The Villain in My Own Story

“Trusting in so much
That’s not worth trusting in
The person she’s now
Meets who she could’ve been.
There are two roads to travel
She chose the wrong one
Now there’s no going back
What’s done is done.”

The first time I read those words in Anne Jackson’s Permission to Speak Freely, they broke a more hopeful heart. A heart that believed in fresh new pages with every sunrise. Today, they still break my heart, but I don’t rage against the truth of them as surely as I did then.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

God, I don’t even know who I could have been. Can hardly remember who I was. And I am trying so very hard not to think of what I am today—the villain in my own story.

I come before You wielding my anger like knives, my discontent as katanas. But when I stand before You in all my glorious rage, You don’t reach for Your weapons. You make no move to defend Yourself against my deadly advances.

It’s like that scene from The Mask of Zorro when the teacher instructs the pupil to choose his weapon, and Alejandro spins around, sword in hand, to find De La Vega holding a spoon.

A spoon.

Just like Alejandro, my anger morphs into confusion.

I came here to wage war and You are extending a dinner invitation.

And I know what will happen should I choose to sit down. You’ll tell me how You know I chose the wrong path. You’ll tell me how long You’ve been waiting for me to come home. You’ll tell me it’s high time I stop Taylor Swifting my way through life, because the lyrics You’ve written fit me better than Taylor’s ever could.

You’ll tell me redemption is only a heartbeat away, should I choose to accept it.

That’s where this whole plan breaks down—in the accepting. Because I am tired of blindly accepting things. Tired of being the observer in my own story. Tired of being the duty-fulfiller and the girl who simply does what needs to be done.

I sense You smile at that confession. You’ve been waiting so very long for me to stop merely drifting through life. My rebellion is a spark that might make You proud if I would only learn to rebel against the proper things.

I’m a little misguided, a little bit lost. And I am far from ready to release this spark that has led me astray.

Anne Jackson was wrong. It’s not that there is no going back; it’s that it is so very hard to find the willpower to turn around when the desire is still rooted this deep.

I would ask You to rescue me, but that would make me too much of a damsel in distress. I’d rather find my way back on my own.

You can leave the light on, though. Maybe sprinkle the path with bread crumbs, so I can pretend I’m the big, strong girl who can navigate the woods on her own, even though I know You are there, waiting in the shadows, bringing me from lost to found.

But that’s my pride talking. That’s the part of me that wants to go on pretending I am strong enough without You. So if we are going to get this right, you should probably come out of the shadows and take me by the hand so we can walk this path together.

And when I feel like looking back over my shoulder, squeeze my hand a little tighter to remind me that You’re there. Leading me out of the woods. Into the light. Guiding me home.

My Heart is Not as Daring as Your Desire

“My heart is not as daring as your desire.”

When I read these words, penned by Steven James, I’m struck by the truth of them. The things You want for me are so much bigger than the life I would create for myself. It’s not that I don’t desire Your will; it’s that I’m afraid of pursuing it. Afraid of the path it will lead me down.

I know that, ultimately, You want what is best for me, but I know from past experience that the refining process is painful. So very painful.

It’s not Your desire that I’m afraid of, really. Those things You want for me… I want them too. More than anything. Well, almost anything. I guess I don’t want them more than I don’t want to face the mountains in the distance. I guess I don’t want them more than I want to avoid the dragons that lurk along the way.

“My heart is not as daring as your desire.”

It isn’t. I’m not the storybook heroine, charging full-speed ahead toward my great and glorious destiny.

I am Rapunzel, clinging to the comfort of my tower.

I am Sleeping Beauty, hands folded peacefully across my chest.

I am Cinderella, sleeping in a pile of ashes because I’m not brave enough for princes and ballgowns.

I say I want adventure, but I’m lying. I want what is comfortable. Familiar. Safe.

“My heart is not as daring as your desire.”

Most days, I’m perfectly happy in my prison because it means I don’t have to be finding my way in this great, wild world. But deep within my heart, there’s this prick of conviction—sharper than the spindle that put me to sleep.

“My heart is not as daring as your desire.”

But it should be. And it could be, if only I would let it.

God, You know that ultimately I want Your will. It’s just that mine so often gets in the way…

I’m torn between the Life You Offer and the Life I Demand From You.

