A few years ago I took my girls on a grand mother/daughter drive up the coast of California.

I carefully calculated each stop, and despite my girls eye-rolls about all that driving when we set off on our way, I think it’s safe to say that we all drank up the beauty as well as the togetherness. That coast is gorgeous and my girls are the best travel companions.

There was one evening, however, when I miscalculated our timing. We took too long at our lunch stop and my heart sank when I realized we weren’t going to be able to make it to one of the spots I was most excited about (Big Sur) before dark.

And once that realization came everything started to go wrong. I was on edge. We raced the sun and willed it to stay in the sky as long as possible. We took some wrong turns, my phone map wouldn’t work, my frustration with my non-helping girls grew, my heart was racing.

We got to one small beach at dusk where we happened to run into friends (small world…happened to also be when I was marching huffy out of the car…real life) who told us the most beautiful spots were 1/2 hour behind and 1/2 hour ahead. So we raced to the one ahead of us.

True to myself, even though it was indeed quite dark when we arrived, I still got out of the car to try to catch the lingering light on my camera. I was determined.

I snapped the shutter once and looked at the image on my camera. And instantly I was in love with it.

I fell in love not because it was crisp or clear (it wasn’t), and not because it captured the beauty I had intended to find there, but because that picture was beautiful in a completely different way than I had imagined. A breathtaking beauty in its own way, filled with depth and darkness contrasting with the little remaining light.

And right then and there a little analogy to life came to my heart:

Sometimes it’s not the beauty that we planned on experiencing. The darkness seems to far outweigh the light at times. But if we keep our eyes open and look, and seek, we can notice beauty for ashes (like it talks about in Isaiah) and we realize that without the blacks and darkness, the colors and vibrancy of life wouldn’t be nearly as dramatic and beautiful. Oh, it may take some time, but the light is there.

So, since I have this picture printed out in my home to remind me that the darks are what make the contrast and beauty in the long-run, I figured now, in the midst of such abundant darkness in the world, it might be a good time to share it, and that maybe you blog readers I love would like it too (it should be high enough resolution to print).

We all have some darkness in life. I know for so many in the world right now that darkness and hopelessness is creeping in more than ever before. But I love the thought that if we look, and are patient, one day we will find beauty for ashes.

Thank you for teaching me so much over the years and sharing your light through emails and comments and for saying “hi!” in randomly chance meetings out in the world. So grateful for this community.

Love, Shawni


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    1. I echo this sentiment!! It’s been a constant for me to read and to have you continue to post has been a ray of light when things are swirling around gathering anxiety. Thank you!!!

      1. Aw thank you! My mind is racing so much right along with everyone else’s, I love when I can get back here and quiet my thoughts by writing!

  1. Gorgeous pic. Love your posts! Gives a little levity, saneness in all this. Just want you to know, I’m thinking of your family, esp. Elle, with all the situations they are facing.

  2. Have your bishop come to the house and marry them in the backyard with no more than 10 people. They can get sealed later. Now is the time to sort out their living arrangement and they are still under the honor code. There is no wait period anymore. Live stream it for family. Just pretend most of you are nonmembers from before when there was that arbitrary one year ban on a sealing. They can seal on their own later.

  3. I have a senior this year and this has been a hard blow for his only volleyball season as a starter and posisbly graduation and so many other missed opportunities. But I wanted to say, I feel the MOST empathy for weddings! I am so so sorry for this season and how it is clouding that for your family. You are right, in the future they will look back and find beauty in the struggle, but in the meantime I hope you are all guided and able to find some direction that makes everyone happy!

    Thanks for sharing the beautiful picture.

    1. Thanks for thinking of us. So grateful Elle and Carson are so chill and we get to have them here as we try to sort everything out. Counting our blessings!

  4. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing. Just want you to know I’ve been thinking about you and Elle navigating the wedding through all of this covid-19 mess. It is heartbreaking on so many levels….from weddings to funerals, healthcare workers to patients with the virus, grocery shopping to lack of everyday supplies, travel to quarantine/social distancing, temples open to temples closed, missionaries out to missionaries coming home, and everything in between. There is not one of us who has not been impacted by this! Hoping for brighter days ahead for all the world!

    1. It really is so crazy how quickly things are changing! Thanks for thinking of us, so much to work out but also so much to be grateful for!

  5. Your photo spoke right to my heart, just what I needed today. A beautiful photo and a beautiful message, thank you so much!
    Take care, all the best (from Alberta),

    1. There is a Garth Brooks song called ‘Unanswered Prayers’ that I think about when things don’t go as I had hoped and prayed for. Your story about your photo reminded me of it. The message in the chorus reminds me to be patient and wait and see…some of my life’s biggest disappointments have led to my greatest gifts:)

      Sometimes I thank God
      For unanswered prayers
      Remember when you’re talkin’
      To the man upstairs
      That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
      ‘Cause some of God’s greatest gifts
      Are unanswered prayers


  6. I’ve been thinking of you and your family and Elle, I want you to know that. All will work out. Take care.

  7. Thank you for your words and your beautiful picture. Light and goodness is so needed right now. It’s interesting that we are all in this together. Normally trials are individual but the whole human family is feeling it at the same time. I’ve seen people come together, kindness galore and I’ve even had a conversation starter to help me talk to my neighbours (we are new to our street).

