10 Days in Anaheim: Conventions, Libraries, + How to Disney with a Toddler

This has been possibly the most eventful summer of our marriage so far. I mean, from June-September, we will have had 6 weekends at home where absolutely nothing was going on..

It’s been a mix of big trips, small trips, and commitments that will lead right up to Evangeline’s due date. But the biggest trip of our summer was to Anaheim a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s the super-mega-abridged version:

  1. NACC for a week
  2. Disney for a day afterwards
  3. Ronald Reagan Library

Feel free to just scroll through the post if you just want to see cute pictures of Lucy at Disney… There are a lot of pictures, friends.

Here’s the super-mega-unabridged version (settle in, I hold nothing back. I’m like Tolkien in the second half of The Two Towers where he describes every gray pebble and boulder in Mordor):

It started on Friday, July 8th when we drove two hours to my parents’ house. The next morning, Ryan flew out early to Anaheim, while Lucy and I stayed with them until Monday, when we all followed. From the 12th-18th the NACC took place, which my husband works for, and which required him to basically work 6 or 7 AM until 11 PM (or later) for the whole week. Aka any time I saw him he was power-walking somewhere.

Jungle 1What an awesome week! Great speakers from pastors like Dave Stone and Gene Appel to speakers like Christine Caine, Bob Goff, and even Tim Tebow! Plus, Lucy did wonderfully, especially considering she’s 2 and requires constant attention (and entertainment). So, obviously, having my parents there was immensely helpful!

Jungle 2

And apparently, California is beautiful. Did you when there’s no humidity in the air, summer is actually pleasant?! Oh. You did? Because everyone knows that? Well, this was my first experience with it, and I finally understand why everyone loves when the whether is a “dry heat.”

Outside 2Every time we passed landscaped areas with palm trees, Lucy would cry out, “Jungle, Mommy! Jungle!” which was the cutest thing ever.

Outside

Thankfully for my mom and the childcare at the children’s convention, I was able to do some If Then Move work at the Women’s Gathering Place booth with Wendy, where we guided women through making Story necklaces (to go along with the NACC’s theme this year of “A Better Story”). 

Women's Gathering Place
It was so awesome seeing how God used the time they spent making the necklaces as a time of surrender and hope! Seeing people come a little more alive is part of why I love my work for Wendy.

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A minute later, it seemed like the convention was over! It felt like a long and a short week at the same time… and thoroughly exhausting. (I’ve never been this pregnant at the NACC before. Yeesh.) And of course, my husband walked over 100 miles in the course of the week, so you know, he felt dead by the week’s end.

Friday evening featured a lovely dinner in the Packing District (which if you don’t know is basically a hipster-foodie’s dream), though unfortunately a not-so-lovely night followed for me…

Packing Disctrict Popsicles

Apparently my prego-self did not like whatever I ate there. But I prayed so hard that it would just be limited to the night, because the next day was our day at DISNEYLAND!!!

Though by morning I still felt weak, I just felt better and better throughout the day! And WHAT a day.

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(Look at that baby girl. Also, that prego belly. Man, I feel like it’s a lot bigger even now.)

To say the whole experience was truly magical might feel like a cliche or something off a brochure about your visit to Disney, let me say it is also 100% TRUE.

Let me also say, I’d been dreaming of and planning for this trip in general, but especially our day at Disney, for months. (Don’t get me wrong- I was SUPER excited for the NACC too, but I’ve done that with a little one before. Disney is a whole different animal.) I had pinned a bunch of articles on Pinterest by moms detailing how to maximize your time at the parks with toddlers. Prized information indeed. Actually, I created a whole board just for the purpose, which you can see here if you find yourself planning a similar trip!

Knowing we only had one day at Disney meant that I had a very specific but also a very loose agenda. Because not to be Captain Obvious or anything, but toddlers don’t love waiting in lines for hours… So I only had 3 items that I’d listed as my top Wouldn’t-It-Be-Great-If-This-Happened things:

  1. Lucy meeting Mickey OR one of the others on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
  2. Taking her to the Disney Junior Live show
  3. Meeting Elsa + Anna.

