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Tale as old as time: a different sort of review...

Is there any more beautiful notes than the first few tones of the dramatic prologue to Beauty and the Beast? When Disney released its animated version in 1991, my little ten year old heart was completely enraptured. Enchanted. I am never not moved by the overview of the roses, the squinting through brambles to see the castle aching and looming large against the sky.

Last night I swung by RedBox and picked up the newest version, since I'm like the only person on the planet who hasn't seen it, yet. I was ready for some uninterrupted girl time - just me and my mini Ben & Jerry's. I couldn't get the kids to bed fast enough (which is ironic, because I allowed them to stay up later than normal - the things we do as mothers that never make sense to anyone). I had my evening planned out and suddenly I had unending patience and energy. Funny how self-care works.

I settled deeper into my couch, held the ice cream close and got ready for an evening free of thinking and lists and back to school preparations. No more thoughts about new habits or busting old ones, no more worrying about when to do this or when to fit time in for that - just time to sit and soak it all in. I was ready in all of my inner little girl-ness.

Immediately I was tearing up. The music. The sounds of those voices. Even certain notes themselves got me all stirred up. I texted my best friend that this was amazing and beautiful and my inner ten year old was enchanted all over again. I was mesmerized. I didn't even need or want the ice cream. The story before me that was unfolding was heart stopping.

I had been thinking on it a couple days ago... how I've had so many moments of feeling so ordinary. So impossibly simple. But at the same time, wrestling with something within that felt extraordinary. I drove from point a to point b; the post office, the grocery, the pediatrician, the church. And I thought about my story, about the different chapters, the cliff hangers, the unexpected endings. I love playing connect the dots with times in my life and God's goodness. If not for this, then not this.

It always moves me to great gratitude, because it's unfathomable when you start to dissect and reconstruct it all. And I said it to myself, this story is amazing, because it is His story. Every road, every place I've landed, ever gift I've been given - it's all part of His story and His love, not only for me, but for all of us. When I move my sight from my plainness, I see nothing but His glory.

And being part of a story like that? That is anything but ordinary.

As Belle spun through her small, provincial world, my mind spun around my own. The mayhem of the square, the cries of babies and animals and people - sometimes that feels like my life. Someone begging for attention or six eggs or trying to right some injustice (like who actually is to blame for tearing off all the tiny arms, legs and heads of our Lego heroes.)

And sometimes I'm moving through it, seemingly oblivious. Sometimes I'm just trying to get lost in a different world, for a book or a song to take me away, and yet I can't actually break away. There's always a Gaston rudely snatching your focus, making fun of your dreams or not understanding how or why you could possibly read a book without any pictures in vivid color. It's not bad. It's not a bad place or bad people or a bad life. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

It's not so much about the world you're in - or the world Belle found herself in - it was the fact that she fought against the confines of her own skin, of her own responsibilities and expectations - that she ran up agains the fringes of who she was at her core. And what do you do about that when you are in, in all actuality, a spirit housed behind skin and bones, blood and water.

Adventure... in the great wide? Somewhere?

We all can understand.

As she sung herself through the town and up to overlook the town, the sky expanded and filled the screen. Sunlight splintered through and it all crescendoed as our heroine sang and spun and celebrated her moment in the sun, her brief understanding that she wanted more - that she was meant for more - but whatever did that mean? The beauty that surrounded her on all sides made me teary and I whispered it in the quiet living room: that's heaven.

The other side. The adventure. The bigger story. The perspective. It's all there. It's all part of another world. The Bible says that we have eternity set in our hearts. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) I think that's what makes us long for that something more. For that great wide story. There is something extraordinary dwelling within us. If we proclaim that the power that rose Christ from the dead that lives in us? My goodness. How are we all not spinning out of control, running up to every mountain, twirling and wondering how do we contain it all, how do we manage it, how do we keep doing all of this here when we were meant for something else entirely?

I feel like that's the ache I run up against. I feel like that's what I'm able to just barely fingertip touch when it comes to worship; to music and lyrics and singing. I always feel like my heart is in my throat, not because I'm nervous, but because I'm standing on a ledge it seems like, and it feels as if there is only the thinnest veil between me and God; between me and complete seeing. I get that feeling whenever I'm living fearlessly and operating out of a bravery that comes from my belief in who I am in Him and nothing else. The clamor of my own world, simple as it may seem, calms down and blurs and suddenly all I see is all I was always meant to be. It's the most extraordinary, enchanting sensation of all.

I was prepared for some down time. Just chill, eat all the calories, turn off my mind. I was not prepared for a Bible lesson. I was not prepared to find myself covering my mouth and heaving with sobs because of the most lovely picture of Heaven I've ever witnessed on this earth. But once I started seeing Him in the story - that's all I could see.

