A Choice of Tools

My church is focusing this week on consecration. It’s horrifying how unconsecrated I can get without realizing it at all. Then I checked out a book of short stories by one of my favorite authors, Grace Livingston Hill, from the library. And what is the focus of the stories? Wholehearted devotion to Jesus.

Writing is a big part of me. I wrote this poem nearly five years ago, reminding myself why I love the written word so. With all the whirlwind of the writing industry, it is good for me to keep things in perspective.

Words are powerful; they have great potential for God’s glory. I don’t want to misuse them.

The pen, ’tis said, is mightier
Than sword or spear or dart.
Indeed, the sword can only kill:
The pen can soothe the heart.

The sword can serve but to destroy
The one opposing me;
The pen, howe’er, may make a friend
Out of my enemy.

So teach me, Lord, to use this tool
To glorify Your Name;
And let me write to bless mankind,
Not seeking worldly fame.

-Miss Darcy

He Knows Us

I’m helping with music for my church’s Vacation Bible School this year. It’s providing a lot of good, clean fun.

We (the music leaders) have learned six songs in a week, complete with hand motions that are–how shall we say?  Let’s call them fascinating. I have favorites. (And, yes, I have ones I don’t care for so much.)

But one of my favorites is about how Jesus knows us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He loves us in a way no one else can.

Yes, you’ve heard that before. I’ve heard that before. Nothing new.

But think over it again for a moment. Jesus knows me. He knows what makes me tick–even when I don’t know what makes me tick.

Of course He does. He made me.

What’s more, He loves me.

See, if Jesus knows me that well, that means He knows my ugliness.

The things you can’t see. The things I hide so carefully that maybe even my family, who rub shoulders with me every day, can’t see.

Jesus sees every thought, every action, every word that is wrong. He even sees the things I do or think that I don’t realize are wrong. (I know I have a blind spot somewhere. No telling how many. I’ll find them one day, God willing, and likely be horrified.)

And Jesus is holy. My ugliness must be much more repulsive to Him than to me.

Yet even with knowing all my faults, Jesus loves me.

That’s not to say that I can ignore my faults, or even that Jesus ignores my faults.

The wonder is that He loves me in spite of them.

When someone loves you that much, how can you not want to please them?

-Miss Darcy

The Grand Canyon

Three years ago tomorrow, I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time.

It is hard to find words to describe such a sight. It is indeed grand. If you haven’t seen it, search for some pictures online. They aren’t near the same as being there, but they’re pretty breathtaking.

I don’t use the word “awesome” lightly, but I apply it to the Grand Canyon. So here is the poem I wrote a few months after I saw this masterpiece of God’s creation.

My friend, approach with reverence,
With quietness, with awe,
For this is the Grand Canyon
Stretched out before you now.

It reaches on for miles
Of ruggedly carved cliffs,
Of layers, chasms, colors
That make this massive rift.

It tells of roaring waters
Of churning waves of mud:
To carve this awesome canyon
Required a mighty Flood.

Oh, this is a cathedral,
The open sky its dome,
The layered cliffs its pillars,
The quiet breeze its song,

The towering buttes its statues,
The stony ground its floor,
The rugged rocks its carvings,
Old trails its open door.

The minerals have painted
Their colors on the walls,
The golds and reds most vivid
When sunset on them falls.

The shadows add their patterns,
Bring out the violet hues.
Some obscure desert flowers
Their faint incense diffuse.

So please approach this presence
Respectfully, with awe.
Breathtaking view that this is
Deserves a reverent pause.

For this is God’s great temple
Designed to give Him praise.
It stands to shout His glory
As we with wonder gaze.

For years it stood here quiet,
Not lauded by man’s voice.
It bids us now, “Look upward,
Lift up your hearts, rejoice!”

-Miss Darcy

P.S.  Yes, I want to visit again one of these days. The poem doesn’t even mention the spectacular star-gazing the you can do at the Grand Canyon.

Lost in Hartford

For my sister Molly’s graduation trip last year, our whole family took a road trip to Prince Edward Island, Canada.  (Benefit of homeschooling:  the whole family enjoys the senior trips.  But I digress.)

