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

6.29.2010

A Life of Remembrance

I opened my eyes after a short but peaceful sleep. Before my mind went to the day’s tasks, before my eyes focused on the ceiling above—even before I really awakened, an endless loop played in my brain, almost as if I had been unconsciously dreaming it all night long. To a tune entirely unfamiliar to me rang the words, “Remember, in the days of thy youth!”

I thought on this phrase, slightly shocked and utterly delighted that it would be the first thing in my mind that morning. I may be a musician, with themes from Mozart, and staves from hymns, and improvisations from my own spirit constantly running through my head; but I am not accustomed to waking up with a verse set to music composed in my sleep. It seemed, though, that God had given me those words and music.

I knew the words came from Ecclesiastes—a beautiful book that I actually hadn’t read in months. A quick search yielded the passage:

“Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them (Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:1).”

As I meditated on this passage all morning, I realized that God had given me—and all children and teenagers—two choices. I could spend my youth as a fool, rejoicing in my vigor and seemingly everlasting life. I could join the crowd and stare at my reflection in my hip sunglasses, ignoring the foreground of next year and the backdrop of the next decade, and the panorama of the next century. Using the excuse of being a hormonal “teenager” my peers and I could choose the life of arrogance and selfishness which society excuses because of our “not-yet-fully-developed” brains. If I slouch down in blissful apathy, however, I will not get away with it. God promises to judge me for my wasted youth: “but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.”

Then there is the other option. Discipline, dedication, and determination—getting to know my Creator requires all of these things. How much richer the experience, though, if I chase after Him now! How much better to prepare now for the time when “the evil days come…when [I shall]…say, I have no pleasure in them (Ecclesiastes 12:1).” Life now will be so much fuller and more constructive, and life in forty years will be all the more precious because of half a century of groundwork laid.

For me, the decision has always been patently clear, though my reasons have changed over the years, and carrying out the commitment is not always easy. Long ago, as a very young child, I looked at rebellious youth and the anguish they caused their parents, and I decided I would never be that. Today, I have made the commitment to righteousness for a very different, very selfish, very simple reason: I want to get to know my Creator in the days of my youth. I want to be His, and I want Him to be mine. I yearn after Him and crave His company—and how much the sweeter will His lovingkindness be when trials and tribulations of life buffet my way?

God was not done with me that day, though. That very afternoon, I ran into a guy I hadn’t seen in a year. His zany humor and zest for life never failed to delight, but along with that quirky character had always been a love for God and his parents. Now, though, something was missing. I recognized the face, the mannerisms, the voice—but I had absolutely no acquaintance with the soul inside. In the one conversation we had, I was devastated to see him mocking God. His sweetness had soured into arrogance; his vivacity had fermented into wild abandon; and his love for God had dissipated into an apparition. After he left, I cried over his lost youth and his lost influence, knowing that God has promised—and will be faithful to—judge him. This boy has forgotten God—but he has only to repent, and God will forgive him and take him back! For this I fervently pray.

Young or old, God holds all of us responsible to get to know him. Here I am, with one short month left in my teenage years, grateful for almost everything that has transpired in my life, but still regretful of many things. This day that God has granted me today—and tomorrow, if He so wills it, and this year, and this decade—but most importantly, this life (however long or short it may be) will be spent getting to know my Creator. If I seek Him now, I know that when I am old and gray I will be able to look back on my life with gratefulness to God—for a life of remembrance.

Picture Credit

6.25.2010

Self-Digging-Deeper




When I was 6 or 7, my dad was putting up a fence. For some reason, I was fascinated by the process of digging the post holes and couldn’t stop watching him slice the ground with the shovel, toss the dirt, slice, and then toss again as the hole crept down through the ground. I begged over and over,“Papa, let me try!” as beautiful, dark mounds of dirt flew out of the hole. Finally, he stood away from the hole and held out the muddy shovel. I eagerly gripped the wooden handle, which was taller than me, and proudly dug out my tablespoon of dirt. After only a few minutes of this, Mama called Papa into the front yard while I happily continued chipping away at the hole. Suddenly, though, I slipped, and the heavy, unwieldy shovel flew out of my hands, shaving the skin off the side of my leg as we both tumbled into the object of my delight—the fencepost hole. I tried to get out—I really did—but I could not. I was officially a six year old stuck in a hole with a bloody leg, and any squirming I did only made my leg hurt all the more. So I did the only natural thing a stuck six year old could do: I lifted my voice and screamed bloody murder! Papa came running from the front, pulled out the shovel, lifted me up out of the hole, and wiped away my lovely mess of tears, blood, and mud. For the rest of the day, I limped around, proudly showing off my battle wound. You would almost think that my six-year old self had solemnly penned Ecclesiastes 10:8a, so fitting is the warning “He who digs a pit will fall into it”!


