Today Was A Fairy Tale


IMG_2116Once upon a time there was a princess and her King Papa…

 “One splendid sunshiny day, about an hour after noon, Irene, who was playing on a lawn in the garden, heard the distant blast of a bugle. She jumped up with a cry of joy, for she knew by that particular blast that her father was on his way to see her. This part of the garden lay on the slope of the hill and allowed a full view of the country below. So she shaded her eyes with her hand and looked far away to catch the first glimpse of shining armor. In a few moments a little troop came glittering round the shoulder of a hill. Spears and helmets were sparkling and gleaming, banners were flying, horses prancing, and again came the bugle-blast which was to her like the voice of her father calling across the distance: ‘Irene, I’m coming.’ On and on they came until she could clearly distinguish the king. He rode a white horse and was taller than any of the men with him. He wore a narrow circle of gold set with jewels around his helmet, and as he came still nearer Irene could discern the flashing of the stones in the sun. It was a long time since he had been to see her, and her little heart beat faster and faster as the shining troop approached, for she loved her king-papa very dearly and was nowhere so happy as in his arms. When they reached a certain point, after which she could see them no more from the garden, she ran to the gate, and there stood till up they came clanging and stamping with one more bright bugle-blast which said: ‘Irene, I am come.’

By this time the people of the house were all gathered at the gate, but Irene stood alone in front of them. When the horsemen pulled up she ran to the side of the white horse and held up he arms. The king stooped and took her hands. In an instant she was on the saddle and clasped in his great strong arms. I wish I could describe the king so that you could see him in your mind. He had gentle blue eyes, but a nose that made him look like an eagle. A long dark beard, streaked with silvery lines, flowed from his mouth almost to his waist, and as Irene sat on the saddle and hid her glad face upon his bosom it mingled with the golden hair which her mother had given her, and the two together were like a cloud with streaks of the sun woven through it. After he had held her to his heart for a minute he spoke to his white horse, and the great beautiful creature, walked as gently as a lady — for he knew he had a little lady on his back — through the gate and up to the door of the house. Then the king set her on the ground and, dismounting, took her hand and walked with her into the great hall, which was hardly ever entered except when he came to see his little princess.” (From The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald)


When I was a little girl my daddy traveled a lot for work. But when he came home, always with kisses, always with hugs, I felt a delight like none other. My king-papa had come.

When first I read this passage from The Princess and the Goblin these childhood memories came to mind, but what also came to mind was a picture of the father-daughter relationship I share with God.

I know Father’s Day can be hard. As I type this post I can think of three close friends who have recently lost their dads. I also know friends who grew up without a dad and those who struggle beneath the burden of a strained and broken relationship with a dad who was supposed to love them, a dad who was supposed to be so much more.

My heart breaks for the hearts that break whenever Father’s Day rolls around, and while I can’t relate from a level of personal experience, perhaps I can offer some hope.

We all, like Princess Irene, have a King-Papa who longs to pull us close, who longs to come for us, who longs to fill and heal the gap left by death, destruction, and broken relationships.

As the princess delighted in her papa, so we can delight in Him. Because He loves us. Oh, how He loves us.

Brave Prince, Lovely Princess, may you wake up this day to the fairytale found in God, your King-Papa. In the pain and brokenness of this world’s relationships may you know His fatherly love and find yourself clasped in His great strong arms.

A Sweet Little Tale on Inviting God In (And the Story Behind the Name)

Cabellea SignSo there once was this couple and long before they wed, long before they had any right to think about having kids they dreamed and laughed and envisioned what one-day might be.

They pictured tiny little cowboys running wild in boots. They pictured pretty little girls twirling dainty in sun-splashed dresses.

Each little boy, each little girl had a name, a dream attached.

So the man, he loved to fish, he loved to hunt. He loved a certain huntin’ store and thought the name of that store a pretty one for a someday little girl. And the woman, she loved the man and she loved the dream and even though it seemed a tiny bit crazy, she thought it a pretty name too.

So years passed by and the couple said their vows but before the babies with names and dreams a four-legged creature was first to fill their nest.

Now, had that couple known that someday down the road they would welcome not one, not two, but three little girls into their tiny home in Michigan, perhaps they would have named the four-legged creature differently. But they didn’t know. How could they know? And that name, of the huntin’ store, seemed to fit the creature just right.

The couple lived on happily as their house filled up with pink. Filled right to the roof with laughter and dolls and dancing feet. And the man, he didn’t get the wrestling team he’d sort of always dreamed of but what he did get seemed even better.

Twelve years into happily ever after the woman turned to the man and smiled, “Ready for one more?”

“Of course,” came his reply.

Belle's FeetFor twenty weeks they waited and wondered. Maybe? This time? A cowboy in boots? But the cowboy names and the cowboy dreams would have to wait a few more years because the black and white TV screen showed another little girl.

So the couple that had a list of boy names as long as a lasso, scratched their heads and wondered how’d they ever come up with another perfect name for another perfect girl.