So please, make me brave enough to dare all that You desire.

And when You call me out of this prison tower, let me spring from the ledge with both feet.

Your Once Upon a Time Tale

God of Wonder,
Why do I find it so easy to get caught up in the mundane busyness of life? Why do I allow the tiniest details to become the biggest issues? Why do I get so caught up in going through the motions that I forget how to fully enjoy You?

Sometimes I fear I’ve allowed the little things to swallow up the Greatest Thing of All. Sometimes I look around the clutter of my life and realize I can’t find You. And life is simply too boring when it is not lived in constant awareness of who You are and all You offer me.

And I feel that I’ve lost something I desperately want to reclaim.

I want to recapture the mystery that is You. I want to lose myself in that fairytale wonder where pumpkins turn to carriages and kisses break spells and there’s always that hope of dreams coming true. I want to drink deeply of Your Presence and lose myself in Your love. I want to dance unhindered in the courts of Your Kingdom.

But my happy thoughts have been replaced with an endless list of things I need to do and I’m learning that pixie dust wears off if you haven’t used it for awhile. That Neverland wonder feels so far away when I’m too weighed down by the trivial things in life to be able to fly.

And I know that You care about the little things. I know that You concern Yourself with the tiny details of my life. And yet… Yet I hear You calling me away from the intricacies that consume me. You beckon me out from the mundane and invite me to dance in the realm of wonder and magic.

Your hand extends the good part that Mary embraced and Martha scorned. Today I can choose to be either Mary or Martha.

So I set aside my broken priorities and allow You to sweep me off into the fantastical wonder of Your once upon a time tale.

Wonder Discovered

“Hope Makes Its Own Magic.”

I’ve admitted before that it’s often hard for me to live the journey. It’s hard for me to find joy in the midst of the mundane. Day after day, I find myself whispering reminders to take back today. But the more I venture into the vulnerability of others’ writings, I’ve come to the conclusion that the fairytale spirit does come somewhat naturally to me.

Because I do believe in happy endings.
I do sing random songs as I’m cleaning the house.
I do let myself get caught in daydreams.
And I do dance with the fireflies on Midsummer’s Eve.

I don’t do all of that because it’s what I think I should do. I do it because it’s who I am.

Some of the stuff I’ve been reading here of late has been really dark. The subject matter is heavy and some of the quotes are capable of ripping my heart out of my chest. I could deal with all of that if it weren’t for the obvious lack of hope. When I read things like, “There’s no going back. It’s too late. What’s done is done,” I experience a range of emotions. First, I hurt for the person who wrote such disparaging words, then I get a little angry. I get angry because I can’t help but think, “How do you know it’s too late to bring beauty from these ashes? Who are you to say that you’re beyond Redemption’s reach?”

I get angry because there are people who try to limit God and destroy Hope.

And I know that some many people have lived far worse lives than I have. And I know there are situations beyond our control that are capable of knocking our feet out from under us. But I can’t comprehend the lack of Hope.

Because even on my darkest days, Hope lingers. And though I’ve written some pretty desperate journal entries and a couple dark poems, one thing differentiates them from the stuff I’ve been reading lately. It always ends with me waiting for rescue and believing that help is on the way. I always leave room for Hope.

Which takes me back to the story of Pandora’s Box.

Pandora. The young woman who released evil into the world and dared to let Hope in along with it. I think that the reason her story resonates with me is because I’m just like Pandora. I would open the box twice. Even after I’ve been burned by all that is evil, I would dare to take a chance on Hope. Maybe that makes me stupid. But at least it gives me Hope…

Today, I’m taking that gift I’ve been given and releasing it to the world. Embrace Hope, my friend, because life is such a cold, lonely place without it.

Somewhere Beyond the Sea

As the day draws near for the official launch of Beyond Waiting, I find myself delving into the fairytales once more, comparing what the world tells me the stories are about (Prince Charming) with the adventure that comes before their “happily ever afters” – which, in case you didn’t know, is actually what the story is all about. So here I am, thinking about finding deeper meaning in the fairytales, when I come across a passage in Steven James’ Sailing Between the Stars that talks about a fish launching itself into the air:

“At first I thought it was somehow unnatural for fish to jump like that: They’re fish, right? They’re just supposed to swim in the water. After all, that’s what they’re made for. But as night fell and the starts began to bespeckle the sky, I realized that for a fish to leave the water isn’t breaking the rules at all – it’s just exploring the true extent of what it really means to be a fish.”

