Years ago one of my dearest lifelong friends took her family to Disney World. When she came home she was already planning their next trip back. And then after their second trip they went back again and again. I thought she was absurd. She and her husband took their kids to Disney World so many times that I accused her of being a Disney Princess. For years I teased her. Okay, that’s an understatement...I mocked her relentlessly.
And then last year, 2015, Brad and I took Emery, our then 4-year-old daughter, to Disney World and it clicked. I “got it”. I totally understood the magical-princess-fairy-crack that is Disney World. And I cried my eyes out when we had to leave. Two months later we were planning our 2016 trip.
We just returned home from our 2016 Disney World trip and even now we’re dreaming of a trip in 2017. Side note: I walked right up to my Disney Princess Friend this morning at they gym and apologized for my past judgment. And I admitted that I, too, wish to be a Disney Princess. Please forgive me, Brenna.
Spending time at Disney World has taught me several lessons that I want to share. Brad and I sat and talked about these at length...here’s our condensed list of, “Life Lessons I Learned From Disney World”:
1. Use Your Magic Band
30 days before your trip to DW, you will receive a box in the mail that will change your flipping life. In it holds the literal keys to Disney World; these are your Magic Bands.
Magic Bands are a clip on bracelet that every member of your family will wear for the duration of your trip to DW. The Magic Bands serve as your account information, your room key, your meal plan, your park tickets, your ride passes, and even your currency. It is activated when you press your Magic Band against the portals at DW...Mickey lights up GREEN and you are good to go! Your room unlocks; your food arrives; you get into a park and on a ride - all because of the magic of your unique Magic Band.
But the Magic Bands do not magically appear in your mailbox before your trip. No. Nope. No way. Your Magic Band was created with YOU in mind. It was created with forethought of the destination and experiences that you were mean to have. Those experiences were well thought and planned by whomever was given the responsibility of being the creator and planner of the trip. Every reservation for hotels or restaurants or meeting special characters was all planned ahead, WAY ahead, of the arrival of your Magic Band. The Magic Band will only give you access to what was planned, in advance, for you to accomplish.
This is exactly how I see God’s hand in our life. Our life is like our Magic Band. God gives us life; He is the creator of it. He plans incredible journeys for each of us. He has a purpose, a destiny, which only YOU can fulfill. My life will only open for me the opportunities and experiences that I am supposed to have. There is no point in me being jealous of anyone else’s life...that’s THEIR Magic Band. I can’t steal theirs...it won’t work for me. And I have plenty planned on my Magic Band that is only meant for me to have.
Unless I forget to use it. What if I stuff that Magic Band in my pocket and decide not to use it? Doors won’t open. Food doesn’t appear on the table. I don’t get to meet the princesses and I really, really want to meet the princesses!
If I don’t use my life then my trip on this earth is a waste. It’s a trip that has a cost and it’s been paid in full. Our life has a cost but Jesus paid it in full if we accept.
So use your life! Use up every gift and talent you have. Let your life be magical and may everyone in your path feel as though when they were in your presence it was as if they had been sprinkled with fairy dust.
2. Even the Princesses Serve
The mantra at Disney World is: BE OUR GUEST. They make you feel like a special guest everywhere you go. But no place is quite as magical for a guest than at Cinderella’s Royal Table which is located inside Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom.
Ladies and Gents, there is a 180-day reservation that is dang near required in order to get a lunch time reservation at this fancy meal. But let me tell you: IT IS WORTH IT!!!!!!!!!!
You get to meet ALL THE PRINCESSES!!! (Are you squealing??? I am totally squealing!!!!)
The princesses are announced one-by-one with music and trumpet sounds. They come twirling into the grand dining room where they smile and courtesy and everyone claps. And then they spend the next 90-minutes going to every single table. They take pictures with your child (and your husband. Geesh. Don’t ask. Okay...it was Princess Jasmine and Brad was IN LOVE. We’re fine. Okay, we’ll be fine.).
The Princesses will dance with your wide-eyed children. They talk to your child in a lovely Princess voice. They will sign your autograph books. Princess Ariel even kissed our autograph book – so we forever have the beautiful lipstick insignia of a mermaid princess!!! SQUEAL!!!!
They are there to serve you. Whatever you need. If your 2 year old is asleep in the stroller but your 5 year old is freaking out and ready to meet them, they will wow your 5 year old with hugs and pictures. And then when that toddler wakes up, they’ll come BACK to your table and do the shindig all over again.
We are put here on this earth to serve one another. We will find no greater joy in life than to reach deep and give of ourselves to people around us. They are the ones God has chosen for us to invest into. When I counsel anyone who is down and depressed, one of the first questions I ask is, “who are you serving?”
