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


In Which I Shock You

I have a confession to make. And it is shocking news. I only beg that you will try not to think any less of me for my mistake. Just a few days ago, Mikaela discovered an atrocity on our blog. I’m ashamed even to tell you about it—I can’t bear to look at the keys as I type. On second thought, though, I probably should look at the keys, because the atrocity came in the despicable form of a typo. OK—now it’s out there. I can breathe a little easier.
However, this is no laughing matter—an extra “y” in our header. Our HEADER! I am shocked, first of all, that I never noticed it in the gazillion times I read the header and second of all that you, my faithful readers, failed to alert me to it in the hundred gazillion times you have read it. You have to understand how difficult this is for me since I abide by a strict no-typos-allowed policy. I spot them on other people’s blogs, in books, in magazines, and on signs. But never before have I spotted a typo on my own blog that had sequestered itself in such an obvious place for so long.
Let's face it--a typographical error is a giant neon sign that declares to the world, “Oh—I need to proofreed?” The aggravating thing is that, for me anyways, this implication is simply not true. I read a page over and over only to come back to it later and see the giant, neon, misspelled word. I’m doomed.
The most pernicious typos are those that masquerade as a real word. They duck under the radar of the spell check, thus avoiding the death sentence. The typo that infiltrated our blog was of just that sneaky ilk. I am relieved to tell you, however, that I have since taken care of the error, so you can feel free to start sleeping through the night again now that your conscience has been relieved.
With that problem in my past (soon to be distant, distant past, I hope), I am considering how to avoid future massacres of the English language. I could always go back to the method the scribes used for copying out the Bible. They found that a good motivation helped—after all, the belief that you would go to Hell if you made a single error tends to inspire. But then again, copying out three million characters in poor light from a copy of a copy is quite the daunting task. I’m grateful, then, that God was the proofreader for that work, for I can verify that the breathtaking accuracy of the Bible is certainly not due to any human spelling genius! I mean, Hebrew and Greek…who came up with those languages?
And now, whith that exercise in humility, I’m off to reed the dictionary. A girl’s got too have fun, you know. [sic]


The Battle on Allen Street Bridge

We have heard the thunder for years now. We have heard cracks and pops and watched with distress as hairline fissures split in our direction, forming a veritable spiderweb of fractures. Now the fault line has reached Washington State, and we find ourselves standing stock-still in shock as the very ground beneath us crumbles away. We are the nation's current battlefield for marriage.
With the passing of a discriminatory bill last November (favoring homosexual domestic partners), a core of dedicated Christians sprang into action, refusing to stand and gape at the widening crevices in our state and nation's foundations. Thus Referendum-71 came into being; when enough signatures were gathered and approved by the deadline this summer, Washington's Christians had succeeded in their first objective--to put the bill to the vote again and gain another chance.
Now that we have a second chance, we will do everything in our power to put it to good use. My family and many other conservative Christians gathered last Saturday by the Allen Street Bridge to educate others on SB5688--vote no! (To avoid confusion, please note that we supported putting Referendum-71 on the ballot, but we need to vote to reject SB5688.)

Contrary to what the homosexual agenda would have you believe, homosexual partners already enjoy a great many benefits under Washington State law that are equal to or above those enjoyed by heterosexual domestic partnerships:
  • "Such existing powers and rights [already] include health care facility visitation rights, the ability to grant informed consent for health care for a patient who is not competent, title and rights to cemetery plots, and automatic termination of power of attorney upon termination of the state-registered domestic partnerships."
  • "Domestic partners of public employees are eligible [already] to participate in Public Employees Benefit Board insurance coverage."
  • "Existing law also addresses certain rights and responsibilities of state-registered domestic partners related to community property, estate planning, taxes, court process, service to indigent veterans and other public assistance, conflicts of interest for public officials, and guardianships."

