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not from around Here, Are You?
By Mary Howerton
In 2007, a job promotion brought my two boys and me from Minneapolis/St.
Paul to the tiny Tennessee town of Kimball. It didnt take
long for the locals to figure out that I was just a little different.
Maybe it was the fact that I insisted that the moving company
pack Louies hockey stick and snowboard, along with the pots
and pans. Perhaps the snow shovel, standing ready in the garage,
gave it away. Or maybe the first clue that my roots didnt
go down even a tiny bit in Southern soil was the complete absence
of bacon from my refrigerator. If any doubt remained about my
heritage, it was quickly dispelled when I opened my mouth to speak.
Usually, after uttering just one or two syllables, I found myself
interrupted by the oft-repeated question: youre not
from around here, are ya?
After just 7 months in eastern Tennessee, the boys and I were
again transferred; this time to western Tennessee and McNairy
County. I tried, unsuccessfully, to convince Louie and Augie that
they would have no need of a snowboard in Ramer. I had replaced
my front license plate with an orange T and learned
that eating the top part of the turnip known as greens
- was wholly acceptable. I had acquired a taste for barbeque and
biscuits and drank sweet tea even when it was out of season
in the northern climes. I was ready. I was going to fit in, this
time. But, try as I might, I still heard the occasional youre
not from around here, are ya. Clearly, I had a bit of work
left to do.
Time passed, the boys became active in school and sports, and
I continued to learn the ways of my new home. I learned to speak
more slowly and the useful all-purpose word yall.
I learned that gravy wasnt necessarily brown, there is no
singular form for the word grits, a slugburger wasnt
some type of insecticide for garden pests, and that the first
ingredient of any recipe worth making was bacon. While I will
never be born and bred, I am, somewhat unofficially,
from here. After six years of assimilation, this is, most definitely,
The Bible has something to say about fitting in; about being recognizable
as different. In Romans 12:2, Paul instructs us this way:
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the
renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and
acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Further, we are told
in Matthew 5:16 to let your light so shine before men, that
they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Quite clearly, there is a Biblical mandate to remain separate
- not to glorify ourselves - but to so radiantly reflect the love
of Jesus that others cannot help but want to be in our company;
to be like we are and to have what we have. While I worked so
hard to fit in to my new surroundings, (not surprisingly, there
wasnt one single person who really wanted to learn how to
speak with my super-cool Minnesotan accent); as Christians, we
are to draw others to the Lord by virtue of our identifiable difference.
Easily done, right? Well, not for me. I fail daily, perhaps minute
by minute, to show others the light of Jesus. My candle may not
only be hidden under a basket, at times it is completely extinguished!
I am impatient and haughty; judgmental and unkind. In short, I
fit right in with the rest of the human race. But our precious
Lord and Savior Jesus, extends to me His grace and tenderly redirects
my steps. He reminds me that I am a child of the King; anointed
and appointed by the Most High to be in this world, yet not of
it; to draw others to HIM.
After six wonderful years in McNairy County, the hockey stick
is gone; the snowboard has found another home and my boys and
I have found a way to be from here. We have forged
a sense of sameness among dear, adoptive friends. But never let
us forget that we are tasked with the joyous burden of bringing
the light of Jesus to those who may not know Him. Let us never
blend so completely into our surroundings that the line between
our worldly self and our ransomed self becomes blurred. When others
see us, may they see Jesus and be drawn to Him. Their very lives
depend on it.