I’m going to confess…this photo is a throwback. Taken in October of 2014, I have been trying to locate this picture for a couple weeks. I took this on a rare visit to my hometown of Marshalltown, Iowa. While I enjoy these trips back, I also find that they often make me a little sad. Despite a somewhat difficult childhood, I was blessed with some amazing people in my life and I often remark that my friends and I had way more fun than teenagers ever should because it made growing up all the more difficult.
At the age of eleven, I was introduced to the youth group at the Marshalltown Assembly of God. At first I was not terribly interested in making new friends. I was tired of the constant moving that my family did. The repeated pattern of packing boxes, unpacking boxes, making new friends only to say goodbye to them and move on to a new neighborhood, new town, sometime new state, was becoming more than I could face. However, this wonderful group of people took us in with such love and care, I soon found myself spending every possible moment with them. It wasn’t just the kids either, the adults were…well, unlike most of the adults I had known.
Three years later I would find myself once again packing boxes and saying goodbye. Only this time it wasn’t just farewells to friends and well wishes. I was fourteen and we were moving to Oklahoma. Before social media and cell phones, keeping in touch from any distance was difficult at best and I truly felt as though I was leaving a part of me. Having been passed around between parents and grandparents my whole life you would think this would be just another move. But these people were the first in my life to really show me what it meant to love and care about someone without expecting anything in return. They accepted me for who I was and truly made me feel like I was worth knowing. Aside from my brother who was my partner in crime through childhood, and my grandfather who died when I was five, I never truly felt that anyone ever really paid much attention to me. I just existed. I was quiet and as independent as a child could be and while I know my family loved me in their way, it was always somewhat dysfunctional and distant.
Two years later at the age of 16, I would find myself back home, back among these precious people and it was like nothing had changed. If anything we were even closer. There is not a doubt in my mind that God brought these individuals into my life for a reason. Over the years some of us have stayed in touch, others have moved on and never heard from again, and some are waiting on that beautiful shore but I cherish them all still and will forever consider them family and this town will always be home.