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


I Want All the Books!

I vividly remember the day that a book first captivated me. Mama sat me down, handed me Little House in the Big Woods, and told me to read for an hour. I was less than thrilled, not sure what the "big woods" were all about, but certain that the "big words" would be dry and dull. Several hours later I had to be pried from the pages, and I was hooked for life. 

So in the spirit of sharing this passion with you, today I am answering a book-lover's tag! (I compiled the questions from several different sources.)
1. Name a book you’re embarrassed to say you haven’t read yet.
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis.  Somehow, someway, I have read every other Narnia book except for this one...

2. What is the strangest thing you’ve ever used as a bookmark?
The receipt for the book itself.

3. Look at your bookshelf. What’s the first book you see with a yellow spine?
My beautiful Anna-Bond-illustrated edition of Heidi.
4. If you could have one new book from a deceased author, who would it be?
This is difficult, but I will choose Jane Austen. I still haven't read all of her books, as I am legitimately concerned about my mental state when I finish the final page of her final book and realize I have to go the rest of my life without a new Jane Austen. So I resort to rationing myself to an Austen a year and admitting that I am a weird book nerd.

5. Name an author who deserves more readership.
G.K. Chesterton, without a doubt. Have you read his books? If not, get thee to a bookstore or library and pick up The Man Who Was Thursday!

6.  Bookmark or random piece of paper?
I want to be a bookmark person, I really do. But most of the time I resort to a random piece of paper (or receipt, as the case may be!).

7. Can you stop anywhere in a book or do you have to finish the chapter?
Anywhere is fine unless the chapters are quite short.

8.  One book at a time or several?
Always several!  Currently reading: The Innocence of Father Brown and The Book That Made Your World.

9.  Do you read ahead or skip pages?
Gasp. Is skipping allowed?

10.  Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?
Keep it like new as long as possible!

11. What books do you regret reading?
The Light that Failed by Rudyard Kipling. It was one of those books that you keep trudging through, sure that it cannot get any worse, and that after the main character loses his childhood sweetheart, goes blind, and finds his last masterpiece destroyed by a bitter servant there must be some redeeming ending. But then he died in his best friend's arms, and I was angry at Rudyard Kipling for a year.

12. On average, how many books do you read per year?
I don't really know. Up to 30, I would guess.

13. What book can you read hundreds of times and never get tired of?
The Scarlet Pimpernel--It is the best adventure/mystery tale ever!

14. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from a book?
I read the old book Ester Ried when I was 11, and it played a huge part in my maturing process from a baby Christian to a dedicated Christ-follower.  It made me realize that I could be sleep-walking through life without even realizing it, stagnant and unfruitful while thinking that I was fine. This book woke me up to the reality of living for Christ daily.

15. What is the most recent book you’ve read?
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. I only decided to trust Kipling again because I wanted to read the original story before I watched the new movie, and I actually very much enjoyed it!

16. What quote from any book will you never forget? Why is it significant?
“In all they said, in their actions, in their looks, in their persons, could be detected a soft spot, the place of decay, the determination to lounge safely through existence.” -Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim
The book itself was very forgettable, but this quote has stuck with me as a challenge, for I never want this to be true of me.

17. How many books do you own?
Hold on...3 hours later...a total of only 218 books. "Hi, I'm Lauren, and I'm addicted to real books. Kindle just won't cut it."

18. Of the past year, what is the greatest book you’ve read?
The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi. Although I am not quite done reading this tome, it is one of those books that I find myself constantly bringing up in conversation or referencing in my own mind as I observe culture around me. It is a truly amazing read by an incredible man from India who challenges the West from the perspective of someone from the East, saying, "The Bible created the modern world of science and learning because it gave us the Creator's vision of what reality is all about. That is what made the modern West a reading and thinking civilization. Postmodern people see little point in reading books that do not contribute directly to their career or pleasure. This is a logical outcome of atheism, which has now realized that the human mind cannot possibly know what is true and right. This book is being published with a prayer that it will help revive a global interest in the Bible and in all the great books."

So let's start a revival of global interest in all the great books together! If you are a fellow book-lover, I would greatly enjoy hearing your answers to these questions! So comment below with your thoughts or do the tag on your blog and comment with the link so I can get some new book ideas.

Now, if you don't mind, I think I have some books to read!


Single Identity

I recently shared my testimony with a special group of women, and now I am posting a portion of it here in hopes it might bless someone else!
I was actually quite content to be single all through my teens.  But there came a day in my early twenties when a good friend told me out of the blue that she had begun a courtship, and suddenly my "contentment" evaporated. It was very easy for me to think that I was content and happy with my singleness until He gave others relationships. And, like the child whining because a sibling got a bigger scoop of ice cream, I started to feel sorry for myself, wondering, "Why does she get to get married and I don't?" And it was then that the first lie about singleness began to creep into my thinking and subtly affect how I viewed myself.

Lie #1: This lie says that if marriage is a gift from God, then it is inherently unfair that I am doing what is right and still am not married.

If I indulge this attitude I am loving God only for what I can get from Him, not for Himself. I am saying that the reward for my righteousness is whatever makes me happy--like marriage--and if I don't get it, then life is not fair!

