Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Disney Princess Phenomenon

For those of who you know me, the following information is not going to be a real "shocker". Whenever I am driving to a destination that takes several hours to get there, I spend the entire trip with my finger on the "search" button on my radio, searching for one song after another to keep me entertained. Well, on this particular trip I was on my way home last weekend, elated at the thought of seeing my family and "getting out of dodge" for the time being. When I simply can't find a song on the radio that I like, I usually make my own music. More often than not, a Disney Princess tune always pops out first. Usually it starts with "Part of Your World" sung by the one and only Little Mermaid, and works it's way through the different "princess" songs.

When I was at Bethel College in Indiana, I wrote a persuasive speech on the effects of the "Disney Princess craze" on young girls, and how that affects them into adulthood. I so badly wished I would have saved that speech, but somehow it got tossed out with all the unwanted papers and folders. Thankfully my convictions and discoveries of the matter remain on the forefront of my mind. Enjoy!
Nearly every little girl's childhood is saturated with some aspect of the "princess" story and/or mentality. As the book "Captivating" by Stasi Eldredge puts it, as females we are wired and designed by God to want to be a princess, be pretty, lovely, but most of all....to want others to tell us and affirm us that we are. As little girls, the affirmer is daddy, but as women, we desire it from the men in our lives. From little on, the American culture has catered to the "Princess and Knight in Shining Armor" mentality. On a deeper level, I believe that something that is God ordained and designed has been unknowingly embraced by culture, and received into the hearts of every little boy and girl. Disney has added picture, color, animation, exciting story lines and beautiful voices to this phenomenon.

Some of my favorite childhood memories was playing "Belle", trying to match my voice as closely to hers as possible. I even remember one time where I so desperately tried to create a pair of fins so I could truly be Ariel, and there was one other time where I wore my mother's old, thin night gown ( which I later learned was her honeymoon nightie!) and somehow propped it over my belly button to imitate the beautiful Jasmine, forcing one of my brothers to be Aladdin and the other to be some kind of an animal. That was years ago, but the truth is, little girls are still doing this and always will. Something about these stories call to the hearts of little girls, and it continues to impress upon these same hearts as adult women.

Let's take the typical "Disney Princess" story. There is a beautiful girl, always portrayed as being talented, beautiful and liked by most. Then there is the handsome man who is usually fighting some kind of battle for his princess, and of course the evil villain whose wickedness
makes the love between the beautiful girl and the handsome man even more beautiful. There are beautiful songs with incredible musical scores, usually birds singing, animals talking, and lets face it, the princess always has amazing hair and a waist that even Jillian Michael's couldn't obtain.
I'm going to start with Cinderella. Poor Cinderella was confined to her home and indentured as a personal servant of her evil step mother and wicked step sisters. This story doesn't have to go very far to brain wash it's young viewers. Think about it. As children, we were taught that any relationship with a "step" in front of the title was either "mean, evil, and/or ugly". Why? Have you SEEN the step mother and step sisters in Disney's "Cinderella"? They ARE ugly, nasty, rude and down right mean spirited. The reality is that many children have step parents, and though some of them certainly can live up to the negative description, a majority of them do not lock their step children in their room so that they can't make it to the ball ( or the slumber party).

Now for the love story. According to the story, Cinderella wasn't allowed to have a life. Her internal and external beauty threatened her step mother and step sisters, but despite that, she continued to work and to dream. Boy did that girl dream! And in her dreams, she would get married to the man of her dreams, and he would take her away from her miserable, confined life. Fast forward to the part of the story where she makes it to the ball. And there, there in a palace filled with beautiful women, the prince fell in love with Cinderella, the most beautiful of them all. He didn't even talk to her or know her name, and BANG! He fell in love. Of course this "love at first sight" was a mutual one, as Cinderella's dreams had the hope of coming true. We all know that they lived happily ever after. No dating, not really any in depth conversation, etc. It was LOVE, and they were meant to be together.

  • What does that teach little girls about love and relationships? Ariel and her prince were even worse! All that prince ever had to go off of was her beautiful voice, and for most of their "dating" period, she couldn't even talk! But by george, he was the one for her. Again I ask you, what do stories like this teach little girls? Here's a bullet point list to get you started, and maybe you can add some of your own.

  • Evil=ugly and good=beautiful: Likewise, if a woman is not attractive, then she must be mean. Look at the female villains in Disney and other animated movies. The witch from Snow White, Ursula from the Little Mermaid. These women had to be portrayed as ugly, so that the beauty of the heroine could be attached to the concept of being "good".

