmed by life and circumstances. (David is a great person to check out if you’re feeling alone in the midst of chaos. The story of Ruth is also a good place to be if you need to be reminded whose you are.)
Stay connected to a spiritual community
I don’t really have a home right now... because I’m more or less living out of my car. But you can bet your bottom dollar that my home church is tucked away in North Nashville. Those are my people. I will continue to celebrate baptisms (and maybe cry a little because I’m not there) and listen to sermons. I will cherish their prayers and pray for them. And, best of all, I still get to write the curriculum for our kiddos! If you’re struggling to remember that you have citizenship in heaven, find your people. Even if it’s just a friend that checks in on you once a week, you need someone who’s going to hold you accountable in your pursuit of the Lord.
Remind yourself of ways you’ve experienced God
It’s really easy to get hyper-focused on big, crazy things that are going on around you. Maybe you’re travelling...you eat a beautiful omelet for breakfast at this one spot and then you see all of these historical buildings and take a bunch of pictures and then you buy a key chain on the way to an art museum and then for dinner you’re fine dining and then you crash and do it all over again the next day!
Or you just spent ten hours, head’s down, writing a research paper... and you forgot to eat.
Either way, it is the perfect opportunity for you to work on taking a step back to see all of the ways that God has been present for you.
While I was checking out at the grocery story the other day, I dropped my car key... and wasn’t paying any attention at all (don’t try to talk on the phone when you’re getting groceries). As I was gathering my bags, a gentleman got my attention and picked up the key, handing it to me with a smile. Y’all, that reminded me that humanity is good... and I desperately needed that! It would be so easy for me to skim past that moment and focus on all of the “big” things that happened in the days that followed, but I think that moment deserves a bit of celebration.
I would encourage you, in whatever season you’re living right now, to find those small moments and celebrate them!
Simple, right? It can be.
I wake up in the morning and I pray, “God, help me love people today!”
When I pray that prayer, I literally have no idea who I will encounter. Maybe I’ll get a chance to hand someone a lost car key. But maybe it will just be holding a door open or calmly chatting with an overwhelmed barista or bumbling through French with an older gentleman who’s waiting for his family (all true stories).
Even though I don’t know how that prayer will play out, I am confidently going into the day with the knowledge that God is with me and I’m with him.
The reality: “Where are you from?”
It’s still a hard question... and I don’t suspect that it will get easier anytime soon. But I don’t have to get anxious about it! I can revel in the knowledge that my driver’s license and my mailing address and my current work address don’t all have to match...and I can just focus on being part of the Kingdom of God. By staying tuned into his word and his people, by noticing all of the small ways he shows up, and by staying connected to him in prayer I am holding on to my citizenship in heaven as a priority.
Do you know that you can be a part of that, too? How do you stay clued in to God’s ultimate place and purpose for your life… despite the chaos and challenges of the day-to-day?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mary Elizabeth has been doing life in Nashville, TN for five and a half years. She currently work for a faith-based nonprofit as an after-school program coordinator... and wearer of many other hats. Outside of work, she is known for her baked goods (it's been suggested that she start a "Muffin Ministry") and her tendency to disappear into the woods at random intervals. You can follow her on Instagram at @emmyelle.