Truth #1: The reward for righteousness is God Himself, and salvation. 

If I remain single my whole life that doesn't mean that I didn't win the prize--because the prize is Christ! If I have Him in singleness or in marriage, I have enough.

Lie #2: I am not married because I am not good enough. 

Not beautiful enough, not interesting enough. Or I'm too introverted, too much of a book worm, or too conservative. This is not only a lie of Satan, but it was a huge warning sign that I had placed my identity in what others thought of me, not in my position in Christ. If you have struggled with falling for this lie, it may be a warning sign of a misplaced identity in your life as well. Many women of the world also recognize these thoughts as lies, but they respond with equally as empty proclamations of feminism. 

Truth #2: Only God defines my worth.

The truth is that I was expecting marriage to validate that I was worthy of being loved: I was making marriage my god, and I was unsatisfied, for only God defines my worth.
There are so many amazingly encouraging verses I could share, but I will just share this one that tells me that God chose before the foundations of the world to adopt me. 

Ephesians 1:3-6 " Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved."

My value is not found in what others think of me: if it were, I would be sunk! It is not even found in my own righteousness, for my righteousness is no cleaner than filthy rags! My identity, whether in this stage of singleness, or possibly in marriage in the future, is found in my position in Christ.

Although part of my purpose right now is preparing myself with the qualities and skills a wife and mother would need to have, those are characteristics any godly woman should have! But my purpose also includes living for Christ now. Being content with what I have now. Being a servant now. Don't wait for "later" or for a magical wedding day to jumpstart your life! 

God brought me through this identity change several years ago, and when I realized that my place of singleness is not just a waiting around time but is actually God's best for me right now, I was able to then discover that God has a purpose for this time in my life.  The amazing providential thing is that at that point when I was learning contentment I never could have dreamed that in just a year or so my contentment would be tested in an even bigger way.  

I went from having friends begin relationships to having my identical twin sister and best friend starting a courtship, getting married, and moving across the continent.  I am so grateful to look back now and see that before that happened God was preparing me to trust in Him, to take Him as my reward, to find my worth in Him, to rest in His will for me, and to identify myself by my relationship with Him, not my relationship status.  When I truly accepted and believed who I am in Christ and that this time of my life is His very best for me right now, it made going through all of those life changes so much easier!

The beauty and mystery of each of our life stories will come into focus only from the vantage point of eternity.  For then we will realize that even the God-ordained relationship of marriage is only temporary, and that when I stand before Him in Heaven I will be accepted as part of His Bride, the church.  And that is my beautiful and true identity!

P.S.To read about a third and fourth lie we can be tempted to believe about singleness, check out these posts:
Single Jesus
The Myth of the No Man's Land Between Childhood and Marriage

“I Spy,” © 2011 Flood G, 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.


Purposeful Easter

I ponder traditions a bit more, now that it's up to Joel and me to make them happen! Easter has so many fun traditions (dyeing Easter eggs, receiving Easter baskets, enjoying church breakfasts, and gathering with family and friends), but I especially cherish the more meaningful moments that point me back to Christ and His resurrection.

{1} Good Friday Service

Growing up, Ron and Sandi (my grandparents in everything but blood relation) always took my siblings and I to a community-wide, midday Good Friday service. This is such a beautiful tradition, because it helps me to slow down and pause on Good Friday. In the midst of busy Easter preparations, it's a time to contemplate the sorrow and suffering my Savior endured on my behalf.

{2} Resurrection Cookies

Find the recipe here, which guides you through making meringue cookies in which each ingredient symbolizes an event in the arrest, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. 

{3} Resurrection Eggs

I love how easy these eggs make it to focus on Christ's sacrifice for us in the days leading up to Easter Sunday! Each adorable egg has a miniature object inside representing a part of the story. Children love opening the eggs and finding the treasure inside! I saw them at Hobby Lobby this year, but you can also order them online

{4} Easter Garden

My Mom makes a lush miniature garden every year, usually incorporating hyacinths and pansies into her recreation of the tomb scene. Easter morning brought the excitement of waking up to find the stone had been rolled away--and the tomb was empty! Learn how to make one here and here

{5} Passion Play

Attending a local play is such a great way to refocus on the agony of Holy Week and the joy and hope of Easter Sunday!

{6} A Graveyard Walk

We're planning to begin this tradition this year, made all the more convenient by the fact that we live mere blocks from a 150 year-old cemetery which holds more than 34,000 graves. Cemeteries are sobering places, but did you ever consider how Jesus' disciples and followers spent a good deal of time tombside on the day Christ rose from the dead? Seeing so many markers representing so many souls now absent from their physical bodies is also a reminder of how our Lord conquered death--and the victory Easter brings to every person who trusts in Jesus Christ as his Savior!

What are your Easter traditions? I'd love to hear them!

Past Easter Celebrations:

Good Friday Blog Posts:

Photo Credit


What Would You Do for $13 Million?

