Hi my name is Emily, I'm a millennial, and I like to use hashtags. Not your cup of tea? That's ok. This post is not about justifying the use of hashtags. There's probably someone way smarter than me that can walk you through the science of media trends. I just want to tell you about this particular one: #mapsontheroad
In case you haven't read anything on this site or don't know me at all, I've been road tripping since March 18 and my business, if you can even call it that, is Maps Management and Consulting hence #maps...ontheroad. ANYWAY, as I've traveled to 12 different states so far, I am realizing a second meaning to the title of this season. My whole thing with MapsMC is about providing maps to visionaries, missionaries, and dreamers taking the lofty and ideal and making it concrete and real. I help people discover and draw the "map" to where they want to be.
This trip I am on, however, is doing this for me. While on the road, I am discovering my own maps. With each place I visit, God is drawing out sections and revealing interchanges. He is placing people, beauty, moments, connections, ideas, encouragement, guidance, and everything I need on the road in his perfect timing. All I've had to do was keep driving.
Ultimately, the destination is Heaven. That's literally all I want. Doesn't mean I don't get distracted by the world unable to see past earthly goals which aren't bad, but if your earthly goals aren't just a means to Heaven, then what's the purpose? Take for example: Vocation. I can easily get caught up in wishing I was living my Vocation whatever is might be: marriage or religious life. I can obsess and wallow over the fact that I'm 28 and not married or getting close to the age that many religious orders don't accept you. Vocation is good and our unique path to holiness, but it is not holiness in itself. It is not our destiny. Christ is our destiny! I should be seeking Christ, not necessarily my Vocation. (Shout out to Mary Caprio for preaching this heart piercing truth at a YCP Houston Panel last year) I also remember being told as a sophomore in high school that is you just keep running towards Christ, you will eventually look beside you and be standing next to your Vocation.
All that being said, maybe take a moment to reflect on the map God is revealing to you along your way. See the connections, serendipity, and gift of your life giving thanks for His gentle hand and constant presence.
Day 69: Severna Park, MD
I drove 12 hours yesterday and loved every minute of it. I told myself I would keep driving until I couldn't no more. I kept waiting for myself to get tired and restless, but I never did. Maybe I was just excited to reach my next destination. Maybe I didn't want to pay for a hotel. Maybe the scenes of the Shenandoah Valley entranced me. Maybe grace. Probably all of the above. Regardless, I'm here on a porch swing overlooking the Severn River that connects to the Chesapeake Bay. How? Serendipity.
Day -14 years ago: Houston, TX
As your typical awkward middle schooler, all I wanted was to belong. That meant for me best friends, invitations, and social security. But I was scared with seemingly minor yet significant moments of rejection that many others likely face as a child and adolescent. These moments left deep wounds that have in many ways fooled me into believing a lot of lies about myself. I'd go as far as saying I've been imprisoned by these wounds using them as permanent limitations that I will just always deals with, my cross to bear. I would still cautiously seek out "homes" that would for however long satisfy my longing to belong. I waited for what felt like an eternity for summer of 2005 because that was when I got to officially "join" youth group as an incoming high school freshman. That summer, a college student from Auburn University showed up to "intern" with my church's youth ministry. She was really pretty, super nice, and invited me in: Pool Tuesdays, Girls Group discussing Marian virtues, Beth Moore bible studies, etc. I always felt welcomed in her presence and like I could be myself. She even flew back to Houston the following year to be my Confirmation sponsor. My junior year of high school she ended up as our full-time youth minister, but as life went on post high school, we eventually lost touch for the most part. I went to college and then got a job, she left Houston and got married. Thanks to social media, we were still able to vaguely stay connected.
Day -29: Houston, TX
"COME VISIT US!!!!!!!!" appears on my phone moments after I posted about planning a road trip. The last direct communication we had had was 6 years prior.
Day 68: Nashville, TN---Severna Park, MD
I pull up around 8:15pm and am greeted by the sweetest little front porch welcome committee anxiously waiting for me. We spent the night filling in the holes of the last 10 years that social media missed overwhelmed by how our God is present in every detail weaving our stories so intimately together with fishing line. He is the most creative and thoughtful author. We may have "lost touch," but God's penmanship transcends the visible stories of our lives.
I am beginning to realize all these "homes" I have sought out and found security in over the years have been more like renovated Mercedes Sprinters moving me closer and closer to my true home, security, and place of belonging in our Father. #vanlife is beautiful, fun, and life-giving, but it's also difficult, messy, and lacking some essentials like bathrooms. Sometimes your van breaks down and you need to do some repairs or find a new one. But that's ok because you know you are just on your way to eternity and #vanlife isn't forever. There is freedom in knowing this and freedom begets freedom. More on that later, but for now, this is my prayer (shared with me years ago by another former youth minister).