So, what do fish have to do with fairytales? Remember the Little Mermaid? You know… red-headed girl who trades her voice for a pair of legs? Yeah, that one. Now, the common misconception is that Ariel traded her fins for the sake of some guy, but that’s only partially true. See, long before her prince entered the scene, Ariel dreamed of a life outside of the sea. From the day she was able to poke her head above the surface, she was enraptured by the sun and the shore and the ships and the objects she’d never known existed. And from that moment on, the Little Mermaid dared to dream an impossible dream.

She yearned to trade her feet for fins – if only for a day. She longed to experience the life of a human – if only for a moment. Her friends and family told her she was crazy. They told her to get her head out of the… waves. She’s a mermaid. There are certain things that mermaids can’t do, and dance along the shore is one of them.

But somehow, Ariel found a way. She made great sacrifices – took an incredible risk – to pursue the dream that beat in her heart. Because Ariel, like the fish in Steven James’ story, knew that she was meant for more than merely swimming. And she dared to explore the full extent of what it means to live.

Maybe you, like myself, have been guilty of becoming content to stay beneath the waves. Maybe you’ve forgotten what it is to dream of the shore. Maybe you’ve allowed yourself to become consumed by the mundane task of flicking your fins back and forth, back and forth, propelling yourself along the currents of a life that doesn’t bring joy to your heart.

Let me remind you that, somewhere beyond what you may be able to see in this moment, there is a dream worth dreaming, a life worth living, and a vision worth sacrificing for. I pray you’ll find the courage to poke your head through the surface of the sky, fly like a fish, and dance along the shoreline of your dreams.

Embracing the Fairytale

I won’t be Rapunzel sitting in a tower,

staring out the window and dreaming of the hour

I’ll be free from my gilded cage.

I’ll rewrite the story. I will turn the page.

I’ll be the Little Mermaid stretching out my hand,

reaching toward the surface and dreaming of dry land.

I’ll be Cinderella going to the ball,

escaping from the everyday and standing there in awe.

Part of that world, more than a dream,

more than a life of espressos and cream.

Somewhere, somehow,

I’ll live the life I’m merely dreaming of now.

Faith, hope and trust, second star to the right,

straight on ’til morning, I’ll fly through the night.

Fairytale endings, dreams coming true,

and I’m lost in wonder – glorious wonder –

experiencing the mundane with You.

Tangled Dreams

The other night, I watched one of my favorite fairytales come to life. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical. There are, after all, thousands of ways to mess up a fairytale. How would the big screen convey this classic tale that is so dear to my heart? In a world that vies for true love’s kiss, what will they do with the tears that restore sight to a blind man? But Disney, much to my delight, pulled off the retelling of Rapunzel quite masterfully. While she was much different than I always imagined, I found her Disney persona to be just as endearing as the storybook heroine I fell in love with many years ago. And while I thoroughly enjoyed the entire movie, I find that one scene keeps replaying in my mind…

Rapunzel and Flynn have reached the Festival of Lights. Our heroine leans against the edge of the rowboat, stares into the sky, and confesses that she’s nervous. This moment is all she’s dreamed of for sixteen years. What if it isn’t everything she’s imagined it to be?

“It will be,” a confident Flynn replies.

This makes Rapunzel think of an even worse fate. What if it is everything she’s dreamed it to be? After tonight, her lifelong dream is over. What will she do then?

According to Flynn, the best part of the dream is the end, because you get to choose a new one.

Wise words coming from a man who claims he doesn’t have a dream, much less ever fulfilled one. But there it is. Straight from the mouth of Flynn Rider. The end of one dream is the beginning of another.

I don’t know about you, but that’s something I needed to hear lately. I’m in the same boat as Rapunzel. As I’m on the verge of completing my first novel, I’m nervous about what the end of the dream holds. On one hand, I can’t wait to see this vision fully come to life, but at the same time, the thought of closing the final cover on these characters who have been a part of my reality for the past three years almost makes me want to cry.

