Thursday, August 25, 2011


(Written on July 22nd)

I have dirt under my nails. I promise, I did try to clean them. But there's still some left. And contrary to what you may think, I actually rather like that fact. You see, it has been many moons since last I had the pleasure of very dirty hands and feet, and it has done me wonders to enter, once again, the marvelous world of gardening.

I had forgotten the thrill of sticking a shovel into the ground and jumping up on it to force it deeper into the ground. (And no, you don't have to jump on it. It's just more fun that way.) I had forgotten how good it feels to hold a living plant in your hands and transplant it into the hole you just made. I had forgotten the fun of hacking away violently at weeds, and of pulling out clumps of grass and shaking the extra sand off. (It doesn't quite deserve the title of dirt...) I had forgotten the wonder of transforming an weedy area of ground into something more orderly and beautiful. I had forgotten that wonderful capable, pioneer-lady-ish feeling.

I was sweaty. I was dirty. My back hurt. My arms grew tired. My hair was a mess.

And you know what? I felt happier and more whole than I have in veritable ages.

There is something incredible about gardening (and just about hard work in general.) I felt closer to God; like I was doing something He created me to do, something He loves. And I was. He himself planted the very first garden!
8And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

9And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:8-9

Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. Genesis 2:15
A few days ago I was having what I call a "Crying Talk" with my mama... I was saying how I feel (and have felt, to some degree, since I was probably... 12 or so) "stuck in my head", like I am not engaged enough with the world around me. And I didn't know what to do.

But after working in the garden... something changed. I think it has to do with physically demanding work... with closer communion with God... and with prayer. (Mine and others.) Last night I felt more thoroughly, truly joyful than I have in what seems like a long time... and my mind felt much freer and open: more easily engaged with the people and things around me. For so many reasons, it was incredibly fulfilling: a real blessing.

For one, I was being obedient, to both of my fathers--earthly and heavenly. For another, I was doing something I had been "nagging" myself about, something that I had needed to do for a long time. I was doing something significant: something that challenged me, something that benefited our family. I was doing one of the things I've been designed to do. And I would've missed the sunset if I wasn't out there working!!

Here is how it happened:

Early yesterday morning, when my dad was leaving for work, we were outside together and he mentioned that it would be nice to have a little garden where we were currently growing a lovely, tangled crop of weeds.

{Confession: normally when we have such talks, we all think it's a great idea, and then [it seems] no one ever does anything about it. Except maybe Hannah.}

Later on in the day, I was praying and feeling... I don't know, somewhat depressed and introspective. And I had one of those awesome prayers in which it's actually a conversation.

I said: I don't want to focus on me anymore!! I want to focus on You and know you more.

He said: Walk in my ways, and then you will know Me.

And I said: How?

And He said: Love. And specifically, love your papa by working on the school/office/craft/miscellaneous room and the garden.

(As usual, those aren't exact quotes, and no, I didn't hear an audible voice. Why do we always feel we must clarify that it wasn't audible??)

So I did. I got up and walked into the "cave" (our "affectionate" term for the office) and spent roughly an hour tidying it up. (Now the path is wider!) That felt really good, and I started cheering up just from that.

Next I walked outside into the front yard and examined the plants we had that still needed planting: a blackberry bush, an elderberry plant, a magnolia tree, a Cassava/tapioca plant, a Mystery Plant, mystery flowers, and peppers. (Yes, I know, lots. I have procrastinated planting them for a long time. :P)

I thought I should at least figure out where to plant them, since I really didn't want them to die (most of them were given to us for helping out at a pioneer days.), so took a few of them in hand, and went to scout out the yard. I quickly found places for the magnolia, blackberry and elderberry, and planted them all. I was enjoying myself and my energy was up-- I was on a "roll"--so I figured I had better keep going while everything was out and I was excited about it.

I thought it would be challenging to dig out the large, flat, round stepping stones that were in the area I was going to transform, but it ended up being quite easy. Especially when my strong little brothers came to the rescue. ;) (Namely William and Matthew.) We laughed as we watched them roll when we put them on the ground. :D

Hacking weeds out of the ground with a hoe is very fun. And tiring. William and Matthew helped me some, which was very nice of them. :) They also helped with getting the grass and weeds out of the dirt once I had loosened them.

