Sunday, January 27, 2013

Princesses by the Grace of God







"And at last I've seen the light, and it's like the world is new..."

Sunshine Girl loves to sing the song from Disney's Tangled--all dressed up in her stylish Rapunzel dress and ornate Belle crown.

I don't know about you, but I love the Disney Princess movies. All of them.

There's Snow White and the wicked Queen bent on destroying the one princess who would keep her from being the "fairest one of them all."

And, sweet Sleeping Beauty (a.k.a. Aurora and Briar Rose), who was hidden in the wood from the contemptuous Maleficent, who at birth gave the princess a curse, rather than a blessing.

And, my favorite, Cinderella, who was oppressed by her evil stepmother and stepsisters, who used and abused her graciousness.

And, let's not forget Ariel, who lost her voice to the diabolical Ursula, so she could go up where they walk, up where they run, up where they stay all day in the sun...and be part of their world.

And lastly, Rapunzel and the sinister Mother Gothel who pretended to love and care for her, when really she just wanted Rapunzel for her lovely locks (that could make her forever young).

In each fairy tale, there's a damsel in distress, a villain, and of course, in all of them, a prince, or at least a man willing to die for his one true love.

And, in the end, there's redemption, and a happily ever after.

Those of us who have been called by the grace of God into the Kingdom of God are now children of God. (John 1:9-13)

That makes us princesses.

Now if we are children of God, even we mommies are princesses, though we may neither look nor feel like it.

This is how I typically feel:

Middle aged,

sagging everywhere,

under appreciated,

worn-out,

worn-thin,

and just plain worn.

In this fallen world that is not our true home, we easily fall for the lie that we aren't in any way

special,

valued,

precious,

treasured,

or talented (which to spend time with God alone is a talent in itself).

I don't know about you, but to walk by faith and not by the sight staring back at me in my mirror first thing in the morning would take a miracle.

So, we wear masks.

We cover up our disappointment, our pain, our loneliness, with a ton of makeup and a pasted on smile.

But, underneath it all, who is really there?

And, if we didn't hide our hearts, would anyone want to be around us?

We must believe, we truly are princesses,

loved,

pursued,

and fought for

by Jesus,

our Prince,

our Warrior King,

the Son of God,

who moved heaven and earth to get back His bride.

He sacrifced Himself to save us, His true love (1 Corinthians 15: 3-6).

How can we feel like the princesses that we are?

How can we really know it?

Ask.

Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock, and the door shall be opened to you.

And, when you ask, seek, and when you find, knock and the door will open into

{a whole new world}

 and the Kingdom of God will be more real than the lies you have been believing your whole life.

Those lies that were deliberately told to you by the villain, the enemy of your soul, Satan,
who doesn't want you to believe in the true story of a happily ever after with Christ, so that you will never know who you really are.

A princess.

Saved,

Chosen,

Set apart,

For a good work,

That only you can do,

For His Kingdom.

Those of us who, by the grace of  God,

have been set free

and healed

and renewed

and given eyes to see who we really are in Christ

have a very important job to do:

as wives, as mommies, as friends, as sisters, as neighbors.

Share the gospel. Tell them who they are in Christ Jesus. 

And, don't forget to remind yourself daily, as well.

God is real, and He loves us, and He sent His Son to save us from our sins, from the devil, and from being lost in this broken world. 

And, one day He will make everything new, right, and whole.

May our eyes be illumined by the Holy Spirit that we may know and believe who we really are and who He has made us to be.

"For by grace are you saved through faith and not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast. For you are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God in advance prepared for you to do." (Ephesians 2:8-10)



Friday, January 18, 2013

Let Freedom Ring!


In my parents generation, America was a different place. 

My grandpa Ernie tells the story of his first trip to Florida. It was a little family vacation before he decided to move down here from Wisconsin. 

My father and his big brother, David, and sisters, Dorothy and Jane were children at the time. Everyone was hot and tired and wanted a drink after the long drive. They found some water fountains with signs over them.

One said WHITE scrawled on it, the other said, COLORED.

"Can I have some colored water?" asked my young uncle David.

The "Colored" water fountain didn't have rainbow-colored water.  No, it was there, so light-skinned people didn't have to share the same water with their darker-skinned neighbors.

This story breaks my heart; it's hard to believe people in America used to treat each other this way. 

I don't want my children to lose sight of the things that our fairer skinned predecessors had to learn the hard way.

Oppression doesn't pay.

And, one person standing up for what is right really does make a difference.

In the early 1800's in England, William Wilberforce become a Christian and felt compelled to fight to outlaw the slave trade.  He had grown to love Africans as God loves them. The movie, Amazing Grace shares his story.

Despite England leading the way in valuing all people, many Americans didn't seem to want to let go of its hold on free labor and continued holding onto the belief that Africans were a lesser people and were better off enslaved by more civilized societies.  

Although plantations owners lived lives of luxury for a time on the backs of African slaves, their sin eventually caught up with them.

Some of the more realistic movies that depict slavery are

Roots,

Amistad,

Glory, and

Rosewood (which takes place in Florida).


Some children's books I've read to my children to teach them about love and compassion are:

Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter,

Unspoken by Henry Cole,

Picture the Past: Life on a Southern Plantation,

and Brown Sugar Babies by Charles R. Smith, Jr.
     
In Luke 16:13, Jesus said,
“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Slavery and the money it put in the pockets of the rich plantation owners, ripped our country apart.