Maybe this sounds silly to you, but I just felt like God was part of the whole day. I could just feel his delight in letting these things happen- things that weren’t necessary for survival or super important exactly- but just abundantly blessing us with beautiful, good moments.

Disney Jr. LiveAll three of those things happened within our first two hours in the park! Right after we got to California Adventure, they did a last call for anyone who wanted to see Disney Jr. Live- which was AWESOME. (If you have a toddler, I mean.) It’s set up like an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (Lucy’s all time favorite which she would watch absolutely all the time if I let her), in which they go to the worlds of Sofia the 1st, Doc McStuffins, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. (Lucy likes Jake, but mainly she adores Sofia and Doc.)

Wonder

Her face. I can’t even. She was so filled with wonder and delight. Each portion had some cool effect which all the kids loved; “snow” falling from the ceiling, then bubbles in the Doc portion, then “gold doubloons” (aka circular cutouts of yellow and gold tissue paper). I know people always talk about the whole fun of Disney being witnessing your kids’ reaction to things, but I happily join their ranks and say how completely wonderful it really is!

Afterwards, we were fairly close to Elsa and Anna’s Royal Welcome (aka the meet and greet), so we headed over to that. One of the clerks at the entrance mentioned that Elsa had to run back to Arendelle on urgent business (keeping’ it real- gotta love that about Disney) and that she would probably be back around noon. Well, when the wait time is an hour and it’s 11:00 and your husband thinks logical thoughts, you get in line and hope Elsa is back in time.

Side note: we were only willing to wait for this because it was inside in air-conditioning. Plus, the waiting area had all these giant screens playing songs/scenes from all kinds of Disney movies, which helped us entertain Lucy, although she was definitely reaching her limits by the end of that hour.

Finally, we got into “the castle” and there they were! Elsa and Anna. You never know how your little one is going to react to seeing characters, and Lucy was just in total awe and amazement… and a little intimidated by Elsa, we think. Maybe it’s because we’d talked about seeing Anna the whole time, but not Elsa (in case she wasn’t back), or maybe it’s that Elsa has really big hair… Who knows? But I had to go sit with her on the floor- and they sat as well. They were fabulous and super friendly, but Lucy still kept her distance. Finally, she gave Anna a hug, but apparently just could not handle giving one to Elsa.

Of course, as soon as we left, she started crying, “Elsa Anna again!” So, clearly she loved meeting them. 😀

Possibly the best part of the day happened next. As we were deciding what to do next, Daisy Duck walked by with a staff member. I immediately asked if we could get a picture, but the guy said they were on their way to a photo op spot, and did Lucy want to walk there with Daisy? Um, YES.

By this point, she was also wearing her Sofia the 1st dress which of course looks PRECIOUS on her, and made this whole thing even more adorable… (Aaaand cue the onslaught of photos…)

A Walk with Daisy

She took Daisy’s hand, and they just walked along the sidewalk together like besties! Of course, my parents, Ryan and I walked behind- all with our phones out, incredulously taking as many pictures and videos possible, because that’s what you do when you’re at Disney with your child.

Window Shopping

BFFs

Daisy was so perfect- bending down and pointing in shop windows, engaging with Lucy, and when they got to the spot for people to line up for photos, she picked an ACTUAL daisy from the landscape and put it in Lucy’s hair.

Taking a Walk

Flower

I can’t even.

Lucy and Daisy

And just because it wasn’t perfect enough already, Daisy knelt down, opened her arms, and Lucy promptly threw her arms around Daisy, which I caught on video. #winning

After that, I pretty much felt I’d Disney-ed like a boss, so we just got to enjoy walking around and seeing all the wonderfulness around us. (Do you know how PRETTY it is in Disney? The whole thing is just beautiful.) We made our way over to the Star Wars area in Tomorrowland (because obviously!) and got lunch, where we were able to watch the Jedi Academy thing happening from our table!