Soon, however, they tired of this amusement, and decided to move on to bigger things: digging a hole. Of course. Isn't that what all little boys do?

I continued working for quite a while, getting all the grass and weeds cleared away and softening up the ground

The hole was becoming quite impressive by this time, and I pondered whether or not I should halt excavation-- decided against it. They are boys. They dig holes. It's good for them. And furthermore, holes are not permanent. We can fill them back up: We have the technology. ;)

The next step was to make a path. I happen to be the daughter of a tile installer, and we have plenty of path material around... I found some nice reddish pavers, and set about making a path.

By this time, the hole had become a future underground house. "Like in Prince Caspian!", they told me, eyes shining.

I've never made a path like that before... and I don't think anyone else has ever done it the way I did. :D I'm afraid I am not a very professional path maker: I just came up with a pattern out of my head and started digging with my hands and flattening the ground a little at a time, adding another row of pavers when the ground seemed ready, and whacking them against some other concrete in order to break them when I needed a smaller piece.

The boys learned that they couldn't dig an underground house. "You'll get to the water", said Emily. (You only need dig 15'-30' to get water in Florida... less in some places. :P) The boys pondered this for a bit...

It actually turned out pretty decently, to my surprise. Though several of them did break when I walked across it. Wimps. :P I'll have to fix that tomorrow.

"Okay, then let's make a well!!", said William. I have very visionary little brothers, it would appear. :D

For some odd reason, the mosquitoes decided that my left elbow was The Most Delicious Thing, and I felt as though I incurred at least 17 bites. However, I was Busy, and didn't have time to bother about paltry annoyances such as mosquitoes. Though I did kill at least one... I am not very merciful towards the creatures. Hannah kindly brought me some tea tree oil after watching me absentmindedly attempt to slap one, which helped with the itching. :P

Matthew was in the hole, and they were concerned about whether or not he could get out. He could. But it was a struggle. Emily made "a ladder"-- a few holes on one side. It was actually deep enough to come up to Matthew's chest, and both the boys could fit in together!

By this time it was dark, so I tidied things up and set a few potted plants where I thought they might work... I also put a solar light from the back yard near the path.

"Jump in, jump in!", they said, as I stood on the edge. I did. Bad idea. :P I jolted my side awfully... but I lived, and the hole was very cool.

We went in, and washed up... I was really dirty/sandy, as were the boys. :D

And thus ended our gardening adventures.

(At least, the ones we had last night-- I had more this morning

and will have more in the next few days. :))

P.S. (From a few days later) Further progress:

Josiah kindly saved me from those thin pavers and showed me some pretty, thick ones--and helped me make the path. :D This one does not break when you walk on it!! He also helped me mulch it. :) Emily swept the dirt into the cracks between the pavers... and then got inspired and weeded her little garden too. :D

Lesson: just get started and work enthusiastically on a project, and people will join you eventually. Works ever so much better than trying to drag people out to help. :P

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Life is Terrible

Seriously, it is. I have had chronic and rather severe acne for at least seven years. I have struggled with low energy, a low immune system, and various other maladies over the years. I have a difficult personality to deal with--forceful, yet weak.

My parents often make mistakes, misjudge me, set a poor example, and so on.

I have seven younger siblings: I rarely have quiet alone time for longer than... oh, about two minutes. I have to share a room with three sisters. I don't even have a normal bed-- I have to sleep on a bunk bed. On the top bunk. And every single night I have to climb all the way up the ladder. And every single morning I have to climb all the way down the ladder. My siblings are constantly annoying me with some request or other--why on earth do they want me to read books to them all the time?? And can't someone else help them with their school?? And why must I constantly hear of this story or that book?

I have many more chores than most people my age-- I have to clean the WHOLE kitchen (which is a lot harder with 10 people messing it up), do the painting, mop, cook, help with homeschooling, and too many other things to list.

