When I celebrate my birthday on March 31st each year, it is not just celebration but gratefulness for a sunrise some eleven years ago now, seen from the shore of Hope Town, Abaco, Bahamas, a tiny island dotted with little candy-colored houses and the sweetest people and ex-pats you could ever hope to meet. I can still remember the rocks digging into my back and the way the ocean smelled that day. How I snuggled into my sweater in the morning chill and waited desperately for the sun to beat the clouds. How the Lord’s voice sounded in my heart as I heard the words I waited 23 years for, to know simply that I was loved in spite of myself. How the rest of the day is a blur because I was eating key lime pie and laughing and sailing and soaking in the ocean that had become my life and all the while, trying to process the discovery of love like an ocean that drowned out the lies I had come to believe.

It was the best and worst day of my life, forever etched in my memory and in a small tattoo on my wrist as a daily reminder of all that I have been rescued from and the implications of that on how I engage with my fellow travelers. I have written words on it for years, waxed poetic about it in conversations, and cried over it again and again and again, still in awe of what the Lord has done.

What I have been thinking on this year, though, is the evening before. When I laid my head down on my arm on the trampoline of the boat that night and watched the stars dance as they can only do when you are anchored in the middle of the ocean, I was excited for my birthday as I have always been, but I had no idea that it would be the last night I would go to sleep not knowing/believing in/acting in love. I did not know how hard and beautiful and holy the sunrise would be when I watched the sunset that night. I could not have possibly fathomed how incredibly my life was about to change.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to love not only that sunrise, but that sunset the night before. Much like my life, I needed the dark in order to appreciate the light. I need my hard memories because they make my beautiful memories that much more so. I needed years of struggle so I could dwell in times of rest. I needed my questioning years so that the answering years sunk deep in my bones. I needed human moments of hatred in order to embrace heavenly moments of love. I love sunrises. I love the daily promise of how I have been made to love. And I love sunsets, too. Because joy comes in the morning. This morning, in fact. And every morning after.