Lucy probably loved this just as much as Disney Junior live. Almost. When Darth Vader left the stage, she was like, “Eh my Darf Vader go?”

After lunch, it was hot enough that we ducked into a close by shop, where naturally Papa caved and bought Lucy a noise-making R2D2 that lights up and has things that spin around the top of it.

What was left but to find Dory (ha. I didn’t do that on purpose) in the emporium and immediately attach herself to it? It was truly a perfect day. And by then, it was so busy and all the lines were SUPER long for things, and Lucy as well as the rest of us were basically worn out.

I know I’m documenting like Every Little Thing about that day, but I just have to, because we felt so over-abundantly blessed! To be there together, to see Lucy’s joy- it was magical.

Disneyland Mug

(So obviously I had to purchase the Disneyland Starbucks You are Here mug. Because it’s also magical. And SO PRETTY.)

The next morning, we ate at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and gave Dad birthday cards, which he of course was a choked up mess over (which made Mom and I choke up too, as per usual- though Ryan knows we are always sappy about things).

Lucy at Coffee Bean Then we visited Discovery Church in Simi Valley, followed by an afternoon at the Ronald Reagan National Library!

It’s amazing how much is there to look at, inside and out! It’s surrounded by beautiful views.

Reagan Library View

Beautiful ViewLucy found it fascinating as well…

Sleepy and Reagan

Clearly, it was a full 10 days. But full of goodness, beauty, and gratitude.

Selfie of Us

Also, it’s probably unsurprising that we were left a bit catatonic when we got home. I mean, coffee seemingly had no effect on my fatigue whatsoever for like, a week. Of course, I’m also in my third trimester now- yay for the most cumbersome and arguably uncomfortable part of pregnancy!!

If you’re still reading, you deserve an award, because I know this was a wordy post. So many words. And so many pictures. I don’t often write such lengthy posts detailing trips like this. Admittedly, it’s mostly for family members and/or my own memory later when I’m like- what happened on that trip again??

Anyway, if nothing else, I hope some of these photos of our sunshine-filled week brought some sunshine into your day.

 

 

Gracious & Interesting {Even in an Election Year?}

We watched some of the election coverage last night. And as usual, I had mixed feelings when the TV turned off. I remembered why I don’t like watching election coverage. Usually, it just ends being this convoluted mess with every news station blaring this poll and that result and this guy’s worst remarks and that guy’s best and crowds that cheer and boo and regardless of which party you identify with, isn’t there part of you that is unnerved by the mob mentality at these things?

I know it’s normal. If I were at one of those, I’m sure I’d clap and hoot and holler like the rest of ’em. (Apparently, I was a cowgirl for that sentence.) 

And I won’t pretend to sit here and say, “I hate politics” because that’s too convenient, and gives permission to disengage with important things happening in the culture around us. (I also won’t pretend I’m a quarter as knowledgeable as I probably should be. At least, as knowledgeable as someone who can have an intelligent conversation about any of this.)

That said, I hate politics. What I mean is, I hate what we let politics do to us. Especially in the church. It’s like people become these snarling, rabid versions of themselves. I think it’s partly because of fear. Whatever “side” you’re on, don’t you have a modicum of fear about the future of the country? Fear that your guy (or girl)  won’t win, that the other guy (or girl) will, and what will happen if they do?

I get that. It’s always scary when you think of handing someone a lot of power.

But you and I must remember- whoever ultimately wins an election is not the one who holds everything in his control. Whoever is president for the next four years is not also in charge of eternity.

Maybe it would be good to read Isaiah every time we watch political coverage? That way we’d remember Who it is we worship.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LordAlmighty.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” – Isaiah 6: 1-7

 

Or Revelation:

 

10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit,and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum,Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”

12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man,[d] dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword.His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

– Revelation 1: 10-18

 

Maybe we ought to remember where our fear really belongs. A reverent fear that falls down in awe of the King of kings. John can barely even describe Jesus, because of the wild, beautiful, terrible glory he beheld. Jesus had to tell him not to be afraid! Is it any surprise?