September? No.

Avenlea? No.

Remington? NO! NO! NO!

Colt? Hmm… Maybe?

Nothing seemed quite right.

Now, this couple had a tradition, a secret weapon of sorts. For each little girl they prayed. From beginning to end they prayed. For health and happiness and hope in a Savior they prayed for the hearts of their girls. And they asked that Savior if He’d shed some light. If He’d, please, give them a message to speak over each little girl. A special message from God, just for her, to be spoken over her by her father.

The first little girl became God’s Blessing.

The second God’s Message of Hope.

Six months into the nine-month wait the man turned to the woman and smiled, “God spoke to me,” he said. “She’s God’s Promise.”

With tears in her eyes, the woman replied, “That’s what He’s been telling me too.”

Baby Belle CheeksThey had their precious, perfect little girl curling ‘round their hearts. Curling all around her mama’s belly. And they had His words to speak over their precious, perfect girl.

But the name? That stubborn name refused come.

“We could name her Cabela,” the man said one day.

“Could we?” The woman asked as joy turned in her heart. As a nameless gift of God turned happy in her belly. “We’ve always loved that name…”

“We could call her Belle, for short.”

“I love that. Belle.”

Together the couple continued to pray. They prayed and asked for a name. They invited God in, they asked Him, please, to affirm the name they chose.

They knew they loved that name. That name they’d always dreamt of. But that huntin’ store? And that four-legged creature, now long gone?

They wanted to be sure.

Only God could make them sure.

Belle's HandThanksgiving, family, and friends came ‘round, and hearing the couple’s plight, one friend piped up and asked, “Have you Googled names that mean God’s promise?”

The couple turned to each other and smiled, “Why haven’t we Googled names that mean God’s promise?”

The man, he got his computer and filled the search field with hope. With curious joy at what might follow.

And wouldn’t you know? How could anyone know? That God glory can show up on Google? Can show up in a list of names.

In a list of names that mean God’s promise. And at the very top of the list…


Belle, Bella, Carabelle…which seemed awful close to that long-loved name.

BelleAnd the couple knew within their hearts what this little girl’s name would be. God was in it, the name, the dream, the wish their hearts made all those years ago.

God had been in it all along but it wasn’t until they invited Him in that the thread began to unravel.

The couple had learned it again and again. Over broken friendships and lost jobs. Over big disappointments and small inconveniences. The simple act of inviting God in to the twisted, the mangled, the knotted, the tangled would always, eventually, unravel Glory. Unravel a tapestry that could only be crafted by His unfailing hands.

“People will laugh, and joke, and tease.”

“They’ll look at us funny.”

“Let them,” the couple agreed.

For nothing could steal their joy.

Nothing and no one in the whole wild world could steal God’s Promise away.

Could steal their long-loved little girl, Cabellea Wren…

Their precious, perfect Belle.

What a Dad Sometimes Can’t See

This week I am so excited to welcome my brother-in-law and friend, Landon Brown, to Once Upon a Writer. Landon is an amazing father of three, and when I first read his account of my nephew, Garrett, and his dragon fighting adventures, I knew it was a story of whimsy and wisdom…a story I couldn’t wait to share with you.

~ Written by Landon Brown ~

“Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” C.S. Lewis

I caught a glimpse of skin, stripes, and shiny plastic as I turned from the kitchen towards the living room. 

It was 9:00 pm on a Saturday, traditionally a day to gather up the pieces of family life dropped along the path of the week.  This Saturday, however, found our family scattered to the four corners of our world with Melanie away at a conference and my two oldest children with friends.

I almost missed it as my mind registered the scene of my seven-year-old son and his nine-year-old best friend. 

The call of adventure woke these boys at 7:30 am and they…

Rode bikes through a battlefield fighting the enemy with a Nerf gun…

Scorched the putt-putt course and won a pair of swords…

Broke the swords in a dual…

Ran from an imaginary villain through the Monkey Joe obstacle course…

Fought WW2 after they got home…

Built a fort using blankets, and pillows, and chairs…

All while making those shooting and sword fight noises only boys can make. Now (whew!!!), they were home and not far from bedtime.

It was what I didn’t see as I entered the living room that made the day worth remembering and cherishing…

I didn’t see the band of pirates chasing these “scalawags…” 

I didn’t see the ocean teeming with hungry sharks and giant tentacled octopi (cool word) that dared them to teeter off the ship (couch) and fall into waiting jaws… 

I didn’t notice the helpless princess they were protecting and trying to rescue…

Nor did I see these things for most of that tiring Saturday.

I almost missed it.  I almost saw nothing but a messy living room, and I almost got upset to find two broken swords scattered on the floor. But something (the Holy Spirit) reminded me that this make-believe world in the minds of these boys was given to them by God. 

One day these two “warriors” will grow up to be men…protectors and providers. Families will look to them to fight the enemy of their souls with no less energy and determination.