Something truly magical happens when you serve others: you forget about yourself. Hallelujah! Your attention becomes focused on the joy/needs/wants of others. Nothing cleanses our self-centered in-grown-eyeballs quicker than serving others.
3. You’re Never Gonna Have It All To Yourself.
The Magic Kingdom is the most popular park at Disney World. The park sees an average of 52,000 guests per day. The other parks see an average of 30,000 guests per day. Here’s the lesson: you’re never gonna have the park all to yourself.
Not even if you are REAL royalty. A prince was at MK the same week we were there and even he had to share the park with the rest of us regular people.
There’s always going to be a crowd. But you don’t have to get lost in the crowd. Make a plan of where you’re going...make some reservations so that when you arrive the establishment is expecting you and is ready for you. Learn to share the road, the sidewalk. It was meant for more than you and only you. You were meant for community. Look around and find interesting characters to bring into your journey. Listen to their stories. Learn from them. And teach them from your life’s experiences. If you’re never gonna have it all to yourself, then make the best of every day in a crowded world. Find a Cinderella and a Pluto and for heaven’s sake, find a Prince Charming!
4. Find Joy In The Wait
Disney creative imaginateers cultivate environments that transport you into other worlds...under the sea...Tomorrowland...anywhere the imagination can take you, you can see come to life at DW.
The rides are beautiful and electric you just can’t hardly wait to get onto the ride. BUT, with more than 50,000 guests in the park, you can imagine that waiting in line is just part of the, uh, experience. Disney wants waiting to be enjoyable. So when you enter the lines that can be 90 minutes or longer, you are in dark hallways with air conditioning AND your senses are engaged by colorful and beautiful scenery that transcends space and time and brings the ride to you before you ever even step foot ON the ride. Some of the lines even have interactive pieces – like the Peter Pan line has an interactive shadow effect where you can chase the shadow image of butterflies...you can even swat at them and they scatter. It is incredible and amazing and...fun. Wait...did I just say we had fun while WAITING? Yes. Yes I did.
Life puts us in more waiting rooms than most of us are ready to embrace and enjoy. We are waiting for oil to turn around; we are waiting for results from a medical test; we are waiting for that person to change; we are waiting for a big break; we are waiting on the one. Life is full of waiting rooms. But if we get bitter or angry or impatient, we can completely miss the lesson/joy/beauty of the waiting room we are in. We can even miss the people we were intended to wait with. What if we missed Wendy or Peter Pan? Oh the loss of that!
We need to “wait” better. We need to decide to choose joy and find it. And who knows? Maybe we’ll be chasing butterflies when the line starts moving again.
5. Commit To Your Part
The cast commits to their part and they NEVER break character...EVER!
Commit to your part. Commit to your cast. Commit to your roles.
Rapunzel has long hair that she uses to escape from the tower where she’s held prisoner by her mother. What if Cinderella decided that was her move? Cinderella could not escape her stepmother’s attic with 12-inch long hair. Cinderella’s story isn’t supposed to read or end like Rapunzel’s story.
Commit to your roles! Commit to being a wife; an employee; a leader; a mother; a student; an intern. Commit to YOUR role.
Don’t try to live out anyone else’s role. You weren’t created for their part; you were created for your part. When you don’t stay committed to your part, it throws off the story of your own fairytale.
6. Ride In The Rain
On our first day at MK this year it rained. Not like a little refreshing sprinkle. No. This was a torrential downpour for about 5 hours. People began scattering like drowned rats. The park looked...dare I say: EMPTY? Brad and I looked at each other and debated going back to our resort and resting until the rain cleared and then we looked at the empty park and realized what a gift the rain was! We bought an umbrella and a poncho and we rode the rides in the rain. We rode ALL THE RIDES!!! We rode rides we didn’t have Fast Passes for...popular rides that normally have that dreaded 90-minute wait...we walked right on! It was the most fun day we’ve ever had at DW.
Life is going to rain on you. Some days or weeks or years will feel like a flood. Here’s my life lesson: grab an umbrella or a poncho and ride anyway. Let me say it this way: live anyway. Live and laugh and love and create sloppy wet memories that you’ll cherish forever. There’s magic in the rain and storm. We jumped on rides that we never would have taken our 5 year old on had we not been looking for a place to duck into for a quick refuge. And those rides were so much fun...unexpected fun. The best kind of fun! Sometimes you gotta take cover and duck inside for cover...that’s okay. Take cover. Give yourself a break. Because when the clouds part and the sun begins to shine and you walk outside, you will appreciate the clear sky more than ever before!
