Thursday, February 6, 2014

Grace (Part 5)

Violet rested that night at the wizard’s cottage, and the next day, after he had supplied her with provisions and instructions for her journey, she set out to return to the Great Castle. The road did not seem so long, for Violet’s curiosity and hope quickened her pace and gave her new energy. Before she knew it, she was being ushered in to the throne room, where she saw before her, in all his glory and splendor, the Great King.

“Lady Violet, I am glad you have come. Welcome home,” he said, his voice soft with emotion.

“Your Majesty,” she bowed, but could think of nothing to say. So she stayed bent low and silent.

“You have been very busy, I hear!” he continued gently. “You have been a nanny, barber, cook, gardener, baker, librarian, and teacher, and have filled a number of civil service roles that have made my kingdom a better place.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” she replied, still bowed down.

“And though it is all good, you still feel an emptiness inside.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

“That is because you were not asking the right question. Your life is not about who you are, but whose you are. You have lived in my castle for many years, and you have not caused any trouble, and kept your room clean and orderly, and been a very proper lady. But you have never come down to feast at my table, or attended any of my balls, which I have held in honor of you. My dear, you are my daughter – the Princess Violet Grace. You are the fairest maiden in all the land and heiress of the Great Kingdom and all the realms beyond.”

Violet’s heart nearly stopped at these words, declared over her so powerfully and with such confidence. She knew she was of noble blood, but a princess- the princess? The daughter of the Great King? And the Heiress? What could it possibly mean?

As though he knew her heart, the Great King laughed out loud, and said, “It means that you are my little girl! All I have is yours – freely and forever! You can do anything and everything that fills your heart with joy, but now you know that you have my blessing and authority in those things: You can plant seeds and design gardens, rather than just water them; you can write books, rather than just read them; you can adopt orphans and bring them home, rather than just feed them. And you can do so much more! – proclaim freedom for captives, bind up the brokenhearted, carry light into dark places! Go everywhere you desire, and always tell whoever you meet whose you are – you are my daughter. And who am I?” He smiled a huge smile that lit up his face, and he leaned over to touch Violet’s cheek and lift her head. “Now, that is a much better question to ask! For if you know who I am, you will come to know who you are. Spend time with me, sit beside me at my table to eat, dance with me at my balls, and you will learn more of me – and in so doing, you will become more and more who you were created to be.”

And so every day, Violet spent time with her Father. They ate together and danced together and hosted the most marvelous parties at the Great Castle together. And he went with her to the nursery, the kitchen, and the gardens to work alongside her and teach her more. He made bread with her at the bakery, read books with her at the library, and visited the children she’d met at the school house. They traveled together to the Elvish colony, the Great Forest, the Realms Beyond, and the cottage of old Uncle Judd. And in the evenings, they had tea together with Loyala on that favorite window seat and watched the magnificent sunsets.

Everything that Violet did became more beautiful, more graceful, and more powerful than before. The more she knew the King, the more she knew herself, and as a reflection of him and the daughter of him, she was made complete.

And she lived fully, ever after. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Grace (Part 4)

“Are you a wizard?” Violet asked in wonder.

The old man smiled as he poured the tea. “I certainly am… the Good Wizard, in fact, and friend and faithful servant of the Great King. But-” he handed a steaming cup to his guest, “you may call me Judson – no! Uncle Judd. Because no one else does.”

“Uncle… Judd?” she tried out the name cautiously as she studied the cup that fit so comfortably in her hand. “You have the very same tea set that I had back at the castle.”

“Oh, really?” the wizard tried to act surprised, but used a tone that revealed that he was not surprised at all. “I collect tea cups on all my travels, and the Great King gave that one to me as a gift long ago. I thought it might comfort you to hold a little reminder of home, my lady.”

“Home…” Violet murmured as she breathed in the familiar scent of jasmine. “I’m not sure what that really means. I don’t really know where I belong, though I have been trying- wait, how do you know who I am? And why were you expecting me?”

“Why, the Great King told me about you! He said you were heading my way and could use a place to rest. Sugar or honey?”

“The Great King! He knows me and where I am… and even what I need? But I have been gone for so long, and I am nothing really special, so I don’t know why he would miss me…”

“Nothing special! Oh dear, this is more serious than I thought…” the wizard’s eyebrows knitted together and he frowned with concern into his cup of tea. “You really don’t know who you are, do you?”

Violet blinked back tears and took a sip of tea. “I’m working through that… trying to figure it out… processing it all, you see?”

“I see,” said the wizard carefully. “And how is it coming along?”

Violet’s tears splashed into her tea and she sniffled. “I’m so tired… and I feel so alone, and I want to go home, but I don’t know where that is or what I will do with myself when I get there.”

