Thank you, God.
Thank you for giving us eyes to see your beauty, ears to hear your beauty, noses to smell your beauty, skin to feel your beauty, and faith to know it all comes from you in the first place.
Today, we got to spend the day with Lonni, Jay, Janie, and Aaron Mooreland, the founders of and our partners in PUCK. They are on vacation out here in southern California, about 35 minutes from us, so we met them at their vacation spot and spent the day eating, playing in the pool, and brainstorming about PUCK's continued growth and development. The spot they vacation at overlooks the Pacific, a giant gorge, and a pretty awesome golf course. While we sat out on their deck, I could look out over the endless ocean, listen to hawks flying to within what seemed arms reach (not really, but really close), smell the salt water in the air, and feel the cool ocean breeze caress my face. It was total sensory beauty.
It was God - everywhere.
What feels like forever ago, shortly after when Bella was born, I came up with this idea (read: mental survival tactic) that this whole journey was somehow planned by God, Bella, and us way beforehand. I considered that perhaps in each situation that was unfolding, there was the hand of God, reaching out with a cup of water along the marathon route for me. All I had to do was flip on my "Providence Goggles" and look through THAT lens at all the events unfolding in front of me, and I would AUTOMATICALLY see God. That idea lead to the "Providence Story of the Day," on this blog, and after 3 months of those accounts, it lead to me writing and self-publishing Bella's Blessings: a Humble Story of Providence. It was not some lofty concept conceived while meditating under a tree. It came sitting in front of an isolette in a NICU that housed our 3 day old baby we couldn't touch, whose skin was blistering, peeling, and falling off right in front of our eyes.
Day after day, I donned my goggles, essentially putting my faith to the test, and day after day, those goggles didn't disappoint. It seems like forever ago. So many battles (with the enemy of faith: fear) have been fought since that day in the NICU. So many times, the urge to let the cold black vice of fear crush my heart like a grape has attempted to sneak in, sometimes through my thoughts, sometimes through my feelings. That faith was an unrelenting search beam, constantly snuffing out the cold hand when it approached. It was a survival tactic that I never thought would afford me the peace and happiness I experienced today. I just wore those goggles to keep me functioning one moment at a time.
Today, the Moorelands and Ringgolds found themselves again at table, giving thanks for everything that has led us to this moment in time. For despite all those prior moments - including the loss of both our daughters - just for today, all was right with the world. Even our dear friend Sara Cooper came down, watched the kids, and took pictures for us of our PUCK website. She is amazing. We go to bed tonight exhausted from fun in the sun and the pool and a little too pink, but we are grateful because tomorrow morning, there are no rounds for us to be in, and there is no bandage change looming over head. There are no special-multiple-medication-and-supplement bottles to mix up to be administered through a feeding tube, and no errands to be made where questions of "WHAT HAPPENED (to your child)???" have to be fielded. In the caregiver grief journey, part of the grief journey is dealing with the guilt of feeling relief over the absence of those incredible challenges so many other brave families will face tomorrow.
Sometimes, it's okay to stop. Sometimes, it's okay to take a break. Sometimes, it's okay to feel relieved without feeling guilty. Sometimes, it's okay to just feel really good and happy.
Today was one of those times.
Tonight, I give you the first barrage of pics from Ali and Bella's first night at RMH unpacking all the toys daddy won for them at BINGO his first night in town. I think that's Bella taking a header into her new fire truck in the opening pic...