Six months ago, I was involved in a minor traffic collision – the kind where, in a perfect world, two honest rational people would have exchanged insurance information and phone numbers so that the 500.00 worth of damage to the car in the front would have been taken care of. The two people also may have shaken hands and said, “No worries.” Countless emails and phone calls, a summons delivered to my door by a police officer, numerous nights without sleep, 2 attorneys (one for the civil and one for the criminal case), a magistrate hearing resulting in requested settlement awarded to the plaintiff and a deep soul pleading that this person would not next appeal – there I was, the sting of disillusionment with our justice system, our world and humanity begging me to turn cold, just hours before heading into our family vacation for the year…Walt Disney World.
I was weary, bleary-eyed and beyond worn out. I was excited about the trip, sure…but I was also so beaten down by the unjust, it was hard for me to even fathom that people were still good and honestly, that God was still just. Who goes into Disney feeling that way?
Let me tell you how I have learned that God is, in fact, still a very just God. He cares about the details of our lives…and as one of my best friends has reminded me this past year as she has faithfully cheered me through all of the planning it takes to do Disney – even details like our family trip to Disney World and the perfect timing of it.
We entered the mecca of Disney about 4:30pm on Saturday, driving beneath the big entrance sign with Mickey on one side and Minnie the other. The kids went bananas. And, just like the story my mom told me from when my own parents took me there as a child – I do think that I was even more excited than the kids were. We approached our resort, wide eyed, hearts open and very quickly, all of my walls came tumbling down.
We had made it. This trip I had poured over for an entire year – and even more than that if you count the many seeds I had planted in Stan’s mind that the perfect time to take the kids would be when our youngest child was five. Smiles on our faces, an extra skip in our steps, we took in the abundance of color, characters and niceties from each and every person we met.
We settled our room, a Cars themed suite, and headed to dinner, the first of many outrageously extravagant feasts prepared for us as we sat, laughed, took pictures and bonded as a family of five. A little slice of heaven? Indeed, it was. Every morning and every afternoon and every evening and every night. All of it.
Now we were the same five people and had the same family dynamics…there were boys bouncing around like caffeinated Tiggers, a little girl who skipped her nap for 8 days straight and was a wee bit unpredictable by the 7th day – especially when she found out she was not tall enough to ride one of the biggest roller coasters in the park we were in for the day. There were some *slight* adult tantrums when the closest meal required three different modes of transportation to allow its deliciousness to grace lips. There were many episodes of “Apes Gone Wild” where boys were balancing on rocks, ropes, guardrails, you name it – they climbed it. There were definite variances in the mama itinerary when catastrophe was looming and as a result of such flexibilities, I am proud to say…avoided.
There were also the most magical moments ever. As if the amazement of the décor of our suite was not enough, the kids got to order sprite and have desserts on the first night, which set the tone that this vacation was going to be different. Then there was the first experience of pin trading – the surprised eyes realizing the treasure received in the giving away. Every pin trade after that was even more exciting and each child developed their own way of collecting their favorites, revealing the sweet differences in their personalities.
There was the “Boo to You Halloween Parade” with all of the Disney villains at their sneakiest, Stan and I dressed in Snow White and Prince Charming costumes to accompany the two pirates and princess Rapunzel, who was made up at the Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique by her very own Fairy Godmother. The magic that filled that boutique made me feel as though I was five again myself…and I really liked being called “princess”…not gonna lie.
A few other pixie dust sprinkled highlights included a family shoot out battle on the Toy Story Mania ride after seeing the sheer delight in Lindsay Jane’s eyes when she realized she would be meeting princess Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins. We all met Buzz and Woody, some of our favorites from the boys’ earlier years – Landon was reminded that he dressed as Buzz for three years in a row for Halloween. The show Fantasmic could not have been more breathtaking as the lights projected beauty and awe across the night sky with just a bit of a water sprinkle from the lagoon to delight the show’s sun-kissed viewers.
