Becky Whitlock
A reflection on home, relationships and identity

The foothills of the central, southern Appalachian Mountains (pictured above) are my home, and have been for most of the past 44 years of my life. I live in northeast Tennessee, where I attended elementary and secondary schools; where I returned after earning my undergraduate degree; where I began working as a journalist for the Kingsport Times-News, my first and only employer, for the past 27 years; where I married; where we have raised our twin daughters, now 22; and from where, four years ago, I began the journey toward ordained ministry, God willing, through the DL program. The Cherokee, who lived in this area for centuries until the Trail of Tears forced them to leave Appalachia for Oklahoma, not only lived off this land but believed this land, these mountains sustained them. These mountains connected them to the transcendent, to God. Though my understanding of connecting to the transcendent is different, I still sense what these mountains meant to the Cherokee. After traveling away from here to the plains of the Midwest, I regain a sense of peace and normalcy as the peaks come into view from my seat on the airplane or on my drive south. This is home. This is where people I love and who love me, the people who help shape my identity, live. Yet, I have come to regard other places as home. As the Super Shuttle van makes the turn off Como Avenue and heads up the hill to where Stub sits, I also feel a sense of peace. This, too, is home, where for two-week intensives live people I love and who love me and who also are helping to shape my identity, as we learn together, discuss our ideas, and carry each other's burdens. And then there are the online communities, pages on Facebook devoted to my Cohort (4) and to all the Cohorts. Here, too, is a home, where we let off steam, learn, discuss ideas and offer prayers when the burdens we carry are too much. And here, too, my identity is being shaped. Though I appreciate the connectedness the Cherokee have to the place of the Appalachian Mountains, for myself, though I love these mountains, my connectedness to a "home" now comes through the relationships I am developing, not only with those I've known for decades, but also with those who are newer friends. And it is through these relationships that my identity is shifting from journalist/writer to pastor, and growing and changing in the relationships I have. It feels, psychically and emotionally, like the movement of plate tectonics -- slow yet earth shattering when the plates finally meet and a new landscape emerges in the process. Who am I? A daughter, a wife, a mother, a journalist/writer, a seminary student, a friend -- yes, but I believe there is something new on the horizon. Only God knows what.

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