**I took this sunset picture almost four years ago during a family vacation in Laguna Beach**
Growing up in the hot desert of Las Vegas, I always eagerly anticipated our once or twice yearly family vacations to Southern California and always dreaded leaving. There is something about standing next to the ocean and the perspective it gives you, or that feeling when a cool wave is crashing over your head and you feel so alive, or when you can hear the tide come in and watch the way that God paints the sky in the most breathtaking colors. During those moments I am always reminded that no matter how crazy this world is, that there is still so much beauty to be found and so much to be thankful for. I saved this picture because four years ago I was in a really dark place. So much so that I begged my parents to let me stay home and wanted nothing more that to stay in my room and be completely alone before I would return back to the east coast and had to put my brave face on again. Knowing how I felt about California, they refused to let me stay home all weekend and convinced me to come along that trip. You know those times when you are so low that you think it is better to be alone than to drag down everyone else around you–even though that is the farthest thing from the truth? Or when your spirit feels crushed but you are in a room full of people and you realize that someone made a joke and you force yourself to smile but you really don’t know if you will be okay. That’s how I felt and I know if you’re reading this today then chances are you have been there before too and know exactly what I’m talking about.
After dinner that night we walked down to the boardwalk and I remember staring at this sunset and for the first time in a long time I felt God impress upon my mind that everything really was going to be okay. I took this picture (it’s also my cover photo for a personal reminder to myself of how far I’ve come) and since that day have looked at it when that hope felt fleeting and I needed a physical reminder that everything would be alright. To be honest, I was so glad that I did because before things got better they got much much worse and I needed a physical reminder of that moment of hope that could have easily been forgotten.
I recently returned back to Laguna with my wonderful parents and spunky nephew and took in those beautiful sunsets once again. If you would have told me four years ago everything that God was going to do in my life from that day forward I never would have believed it. I am not saying that my life is perfect and it certainly may not even be considered successful to some, but I know how far I have come and can never deny how God has inspired my every move as I have genuinely sought His will–even when others doubted my decisions. My definition of success has changed drastically since that day. This trip to California I found myself in a completely different place and was once again reminded of how important it is to stay close to God and to follow your heart. After a long day of body surfing and letting my nephew boss me around on the beach the four of us ate lunch at a rooftop diner overlooking the coast. We looked like four washed up sea hags with our beach hair, sun-kissed noses, and sandy feet and I’ve never wanted to freeze time more in my life. It was my kind of perfect. Your life does not have to be anyone else’s idea of perfect and the times when it is hardest to pray are the times we need to pray the most. The times when we want to be completely alone and shut everyone out are the times when we need to open our eyes to the people around us and be unafraid to ask for a lifeline. The times when we are moving forward even if every step feels heavy are the times when God is doing some of his greatest work in us and through us. My life is filled with some of the most beautiful relationships that I could never envision life without now and the quality of the relationships I had at that time in my life has increased as well. Even if you can’t see it right now everything will be okay if you just trust him. And there are always lifelines along the way…even if it is just a sunrise or a beautiful sunset in a time when you need something to believe in–hold on to that with all you have. I hope you know no matter what your current trial that you’re going to smile and laugh again and you’re going to be okay.
I wish I could go back and hug the 20-year-old insecure and shattered girl staring at that sunset that evening and say this will end and you will begin again. You will be alright again. You will be wrong again. You will laugh again. You will succeed again. You will fail again. You will be human and it will all be okay. Just don’t ever quit again.
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” -Isaiah 41:10
Other highlights from this trip:
My six-year-old nephew Braden giving me (unasked for) relationship advice over dinner (while the waiter was waiting to take our order)
Braden: Audy are you married?
Braden: “Audy here’s what you need to know…if you want a marriage ring one day you need to make sure you fix yourself up…and always go on dates with dinner…and he can’t have a snaggle tooth…take it from me I have lots of girlfriends…but sometimes I forget their names.” (Curious advice from someone missing his front tooth…)
Yup. That’s my nephew. He obviously has problems saying what he’s really thinking 😉
The Anti-Cover Girl