11/07/2018

Learning in the Middle

It's a well-known fact that the middle is the least exciting part of anything. The middle of a movie is filled with small setbacks leading to the exciting part, the end. The middle of a 14-page essay feels like the worst. The middle of the backseat of a van for 12 hours is actually the worst.

Yet here we are, in the middle.




In the middle where we end up watching Parks and Rec instead of praying. In the middle where we wake up already looking forward to taking a nap. In the middle where the days take forever to pass by yet are gone in the time it takes to turn the calendar page.

Yes, we're here in the middle.

The middle is frustrating because not only is it boring, but we know, deep down, that it shouldn't be. After all, there's so much excitement in the kingdom of God that how could we be bored? But it is here in middle where we struggle to see past the long list of things to do and people to meet and Instagram pictures to post. Things get hazy, and we start to lose sight of Jesus because we feel like to come to Jesus means that we have to get our act together, and we just don't have time for that right now. We think that coming to Jesus will look the same now as it did in an earlier part of our season, and we just can't get back to that place.




I'm here to remind us both that God is here with us in the middle. He invites us to follow Him now with just as much grace as He did when we were first saved. He isn't afraid of the middle. The middle isn't too long and awkward for Jesus to come and do His thing.

It is time that we stopped fearing the middle, too. It is time to cease fearing the place where the fog of the future and the mess of the past collide to create the present. It is time to stop wishing that we could go back or forward or sideways or whatever. It is time to follow Jesus, one step at a time, one moment at a time, even in the middle. Even when life's painfully normal. Even when we're confused.




Because however normal or confused or unmotivated life can get, these commands ring true:

"The most important is this, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

(Mark 12:39-31, emphasis mine)

Perhaps if we obeyed these commandments, the middle wouldn't be such a wearisome place. Perhaps it is love for God and love for others, not love for ourselves and our current position in life, that will help us to get up on a Wednesday morning and chose to smile and have joy. Perhaps it is that kind of love that will motivate us more than any #MondayMotivation.

When our lives are about loving God and loving people, the painfully normal days take on a whole new meaning. Suddenly, life isn't about what we're feeling or doing or wishing. Life is vibrant with opportunities, big and small, to obey God and love others.

May we obey these commands as they bring purpose and light to the middle seasons of our lives.




Praise the One who wastes nothing and brings everything into His glory. Praise the One who is with us in the middle, not demanding perfection but commanding love. Praise the One who is the beginning, the end, and every moment in between, including this one.

Let's start in the middle, shall we?

Princess Hannah

10/25/2018

12 Fall/Winter MUSTS at Disney World (Part I)

I'm convinced that Walt Disney World is at its finest during the holiday season (which starts in August for Disney). Whereas it is magical at all times, the holidays add a bit of extra sparkle (quite literally) to the memories made in the parks and resorts. 

I interned at Walt Disney World last fall (see my posts about the beginning, my role, and my reflections) and made it my mission to emerge myself in all of the festive activities. It was the best time of my life. Sometimes I cry thinking about it. 



In addition to experiencing the holidays as a guest, I worked in Magic Kingdom and got to experience many of the festive moments at Disney in a unique way. I saw them decorating Magic Kingdom for Christmas in one night. I memorized the parades. I gathered as many tips and tricks as I could, and now I'm going to share them with you!




In case you are planning a trip to Disney this fall/winter, next fall/winter, or only in your daydreams (no shame), I've compiled a list of 12 things you simply cannot miss at Disney this season of the year. If you're not planning a trip, perhaps this post will change your mind. Either way, enjoy the pics and my obsession with Disney.

I'm splitting these tips into two posts, because however much I love Christmas, let's finish Halloween first. 

1. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP)


If you only remember one thing from this post, remember this: MNSSHP is the best time to be in Magic Kingdom. THE BEST. 



