During the 30 days leading up to my 30th birthday, I am posting a letter a day expressing thankfulness for someone or something that has played a major role in shaping the first 30 years of my life.
Dear Kansas City,
As I have alluded to several times in some of my earlier "Thankful 30" letters, my time spent living on the windswept outskirts of your borders was a tough season of my life. And not just because it was so windy and so flat and there were so few trees, although those things were contributing factors. I have the Ozarks in my blood and you offer corn and wide skies. But I digress. It was hard, as a 13-year-old, to be uprooted from the community I loved and plopped in a place where I knew no one. In my hometown, people trusted me and I had a reputation of being responsible and dependable (at least as much as anyone trusts and depends on a 13-year-old). In this new place, people did not know me or my family. I often felt that my motives or character were in question. I really don't remember ever knowing the feeling of being criticized or viewed with suspicion prior to our move, but I quickly became acquainted with it. It hurt. But you know what, K.C.? I needed a thicker skin. I needed to know that my identity is in Christ alone, not in others' assessment of me. I needed to know that Jesus really is my best friend; and He and I had some sweet times together sitting up in that old wingback chair on the top floor of our house and looking out the window at the yellow field.
I am thankful for the independence that I gained during the years I lived in Kansas. I couldn't just go along for the ride with my friends I had always relied on - I had to learn to be more outgoing and to seek out opportunities. I am thankful for the friendships that I gained along the way, particularly Amanda and Amy. Amy wasn't part of the group of friends I spent most of my time with. In fact, she lived nearly an hour away; but if laughter is good medicine, Amy was the Ibuprofen of my heart during high school. Her love for the Lord and contagious laughter were so, so encouraging. She never seemed very concerned with what anyone else thought of her, and was the kind of friend who would send fun letters and notes in the mail. Last year, when I had a very early miscarriage, she was one of the few people who sent a card, even though we rarely communicate anymore. That meant the world to me. Over the course of the four years I lived in K.C., Amanda became the friend that I was with all the time. She always seemed like the anchor of our group of friends, and we spent countless hours hanging out at her house. We were such silly girls, I now realize, but we had such fun together. It has been such a blessing to watch her teenage dreams of marrying her high school sweetheart come true, and to have both had two precious babies who are just a couple of months apart from one another in age. Even though it has been a couple of years since we've seen one another, and talking on the phone is so tough with little people all over the place, social media has made it possible to still feel close to her. Thanks for all of the friendships, Kansas City, but especially those two.
On a lighter note, thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn how to drive in a city. I have since been grateful many times when I am traveling in other places that congestion and traffic don't bother me much. Northwest Arkansas may be much busier than it once was, but it doesn't provide much in the way of preparation for city driving. Thank you for your art museum, the Plaza, Shakespeare in the park, Theater in the park, the Missouri Repertory Theater, etc. It was so fun to have a high school experience that was infused with arts at a level it could not have been here. I loved it. Thank you for having such a large population of homeschooling families. I would have felt much more like the odd one out as a home-schooled teenager in Northwest Arkansas.
Kansas City, thank you for the way you helped grow up my heart. You may have provided some difficult experiences, but it was well worth it.