That childhood memory has always been vivid in my mind, but it was only a short while ago that I realized that at 19, I still do the same thing. I still dig myself into a hole, and I still try desperately to get myself out. I wiggle and squirm and complain and resolve and promise myself never to do it again…and I’m still stuck. I would be the first to say that the concept of “self-help” doesn’t work, and yet I still am so determined sometimes to allow my sinful mind to diagnose my sinful heart and offer treatment for my sinful actions. And it’s about then that I get fed up with the circle of sin.


Ben Franklin (a self-avowed non-Christian) detailed a plan he made to get himself out of the hole of sin in his autobiography. It's not unlike the improvement programs many advocate today. He chose thirteen moral virtues as the most necessary and kept a little book in which he would record his progress in this course towards moral perfection as he focused on one virtue the first week, added another one the next week, and so on. He wrote, “I wished to live without committing any fault at any time….As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined. While my care was employed in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was someimes too strong for reason….I was surprised to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish [as I went through my course]….I added Humility to my list, giving an extensive meaning to the word. I cannot boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it.”


It doesn’t work. We are sinful beings, as helpless in our sin as I was in my hole. But still, this self-help method of dealing with sins, habits, and problems is so appealing because it caters to our human pride. What person wouldn’t want to be able to dig himself out of the hole rather than wait for someone else to come see the predicament? What person wouldn’t want to wake up one morning and decide, “I’m not going to waste any more time on the internet” or “I’m not going to finish off that gallon of ice cream” or “I’m not going to share that nugget of gossip on that person with anyone”! What person would want to say, "On my own, victory over my sin is impossible"?


If you are a Christian, you have the responsibility to discipline yourself to do right, to obey Christ, and to accept His help out of your holes of sin that you dig for yourself--Christ's power does not negate your responsibility. I Thessalonians 4:7-8 says, “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.” God wants to lift us out of our holes—we can choose to wallow in them, getting more fossilized in our sin every second or we can obey God’s call in God’s strength.


Our hearts cry along with Paul, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice….I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good….O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin….The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 7:19, 21, 24, 25, 8:2)”


God helps those who help themselves.” This would be bad news for those who are stuck in the fence-post holes of sin—bruised, bloody, and exhausted—utterly unable to help themselves. Thank goodness, then, that it is not true and that God helps the helpless who require His strength to obey! Be honest—what have you been doing in your own strength lately? Have you never given your life to Christ, instead pushing God away while you dig yourself deeper in your hole? Or are you a Christian, declaring aversion to self-help but still waking up every morning and struggling with that sin (you know what it is!) on your own? I have a suggestion: throw that self-help book over the top of your hole and cry for help. It won't be long before your blood and mud and tears are wiped away, too.




6.22.2010

A Cheesy Limerick for a Wonderful Guy

I hope you enjoy this corny composition as well as the pictures and creations from my father's childhood.
June ninteenth was a day oh so good,
When we whistled and shouted and stood,
For the man of the hour,
The king of our tow’r,
Had a birthday as ev’ryone should.

Not yet half of a cent’ry ago,
Was our Papa born cute as a bow.
So they christened him Steve,
But don’t laugh up your sleeve,
For his moniker, Stove, was so-so.
From his hair to his toes, he was cute,
And his brains and his brawn braced his suit.
Young Jen captured his eyes,
And he captured his prize,
So they started their fam’ly tree shoot.

Now lil’ Stove became Steve became Dad,
He’s my teacher, my help, my comrade.
He has character, yes!
And he loves God the best.
He’s my Papa; the best to be had.