I am not married yet. I have no idea how my future will go; only that it will be hard. Many people that I love are far away. I don't have any "best friend" outside my family.

My life is terrible.

[Okay, I'm running out of "My life is terrible" stuff... :P]

My Life is Wonderful!!

Seriously, it is! I have all of my limbs (and they work, too! [Um, we're reading a book in which one boy gets his leg amputated, and another is lame. So yes, I have been thinking about the blessing my working limbs are lately.]), my eyes see wonderfully, I am strong, I have long hair, and I am getting healthier. My acne has taught me much, and is actually a blessing. Low energy causes me to rely more on my God for strength. I very rarely get sick any more! My personality is actually an asset, and God has been very gracious in helping me to shape it.

My parents are doing many, many times better than their backgrounds would predict, and we have a blessed home as a result of them giving their lives over to Jesus and seeking to become a strong family. They have been married for 22 years! They both love me very much and are doing their best to guide me in this new and strange stage: adulthood. They are both very caring, helpful people... much respected and liked in the community.

I have SEVEN younger siblings!! :D I am never lonely; always have someone to talk to or play with. My character is constantly being developed in one way or another: I'm sure I am much more patient than I would otherwise be. I am very good at climbing down ladders now! Who knows-- maybe that skill will come in handy someday. :D I have plenty of chances to practice being a mother--and a homeschooling mother at that. I have loved having babies in the house so often. :D My siblings bless me in many ways, and I'm grateful for each one.

I have many more opportunities than most young people to learn valuable skills and to help my family. As a result of things being harder for me now, it will be easier for me later. (Haha, we joke sometimes about how when we first get married and have only TWO people to cook and clean for, it will seem like a break. :D) I actually like cleaning the kitchen, painting, mopping, helping with school... and so on.

While I am not yet married, my life is very full and blessed. I have a father (and mother) to help. I have siblings to talk to and be with. I am learning more and more to be content with where I am right now, and not pine away after the mysterious "future". I am learning to make Jesus my all in all, my rock, my comforter. It's true: I don't know what the future holds, and I do know it will be hard one way or another. But! I also know the One who holds the future. And I further know that He is good, and that He uses trials to draw us closer to Him. And yes, many people I love are far away. But guess what?? Regardless of location, I have people to love--and I am loved! And for that I am thankful. And not only that, but there are also people here to love, and be loved by. I am blessed.

I know Jesus Christ: the One who created me, died for me, rose for me, and now lives for me. And not only do I know Him, but I am also known by Him!! I have a relationship with the Creator God! And He loves me. I deserved death; but He has given me life. And such life!!

My life is wonderful!

It's all a matter of focus, folks.

So where's your focus?

I'd love to say mine is always on the latter portion of this post, but that would be untruthful. I tend to think that I do pretty well with this whole focusing on the good thing... but God has been showing me lately that I would do well to focus on it much more. I tend to keep the majority of my whining to myself-- but it's whining all the same. I'm tempted (rather often, I'm afraid) to do the dumb "why me?" routine. "Why me, God? Why can't my life just be all simple like everyone else's? (ha!) Why the quiet ache inside? Why the vast uncertainty?"

Why me? Why has God given me my particular trials and burdens?

Because He loves me, that's why.
5And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

6For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. Hebrews 12:5-6
Sometimes learning is painful. In fact, it often is. (Did anyone here learn how to ride a bike without getting hurt?) And that's okay. In fact, it is good. And even in the hard times, the painful times... we are called to rejoice and be thankful.
16Rejoice evermore.

17Pray without ceasing.

18In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Thessalonians 5:16-18
There. Now you know. You've been wondering, haven't you? What God's will is for you, I mean. Simple, huh? :D

Now fer th' livin'...

A gifts list helps--writing down 5-20 little "gifts" from God every day. But it isn't enough, I'm finding. Two things I've been working on adding: actually thank God for the gifts you record, and make it a definite point to point out things you are thankful for out loud. (That last point is wisdom from my papa.) Singing hymns helps... Praying helps, definitely.

