Friday, July 25, 2008

David's Digest: Tugging Out the Heartstrings

When I was young, our family would vacation in a cabin that was sort of in the woods but about one half to a mile inland off the coast in northern California. It was the closest to God's creation we had been, coming from the big city; and we all liked it very much.

My brother and I had wrist rockets, which are glorified sling shots; and we would try to hit things with rocks. At the time, it seemed like a good idea to try to shoot at live things; and many times I tried.

Well, one day the rock I used hit its mark, and over the branch the little bird went. Success!! I told my dad, and he graciously went hacking through the shrubbery that was in the way of getting my prize, including through poison oak, to which he is susceptible. He was able to retrieve the bird, and he handed me my trophy.

There I held it in my tiny hands, it looking very small even there. I had hit it right upside the head in the eye. I looked at the little, lifeless bird, the life which I had taken of it, and was devastated. I felt so badly for what I had done; and I did the only thing I knew to do, and that was dig a little, round grave; bury it; border it with small rocks; and make and place a cross at the top.

Now, as a child of Adam, born with a desperately wicked heart (Jer 17:9), soon after in life that kind of sentiment didn't last long, and I was then shooting at live things again for "fun" (but that's a whole different area of discussion). Obviously though, this moment with the little bird left something of a lasting impression, because I still remember it pretty clearly today, and that was probably 30-35 years ago.

We had pets as we grew up in life, and I always at least felt some sort of very sentimental attachment to them. However, it wasn't until we moved out here into the country surrounded by animals, domestic and wild, that I didn't get to have revealed to me an area of sin in my life in relation to them.

When you're around lots of creation all of the time, like we are out here, you eventually face the inevitable about all living things: death. I have discovered that I don't like death; I like life. I like to watch all of the living, crawling things do what they were created to do. I like watching their behaviors so I can learn about God and His ways. Life in this temporal time reminds me of the eternal life found only in Christ Jesus. And in what we have learned over the past several years, death reminds me of sin (as it should). But often a "like" for something can turn inordinate; and when it becomes that, it has turned into idolatry; and if I'm doing that, I have then become an idolater, and thusly a person whom as Christians we should patently know God is against.

When we moved here, we brought with us our two pet rabbits and two pet fish. Since, they have all died; but the first rabbit did so very suddenly. I "took it very hard", which means I was way overly emotional about it. Also, I relayed in my last "Digest" my reaction to when Russell our rooster was killed. I believe some of my reaction was based on my over-affections for him. God though, in His graces and mercies, through these episodes and teachings, had begun to show me there was a definite problem with this perspective towards His creation; and He placed on my heart that I needed to start to view these things differently, and that I needed to begin to ask Him to help me have a proper perspective toward these things. And so, I did.

Over time now, I am thankful that God has graciously started to change my heart condition and my perspective in these areas. When we lost our last pet rabbit, the effect on me wasn't nearly what it was before (although I probably should have put her down some time before she died, but that goes to show I still need more work). Also, we have been around the death of our chickens, chicks, piglets, a goat, etc., which has allowed me to practice keeping a proper perspective.

Further, we have been around the butchering of animals here, including chickens, a pig and a goat. At first, it was a little difficult to watch, but with a graciously granted change in perspective, I began to understand the reasons for this and that this is really God's provisioning to us. Also, in analyzing all of this, I think I have a tendency to project myself onto the animal; and since I wouldn't want to have my head chopped off or feel that pain, I didn't want its head to be or it to feel pain. But in reality, that's how we eat; and we try to kill the animal as quickly as possible. Interestingly too to me, once you get past the skinning and butchering process, you are left with what looks like the packaged item you would buy in the store, and it then seems a little more "normal." We have all been sheltered from the difficulties in preparing our own food, which probably has fed society's untempered love affair with animals.

In another way, God has continued to help change this area for me with what might be called the "critters" on the land that run around and kill our animals or eat our food. I have found that once the cute, little, fuzzy rabbit who was running around your land last year starts eating your vegetable garden this year, it's not so cute anymore; and so, without remorse, I have sent several of them to the compost pile. I have learned that God has placed these things on earth for man. They are for our use (not abuse) and for us to have dominion over (Gen 1:28), and actually keeping this in mind has helped me when having to kill these animals.

I still have emotions when it comes to God's creatures around us: I will be sad the day Gary is gone; many of the animals have personalities, which make them more endearing; there seems to be a trust that can develop that comes from an animal after caring for it over time, and butchering it almost seems like having to break that trust; I do feel badly after shooting animals because it still is difficult to take the life out of a living creature, one to which God had given life; I try not to step on ants inadvertently if they're not doing something destructive; and other similar things; and these may still not be fully the way I should perceive them; but I do pray the Lord continue to move me to repentance from the way I idolized His creation into maintaining a proper view on it and practicing a proper life within its realms according to His order in it.


