What Disney's Boardwalk Taught Us About Grace

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Shortly after our honeymoon in Disney, Nick and I started waking up and asking each other “do you want to go to Disney today?” It’s a little inside joke we have – every day feels like a good day to go to Disney, but one day in February of 2018, the answer was finally a “yes” – we were actually going to Disney!

Nick had surprised me with my first stay ever on Disney property for our honeymoon at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn. We stayed in a corner room and could see fireworks from both Hollywood Studios AND Epcot from our balcony. It was stinking EPIC.

Honestly, I thought we would never stay at the Boardwalk again. A friend of ours who worked for Disney had been incredibly kind to help Nick get an amazing discount on our room for our honeymoon. But, low and behold, since our honeymoon we’ve stayed there twice more, but our third visit is what brings these words to you today.

After spending some time with family and friends at a house in Orlando, Nick and I decided we wanted to stay at the Boardwalk for a couple of nights, just the two of us, as a birthday/Christmas/Valentine’s/anniversary gift (gotta do what you gotta do to get back to Disney!). We decided a few years into our relationship that we’d rather gift each other experiences with one another than objects, so this was one of those experiences we couldn’t wait to share (again)! I think, out of the two, experiences tend to build a stronger relational foundation than any sort of gift might.

We chose the smallest, most inexpensive room – we just love the experience of being on Disney property (and being within walking distance to the parks was a bonus, too!!), and checked in on Nick’s birthday, which, for Nick, was probably one of the best birthday gifts he’s ever received.

We checked in a couple of hours before our “official” 3PM check in (well – actually 5 hours before!), so we had a LOT of time to kill. We hadn’t really planned anything special for Nick’s birthday (besides checking into the Boardwalk!), so while Nick went to grab a drink, I slyly made my way to concierge service desk to ask if they could help. I explained that it was my husband’s birthday, that his favorite place ever is the Boardwalk, and asked if she might be able to give me some ideas for things around the Boardwalk we could do for his birthday while we wait.

The woman smiled, gave me a couple of suggestions, and said that she would have someone send a birthday card to his room – which I knew he would absolutely love! She also took our name and reservation number - so she knew where to send the card, I assumed.

About an hour later, we received a message that our room was ready. We were both confused – we had stayed at the Boardwalk before, and never had we ever been able to check into our room so early. Regardless, we went, picked up our luggage, and headed off to our room. At first – we couldn’t find it. We went through one hall of rooms, down a set of stairs, and outdoors, wondering if they had made a mistake.

After a few more steps, we spotted a little mailbox that had our number on it. Behind the mailbox was an archway with a fence and a little courtyard with some of the most beautifully manicured flower gardens I’d ever seen. We exchanged a glance of confusion and excitement, muttering that “there must be some mistake!” but when we got to the French doors, past the garden, and tried our keys – the most insane thing happened. They worked. The door opened.

We swung open the door to find a beautiful, two story room – Disney music softly playing in the background, natural light pouring in through the large windows hanging above our heads. My first thought was that they had gotten something wrong. We had stayed in the cheapest room at the Boardwalk before and it in NO WAY resembled this masterpiece, with a living room, kitchenette, staircase, master bedroom, and master bathroom with a Jacuzzi. Concerned that there had a been a mistake and that we would somehow have to pay full price for this immaculate suite, Nick called the front desk to confirm that we had the correct room number.

The kind voice on the other line assured us that while we had payed for the smallest, cheapest room – but somehow we had been given this suite and were meant to enjoy it. While Nick was on the phone, I started looking up how much this type of suite usually costs. The answer: about four to five times (per night) what we actually paid for it. We were both FLOORED. We had heard of “Disney magic” before and of cast members doing incredibly kind things for random guests, but we had never ever expected to experience this sort of kindness. My mind immediately went back to the woman in concierge who had taken our names and reservation number, and I knew it must’ve been her – it couldn’t have been anyone else! I tried multiple times during our trip to go back and find her to thank her, but I couldn’t find her. She just seemed to have disappeared.

To make things even crazier, we found out that with this room came something called “club level service,” which basically means that we were able to visit and utilize a particular room in the hotel that served complimentary breakfast, lunch, dinner, wine, beer, espresso, and dessert – all for free. Like, are you kidding me?!

As we filled up our plates that first night, it dawned on me: we don’t deserve this. We don’t deserve any of this. We haven’t paid for it, we hadn’t planned for it, and we were able to tell pretty quickly that we were certainly of a much different crowd than those who normally frequented “the club.” Someone had gifted a youth pastor and a photographer from Pittsburgh one of the best, most undeserved vacations that we had ever had – for nothing. There’s nothing we could’ve done to earn it, and there’s no price we could’ve paid for it. And then it dawned on me – this is exactly what God’s grace is like.

It’s undeserved. There’s nothing we can do to earn it, and the price has already been paid for it. And it doesn’t have anything with who we are. It has everything to do with who God is. Truthfully, there’s no way we could’ve upgraded ourselves with money or with position, because in the eyes of Disney, we didn’t have either (haha!). But because of grace – because someone gave us something we in no way deserved – we were able to experience an amazing gift that cost us nothing.

That’s what Jesus calls us to every day. All he wants is for us to accept the gift he’s already laid before us. That’s why we celebrate Easter, for Pete’s sake – because Jesus died a death he didn’t deserve, so we could live a life we don’t deserve. But only because Jesus makes us worthy, because of the grace he’s given to us.

As I started to eat my free dinner, tears started streaming down my face. I felt so humbled in and by the face of grace of the woman who had been so kind, but so much moreso by the God who has given me this life – this gift – no strings attached.

And until next time - to Boardwalk and beyond!

Jenna & Nick