And how can I help but add this:

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
― C.S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

My soul is not American. It belongs to the Lord. It yearns for the far country he is preparing. For now, he has placed me in this country, so I will ask him to help me navigate all the hubbub and speeches and bumper stickers with a renewed mind as the cacophony intensifies over the coming months.

Along with this, I will maintain kindness (relying on His help, which I will need) towards other people, even when opinions fly like flaming arrows across Facebook threads and online articles.

Because our mission hasn’t changed just because it’s an election year. Our calling remains as solid and clear as it was when Paul first wrote these words:

“…let your conversation always be gracious and interesting, so you will know how to respond to any particular individual.” – Colossians 4:6

That’s what Wendy is always quoting whenever we’re doing our If Then Move work. It’s the foundation of all we do. This doesn’t mean we can’t have debates with other people. It just means we can’t turn into snarling, rabid wolverines.


Gracious landscape 1If Jesus could maintain grace even with people whom he knew would kill him, surely we can do it within our own body of believers?

Maybe if we thought of that the next time we prepare to strike the keys with our fiery retort, maybe if we start with remembering who Jesus is; recalling the beautiful, terrible, overwhelming glory that made Isaiah and John fall to the ground. Maybe our posture could be more like this:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

God is sending us now. He’s sending us to be gracious and interesting to everyone, so we can “make the message clear” as Paul says in Colossians 4:4. Even in an election year.

 

Gracious portrait 1

Day 7: Enjoying Surrender.

31 days of Enjoy square

As Communications & Events Director for If Then Movement, I have had the privilege of attending and helping with a few ITM events since I took on the job almost a year and a half ago. (I usually just say Communications Director… but the official title sounds schmancy right?) Each one I go to speaks to me differently, as I see God working in both my life and the lives of those who attend.

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(Their decor was ON POINT, people. It was a fabulous fall explosion. But in a good way. Though, come to think of it, I can’t really imagine how fall could explode in a bad way…)

This weekend’s was no exception. It probably held greater depth for me in part because it took place at the church where I grew up, watching my parents minister on staff. I love that place!

And I love seeing what God does through our retreat called “So Be It: Brave Surrender to God’s Call Every Day”.

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This is my favorite retreat that we do. Because it gives women a chance to dig deep and let their hearts open up to the truth that surrender is how we experience the goodness God intends for us.

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Sometimes I have a hard time yielding to that process. Sometimes, all I can do is put one foot in front of the other, rejoice in simple things like autumn wreaths, incredible things like God’s grace, and continuously surrender moment by moment. And sometimes, surrendering is putting pieces of a necklace together that function as a small, beautiful, brave stake in the ground for the kingdom of God.

necklace 1

That’s what attendees got to do together this weekend. My dear friend chose this necklace, and I confess that the phrase is one of my favorites. (I have a necklace with this same artwork in it… because we’re the same person. We even wore matching colors.)

people 1

What you don’t see in the picture is the small piece of paper that gets buried behind the artwork and the glass tile; that piece of paper serves as a place to write something you feel God laying on your heart to surrender to Him, or a verse He’s leading you to cling to, or a person you need to keep praying for, etc. I love that it’s a tactile, tangible representation of the message.

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The other thing that gets buried in this necklace is a tiny seed, which represents the fact that in order to bear fruit, the seed itself must die. This stands out to me especially, because God has been reminding me that even if I’m afraid of losing or surrendering something to him, doing just that is what bears fruit.

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(This is a candy bar. Get it?)

For someone who professes to be a creative person, I can be really uncreative when it comes to looking past what I think is good and instead trusting that God’s best is better. (Or best… or something.)

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Later in this series, I plan to dig up what God says about enjoyment, but for today, I end with this verse:
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
                        – Psalm 36:7-8