Life is full of peaks and valleys, sunny days and shadows. What stage of the journey are you in?
I started my adult venture at 19 as a single teenage mom, giving birth to my son, Landon, just 6 months after I graduated from high school. When I had him I was alone, as his biological father was not interested in being involved in either of our lives. I was living with my mom and step-dad and waiting tables—double shifts at Black-eyed Pea. I was also on Medicaid and food stamps.

Teen pregnancy was not supposed to happen to me. When I was in high school I was in National Honor Society and in the top 5% of my graduating class. I’ll never forget being the first person in my senior class to be accepted to any college/university in the nation. I was accepted to Texas A&M University, the only school I wanted to go to. It was early March of 1993, and I was definitely in a period of sunny days in life… until the Monday I came back from spring break and found out I was pregnant. My sunny days came crashing all around me and what ensued came some of the darkest days of shadows I’d ever experienced in life, or so I thought.

I had Landon in December 1993 and soon afterwards got my first ‘adult job’ in an office making $17,000 a year. When Landon was 6 months old I started dating a man and we got married a year later. My new husband was from Illinois and his family owned a car dealership there, so I packed up our belongings and left Texas and everything I had ever known. Once again my sunny days were turning to shadows.

The marriage was rocky, to say the least. I won’t go into details, but the day before our three year anniversary I reached the point of no return. I had no money, no car to call my own, no home, no family, and no idea what I was going to do. I just knew that I had couldn’t condone what was going on and had no choice but to remove myself and my son from the situation.

I stayed in Illinois and rented a little two bedroom duplex for Landon and me to live in. I’d started taking classes at the local university during the first part of the marriage and was just beginning my senior year of college. I weighed my options to determine what I needed to do. If I moved back to Texas I was facing having to pay out of state tuition, losing my entire junior year of credits, and living with my mom again until I got my feet on the ground. As a result, and because the cost of living was much more affordable where I was, I chose to stay in Illinois until I finished school.

Landon and I lived on student loans and grants but I stayed in school and finished my bachelor’s degree in 1999. I even stayed in Illinois to get my master’s degree in Communication Disorders and Sciences (speech pathology). While finishing my master’s degree I started dating a man, Jason, and upon graduation the three of us (Landon, Jason, and I) moved back to Dallas, Texas to start life anew.

Today Jason and I are married and have expanded our family to include two daughters, Grace (12) and Reagan (8). Landon is now 22 and getting ready to graduate from the University of Texas in just a couple of months. Landon has grown into one of my closest friends, supporters, advisors, and advocates. Jason is all of those things for me as well.

Sunny Days and Shadows2 - Cortney Baker

This is my story of my own journey, but I’d like to make it personal to you.

The lesson in all of this is that there will be days of sunshine, but when you stand in the sun you have to be prepared for the shadows, too. However, the shadows are what you have to go through so that you can build perseverance. Perseverance is necessary to build character, and character is what builds hope.

I can assure you that I didn’t have much hope when I was 19 and facing being a single teenage mom. Research says that 98% of single teenage moms do not go on to get their college degrees. I knew I had already been one statistic. I didn’t want to be another one.

But what about you? What season of life are you in now? If you are in a valley, or experiencing the shadows of life, cling to the fact that the sunshine is around the corner. I don’t know when it will come, but it will come if you just hold on.

Be open to your sunshine coming in the most unimaginable disguise, too. What brought me through a very tumultuous marriage just happened to be my sunshine, disguised as a 9 pound colicky baby boy who came into this world to a scared mommy who believed she had no hope. Thankfully, for both of us, I was wrong.

So, today I am grateful for the sunshine… But I am also thankful for the shadows, because so much beauty can come out of shadows especially when you least expect it.

I hope you can find beauty in your shadows as well.