September has always been a month for celebrations in our family, for it is the month that both my parents were born. On September 13, 1935 LaVerne Hudson made her debut into this world in the small town of Carthage, Texas. Not quite a year later, Derl Edward Lee followed suit in the town of Ennis, Texas, on September 4, 1936. We used to tease Mom about catching herself a “younger man” and she would just smile. She was a tender soul, but she didn’t mind being teased about that. Not one little bit.
Mom and Dad met at Jacksonville Baptist College in the early 50s and were married in 1956. They fell in love and it never dawned on them to fall out, so they just stayed put. For 53 years. On September 21, 2009, Daddy went to be with the Lord and Mom followed him there 3 ½ short months later (she followed him around everywhere, so I suppose this was her doing what she always did best).
I think about them every day, but in the month of September these thoughts are increased exponentially. Their birth, their life, their love, their legacy. They faced hardships like everyone else and somehow they held it together. We never questioned their love for each other or for our family. I can say, without a doubt, that they are the ones who introduced me to happily ever after. I didn’t read about it first in a Little Golden book. I didn’t have to; it was right there in front of me, every day. I didn’t realize it then, but Mom and Dad were characters in a love story that started long before the world began.
There is a story.
Speaking of happily ever after, my tiny human took her mom and dad to Disney World earlier this month. If the preparation leading to the day of the trip was fun (and it was), it paled in comparison to seeing Gemma’s expressions when she finally arrived. Thank you, Facetime. Experiencing Disney through the eyes of a 4 year old is truly magical! From the shuttle a.k.a carriage ride to the resort, to the Bippity Boppity Boutique makeover (when it comes to princess-ing, she’s a natural), to the lights and sights, sounds and rides, to the walking and dwelling in the land of princes and princesses, she was easily enchanted and I was right there with her (as much as my tiny iPhone screen would allow). This 50 year old dreamer all but begged Corky to take me there soon. He said ok. I love him.
I haven’t always been a fan of Disney, though. It wasn’t until recent years that I figured out why.
Like most, I grew up reading the all familiar fairy tales and like most, the longing for never-ending happiness took root early and settled in deep. I think maybe we’re all the same in this regard. No matter what villain life’s story introduces or what terror looms around the corner, our hearts yearn for our foes to be silenced once and for all, and for something greater to unfold. We long to be part of a happy tale. We long to find deep and abiding fulfillment in life.
Maybe your fairy tale looks a little like mine.
To be fought for, to be protected, to be won over.
To be someone’s object of utter attention.
To be completely cherished and deeply loved.
To laugh and work and create things meaningful and worthwhile.
To enjoy blue skies and sunshine in a beautifully unbroken world.
To know that the spell will be broken, the good guy wins in the end and gets the girl.
To live happily ever after.
I have to admit that my belief in happily ever after became jaded at one point. Heartache has an interesting hue of jade and it unrepentantly bleeds outside the lines. I lost some things. There was a season in my life when I wouldn’t sing to love songs or watch romantic comedies (I loathed the Hallmark channel and don’t get me started on You’ve Got Mail) because I thought it was all just a stupid farce. Dumb. How’s that for jaded! Something was missing and I didn’t figure it out until my mom and dad passed away. My parents modeled love my entire life and then they were gone. Losing them ushered in a different kind of sadness and pain, but it also set me in pursuit to figure out how this story really ends. Is happily ever after real or not? What happens when everything falls apart before we get to the good part? What happens after you leave the cemetery? What’s Heaven going to really be like? Is everlasting life real or not? I mean, I know it is because the Bible says it is, but I still felt so empty. If this longing for more wasn’t going away, then what was I supposed to do with it? It made me search harder and dig deeper, past the well wishes of caring people, past thoughtful condolences on bereavement cards, even past what I thought to be true about eternity.
I’m still searching, but here’s what I’ve found out so far. I’m not the first one to embark on this quest.
King Solomon searched high and low for fulfillment and accumulated a lot of stuff along the way, but in the end he realized that earthly pleasures were like a momentary speck of dust drifting in the wind. History is stuck on repeat; this world is good at marketing fulfillment but falls woefully short when it tries to deliver. Solomon frustratingly concluded that it’s because God has placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Our desire for more is very real. The thing in our hearts that we long for was put there by God Himself, and it is good. It is very good! It is even holy. And yet it cannot be found, outside of Him.
We long for more. Not of ourselves, but something else. Something far greater, far grander. Please, let there be more! And there is. Our story is a story, but it’s not The Story. In The Story, the One who set the world in motion will one day return and make it new, never to be wreaked by havoc or sin again. He will fight a final battle and He will win. A lot of things will happen (read up!) but in the end, if we are His, He will mend our broken lives forever and we will live out what began in the Garden of Eden. A lot like Belle in a beautiful castle, but so very, very much better. We will live in unity with God and each other. Ours will be a love story that has no end.
We were created for happily ever after. I love that! But like Disney, all the world can do is offer glimpses. It can’t help it; it was never meant to offer the real thing. I love these tales. I guess I never really stopped. But now these glimpses stir my affections for greater things yet to come. And that, friends, is epic.