I have a lot I want to write about. God is overwhelming me with extravagance and goodness and peace lately, and I am just now opening my eyes to it. He is so good. So much more than I deserve. If all the love He has for me was contained in a moment, and He gave me that moment, I would explode. I’m seeing that now. At the same time, I am scrambling out of this weird cave – a cave of questions, fear, pride. And I think that collision – the climbing out and the opening eyes – is muting my words. And that’s okay – I’ve been writing a lot of letters over the past few days, to people who I know deserve my words. I’m okay with only having enough for them. I am sorting out the big things.
Nevertheless, I wanted to post something. I wanted to communicate some sort of the crazy that is happening inside me right now. I wrote the following story about six months ago, all in one sitting. I don’t normally do short stories, at least not ones I like this much. But this story just came to me and I was so thrilled about it. I wrote it with my 2-year-old cousin in mind, as a gift for her. I researched every name in the story so that they all had significance. I actually typed it up like a book and printed it. I’m “illustrating” it right now, and hope to get it bound soon. She can’t read yet, so I have some time. :) Anyway, as you’ll see, it’s very much a children’s story: princesses and fantasy and castles. But it means so much to me. This story was God talking to me – through myself. I’ve kept it to myself for a long time now, trying to figure out how I wanted to share it, and when. I know now is the perfect time: as I find myself speechless but so full of words, as I’m trying to let go and see the goodness of the Lord, this story replays in my head over and over. He won’t leave me alone about it. I hope it means something for you, too.
Once upon a time, there lived a young princess in a faraway kingdom. The princess’ name was Ayrien. Princess Ayrien lived in Lenci, a kingdom far to the north. When Ayrien looked out her windows, she saw rolling green hills dotted with tall pine trees. Grand boulders lay among the trees, left over from long ago when the giant glaciers carved out the landscape. The princess lived a pleasant life, and even though she was still a little girl, she knew what happiness felt like. She learned how to feel happiness when she rode her pony across the palace grounds. She learned how to feel happiness when she danced to the wooden flute and the harp.
But one thing made Princess Ayrien feel happiness far beyond anything else.
Princess Ayrien loved to collect pebbles. She collected pebbles from the beds of streams. She collected pebbles from the forests. She collected pebbles from the paths through the fireweed gardens.
Now, it’s important to remember that pebbles in the kingdom of Lenci look different from the pebbles you might see in streams and forests and gardens where you live. You see, in Lenci, the pebbles were painted in bright colors. They were coated in bright blue, bright pink, bright purple, bright orange. It was as if someone had dipped the gray rocks in the sunset. Ayrien did not know how the rocks had been painted different colors, nor did she much care. All she knew was that she was happiest when she was collecting the pebbles. And when she arranged a new batch on her shelf, she knew nothing would ever make her happier than her collection had made her.
I will let you in on a little secret, my friend. Ayrien’s pebbles were not any more special than any rocks you may find. Their colors came from the paintbrushes of man, not any kind of magic. You see, long before little Ayrien was born, the people of Lenci liked to buy hand painted stones. Very talented artists made the stones, painting them in all the colors of the sun, and the people of Lenci bought the stones. They set them on their windowsills and admired them for a time; then, of course, they would grow tired of them. So they threw them out – out into the streams and the forests and the gardens. Ayrien had never been told any of this, because she had still not learned that sometimes, people fall out of love with the things they once held dear. She would not have understood why anyone would throw away the beautiful little pebbles. To her, the colorful little stones were perfect.
One bright day, for it is always bright in the kingdom of Lenci, Princess Ayrien’s father, King Caerwyn of Lenci, met the young princess as she was admiring her pebble collection. Caerwyn was a good king. He ruled the kingdom of Lenci with fairness and love. The legend in Lenci said that ever since Caerwyn became King, the days were long and full of sunshine.
“My dear Princess,” the King said to Ayrien on that bright day. “Why do you love those painted stones so much?”
“Oh, Father,” Ayrien sighed. “Aren’t they the most lovely things you’ve ever seen?”
“Ayrien,” the King said gently, smiling down at his daughter, “I have indeed seen things more lovely than those pebbles.” Ayrien’s eyes widened in shock.
“That’s impossible!” she laughed. “Nothing could be more beautiful or make me happier than these pretty stones can.”
The King took the Princess’ hand. “Ayrien, my love, why don’t you let me have those painted stones?”