So let them fight.

Let their imaginary battles rage on, and let them dream of rescue. Let them imagine enemies, and castles, and sword fights. Victory and defeat.

Because the enemies will one day come, and they will be real, and the stakes will be high.

Let’s teach them about The Lord of Angel Armies, who warns us of the ultimate enemy, who fights our battles for us, who rescues us from peril. Let’s teach them about miraculous victories and impossible odds overcome by His power and might. Let’s teach them about the final victory of Jesus over His enemies and of the final restored kingdom of God on this earth.

Tell them stories…don’t lose the opportunity while their imaginations soar.

Tell them God’s story.

Give them hope.

And, dads…remind yourself of these things often. May God grant all of us eyes of faith that we may wonder at the things we cannot see.

Books from Dad: A Father’s Day Post

Books from Dad

Books from my dad.

For several years, too many for me to remember, my dad has given me a book on writing for Christmas.

Most of them I’ve read. Some I’ve skimmed and others I know I may never tackle (Vladimir Nabokov Lectures on Russian Literature falls into this category…sorry, Dad!) But one thing is certain: I love these books.

Every volume in my “Books from Dad” collection is of precious value to me. You see, my dad started giving me these books long before I ever started taking myself serious as a writer. And likewise, my dad believed in me as a writer, long before I ever did.

I remember the first few years when I’d open his Christmas gift. While I loved the idea, I hated the feeling it put in my gut. The reminder that I should be writing. The conviction that I was ignoring my dream. The fear of disappointing my dad.

But at the same time there was such comfort, such hope found in the act of unwrapping those books. The promise of someday. The gentle reminder of what my heart was for. The knowledge that no matter what my dad was never going to stop believing in me.

I don’t know when my dad started to see me as a writer. Perhaps it was in the third grade when I started keeping a journal full of stories, poems, and random entries about my family and friends. Or maybe it was in high school when I gave up basketball for a spot on the newspaper staff. Regardless of when and how, my dad saw something in me. Something worth supporting anyway he could.

Through all the years I played ring-around-the-rosie with my desire to write. Through all the years I believed I couldn’t be a writer. Through all the years I procrastinated and barely wrote one word. My dad sat on the sidelines and waited in my cheering section, patiently prodding, refusing to give up, convinced to his core that I was a writer.

Dad Pic 4

Reading together.

I can’t begin to describe how profound this is for me. To know in some deep, deep place of my mind and my heart that even when I didn’t believe in myself, my dad was always there believing in me. To not feel forced, coerced, or beat over the head with my father’s demands or expectations but lovingly coaxed, creatively encouraged, and faithfully believed in, beyond what I deserved, has played a massive role in making me the writer I am today.

I share this with you on Father’s Day because I think it’s a great reminder for dads (and moms) to carefully observe our children. To watch them. To notice what moves them, what makes their hearts sing.

What brings light and life to their eyes?

What fills them with laughter and joy?

What makes them jump with excitement?

What do you find them doing when no one is watching?

All of these are clues. As your children learn and grow, keep watching, keep observing. Look for ways to nudge and guide. Take advantage of opportunities to support and encourage. Always, always let them know that you love them no matter what and that you believe in the person God created them to be.

I am so blessed to have both a mother and father that have done this for me. They watched me, observed me, and supported me beyond my own belief. And now I get to do the same, to carry on the tradition, for my girls.

At five and two I’m just beginning to see my daughters’ passions and pursuits shine through. Their dreams for tomorrow change almost daily and vary from marrying their daddy to having one hundred children someday. But you can bet I’m watching them. I’m watching for that spark in their eyes, that joy in their heart.

As for my dad, I realized long ago that the real gift he’s given me each Christmas isn’t a book but the tangible reminder of his belief in me, even when, especially when I didn’t believe in myself.

I wish I knew how to thank my dad for his love, support, and encouragement. For his refusal to let me quit and his faithful confidence in me. But I don’t.

All I can do is write.

Don’t forget, today is the last day to enter my drawing for a copy of I Like Giving by Brad Formsma. (A great gift idea for dad!)  For more info click here.

Thank you to everyone who has entered, shared a link, and/or left a comment. I have enjoyed reading all your great ideas on how to keep giving going! 

What Every Dad Needs to Know this Father’s Day…

IMG_1370A couple weeks ago my husband, Chris, had to be out-of-town for work. No matter how much fun my girls and I have when Chris is away there always comes a time when his absence begins to wear on us.

This time in particular, my four-year-old, Aletheia, seemed to struggle the most. By day four she was totally not herself. Despite my frustration with her behavior I knew she wasn’t being defiant or acting out-of-line. Instead…Today I’m posting over at The Blog Pile. To keep reading please follow this link…

Also, don’t forget to enter for your chance to win a copy of I Like Giving by Brad Formsma. (Makes a great gift for dad.) For information on how to enter my I Like Giving Giveaway please click here!