Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What I Never Thought I'd Become

This is a short story that I wrote and used as an illustration in Sunday School. Although it is written in fairy tale terminology, it really isn't intended for children. It is somewhat graphic, but I never used a word or image that isn't from God's description of His people in Hosea or Ezekiel. I debated removing the more graphic words and concepts, but that would defeat the point. The story is still rough in form, but I wanted to go ahead and present it anyway. I hope that you find the truth amidst the fiction.

I was an orphan when He found me. He must have heard my muffled cries, though I tried desperately to keep silent as I shivered in the alley. Released from the orphanage without money, skills, or hope, I tried to sleep under a thin blanket, but sleep wouldn’t come. He heard me, and for reasons I will never understand, he asked me to walk with him. I didn’t know who he was until we came to what he casually called, “my place.” It was the palace. This man, this stranger was the Prince! He invited me to stay there.

For the first time since my mother had died years before, I really slept. The bed was soft, the room was warm, and my belly was finally full. It was as if they had expected me. The fire was stoked in the fireplace. The closet was full of beautiful clothes in just my size. There was a plate of fresh bread, cheese, and chocolate.

I was told to attend breakfast in the main dining hall. When the Prince and the King walked in, I stood to my feet and bowed, completely awestruck. I tried to keep my ignorance hidden, but it was a useless fight. Half way through breakfast I blurted out what I had tried so desperately to keep hidden. “There’s been a mistake!”

The King looked at me with a soft smile and asked what I meant. “Why am I here, Your Majesty?”

“My Son needs a bride, and He desires you. Of course, he deserves a woman who desires him as well, so you will have the choice to accept or refuse his proposal,” The King replied.

“You must not know who I am, then?”

The prince proceeded to tell me my name, how my parents had died, and what my life at the orphanage had been like. “I’ve been keeping an eye on you for a long time.”

We got to know each other, or I got to know him, over the next few weeks. Our betrothal was official two months later. Everything seemed perfect.

Because my chambers were located across the courtyard from the palace proper, there was a servant who escorted me between buildings at night. One night the regular servant was sick, and another man was filling in. The normal servant was silent, but this one spoke. “It must be strange to go from orphan girl to princess bride.”

I smiled and nodded, thinking that would be the end of it, but he continued. “Why do you think that is? Why do you think he chose you?”

I didn’t have an answer, but I didn’t want to seem rude. “I guess he just loves me.”

“Yes. But why?” I thought hard, but there was no answer to be found. The servant took it upon himself to fill the silence. “You are beautiful, you know. Sometimes I wonder if the Prince chose you because he knows that he can control you.”

I would be lying if I said that the thought hadn’t occurred to me, but hearing it out loud made the idea more real, more powerful than it had ever been. The servant continued, “You are lovely, and you have no other options. You can’t refuse him. You’ll spend the rest of your life trying to prove that you’re worth him.” I felt uncomfortable, but I let him keep talking. At this point, we had made our way out of the palace gates, out of the King’s protection. Then the servant said, “I would never control you.”

We talked for hours more, and then we went to his home. The next morning I woke up next to him, an adulteress. We met many more times, and then he said, “You know, you are really beautiful. I know that many men would be more than happy to pay for your… company.” I was shocked by the vulgarity, but excited by the idea of being wanted. “If you were to pursue a career, you could be independent. If the Prince didn’t want you, you wouldn’t need him.”

I couldn’t tell you how many men I slept with in exchange for the tiniest amounts of money, all while betrothed to the Prince. I still ate dinner with him and the King. Somehow, I kept the two lives separate.

Everything changed one night. I met with the servant, the man who was now my pimp. We had already slept together, though it wasn’t sweet anymore, or enjoyable. It was just a part of business. I hadn’t gotten a chance to put on my clothes when several men came into the bedroom. They tied my hands together. I was so shocked that I didn’t even fight it. “What are you doing?” I asked, feeling dazed.

“You have committed adultery and acted as a prostitute. As the Governor, chosen by the people, it is my right to condemn you.” They paraded me through the streets. I had a blanket draped around my shoulders, but it covered little. The world could see me. Finally, we made it to the town square, just in front of the palace. The Governor, the man I thought was my friend, the man who convinced me to live as a prostitute and caused me to doubt the love of the Prince, announced to all the people who had gathered, “This woman is betrothed to the Prince. These men will testify that she has committed adultery, acted as a prostitute, and because she is legally bound to the royal family, she has committed treason. The only punishment fitting is death.”

Shame so intense cannot be described. I chose to think about how cold I was, just as I had been the night the Prince found me. I thought about the sound of his voice that night, trying to block out the words the crowd hurled at me. Then I heard his voice again, but it was yelling, “Free her!” I looked up and saw the Prince. He took off his royal robe, and refusing to see my nakedness, he wrapped it around me. “I’ll take her place. I know the King’s law. I have the right to take her place.” I shook my head and tried to scream, but only my lips mouthed the word, “No!”

“You would take the place of a whore?” The Governor asked.

“I will.” Then he whispered in my ear, “Do not look away. You’ll only understand how much I love you when you see how great I suffer for you.”