6.18.2010

For Fear of Music

It’s a world far far away and yet so close to home. It’s a world governed by a distinctively and unashamedly anti-Christian nation. It’s a world of exoticism, deserts, searing sun, idolatry, persecution, and burkhas. It’s a world in which every day you would be called upon to take a stand for Christ—a stand that could cost you your livelihood, your freedom, or your life. Every day you may be called into question to explain to those unwilling to hear explanation why you will not wear the required Muslim garb. Every day you may have to choose between uttering a few words that declare alliance with Allah or speaking those most difficult yet most precious words, “I belong to Jesus.” Every day you may be confronted for sharing the Gospel with your fellow countrymen in the streets. And now, every day you may face intense persecution, serious repercussions, and swift discipline if you commit another horror in Iran. If you teach music at a school.

Ali Bagherzadeh, head of the private schools office of the Iranian Education Ministry said, “The use of musical insruments is against the principles of our value system.[i]” Teaching music has always been banned in Iran’s state schools, and Iran considers it such a serious offense that a school that disobeys can be closed and its director blacklisted from opening any other schools. All instruments are banned from schools, and Iran’s 16,000 private schooled students are now left staring at the closed doors of their music classrooms, their violins and clarinets torn from their hands. I am incensed at this breach of freedom, but not flabbergasted. I am apalled, but not shocked. Because to me, you see, music is one of the best ways of bringing glory to my beautiful Lord, one of the best ways of worshipping Him, so it does not stagger me that a militantly Islamic nation would take issue with that. Bloomberg Businessweek doubtless thinks that Iran is simply being intolerant of an art form, but Iran and I and—I hope—you, too know better.

“The use of musical instruments is against the principles of our value system. [i]” A tidal wave of renewed enforcement of Islam’s moral teachings is sweeping Iran, so it should really come as no surprise that they are attacking music, unless you have always viewed music as just a means of pleasure. Psalm 138:5 would contradict that viewpoint:“Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, For great is the glory of the LORD.” You probably already know this, but it bears repeating and shouting from the rooftops anyways: God created music to honor Himself. Music in line with His standards—be it classical or sacred or folk or traditional—gives glory to Him and inspires chilling, trembling fear in those who would reserve glory for themselves and their false gods. Yes, fear. Psalm 40:3 even says,“He has put a new song in my mouth-- Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the LORD.” (emphasis added.)

For Christians, music is not just an art form, but also a command. Ephesians 5:19 commands us to be “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Psalm 33:2 commands again, “Praise the LORD with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings.” You don’t need to be a concert musician or even able to carry a tune in a bucket to obey the command of Scripture—obedience is all that is required, not proficiency! I’ve always thought of the song “I Love You, Lord” as the theme song for those of us who are not the best singers, for it begs, even if one is entirely tone deaf, “Take joy, my King, in what You hear! Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.”

But simply banning Christian music is not enough for Iran because even so-called “secular” music can bring glory to Him. “Let’s be safe,” I can hear the school administrators discuss among themselves. “We don’t want any Christianity infiltrating our borders. So we don’t want our children learning to play the violin or the cello or the trumpet, for they could learn to love Bach or Dvorak, and such music is unacceptable, for it is the music of Christianity!” Some may reply, “Ludicrous!” but I would argue that Iran is doing the only sensible thing possible if they would desire to cut their people off from any opportunity to hear about or worship God. To not ban music and instruments would be a grave mistake for any Islamic nation, for it would allow a chink in the iron enclosement they have built around their people, a chink that could allow the light of Christ to shine through. Their worst fear would be that their people would be able to say, “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; 'For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.' (Isaiah 12:2)”

But herein lies the sad climax. Iran is uneasy enough to ban music of any sort from their schools and their schoolchildren. We rise up in horror. But are not Americans apathetic enough to cold-shoulder music out of their schools, be they public, private, or homeschool, and their lives? Because of the very fact that Americans have freedom to participate in and learn good music, do they forget to do so? For education, Americans may be guilty of choosing sports over music class, or choosing superfluous science labs and perfect spelling tests over music appreciation. At home, DVDs may bury that dusty classic CD and more movie theater tickets may pass through hands than concert tickets. At church, I’ve observed too many people mumbling their way through meaningless songs, and even professional musicians who are not apathetic towards music struggle with taking all the glory for themselves. And all the while the people of Iran look on with longing eyes as their freedoms are taken away one by one. Yes, the government of Iran is very afraid of the power God has given music. We should be afraid of the absence of it.