  • More "good=beautiful": As stated in the beginning of this post, all of the princesses are portrayed as being breathtakingly beautiful. Their beauty is a key part in their role of having their prince or significant other rescue and/or pursue them. Their personalities and talents place a close second in these stories.

  • Love: You may need to slay a few dragons or kill a sea witch, but you don't really need to spend time to get to know this person that you are in love with...you just KNOW. It is based on the attraction to that person, not on building a foundation for a healthy relationship. Something that takes a little more than 2 hours to develop in the real world, and a lot less sun sets and singing animals to cheer you along. 

I can state these things and believe them to be true, but the truth is, these stories will always hold a special place in my heart, as well as the hearts of millions of little girls and grown women, all over the world. The reason is obvious. We desire to be beautiful, we were born to fulfill a role and play a part in an incredible adventure of love, desire, beauty and relationships. It's what we as women were destined for, it's what we ache for. And for the men, they are wired to desire a beauty to fight for, to slay off evil and stand for good. They want their strength to be admired, and they want to hold their princesses in their arms, embracing them and fulfilling their desires of physical affection. 

Am I saying that Disney Princesses are evil, and are hindering and brainwashing the impressionable hearts and minds of little girls? Not quite. However, I am stating that it is important to be able to truly separate reality from fantasy at a young age. But, when you think about it, all of these stories affirm deep rooted desires of the heart, so can we truly separate reality from fantasy? I don't know the answer to that question. As Christian men and women, we have the peace of finding our identity in Christ, trusting and believing that He sees and hears those aches of the heart. I don't think any Disney movie story line could top the love that the ultimate Prince has for you and I, His royal subjects; Princes and princesses of His kingdom.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I have a resident at work that has been extremely challenging lately. She has a diagnosed psychosis, which is a very key factor as to why she is living at Twin Rivers. More often than not, this resident (I'll call her "Patty" to protect her privacy) is a kind woman. She comes to every single program that I put on and is willing to work with and help others. Then, one day, I caught her in my office, snooping around in my things. As it turns out, "Patty" has been deemed the Twin Rivers "clepto", based on the evidence of things consistently missing as well as being caught several times in people's offices, and finding "evidence" stored in her closet. In addition to her "clepto tendencies", she has been extremely demanding and often times rude. Lots of "I wants" or "I need" and very rarely a please or thank you in return. The combination of these factors has made it difficult to love Patty, and treat her like all my other residents. I found myself becoming short with her, and sometimes even avoiding her because being around her was becoming more and more difficult.

The rest of the staff have also been annoyed by Patty's behavior, feeding off of each other in our frustrations. Than it dawned on me: This job is a ministry to me. I have been called by the Lord to minister to the hearts of these seniors, and be an example to the staff that I work with. I have been called and set apart from the very beginning in how I choose to serve my residents. There should be a marked difference in me because of who I serve. God did not call us to just minister to those who are nice to look at, kind, and flatter you with encouraging words. No friends. The truth is, He has called us to minister to the hearts of the people who don't say "please and thank you", are highly demanding, not nice to look at, have annoying habits and make your life a lot more difficult than most people do. That's what being a Christian is all about. Reaching the unlovely, even if it makes us uncomfortable.

Well, that was the first little "Kick in the pants".Then on Sunday, Tim just happened to give a homework assignment in which we were to bless and/or encourage someone in our life who is an inconvenience. Coincidence? I think not. A God-incidence is more like it. Tim made the point that sometimes God calls us to do something that is an inconvenience. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that God often calls us to do something that is an inconvenience. Could it be that what is convenient to us may be in direct opposition to God's will for our lives as Christians? Now there's a humm dinger.
Than there is us. WE can be so unlovable at times. It amazes me how God continues to love His children, even after they do such "unlovable" things. We take comfort in the peace that no matter how unlovable our behavior is, He will always love us. It's a peace that we can tuck in our hearts, but one that must also be extended in the form of grace.

May you put yourself completely aside to reach the unlovely, and may you never forget that there is no way that you could be unlovable to God. Further more, may that profound truth give you the strength to extend grace to the humanly unlovable.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Spiritual Ponderings of a New Found Country Girl

Today was a beautiful day. It started with good coffee and escalated into so much more.

After spending hours at the Lord's feet this afternoon in prayer and journaling till I had ink all over my fingers, I drove home and decided that tonight was the perfect night to walk "Eldorado Road", which is about 3 miles in distance.

