We flew to California for one day passes to Disneyland. We had to. We were on a mission to get my special girl Shelby to see a life-sized Clarabelle Cow. At lease that’s what we thought we were doing.
To back up, our 18 year old daughter has the mental and emotional intelligence of a toddler. And my first born baby is obsessed with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Some of you got to outgrow that phase with your children. We probably never will. It can be annoying at times, but it brings her so much joy that I can’t help but enjoy it too. Because Shelby struggles to communicate, I might never have known that Clarabelle, a minor character in the show, was her favorite. But we got her a Mickey Mouse book, and she kept it turned to a picture of the singing cow all the time. She was only ever interested in looking at that page and talking about her. Once we found a Clarabelle stuffed animal on ebay (for entirely too much money) and presented it to Shelby, we knew FOR SURE that the cow is her favorite.
Stuffed Clarabelle is now Shelby’s almost constant companion. That 15 inch toy only leaves her hand under duress. Bath time, meal time, school and therapy. When our daughter went away to summer camp for a week with the Epilepsy Foundation of Texas, we told her counselors that they would have to pry Clarabelle out of Shelby’s unwilling hands for activities and that Shelby would tell them she was sad. We assured them this was necessary and that Shelby would rebound quickly when her beloved was out of sight. Those tender-hearted counselors must not have been able to deal with anyone being sad at summer camp. Every picture of Shelby they posted on social media that week included her doll. Clarabelle went to the mess hall, rode horses, kayaked, did arts and crafts and swam in the pool. She was a sad and tired mess after 6 days. And Shelby was exhausted too. The love of the cow runs deep.
When we got to Disneyland the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend (they set an attendance record – wouldn’t recommend going then), we trucked it to the guest services desk post haste to find out when and where Clarabelle would be appearing. The answer stunk. She would not be present in the park that day. Now we knew when we started planning this trip that there were no Clarabelle guarantees, but I confess that I bummed hard. For the love, we made a cross country trip. *Sigh* Anyway, our next hope was Clarabelle’s Creamery – a popular ice cream parlor. We imagined her image adorning the walls and memorabilia for sale in the gift shop. No such luck. There was not a picture of Shelby’s best friend, or any other cow in the whole place much less a t-shirt or keychain for sale. All of this prompted my husband to caption his social media photos with
With all of our musical cow dreams dashed to bits, we got about the rest of our day enjoying the park. And did Shelby enjoy the park! We discovered that our meek and gentle girl LOVES the speed, thrills and potential spills of roller coasters! She rode rails that would make this mama mess her britches and whooped and hollered the entire time. Smiles and giggles ALL DAY LONG. Turns out that Chuck and I were the only ones disappointed. Shelby had no expectation of seeing a bigger than life Clarabelle. Her mind can’t even fathom the possibility. She was as happy as I’ve ever seen her just hanging out with her people, and making some death defying turns – at least that’s how it appeared to this scaredy chicken.
In retrospect, I think the coaster-love was God’s sweet little surprise for us. We made plans for what we thought would delight Shelby, but God knew what would do the trick. In a silly and whimsical way, Space Mountain illustrates Proverbs 19:21. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” We most often use this verse to remind us that God knows what’s best for us, which is absolutely true. But I think it also points to our God’s propensity to surprise us. He loves us so much that He delights in our delight. As much as the sound of Shelby’s laughter brings me joy, my love for her is dwarfed by our Heavenly Father’s pleasure in us.
“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.” Isaiah 30:18