“But my lady, your home is the Great Castle-”

“But for years I have lived at the castle, and sewed, knitted, read books, drank tea, and kept my private rooms in order, because that is what a good girl of noble blood does – I acted like a Lady because that was what I was supposed to do. And everything I do makes me happy, but I never feel fulfilled. And I don’t want to just live happily – I want to live fully. But I have been everywhere and seen everything and tried everything, and nothing truly satisfies, so I am afraid that ‘happily ever after’ is all I will ever know…”

Uncle Judd cleared his throat and rubbed his bald head nervously, as he was not accustomed to comforting weeping young women. But he reached into his pocket and drew out a small envelope. “This is for you,” he said and handed the card to Violet.

She opened it and found a card inside that simply said:

Please come home and see me.
~ Your loving King

“I think,” Uncle Judd said slowly, “that if you obey the King, all your questions will be answered.”

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Grace (Part 3)

Over the next few days, Violet learned how to weed the vegetable garden, harvest the fruit from the orchards, and prune the King’s famous golden roses. Every plant she tended grew and blossomed, and what she didn’t realize was that she was inching further and further away from the castle every day.

“Maybe this is who I am?” she pondered with Loyala one evening. They were sitting on her favorite window seat, admiring the sunset over the kingdom in crimson, lemon, and golden hues.

“Maybe…” Loyala said thoughtfully, “but the world is a very big place. Maybe you should explore it more, and seek who you are in the Great Kingdom Beyond.”

And so, the next morning, Violet took a small bag of belongings and left the castle. She found a job in the village nearby at a bakery, where she learned all about how to bake bread and craft delicious pastries. Then she spent some time helping the local librarian organize and catalogue a mound of musty ancient books. Then she substituted for the school master while he went on a six-week quest of research, assigned by the Great King.

Violet became more brave and adventurous, and as time passed, she went even further away – caring for orphans in the Elvish colony, clearing paths in the Great Forest, and making dresses for duchesses in other realms. Even then, everything she put her hand to brought delight to Violet’s heart and blessings to others. But when she was alone at night, she would drink her tea and search the dim eastern horizon for a glimpse of the Great Castle, and wondered, “Is any of this who I am meant to be? Who am I?”

After weeks and months of traveling, working, trying, and wondering about her identity and purpose, Violet was weary and frustrated. She could not understand how she could enjoy so many things but at the same time feel like she didn’t belong in any of it. She came upon a cottage in the forest, and decided maybe it was time for her to stop searching and rest a while.

As she approached the door and before she could knock, an elderly man with a bald head and long, white beard opened the door and exclaimed, “There you are, Violet! And not a moment too soon! The kettle has just started to whistle. Come in, come in, for a cup of tea!”

Violet did not know what to think of this greeting. She was sure she had never met this person before, and was nearly as certain that she had never planned or been invited to have tea at his house. But he was so warm and welcoming, and the idea of tea time was so pleasing, that it seemed very natural to go inside the wide open door. The room was rather dim, lit by several tall candles on stands and shelves, because there were no windows at all. There were cabinets full of crystal bottles that were corked and carefully labeled, and when Violet looked closer, she saw that they were everything from “Raspberry Cordial,” to “Iocane Powder,” to “Pixie Dust.” Beside the cabinet was a bookcase stuffed with fat textbooks, the titles of which were as peculiar to Violet as the labels on the bottles: How to Transform Bad into Good, The Joy of Potion-Making, and The Particular Recipes of the Great King

Monday, February 3, 2014

Grace (Part 2)

         The next morning, Loyala and Violet went downstairs to the kitchen.

       “There is nothing to EEEAT!” was the distressed cry that welcomed them as they entered and saw a small woman bustling around the room, furiously opening and closing cupboards.

         “Um, Cook? This is- I want you to meet my friend, Violet,” Loyala said timidly.

         The cook looked up quickly and made eye contact with Violet, then intensely held her gaze for a long moment. “I know who you are,” she finally said in a solemn tone.

     Loyala and Violet were so startled, they looked at each other in wonder at the cook’s perceptiveness. “Really?” they said in unison.

          “Yes,” she said. Then she bent over and reached into a cupboard, and pulled out, of all things, a giant eggplant and set it stoutly on her cutting board. “You are just the girl to cut up this eggplant for me! Loyala dear, see what sort of cheese we have. And Violet dear, take care with this knife.” And in no time at all, the cook had enlisted the help of both ladies in creating what appeared to be a very new and exploratory recipe. By the time the dish was done and sent to the banquet hall to be served, all three of them were exhausted and reeked of garlic, but felt quite happy.

          “You seem to have a gift for cooking, m’girl!” the cook commented to Violet and patted her on the knee. “If you like, you can come down and help me again.”

          “Thank you, I think I will!”