Any other ideas?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

You Can't Ruin Your Life

Recently, I've been finding myself praying the oddest things--for example, yesterday I was praying for spouses. For my children. Who... don't exist yet. And I'm not even married!

Apparently, this is what happens when you think rather far into the future... I can only imagine what it will be like when I actually have children-- I'll probably be praying for spouses for their grandchildren and that my great great great grandchildren will follow God. (Provided, of course, He hasn't yet come back.) o.0

Um... I think I am just a little odd. Mayhap I've thought about the pilgrims too much...

Stepping stones.

That's what they saw themselves as. They were willing to give up their own lives for the sake of giving those who came after them a better life. They did that for... us.
[Insert a decision not to go into a rant about "what-we've-done-with-the-country-they-died-and-sacrificed-to-start" here]

Completely foreign, isn't it? Nowadays it's all me, me, me. It's all about here and now.

We think we're doing pretty good if we manage to get our focus far enough off ourselves to think about the person sitting right smack in front of us. Or if we actually manage to plan out our whole entire day. (Yes, this is where I'm at... *sigh*)

Not these people. They looked way into the future: they saw how their choices would affect their posterity... their great great great great great [okay, I'll stop] grandchildren.

[Disclaimer: yes, yes, I know they didn't all have this vision. Perhaps only one or two did, I don't know. Nevertheless, a few had it, and it is inspiring. So there.]

Regarding all this, I had a rather shocking thought: I can't ruin my life.

"Sure you can!!" you say. "Lots of people do it!!"

Oh yes, certainly. I can ruin my life.

"But I thought you just said--"

Okay, you got me. That was only a partial thought. There is a word missing:

I cannot ruin just my life.

You see, my choices affect the people around me: my siblings, my parents, my friends, my... [fine, I'll say it] blog followers. :P Okay, yes, you knew that...

But the really scary thought is that not only do my actions affect the people outward from me--the people I can see, the people I know-- they also affect the people beneath me, so to speak. My actions affect my children and my grandchildren and on down the line. Yikes.

I can see it in my own family...

My great grandma is very caring and loving towards others: and she passed that on to her daughters--one of whom was my grandma. And she, in turn, passed it on to her daughters--one of whom is my mother. And, by God's grace, it is being passed on to my sisters (and me, sort of. Though it seems to be taking longer for me... :P): and, I hope, will someday be passed on to our daughters.

I can also see how the sins of the people who have gone before me have been passed down:
6 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7
It is sobering, definitely. Thank God for the hope we have in Jesus of conquering that sin! We actually have a chance! Still, however, it is a struggle to overcome these "inherited" weaknesses.

My parents have come very far in just one generation. The way my family is currently is vastly different from the families they grew up in. Praise God for His goodness!!

And now, it is my earnest desire to take what they have begun to the next step: to provide an even better foundation for my children and their children to build on.

And what I do now is so incredibly important to this. I say that, but it hasn't quite sunk in yet, I'm afraid. I am praying that God will continue to show me the importance of my present actions and guide me in making choices that will be a blessing to those who come after me--not a curse. If you would like to pray that with me, I would be most grateful. And if you'd like me to pray for you about that as well, just ask.

Stepping stones.

I am a writer in ink and typed words, yes. But I am also writing with other materials: another kind of story all together.

Yes, it is comprised of words--and actions, experiences, choices... It is a story that my children and grandchildren will "read"-- and enter into through no choice of their own. It is a story that will either be heaped on the already enormous pile of sad, "normal" ones, or it will be a story that will stand apart: a story that will bring glory to The Story Teller.

My life on earth will be so brief--even if I live to be an "old woman". I only have a very limited time to make an impact here. (A few days after writing the first draft of this post, I was reading "And God Changed His Mind" [A rather shocking book on prayer by Brother Andrew] and it talked about how our prayers can go on to influence many generations following us--and even eternity itself!! What an amazing thought, isn't it??)

What kind of legacy will we leave behind? When the last page of our life story is "written", how will it impact the "readers"?

Life is all together too short to focus only on our lives.