Additionally, if this law passes, marriage will become a detour for romantics and an inconvenience for most because, as the Pamphlet states, "Gender specific terms such as husband and wife used in any statute, rule, or other law would be construed to be gender neutral, and applicable to individuals in state-registered domestic partnerships."
Thus, we were compelled to go on Saturday, standing for three hours to spread information about this unfair, ungodly, and very dangerous bill. However, as we gathered for a final prayer and picture before dispersing, we were suddenly confronted with the reality of our situation across the state: two men, who had previously driven by with some not-so-nice words and finger gestures for us, now claimed our corner with rainbow-colored signs that read "WWJD?" and "Reject Intolerance: Approve SB5688." We immediately took to heart their poignant reminder to consider, "What would Jesus do?" and headed back to the bridge for another hour to do battle against humanistic worldviews and the Prince of Darkness.

We spent four hours out there on Saturday, but that is hardly enough. We need your help! If you are a Washingtonian, vote! Vote for family, Biblical marriage between one man and one woman, and the future of our nation. Additionally, whether or not you live in Washington, please help us in this battle! There will be another gathering like this one on Saturday, October 31st at 11:00 by the Allen Street Bridge, and the media promises to be there--liberal as they are, any attention they give us will help to spread the word (contact me for more information). All throughout the state, you will find rallies such as this--join them, if possible! Put up signs, engage citizens in discussion, and hand out educational material. These may be butterfly bandages on increasingly widening faults and fissures, but they can get us through November. Then it will be time to get down to serious business--shoring up the crumbling foundations of our nation, which is only possible through the sovereign pleasure of God and the saving grace of Jesus Christ. With that in mind, please pray for the rally on Saturday, for the group that opposed us, for the biased media which refused to cover us, and for the election. Because if Washington falls into the ocean, you are certainly not far behind.
This is just the beginning: Senator Ed Murray told the Seattle Times (1/10/2007) when announcing the Domestic Partnership Bill, "The goal is marriage equality. It's an important statement that our eyes are on the prize, and the prize is marriage." Please visit Protect Marriage Washington for detailed documentation on this bill, the consequences facing Washington if this bill passes, information on rallies around the state, and other ways to get involved.

All images courtesy of Elena Photographers


Freeze Tag!

When I was ten or so, my favorite game in the world was freeze tag. At church family camp, we kids would fill our stomachs, grab a few cookies for the road, and promptly dash down the hill for a good round of freeze tag. These days, I'm more on the side of the old fuddy-duddys at whom I once shook my head for preferring to watch on the sidelines while their food settled. However, I'm still game for a frolicking round of tag once in a while--just not right after a meal. In that spirit, Rebecca at Pressing On has tagged us with the Honest Scrap Award. Pleased because Mikaela and I desire to be nothing if not honest, we humbly accept the award and share ten absolutely, undisputably honest things about ourselves that will bring a grin to your face and raise an eyebrow in surprise at the same time. Maybe. Or not.

I'll go first.
  1. Natalie Wickham interviewed me on her Pajama School blog!
  2. I love orchids, and although I only have one right now, I am carefully scoping out which one to get next!
  3. I'm currently listing to The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton from Project Gutenberg on my MP3 player. So far, although I may not agree with every philosophic point, it is very thought provoking.
  4. I chose the caramelized pear and toasted pecan ice cream. Yum!
  5. In my time with the Lord, I am studying what the Bible has to say about a woman’s role in the church service or prayer meeting. To speak or not to speak, to pray aloud or not to pray—that is the question!
  6. Mikaela:

  7. I have a habit of “playing” with a sheet of cloth with my hands whenever they are not busy. Over and over, up and down, around and around. It’s weird, I know.
  8. Isaiah is my favorite book of the Bible…currently. It’s also the book I just finished reading. Connection?
  9. In the last few years, I’ve suddenly begun liking country songs (a select few). Is something wrong with me?
  10. I have always wanted to be a wife and mother, but before I realized that was a life vocation in and of itself, I wanted to be a hairdresser.
  11. Pairs of shoes I own: 16. Pairs of shoes that should be in the garbage can: 5. Pairs of flip-flops: 4. Thus, pairs of REAL shoes I own that do not belong in the garbage can: 7.

Finally, out of breath from running and delighted to keep the tag going, we hereby award Sarah of Princess Prints, Ruthie of Journey of Faith, and Abby of A Light to Follow the Honest Scrap award. They must then share ten honest things about themselves and tag seven (did I say seven? :) people whose blogs they admire. Happy tagging!


