The smell of the salt water met my nose as I climbed out the twelve passenger van that comfortably seated our large party of nine. Growing up in large families you learn to appreciate the large, unflattering, lovely known as “soccer mom” vans that can fit a basketball team’s worth of people. Hey, it’s either that or you find yourself packed like sardines in a smaller car, questioning your “coolness” when cars pull up to see people sitting on each other’s laps. “You do what you have to do with what you have,” is what my mom would always say when I’d complain about classmates in junior high making fun of my dad’s work van.

It was indeed that, his means for transportation and mobile storage for all of his plumbing supplies when headed to work assignments. It had two doors and from the outside it looked like the type of vehicle that people were snatched up and thrown in. You know, the ones that you see in the First 48 episodes. Oh, by the way, its entrance onto school property was far from discreet as the car alarm would oddly go off every time someone attempted to open the door. Needless to say, we laugh at the things we are willing to entertain now, remembering a time that we swore we wouldn’t ever experience that again.

As I looked at the gas prices, I almost lost my balance appalled by the disrespectful numbers I saw. “Heck, maybe we should’ve ubered to the beach instead. It just might be cheaper,” I thought to myself. Headed to the very beach that I had googled, researched, and read numerous reviews about over the last year was now closer than ever before. I could already feel the sand in my toes. It had been a few years since I made it to a beach, making my wait so long that I began to think it was merely a figment of my imagination. Like it was some mysterious place that didn’t really exist. And as untrue as that is, I still question the sight that I see when I finally make it to a beach. What I see with my very eyes always looks surreal and too perfect to even be a reality. “God is real,” I’d think to myself as I gazed out into the horizon.

The drive this time however, made me question if I was even headed in the right direction. The clouds hovered in the sky and thunder filled the air making me wonder if I’d even get to experience the euphoric feeling that I’ve longed for from the clear, flowing waters. I had looked forward to this moment for a while now, and was head strung on making it there, even if that meant I had to do it alone.

This wasn’t just any ole visit to a beach for me as it might be for others. I’ve found my time spent at a beach to be a spiritual awakening that seems to always offer a therapeutic benefit from its calmness and peacefulness. The view of the shoreline puts me in an immediate trance, and I begin to reflect on life’s beauty and splendor.

As I turned to park the van in what looked to be the best spot imaginable, I knew that it would be a good day. Better yet, a great day! The sun had begun to subtly peak through the cloud and as the warmness hit my skin, beads of sweat dropped through my naturally spiraled curls. As the group set out to claim territory, I went off on my own journey eager to fill up my day with my own pleasures.

Looking at the ground I began to search for shells, or the perfect object to take home as a reminder of the wonderful experience that I would have that day. For the first hour, I walked up and down the shore looking, and searching, often times hopping quickly through the hot sand. But to my dismay, I couldn’t find anything special. All of the shells were broken and small, with a color that lacked vibrancy.

I was frustrated, to say the least. It also didn’t help that my stomach began to sound like a roaring lion and my legs felt like jello. (I’m out of shape yall’, don’t judge me. Lol) As I sat in the sand, letting the waters wash ashore on my manicured toes, I looked up. And when I did, it was as if I was viewing a masterpiece, so perfectly imperfect, for the very first time. What I was looking at wasn’t uniform, or normal. In fact it was fierce, aggressive, and unpredictable, yet still calming, captivating, illuminating, and powerful. I was in complete awe of its beauty and was surprised that I hadn’t stopped to notice that until now.

I immediately sought out to find perfection in something so small in every nook and cranny on that beach, when it was right in front of me the entire time. It reminds me of the times in my life where I was too focused and stressed from obsessing over the minute things – the ones that many times make up our losses. I had a bad hair day. I didn’t make it to work on time. I didn’t pass that test. These are things that can serve as a distraction to the big, grand WINS that life has also given us. We find ourselves the farthest away from peace when we allow ourselves, to worry and fret over things…especially ones that we have no control over.

As the day drew to a close, and we walked back to the van I marveled over the blessings that I received throughout the day by simply refocusing my attention on the NOW and actually stopping to look up and experience the present. What does YOUR beautiful, big picture look like?

Well, if you are reading this, you are already winning. You are ALIVE, which means that you have a purpose over your life that has yet to be fulfilled. Find peace in your storm and journey, realizing that your life’s picture is far greater than the pebbles, and stones you are faced with along your path.