Lord, let my life be a stepping stone.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Just an Awkward Tadpole...

Washing the dishes several evenings ago, I was (once again) berating myself for all the things I didn't do that day that I ought to have done, and all of the things that I did do that I shouldn't have done. Rather depressing and disheartening on the whole.

You see, there's this gap. It is a scary gap. It's the gap between where I am now (Carissalike) and where I need to be. (Christlike)

"Um, excuse me, but could we please hurry up sanctification a little? Can you just jump me to... oh, about 81? That is, while leaving my age and energy at 21?"

Why is it taking so long?? Why is it so hard?? Why do I keep falling down and scraping my knees?? Why do I keep knocking other people down with me?? Whine whine, complain complain. I'm horrible. I'm not getting anywhe...

Wait a minute, I thought.

This isn't true. God has brought me very far. (The very is not because I'm "very" ahead of others, but rather because it's "very" from what He had to start with. :P) He is constantly showing me more of Himself, developing one aspect or another of my character, teaching me some new lesson...

It is not humility to primarily focus on everything that is wrong with me and all the work yet to be done. It is ungratefulness. It is self-centeredness.

Humility is focusing on GOD. Selfishness is focusing on me--even if it's what [I think] is wrong with me.

You see... in my self-focus, I had forgotten a few things. Very Important Things, like:
6Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Philippians 1:6

13For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Philippians 2:13

11But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Romans 8:11

18In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

23And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

24Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

12Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Hebrews 13:12
I realized something dreadful: fretting about my own shortcomings and worrying that I might not be able to do what God has called me to do is actually doubting the power of God in me to change me and to give me the strength needed to do what He calls me to do.

Not. Good.

Yes, it is necessary and right to examine ourselves. But there is also a time to thank God for what He has done, and to recognize the progress that has been made. There is also a need to rest in God and trust that He is faithful to complete the work He has begun.

We are called to fight and climb and run, certainly. We cannot simply drift along and expect God to magically float us up the mountain.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
But are we going to make much progress if we are forever focusing on ALL the ground yet to be gained, on ALL the falls and slips, on ALL the times we got lost--and never taking note of how far He has brought us, and (especially) never focusing on our Guide? Not likely.
2Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Hebrews 12:1-3
Far, far too often, my focus is on ME. What I've done wrong. Or what I've done right.

And therein lies The Problem.

My focus must shift--firstly, to Christ and eternity (Though... as we read John 17:3, knowing Him and eternity are... the same thing, in a sense.) and secondly, to others.
1If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

2Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

3For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3

3Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Philippians 2:3

12This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

13Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13
How? Good question: that's exactly what my dad challenged me with when we were discussing things of this nature...

Well, to be quite honest-- I'm still not entirely sure. But (as usual) I have ideas. ;)

1. Pray, lots. (I bet that suggestion shocked you, didn't it. (Yes, that is supposed to be sarcastic))

2. Do things for others. As I talked about in my post on gardening, activity is very helpful in getting the mind right.

3. Read--and study and memorize the Bible

Any other ideas?

I read an article by John Piper while thinking about all of this... it was completely "random" (aka Providential) that I should have found it (I don't normally read his blog... I found the link through another post that I "just happened" to read that day). This part especially stood out to me:
But God is good. He has his plan and it is not to make this metamorphosis easy. Just certain. There are a thousand lessons to be learned in the process. Nothing is wasted. Life is not on hold waiting for the great coming-out. That's what larvae do in the cocoon. But frogs are public all the way though the foolishness of change. John Piper
So yes... for now, I am just an awkward tadpole. But my God is transforming me, and someday I will be a hopping frog.

Ahem, that doesn't sound right. Someday I will be... the woman He designed me to be.

And until then, I will climb, and struggle, and pray: and He will hold my hand-- Comforting, pulling and guiding me until I am home.

P.S. The whole tadpole thing will make more sense if you read the article... hint hint. (Please note that I do not entirely agree with his theology [in fact, I don't always agree with my own... :P God is incomprehensible and thus we are all wrong to some degree about Him], but, regardless, there is much to be learned from him, and that article.)