Last month my husband and I traveled across Mid-America territory, meeting with various work associates along the way. One leg of our journey landed us in Casper, Wyoming, where (my parents tell me) I spent my first year of life.

I have visited other places, looking for family history and meaningful associations with my past. But as I view this town from our hotel window, I feel no link with the land or its inhabitants. I have no memories, no connections. Although I was born in the shadow of Casper Mountain, what do I know of ranchers and wranglers?

The Walden’s Ridge mountains in Tennessee where I grew up are roughly the same size as what I gaze on here. But what these mountains are made of, and what grows on and around them, is vastly different.

Elemental influences

If my parents had not moved away, I would have been raised with sagebrush, antelope, pheasants and red, rocky soil instead of rhododendron and dogwood trees lining narrow, winding roads past neighbors’ homes with Confederate flags draping the windows. I would have endured biting winter blizzards and roasting summers instead of playing outside in the rain year round. My song would have been Home, Home on the Range instead of Way Down South in Dixie.

If I had been inspired by rodeo queens instead of Southern belles, what kind of individual would I be today?

How much does one’s environment influence personhood? How does our education and socio-economic status shape us?

I believe that regardless of where I live or who or what surrounds me, I will always be searching for beauty. I will always reach for kind and honest friends. I will try to make the most of every situation and do the best I can with what I have.

Not because of where I live or what I have or the people with whom I associate, but because of the values my parents transferred to me: learning, loving, sharing, filling the God-shaped spaces in life in ways our Creator intends—all transcending the elements of time, location and surroundings.