We are driving through the Mohave Desert, and I never knew such a barren place could be so rich in color. The pale tans, blues, purples, and a black that is the exact color of cocoa decorate the mountains on the horizon in perfectly layered lines, while the bleached sand in the foreground is dotted with scrubby trees that are surprisingly green, complementing the color palette perfectly. The sky is awash with a pinkish haze – whether from smoke from the fires in California or dust, I don’t know – and it blankets the landscape, softening the edges.

We were in California for 10 days, but as we make our way homeward, I feel as though I am leaving behind a lifetime’s worth of emotion.

When we began our trip, we left home a family of “four”… the three of us and the hopes of a new baby, whom we found out I was carrying the week before we left. Now, on the way home, we return as a family of three, the dreams of a new baby left behind in San Diego.

Having miscarried at the beginning of the trip, I allowed myself to grieve very briefly during the two days of limbo when we didn’t know whether or not I was going to be able to keep the pregnancy. Like King David, I spent those two days crying, praying, and asking God for healing and deliverance… and waiting. I was sitting in sackcloth and ashes.

On Sunday, then news came. It was over. The first four days of our vacation had been colored with worry, fear, and grief. I – we – decided, like King David, to wash our faces, get out of the sackcloth, rise from the ashes, and enjoy the rest of the week. We did so for Punky, because he deserved to have a good vacation, and we did so for ourselves, because we had looked forward to this trip for a year.

After the hospital drama, we enjoyed another day in San Diego, and then the fires came. We were oblivious to the sheer scope of the flames; we frolicked on the rocks of La Jolla cove as the smoke rolled in and masked the sun, turning the sunset a deep tomato red, and we smelled the smoke and wondered at the ash. We had no idea the fires were so close.

As the latter part of our vacation began, we headed up north towards Los Angeles. The fires in San Diego were raging, and when we left the area, we drove through smoke and ash as the hot Santa Ana winds whipped the fires into a frenzy. Evacuations had taken place ahead of us on our route, leaving the middle class suburbs where we stopped for gas and food quiet and empty, like modern-day ghost towns. The freeway route we were traveling literally closed in our wake as we headed north.

We arrived in Fontana where we stayed with my former youth pastor and his wife, Dennis and Karen. Seeing them felt like home. It was so amazing to get to hang out with them and catch up – we’ve seen each other just 3 times in 20 years. We cherished our time together, and it was water to my soul. Dennis and I sat up till 2:30 am our last night there, and when we left yesterday, my heart was breaking.

Last night we stopped by the Grand Canyon at sunset and stayed long enough for the full moon to rise all orange and plump like a pumpkin over the South Rim. And now we are headed home, and I hear that autumn has finally come to South Texas. This year, it rained more than it has in our whole lives, and the Indian Paintbrushes bloomed all the way through September. They say it will be a mild winter. I hope so.


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