This past summer my family
went on vacation to Disney
World in Florida. It was our
fourth trip there since our 11-year-old daughter, Maddie, and seven-year-old son, Alex, were born, and our
third trip in as many years.
But if I’d had my way originally,
none of those trips would have happened.
“Too crowded, too hot, too expensive,”
I told my husband, Mark, the
first time he brought up the idea of
taking the kids to Disney.
“But the kids would love it,” he
replied. “And it’s the most magical
place on earth,” he added with a smile.
After much discussion, I eventually
conceded and we packed up and went.
By the morning of day one, I was forever
converted. Here’s why.
Experiencing 'The Look'
On the first day of our first visit—still
not feeling “the magic”—I hopped on
the crowded monorail, scanned our
park tickets and prepared for a day of
long lines and oppressive heat. As we
stepped onto Main Street USA in Magic
Kingdom, Maddie and Alex stopped in
their tracks right in the middle of the
street. I attempted to usher them along,
aware that we were in imminent danger
of being run over by the sea of people
rushing into the park. But they
I looked down to see what had them
so fascinated and saw them gazing up
at Cinderella’s castle, their eyes wide
with amazement and wonder. It is a
look that will be forever etched in my
heart. And it is a look I saw once more
this summer on the face of my three-year-old daughter, Riley, when she entered
I had seen that look before in countless
moments throughout my life. That
look that says, “This is big. I’m not sure
exactly what it means, or how it’s going
to play out, but I can tell it’s big.”
In that moment, in those looks, I suddenly
understood why Walt Disney’s
original vision has been able to continually
capture people for years. Suddenly
it wasn’t about all the reasons I
didn’t want to go on that first trip. It
was about stepping away from all those
things and allowing myself to look just
a little bit deeper.
Disney aside, it’s the look I imagine
the shepherds, Magi and all those other
people in the Christmas story must
have had when they happened upon
the manger or saw the angels announcing
Jesus’ birth, the moment when I
imagine they must have thought, This
is something big.
Embracing the Big Picture
Let’s face it, these days there are plenty
of things that might keep us from seeing
that big picture, such as work, a
hurting economy, family obligations
and other day-to-day stresses. But
please don’t let all those things keep
you from seeing that some things are
bigger than what we see on the surface.
Every once in a while we need to
dig below the surface to rediscover
those hidden treasures.
The Christmas season is like that.
Underneath all the wrapping paper and
gifts is the real gift—Christ’s birth. But
how often do we allow ourselves to get
For most of us, Christmas means shopping for that perfect present, baking,
planning get-togethers, Christmas
cards—need I continue the list? But
Christmas is about so much more. It’s
about the hope given to us by a baby,
born in a manger.
In the book Holy Bells and Wonderful
Smells: Year-Round Activities for Classrooms
and Families, author Jeanne Hunt
summed it up well when she wrote,
“As we look back on our own Christmas
memories, it is not the gifts we
received that we remember, but rather,
the good times, the funny moments,
the poignant events that stay with us.
We retain little memory of how clean
the house was or the menu of the day.
What remains are the moments of love
and joy....These moments become the
treasures of Christmas past.”
Take some time to think about what
those moments have been in your life.
Perhaps it was the birth of your child,
a death, an illness, a simple conversation
with a friend. It doesn’t matter
where we find that message or get that
reminder, just that we find it.
So for this month’s column, I offer
only one suggestion for a holiday project.
If you have time for it, great. If not,
I completely understand. There are presents
to buy and wrap, food to prepare
and parties to attend. All I’m suggesting
is that this holiday season we all try
to slow down a little bit and look a little
Focus on the real message of the season,
which is so much bigger than all
the lights and wrappings. Reclaim the
joy and wonder of this season that has
become so big, but began with a tiny
baby in a manger in Bethlehem.