Safe. Sunshine. Seen.

I’m not enough. I’m all alone. I’m too much. No one cares. These are just a few of the thoughts that have run through my head at any given time. As a teenager, they were constantly on repeat. Now, I don’t hear these thoughts quite as often, but they’re still there at the back of mind. They’re waiting to attack when I’m at my most vulnerable and insecure. As a teenager, I was always the one trying to be a safe place for people. I always felt like I had to be the sunshine girl. I was the one who always cared and saw others. I never felt like I was on the receiving end. I didn’t feel like I had a safe place. I didn’t feel like anyone was my sunshine girl. I never felt cared for or seen. Then, I started going to Compass Church. It’s been over six years now and I’m still constantly being reminded by Compass Church members that I am enough. I’m not alone. I’m not too much. And I am cared for. I have a safe place. I have a sunshine girl. And I have someone who cares for and sees me.

I have a safe place. Without God I have nothing. I have no safety. No peace. No joy. No identity. No anything. With God, I can have tangible reminders that I am safe. I can have peace. Joy is attainable. And my identity is only found in Him and who He created me to be. My best friend, Shelby, is almost always that tangible reminder for me. She is almost always available when I’m feeling lost, when I’m feeling afraid, when I’m feeling depressed, and really at any time. Six years ago, I met her and she very quickly, but slowly became a place of safety for me. First she was someone I could share my song lyrics with, aka my journal entries. Next, she became a close friend who put in as much effort in our friendship as I did, if not more. Then, she became my best friend. And now she’s the safest place I know in this world other than God. When I need eminded that everything is going to be okay, she’s there with God’s promises. When I just need to vent so I don’t go crazy, she listens. When a topic comes up at church or elsewhere that gets me feeling some kind of way because of personal issues, she’s there and she knows. She doesn’t poke or prod. She just knows. She may ask something like, “How are you feeling,” but then she’ll leave it at that unless I turn it into a conversation. That’s all I needed as a teenager. Someone to ask, “How are you?” and mean it. Someone who knew how I was doing even if I didn’t say anything. I always speak so highly of Shelby and it’s literally just because she’s there and she cares. She’s the kind of safe place I needed as a teenager and it’s the type of safe place I’m so grateful to have now.

“I could be your sunshine girl.” That is a line from the song, Sunshine Girl, by Christian singer, Britt Nicole. This song was one of my anthems in high school, partially because I wanted to be this girl, but also because I needed this girl. The idea of the song is that this girl is whoever you need her to be. She’s there for you no matter what. I wanted to be and have that, but when I listened to it, I mostly just wanted that sunshine girl. I wanted to have someone in my life who could make me smile no matter what because she’s just a bright, shining light in this world. In recent months, I have met one particular sunshine girl named Ana. I don’t know much about Ana, but I do know she is a ray of hope and sunshine wherever she goes. Maybe that comes from a heartbreaking backstory. Maybe she’s always been that way. I don’t know, but whatever she has or hasn’t been through seems to have brought her to a place of ultimate joy and gratitude that shines through whenever I see her.

This past weekend, she was setting up for and promoting a Christmas event our church does for women every year called, Sparkle. By the end of the setup, the table was so silvery and shiny you could practically see your reflection in the decorations. And yet, Ana was still more sparkly. I sat and chatted with her until church started. For that whole fifteen to thirty minutes she continued to shine brighter than the sparkly decorations. And anyone who spoke with her, whether signing up for the event or not, left with a bright smile on their faces too, because Ana is a genuine sunshine girl. Even a second of speaking with her leaves me feeling happy and bright too! For that reason alone, I am so grateful to know this lovely sunshine girl. Even without knowing much about her, she has made my life infinitely more blessed just by being in it.

I have someone who cares for and sees me. I’m an introvert. Contrary to how I often come across, I prefer to keep to myself and observe rather than participate. Every once in a while, an extrovert comes along and tries to change that. This time around, that extrovert is Tamra. Tamra is a ball of energy so wonderfully intense that if I got to speak with her every morning, then I’d never need caffeine again. We met one weekend at a youth day by the river. Her son is in the youth group at church where I volunteer, so she and her husband came to help chaperone. While there, we chatted and got to know each other. Since then, I’ve learned that her spirit animal is probably a golden retriever or something. Every time she sees me, she gets excited, comes up to me, and starts talking to me. If there’s something going on, then she urges me to join in until I do. And I absolutely love it. Just like the golden retriever friend, she immediately sees me, comes to me, and makes sure I’m taken care of. We haven’t known each other very long, and yet I know that if I need anything, then she’s there for me. There’s just something so wonderfully genuine about her that I can’t help but know that she sees me and she cares about me.

In hindsight, I can see that pretty much everyone I knew as a teenager cared about me and loved me. I can see that if I had tried to open up to them, then most of them would have been receptive. I can see that if I had given them a chance, then at least some of them could have been my sunshine girl when I couldn’t be. I can also see that if I hadn’t tried so hard to hide, then more people might have seen me. I didn’t have clear vision then though, so I can’t say that for sure. Now, I can see clearly and I know that if nothing and no one else, then I have at least three very important people in my life. I have Shelby who is my human safe place when I need someone to just be there. I have Ana who is the truest sunshine girl I’ve ever met. Someone to remind to be joyful no matter what. And I have Tamra, someone who sees me and cares for me, even when I don’t want to be seen or cared for. Most of the people at our church would be more than willing and ready to be a safe place, a source of sunshine, or someone to see and care for me. I’d just have to ask them. Shelby, Ana, and Tamra are different though. I don’t have to ask them. They just are and I am so incredibly grateful for that.

Let us all strive to be a safe place for others. Let us all live like Britt Nicole’s sunshine girl, there and ready to be whoever others need us to be in times of joy or sorrow. And let us be open and ready to see and care for those around us.

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