Ayrien was truly shocked now. Why would her loving father want to take her favorite things? They were the most beautiful stones in the world, Ayrien was sure, and she did not want to give them up. But her father had always done kind things for her – why should this be any different? Ayrien was very confused. She did not want her father to take her painted pebbles.
“Oh, no, Father,” Ayrien said. “I can’t do that. I love these stones.”
“Very well,” King Caerwyn said, a sad smile on his face. He gave Ayrien a kiss on her head and wished her a happy day.
From that day on, though, King Caerwyn made sure to find little Ayrien in her room, admiring her pebbles, and would ask her to give them to him. But every day, the Princess would pout and tell him no, she could not give up her precious rocks. For days and days, the King kept asking kindly, and the Princess kept saying no. She became more and more upset with each day. It first shocked her that her father wanted her stones, but soon she became angry, then angry and scared. And before long, Ayrien could think of nothing but guarding her pebbles, even though the King had never once tried to steal them from her. He always only asked, and he was always only kind and loving and gentle, and he never became angry with Ayrien’s stubbornness. He was never angry, even when she was.
Because Ayrien didn’t feel happiness when she rode her pony anymore. She could only think of her pebbles. She didn’t feel happiness when she danced. She could only think of her pebbles. Her pebbles didn’t even really make her happy anymore. When she went to admire them, she only thought of protecting them. She hid them away in a drawer, where they became dusty. The paint began to chip away. Some days, she didn’t even look at them anymore. She forgot why she loved them so much – she only knew that they were hers.
One bright day, for it is always bright in the kingdom of Lenci, King Caerwyn met little Ayrien in her room as he always did. She was sitting on her bed, weeping.
“My lovely Princess,” King Caerwyn said when he saw her. “Why are you crying? Why are you so sad, my child?”
Ayrien looked up at the King. His eyes were bright, brighter than the bright Lenci sunshine, but they were full of sorrow. She looked at his eyes and she only wept more for the sight of them, because she knew his heart ached because her heart ached.
“Daughter,” Caerwyn whispered, pulling the shaking little girl close to his warm chest. “Why is your heart broken?”
“Father,” the Princess sobbed. “All my life I’ve only wanted to please you. All my life, you’ve only been good to me, and to the whole Kingdom. But now I’m so afraid you’re going to take my pebbles. I’ve been so afraid you’re going to take away my favorite things, that I’ve hidden them away, and all their color has worn away, and they’ve become so dirty, and every day, I just worry and worry about protecting them. My heart is broken because I cannot be happy anymore, because I all I ever think about are my dirty, ugly pebbles. I don’t even love them anymore, Father. I don’t love anything anymore.”
The King held his daughter close to him for a while. Perhaps he held her all that bright day. Perhaps it was only a few minutes. To Ayrien, it didn’t matter how long it was. When her father held her, it felt like forever.
“My daughter,” the King finally said. “Can I have your pebbles?”
He had asked many times before now, and the Princess did not know exactly why it was different this time, but it was. Maybe her heart had just become too full of a darkness that wasn’t supposed to be in it. But this time, the question did not feel scary. This time, the question was a relief.
“Yes, Father. You can have them.” Ayrien opened the drawer, scooped up all the dirty, chipped pebbles, and dropped them into the King’s open hands. He dumped the stones into his left pocket. Then, his hand slipped into his right pocket.
He pulled out a handful of the most beautiful gemstones Ayrien had ever seen. Indeed, no one in all the world had ever seen such magnificent, shining, glittering, perfect gemstones. They were radiant blue, radiant pink, radiant purple, radiant orange. It was as though someone had dipped them into the most stunning sunset that had ever existed. No, more than that – it was as if the gemstones were part of that sunset. As if they had fallen from the sky as the sun retreated to the unseen heavens.
“Ayrien, my Princess,” the King said, holding out the gemstones. “These are for you. I’ve been waiting to give them to you for so long. But first, I wanted you to give me your painted pebbles. These gemstones will never get dirty or dusty. Their color will never fade away, for the color goes all the way through them. They are far better than any painted rocks you will ever find in streams and forests and gardens. These are yours forever, and they will forever make you happy. I would not give you anything that would not make you infinitely happy.”
All her small life, Ayrien had thought she knew what happiness felt like. But when her father handed her the gemstones, a new sort of happiness filled her heart, and her bones,
and her veins.
If you were to ask the Princess, to this day she would not be able to explain this new happiness. She could only show you the gemstones, so you could feel it too.