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Our first destination in this new season was Gulf Shores, Alabama. Our home for four days was 1BD/1BA, 600 sq/ft apartment in The Cove, a multi-unit property located 1 mile from public beach access. The property is elevated, due to its proximity to the gulf waters, providing covered parking for our truck. While surrounded by taller hotel resorts and located in the heart of Gulf Shores activity, it was quiet and peaceful.

I enjoyed walking the paved path along the quiet side street to the beach, away from the traffic on the main road. Walking along the beach, watching people enjoy the sun and the children frolic in the gulf waters was refreshing to my soul. One evening, we stood on the shore and watched the sun set before us while the moon rose behind us. The experience reminded me of God’s constant presence and mindfulness of us. He knows what we need to thrive, and He created the heavens and earth with us in mind. In Genesis 1:14-18 TLV, the Word says:

4Then God said, “Let lights in the expanse of the sky be for separating the day from the night. They will be for signs and for seasons and for days and years. 15They will be for lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the land.” And it happened so. 16Then God made the two great lights – the greater light for dominion over the day, and the lesser light as well as the stars for dominion over the night. 17God set them in the expanse of the sky to shine on the land 18and to have dominion over the day and over the night and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

I am often overwhelmed by God’s mindfulness and how He orchestrates the smallest details to reveal Himself to us if only we slow down enough to awaken our senses and become aware of His presence. I’m often so preoccupied with the “next thing” that I miss God presence in my every day, ordinary life. I am so grateful that He is mindful of my lack of awareness and is willing to wake me from my slumber to see His Presence. I was blessed to experience such an encounter while in Gulf Shores.

We took a break from work to get some exercise and go for a hike in the coastal habitat of Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge. We walked through the maritime forest which opened to the saltwater marshes of Little Lagoon and Gator Lake. We observed a couple of Great Blue Herons standing guard over their nest high in the pine trees, working together to protect the precious new life within. As we continued our journey along the edge of the lagoon, I noticed a piece of driftwood with the simple message of “Be Happy” carved in its weathered grain, a poignant reminder of how God whispers His wisdom into our lives through ordinary things.

Our hike brought us to a sandy trail through the dunes that led us to the most serene beach on which I have ever stood. As I looked out at the seemingly endless sea, breathing in the salty sea air, and listening to the waves against the shore, God reminded me of the significance of the day. It was Ash Wednesday.

On Ash Wednesday, 2023, I was walking with Todd along Fort Lauderdale beach, a beach bustling with people and activity, when I received a text from my mom asking me to pray for my dad because he wasn’t doing well. My dad had been in ICU with pneumonia and COVID in January of 2023 and we didn’t think that he would recover. But God gave us the blessing of time not promised and my dad was discharged from the hospital, returning home where he wanted to be, on January 31. He was on oxygen full-time, and his appetite and sense of humor had returned. We were all amazed and blessed to enjoy a few more precious days with him. My dad went home to be with Jesus on Ash Wednesday 2023.

There I was, walking on a quiet beach, enjoying the peacefulness of the rolling waves, one year later. The grief and pain of the prior Ash Wednesday clashing with the joy and hope of this new Ash Wednesday, my dad’s heavenly birthday. The waves of the past and the present washed over me, competing for my attention, when God brought my awareness to a pelican skimming along the shoreline. Watching him move gracefully along the water brought me great peace and confidence in knowing that my dad is in paradise with Jesus, no longer burdened by the pain and suffering in this world.

Walking back along the path we took; I noticed a piece of driftwood I had not seen on our way out. Shaped like arms in an embrace, I smiled and thanked God for the hug from heaven.

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