Comet for the Soul

Do you get the same rush of exhilaration, the same disgusted thrill that I get when I clean something really really dirty? You know—you sweep the floor and grimace at the Mt. Everest-sized pile, but a part of you is secretly satisfied that you just eliminated all the dirt and stray cheerios. Or you mop, and you examine the once-white mop head and the once-pristine water with an equal amount of contentment. I could go on and on with these dirty pleasures—dusting and getting a dusty rag, vacuuming and filling the bag, organizing and throwing things away. I am the person who can sympathize with Matthew Cuthbert when Anne said, “‘When I hit on a name that suits exactly it gives me a thrill. Do things ever give you a thrill?’ Matthew ruminated. ‘Well no, yes. It always kind of gives me a thrill to see them ugly white grubs that spade up in the cucumber beds. I hate the look of them.*’” Matthew, it makes perfect sense to me.
Spring cleaning and fall cleaning were once unbreakable traditions of housewives, but this fall I am going to be doing a different sort of deep cleaning. This deep cleaning is more difficult, and getting rid of the stray cheerios and dirt is more painful, but it nonetheless brings the same thrill. It’s the scouring, brushing, and mopping of the soul.
I have been a Christian for most of my life, and I have both plodded up the mountains and slid down into the valleys. With the journey, though, comes oodles of piled-up memorabilia. I realized lately, when I looked into my life, how heart-breakingly easy it has been to gather a collection of cobwebs, grime, and trash that have tripped up my heart and slowed my obedience down. Small dirty sins, little grimy distractions—these things somehow appear in any house, and if the sturdy homemaker ignores them, they will bring deterioration. Yes—it’s definitely time for fall cleaning.
This month, I’m going to roll up my sleeves and work with God. I want to spend more time than ever in Scripture, challenging my accepted thought-processes, allowing God to convict me of sin. I want to confront my own weaknesses—my time-wasters, my attitudes, my lack of a servant’s spirit. Then, once God has shown me all this dirt, I’m going to hand the dust-rag to God and confess where I’ve been storing the mess. For God is in the business of deep cleaning, too. Psalm 51:7 says, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
In Isaiah 64:6, I get that thrill again as I look at the disgusting dust-rag after my soul is squeaky clean: “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.”
Garbage bag—check. Soul-scrubber—check. Heart-scourer—check. World-view bleacher—check. The dirt has no chance.
*Quote from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, page 19


Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

On a fateful Sunday in September, my morning went surprisingly smooth. I got up, showered, ate breakfast, and “got ready.” That “getting ready” involved carefully curling my perfectly straight hair, misting it in a cloud of hairspray, and smoothing it with a glob hair gloss. Of course, I also had to groom my unruly eyebrows, and carefully coat each eyelash in black mascara. Voila! With a final glance to ensure that each and every hair—short or long, curly or straight, black or brown—was perfectly in place, I was soon downstairs participating in family devotions and then out the door for church.
After church, we headed home with our afternoon planned—we were going to can the fresh tuna Papa and Mama had just picked up the day before in Astoria, OR. Home-canned tuna is to store-bought canned tuna as a beef roast is to spam and bologna. Thus, we make a tradition of canning around 80 pints and half-pints every fall. This time, a family from church asked if they could come over to watch and learn the process. Soon, everything was in place: the tuna was on the cutting board; the jars were freshly washed; the propane stove was set up outside; knives, salt, and lids were in hand; and I had changed into appropriate clothes with my bangs carefully pinned back.
The first pressure-cooker load ready, I went outside, lit the stove, and started the batch. When the second was ready, I again carried the cooker out, with the father from the other family (Mr. W) carrying the lid. Setting the cooker down on the burner, matchbox in hand, I turned on the gas. I lit the match and held it under the pan. At this point, it is easier for me to tell you what I was thinking, rather than attempting to paint a big-picture scene.
First: Whoa! I’m on fire! All I could see was orange and flames as I immediately reacted and stepped back from the stove. Just in case you’re wondering, my first impulse was not to stop, drop, and roll. Sorry. I know that is freaking you out, knowing that when you inevitably catch on fire all your safety training will go out the window.
Second: Hey! I’m OK! The flames ceased, and I realized that not only was I still standing, but I felt no pain, and surprisingly little fear.
It was at this point that I looked at Mr. W, still standing next to the stove with the lid in his hand and his jaw unhinged from his jawbone at an entirely improper angle. The two words he managed, spoken with all the gravity and somberness of a tragedy struck fear in my heart like a bolt of lightning on a dead—wait, never mind, I’m not going there.
“Your hair.”
No exclamation. No question. One statement. And I immediately felt sick. My hair? What’s wrong with my hair? No, please—anything but the hair! As I turned down the gas, fitted the lid onto the cooker, and monitored the pressure, the sickly aroma of burnt hair stung my nose. Taking my hairpin out, I was shocked to see great chunks of ash fall from my head. This was bad. This was really, really bad.
As soon as possible, I escaped to the bathroom to survey the damage, and it wasn’t pretty. My carefully groomed eyebrows now resembled those of an eighty year-old man (to all the eighty year-old men reading this—I love your eyebrows, they just don’t quite fit on a nineteen year old girl), all frizzy and white-tipped. My eyelashes were in a similar state—weirdly wiry and white. Moreover, I now had a lovely tuft of hair that zigzagged its way from my scalp to the sky in a disturbingly Ensteinian fashion.
All the females of my family gave me sympathy, empathy, and suggestions to remedy my Ms. Frizzle ‘do. Papa was extremely sympathetic too, of course, as he asked me several times if I really was OK. However, with that out of the way, he comforted me with the thought that my eyelashes would eventually fall out and grow in again. Can we not talk about losing more eyelashes? Additionally, he delicately suggested that perhaps I put too much stock into the strands of dead protein pushing out of my skin follicles.

Me, exactly one week after the "tragedy."

I am happy to report that, while writing this article made my heart pound very uncomfortably, my hands go cold, and my stomach turn queasy (seriously!), I am nearly recovered from that fateful Sunday. The long-term after-effects are virtually none (except for the fact that I will NEVER EVER EVER light a propane stove again), and you probably wouldn’t even detect my frizzy tuft of hair (my eyebrows and eyelashes are back to normal) if I hadn’t told you. Mr. W kindly gifted me with a lighter out of the goodness of his heart (I guess he didn’t get the memo that I will NEVER EVER EVER light a propane stove again, FOR AS LONG AS I LIVE). Ultimately, though, I did learn a valuable lesson. Proverbs 31:30 was, I think written with fire-singed frizzy-haired women in mind: “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.”
There are people who are born with disfiguring features, or who have entire propane tanks explode on them in a massive fireball, or who undergo chemotherapy in a brave bid to fight off cancer and loose every last strand of hair. Yet I, a vain female, value my unremarkable protein so much that I will agonize over the loss of a few chunks. Somehow, over a decade ago, God saw fit to pull me--a vain creature, egotistical and narcissistic--from my morass and set me on the path to life and heaven. Ever since that day, I have been on a mission to be the “woman that feareth the Lord,” even though I still struggle with pride. There will be a day when I am lowered into the ground, and my hair and my body eventually decompose until there is nothing recognizable left. Even when I am just a skeleton ten feet under, though, my soul will still be living in heaven. Obviously, I forget this sometimes; how could I ever put more emphasis on passing physical features than on the one part of me that will exist eternally? All in perspective, right?

P.S. Glory and honor—or at least the satisfaction of keen insight—to those who identify my missteps in lighting the stove. As much as I hate to admit it, propane stoves tend to be relatively predictable creatures who, when treated respectfully, respond in kind.


