Over the past year and a half, my wife and I have written several different blog posts pertaining to our journey. A major part of this journey has been something that many people may label, “not so spiritual.” To be honest, it took a lot of convincing for us but I’m not 100% sure we would have survived the last three and a half years without this piece of the puzzle. It is a major part of our journey with joy!!
By the time 2007 rolled around, we had been married for nine years, had two kids (6 & 4) and had never taken a vacation. We had been on mission trips to England and Africa, but never a time to get away and just focus on fun as a family. We decided to take a quick trip to Florida at the prodding of some people in our life. We flew down to visit Sea World and Magic Kingdom, but made the mistake of going right before Labor Day. We didn’t know. Due to this mistake, we did not enjoy Magic Kingdom at all, but had a great time at Sea World. We had a great time on our trip, but couldn’t figure out why people loved Disney so much (I whispered that, because I didn’t want too many people to hear me, but stick around).
We had so much fun in 2007 that we decided to go again to Florida in 2008. I could tell some crazy stories about experiences we had at our hotels and other things that most people would not consider fun, but we have learned that things don’t go as planned and you just need to roll with the punches (We ended up in Urgent Care in 2007, but I will save that story). This time around we learned from our mistakes of the previous year and scheduled a better time to go (after Labor Day). We decided to skip Magic Kingdom and we went to Animal Kingdom. We thought it was good but not great. This really left a bad taste in our mouth towards Disney and we had no desire to go back at all.
In 2009, we took a mission trip to Australia (December 2008-January 2009). We decided to visit the beach in September of 2009 and stayed a few days in Clearwater, FL. We were not able to take a vacation in 2010, but for a good reason as our third child was born. Fast forward to March of 2011. We were presented a free 2 bedroom suite at Saratoga Springs in Disney World for one week. This was provided by my sister, but we had to pay for transportation, tickets to parks and food. Considering the fact that we were staying on the property, we decided we needed to call in the big guns, because apparently we were doing Disney wrong. This time, we called a cast member friend of ours before we went, invited her over for dinner, and told her to sell us on Disney. Bri (our cast member friend who also was our house sitter while we were in AUS) not only sold us, but we now put major blame on her for our Disney addiction…though I think she is very happy with herself. We front loaded this trip with Disney (so we weren’t 100% sold yet) and planned to do other things the second half. But, something went terribly wrong. We fell in love with Disney. So much so, that we added another day to our tickets so that we could end our trip at Magic Kingdom. End at the Magic Kingdom?? It was just five years earlier that we had a miserable time at this park and never wanted to return (girls actually asked to leave and go back to the hotel to swim), but I digress…
Well that was it…we went back and went back again. Since that trip in March of 2011, we have returned eight times for a total of thirteen weeks as of August of 2017. We currently have scheduled (booked) two more trips. Many have looked at how often we go and made comments, but there is a reason. I can tell you that there have been at least three occasions where God (yes, I said God) gave us specific directions to go to Disney and He has met us there every time. I am not going to get into them but I want to show how smart God is. Even in the darkest trials of our lives, He sets us up beforehand for blessings.
If you have followed our blogs or know us, then you know that in April of 2014, Julie had major brain surgery. This was a very intense and extensive surgery. Julie does not remember much from the weeks following her surgery. As we prepared for the operation (we had one week notice), we decided to adopt one of the things that we picked up from Finding Nemo the Musical at Animal Kingdom. No matter how hard things got, we would remind each other, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” This became very helpful to us. This was something that we used quite often for a year or so after the surgery. About seven months removed from the surgery, we made our first post-surgery trip to Disney. We were not sure what to expect. We were not sure how Julie would respond. Amazingly, we found out that Disney was a place that Julie could still have fun, as well as a bit of reprieve from the pain. Disney didn’t magically make her pain disappear, but because you are constantly on the move, her body responded well to Disney. Due to the limitations that Julie has, we found that Disney is the perfect place for our family. It is a place where you can have kids that range from sixteen to two and still enjoy the parks as a family. We don’t have to separate and go our own ways, but can still have fun together…a novel concept in the day and age in which we live. We love our kids and we love each other. We love to be together at home and on vacation. Maybe that sounds crazy to you, but family was God’s design.
So I ask the question, “Can God use a company like Disney?” He has for us. It is not just a vacation, but for us it really is a place of “magic” for our family. This would explain why a family would go to Disney nine times in six years and have two to three more trips planned for the remainder of 2017 & 2018. We have now become to other people what Bri was to us. People have called us and asked about Disney. We are more than happy to give advice on certain “do’s” and “don’ts” that we have picked up along the way. In a lot of ways, we are still newbies to this, but we are learning. We don’t watch the Disney movies, but we love their parks! This has become a major part of our journey with joy, so don’t be surprised if we post a few more blog posts about Disney!