"O, Divine Spirit, I want to be before you like a light feather that your breath may carry me where it will and I may not offer the least resistance to it."
Day 61: Nashville, TN
It's 10:55am and I just arrived at Steadfast Coffee, another Nashville Roastery and Cafe with a well designed logo and filled with cool looking young people. It also has beer, so I ordered a beer because #porqueno. I find myself saying this multiple times a day. It's become my anthem. When I'm hesitate to do something, #porqueno. When I feel like I have to justify myself to someone or the masses on social media, #porqueno. Why the hashtag? Because we live in a hashtag world and #porqueno.
Everyday, I am faced with the decision of to do or don't by myself. I want to hear live music. That means figuring out parking by myself, walking down Broadway by myself, making a decision of which bar to walk into by myself, ordering a beer by myself, standing or sitting at a table by myself, wondering what everyone is thinking about this girl by herself. The alternative is sitting by myself at whatever place I am calling home scrolling through my phone watching other people live their lives...by myself. I'd rather live by myself rather than watch other people live by myself. Plus, you never know when God is going to wink at you.
Day -who knows: Johnson City, TX
A few years ago, I took a personal retreat day. I don't remember why, but I do remember feeling like I needed to get out of town so I drove to Austin, stayed with a friend for a night, woke up the next morning to spend my day driving through the hill country by myself. The rules were: stop when you saw something you wanted to check out and wrestle through the awkwardness of being alone. I remember hyping myself up to go into a restaurant in Johnson City, TX and ask for a table for 1, order, and eat by myself. It seemed like such a big deal, and I felt so insecure. But I did it and came out alive. It was a beautiful day and serendipitously looking back, was preparation for these days.
Day 59: Nashville, TN
I had very tentative, probably not going to happen plans with a girl I had met where I am staying. They didn't pan out so I had to make a decision: go anyway or don't go. The only reason to not go was the insecurity of being by myself because what would people think. I went, listen to live music, had a beer, and after an hour or so, went back to my car to head home. As I approached my car on 2nd, I turned my head and saw what looked like an Astros hat. I immediately stopped, turned back, and the musician playing sure enough had an Astros hat. Keep walking to my car or have one more beer and ask where this guy is from? Because #porqueno, I walked into Cerveza Jack's, ordered a Dos XX, sat at a table, and listened. Turns out he was from Louisiana. Because I can't help myself from believing I am max only 2 degrees of separation from everyone, when he finished playing, I walked up to leave a tip and asked him where he was from in Louisiana. Alexandria. It took maybe 15 seconds to figure out we did know many of the same people. I mean come on! I think God is constantly winking at us to let us know he's there and we are in his inner circle. If you know me, my love languages are: being cooked for/french fries, porch swings, and making connections.
*His name was Alex Smith, and he is pretty talented so you should maybe look him up.
I was told to write before I left, and while I love to write, I didn't write. I lived. Now on Day 60, I think I'm going to add writing to my living. How beautifully and annoyingly imperfect to start like this, but no time to wallow, wish, or waste. Only time to be and do.
Day 1: Houston, TX---Lafayette, LA
I left my beloved Houston on March 18, 2019 wide eyed, clueless, and free. I pulled out of the driveway and then parked in my street to attempt my first of many "on the road" instastories. I took probably 10 versions of the same photo resigning to imperfection. I shared my starting mileage of 97,631 with the Dixie Chicks' The Long Way Around. After 10 minutes of perfecting the first public view into my new life as, I'm sure, my dad stared from the house front window wondering what I was doing, I finally put my foot on the gas and started driving. The plan was to make my way to Washington, D.C. by June 12, 2019 for The Given Forum stopping and staying with friends and friends of friends along the way playing everything by ear open to the not so clear but faithful Holy Spirit.
Day -91: Houston, TX
Just after midnight on Monday, December 17, 2018, Claire Marie Nieschwietz Chesnutt drew her last breath alone in her hospice room. They told us to stop connecting with her so that she would stop fighting death. She was just 2 months shy of her 97th birthday. Gran was an imperfect badass woman I should have spent more time with. She didn't get to choose a lot in her story, but she lived her story. She owned her story. That's at least how this granddaughter saw it. About 10 hours later, I resigned from my dream job of almost 6 years seeking to better own my story. This decision was a year in the making, but it couldn't have been a better day to jump. The plan was self-employment/freelance work in ministry management and consulting or something like that. The plan was also to figure out the plan along the way.