Yesterday I learned of a baseball player who made a decision that is inciting both controversy and passion, and I am fascinated.  Adam LaRoche is a White Sox player who I (an admittedly sports-illiterate person!) had never heard of before I read this article.  But as I read I was inspired by this man who brought his son to baseball practice every single day.  His 14 year old son would clean cleats, help out, and just watch his dad, and last year the Chicago Tribune dubbed him the team's "26th man." 

But recently, Adam's boss gave him an ultimatum: he had to reduce or eliminate the days he brought his son in with him. (After all, the boss reasoned, where else can you bring your son in to work with you?) Adam LaRoche chose to retire early, losing out on $13 million dollars left in his contract.


The story is still unfolding, but nevertheless I am blown away by what his decision proclaims to the world. After all, this is not an issue of right or wrong.  It would certainly not be morally wrong to simply reduce the number of days his son came with him.  But Adam faced a choice, and he knew his decision would send a clear message of who or what he valued. 

If Adam had allowed the promise of personal gain to keep his son home, he would have been admitting to his son what really mattered to him and what really controlled him.  He would have been saying that he prioritized his son when nothing better was on the horizon, but when money was on the line his son took second place.   The reason we are even talking about this situation is because Adam didn't do that: he "put his money where his mouth is" in the most literal turn of that phrase.

And even $13,000,000 could not change his mind.

How strong am I--how strong are you--on the beliefs that are a core part of who God made us to be and that equip us to fulfill the mission He has given us?  Is there any rationalization by which we could be convinced to change those values for personal gain?  Let me put it this way: what is your price?

Can curious sideways glances keep you from praying before a meal?
How much money would it take before you agreed to skip church to take a job?
Does your family take backseat when better offers come along?

Adam LaRoche walked away from $13,000,000, and in doing so he made a powerful statement his son will never forget.  His son will never wonder if money is more important to his dad than he is.  His son will never question whether or not his dad has a price at which his priorities will implode.  His son will never doubt that his dad means what he says.

But I am convicted because I wonder if I would have been bought out for a lot less.  And as painful as it is to think about, every time we are bought out, we negate to the world who watches the sincerity of everything we have done before. 

If my life values are not important enough to withstand the pull of personal gain, then how much did I ever truly value them?

A plaque in my room reads in bold, all capital letters: "If you stand for nothing you will fall for anything."

So ask yourself honestly what you stand for: Would 13 million dollars be enough to buy you out?

“A Great Moment at the End of a Great Season,” ©2011 clappstar, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license:


Backwards Contentment

If youth and old age could be combined into one non-contradictory person (think: Energizer Bunny with a brain, or Labrador puppy without a penchant for chewing and jumping), we would have it made. I've often wondered why it is we can't have both. Why do I have to make all the amateur mistakes now, when I've got the energy to go 70 miles per hour?

Yet somehow, with increasing smarts and wisdom (because, although I am most definitely not on the honor roll for Life Lessons Mastered 101, at least I have progressed from my 15 year-old self) comes increasing wistfulness. I first noticed this, not in myself--because who notices flaws in himself first?--but in the scores of sweet middle-aged women who ooh and aah over my baby. Every single one of them says some variation of, "Enjoy this time! It goes by so fast! It seems like mine were that age just yesterday, and now they're 27 and 31!"

To all the middle-aged mothers out there, I am trying, I promise! You tell me the days go by incredibly fast, so I am doing my very best to savor every nighttime feeding, every sleepy morning smile, and every splish-splash in the bath. But I find in myself the very real tendency to be "backwards content." I don't think this is just a mom problem, because it's not only a struggle for me with my nearly seven month old who is sitting up, waving, and eating avocado (how? how did we get here so fast?), but also in many other areas of life. High school seemed interminable until I was finished and could look back with satisfaction. Getting married would neeeeveeeerrrrrr happen until it did, and now I wonder how my single years went by so fast. My body was never quite perfect; then I had a baby and I became perfectly content with my body...the way it used to be. Somehow, being content is always easier in retrospect.

Maybe there is no cure for this. Maybe every woman everywhere will look in the mirror and criticize her appearance at the age of 20 and then long for that appearance at the age of 40. Maybe every woman everywhere will wish for a good night's sleep, or a nicer house, or a new stage of life, but when confronted with that very wished-for thing, will look back with contentment upon the interrupted nights of sleep (representing precious wee ones crying in the night), the small house (representing close proximity with loved ones), or the old stage of life (representing productivity and energy). 

And then I met a woman at Wegmans (no, you don't have them on the West Coast, and yes, they're awesome) who was adoring Liam; he, in turn, was giving her priceless smiles and giggles. She repeated the exact same mantra in the exact same way. Except she kept going. After the "just yesterday" bit, she said, "My son is 14 now, but 14 is such a fun age too. I'm so proud of him, you know? It's just cool to see your children growing and learning and becoming more independent. You'll love that stage too." I admired this woman for her ability to love the past and embrace the present--a delicate balance.

I don't think the situation is hopeless. I think it is a beautiful thing to look back upon life with contentment. Hindsight is 20/20 after all. But I think it is an even more beautiful thing to embrace the here and now with vigor and delight. Maybe that's what all these older, wiser women have been trying to tell me all along.

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