Yes, the ticket costs extra money, but it is totally worth it. I worked the party countless times for over two months and still paid twice to go as a guest. It is my favorite time in the parks for five reasons: 

A. You can dress up. 


This is the only time you will be able to dress up in full costumes at Disney. And let's be honest, Disney is the ideal playing ground for wearing costumes. This fact alone made the party so much fun! I loved seeing what every other guest wore to the party. Some people really go for it, and it's very inspiring. (Warning: don't impersonate any character or you will be asked to leave the park. I almost had to leave twice because people were trying to take pictures with me.)




B. You get candy. 


I promise that Disney will one-up your childhood trick-or-treating experience. They give out the good stuff. There are also exclusive treats that you can purchase, like the candy corn cone pictured below. One trick that I learned was to have one person wait in line to meet a character while the other person snags some candy in one of the many candy spots throughout the park. Double tasking at its finest. 



3. Exclusive characters. 


Speaking of character meet and greats, MNSSHP has exclusive characters who only meet during the parties. If you like meeting characters, MNSSHP is the place for you! Just be warned, the lines for the characters can get long. I'd recommend getting in line for the most popular ones (like Jack Skellington) before the party begins if you're already in the park. Some of them start meeting before the party begins. If you only have party tickets, then head straight over to the character who you want to meet the most. 




I met the Seven Dwarfs, Wizard Mickey, Alice in Wonderland characters, Jafar, and Jack Sparrow. My favorite was definitely Jack Sparrow. It was so different than any other character interaction that I've had before. The dwarfs were also worth the wait.



4. The atmosphere. 


Since the party is a separate, ticketed event, all non-party goers must leave. This reduces the crowds in Magic Kingdom and leaves only those who are ready to party. Most of the attractions are open, and the wait times are reduced, although you will still have to wait some for the bigger attractions.




The park plays different music. It has new stations for candy, characters, and shows. The life of the park lifts up and becomes, in my opinion, even more playful and fun. It's difficult to describe, so you'll just have to go to a party and find out.




5. Boo to You. 


This is hands down the best parade at Disney World. And I'm an expert on Disney World parades. From my work location, I was able to watch all of the parades on a very regular basis. The Boo to You parade has incredibly catchy music (it's in my head all year long), fun character interactions, and unique floats that will certainly make you smile. I was so sad that I couldn't go to a MNSSHP this year that every time I saw anything about Boo to You I would start crying. I'm not joking. 




I would recommend that you watch the second parade. There are two showings, and the second is typically less crowded. I also would advise you not to watch the parade on Main Street as it gets crowded quickly and it is hard to make it back into the other areas of the park after the parade. I always like watching the parades in Frontierland. the very beginning of the route. Then I know exactly when it will reach me and I will be able to go explore other areas of the park while others are still waiting for the parade.






If you can't tell, I could talk about MNSSHP all day long, but that's not the only thing happening at Disney during the fall...

2. Food and Wine

If you think that Disney is all kids stuff and make-believe, you've obviously never been to Epcot, especially during Food and Wine. Food and Wine is the grown up party of Disney. Epcot's World Showcase, a mini presentation of 11 different countries, transforms into a festival of food and drink and entertainment. 35 food stalls serve tastes of various ethnic and exotic foods and drinks to sample. (Check out this year's selection here.)



This chocolate pudding from the Ireland food stall was my favorite! It was my first thing to try and my last thing to enjoy throughout the festival.




I love Food and Wine because it forces me to go slowly and enjoy conversations, flavors, and sunsets (because sunsets at Epcot at the best.). Plus, I love trying new things, and Food and Wine gives me a way to sample many different foods without having to buy a whole meal.




The best way to do Food and Wine is to go with friends. Sharing is caring at Food and Wine, because then you can try a dozen different things for only a few dollars each. Don't let this deceive you, though; buying food and especially drinks will add up, so watch your budget.




Lastly, if you think that you're going to be creative and get punny shirts about Food and Wine, think again. I counted 212 different matching Food and Wine pun shirts one day. 212! Etsy shops are getting rich off of this.