I watched as they beat him. I watched as they spat on him, urinated on him, cursed him, and finally killed him. I watched as his body lay there, motionless. I watched as the true servants came from the palace and took his body. The man I had known, the Governor, was an impostor. Then a servant came and took me back to my chambers in the palace.

I wept for what seemed like days. The room that had overwhelmed me with joy the first night now seemed like a tomb. I didn’t let servants bring in more wood for the fire. I didn’t eat. Then, on the third day, I got a message that the King wanted to see me.

I walked slowly, hoping that I would die before I came to the throne room. My hands shook, my heart pounded, and my feet wavered with every step. How could I stand in the presence of the King? How could I look him in the face? The only reason he could possibly want to see me is that he wanted to throw me in the dungeon or have me executed for the death of his son. I was surprised that it took him as long as it did. It would all be over soon, and I was relieved at the thought of it.

When I walked in, the King was sitting on His throne. He motioned for me to enter. After I bowed, he finally spoke, “Child, have you seen my son?”

I was shocked, and I felt nauseous. “Sir. Don’t you know? The Prince is dead!”

“He was, but death is never permanent in this family.” He held out his hand to the door I had come in, and the Prince stood there. His clothes were bright white, but his robe was now red, the color of blood.

“I… I don’t understand.” My words sounded feeble, stupid, and very, very small.

“I’m alive. Your debt is paid.” The Prince was walking toward me. The nearer he came, the weaker I felt. As he approached me, I fell down at his feet.

Through my tears I finally got out the words, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” I still didn’t understand, but this was bigger than my understanding. This was something new, something beautiful, something marvelously beyond my comprehension.

“Stand up, child. It’s time to talk about the wedding.” The King stepped down from his throne and held out his hand to help me up.

“Your Majesty! You can’t be serious! The Prince doesn’t want me!” I looked at my feet as I spoke, terrified of making eye contact with the King or Prince.

The Prince spoke as he gently pulled my chin and forced me to look him full in the face, “Why do you think I died for you? That’s a high price to pay for someone I didn’t want!”

The King interrupted, “Child, that sounds like humility to you, but it’s actually pride that motivates your words! What makes you think that your sin has greater value than the life of my Son?” He motioned for an attendant to walk in. “This is the gown you will wear tomorrow, your wedding day.” It was white!

“I can’t wear that, sir! It would be a lie!” Tears began to flow down my face, burning my cheeks.

“My Son paid for this gown with his own blood. You will wear it because it is the only dress that fits the Bride of the Prince. You will wear it because that is who you are!”

Most wedding day festivities don’t begin with a public execution, but it seemed fitting in this case. The Governor was hanged, along with everyone who followed him and served under his authority. He had deceived some of his followers so badly that they didn’t even know that they were working against the King. Their foolishness had a high price.

After the ceremony, as the King presented me to his Kingdom, he whispered in my ear, “You are my daughter now. I love you.” For the first time, I looked into His eyes and saw my Daddy. That is when I became a princess. That is how I became the daughter of the King and the wife of the Prince. Is it hard to believe? Sure. But the best stories in history always are.

This story is the intellectual property of Hannah Attaway, and may not be reproduced, replicated, or copied in whole or part without her expressed consent. For information on obtaining rights to this piece, please contact Hannah at hdattaway@gmail.com . Thank you!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Celebrating Easter

Dresses aren't the point. Egg hunts aren't the point. Family dinners aren't the point. Traditions aren't the point. The point is the cross, the fact that Christ died and rose again in payment for my sins. The point is that we have a risen Savior who is alive and at work in our world to this day. The point is that our God reigns and that death is eternally defeated. Jesus is the point of today and every day.

That being said, here are photos of all of the arbitrary things previously defined as "not the point." Enjoy!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sometimes a Beggar

My daughter, DeLaynie, has become a beggar.  DeLaynie came home with a shell a month ago, and we couldn't figure out where it came from. She said that her teacher gave it to her, but her teacher couldn't have given one to every child, could she?

Last night she asked her AWANA teacher for the toy that they were using in class. After kindly explaining that it wasn't her toy to give, that it belonged to her mother and she was just borrowing it, DeLaynie invited her to dinner. "And bring the dog, please."

I'm not sure from whence this manipulation comes. I do know that it is proving profitable in her young life. Today she came home with a toucan. When asked how she obtained it, she told us that her speech teacher gave it to her. When we asked why her teacher gave it to her, she answered with much cuteness, "Because I love it."

Well, that's certainly true. 

I'm thinking about sending the following note to school, Sunday School, and Cubbies class at AWANA:

Dear loving teachers,
        Please do not give DeLaynie the toys for which she begs. I'm afraid that you're merely a part of her manipulation ring. Her cuteness is actually a scheme to obtain more toys than her mother can possibly organize or keep clean. And it's working.
        Thank you for not holding a grudge against our con-artist daughter,
         Her hood-winked parents

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spring Break

This week is spring break in our school system. All that means for us is that DeLaynie doesn't have school, and Ella doesn't have Mimi school. Despite the wet, chilly weather, they're doing remarkably well. Honestly, I'm okay with the rain because I have terrible allergies at this time of year. If it's raining, I don't have to feel guilty for not taking the kids outside to play.