Confessions of a Music Teacher

Talking with a member of our symphony the other day (a trumpet player, no less), I explained that I teach music. His eyebrows went up. “Already?” He asked with surprise and wariness. Already, I answer. The conversation moved on, but my mind went elsewhere—“Should I already be a music teacher?”
There’s some law somewhere that says that music teachers are a strange breed. Being something of a nerd myself, I think I fill this requirement admirably. I can act as goofy as kids (which the kids love and I love to think the parents surreptitiously enjoy), but I can be the bad guy, too. I inevitably love kids, games, and that moment when the light bulb goes on and something I’ve been struggling to help a child with clicks. You could even say that moment is the chocolate (the euphoria-producing chocolate!) of music teachers. Another odd thing—we music teachers can spot a fellow music teacher from across the room—whether it is the tell-tale drumming of the fingers on the lap, the twitch of the mouth and grasping for a metronome when someone plays something just a little off, or the lighting up of the eyes when someone mentions music. We are so obvious.
The next thing a music teacher must have is students. Crucial. Students aren’t quite as strange as us teachers, but they are adorable. On the first lesson, the student is inevitably bashful and quaking in his shoes. I ask myself: am I that scary? I remember one boy who hardly opened his mouth during that long silent hour of his first lesson. When I asked him if he played any sports, he whispered, “No,” at which his dad laughed uproariously. “You played soccer last fall—remember?” and then he turned to me apologetically, “He’s really not this shy, you know.” Um, yes—a year later and let’s say the boy has warmed up to me. (-: That same boy is quite opinionated, and if he thinks I made a mistake he will adamantly argue with me—“No, no, that isn’t right because…” until he realizes once again—“Oh, wow, you’re right!” I love him for it, though.
Parents are usually necessary in order to have students, so I figure I need them too. Parents may not be as adorable as students, but they sure make for some interesting stories. There was the one who seriously informed me that she is the employer and I am her employee. (Somehow, that rubs us music teachers the wrong way!) Or the one who missed the last lesson of the year, didn’t call, and didn’t pay. Time passed. More time passed. She didn’t answer my phone calls, so I called on a different phone and she miraculously answered. Her ironclad excuse? How about I whisper it—she was stuck on the toilet for a long time with, um, bowel movements. Most parents, thankfully, come up with better excuses than that, and, in all seriousness, most are incredibly supportive, multi-tasking, loving, taxi-servicing people who are the crucial component to their child’s success in music.
So I have the nerdiness, the students, and the parents, but I think I have something else that makes me smile when someone asks, “Already?” My final confession is a dark one, but I’ll admit it—I love teaching. Every week—month after month, year after year, I see these kids and spend time with them. When they make it to the top of the C scale and back, I am as rewarded as if they climbed Mt. Everest. When they come to a lesson with their piece suddenly memorized (because they just “felt like it”) I shake my head in amazement. When they tentatively bring me the amazing pieces they write, I am as proud of my little Mozarts as if they just wrote a classic. Those are the reasons I teach “already”—for the unique opportunity to nurture, disciple, and encourage my students all while passing on the love of music. And when they move on, I miss them horribly. That is, until the next little towhead marches seriously into my studio, climbs up on the bench or grips his violin, and smiles up at me. It’s a quiet first lesson, but it’s wonderful.


Little House in the Big World

"The little house was fairly bursting with good food stored away for the long winter. The pantry and the shed and the cellar were full, and so was the attic.
"Laura and Mary must play in the house now, for it was cold outdoors and the brown leaves were all falling from the trees. The fire in the cookstove never went out. At night, Pa banked it with ashes to keep the coals alive till morning.

"The attic was a lovely place to play. The large, round, colored pumpkins made beautiful chairs and tables. The red peppers and the onions dangled overhead. The hams and venison hung in their paper wrappings, and all the bunches of dried herbs, the spicy herbs for cooking and the bitter herbs for medicine, gave the place a dusty-spicy smell.

"Often the wind howled outside with a cold and lonesome sound. But in the attic Laura and Mary played house with the squashes and the pumpkins, and everything was snug and cozy."
~From Chapter One of Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder


