I recently traveled to my hometown and a friend of mine tagged along (likely not knowing she’d be spending nine hours in the car with a two year old and 3-month-old when she made the commitment). It was a great weekend in Savannah with lunches downtown, walks along the river, chaotic family dinners with kids everywhere, outdoor concerts, and even a half marathon. I drove her around my old neighborhood and pointed out the different places we’d lived, my old church, the marina where our rehearsal dinner was held…

And I couldn’t shake the feeling that everything seemed so…perfect. You could easily look at my family on the surface and assume we’ve led a privileged life. We all get along, without yelling or tension. My parents own a nice home on the water. My old neighborhood consists of quiet streets lined with pine straw and ditches perfect for jumping, with nary a streetlight in sight. We recovered from the half-marathon while drinking beer under oak trees and looking out over the marsh. But that’s funny because that wasn’t my childhood. At all. The neighborhood and the landmarks and the memories, yes. But the idyllic family dinners, waterfront property, laid-back, tension-free weekends were far from normal life.

A good chunk of my life I was raised by a single mom. With no money and four teenagers, she kept our family afloat in a tiny house with hard work, faith, and a lot of help from our “village.” I remember the church paying our rent. Friends donating to us their car. Bags of groceries on our door step and anonymous envelopes of cash on our windshield. There was more than enough tension and tears for the five of us.

This didn’t define my entire childhood but it made up my adolescence, when I was old enough to pay attention to the world and know that we were different than my other friends. While my peers were obsessed with boys and Green Day and naming their pencil erasers Bob {was that a thing everywhere else? Middle schoolers naming inanimate things Bob??}, my family was arguing and crying and barely scraping by. I was embarrassed that we were the only kids on “reduced lunch” and the only ones with divorced parents.

6th grade

Okay, so middle school was rough for a lot of reasons…

But I also felt like the only kid my age who was seriously learning to pray, for real things like peace and reconciliation. I was the only 13-year-old I knew with Bible verses covering my bedroom walls. I was the only one I knew baby-sitting and saving money to help pay for real things. At the time, my growing faith was simultaneously isolating yet my only source of comfort. The end of the story is a happy one, as evidenced by my recent trip home. My mom remarried a man who loves us as his own and never withheld a hug, a prayer, or a dollar because we were his step kids. But the real happy ending is the hardship– at a foundational age, I learned that God is faithful to provide. He is faithful to provide, not only when we’re in need of food or rent, but when we’re in need of comfort, joy, and direction.

Happy Siblings   www.herviewfromhome.com

Life does look different these days, both in the family I grew up and in the family I have created– we are comfortable, happy, and healthy. But this Thanksgiving, I am most faithful for the things I didn’t have that set me on a trajectory of faith, responsibility, and true understanding of what it means to need. Because when you know drought, you truly appreciate the harvest.

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Kathryn Grassmeyer

Kathryn is a southern transplant, working and living in Northern Virginia with her husband Tyler and daughter Charlotte. She is soaking up life as a family of three before baby #2 arrives this summer. When she’s not blowing noses or failing at potty training, she works as a pediatric physical therapist. Blog: http://www.barefootdaydreams.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BarefootDaydreamsBlog Twitter: https://twitter.com/kategrassmeyer