I saw Christ and His entrapment in a form that was not His own. I saw Him fighting against becoming something for love. And while I'm well aware that Christ does not need our love to be set free, nor was He cast under a spell and bound in the body of a beast - the fact that He took on a form that was not His own so that He could save us? So that He could take us from ordinary and provincial to something completely not of this world? That's real.

As Gaston's pistol fires shots that take down the beast, I held my hands over my heart. Even though I know how this story ends - how the greatest Story ends - I still was caught up in all of it. I wanted to be lost in it. I smiled a little at Gaston's bravado and how he fully believes he's taken down the Prince once and for all. Sounds so much like another one that swims in darkness and another time when he believed he had won... when in reality, he was about to be smashed to smithereens.

Smithereens is a great word.

With Gaston rightly cast into the farthest depths of darkness, the Beast crashes into the ballroom. The room is broken and dull, the sparkle and life of the dance just a few nights before, gone. You can almost feel the air being sucked out of the room. The hope of returning to order, dimming. The Beast rolls heavily down the steps as she races next to him. The heartbreak is palpable and as the servants of the castle, one by one begin shutting down forever; I start choking on my own sobs.

The wardrobe tearfully says goodbye to her husband, her doors lock tight forever as she no longer operates as an enchanted piece of furniture. Her very spirit is snuffed out and it's all gone. The petal falls to the ground and all of the love, all of the hope they had each held onto for so long - it's evaporating and you feel the wave of death sweeping through the castle. No one is saved.

I am more affected than I had ever anticipated and I whisper against my clenched hands, pressing against my mouth so I can somehow stop sobbing as though my world has also ended: "... but Heaven started counting to three." (ref: Bob Goff)

This is not how this story ends. It's not how the greatest story ever told ends. I ache with how things seem. The finality of death. I've suffered it, we all have, we all will. There's never an easy answer. No matter how much time passes, it doesn't really get any easier. My tears are streaming and I'm holding my breath. Just waiting.

One... two... 


And suddenly... resurrection. The earth surges and Belle stumbles back in trepidation - this isn't possible. This shouldn't be happening. Everything is over. Finished. Done. That's how this works. That's how this always works. Your heart breaks, the rose disintegrates, you say goodbye. Sometimes it can feel that you're always saying goodbye.

I have my own dried roses. My own boxes of petals. There are holes in my heart that are just never going to be the same ever again. We can know and operate on the truth that death is not forever, but it is an end, and that is never easy. The delicate flowers I have kept are just a representation of a time I had to say goodbye before I was ready. Before any of us were ready. Belle asked her father to bring her a rose from the market. How funny that we often dry and keep safe those flowers from the services that acknowledge the loss of someone we love. What is it about a dried flower? It's dead, too, after only a few days, but it somehow freezes time.

So, then... the Prince is back. He's back and it's more right than it has ever been.

And then everyone... everyone... comes alive.

I know I'm going to have puffy eyes in the morning, but I'm folded in half sobbing, my hands covering my face. So glad I didn't go and see this movie in the theater.

I'm a mess of relief and hope and shuttered grief. Everyone spins and evolves into who they were always meant to be and it's such a celebration. "It's me! It's me! It's YOU!" Everyone is exalting and running around mad, exciting, relieved. Finally they are together. Finally everything is back to as it should be. Finally the spell is broken and they can hold each other in their arms again. My mind and eyes swim with memories and tears and for that day... that day when I can rush to my Aunt Joyce, when I can be caught in my Grandpa's arms agains. When I can finally see my second child, who I never got a chance to know at all. When I can wrap my niece in my arms and never let her go.

I have never witnessed such a perfect, unexpected glimpse into Heaven. I didn't know how much I needed that perspective. How much we all do; because we all have those broken beautiful places.

But the truth of it all? At the very end of it all?

I guess Mrs. Potts summed it up the best: "It'll turn out all right in the end. You'll see."

"And He who is seated on the throne said, 
"Behold, I am making all things new."
Also he said, "Write this down, for these words
are trustworthy and true."
~  R e v e l a t i o n   2 1 : 5 


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{ I've Heard the Whisper ... }

Nobody likes to sit in the dark.
That’s what I tell him as I flip on the light so he can clearly see his granola bar, handful of Froot Loops and his Star Wars vitamins.
No one wants darkness.  It’s heavy and depressing.  Oppressing. It feels sneaky and devious. It can feel scary and hopeless.  It’s a wet blanket on the warm fire of a sun-filled day. It snuffs out all the hope and brilliance, ideas and dreams, that you had during the day. In the dark it all shifts. It all feels worn and tired, old and pointless; you feel lost in a forest of trees with eyes and faces and arms and you wonder why you ever thought you could find your way out or change the world.
The darkness can be such a storyteller of lies.
The darkness can be such a sanctuary for the Teller of all the lies. 
And the darkness can be banished... just. like. that.
“Let there be light.”

God proved in the very beginning, before elephants and man and oceans and babies... He proved first that beyond creating, beyond teaching leaves …