3. Dapper Day

The last pre-Christmas thing that I want to talk about is Dapper Day. This one is harder to do for everyone because it is only on two days in the fall and two days in the spring. This year it will be on November 17-18. Dapper Day is organized by an outside organization which seeks to bring back the charm of retro fashion by organizing two days where their members (and others who'd like to join) dress up in vintage fashion to go the the parks.



My experience with Dapper Day was a joy! Although it was a very crowded day (it was also Mickey's birthday), the crowds were polite and polished. I loved dressing up with my friends and enjoying a grand day at the parks. If you are at Disney during Dapper Day, I highly recommend that you adorn something sophisticated and stroll about with the hundreds of other dapper folks. If you're looking for something special to wear, I'd suggest checking out The Dress Shop. It's a line of Disney dresses inspired by characters and attractions. I wore the Cinderella inspired dress, and it is my favorite dress ever!




I was also able to go to the Epcot day of Dapper Day with great friends! I adorned a simple yet classic button up dress with pearls. 





If this post doesn't make you want to pack up your bags (and your wigs) and head to Disney World right now, I don't know what will! I hope that I provided some useful information for y'all to save for later. And any time y'all have questions about Disney World, I'm more than happy to try and answer them! 

Have a magical day, and keep your eyes open for Part II of this post after Halloween!

Princess Hannah



P.S. The post was not sponsored in any way. I'm basically just an unpaid advocate for all things Disney. But, hey, if they wanted to sponsor me, I wouldn't argue :) Just pay me in Mickey Waffles.

10/18/2018

Fearlessly Faithful and Faithfully Fearless

This small town blogger got to study ballet with the American Ballet Theatre in New York City this past summer! I packed my bags and lived the NYC dancer life for three wonderful, tiring, exciting weeks. Weeks I won't soon forget, Weeks I will treasure forever.



And in those weeks of intense living, God pressed a strong theme into my soul- be fearlessly faithful and faithfully fearless. 




I went into the intensive with so much fear. I feared making the wrong choice. I feared deciding what I wanted to do with my life. I feared that I would make a fool of myself as a dancer. I feared wasting money. I feared a lot of things.




Oh, but God knew what He was doing.




On the flight to NYC, I started reading Louie Giglio's book, Goliath Must Fall. In the book, he discusses specifically how fear must fall in our lives. 

Let's talk about timing here.




"Fear grips us whenever we believe that apart from, or in spite of, our best efforts, something undesirable is going to happen and we can't stop it." (page 54)

Then, to top it off, God did something fun. As I sat reading in Bryant Park, eyeing the Empire State Building every now and then, the book mentioned something very familiar. Louie Giglio started to tell a story, and the story was set in none other than the LaGuardia Airport, where I was just hours ago.




It was as if God waved His arms and said, pay attention to this. I am going to use it in your life. 

"We understand that we must hear Jesus and we must see Jesus. We must keep the focus of our hearts on him. That's because hearing Jesus and seeing Jesus and focusing on Jesus builds up our faith, and faith is the antidote to fear. The opposite of fear is not being bold and courageous. The opposite of fear is faith. And faith begins by us saying, 'I have confidence in God that he is bigger than this giant.'" (page 56, emphasis mine)




That's when it began to click. If the opposite of fear is faith, then we are called to be fearless faithful and faithfully fearless.

We are invited to live fearlessly faithful lives. For although faith is the antidote to fear, it takes a little fearlessness to be faithful. It takes guts to trust God. It's not easy to be faithful when the world tells us to fearfully cling to all of our rights and pleasures.



To be fearlessly faithful is to trust God with a scary amount of faith. However, we don't fear trusting God, because we know that He is faithful. His faithfulness invites us to have faith in Him without fear. To be fearlessly faithful is trust that Jesus is worthy of all of our lives: every act of obedience, every heartfelt prayer, and every step along the way. It is courageous faith, but not faith in courage.