7. Use A Fast Pass When You Can
The Fast Pass is created as a “cut in line” feature that comes with your park ticket. You only get 3 per day. They have to be planned and used wisely. You schedule Fast Passes for the most popular rides...the ones that typically have long wait times. You walk right up to the front and you get right on the ride. No waiting. The excitement of the Fast Pass is exhilarating. You sort of feel like you’re cheating, but you’re not and yet you are in fact cutting to the front of the line! It’s ridiculous and fabulous!
Sometimes in life, a Fast Pass comes your way...enjoy it! Use it! Breathe it in, lap it up. It’s that one opportunity that you can’t believe is being offered to YOU! Some people call it luck, others call it providence and still others call it the favor of God. No matter what you call it, you take it! It only requires that you walk up to the front of the line and accept the seat that is available to you.
Take the Fast Passes that life gives you.
8. You Can’t Get It In All In One Day
Did I mention that 52,000 people enter the Magic Kingdom every single day? You’re not going to be able to ride every ride...not even on a rainy day! You have to pace yourself and do a little bit everyday.
Don’t put off living for a future point in time. Live today. Ride rides today. Take the Fast Pass that you’re offered today. You might not make it to Tomorrowland. Tomorrow is not promised to us. Even Disney offers trip insurance in case you need to cancel.
Live now. Live today.
9. There’s Always A Way To Get To Where You Want To Go
You can enter the Magic Kingdom by bus or car or boat or monorail. You can get to most parks about 3 different ways.
This life lesson is simple: If you really want to get somewhere, then there’s a way.
Hustle. Work hard. Be wise. Ask about the bus schedule, train schedule, monorail. Allow people to help you get to where you want to go. Don’t always go with the flow. Stop. Ask directions. But the truth is, if you get there, it’s probably because you worked to get there and you didn’t get there all on your own.
Which leads me to my next Disney Life lesson...
10. “It all started with a mouse” – Walt Disney
Stay humble, no matter how successful you become. No matter what you accomplish. No matter how big your cash flow is...never ever forget where you come from. And never ever forget who helped you get to where you were going!
Even Walt Disney was humble enough to remind himself and his team members that their dream all started with a mouse. Now that is humility.
B O N U S!
My eleventh and final Life Lesson that I Learned from Disney is this:
Create Fireworks With The People You Love!
This year we chose to stay at a resort that is close to Magic Kingdom. So close, in fact, that you can stand outside from any balcony and see the fireworks each night that are taking place inside Magic Kingdom.
It cost us quite a bit more than what we paid for our resort last year but my very frugile and practical husband was bound and determined to stay there because he wanted to watch fireworks every night with me and Emery.
The first night was magical. I loved it so much. We were in the Magic Kingdom park and we paid extra to go to a Fireworks Dessert Party at a restaurant so we could have a perfect view of the fantastic show. I was in awe. I cried my eyes out. Especially when Tinkerbell flew down from the castle and over our heads. She was close enough that she looked right at Emery, waved and said, “HI!”. We were over the flipping moon!! We went to bed that night high on Disney crack.
The next day was a leisurely day at our resort pool. Me and my Boos relaxing poolside while enjoying Mickey Mouse ice cream and incredible service all day.
At sundown, I was ready for a shower and bed. But not Brad. No, he showered and put on jeans and a t-shirt, not his normal bedtime attire.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“We’re going to watch the fireworks on the 2nd floor balcony.”
“We are?” I asked in horror.
“Yes. We are.”
And so I reluctantly put my lazy bones into sweatpants and a tank top and we headed for the 2nd floor balcony.
And you know what? It was magical. And I loved every minute of it.
That was the routine every night of our trip. We watched fireworks together. We held hands. Some nights, Emery danced and twirled to the music that is piped in that goes along with the fireworks show.
We shed a few silent tears.
Why? Why would we be shedding tears at the happiest place on earth? Because days are long, but years are short. We wanted to savor those moments with our 5-year-old daughter because next year we won’t have a 5-year-old daughter. That’s how life goes...it just keeps going. And we are so thankful that it keeps going because for some people, it’s going to stop this year. We understand loss in my tribe. We understand it deeply and personally. This year marks 11 years since my Dad’s suicide. This year also marks 8 years since I miscarried our twins. And it’s the 7 year mark since we miscarried our third baby. We know loss and because we know loss, we also know how to appreciate deeply the life we’ve been given today.
So my bonus life lesson is: create fireworks with the people you love. Fireworks for your family might mean a camping trip in the backyard. If so, camp it up! Fireworks might mean a Hawaii trip. And if so, ALOHA!
Fireworks are created when you shine light into the darkness and make something beautiful out of nothing at all.
Create fireworks this year. And as always, keep going!