On the way there, we wanted to visit the site of the Charter Oak in Hartford, Connecticut.  We arrived in downtown as the sun was descending, and we spent some time photographing the stunningly ornate Capitol building.  Then we spent some more time walking in the wrong direction, and we had to turn around.  Finally we made it to the stone monument that marked the place where the Charter Oak had stood. A stone pillar with metal plaque, which we photographed, right on the edge of the part of town that kind of gave you the creeps.

We made it back to the car, only mildly unnerved by a gang who rode by us on bicycles, glancing over their shoulders a time or two.  My sister Leah complained the whole walk about getting a blister on her heel (cowboy boots weren’t designed for sidewalk strolls), but nothing especially interesting happened.

Until we were in our minivan, riding back to the interstate.  Dad followed the signs and turned right.  The road forked almost immediately.  The left lane had “Bus Lane” painted on the asphalt, and a little sign to the side said, “Buses Only.” (Or something equally clear; I can’t remember the exact words.)

Inexplicably, Dad bore left at the fork. “But Dave,” Mom objected from the back seat, as I said, “I don’t think…”

Too late. We had taken the wrong lane.

Dad didn’t seem concerned as we drove between short, concrete walls with no highway in sight.  Until we approached a lighted building on our right–a bus stop.

“Wait, this isn’t the road!” Dad exclaimed, as we glided by, astonishing the few folks waiting at the bus stop.

As we’re busy getting nervous about how we’ll get out of here, and trying to explain to Dad how it happened, we see headlights behind us.  Yes, a bus.  We had a grand laugh imagining the driver’s reaction.

“What is this van doing on the bus line?  Oh, look at that license plate.  They’re from Georgia. They are lost.”

Which we certainly were. Dad drove straight on past another bus stop.  This time I took a good look at the people waiting.  One man lifted his head from studying at his phone and stared in blank surprise, following our van with his gaze.  (I can’t help laughing as I remember.  He was too surprised to frown or do anything other than stare.)

Anyway, the bus behind us halted at the stop, and we went on until we came to a place where a normal road crossed the bus line.  With no idea where we were, Dad turned right. We’d thought the monument was in a rough part of town.  This place looked worse.

“We are in the hood,” Dad announced, none too excited about the prospect. “We are lost in the Hartford hood.  I have no clue where we are. I don’t know how we’ll get out. We are so lost. We are totally lost.”

And, no, I’m not really exaggerating what he said.  His tone bordered on panic. (Did I mention it’s quite dark by now?)

Molly, our brave navigator, pulled out the cell phone to consult Google maps (which gave us fits the whole, livelong trip).  As she tried to figure out our location related to the interstate we needed, Mom said, “Turn right, here, Dave.”

“Honey, I have no idea where we are. We are completely lost.”

“I know. Just turn right.”

So he did.

“What’s that street ahead?” Molly looked between the street names and the map, trying desperately to locate us. (So we’re not the most techno-savvy family in the world, and we hadn’t discovered the phone’s built-in GPS yet. Molly was truly amazing, fighting with the maps.) “Okay, I think you turn left up here, and the highway should be nearby.”

We turned and, hurray!, a sign for the interstate exit.  We made it.

After Dad’s heart-rate returned to normal, and Mom and I explained again where we made the wrong turn, we all had a spectacular laugh.

“I wondered what was up with that exit ramp,” Dad said. “I thought, ‘Well, it doesn’t look like a normal exit, running along all by itself. This is interesting.’ And then I’m driving past the bus stop with folks looking at us like, ‘You ain’t the bus.'”

We reached our hotel a bit later than planned, but, hey. Not many folks can boast the experience of driving down a bus line in Hartford, Connecticut.  It wasn’t on my bucket list, naturally, but I’ll take nearly any adventure life offers.  I can’t tell you how hard we laughed.

I hope you laughed, too, because what’s the use of a funny story if you can’t make people laugh?

Yet I can’t resist adding a moral.  Dad was utterly convinced he was on the right road, but he was dead wrong.  It’s possible to be deceived. 

It’s good to evaluate your path once in a while–and I’m not talking about asphalt roads.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

-Proverbs 14:12 (NKJV)

In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.