It divided our nation, which eventually climaxed into civil war.

The freedom of African slaves cost the blood of our own countrymen who betrayed and turned against one another. Brother against brother, across five Aprils.

Slaves were free but still treated as a lesser people and the term segregation was all too familiar.

Like William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, Jr., was another faithful man of God, who loved his Savior and experienced the grace of God that gave him spiritual freedom from the wages of sin and the assurance of eternal life. 

He believed that he could not stand by silently and let people, who are made in the image of God be degraded just for the color of their skin.

He stood by these words even to the end.

"Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will."

Segregation had to go. He peacefully fought against it.

No blood was shed except his own.

And, it opened a doorway for our generation to share water fountains, restaurants, buses, and churches with our honey, caramel, and coffee colored neighbors.

Time and time again in history, the light of the gospel has shined brightly and shone us the way, and that way is in Christ. 

He loved the unlovely, the lowly, the oppressed, the sickly, the degraded, the sinners, and those who thought they weren't.

He came to set us all free. Free from our sins which separated us from God and the life in Him that He desired. Free to love God with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves.

"Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday." 
(Isaiah 58:9, 10)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Taste of Florida



I'm a Florida girl born and raised. 

Never lived above sea level,

Never seen the change in seasons,

Never felt comfortable with that,

until now.

This past week in homeschooling, we've been studying Florida ecology and I for one, have found a greater appreciation for our state's unique and exquisite biodiversity.

The Pulitzer Prize winning author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, writer of the Yearling, made her home here and fell in love with this land and its people.

Bright Girl and I read through The Yearling together and had a wonderful time looking up all the diverse flora, fauna, and food described in the book.

Like, what are cow peas, corn pone, and ham hock?

What is a flutter-mill (seen on the Disney film), a demi-john, and a feist?

And, what ever happened to the Florida Red Wolf?

Another good read for the younger children to tie-in with The Yearling is Lost in the Woods. Try to find the "wolf shadow" in the middle of the book.






For ecology, we studied the Indian River Lagoon Activity Book (which can be downloaded for free here), and it brought back sweet memories. 

It brought back fond memories of my sister and I wading into the Indian River, combing through the muddy bottom in search for clams. We picked them up using our toes, and then we'd have a clam bake for dinner with my dad.

A trip to the Brevard Zoo's Florida wildlife exhibit was next in order.


Now who are these silly sea turtles?

We were able to see a real live Red Wolf. These endangered species are very elusive; it kept dodging my camera.





But, finally, I got one good shot.




Then we encountered Florida Gators, the reptiles, not the men charging the 40 yard line in orange and blue!





Bright Girl got a good look at one,



I wondered if it thought she would make a tasty snack.

Gator tail is a "tailgating" appetizer now, but in The Yearling, it was smoked and made into dog food. Maybe in Old Florida, people didn't think it tasted just like chicken.

Check out the tail on this one...



This next animal is not native to Florida, but I couldn't help sharing:





Was this 'the end' of a fantastic week in homeschooling?




Not quite...

On the way back home, as we rocked out to "The Ballad of Jody Baxter" (an Andrew Peterson song inspired by The Yearling), we feasted our eyes on a brilliant Florida sunset.



After getting to know Florida a liitle better, I felt closer to my roots and thankful at last that God set me here that I might come to know Him. 

May we all come to appreciate the place where God has placed us that we may seek His face and do the unique work that He would have us do.

“...he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:24-27) 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Looking Ahead


This year, I don't have a list of New Year's resolutions.

But, I do want to get back some good things that I've let go slack or I've let fall by the wayside.

One of the good things is finding a good devotional for my children and
sitting down,
reading with them,
asking them questions,
praying with them and for them,
and teaching them to journal.






In my years of parenting, I can tell you that I am not an expert at finding the perfect devotional for children,
but each time,
when I pick one out,
it seems the perfect fit for them.

How is that? 

It's as if I am drawn to that which would bring them life.

Every time, Someone is leading me to that perfect book, which would open a doorway for them to glimpse a little bit of the glory of God, and that Someone is God. 

Over the years, Billy and I have tag-teamed in teaching the kids a little more about God.
Bible stories are his specialty.  He has a full repertoire of voices to bring all the people recorded in the Bible to life.  His favorite children's picture book Bibles are:

The My Jesus Storybook Bible ( a favorite among many other moms!)
The Read and Share Bible with Stories retold by Gwen Ellis
The Read With Me Bible, Illustrated by Dennis Jones


After their daddy lays down the groundwork, then I draw upon my gifting of evangelism and disciplining.  That is where devotionals come in.  Our children love these ones:

Baby's First Nativity
Little Visits for Toddlers by Mary Manz Simon
Bible Stories for Bedtime by Terry Brown (Ages 3-5)
I Believe in Jesus: Leading Your Child to Christ by John MacArthur Ages (3-7)
God's Little Princess Devotional Bible by Sheila Walsh (Ages 4-7)
365 Bible Promises for Little Hearts by Phil A. Smouse (Ages 3-7)
I Can Read God's Word by Phil A. Smouse (Ages 5-7)
The One Year Book of Devotions for Kids #2 (Ages 8-12)
365 Days to Knowing God for Girls (Ages 10-12)

How about you?  How do you share the good news with your children that God loves them so very much that in Christ, He provided a way for them to live with Him forever?

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).