Standing Room Only

There is a sea of people stretching out to the horizon. There are more than you have ever seen at the hugest arena. More than ever have gathered in D.C. to protest. The array is endless—person after person, the sun glinting off their ebony, blond, and brown hair, their brilliant robes swinging in the wind. There is the sudden sound of music—a symphony of the best musicians—and the combined rustle of thousands of people fills the air, which pulsates with movement. In one motion, the crowd falls forward on its knees, and every head is bent in reverence to the 90 foot gold statue that holds the preeminent place. As the eye scans the crowd, all heads are bent at the same level, except—something jars the sight. Everywhere, these thousands upon thousands are kneeling, but for three lone men. They alone stand erect, upright, their shoulders back, their eyes lifted to heaven. Their jaws are set, their faces are peaceful, and they are perfectly still other than the flurry of their robes about their feet. It is impossible not to notice them, for they are the only three who stand in worship of their God, and they are about to face the ultimate test for their stand.
Normally around this time, I would tell you that I have a symphony concert tomorrow and Sunday. I would inform you that we are playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with a pianist who performed Rachmaninov’s 3rd to perfection, and that we are performing the spine-tinglingly gorgeous Lincoln Portrait by Copland. However, in addition to those pieces, this time our symphony is playing the music from the movie Harry Potter. Several months ago as I stared at the program, I sighed, "No!" but I knew right away what the Lord wanted me to do. So, because of the witchcraft that Harry Potter involves and glorifies, Mikaela and I will not be playing it.
I share this now to unite those of us who are Christians with head-noddings of encouragement and challenge. I know that some of you may not agree with me, but I also know that those who are Christians will always say that you should stand on your convictions.
Several years ago, in a performance in the park, we were faced with the same choice. We sat on stage, violins at our side, while everyone else played this same piece of music. Tomorrow will be the same, except that we will have to walk off the stage. I knew all along that this was what the Lord wanted me to do, but I also knew how awkward and humbling this experience would be. What I didn’t know was what gracious blessings the Lord would bring for this paltry hardship! For the first few weeks, Mikaela and I sat together in the back, trying to look as normal as possible while not playing. Through the course of the fall, though, we've inevitably had to sit with different people in the front. The first time this happened, we prayed a quick prayer, and then we each explained to our stand partners that we wouldn’t be playing the music because we were Christians and had a conviction against it, and, amazingly, our stand partners both asked us later, with genuine interest, why it was that we would not play it. That was the first blessing—a wide-open opportunity to explain that I was a Christian and what I believed! I got to experience this blessing three more times (-: and I can only pray that God planted some seeds because of those opportunities.
So you see, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego are my heroes. They could have joined the crowd, bowed for only a few minutes, and then tried to forget about it. They didn’t. They could have taken the king’s second chance once they found out that their lives were actually at stake, but they didn’t. They stood, perhaps with some of the discomfort and dread that I myself feel, but certainly with the upholding sense of God’s presence that I experience. They were willing to give their lives; I am only giving up my pride, but we both are standing alone in obedience to God.
We all are faced with choices every day, and just because they are not as dramatic as facing a fiery furnace or walking off stage doesn’t mean they are any less important. I share with you this passage from one of my favorite authors and poets for it is one of the most powerful things I have ever read:

So you see, standing alone is not just Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego standing when everyone else is kneeling. It can also be Daniel kneeling when he thinks nobody else is watching. Standing alone is not just refusing to play a song that everyone else is playing. It can also be refusing to listen to a song when nobody else is there. Standing alone is not just making the choice to remain pure before marriage. It is also making the choice to dress modestly. And, when you look at it plainly, standing alone is no real sacrifice, because a sacrifice implies that the cost is greater than the gain. Make no mistake: the gain of standing alone is so infinitely and incomprehensibly greater than the cost that there is no such thing.
In Jim Elliot's own words and hand-writing: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." Amen?

Pictures from:


The Great Squeeze

Saturday night found our family at Fort Nisqually (near Seattle, WA), braving the 50 degree temperatures to participate in an elaborate event: the candlelight tour. We rode the "time machine" back to the year 1857 and crept through the camp as ghosts--unacknowledged by the over one hundred men, women, boys, and girls who gossiped, argued, sang, danced, played games, made music, ate, laughed, and prepared for the next day of hard work.

It was a beautiful experience (check out the blog of a Fort Nisqually reenactor and friend, Sarah)! As we completed our journey and "travelled" back to our rightful place in history--2009--our tour guide warned us of a strange phenomenon that occurs to those who travel back in time. "You will forever be time travelers," he predicted. "Only now you will be moving into the future at the rate of one second per second. And, in addition to that, you will no longer be passive bystanders or ghosts observing the warm interiors from the dark outside. Instead, you will be able to change history as you travel forward in time and make a better future for the generations to come."