-Proverbs 12:28 (NKJV)

-Miss Darcy

When I Think I Don’t Deserve This

Over three years ago, Mom read about an exercise program that sounded great. Many people reported stellar results, it only took half an hour a day, and the whole family could do it together. So Mom ordered the DVD, and we enthusiastically dove in.

No doubt about it, this was a workout; it left us covered in perspiration. For the basis of all the moves, we held an unusual position, but the instructor stressed the importance of this to prevent injury. Wow, was she right!

We did our best, but due to my mother’s complicated health issues, we dropped the program within two weeks. Several more weeks passed before I noticed something odd in my lower back. Turns out, I had developed a knotted muscle.

To make a long story short: after three years, it’s still there. A couple times the pain has been severe enough to bring me to the floor. Most of the time it lies dormant, flaring up when I least expect it, sometimes keeping me awake at night, and interfering with my activities. The respites between flare-ups are longer now, and the pain has grown much less intense. But despite multiple chiropractic treatments, the chiropractor tells me my back will always be weak in that spot.

I was eighteen when it started, way too young for an injury that will haunt my whole life. I wish I’d never heard of that exercise program.

And sometimes I’ve caught myself thinking, I don’t deserve this.

We hear a lot these days about “our rights” and what “we deserve.”

  • We deserve the best.
  • We deserve to do what we want with our lives.
  • We deserve lots of money and nice things.
  • We deserve to define who we are.

The list goes on: I’m sure you’ve heard it.

The dictionary defines deserve as, “to be worthy of: to merit.” And according to the Bible, we actually get far less than we’re worthy of.

We are worthy of hell.

Just to give us a working definition, hell is eternal torment and eternal separation from God. It only takes one sin to send us there. Take a peek at these Bible verses:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV).

The fact is we’ve all done wrong.

“For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 ESV).

Wages are what you get paid for your work; it’s what you fairly earned.

“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22 ESV).

Clearly, only my death could have paid for my sin.

But I don’t have to get what I deserve. Jesus embraced a horrible death that He certainly didn’t deserve so that He could justly give me eternal life. I love the rest of Romans 6:23:

“but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So, come to think of it, I really don’t want what I deserve.

I don’t want my wages. I want the gift.

This glorious gift of life in Christ, peace with God, and love from my Creator is way better than anything else I could ever desire. God is lavish with His gifts. He doesn’t hold back, eying me to see if I’m behaving well enough to merit His blessing. He just gives.

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NKJV)

In truth, I deserve absolutely nothing good. But Jesus died to rescue me from what I deserved. And besides the wonderful gift of salvation, God has showered me with countless other blessings. When I remember that, it makes the hard things ever so much smaller and easier to bear. Honestly, I still haven’t passed this class with honors. But surely with Christ’s strength, I can bear anything and do anything for the One who died to wash me clean.

So, yes, I am going to keep praying that God will heal me completely. Yet even if He says, “No,” I will choose to rejoice and be grateful for all God’s wonderful goodness. When He has been so good, how can I doubt His love just because He withholds something?

And who knows? Maybe even my sore back is a good thing in disguise.

Do you ever think you get more bad things than you deserve?
Does it sometimes seem like God isn’t being fair with His gifts?
Could a new perspective make a difference in the way you view your life?

I would absolutely love to read your thoughts in the comments!

-Miss Darcy

Five Lessons from JavaScript

Back this spring, I took two online classes in HTML and CSS, which are used to build websites.  To my great astonishment, I enjoyed them both.  So I thought I would go ahead and complete my web-building skills with a course in JavaScript.

JavaScript is a real programming language, different from HTML and CSS.  I met functions, variables, loops, arrays, objects, parameters (not to be confused with arguments), and other, more complicated friends of JavaScript.  Friends such as JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) and AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript And XML).  Not to mention other ‘libraries’ like JQuery and Handlebars.  Highly interesting in a frustrating kind of way.

So as not to make the story too painful, we’ll just say I procrastinated.  The night of my deadline I was up until midnight, trying to get my JavaScript application up and running.  My wonderful Mama stayed up with me as I nearly went crazy.  The code was giving me fits, and, dramatic though it may seem, it felt like the screen was closing in on me, making a tunnel with several passages, and my brain was getting lost.

