When the Light Shines Through…

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Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17

It was our last day on the beach.  It was warm but it was one of those overcast days when the sky and the clouds and the water all blended together.  You couldn’t quite make out where water met sky because it all seemed to be the same color.  Grey.

Still, it was the beach so we made the best of it.  I watched the waves roll into shore, listened to them crash and then the foam bubble on the sand as the waves were pulled back into the sea.  The ocean breeze blew through my hair and across my face.  That unmistakable aroma of sand and sea scented the air and the salt air seasoned my lips.  The clouds drenched the sky but I still gazed in awe of the sea as my son built structures in the sand, and my husband and daughter played catch on the beach.

Then, just as we had settled into our chairs, resigned to the fact that it was going to be a cloudy day; there was a break in the clouds just above where we sat.  The entire sky was grey for as far as we could see but the clouds parted right above our heads as though God opened a window and commanded the sun to pour down on us.  Through that little window in the clouds, we could even see a piece of blue sky.  We felt the warmth on our faces as we were saturated in light.  What an amazing sight and what an amazing feeling. It was like God saw us sitting on that beach, surrounded by the grey-ness of our surroundings and decided we needed some sun.  God knew exactly what we needed. When we were faithful and grateful, He provided it … and at just the right time.

It was last fall when I saw the post about Little Pink Houses of Hope on my Facebook feed.  I had never heard of it before but read that it was an organization that provided week-long beach vacations to families dealing with cancer.  I thought about how very much our family could use some time away so I decided to apply.  As I completed the application, I thought about how long it had been since we got away for a full week, together, as a family.  I finished the application and said a little prayer.  I told God that my family could really use this vacation but if there was another family He felt could use it more, then we understood.  It was in His hands and we would be okay with whatever He decided.  Then, after I said “Amen”, I pushed the submit button. I never told my family I applied. I never thought we would be chosen.

This past February, I got the email telling us that we were selected for a Little Pink Houses of Hope Retreat in Carolina Beach, North Carolina.  I had to read the email twice to make sure I understood … then I said a prayer of thanks as the tears rolled down my face.  Our family had just suffered a tremendous loss and the stress of the everyday on top of my stage four cancer diagnosis was definitely starting to wear on everyone.  This was absolutely perfect timing.  We needed this and there was not a doubt in my mind that God knew that and that is why we were selected.  I know there must be a finely tuned process to choose the participants at the head office of the Little Pink organization but I firmly believe God had something…no everything…to do with it.

From the moment we stepped into Kate’s Pancake House and were greeted by our VolunStar, Kathy, and the other beautiful people involved with Little Pink; we knew this vacation was going to be special.  Kathy was warm and friendly and I felt comfortable with her from the moment we met. After Kathy gave us some information, we got back into our car and followed her to our beach house that was our home for the week.  As we stepped inside the door, I was overwhelmed.  The home was gorgeous and so tastefully decorated. During an easier time in our lives, my husband and I discussed purchasing a beach house.  We had even planned how we would decorate it.  My husband looked at me once we got settled in and said, “I love this house.  Did you notice that it is decorated exactly like we wanted?”.  He noticed it too.  This house was among the homes that were donated by very generous homeowners and the people at Little Pink chose homes for families based on need and availability… but this home was made for us.  God knew that too.  Although the way the home was decorated had nothing to do with the enjoyment of our trip, it served as confirmation that God’s hands were most definitely crafting this experience.

The week was full of fun activities as well as food, friendship and fellowship. There were more blessings than I could count but the impact this trip had on my family was immeasurable …

I saw my husband relax and I watched him take that proverbial deep breath, for the first time in a very long time.  He worked so very hard for our family, putting in long hours and traveling for days at a time.  He gave of himself to the youth baseball and softball league in which my children participated.  He gave of himself to anyone in need.  He was always the first to offer help.  He was also a man whose wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  He was a man who was quietly scared and admittedly mad at the world and a little angry at God.  He was a man who had recently lost his brother to cancer.  He needed this trip.  He needed this time.  God knew that and He provided Mike with just what he needed when we were blessed with this trip.