Edwin and I went to a relatively near-by spot for two nights, leaving the girls to be treated royally by the very sweet church members who offered to take care of them. They had a very bad reaction when I first told them that they couldn't do something. I don't think they got that answer very often while we were gone. Edwin and I had a nice time on our own, and it's amazing how much more I enjoy the time with my girls after coming back. Two nights is a great length of time to be away from the kiddos. It isn't long enough to miss them too bad, but we are happy to see them by the time we arrive at the sitter's.

Right now, they are playing "princess and the dragon." Ella is a very polite dragon, referring to DeLaynie as Your Highness and Your Majesty. I'm pretty sure that she doesn't understand the threatening role of a dragon. DeLaynie doesn't either, as I now hear her tucking in the dragon. There's a new world order in this fairy tale. They must like each other too much to play by the typical rules.

Never mind, I hear a storm a-brewin', so I better go mommy. I'll keep you updated on the news that is news as it transpires.

Mom, over-and-out.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How to Ensure the Failure of a Sci-fi/Fantasy Series

I like weird. You aren't going to scare me off with strange. Science fiction and fantasy are the current methods for exploring the psychological and philosophical. The concept is simple: take something we all understand, and tweak it or exaggerate it until you have something very different. Then you see how the characters react.

Edwin really liked comic books as a kid, so The Cape appealed to him. We were watching the first episode when I blurted out, "I give it eight episodes." I was wrong. It made it all the way to nine with an additional online and On-Demand only episode.

The Event is a sci-fi offering biting the dust. It's a good show, for the most part. It certainly used up enough studio money to expect some degree of success. So what happened?

I will now give the three ways that I believe television makers can bring their sci-fi or fantasy show to its demise. Because, apparently, that's what they're trying to do.
  1. Have too many "main" characters. Science fiction and fantasy are supposed to be character-rich. The watcher must bond with the main characters in order to care about what happens to them. The Event had so many characters to care about, that most of us just picked out one or two situations to follow. That means that we were watching 42 minutes of television in order to get about 10 minutes of entertainment. If you want to have many weaving and inter-weaving paths, that's great, but you have to start with one relationship, fully engage them with the watchers, and then you can add in new plot twists and characters as you go along.
  2. Make the main point really ambiguous. The biggest failure, in my opinion, of The Event was that it began with a marketing scheme that asked the question, "What is the event?" So people watched, and three episodes in, ten episodes in, fifteen episodes in, we still don't know what the event is. Honestly, this is more of a marketing failure than a plot or writing failure. By extending the question into the pre-premier marketing, NBC ensured that we would get tired of wanting to know by the end of the fall season. They could have remedied this by moving a little faster, but it's so hard to drag out a sci-fi show that they didn't have that option. (Remember seasons 2 and 3 of Lost? Eek!)
  3. Over-do the weird elements right off the bat. The Cape was doomed before it even aired. With the best marketing strategy, the very best acting (which certainly wasn't the case by episode 7), and the very best plot twists and turns, it still didn't have a shot. Why?

    Allow me to give you a short summary of the first episode: A police officer dad/husband is framed by a villain called Chess, who is taking over the city through a privatized security service. (No more police; now there is a security company who hires officers to play the part.) He manages to escape under a train car that explodes (this whole thing is aired on the local news by way of a news helicopter), so everyone supposes him to be dead. In actuality, he has escaped into the sewer system where carnival workers find him. Then they train him to use a special cape to be a super hero.

    It isn't that such a bizarr-o world can't work on t.v. (Remember that Lost's premise was that there is a moving island that holds the light that keeps people from becoming completely evil, and that protecting said light is the definition of "good". That, my friends, is weird-ness defined.) But you have to back-door the weird. In general, it's best to make the setting or the characters surreal, but if you make both strange, be prepared to become a "cult classic," otherwise known as a financial flop.
I know that you probably don't care as much as I do, but it's my blog, and I'll rant if I want to.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Just Getting Back in the Habit

Everything is always easier when it's a habit. Working out, going to church, having a daily quiet time, reading with your kids before bed, whatever the activity, making it a part of your routine just makes it easier. Blogging, for instance, was no big thing when I did it 6 days a week, but the idea of developing a meaningful post is beyond daunting after taking an extended break.

Three years ago, I would have never imagined that there would come a day when I would work out five days a week without a thought. In fact, my body aches horribly if I go more than two days without a workout. On the other hand, I can't run without tremendous amounts of pain the next day. Edwin ran cross country for ten years, and now he can run two miles without much of a struggle, even if he goes for weeks without running. I'm trying to get to the place where I can join him on his runs, but it's going to take a lot of work. It's going to require me to make the conscious choice to experience discomfort for a while in order to achieve my goal.

I'm not really happy about that.

Every habit begins as a choice. Habits are formed as a series of consistent decisions to go against the old normal in order to develop a new kind of normal. Today I'm choosing to blog about the choice to blog. Thrilling, I know. It's never easy to get back into a habit once it's lost, but some habits are worth it.