And she did, the very next day. While blanching asparagus, the cook said, “Violet dear, I can see you are a high-class lady of noble blood. I am glad for your company, but I must ask, why did you come down here?”

Violet stopped slicing almonds for a moment and looked at the cook. “I’m trying to find out who I am.”

Again, the cook held her gaze for a long time, and it felt to Violet as though the cook was reading her very soul. “And you think you’ll find yourself down here? M’girl, you need to go outside! Change the world! Find adventure and chase it! You can- you can- you can start by going out to the garden and picking me some tomatoes.”

And with that, Cook handed Violet a basket and directed her to the back door of the kitchen, which led to a large and healthy bed of vegetables. As she walked along the rows and picked tomatoes, Violet was enchanted by the colors and the smells of the plants. She reached down and sifted a handful of the rich, damp soil through her fingers.

“Hi there, miss! What’re ya doin’ here? State your business!” Violet jumped at the harsh sound of a man’s voice behind her. She turned around and saw a man with salt and pepper hair, dressed in old clothes covered in dirt, with a trowel in one hand and a sack in the other.

“Oh, I beg your pardon!” Violet said, “Cook asked me to bring her some tomatoes, so I am, but I just wanted to see the garden a little bit before I went inside.”

“Oh, she did, did she?” he snapped grumpily. “And ya did, did ya? Well, whatdya think, eh?”

“I think it is wonderful, and I wish I could learn to make things grow like this!”

The old man studied the lady, and his eyes crinkled in the corners and his lips tightened, as though he was trying not to smile. “Well, miss,” he said, “you’ve only seen a piece o’ the gardens. If ya wanta see more, ya gotta take part in it. Come out here early tomorrow mornin’ an’ I’ll give ya some work ta do.”

“Really? You mean that?” Violet was so excited she nearly dropped her basket full of tomatoes.

“Yes, I am,” he said and chuckled in spite of himself. “Wear a hat and some old clothes,” he added as Violet ran inside to tell Cook and Loyala. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Grace (Part 1)

Once upon a time, there was a Great King, who reigned over the Great Kingdom, and lived in what most people would consider a great castle. After all, there were hundreds of rooms, each one uniquely decorated, spacious, and with a breath-taking view of some corner of the Great Kingdom. Some of the rooms were prepared for special guests who traveled from far and wide to visit the Great King. But other rooms were the personal chambers of the members of the royal family.

One of these rooms belonged to a beautiful young lady named Violet. This fair maiden led a peaceful and quiet life, content to sit on her window seat, reading a book, knitting, sewing, or writing. She had been trained in all the proper ways of a noble woman, and excelled at domestic and artistic activities.

Her best friend was her lady-in-waiting, Loyala, and while they enjoyed having tea and talking together, Loyala was concerned about the lady who never left her chambers.

“It’s just that I don’t know who I am,” Violet would say, “and if I go out there, I may lose myself all together.” 

“Nonsense!” Loyala would scold. “Of course you know who you are – you’re Lady Violet of the Great Castle!”

“It isn’t that great,” Violet would say. She could not explain the restlessness she felt inside.

So one day Loyala made a suggestion: “It really is a great castle. What if you explore it a little? Go to some of the other rooms and see what happens – the nursery, or the kitchen, for example. Maybe you will even find who you are in the process.”

Violet thought this sounded like a good idea, so the next day, Loyala led her upstairs to the royal nursery, where she found tiny babies asleep in lacey white bassinets, six-month-olds chewing and drooling on shiny rings and rubber balls, one-year-olds clapping and giggling and singing, and two-year-olds trying to climb out the windows.

“Whoa, hold on there, buddy!” Violet said playfully as she swept a toddler off his feet and tickled his belly. Then she picked up a pair of scissors that had been in his path on the floor and placed them on a high shelf. “Those aren’t good toys. How about we find some blocks?”

“But I want to cut my hair!” the little boy cried. “That girl over there says it’s too long!” He pointed to a chubby child with pigtails and a frilly frock, clutching a pink rabbit and sucking her thumb.

“Oh, I see… it is a bit shaggy,” Violet said, and ruffled his mop. “Well, it is not wise for anyone to cut their own hair, so maybe if you can sit very still, I think I could trim it up for you.”

“Gee, really? Thanks, lady – um, what’s your name?”

“I’m Violet,” she said as she reached again for the scissors.

“Thanks, Auntie Violet, you’re the best!”

At the end of the day, Violet told Loyala all about her adventures in the nursery.

“You are a natural with kids!” Loyala praised. “And I didn’t know you could cut hair! Maybe you are a nanny…?”

“Or a barber,” Violet added, and they laughed together. “I don’t know… I really loved the kids and had fun today, but I’m not sure I am a nanny or a barber at heart.”

“What if you visit the kitchen? I know the cook, and I really think you would like her!”