A Grace Filled Journey: You Are The Magic In The New Year

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With a smile on your face and a song in your heart

This is where you’re meant to be

Make a wish upon a star

The magic is here

It’s here for you and for me

There’s really no question about it. For our family, Walt Disney World really is one of the happiest, most magical places on Earth.

And this year, we got to see it brand new through the eyes of our four-year-old daughter, Charley.

I’m not exactly sure what it is that makes Walt Disney World so much more than just a theme park, but there really is a sense that you’re some place magical.

Especially when you take a four-year-old would be princess.

Thanks to some help from the most amazing travel planner (we’re looking at you, Laura Wagahoff), we were able to pull off some surprises and adventures that made the trip truly memorable for everyone.

If you ask Charley, she would tell you her favorite part was the rides, and she wanted to ride them all, over and over and over again. Thanks to a rainy day at the Magic Kingdom, we got to ride more than we otherwise would have.

Although we hadn’t planned to check out Hollywood Studios on this trip, Charley saw a commercial for the Slinky Dog ride, and it’s all she talked about. And she was even able to ride it twice. It was definitely the highlight of her trip.

We also did lots of favorite rides. I’m pretty partial to Figment’s Journey Through Imagination at Epcot and my mom likes the Haunted Mansion. Kyle might have a toss up between Jungle Cruise, which was fittingly all decorated for Christmas, and his beloved Pirates of the Caribbean. 

And my dad always loves It’s a Small World, which just happened to be Grace’s favorite ride when we took her. I think she enjoyed the music and the bright colors. But it’s also such a great message of love and acceptance for all those in the world, even those who are different than us.

So, while Charley’s favorite part of the trip was the rides, the rest of us enjoyed some pretty amazing food along the way, even “riding” 220 miles up in the air to dine at Space 200 in Epcot. 

But everyone’s favorite meal came the first day, eating at Cinderella’s Royal Table. The food was wonderful, but the dining experience was magical, right down to Charley’s decorate-your-own cupcake dessert (and a waiter who took extra time to bring her ketchup to dip her apple slices in). One of my favorite photos from the trip came at lunch that day, as Charley put her hands up to her face because she was so excited to see Cinderella when she arrived at the restaurant. 

There’s just something about that Disney magic.

Although the character meet and greets aren’t the same as they were prior to the pandemic, Disney has started a handful of socially-distanced character experiences and Charley was thrilled. I just think there’s something about your favorite princess coming to life that makes you believe in the magic.

And when you watch through the eyes of a four-year-old, the magic is even pretty real for the adults too.

Several nights we were there we concluded our night with the Walt Disney World 50th anniversary fireworks display, ending with a new song, “You Are the Magic.” I have to admit, I cried every time I heard it.

This was our first trip to Disney World without our beloved Grace. When we started planning our trip, she was supposed to get to come with us. But it wasn’t meant to be, as she passed away in May.

We were blessed to take her twice, and although the magic for her was much more real the first trip, we feel so fortunate to have made memories there with her to last a lifetime.

I think the song “You Are the Magic” was so touching to me because it reminded me of Grace and the magic that she brought to all of us with her perseverance, her strength and most of all her smile.

It’s been really hard navigating this first holiday season without her. Everything we go and do, it feels like there’s a part of our family that’s missing.

Some days, it’s hard to even want to get out of bed to meet the new day. Thankfully, we have a four-year-old who reminds us she needs breakfast and jobs that we love in our community.

But then I think back to our trip to Disney World and remember that we are all the magic. It’s in all of us to keep going, even if we are hundreds of miles away.

The magic is in all of us to choose kindness and happiness. The magic is in all of us to remember not just to survive, but to thrive, even in life’s hardest circumstances.

For my family, Grace’s magic lives on in us, even if all we have are pictures of that beautiful smile. The way she lived her short life is a reminder that life isn’t about the things you have or even if you end up getting what you want.

Life is about finding the magic in you to make it the best it can be, no matter what. 

If I’m being honest, some days I do better at that than others. But somehow, I always find my way back to where I need to be.

As we turn the calendar over to the new year, I wish all of you health and happiness and lots and lots of magic.

If you believe that you can

That it’s possible tomorrow

Let your heart guide the way

And all your dreams will follow.

Doesn’t matter where you are

Because the spark in your heart

Wherever you go, you can have it

Because you are the magic.

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