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Dear Abby,

I watched you almost as much as the movie. Seven years old in your navy-and-white sundress, eyes full of the Hollywood glitter of Cinderella, you were entranced. I was, too. Hollywood does that to us, Abby. It transforms us to a delightful distraction from everyday life.  When I enter the bathroom after the credits, I always feel like I’m passing through a portal back to Real Life.Ashley's daughter dancing with daddy

I want it all for you, Abby, like most moms do.  I want you to be spellbound by the stories. I want you to read deep and wide: fiction and non-fiction and fantasy and history.  I want you to dive down so deep into stories that you find hope where you didn’t even realize it was beginning to fade, perspectives you never considered, and storylines that cause your mind to expand.

I also want you to be able to travel smoothly back to Real Life, to be able to pass through the portal of the movie theater bathroom and back into your own life without discontent, or maybe discontent in the right direction. Maybe you feel a fire to evoke change in your own life or for the good of others, to stop settling, or to pursue your passions. I think the movies can do this for us, Abby.

But there is another kind of discontent, too.  Because sometimes when you are mistreated and run away, you don’t always find a prince waiting in the woods. Or you find one, but he’s a snob, too, and he doesn’t see the diamond you are beneath your rags. He only sees the rags.

Sometimes God calls you to submit to your wicked stepmothers in life and sometimes God calls you to have courage and be kind by standing up for yourself, because you are a person, too, Abby. Sometimes the characters in your life don’t fall into neat categories of good and bad. Sometimes very good people behave badly, and by standing up for yourself, you can show them their error and learn your own worth, too. Sometimes bad people seem good until it’s too late,  and damage is done.  Sometimes you’ll be gloriously rescued, and other times, you’ll be your own prince and you’ll rescue yourself. You’ll learn then what a kind and courageous friend you are after all.

Sometimes Abby, you’ll be horrified to discover that in one storyline, you yourself have been the wicked one, the bad guy. These moments sting the most, but they pierce our perpetual hero complex, deflating an innate sense of pride and ego.  This is painful, but produces good fruit, Abby. Try not to run from these moments of revelation. They will usher you into new seasons of growth and transformation. God will work in you, always, as you submit to Him and His process. Nothing is beyond use in His economy.

In the end, Cinderella revealed something very true: eventually you must show the person you love who you truly are, and wait in suspense to know: will they still love you? Will he take you as you are, rags, orphan and all?  All of us have rags, Abby. All of us have poverty of some sort or the other.  Your truest companions will love you anyway.  Be cautious of the ones who require you to change.

Enjoy all the stories, Abby–Esther and Ruth and Sarah and Mary, and Cinderella.  Let no one story be your goal to emulate. Take strands of each one and weave hope, love, courage, humility and truth into your own story.  Look for your prince, always understanding the most important Story will carry you above and below and wrap its arms around you. One Prince holds you wider and deeper than what is happening in any one circumstance. Let Him be your guide and your goal and all the other things will start happening, too.

I love having a daughter, but I really love having you as a daughter.