I threw on my sweats and sweatshirt, and laced up my tenny shoes. I started my walk at about quarter to nine, just as the sun was beginning to set over the acres and acres of farm land by my new home. As I walked in the peacefulness along the beaten path, I continued to pray for those that didn't come to mind previously. After lifting those petitions up, I told the Lord that for the rest of the walk, I was going to be silent so as to hear His voice and see His hand amongst the beauty of the walk.

After not more than 5 minutes of silence, I walked by a small fenced in pasture with two horses. They were so beautiful, so gentle, that it took everything in me not to verbally greet the horses with a "well, hello there!" . As I continued to walk, this horse walked in step with me. And it was then that I was reminded that just like that horse, nothing needs to be said to know that God is walking in step both ahead of me, and right along side me.

Shortly after that, I came across two deer in the thicket, and I couldn't help but stare. This ex-small town girl had never experienced such a thing so close! They stood and stared to, trying to decide if I was a threat or not. The moment I moved my foot, they picked up and ran in the other direction, flashing me with their white tails.

Throughout the walk the sun continued to set, painting the sky in shades of pink and orange, the birds twittering back and forth. With just the sound of my feet hitting the gravel, I began to be aware of how much God can communicate to me through the serenity of His creation.

Walking in such natural beauty was a powerful reminder of how powerful my God is, how creative and thoughtful He is. When I got to the end of the road, I turned back around, knowing in the back of mine that I had a gigantic hill to climb. It didn't take long for me to see that that hill was symbolic of the trust that I've had to place in Him lately. I was reminded that learning to trust God with my heart and soul is most definitely an uphill climb, a climb that at some point was going to make me stop and gasp for air. As I climbed that hill, I could literally hear God say to me "Sarah, you can do this with my strength."

With the sun resigning over the horizon, I made it to my new home. The peace I feel as I type this is so wonderful, I wish I could bottle it up and take it out when life gets especially challenging. When we ask Him to speak, He will. Just as He keeps His promises and pulls us up the hills of life.

May you hear His voice amongst the warring noise of the world and our internal thoughts. May you experience His beauty in a way that is transformative. May you see His artistic hand in every sunset, and experience His gentleness, much like a deer who slips in view when you least expect it.

Piece by Piece

Lately, I've been realizing how incredibly impatient I can be. When it comes to people and my care for them, I usually have enough patience to carry me through some pretty trying circumstances, but when it comes to traffic, being in line at the grocery store or waiting for someone to pick me up to go somewhere, I am quite impatient.

Yesterday I spent the entire day cleaning the rooms that I occupied at Dave and Mary's, moving stuff out of storage at work, and getting unpacked and settled at my new home. I recently bought a good, sturdy old fashioned dresser second hand from a couple in Northfield. It has a certain charm and character to it, and I got it for a bargain compared to getting one brand new at Target, to which the woman whom I bought it from insisted that "They don't make furniture like they used to!".

As I polished the dresser, then filled it with my clothes, I found myself discouraged at the amount of time it takes to afford furniture, and things to "make a home". That couldn't be a better physical representation of the season of life that I'm in. Just like my accumulation of furniture and finances, so is the accumulation of life experiences, and the choices that lead into those experiences. Yesterday I found myself wanting to go into major debt at Target or Ikea, and buy beautiful furniture and accessories to make my room feel more like "home". This whole "piece by piece" thing is hard. But why? Why is it so difficult to wait for the puzzle to be completed, to see the painted masterpiece? Why do we think that accumulating everything in one fell swoop is going to make things easier? Why do we view things as "unfinished" or "missing", when at that time, that is exactly what needs to be there?

Ugh. My naughty, sinful nature always tends to get in the way of the present and the gifts that are provided at just that point in time.

Moral of the story? Polish that dresser, fill it with your clothes, and be grateful for that bargain, instead of wishing you had a love seat to go along side it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Good bye Sugar

Having graduated from college, I've recently been finding a need to set different goals for myself; I've even gone so far as to entertaining the possibility of making myself a little "good job!" chart, complete with the gold stars. Don't worry, I embrace my nerdiness.

Something that I have been quite convicted of as of late is my need for sugar. Ever since I was a little girl, I have had a fondness for nearly everything sweet. Some of my best childhood memories involved being fed giant marshmallows, cutting out sugar cookie dough, and licking every single bowl and spoon of all it's leftover batter and dough. I love nearly every kind of candy, and regularly keep Hershey bars in my freezer. For a long time, I've been in amazement at those people who will pass up a sweet, usually not expressing any pain or dissapointment, and every time somebody would do that, I would say to myself " I wish I could do that."

