Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.


You're Never Too Young to Consider Your Epitaph

Artwork from yesterday: Uncle Mel's epitaph verse
Yesterday I sat before the coffin of my Great-Great-Uncle Melvin, a man who watched kamikaze pilots dive for the deck of his ship during WWII and providentially miss. A man who graduated high school even after his father left him to make his way in the world as a hired farm hand--at 12 years of age. A man who did everything from pastoring to jet engine testing. A man who celebrated 100 years of life just a few months ago, and, when he realized his memory was failing, decided that meant he needed to memorize more Scripture. A man who read a chapter of the Bible every day of his life. A man who wanted his epitaph to list not his accomplishments, but what was accomplished in him: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

100 years--and he lived them so faithfully. As a 26 year old sitting before his coffin, beginning my race as he crossed the finish line, I had to ask myself if I was on track to being the kind of 100 year old that Uncle Mel was. Because I want to be. And as a young person, it is easy to get bogged down in daily, seemingly important goals and forget the marathon goal: if God grants me old age, I want to be an old woman who still faithfully loves and follows Jesus. 100 years puts things into perspective.

So here are the top lessons I've learned from my 100 year old Uncle Mel:

1. Unabashedly love the people God puts in your life.

He was my Great-Great-Uncle, and the only Great-Great-Uncle I even ever knew. He could have categorized me as a distant niece whom he was fine with seeing now and again at family reunions, yet he and Aunt Ina and his whole family chose to invest in my family and treated me with such love each time we were together that he made me feel precious to him. He was not stingy with his love...he loved wholeheartedly and unabashedly. He risked relationships even when he might get nothing out of them. He went out of his way for people, because he loved whomever God had him cross paths with.

2. Bitterness is not worth it.

His father, for various reasons, moved to the East Coast when Uncle Mel was a young boy and started a new family. Uncle Mel had every reason to indulge bitterness at his father, yet when as a man he heard his father was dying, he scrounged gas ration coupons to drive cross-country to make sure his father heard the Gospel before he died.

Uncle Mel's mother died when he was young, and two of his brothers died one right after the other just when WWII was ending, and he could have shaken his fist at God and lived a shriveled life of anger. I have met wizened old men who chose just that path. But not Uncle Mel. He trusted and loved God implicitly, and although I'm sure he walked the valley of grief in a real and human way, he never allowed his heart to be walled in with bitterness. He chose forgiveness and trust instead.

3. Spend time with God every day.

While in the Navy in WWII, his destroyer took part in the Battle of Okinawa. Uncle Mel had no idea if he would survive from one day to the next. But one day during that time he made a promise to God that if he did survive, he would read a chapter of the Bible every day of his life. And by all accounts from his son {who heard this story as a young boy while watching him read the Bible} to his son-in-law {who watched him in the last years of his life reading each day}, he was faithful to that promise. And not as a ritual that he was compulsively bound to, but because he truly loved his Jesus and wanted that precious time with Him each day. As a result, the Gospel was profoundly important to him, and even through his death the Gospel was preached and souls were saved!

I rejoice that Uncle Mel is in Heaven, and I thank God that I had a spiritual giant like him in my life for as long as I did. It may take me 100 more years to implement all the lessons I learned from him, but I honestly cannot think of a better life goal than that.


Definitely Maybe

"Maybe" is a difficult word for me.

"Definitely yes": I can plant myself deep in that solid ground, entwine my life around that anchor, and write it in permanent marker on my calendar.

"Ain't gonna happen": I can loosen my grip on the dream, rent a U-Haul to move out of that plan, and pull out the white-out to erase it from my memory.

But "maybe" is another story. Do I turn the page or not? Do I plant deeply or not? {Because spring is on its way and I need to know now...} And when do I pull out the permanent marker versus the eraser?

Yesterday the maybes were eating away at my thoughts. They were a tumble that was rapidly turning into an avalanche. "I can't decide this until I know this, and I can't know that until I figure out the other, and I can't know the other until..." It was an avalanche of unrest and disquiet until God reminded me that  I do have a lifeline: "Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." {I Peter 5:7}

So I wrote two columns for 2017: "Maybes" and "Definites."