The memory banking continued with Jedi training and the boys fighting Darth Vader, Lindsay Jane taking part in Belle’s Enchanted Tales as the horse while Stan was a Knight, Landon meeting Goofy and insisting on a Goofy hat immediately following, the boys showing their creative side in designing a corvette in Test Track, meals at both Anna and Elsa’s and the Beast’s castles, a special meeting for Lindsay Jane to meet her very favorite princess, Rapunzel – her sweet angelic face looking wide-eyed with amazement, awe and adoration up into the sweet gaze of one signifying a beautiful happily ever after.
Ohana for dinner with more pin trading and hula hooping on the lawn following a day of rest at the pool was most certainly pixie dust laden as Stan and I sat poolside and watched our children delight and frolic. Thrill rides, over and over, fireworks on main street with Lindsay Jane at my cheek whispering, “I love you, mommy,” dinner with Cinderella and her step family who were hilarious and Cinderella took my girl and did a special dance with just her…melt this mama’s heart. Magical? You think?
Just into the third day of the trip, after lots of hand holding, neck hugging, thanks given and deep breaths taken in and out, my Connor, who has gone more swiftly through childhood trying desperately to keep up with his big brother, found his own inner child and was able to delight in the fun, magic and escape it is to imagine and let go…
There were many family selfies, most all easily agreed to. There were many fast passes used and more gained in the using – delighting certain family members who got to ride certain rides twice – like Avatar (Connor!)!! There were many character meets and I think we hit them all. The hugs, the smiles, the autographs, the giggles…all just magical.
I went into the trip, having experienced a great amount of true unfairness, more even than the traffic accident fiasco and it had all pushed me to the point of a disillusionment with humanity. That is a hard thing for me to say. I love people and I love trusting them and trying to see the very best in them. Realizing that there are really people out there who are dishonest is a hard reality, making me want to go back to the innocence of my childhood again.
And…I did. You know what made Disney so magical? People. Good people. And I was with four of them. I also met countless kind, giving and generous happy people. This may sound silly, but I am convinced that this trip was planned at this time for very special reasons, one of which was for my own renewed sense that there is a lot of good left in this mean old world. And it is not just at Walt Disney World, friends.
One of my very best friends, Heather, a self-proclaimed Disney nerd, who also faces a likely shortened life expectancy due to a newly diagnosed genetic disease, said this in a recent post on her blog, “Life is short, soak it up.” The time is now, friends, to live…and live well… as Disney, Heather and my children have so sweetly reminded me. (Let me put a disclaimer here that I do not mean to act as though there are not big issues that need attention in this broken world that should break our hearts into action…)
God calls us to come to Himself as little children. One thing about children is that they are innocent. I miss those days of not knowing just how evil this world and the people in it can be. Coming to Him and experiencing Him as a child was brought to such light for me this week as I watched my children delight in an imaginative bubble of safety and kindness. They were allowed certain freedoms while at Disney that they were not allowed even as we drove home and stopped at restaurants and gas stations. I do have to educate them about hard truths of this world, but I also have the opportunity and responsibility to color their perception of life based on my own reactions to such things as an unfair traffic accident debacle.
Joshua 1:5-6 says this: “No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them an inheritance.”
God has called us to be an example of His truth and His goodness to our children and to this world. Though there are certainly inequalities, unjust rulings, corrupt people in power and outright evil looming around us, let me encourage you today to press pause. God has promised that we will be with us and He will stand with us – as long as we live. This is what we can live out and tell our children. We can tell them God’s truth – His truth that Heather reminds us in her new bible study on living courageously, “God does not call us to where His feet have not already marched.”
My verse of the day today was this: “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1. I believe that God uses a variety of different ways to reach us and to teach us – His word, friends, pastors, teachers, family, places and experiences – and yes, even Disney. God is good and He gives His children good things. The best thing He gives us is His daily presence. Though this world will continue to beat us down, again and again, nothing can take away His protection over our hearts and minds. Though it is certainly a challenge to let go of deep heart hurts and injustices, God’s loving power is greater than all of the pixie dust and magic Disney can hold…and it is available to us every single day.