The first time I realized Heavenly Father loved me was when…


…I was in college, attending classes during the summer term when campus was quiet, slower, and a little lonely. In that extra time on my own, I started wondering if everything I had been taught all my life was really true, or if I’d just been brainwashed. I wondered if there was a God at all.

I decided to take it to the Lord in prayer. I put my backpack on one late afternoon, and headed up to the mountains near my dormitory. I remember sitting on a rock and just praying harder than I had ever prayed, asking God if He is truly there, pleading for some sort of sign that would be irrefutable.

Suddenly I looked up from my prayer, feeling hopeless, to see the sun dip down over the horizon, with light gloriously streaming into my view. Tears streamed down my face as I realized I had been sent a miraculous sign I could understand. I knew in that moment what I had always known, and had felt over and over, but had recently come to doubt. He lives, and not only that, but He knows me personally and wanted me to know without a doubt that He heard my prayer.

For icing on the cake, I happened to have a camera with me that evening. So I snapped a quick photo of that view, just in case I might doubt the truth of my experience in the future. For years that photo sat pinned on my bulletin board, like a love letter from my Heavenly Father, reminding me of our intimate rendezvous during my season of doubt.

I don’t have that glorious sunset photo anymore—you’ll just have to take my word for it. It’s probably somewhere in my files or boxes, mingled with other love letters from my Maker—ultrasound photos, scripture & travel journals, locks of hair from my baby’s first haircuts, seeds saved from my garden, tragedies survived. But the love letters keep on coming, both tangibly and fleetingly—in a look from my love, covenants renewed, a burst of revelation, a tingling feeling from head to toe, a calmness amidst today’s storm.

I’m full of gratitude for that first glimpse of glory on the horizon years ago. It taught me what to look for in all the glory (and grime) that lay ahead for me in life.

Photos by Natalie Portugal.

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