    1. It is interesting for sure. The whole human family, fighting the same thing. Such a beautiful avenue to come together and bond like never before if we let it. We are so much stronger in trials when banded together with love.

  8. So grateful for the power of the light that breaks through that darkness and I loved what you said about a different beauty than we were expecting!! The story of life and the growth through the struggle! Amen!! I’ve loved the slower pace of life this has allowed and the chance for more quiet moments together and individually. My brother shared with us a text that his ophthalmology practice partner sent him (a devout catholic) passing on a million person prayer chain going through text and beyond! It was so cool to read. President Nelson, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, sent this video, inviting anyone and everyone to pray and fast this Sunday https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/president-nelson-fast-pray-relief-covid-19 And our local area church leaders had already asked us to unite in prayer… so powerful to think of thousands of people praying and fasting together for the sake of individual and collective lives!! And I saw and read this article last night about a Muslim and Jewish emergency team, pausing to pray in their own ways each day, on their route together… https://www.azfamily.com/news/us_world_news/muslim-and-jewish-paramedics-pause-to-pray-together-one-of/article_ba8a627d-760d-58ee-a3db-9112f6223ae2.html So touching amid the struggle already happening in that area of the world, to see two people of very different faiths
    and views, praying by each other, then working together for peace and to relieve suffering.
    What a moment we are in!! That light will push through the darkness… and provide a beauty we haven’t yet experienced or seen… God will trade beauty for our ashes, for sure!! There is power in prayer and power in fasting… not the kind of power we are used to seeing in the world… but God’s power is and will be tangible, enlightening, and transforming, in ways that look small, and in ways that are great. I feel love and hope and peace when I see these things! The dark definitely brings out the silver lining, and brings people to those things that are most important.
    “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… “In your patience possess ye your souls.” Luke 21:19
    Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. I love this so much. Thank you for sharing the worldwide fast (such a good day of fasting today), and also the article with the praying paramedics, so beautiful! We can all unite in such beautiful ways at this time and I love that thought. You also shared my favorite ever scripture (Isaiah 41:10…and I love 13 too). And wasn’t Enos such a wonderful part of the scriptures to read this week as he “wrestled” in prayer? Perhaps this is one of the most important times to “wrestle” to have our prayers reach up to Heaven. Filled with gratitude for all those who are working so hard to help other and to “spill out our souls” to try to connect with Heaven to try to make sense of it all, the good and the bad all wrapped up together.

      Also, thanks for the below comment about the wedding too. You’re right, the wedding will all work out and it’s going to be quite a celebration when we can really gather to celebrate some day!

  9. P.S. My Parents are working/serving in Brazil and my sister was set to get married on April 25… at the beginning of this, my parents discovered they wouldn’t be able to come home for the wedding… then they changed the amount of people allowed to go… then they closed the Temples. Yikes! All hoped for plans changed every day! Everything got cancelled… new plans are being figured out… I take comfort in the things Pres Nelson and Elder Ballard are saying…
    “This will pass in due time” and ““it won’t be long before the temples are up and operating” & “Do we see light at the end of the tunnel? Absolutely!… “Let’s be happy and keep going forward and do the best we can, and these circumstances will change,… Everything is going to be just fine…” https://www.thechurchnews.com/leaders-and-ministry/2020-03-26/coronavirus-covid-19-president-ballard-hope-encouragement-latter-day-saints-178413?fbclid=IwAR1pXwdBxUCHekisXNBqJ_9NNYz8fd5gNBfSaEvH9CoMo3Q-2-8hrTHh13E

  10. I live in Utah and we are allowed to get take our and drive through food. Getting food at a food truck is exactly that. It is outside and they are with their own family. There is nothing wrong with what they are doing. What we don’t need right now is others trying to shame and make others feel like they are doing something wrong. Be kind, not judgemental.

    1. The airport is concerning, not just the location you traveled from. AZ only has a essential business only order and closed school and large gatherings. There is no shelter in place or quarantine in AZ yet. They can’t have dine in. Food truck and drive up and curbside is fine even in Il which has a shelter in place order in place.

  11. Maybe each state, province have their own rules?? I’m not sure. I’m in Alberta, Canada. We are down to only essential store open( grocery & pharmacy).
    If you have left the country on your return you have to self quarantine for 14 days. You can’t even get groceries. You may go outside if you are minimum 6feet away from everyone. What I am saying is maybe give each other understanding, just because the rules maybe different depending on where you live. I’m sure they are living strictly by the rules of their state.

  12. Thank you for all the thoughtful comments! My apologies for taking away some at the end here, trying to keep things positive here in this little corner of the Internet. Thanks to those who always have my back! Rest assured that we are following strictly what our local leaders have recommended (as well had adding our own extra precautions) to stop the spread of corona. Not something to take lightly for sure. It is a difficult time, hence the reason I keep thinking of this picture. As the whole world is a guessing game right now, I find strength in trying to find the light even amidst the ensuing darkness.

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