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“…This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine…

..don’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine…”

My first memories of church are when I was about seven-years-old. I vividly recall my Sunday School teacher telling another adult that I was her little ray of sunshine. Does that make me the original “Little Miss Sunshine?”

Not to go off on a tangent, but if you didn’t see that movie, I highly recommend it. If you look past some of the language and subject matter, there’s a beautiful story of unconditional love and acceptance.

Okay, let’s get back on topic. As a little girl, I was bubbly and joyful. I was very friendly; didn’t know a stranger.  I loved everyone with all my heart, especially Jesus.   My light shone so brightly.

But, with time, life started to cause my light to flicker.

I have olive skin and as a child my complexion was pretty dark. Some kids in the neighborhood would tell me that I was a wetback ( I don’t approve of this word.  I’m only using it to relay actual events). I had no idea what that was. I asked my Mom. She tried to explain. I was even more confused….how could I be a wetback if I wasn’t from Mexico?

“You’re an ugly duckling”, my Grandmother told me. And so, I believed her.

I was different. I lived in a rough neighborhood, but my friends lived in the “rich” neighborhood. My mom sent me to school in dresses every day up until one day when I was in 4th grade.  The girls asked me, “Why do you always wear dresses to school?”  Well, my mom did try to rectify it when I told her I needed pants; jeans like the other kids.  She got me Sears toughskins.  That is NOT what I had in mind.  When all of the other girls were playing with their Lemon Twist, I was skipping over a Footsie.

In sixth grade, I had a bottom locker. I was crouched down at my locker getting books or something when the boy whose locker was above mine yelled, “Get out of my way! Move!” as he repeatedly kicked me. He felt his actions were justified because his dad was a dentist and made good money. However, I lived on the wrong side of the tracks.  A girl whom I’d known since 1st grade, was standing there waiting on him to get what he needed from his locker. She couldn’t believe her eyes and chided the boy to stop. But, I felt abandoned when she left me there, and walked off with him.  Her actions were almost as hurtful as his.

My Dad worked a lot and wasn’t home much. When he was home, he was distant except when he disciplined us. What I mostly felt from my Dad during my preteen years was disapproval.

But there were some positive influences too.  My closest friends’ parents treated me with dignity.   They invited me over to their houses to play, and to vacation bible school, and included me on family trips.  They drove into my neighborhood to pick me up when others wouldn’t come near it.  I can still name those handful of people.  I’m so glad God placed them in my life.  If it weren’t for them, my light would have completely gone out before I was ten years old.

If I were to write a letter to my young self, I would let her know that she isn’t alone.   I’d tell her not to be afraid.  I would want her to know that she is precious.  That her grandmother was wrong; she’s not an ugly duckling.  I’d tell her that even though it doesn’t feel like it, her Dad loves her more than life itself.  That when she walks into a room, his eyes light up.  When she hurts, he hurts.  And that he’s so proud of her.  I’d want her to know that it is okay to be different; blending in isn’t God’s plan for her.  I’d want her to know that this isn’t the end of her story.

And friends, that’s about all I can write without breaking down in tears.  Writing about the experiences and people that shaped me is more painful than I realized it would be.  It’s like I’m there again, but this time my perspective is different.  It’s that of one who can see the whole picture.

The good thing about telling a story from your past is that you can see the benefit of having walked through water and gone through fire.  You know how it looks on the other side of the valley, and you’re all the wiser for it.

Before I go, I want you to know that I so appreciated your sweet, encouraging comments last week.  It meant the world to me.  I felt so understood, loved and accepted.  That’s the way it should be when you bare your soul.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Until next time,