This past week we had a written assignment - to find out a little bit about someone's story and how the events in their life affected the way that they view 'home'. I chose one of the young women from the church I have been going to and it was so valuable to be able to sit down and listen to all the ways that God has clearly had a hand in guiding her life and restoring the hope in her story. She was so open and honest with me and I feel privileged to have heard it from Alyssa herself. I'm also so happy that she's willing for me to share her story with you! Enjoy!

Where the Weight of the World Loses it's Sting.

Many people have a distorted view on what love, family and happiness look like and for Alyssa it was no different. Born to young adults who weren't ready to take on the responsibility of a child yet trying to do the right thing, she had a rough childhood. Her father was abusive physically and emotionally and her mother dealing with depression after suffering a turbulent life of her own.

When she was three years old Alyssa's brother was born with cerebral palsy and as she grew older she ended up taking over the role of parenting him while her father worked. Throughout these challenging times her mother was of little help.

Fourteen years of marriage was all that Alyssa's parents could handle before they separated – her Mom leaving the two kids with their father, where Alyssa continued to play the role of mother. But at age 16 Alyssa had been bearing that weight for too long and decided to move in with her Mom. “That meant that I moved all of my stuff into her house and then spent the next 3 years couch surfing” Alyssa explained.

Finishing high school Alyssa chose a University far enough away that she didn't need to deal with the drama but close enough to visit her brother on weekends. This didn't solve any problems for her though as she didn't like the town, enjoy the University or have anything in common with her roommate.

Coming back on weekends she ended up staying with a local couple who attended church in downtown Brantford. At this point in time Alyssa had no interest in God, having given up on the hope that there was any truth in him. But at the insistence of this family she joined them one Sunday. As the service started one young, unmarried couple stood up the front and confessed to having made a mistake and were expecting a child. “The grace, the peace and the love that you felt in that moment - that was not human grace, there was no way. If this was how they reacted to that then my crazy was nothing. I decided then to give this whole thing another chance.”

Moving back into her mother's house that summer, Alyssa was just planning on working hard and spending as little time at home as possible. After the first few days she came home from helping out at the church to find that her step father was already drunk and angry about the state of the house, blaming it on Alyssa. Unfortunately this started a heated disagreement between her mother and step father so slipping out of the house she hoped that things would calm down by the time she arrived back.

Later finding the house still in chaos, she slipped downstairs grabbing a change of clothes and pajamas before driving around town in her car. Totally broken and without a place to go, she was sitting in her car with tears streaming down her face when she received a message from one of the couples at the church, “Sam and I were chatting and our home is open to you if you would like to stay with us this summer”.

Neither of them had any idea just how bad her situation was and how perfectly timed that message was. That evening Alyssa arrived at their house and in hindsight, says that it was a very strange evening. “They are the type of people who are always ready to have guests over and very hospitable. You would never be able to catch them in their pajamas. But this night they just kept doing what they were doing and asked me to help load the dishwasher before we baked cookies and watched Survivor. As soon as I stepped through the door it was weird – like the weight of the world was gone.”

Within two weeks they had claimed Alyssa as their own child and by Father's Day she referred to them as her parents. Alyssa said that was when she had a revelation, “Oh my gosh, this is what a home feels like. I don't have to worry about being hurt or worry about where food is going to come from or that my stuff is going to get broken or go missing.”

It's a happily ever after story for Alyssa as she explained that they have been looking into legal adoption, “but already friends who have known me since I was little have commented that if they didn't know better they would have thought that I'd been raised by this amazing couple because we fit so perfectly. I fight with my Mom over little things and at first I thought that was so strange, but I've been learning that's how a real mother-daughter relationship is. And I never knew how amazing Mom-hugs are! They take away the pain of the world, even if it's just for the few minutes that you're actually hugging.”

DSC_010122She also loves having a father who takes care of her, knowing that she can trust that he will protect her from harm and there's no threat of injury from him. “Sometimes I play this song, it's like a daddy-daughter dance, and have a picture in my head of myself as a little girl pretend slow dancing by myself and as I grow up my partner turns into my new father and it's just so beautiful. Because really it is my dad who showed me how a husband should love their wife and what it is to be loved by a true father, and that is a gift that I can't even explain how wonderful it truly is."

Every other home that she had been a part of had been an example of a functioning family life, but there had always been something missing and she just hadn't quite fit despite several of them referring to her as their additional child. “As much as it hurt me to see what I was missing, it showed me that there was hope out there for a life that was complete.”

When asked to define what home meant for her, Alyssa said “It's the place where the weight of the world loses it's sting. But it's the people who you share it with that gives it significance. They've helped me change how I see myself, how I act and shown me that I have a support network that isn't going anywhere. ”