In the end, I submitted a half-finished project, though I did get a good score on the final exam.  But the horrid programming language still haunted me.  While reading a novel the next day–a novel, mind you–I ran across the word ‘variables.’  Oh, please, don’t mention variables!  I know it sounds ridiculous, but my chest tightened when I read that word.  And it happened again with, of all things, a guitar chord:  something like ‘Dsus(4)’ which looked just a little too much like calling a function and passing in an argument.  And you’d think I could get away from it on vacation, but no.  The dish soap that confronted me is called AJAX!  I mean, really, everywhere I look something reminds me of JavaScript. 

Of course, it wasn’t all bad.  I did learn a good deal about programming, my instructor was great, and now I can sort of understand Daddy when he discusses his work with me, which I love.  The fact is, I could have done better if I had thrown more study-time at it.  And believe it or not, JavaScript can teach life-lessons.

  1. Don’t procrastinate.  You’ll never get anything done if you don’t do it, and putting it off till the end will drive you nuts.  Besides, you can’t expect to do your best work when you’re stressed by time.
  2. Feeling like you failed isn’t fun.  Actually, I found it harder to handle than I thought I would.  I didn’t really fail, I suppose, but I didn’t give it my best.  I could have conquered that thing, but I settled for only surviving.
  3. Don’t be too proud, or too scared, to ask for help.  My instructor would have gladly helped me more if I had simply asked more questions and explained my difficulties to him.
  4. I’m not cut out to be a full-time programmer.  I just don’t like it well enough.  It’s all right, or would be if I mastered it, but I would not like to make a career out of it.
  5. Jesus knows JavaScript.  It was wonderful to discover for myself that no matter how ‘modern’ my problem may be, Jesus can handle it.

I can’t honestly call the experience fun, but it was good for me.  And–who knows?–maybe one of these days I’ll try it again.  Maybe. 

Anyhow, I ought to get some enjoyment out of it.  If I ever have a son whom I wish to name Jason, I’m spelling it without the a–Json.

-Miss Darcy

In Limbo

I’ve spent a good portion of my life in limbo.  You know, that stage where you know something is going to change but it hasn’t yet, and you feel as if you’ve hoisted the anchor but there’s no wind.  You’re in-between something, and you’re not sure how to handle it.

When I was five, my family went on a weekend vacation while our bathroom was remodeled.  We came home to studs.  No walls, no flooring, no sink.  Thanks to rotted floorboards in other places and wiring that made the electrician say, “You cannot have used that switch for that light,” more than a year passed before we moved back home.  We stayed in four different places.

Four years later, we moved to the next county.  After six months, we moved to the next state.  Jumping from Georgia to Alabama was fun for me, an adventure; leaving what you knew for ten years does hurt, though.  And it soon became apparent that even though we bought a house in our new state, we wouldn’t be staying.  So I tried my hardest to protect myself against the coming transplant by not putting down roots.  This wasn’t entirely fruitless, but you can’t completely distance yourself from the place you spend five years — and it was a pleasant place to live.

Well, the five years gone found us back in Georgia.  We’re settled this time, we say.  We won’t be leaving:  too much money lost, too much time has slipped away.  Oh, no, we’re staying.

And you know what happened?  I don’t really care if we stay or not.  Somewhere in the moving back, which didn’t turn out to be all I expected, I lost that deep need to be firmly established somewhere.  Sure, I’ll always be attached to beautiful northeast Georgia;  but I’ll be attached to bustling Huntsville, Alabama, too; and I’ll learn to love anywhere else life might take us.  Although I do want to settle one day, I can move again; no problem.

But what I didn’t lose is the feelings that come with limbo.  The threat of a move is not the only thing that can put you in limbo.  Any coming change can.  And I know that, yet again, I’m facing change.  I’m excited.  But it won’t happen right away.  I’m in limbo.

What does that mean?  It means at the first knowledge of change, I feel panic.  I want out, away, end of this current situation, even though the next step isn’t clear.  Just let me go.  Let me lose myself in my own world until the next adventure arrives prepackaged.  But of course, it doesn’t work that way.  What would be the point anyway?  So I pray, and give it a few days, and the feeling passes.  And I’m back to the peaceful view of “Let come what will, Jesus will bring me through.  Meantime, I have plenty of stuff to do.”  I’ll likely have times I drop back to the panic, but I’ll recover.

