The first day of vacation, I stayed on the beach until my skin felt like I’d been dipped in hot sauce and put under a heat lamp. Not a good thing, unless you’re a chicken wing. Which, at last check, I am not.

I know. I know. It was totally my own fault- my mom even kept telling me to put sunblock on. But, I couldn’t help myself. I was on the beach. The sun was shining. The waves were gently breaking on the shore and there was no neck brace trying to smother me or cancer test results or treatments to wait for.

It’s been a long time since all of those factors aligned. Too long, if you ask me. I was in my happy place.

Since I don’t do pretense-  I have to tell you…it’s been a craptastic year.  But, it’s also been one we’re glad to have survived with the help and love of friends, family and a God who has been with us every stumbling, toe-stubbing, free-falling and frustratingingly fearful and yet somehow- at least in moments-peace-filled, step of the way.  (How’s that for a run on sentence, Mrs Whit? It may be a record. Oops. Thought I was in ninth grade again..Mrs Whit  always busted me for run-on sentences.)

Anyway- the point is (Yes, there is a point, I’ll get to it. Eventually.) We haven’t been alone, even here. Through 2 major surgeries for my mom, a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment for my husband, 2 cervical fusions to fix my neck, (Side note: we should find out soon whether my head is finally screwed on straight. I’ll keep you posted.) the loss of my father in law’s foot and subsequent recovery and countless other things. You know- unimportant stuff like: life and kids and pets and laundry. (side note: Someone recently mentioned that I’d “really been through the wringer this year”… and all I could think was: “Yup- and yet,  I came out fatter not flatter. It figures.” For the younguns: a wringer- a device for rolling/pressing the water out of wet hand washed laundry…..think: Laura Ingalls. Oh man.. the youngun’s won’t even remember Laura Ingall’s… whatever.I give up. Google it.)

All year God has used a visual reminder of his love and presence with us. A birds nest. in a branch, cradling 3 eggs as they grow and mature.  Nests have turned up in tattoos, (Well, in mine anyway) cards, gifts, floral arrangements at the oncology unit and unbelievably- even in trees…. (I know, right? Trees. Who da thought? Just go with me here… k?) Nests have turned up at just the moment (s) I most needed a reminder that we aren’t alone.

So much so, that I’ve started looking for them. Like a programmers’ “easter eggs” or a child’s reaching for mommy’s hand when thunder rumbles, whenever “it” hits the fan, I look for a nest.

Last week, “it”  didn’t hit the fan. And so, as I soaked up way more sun than I should have- I neglected to look for a nest.

Maybe, it’s because I didn’t have any feelings of impending doom. Maybe, it’s because I was too busy enjoying myself. (And enjoying the amazing food….Our once a year foodie splurge;) Maybe, it’s because I fried too many brain cells on the beach. Maybe, it’s because it’s late summer and I figured all nests had been vacated. Or maybe it’s because I’m conditioned to look for and to God when things are rough…but not so much when things are wonderful.

Whatever the reason- I wasn’t looking and one showed up anyway.

On the beach.

Even here.

I’ll be honest-in all the crazy that has been the past year, I’d nearly forgotten that I’m not alone in my happy places, either.

Even here.

In the sunrises, the sunsets. In the feel of warm sand under my feet. In the sound of waves touching shore. In the smiles of boys and men: playing ball, catching fish and eating spaghetti and sleeping in.In the quiet voice that joined me my coffee and bible on the balcony before anyone else but the beach ducks were awake.

Even here. I am not alone.

Neither are you.

If you’re in a place of mess and pain- you’re not alone. I get it. Others do, too. If thats where you are- I hope you’ll share it so I can pray and knowing my readers, others will to.

If you’re in a happy place- you’re not alone either…. look around. Where do you see his presence? Who do you celebrate life with?  What’s your happy place?

There is an old adage that says: “A trouble shared, is a trouble halved” if so- then- a joy shared must be a joy doubled…..

So go ahead- share your joys and troubles… he is there- yup. even there.

After a great vacation- I’m hoping to get better at seeing his presence in the joys of life as well as the messes…..even here.

Also: it doesn’t matter if you’re 4 or over 40- if your mother says: put on sunscreen. Put it on. She’s right. The end.

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
1even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.