We moved away from the community in which I was raised in January 1991, after living there as a married couple for 3 1/2 years. It was a change that my family questioned, but one that I knew in my heart was best for me and Steve, one that would give us the opportunity to craft together our life, a life outside the enmeshed boundaries of a large multi-generational family that had calendars full of events.
We sold our little North Shore house that General Homes had built for us in 1988, and moved north 45 minutes to The Woodlands, into a two-story house that Ryland built for us. It was all just so perfect, looking back, and when my nephews coined the area "the magical forest", I think they were on to something. We picked a lot at the end of a cul-de-sac and I was immediately in love with all the mature trees and the wild blackberry bushes at the back of the property.
We found a new church home and began living the life that would grow and mature us, in much the same way as the hundred-year-old pines and yaupons that surrounded every house, each neighborhood, all roadsides. We were blessed to live in The Woodlands for just short of 7 years, and I would be lying if I were to say that I don't miss it to this day. I don't play the "What if" game, but if I am ever tempted to, it would be regarding my magical forest.
Outside the scope of frequent family events, we found ourselves with some open calendar space and began cultivating friendships with peers. It was an almost novel concept to us, having lived near my parents and my sisters and their families, and all the fun, but unending, series of events that 7 nieces and nephews offered. We teased that - at that time - we had 3 weeks off in June, as there were no birthdays or events between Father's Day and July 4. At any rate, living 45 minutes away from all of that gave us a new leash on life.
We found so many other twenty-something couples at our church home and it wasn't long before the forest began to feel a little bit more like a home for our hearts. One of our friends was actually a single guy, and as such, he would drop by more often than others. I can remember crystal clear in my mind Ralph, in red sweatpants, lounging on our wedgewood blue couch one December while we did some Christmas baking, and him talking about KLTY, the Houston area Christian radio station.
Steve and I had both listened to some Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith back in college, but as a married couple, I had introduced Steve to country & western, and I think most of the time our radio was tuned to that. Ralph planted another forest seed that night. We then began listening to KLTY sporadically, but I struggled with all the different genre sounds the different artists embodied. I eventually got over that annoyance and embraced the divergent sounds. And the seed that Ralph planted took root, and over time we both fell in love with Contemporary Christian music and kept all radios tuned to 94.9. I can still remember Philip as a two-year-old singing the jingle along with the radio whenever KLTY played their call sign.
Fast forward nearly 25 years, years full of a musical diet that was about 95% comprised of Contemporary Christian music, and I discovered the annual Night of Joy event at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. Well, imagine my complete and utter delight at the concept of two nights of concerts at one of my favorite places on earth! World were colliding - and it was a beautiful thing!
Chris Tomlin, Casting Crowns, Mercy Me, Third Day, David Crowder Band - the 2010 headliner MainStage bands. Literally all bands I loved, bands whose CDs I had, whose songs I knew. Having the amazing husband that I do, when I pitched the idea, he didn't call me crazy, but began considering the feasibility of it and whether or not we could go. We had not left the boys behind on many, if any, trips in over a decade, but they weren't up for the adventure and it seemed like it was time for a trip for two. We lined up my mom to come stay with the boys, and booked our seats on the Magical Express.
It was a wonderful trip. It was bittersweet to be there without the boys, but we did have so much fun. We had three full days, and two travel days, and managed to have plenty of time to take in the magic of all four parks over the long 5 day weekend. The two nights of concerts at Magic Kingdom was a true joy, and it was the perfect experience for our first hard ticket Disney event. Not only did we love the concerts in front of Cinderella's castle, we loved that as we walked through the park, we could hear them piping Christian music throughout the entire park. It was so much fun to be walking through Adventureland in the dark and hearing Mercy Me's "I Can Only Imagine" over the sound system.
Yes, worlds were colliding and it was a beautiful thing. The Happiest Place on Earth took on new meaning. It seemed even more magical that weekend. We haven't been back to a Night of Joy event yet. I am pleased that the annual event continues. I hope to someday make it back to one. Every time I get the invitation that offers "To The Kingdom Come", I sigh, I smile, I remember, and I wish. Dreams do really come true. I know. I've been blessed enough to know. To the Kingdom come? Yes, please! I can only imagine!
Magical Trip for Two ~ Night of Joy ~ September 2010
Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: We R Memory Keepers
Letter Stickers: October Afternoon
Title Font: Waltograph