I filled in the columns and sat back, surprised. I was surprised by how few maybes there really were. And I  was shocked to stare at them in black and white and realize this: they were all enjoyable possibilities, but I was letting the possibility of not enjoying them steal my joy. Not only that, but I knew I couldn't do all of them and couldn't choose between them, yet I had been expending fruitless energy in worrying that God would make a mistake in choosing which things should define my year. So instead of being defined by my definites, I was trying to define my life by my maybes, and the result was an avalanche of anxiety.

The definites, on the other hand, the things I can write in permanent marker, were far more crucial than the maybes:
I will definitely not find the end of God's love this year.
Jesus will definitely not leave me.
God is definitely sanctifying and refining me.

It was a simple exercise of pen and ink, but truth was suddenly illumined.  If God has given me such solid, anchoring, permanent definites, then why don't I trust Him to define the maybes? In what universe does it make sense to let anxiety over the possibility of missing a maybe steal from the joy I could be relishing now because of the definites?

And at what point do I let anxiety over the maybes define my life? I say definitely never. Instead, I will plant myself in the love of God, anchor my soul in His faithfulness, and broadcast in permanent marker that He is good! Because He definitely is.

“Maybe:(,” © 2012 Priscila Tonon Ramos, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license:


Sherbet Cupcakes

Hello, my name is Mikaela, and I still write and blog...occasionally...every so often...sometimes. Oh dear! How do all you mommy bloggers do it? For five months, I've been thinking about posting a delicious cupcake recipe, but today is the day, my friends! Sarah, my best friend, flew out here over Easter (yes! I said Easter!) for a visit. We got to introduce Liam to her for the first time (definitely the highlight), show her the DC cherry blossoms, spend Easter together, tour a DC art museum, and make cupcakes!

I'm delighted to add another cupcake recipe to my arsenal--especially this one. We knew we wanted to do a bi-flavor fruit cupcake, and it was I who suggested grapefruit, and Sarah who thought of blueberry. We altered a recipe to suit our needs and ended up with an incredible cupcake--my favorite so far, actually!

Here on One Bright Corner, I'm presenting the recipe for the grapefruit flavor, but you'll have to click over to Sarah's blog The Lord's Lass, to get the recipe for the blueberry flavor (her post will be live on Monday)! They are the exact same recipe base, just with the flavor ingredients changed. I'll also show you how to combine both batters into each cupcake to make a beautiful two-tone, two-flavor cupcake, and I've got an incredible icing recipe (It's so fluffy I could die!) that we came up with after altering another recipe.

Please note: Just the grapefruit recipe will make about a dozen cupcakes (and it's brilliant by itself if you don't want the bother of two flavors!), but if you combine it with the blueberry recipe, as it's meant to be, then you'll have 2 dozen cupcakes. The icing recipe is meant to frost two dozen cupcakes, so keep that in mind depending on what you need!

Grapefruit Cupcakes

1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup tapioca starch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 eggs
1/3 cup grapefruit juice (approximately half of one grapefruit)
2 - 3 tablespoons grapefruit zest
4 drops grapefruit essential oil, optional (but really brings out the grapefruit flavor! Make sure it's one safe for ingestion; I use Young Living)
2 - 4 drops red food coloring, optional
1/2 cup 2% milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 12 -cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the brown rice flour, coconut flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt. Whisk until well combined, and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and coconut oil together with an electric mixer on medium speed. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until a thick, smooth yellow mixture forms.
  4. Combine the grapefruit zest, grapefruit juice, and grapefruit essential oil and food coloring (if using) with the milk in a small bowl. (The milk will thicken and "curdle" somewhat--this is normal.) Add half of the milk mixture to the egg mixture, and beat on low speed until just combined. Add half of the flour mixture and beat just until combined. Repeat with the  remaining milk and flour mixtures. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. If you are making two-toned, two-flavored cupcakes, use a cupcake divider placed in the middle of the muffin
    cup, and fill one side with one batter and one side with the other batter. Slide the divider out and repeat with each muffin cup!
  5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cupcakes spring back when the tops are pressed or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the muffin tin and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Fluffy Grapefruit Icing