For the most part, my diet is pretty healthy. I don't eat a lot of fried food, never add extra salt, and try to watch my portions. I honestly think sugar is what is holding me back from being a healthier person. It would be nice to lose some weight, but I'm mainly doing this to track and understand what happens to my body when I don't feed the need for sugar. I also want to know why it has such an appeal to me... why do I literally get happy when somebody gives me some chocolate? And, because it is me that is writing this, one of the deepest thinkers that I know... why don't I feel that kind of happiness towards other things in life? I mean, if you handed me a bouquet of flowers, I would be tickled pink, but if you left a plate of hot, fresh chocolate chip cookies on my desk, I'd probably kiss your face.

Last night I had my last sugary treat, having my residents say "good bye"to the empty blizzard cup that had originally held a divinity combination of ice cream, pecans, fudge, carmel and brownie pieces. Now, I don't want to set myself up for failure, so I've decided to do this for one month. I want to prove to myself that I can accomplish this, and that I don't need a substance like sugar to be a strong hold in my life, and prevent me from becoming a stronger, healthier woman.

I think that fasting from something that is a big part of our lives allows us to truly hone in on what is important. A dear friend of mine who has been the biggest cheer leader in my desire to become a "whole" healthy person....body, mind and spirit, said it so well. "To deny ourselves something good is to demonstrate self control." Davonne is such an inspiration to me. Her diligence in living a healthy life style, and constantly examining ways in which she can change and grow into a better person has been a huge influence on my life.

So, I am almost through day 1 of no sweets/table sugar. The first struggle I faced was letting go of my flavored coffee creamer, and switching to plain half and half. And now I just finished lunch, and would like a little something sweet, but I have some spearmint mints to get me out of that pinch. Tonight I will be making cupcakes for Wednesday night church. I will remember this post and these convictions when I smell that intoxicating smell of vanilla and frosting, and when frosting drops on my finger, I'll just have to grab a rag to take care of that mess. And when people start to dive into that cupcake with a cup of coffee, I'll remember that no cupcake or piece of candy will ever be better than knowing that I am making strides on the journey of self control, understanding what it means to go without, so that I can gain a "sweet" reward.

Home Spun Perspective

As I write this, I am sitting in that bitter sweet place between time and space, where something good is coming to an end, and the routine unexpected is just around the corner. On Friday I was able to leave work early, and spend a few days at home with my family. It was so good to sit next to my mom in the hospital room and hold her hand, seeing for myself that everything truly is o.k. It was refreshing that my only agenda was to help my mom, and spend time with my family. It was so good to gain perspective on life, something that seems to happen when I leave my routine environment, and enter into "safe" zone; the place where the familiar brings comfort, and I remember just where I came from. Here are some highlights of the weekend:

  • A total of 2 campfires in Grandma's backyard.

  • Spending time with my friend Katie,who gave me some insight into how to pray and apply scripture to my life.

  • Holding my mom's hand, and sitting by her bed side in the hospital.

  • Starbucks coffee and half and half creamer every morning.

  • Trying the new coconut M & M's- verdict: total deliciousness.

  • Heart to Heart conversations with my aunt.

  • Watching "Amelia", starring Hilary Swank- excellent movie.

  • Seeing Shrek 3 at the cheap theatre.

  • Getting ready for the day with other people.

  • Hugs and kisses from my grandma.

  • Getting flowers with my grandma, and visiting my grandpa's grave.

  • Going to the Dairy Freeze with my friends, and enjoying my favorite ice cream flavor there: peppermint chocolate...which just happened to be the flavor of the week!

  • Eating amazing mexican food at El Gave.

  • Embracing the fact that I have ugly feet.

  • Finding super cute flip flops for $5.00, and "buy one piece of jewelry, get the second 75% off"deal...which I did.

  • Finding pants that don't sag in the butt, and actually fit me decent.

  • All the laughter that took place.

And to close, here are some things that God has revealed to my heart:

  • When praying for something specific, pray and recite a specific verse from scripture, to avoid dwelling on what you are praying for, which will bring your focus to where it needs to be: on God.

  • Having a fight with your sister isn't so bad, Because it gave me a chance to extend grace. It also gave me a chance to hear a remorseful and sincere apology, which showed me the depth of her love for her older sister.

  • Home is were your family is.

  • Don't think so much Sarah. Just do it.... and trust God that you'll be able to get through the results.

  • Don't be afraid to follow the nudges of your heart...it may be God answering your prayers, and revealing His will.