I saw my daughter open up and put her guard down.  My daughter was 11 but going on 33.  She was growing up way too fast for my liking.  She was stuck somewhere between a little girl and the young woman she was trying so hard to become.  She was self-conscious, always second-guessing herself.  She was muddling through that time when a young girl was still trying to figure out who she was but her peers were already putting her where they felt she belonged.  My daughter was beautiful but she didn’t believe it.  My daughter was smart but she didn’t think so.  She needed this time to get away from the pressures of growing up and trying to fit in. She needed to just be a little girl at the beach with her family.  She needed a change in scenery.  God knew that too and He provided her with exactly that.

I saw my son show more courage and exude more confidence than I had since he was a toddler. He was a 10-year-old little boy, wise beyond his years with a heart so big I wondered how it fit inside his chest.  My son suffered from low self-esteem and a lack of confidence.  My son always felt lonely and often, like an outsider.  My son was like a bucket with a hole in it.  We filled him up with all the love and acceptance and encouragement we could; but somehow, it always leaked out, leaving him empty and leaving us desperate for a way to make him see himself the way that we did.  My son was not planning on participating in many of the activities offered through Little Pink.  I was afraid he would need lots of coaxing to even talk to anyone outside of the family.  My heart skipped a beat when I saw his face lit up with joy as he jumped out of the window of the bouncy house provided by the local fire station on the very first night.  My heart soared when I watched Kade stand with a fishing  pole for an hour after everyone else had gone to lunch, trying to catch a fish.  My heart just about exploded when I watched my son boldly go out on a paddleboard over and over and over again, determined to get up on that board and paddle in by himself.  My son needed to feel encouraged and accepted.  My son needed to gain some confidence.  My son needed to feel like he was special and like he mattered.  God knew that and God not only sent us to Carolina Beach but He also sent a group of loving and accepting people with the ability to break through those walls he had built around his heart.

I needed to spend time with my family.  I needed to sit on the beach, feel God’s presence and allow God’s peace to fill my heart.  I had been running a household and fighting for my life.  I was tired.  I was exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I needed to refresh, re-energize, and regroup.  I needed to see my husband for longer than the few minutes between activities or between work trips.  I needed for our family to be all in the same place all at the same time.  I needed to quiet my mind and soul.  I needed to have time to think, to reflect, and to just be.  I spent many moments on the ocean’s edge, praying and spending time with God.  I let God’s peace flow into my heart as I let my worries drift out to see.  I needed renewed in every way imaginable. God knew that and He provided it through this vacation, as only He could.

My family had been swimming around in a sea of grey.  We had been rhythmically crashing into shore and then heading back out to sea.  There was no time to waste, no time to enjoy each other, no time to just stop and feel the sun on our faces. Our lives had been blurred and covered in clouds of busyness, of activity, and of exhaustion; but then, God allowed Little Pink to step in and break through those clouds.  Just like God opened up a window in the grey clouds and let the sun shine down upon us at the beach on that cloudy day; Little Pink opened up a window and let their love blow in and swallow us whole so that are minds could be cleared and our hearts could be filled.

Little Pink was that bright spot for which we didn’t even know we were looking.  Little Pink came into our lives at a time when we needed it most.  My husband got some rest. My daughter got to be herself. My son got to feel good about himself.  I got to find the peace my heart so desperately needed.  We received a vacation .. but we received so much more.

We only spent a week on the beach but we were provided blessings that would last a lifetime. That week reminded me of just how much God loves us and how much He wants to do for us, especially when we put all our faith in Him and when we believe in His promises with our whole hearts. Sometimes, He makes things happen all by Himself… and sometimes He sends people like those at Little Pink to make things happen for us.

Thank you, Lord, for your continued mercy, grace, and blessings on my family.  You give me the strength to keep on going, even when things are hard. 

Thank you, Little Pink Houses of Hope.  You have made a world of difference for this family of starfishes … and for that, we will be forever grateful.  

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.  

2 Corinthian 9:15

For more information about Little Pink Houses of Hope, please visit http://www.littlepink.org

Author: Jennifer Lilley Collins

I'm a Mom, wife, daughter, and friend navigating life with metastatic breast cancer while finding joy in the everyday and spreading hope, love, and inspiration along the way.

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