Makes 3 Cups
2 large egg whites
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon grapefruit zest plus 1/4 cup juice
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
  1. Combine egg whites, sugar, juice, and corn syrup in bowl of stand mixer and set bowl over medium saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water (do not let bottom of bowl touch water).
  2. Cook, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved and mixture registers 160 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove bowl from heat.
  3. Fit stand mixer with whisk and whip egg white mixture on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and continue to whip until mixture has cooled to room temperature and stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes longer, adding zest, butter, and powdered sugar during the last minute of whipping.

I hope you enjoy these scrumptious cupcakes (without frosting, we called them muffins and ate them for breakfast)! Do let me know if you decide to make them! Since the time I've made these (and the pictures were taken), Liam has progressed to crawling and now (as of five days ago) walking. He's a big one-year old and the most delightful, cheerful guy you've ever met! Perhaps a Liam update is in order next.

Cupcake Party: Chocolate Edition

Lauren's Double Peanut Butter Chocolate
Sarah's Chocolate Chunk Lava Fudge
Mikaela's Hazelnut Mocha

Cupcake Party: Savory Edition

Lauren's Spinach Feta
Mikaela's Cupcakes & Croutons 
Sarah's Carrot Ginger Coconut Muffins 

Cupcake Party: Flower Edition

Lauren Hearts Lavender Chocolate

Sarah Tastes The World Through Rose-Flavored Cupcakes


What I Would Tell My Younger Self

Cherish the old.

Love the sun-fading on your quilt that speaks of sunny days stored up for Winter's chill.
Smile at the bent pages of your Bible that has fed your soul so many times.
Value the tell-tale wrinkles around the eyes that reveal someone's habitual smile.
Appreciate the outdated technology that encourages you to live real life.
Enjoy that annoying quirk because someday you will give anything to have that person annoy you one more time.
Return to the song that was the soundtrack to so many valleys and mountaintops.
Make that same-old recipe that is somehow just as good as when you were five.
Treasure who you have because they are yours.

The constant pursuit of the next new thing becomes a pursuit of newness itself. It is frivolous, fruitless, and deeply unsatisfying.

Embracing the old for contentment's sake transforms the shabby into the loved, the repetitive into the comforting, the not-good-enough into the simple joy, the despised into the treasured.

"For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content." Philippians 4:11

“One Big Circle- Day 05,” © 2012 Steven Worster, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license:
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Was Jesus an Introvert or an Extrovert?

I remember the first time a friend enlightened me as to the definition of an introvert: "It means you get your energy and recharge from being by yourself."

I had never heard the concept explained so simply before, and the definition definitely described me. I was fascinated, and I soon noticed this topic cropping up everywhere. In the beginning I chalked it up to the phenomenon that occurs when you learn something new and inevitably the new word stalks you from radio shows and bumper stickers and sky-writing. But as a few years have passed since that first discovery, one would think the phenomenon would pass too, but instead I have noticed two ever-increasing trends:
{scientific statistics alert}

1. A whole lot of people whom I would have dubbed extroverts actually called themselves introverts. And...
2. A whole lot of people in general like to talk about this topic at length. In fact, if you have a self-described introvert who won't make conversation about anything else, simply bring up the topic of introversion, and you will be hard pressed to change the subject. 

Understanding personality types has helped me understand others' perspectives and shape my responses in some very effective ways, but I began to wonder: We're talking about it a lot, but does the Bible have anything to say about introverts and extroverts? Is one more godly than the other? Is all this focus on personality really good or is there a limit to the benefits of navel-gazing?

Fast-forward to another conversation with a different friend, and as I was beginning to ask these questions of myself, I asked her if she were an introvert or an extrovert. She declined to classify herself as either, saying simply that she was trying to avoid a self-focus, and couldn't help but see the wisdom in her response. 
So is there any redeeming value in learning about your personality tendencies? I turned to God's Word, and here is what I discovered:

1. We are uniquely different, but united in glorifying God.
Personality groupings are helpful, but ultimately fall short.