For more on God's order for the world and especially His people, listen to these:

Order, Part 1
Order, Part 2
Order, Part 3
Order, Part 4
Order, Part 5


-- David

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Garden 2008

After last year's rain, we looked forward in great anticipation to this year's garden. Plus, after 2 years of planting in rows, we were going to try a different and hopefully improved way of gardening, that being double dug beds. The term "double dug" essentially comes from digging down 2 shovel lengths so as to loosen the soil. This, plus adding compost, supposedly makes it a much better seed bed for growing. Here are some pictures of that process:




Don't let the smiling face fool you, it's actually some pretty hard work: ;)




Here's after both layers are dug, with the bottom layer refilled:




And here is a picture of the "compost" layer with the top layer partially done (our compost pile right now is a definite work in progress):




Here are our first graciously granted provisions of the garden from the before-Spring plantings:




Here are some potato "seeds." For a typical potato, apparently you can slice off a portion of it, especially a section with an "eye", plant it sliced-side down, and it will grow. Here is that process on top of the double dug bed's first and compost layers, with a little dirt on top of that:




Now, supposedly that planting strategy doesn't work for sweet potatoes, but here is a picture of the current bed, and most of the plants here are sweet potato plantings:




Varmints

This year we faced a new foe in battling garden pests: rabbits. Apparently over the winter, they lived up to their reputation, because we discovered that there were quite a few of them running around. And they found themselves their own personal "Farmers' Market", and proceeded to help themselves. Well, sorry Mr. Bunny, you can't be taking our food; and so, the battle lines were drawn. I was confused as to how they were getting into the garden, given we have 2"x4" welded wire fencing around it. But I did find some places where the wire was broken; and from us having pet rabbits before, I know they can snake themselves through tight areas.

We started to be on the lookout for them, especially in the mornings or evenings; and the Lord granted my shotgun and me several triumphs, one even in the garden itself. I also began putting up chicken wire around the bottom of the fencing. Over time, it appeared the victory was ours; and we haven't seemed to have any more trouble with them since.


The Water of Life

Part of moving here was to work on a process of becoming less dependent on the world for its provisioning and to place ourselves directly under God's providing hand. And so, I had decided that, as the Lord graciously allowed us to set up infrastructure, that, when it seemed that what was needed was going to be available based on normal averages, we would "cut the cord" on that area of world dependence. Well, with the working well and based on the rain "norms" for the area, we had arrived at that point a while back; and I had made a decision that we would in our best efforts live off of water here on the land (even off of the ponds, if necessary), and let God provide as He deemed sufficient.

This year, the Lord in His wisdom has not sent the kind of rain we had last year. This affected not only our catch water, but seems to have our well also, in that, it mostly stopped working except for very little amounts. And so, with ourselves, our chickens, goats, pigs, and new fruit and nut trees (which apparently need to be watered pretty consistently their first year), we had pretty much only our catch water to sustain us (and thankfully Michael allowed the cows back onto his land for the pond that is there).

And so, with the well not working, and given the current amount of water we had, I decided that we had to "pull the plug" on watering the garden. Here is the garden a couple of months ago:




And here it is now:




This is what happens when you don't have water, which translated spiritually means that this is what happens when you don't have the living water that comes only from Christ: you die.


As the only catch-water we had was used and got lower and with the well mostly unavailable, it was an interesting time, as the water situation was pretty much constantly in the back of our minds.

However, the Lord is gracious and merciful! He began to replenish our catch-water system and has been faithful to provide for us so that we have been able to continue to live off of His direct provision. Our catch-water tank never ran dry, and we have been able to maintain ourselves, the animals and trees.

Since then too, God has granted us a new catch water source (about which we hope to post soon) that He has graciously filled with some water; and so, I thought that we might have water sources now to be able to try to water some of those garden plants still alive, and we did the other night using the well (which had quite a bit of water in it, given it hadn't been used in probably over a month).

The Lord is gracious in His provisioning, and we are grateful. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

-- David

Monday, July 14, 2008

Susan's Musin's: Journey Into Modesty - Breaking Up (with make-up) is Hard to Do

In the eyes of mainstream society and in my mind I wasn't one of those "natural" beauties growing up who didn't have to wear make-up to be attractive. In fact, I never had the courage to try this, but I would bet that if a woman who normally wears make-up to work didn't wear it one day, her co-workers would ask if she wasn't feeling well or if she was sick. Make-up is so ingrained in a girl's thinking and identity from the time she is very little, I never even considered that not wearing make-up was an acceptable option.

I wasn't a make-up fanatic growing up but generally did not leave the house without wearing the basics (foundation, cover-up, mascara, blush, eye liner and lipstick). I had a lot of acne in my teen years and even into my 30's, so I felt I "had" to wear cover-up on my complexion to feel comfortable in public. I also felt I had invisible eyes and "had" to have eye liner and mascara on, if nothing else.