I feel like God has laid before my eyes thousands of possibilities. “Pick a dream,” He says. How do I choose just one? How do I determine which is worthy of the next three years of my life?

I think that, just as it was with Flynn and Rapunzel, the answer will be quite clear. When the time comes, I’ll know which one is worth the sacrifice. And so will you.

Look at the dreams God weaves between His fingertips much like He weaved the stars in the sky. Pick one out and carry it close to your heart until the time comes for it to finally be released in all of its splendor.

Don’t dread the end of one dream; embrace the start of another.

Someone You Can’t Live Without

Perhaps DragonHeart isn’t what you think of when someone says the word “fairytale,” but when you grow up with three brothers, you are just as familiar with it as you are with Cinderella. And since it has all the fantastical qualities of a fairytale (an evil king, a dragon that sounds like Sean Connery, and a knight in shining armor who beats Prince Charming any day), we’re going to learn a few things from this masculine fairytale.

The story begins with a battle in which the young prince Einon is critically injured. The queen’s longstanding family history of peace and friendship with the dragon race is the only thing that can save her son.  She swears that her son will not follow in the footsteps of his wicked father, but be trained in justice. Because of her promise, the dragon agrees to give half of his heart to the dying prince. His heart keeps Einon alive. The prince’s life depends on that dragon, not only in the moment when he receives the heart, but throughout the rest of his life. When Einon hurts, the dragon hurts. Einon cannot live without the dragon, nor can he die until the dragon is destroyed. Their lives are intertwined, and their deaths are likewise.

The one quote that has struck me most strongly regarding singleness/dating is the statement made by Shannon Kubiak Primicerio in her book The Divine Dance. “Don’t look for someone you can live with; look for someone you cannot live without.” The thing I find most fascinating about the idea of marriage is the mystery of two people becoming one. They are still two separate people with two different personalities, yet somehow they are as one. When he hurts, she hurts; when’s he’s happy, she’s happy. Their lives are intricately connected in a way that I suppose I will never understand until I’m married.

I’m one of those people who believe that God created me with a certain man in mind. And while He gave me my own heart and own passions, one day, my heart is going to mold perfectly into the heart of another. I’m holding out for that one somebody whose heartbeat matches mine, who hurts when I hurt, and sings when I sing. I’m holding out for the man whose passions compliment mine, who values the things I value, and whose vision comes into alignment with my own. And while I’ve met many guys who I’ve figured I could live with, I’m not settling for something as simple as that. I’m holding out for the man I was created to become one with – the man I cannot live without.

Once Upon a Dream

Flashback into a Disney scene in Sleeping Beauty: It’s a typical fairytale set-up including the woodland creatures skittering about the beautiful forest. Lost in a world that is entirely her own, our fairytale heroine reflects on a dream she had recently experienced. And since this is a Disney film, of course it came out in the form of a song.

I know you
I walked with you once upon a dream
I know you
The gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam
Yes, I know it’s true
that visions are seldom all they seem
But if I know you, I know what you’ll do
You’ll love me at once
the way you did once upon a dream

As she’s vocalizing and dancing about to the memory of a dream, her song is suddenly joined by a masculine voice, strong arms wrapping around her waist as her Prince materializes before her eyes. She melts into his embrace and they dance as one, both enraptured by the same dream. It’s so charming, so romantic, so… perfect. This is one of those scenes that elicits the statement: “Walt Disney gave me unrealistic expectations of men.”

Now, I’m pretty sure Walt Disney didn’t set out to crush the hopes of young women everywhere. I know he was an advocate of dreaming big, but I don’t think his intention was to set us up for disappointment. I think it’s our own skewed perspectives that are breaking our hearts. Fairytales weren’t meant to be realistic. I mean, come on, Sleeping Beauty, fairies, magic spells… When’s the last time you pricked your finger on a spindle and fell asleep for a hundred years? And would you really want to watch the movie if Prince Charming had simply walked up to her in that moment and said, “Hey, you’re kind of cute. Want to go out?” Whoo. Exciting.

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute. We’ve taken fairytales to a level they were never meant to achieve. Stop blaming Disney for your heartaches, leave Prince Charming in your dreams, and live as if you believed your life was meant for something far greater.