Stories are my jam.

As a kid my nose was perpetually buried in a book, my dearest friends residing not down the street but right on my nightstand. Thanks to books, my childhood days were rife with wonder, imagination, and an unfettered belief in magic.

Twenty years later, I still believe in magic—the magic of a great story, at least. And now that I have children of my own, our days are filled to the brim with breakfast Bible studies, lunchtime chapter books, audio dramas while running errands, and kids’ choice at bedtime. We take our books with our oxygen. A life without stories is simply not an option.

So when I recently heard a popular Christian author emphasizing the power of reading great books at bedtime, I smiled smugly and turned my attention to the laundry pile. I’ve got that part down, I mused as I began folding crumpled towels.

But then she uttered a few simple words that forever changed my perspective:

When it comes to bedtime, parents are tired
… but children are tender.

I immediately thought back to our bedtime routine the night before: we read, we prayed, and we turned off the lights. My husband and I each snuggled up next to a warm body (our girls still covet our nearness while falling asleep), but when those tender little hearts asked to spill forth their nectar, we turned cold. “No talking,” I said sternly. “Mommy is tired and you need rest. Close your eyes and go to sleep.”

There’s something about those drowsy moments just before slumber that cracks our kids’ hearts wide open. The child who earlier said her day was “good” suddenly starts remembering specific details—and she’s ready to talk about them. The child who’s been sullen and stoic for the past week suddenly responds to your gentle touch—and he’s ready to talk about what’s been bothering him.

Those sweet, sleepy moments are like windows opened wide into the souls of our children—windows that I’d been slamming shut because I was just too tired to peer through.

The Greatest Story

When it comes to book lists, library cards, and Penguin hardcover classics, I am nailing it. But somewhere along the way, I became so enamored with great stories that I forgot the importance of the greatest Story: the one in which my children are protagonists, daughters of a righteous and powerful King.

I can procure every book on every must-read list, but if I’ve neglected to gently shape and direct the Story unfolding right in front of me… what’s the point?

So this year, my husband and I are adding a new tradition to our family’s bedtime routine: in addition to storytelling, we’re embracing the sacred responsibility of “story shaping.” We will welcome conversation and encourage discussion, because we know that those tender bedtime moments are mapping out plot lines that will echo for eternity.

When it comes to bedtime, yes, I am tired… but I am also a character in this Story, a guardian chosen by God to raise His princesses into mighty kingdom warriors.

And bedtime is our training ground.