When learning about modesty (see previous post) from the Bible (1 Timothy 2:9-10 - "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works"), I suddenly felt pretty silly to be wearing such simple clothing and then to be made up in the face. It was contradictory to what I had learned about modesty in general. I was sending very mixed signals, saying, "Hey, don't look at me......but do look at me!" So I started toning down the make-up, losing the foundation, and wearing more muted lipstick. Then I would only wear it when I went to town or when Dave and I would go out to dinner, etc.; and also when we visited family. Then I only wore a little bit of mascara, the last holdout, to make me feel less washed out looking and feeling "attractive." Finally, Dave asked me, "Who are you wearing that for?" I hemmed and hawwed, "Um, well, so I can look better when I'm seen with you in public." He said "Well, please don't feel you need to do it for me; I like you better with no make-up". To be honest, I cringed when he said that because deep down I knew I was clinging to wearing it for ME because I still wanted to look attractive to the world. I thought "Are you KIDDING me?!" How can you stand to be seen with a woman who looks so simple and plain?!" (Ugly was more the word I was thinking). "Don't you know all guys want to be seen with a woman who looks her best and wears make-up?!" And speaking of ugly, I had just uncovered the ugly truth that I had let a good portion of my identity and self worth be overtaken by how I looked in make-up. The identity to which I had become accustomed had been taken away. But then God graciously reminded me that I as a Christian woman am supposed to point people to Christ through my obedience to God's Word, not look attractive so God's Word will be attractive. I had to repeat over and over again, and still do, "Modesty, modesty, modesty, it's not about me, it's not about me, it's not about me....." Good grief, the flesh dies hard.

Over time though, it is becoming more and more a feeling of freedom not having to be reliant on and in bondage (of sorts) to make-up. And the natural beauty of the women here in our little neighborhood community really comes out in each smile and glow of their faces as they have replaced make-up with the true joy of the Lord, living in obedience to Him. I realize some of you may have rolled your eyes just then, but it's true.

The journey into modesty is really an inside/outside package deal that covers every aspect of who I am. And I haven't even written on the biggest issues yet! But I'm so thankful to God for even taking the time to reveal and teach me these things. One thing I have also learned is that understanding the principle behind something God has instructed in the Bible is KEY! I asked myself at the beginning of this journey, "Why does God require this modesty 'stuff'"? As we know, nothing in the Bible is there without purpose. I believe God requires modesty in all areas of the lives of Christian women because the flesh IS so strong and also as a constant reminder to us AND the heavenly realms that we are part of God's kingdom and not part of the world's kingdom, and we are to be different than the world and set apart to be known as God's children. It's really for our own good and to glorify God, which in reality is what it is all about (which is that underlying principle concept I just mentioned).

Susan

Friday, July 4, 2008

Root Cellar/Storm Shelter

Part of our long term outlook is to be able to store food long term. Apparently, people did that for lots of years without freezers and refrigerators; and apparently, they did that in some way by storing food underground where the temperature, which can affect food adversely, is consistently cooler. Also, the weather here includes the possibility of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. And so, we began to pursue building a root cellar/storm shelter.

Once again, I thought it was probably best to rent the backhoe so as to be able to remove quickly the quantity of dirt a room-size hole in the ground would contain:




Here is the dig in relation to the barn, generally. I had hoped to have the entrance to the root cellar sheltered so that if we needed to go into the root cellar during a hail storm we would be protected by the barn's North lean-to. However, the barn ended up needing to be constructed a little more away from the root cellar hole:




There comes a time though that the backhoe cannot reach all of corners and sides, and so the rest must be done by hand:




My idea initially was to build steel reinforced (rebar), concrete, cinder block walls. I was hoping to have a very long lasting, strongly built root cellar. Here, I laid out the foundation row in order to set forms to pour a concrete footer:




It appeared though the Lord had other plans. We were greatly blessed with an above-average rainfall last Spring. While that was great for the gardens, it wasn't so great for our root cellar project:



The walls caved in and buried just about all of what we had done thus far. It was a little difficult to watch; but we tried, with God's help, to maintain an attitude of trust in His will. And so the digging once again began.


By the time it was ready to go amidst all of the other projects on the land, it was around 6 months later. During that time, I had thought about the direction I was heading with the design of the root cellar; and decided that I would like to have something stronger, given the example of the caved-in dirt we had just experienced. At this point, I thought a concrete design would be best, and that we would build a slab for the cellar roof to allow for the construction of a building on top as the upper insulation for the root cellar. And so with that in mind, but again due to my lack in skills, I decided I might hire someone to pour it.

And so thus began once again the root cellar project.


They used steel beams for support and tin to support the roof:







In researching venting, I decided to put 4 inch PVP pipe in each corner, two high, two low, in opposite ends, to hopefully achieve convection if it got too hot in the root cellar:




Now comes the fun! Originally, the construction crew put X-braces between the walls in the root cellar to brace for the concrete, and 2 foot studs in the wall forms. And with that, the first concrete pour didn't go so well. In fact, they had to stop part way through because the walls were coming apart. They stopped, regrouped, and re-did all of the bracing, making a grid of braces this time, and placing the studs of the wall form at 16 inches:




And they tried again:






And by God's graces and mercies, they were successful!





All that was left were some steps to get down:





And a door:




Although this project took some 15 months to complete, we are thankful to the Lord for bringing us through the process He did, and we are grateful for the provision of the root cellar and storm shelter. May we all seek Jesus Christ and His righteousness alone as our only shelter from the storms of the wrath of God for our sin.

(Please see a root cellar/storm shelter update that discusses some other work we have done to help with water leaks.)

-- David