Last week, I introduced you to a sweet girl named Sunshine. I let my dear friend who matched Sunshine’s scholarship pick her alias. She chose “Sunshine” because of that beautiful smile. It’s true. Sunshine does have a beautiful smile.
But I think it’s perfect for another reason, too. As I was given more information about her, I found out several hard things about her life. Dark, sad things. I also found out her real name—it’s a name that is often associated here in America with darkness and horror movies. And she has recently been in some horrible places.
But she made a decision. A bright one. She decided to not give in to the dark. She decided to fight, to try to better her situation. She decided to not be defined by where she was placed, but by where she wanted to be.
She decided to fight for sunshine.
I like fighters.
I am one.
Almost nine years ago now, my life fell apart. My plans, my hopes, my dreams…they were gone. Eroded slowly through a difficult marriage, I found myself driving back to my parents’ home with nothing but a few suitcases, fifty dollars in cash, and a seven-month-old baby sleeping in the back seat.
A few months later, I had a half of a house’s worth of things, but I had lost everything. I had no plan. No future. I had been abandoned by the person who had promised to love me until forever.
Instead, all I had seen around me was darkness. Fear. Uncertainty. Loss. Danger.
And when I came back to this small town, broken and lost, the light of hope seemed so very far away. There were so many obstacles to face, so many lurking questions. Those first years were difficult.
But I remember what my mom said to me during that time. “God promises to be a lamp unto your feet. Lamps aren’t very bright…they only give you the next few steps, and the rest is darkness. You aren’t responsible for what’s out there in the darkness. God is. That’s what trusting Him is all about. All you have to do is take those few steps you can see today and have faith for the rest. He didn’t give you a spotlight for the future. If you were able to see all the twists and turns coming, your head would probably explode. Instead, because He loves you, he gave you a lamp. Just look at the path in front of you. Just take steps. And when the twists do come, you will be ready. When you feel like you are approaching a cliff, it’s okay. Leap. He who has proven himself faithful will continue to be faithful. Just walk.”
So I did.
And I saw 11th hour mercies. Over and over. Protections that were unprecedented. A dream job offer after hundreds of resumes and interviews for horrid jobs failed. A budding life.
And then, two years later, a home. Again at the last minute, a loan came through…a loan I was told several times I wasn’t eligible for, but I got anyway.
And I knew, the first time I set foot in this place, that I had been given a second chance. A hope. A future instead of darkness and death.
And so our little dog came to us. A rescue, abused and neglected. Now a treasured friend.
And we were a family. Incomplete, but expectant.
And now I find a new twist. More children have come. Children of my heart, added but not kept. Family made, held close for a moment, then stretched across an ocean.
I won’t lie. Some days are harder than others. Some days there are tears, and questions, and anger. Some days there is a boy broken in my arms. Some days there is dog who pees on the carpet because he thought my hand was going to harm. Some days there is an ache in my soul for dreams that die inch by inch as my body ages. Some days there is longing for a hand to hold and a voice beside me when the darkness comes. Some days are so, so lonely.
But I wouldn’t go back.
Who would? Because here there is hope. There is calm. There are soothing hands and warm kisses and sweet cuddles. There is love.
The scars are not ignored. We are not loved despite them, but because of who we have become as they have healed. We are loved by the One who has the power to heal. Who continues to heal.
And while I know a little bit about Sunshine’s past, I don’t know her heart yet. I don’t know exactly how she feels. I don’t know the hurt, but I know the land. The land of the open wound. The land of the hidden pain. The land of the messy life.
And I know that I want my home to be an oasis for those living in that land.
It’s still messy here. The wounds still bleed sometimes, and the pain sometimes is too much to speak.
But it’s also a place where the salve of love and the sweetness of safety mark its days.
We’re the home of the abandoned. We’re the home where the lonely are given purpose. We’re the home of God’s mercy. We’re the home of second chances.