Sunday morning, we were excited to join our dear Christian brethren at Pilgrim Bible Church in Steilacoom for worship. After service, lunch, and much fellowship, we trekked the few blocks down to the heart of beautiful and quaint Steilacoom to participate in the annual "Apple Squeeze" festival. Thousands of apples and two dozen cider presses get drafted into service to provide hundreds of people with the opportunity to squeeze their own fresh cider.

We met up with some friends and enoyed apple pie, vanilla ice cream, and fresh cider. Unparalleled!

Steilacoom is right on Puget Sound, with the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the Olympic Mountains, and the Kitsap Peninsula all visible over the water.

Back: Papa, Lauren, Mama, and Mikaela
Front: Jonah, Micah, Susanna, and Melanie


The Art of Family: The Big Picture

100% of us have (or had at one point) families. Profound, I know. The point of the matter, though, is that 100% of us likewise have the same shortcomings—conflict, pride, or feeling closer to a friend rather than family. Though some may have more difficult situations than others, we all are imperfect with imperfect families. Mikaela and I rarely fight, but I remember a few ones from when we were still in our first decade that were humdingers. Specifically, a vision of chasing each other around the room and over beds, noses stuck up in the air, with the goal of grabbing the Bible from the other person wafts through my memory. That’s all I recall about the strange fight, but I also remember the remorse afterwards, slowly walking up to her, and whispering my penitent apology. Then there was a hug and we were back to, “Do you want to ask Mama if we can share a Popsicle together?”
I love each person God has put into my family, and I rejoice at every tiny step towards further closeness, but each day I stumble in that journey. In the “Art of Family” this would be akin to dropping a huge paint splotch on the Mona Lisa—not pretty. Whether it’s an impatient, rude answer to the billionth question in a row, a purposely ignored opportunity for service, or a choice to elevate a friend or stranger over my family, I find myself constantly messing up. Thank God for His forgiveness and the forgiveness of my family!
The victories are precious too. Recently we were asked to perform as a family at a local retirement home in front of the residents as well as a local church’s senior group. In the past, some of our quartet practices have been tragically unproductive. “So-and-so, stop playing on the piano while we’re talking. Stop jumping up and down on the couch, and—no don’t go get a drink of water. Yes, we need to play it again. No—don’t loosen all the pegs…Aagh! Too late! All right, let’s try it again now. Instruments up, AND-A-ONE-AND-A-TWO…OK (sigh), go to the bathroom. YES, we ARE going to play this again. Stop playing Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire! It’s not even Christmas!”
We learned many necessary skills for getting along and working together, and it suddenly paid off with these latest rehearsals—they were actually fun! We laughed at our mistakes, worked hard to improve, and felt a little sad when we were done. I am not ready to suppose that I have mastered the art of family, but we are all maturing (slowly) and it was sweet to see that we could work together, have fun, and produce beautiful music that brought joy to others.
By way of personal application, Jonah might at this point offer up his favorite verse which he loves to quote at opportune moments: “And the older shall serve the younger. (Genesis 25:23b)" ( :
I would like to consider another passage, though, that is not too much different. Philippians 2:3-4 and14 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others….Do all things without complaining and disputing.”
That is the crux of the matter, the paintbrush that you use for the art of family. This is the fifth installment, and now I am finally getting to the life-changing part. Here’s one more revelation of a verse, the one that directly follows the command to never complain or argue. I have heard this verse hundreds of times, memorized it, and admired it, but never before today had I connected it with the command to serve with humility and love, especially in one’s family. Why is this so important? You are to perfect this art of family “that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:15)”
Isn’t that thought-provoking? Isn’t it a revelation? Our shining light doesn’t come from deeds of greatness, from writing a great blog, or from showing love when it is easy. Tirelessly serving our families, loving them in spite of their flaws, helping them be the men and women God designed them to be, answering that billionth question with love, and using their accountability to mature ourselves—that is how we can be children of God, the only lights in our dark and increasingly cobwebby corners of the world. That is God’s ultimate design to pierce the black blackness of the world. And so I wonder—is your light switch on?

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