This chapter will close when God writes the last word.  Then He’ll turn the page, I’ll scramble to catch up, and we’ll be off to something else.  There’s a song that my sisters started practicing before the latest limbo began:  While I’m Waiting.  It encourages me.

I can and will serve Jesus while I’m waiting.  I can and will still worship Him.  He’s ever so good.

And He gives me plenty of interesting things to do!

-Miss Darcy

Baby-sitting

Sometimes big girls pretend, too,
Romanticizing daily tasks.

Four sick children, three boys and a girl,
In my care for a day.
I don’t drink coffee much
But the oldest boy wants to make some
And I haven’t a good enough reason
To tell him no.
My sister tells me I will spoil my children.

Breakfast time:
Eggs? Oatmeal? Both?
I scramble eggs with a small boy
Clinging to my back.
My sister says I will spoil my children.

Everyone dressed, out to ride bikes
And explore and pick flowers,
With a lesson in road safety.
“Miss Darcy, can we go to your house?”
“We’ll wait till this afternoon.”
Back inside to play
Hide-and-seek.
Dishes in the kitchen want attention.
The keyboard plays music,
“If You’re Happy and You Know It,”
Over and over again.
So I sing and clap and stomp my feet,
To the children’s delight and surprise,
With a dish towel in my hands.

The little girl colors,
The boys play with toys.
Soon we’re cutting hearts
From paper napkins.
One napkin becomes a cootie-catcher
To nip little toes
And kiss little noses.
“Miss Darcy, can we go to your house?”
“Not till a while after lunch.”

Pizza for lunch.
“No, not just bread-sticks.”
Then, next thing to punishment–
Quiet time for an hour.
The Food Network for background noise,
“Not so loud, please, boys.”
Baby sleeps at last.
I read a book to the others softly.
We watch the minute hand on my wristwatch
As it slowly ticks off the time.
Blocks are quiet toys,
But a little sharing must be enforced.
“Miss Darcy, can we go to your house now?”
“We will go after Chris wakes up.”

Parents home early.
“But I promised we would go to my house.”
“No problem; they can go.”
Only Anna comes.
At my house she paints
With watercolors
A picture for our wall.
I paint her fingernails
And carry her back home.
My sister insists I will spoil my children.

I’m paid for this, of course;
Extravagantly, too.
But my reward goes far beyond:
Four precious small lives
Impressing themselves on mine.
I would not trade today
For a week of fashionable fun.
Because this is real life,
Eternity-touching life.
Priceless.

And I will not spoil my children.
I will love them, love them, love them.
Love never spoiled anyone.

-Miss Darcy

Once Upon a Time

Yes, of course the title’s cliché.  But I like the way the phrase dances off my tongue, the way it sounds when it plays in my mind, and the limitless panorama it paints in my imagination.  It’s a good old way to start a story.  So…

Once upon a time, a girl named Darcy lived in an average house in a rural part of Northeast Georgia.  She loved to play with words and music.  She had about a dozen fictional stories spinning in her head, and every now and then the Lord gave her a new song.  She had been observing people for longer than she could remember, thinking over their lives afterward.  She was probably a romantic at heart, but not a hopeless romantic because she had a strong dose of practicality to go with it.  She thought it would be fun to start a weblog to scribble about her life and other topics that popped into her head and wanted to be talked over.  Most particularly she wanted everything she wrote to be pleasing to her Lord.

My life is a story, and I’ve never accused it of being boring.  Oh, yes, a particular day may seem mundane, but taken as a whole my story has collected everyday adventures just fine.  My story is intertwined closely with many other people’s, and still others have left a word or a paragraph or a chapter of their story in mine.  It is so very interesting to think about.  I know that the Lord has my story safely in His hands, and I’m excited to see what He writes next.  I never want to steal the pen.

Perhaps my story will only be interesting to me, and that’s okay, too.  But I hope someone finds it a blessing to eavesdrop on my thoughts–the ones I don’t mind sharing.

Miss Darcy