Hope and I got away, just the two of us, for lunch with the Disney princesses.
At one point during our lunch, she explained that she’d been a little disappointed in one of the (gigantic) slides at the water park we’d visited. “I was hoping,” she said casually, “for something more epic.”
I nearly spit my food I laughed so hard, and then I stared at her.
My little Hope. Her love for Disney princesses has faded somewhat, but I recall when she was younger and dressed in gowns and wore a tiara over puffy hair almost every day. People would ask her name and she would very seriously tell them Princess Ariel or Rapunzel or Belle. She’d stay in character all day correcting us when we accidentally called her Hope.
Now she’s almost eight and using words like epic. How and when did this happen? As she laughed and talked and ate her food, I tried my best to memorize every detail of her. Lunch would end too soon.
Remember this, I kept telling myself. Remember this.
After dinner on our last night in Florida we stepped into an open sitting area where a man played songs from Disney films on a piano. They were beautiful renditions. Rhema began rocking from one foot to the other. Brandon took her hand and guided her in a circle: “Spin, Rhema.”
I cannot recall ever seeing them dance like that. As the piano music filled the air – ‘And at last I see the light, and it’s like the fog has lifted…’ Rhema danced. And we cheered.
When the song ended a woman walked over to us and said, “You are a beautiful family.”
Her words encouraged me in such an unexpected way and she could not know. Because until the moment they danced I’d felt so… ragtag. Just a series of fumbles, barely keeping it together.
Brandon and I are not always good to each other when dealing with lots of stress. Taking a trip like this is stressful, at least for us. And I think the wishing things were different/easier (we do, sometimes we do wish it and that’s just the truth) and the frustration over what we can’t change boils into anger. Anger that we direct at one another.
But then moments later we see our girls and all that God has given us and we know there’s beauty in the life of our imperfect family. It’s then that I am just amazed at God’s plan, that He would let me be a part of it, a part them. (So it is with the group of autism families traveling to Disney. It’s not a club I would have imagined belonging to years ago – and there was a time I did not want to – and now I feel oddly blessed, so blessed, to be among them.)
It’s joy and heartache, it’s beauty and ashes, it’s both and. God’s grace over all. Not one without the other. They spin and swirl and come together, like my daughter dancing on her father’s hand.