once upon a time


When I was a toddler, I would wake up before everyone else in the house and tip toe downstairs to the bedroom my Grandma stayed in when she visited. Peeking through the crack of the door to see if she was awake, I would slowly nudge it open just wide enough for my little diaper bottom to squeeze in. After watching her sleep for a few moments, I would gently tap her on the arm hoping she would awake from her slumber. She was a sound sleeper, which was apparent to anyone in the house by the volume of her snoring. Determined to snuggle, I would proceed to begin poking her face with my pointer finger ever so subtly, which would inevitably scare the begeezers out of her, resulting in a high pitched exclamation followed by the invitation I was waiting for. With her eyes half open, she pulled back the covers and scooted over to make room for her youngest grandchild to wiggle in beside her.

We would “go back to sleep” for a few minutes until my restless toddler self decided that sleep was not entertaining. Next came a question, “Grandma, will you tell me a story?” She typically replied, “Of course, dear. What story would you like to hear?” “The one about the castle,” I would say.

I only ever asked for one story. From time to time she would try to tell me a different story, but a couple of lines into it I would interject, “No, no, Grandma. That’s not the story.”

So, what is this infamous story that she told hundreds of times? I know the suspense is riveting. Here is the gist of it:

Once upon a timethere once was a kingdom far away set in tall rolling hills with green grass and flowers growing across the hillsides. In-between two hills stood a tall castle in the center of the kingdom where the king and queen lived with their children. Their names were King Bob, Queen Cyndi, Princess Darcie, Prince Daniel, and finally the youngest, Princess Kendra. The king and queen ruled over the land caring for their family and all the people in the village.

The rest of the story included a detailed description of the crowns and gowns that each member of the royal family wore ranging from rubies to pearls, sapphires, diamonds, and brilliant gold framing. The dresses varied in style and color, but it was a safe bet that the youngest princess’ dress was a shade of pink.

I reveled in this story each time as if it was the first. The way my Grandma told the fairytale unleashed our imaginations to soar without limits, fulfilling every desire of my young heart.

There was something ravishing about being deemed a princess by the woman who was the queen of queens in my eyes. Gram always described the character of each person and why God has chosen them to hold such high esteem. They were kind, fair, and thoughtful individuals who served their Heavenly King above all else. She spoke with assurance, instilling a sense of honor and worth in my identity.

Listening to her storytelling inspired me to dream boldly and freely. It challenged me then, and now, to look beyond my present circumstances to imagine what could be. Our world gains satisfaction and return on investment by pointing out our every flaw and defect. From such a young age, Gram taught me to “fight the good fight” with humility and grace (1 Tim. 6:12). Even as I got older, she affirmed my ambition to travel the world and would frequently ask me where the next adventure would be, encouraging me to do it all and never let myself get caught in the current of routine.

It becomes far less socially acceptable to have princess themed parties and speak of ourselves as royal as we grow up, even though deep down inside so many of us would still be left breathless at the thought of be crowned a real queen. After all, how many of us stayed awake in the middle of the night to watch William and Kate’s royal wedding? (Guilty) It’s much less about ruling a nation and more about the deeper implication of what we understand queenship to mean.

Our hearts yearn for someone to look upon us and see us for who we are, a child of the Most High, inherently lovely and beautiful.

This is not a fairy tale to be left in our costume box buried in the attic.

Your childhood dreams might have been far-fetched, but the way you dreamed captured the essence of who God created you to be.

Brave, adventurous, blissful, imaginative, hopeful, trusting, and radiant.

Where is she? What dampened her spirit? Who told her to stop dreaming big, daring, extravagant dreams?

There was a reason my Grandma was willing to tell me the same story a million times. She understood the delicate nature of the feminine soul. She knew how easy it is to forget who God created us to be, and how precious our courage to dream really is. At some point unbeknownst to me, she decided to make it her personal mission to communicate my inherent value every chance she got. Whether it was a simple look of love, her boisterous gawking of how marvelous her grandchildren are, or telling the perfect fairy tale again and again, as long as I was within an earshot of her, she refused to let me see myself through any other lens but our Heavenly Father’s.

Take a moment to reflect on what lens you're currently looking at yourself and others through.

When was the last time you danced around the house without a care in the world? How long has it been since you wrote down some of your dreams?
What makes you feel inherently loved and treasured?

Maybe it’s time to read your favorite childhood book or dress up in an elegant ensemble and treat yourself to a lavish evening. What adventure in this world makes your eyes widen and your face light up just at the thought of it? Dig through your costume box, daring to remember what the little girl in you felt like as she stepped into the vibrant fairy tale world that made her heart bubble over with joy.

Let the Lord tell you a story about who you really are. Listen carefully, and don’t hesitate to sit with him for a while and ask him to tell it again, and again, and again. He will.