Whether you're an INFP or an AARP, it feels good to belong and fit in with a group of people who "get" you. I know the feeling! It's not wrong to seek commonalities with those around you, but you have to realize that any grouping is ultimately simplistic. Even experts on the subject will readily agree to the fact that these types are generalizations. 

The truth is that God has created us all unique {Psalm 139:16, 1 Peter 4:10-11}, with subtle differences in our personalities and perspectives, our strengths and weaknesses. These differences cannot be wholly grasped by a personality test, helpful though it may be.

And although we are all different, whenever the Bible speaks of gifts or strengths, it speaks of using them for the unified purpose of glorifying God. So if I box myself into the type of an introvert and tell myself that because of my introversion it is fine to not push my comfort zone, I am missing the whole point and indulging in the self-focus my friend mentioned. Selfishness was a nagging problem I had with this whole topic as it is my weakness and can be the weakness of the personality-obsessed as well. "Discover your personality, not so you can better serve God, but so you can keep yourself happy and satisfied."

2 Timothy 3:2 prophesies that "men will be lovers of themselves" in the last days. Feeding my desires for introverted comfort can definitely lead to becoming a lover of self just as feeding extroverted desires could lead to being a man-pleaser. Those are the extremes, I grant you. But here's the bottom line: we were created to glorify God {Isaiah 43:7}, and any understanding of personality type is only helpful as far as it aids in that purpose. Which brings me to the next thing I've learned...

2. We are new creations when we are saved, and all things have become new.
Personality tendencies can be insightful, but should not be used as an excuse.

Are personalities too sacred to be sanctified? Not according to 2 Corinthians 5:17: " Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."

K.B. Napier writes,"Man cannot alter his own personality, it is argued, because his personality and 'drives' are inborn and handed-down by evolution. Any defects, nasty as some of them are, must just be accepted as they appear in each individual. This idea runs through much of our social sciences and it is unfortunately expressed by the majority of Christians. And it is wrong. People become new creatures when they are saved....The change of personality by the Holy Spirit is not an option for special types of Christian.  It is required of us all, by God."

Thankfully, God's principles and commands in Scripture provide balance to our lives and personalities. Knowing that I want to be alone when I'm tired or not cram every day full of activity is a helpful insight to not burning myself out. But I have to understand that sometimes these desires turn selfish. God doesn't call me to take the road of ease or least stress, but He does call me to obey Him even when it is the last thing I want to do. 

So if a friend or family member needs help, and I find my blood pressure rising because I was just about to have some "me" time, I have two options: I can use my "introvert" status as an excuse, or I can realize that I am now at the end of myself and my strength, and turn to the power of the Holy Spirit like I should have been doing all along. 

With the right perspective, insight into my natural weaknesses and strengths can actually help me mature in Christ {Mt. 26:41, 1 Cor. 1:27}, but it does not give me a free pass to ignore certain commands of God because they go against my personality. And whether I am an introvert or an extrovert, above all as a Christian I am wholly a new creation in Christ! 

3. Understanding how Jesus related to God and others can help us think Biblically about our personalities.
Neither being introverted nor extroverted is automatically more godly, but both can have this weakness in common: looking to man for fulfillment.

So was Jesus an introvert or an extrovert?
Asking this question revealed a much deeper answer than I was expecting! Matthew 14:23 provides a great example of what was a habitual occurrence in Jesus' life: " And when {Jesus} had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there."

Jesus spent time with the multitudes, and just that word "multitudes" challenges the introverted me.
But there came a time in His day when He sent them away, a difficulty for the extroverts out there.
However, it was what He did in that alone time that is key: He didn't look within, and He didn't look to others; He looked to His Father in Heaven.

So there you have it.
Introverts, we like to look in.
Extroverts, they tend to look out.
Believers need to look up.

“Recharging Danbo Power,” © 2013 Takashi Hososhima, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license:
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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