We are not only called to be fearlessly faithful; we are also called to be faithfully fearless. We are called to a life that is, for lack of a better word, scary. It is true that God provide for us a shelter from the storm. Sometimes, though, He tells us to go out upon the waters and have faith that He won't let us drown. Sometimes, we have to get a little wet.




We need to use faith in order to do fearless things. If not, fear will crush us before we even step outside. Jesus has given us a great commandment, a wonderful mission. It is about time that we faithfully pursued fearlessness for the sake of the kingdom of God.




The real test of faith for me in NYC came on my first Monday, the placement class, the fearful day that would determine the rest of the program. It was one of the biggest things that I feared, but that morning I began to see what being fearlessly faithful and faithfully fearless truly meant.




I walked into that placement class and actually had fun. Joy filled my heart and replaced competition with compassion and comparison with confidence. Suddenly, I felt free. Faith grew in my heart that day.




And the next day.



And the next day.



Faithfulness isn't a one day decision or a seasonal activity. It is an every day, step-by-step kind of lifestyle. Oh, how I need daily reminders to be faithful. 




So this is my reminder for myself and maybe for you, too, dear reader. Will we accept the challenge to live fearlessly faithful and faithfully fearless? Will we be courageous with the amount of faith we place in trustworthy Jesus? Will we live boldly because of our faith in Jesus?




Let's grab faith and one hand and fearlessness in the other and dance on forward. I don't think that we will look back from this kind of life.

Much love,

Princess Hannah

10/02/2018

Fighting for Contentment




"But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content"

1 Timothy 6:6-8


Contentment is hard. 


It is hard to be content when we have such big dreams. It's hard to be content when we've seen great things. It's hard to be content, for goodness sake, when Instagram reminds us daily how much we don't have. 


We don't have a boyfriend. We don't have that dream closet. We don't have that amazing testimony. We don't have those spectacular experiences. 


When I look back at this year (especially last spring), I see a lot of discontentment. 


Why? 


Because I wanted to be back in Disney. I wanted to be off on the next adventure off to NYC or Europe. I wanted to be somewhere else.


Oh, so very badly. 




And so, to numb the discontentment, I pursued aimlessness. Pursue is too strong of a verb. I resorted to aimlessness.


I think that I mistook that aimlessness, that complacency, for contentment. I deceived myself into contentment, not because I found my contentment in something greater than Disney or adventures, but because I ignored my troubles and blocked out the discontent thoughts with media, busyness, and temporary fixes. 


 settled. Settled for a dulled soul and distracted mind. Instead of facing my disappointment and shortcomings, I went on Instagram and browsed pictures of Disney. Instead of puzzling out my thoughts and talking to God, I planned the future and dwelt on what might come. 


That's not contentment, not godly contentment. 




What is godly contentment, then? 


I believe godly contentment to be satisfaction in Jesus, untainted by our circumstances. Contentment is to find joy in Jesus in times of excitement, plenty, normality, or struggles. Contentment is much more about Jesus than it is about what we do or do not have. 


I also find that contentment leads to action. Because contentment focuses on the sufficiency of Christ, it will lead us to follow Christ's ways and kingdom. Contentment isn't sitting still and feeling good about our place in life. Contentment is standing up, no matter how hard it is, and living in a way that worships Jesus. It is a life of action, not reaction. 


"Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith."


1 Timothy 6:11-12




I can't help but think of the scene in The Incredibles where Helen realizes that Bob is not on a business trip. She assumes that he's off with some other women and starts to melt in tears and self-pity.

Edna Mode, then, hits Helen on the head with a rolled up newspaper.

"Go, confront the problem. Fight! Win!"


Related image


Let's channel our inner Edna Mode and slap our discontentment on the head with the Word of God. Let's roll up our sleeves and start to fight with Christ the envy, laziness, and selfishness lurking in our hearts. With our hearts firmly planted in the love of God, let His power grow us in joy, purpose, and contentment. For we will find in Him far more than anything we discontently long for. 

Much love,

Princess Hannah