Picture Credit
[i] Sheikholeslami, Ali. “Iran Bars Music in Private Schools, May Impose University Code.” Bloomberg, June 1, 2010. http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-06-01/iran-bars-music-in-private-schools-may-impose-university-code.html

6.15.2010

Nature Brought Out the Nurture


I have a lifelong good friend who is double my age. Kelly’s dry wit, unconditional love, and fun spirit are always sure to be an encouragement. Her gaiety, however, belies a difficult life as a single mom with two kids whom she has raised all her life on a small income. She’s taken care of her kids well, but has never had an especially maternal attitude about it.

“Oh! You don’t mean that!” We urge when she gloats about the ever-shortening countdown until her kids go to college.

“Oh yes! Oh yes, I do!” She’ll insist. As far as she is concerned, her youngest son's high-school graduation marks the moment when her kids forever leave her house, and she can see them once or twice a year.

“What about grandkids?” We ask. “Don’t you want to see them?”

She scoffs at that. “Pshaw! Grandkids? Don’t have them!” She says to her kids. “Kids are nothin’ but trouble.”

If she’s kidding us, she’s also kidding herself, because she is in earnest.

One day, though, we saw another facet of her when our families were at the park together.

“Hey, Mama!” One of my siblings said. “Can we go exploring?” She asked, beckoning to Kelly’s two kids to include them. Both moms nodded their heads in agreement. The kids were in their teens, and old enough to wander alone by themselves in the safe area.

“Just take the walky-talkies with you and be safe,” Mama remonstrated.

Within a few minutes, though, the girls called in with an odd message. “There’s a weird guy on the bridge across from us,” they said.

“K…turn around and come back,” Mama radioed back.

After that, however, we lost contact with them. Garbled static came through, and that was all. Papa strode off in the direction the girls had gone, and Mama continued trying to get through on the radio. Kelly ranted about their foolishness and stupidity. But as the moments ticked by and turned into a few tense minutes, her attitude melted into a vulnerability I had never seen before.

“Answer me!” She pleaded into the radio, biting her lower lip in anxiety. Soon her bravado was completely transformed. No longer did I see the mother who didn’t want to be a mother. I saw a woman being a mother like mothers have been for so many centuries—worrying and pacing for the safety of her children. “Where are you?” she called into the walkie-talkie, with rare tears sliding out of her eyes and down her cheeks. Mama was just as worried for her child, but Kelly was getting hysterical as she frantically did everything but accomplished nothing.

Less than three minutes passed before radio contact resumed and Papa reached the girls—all was right in their world and ours, and we went on our way, disaster averted. But in the moment when those two lives that she had helped create were out of her reach, she became a mother again.

It’s all in the attitude, and that attitude should start now. Are you a guy? If men would encourage and inspire motherliness in their wives, daughters, girlfriends, mothers, and sisters, this job would be so much easier and more appealing. Are you a mother? You have the most amazing job in the world! Take advantage of it! Motherhood is a job that is as out-of-style as hoop skirts, that culture has dragged through the mud, despised, and minimized. Yet, strangely enough, it’s a job I want. I’m not a mother yet, but I hope to be someday. I’ve seen the uniqueness of motherhood, the joys of raising children to change the future, and the power one amazing woman can have. Whether I mother my own children, or nieces, nephews, and friends, I know that such a simple, retro, and beautiful role can transform the future.

I’ve seen single mothers courageously raise their children, so that—decades later—those kids honor and revere their mother as if she was the Queen of Sheba. I’ve seen women who’ve never married or never had children nurture and love countless other children. And I’ve seen my own mother raising me and my five siblings, and selflessly setting aside her own priorities for us. If you’re one of these women—kudos to you! You have squeezed tiny fingers, tickled tiny toes, and lived with tiny, trusting eyes. You’ve encouraged a tiny dream, oohed over a tiny picture, and seen tiny sacrifice. If you’re not—if you’ve always thought obliging the caprices of strangers, bringing home a six-figure paycheck, and living for your own whims was more important—won’t you consider a change of mind? Motherhood is one of the highest and most sacred goals in life--it is one of the best ways I know to brighten a corner. Motherhood is a calling worth training and striving for--it can change the world.



Picture Credit

6.11.2010

The Mason's Daughter

Karolina is on the right; her daughter, my grandma, is on the left

On October 17, 1914, a baby girl was born in a small German town near the border of Poland. A baby girl named Karolina. As her parents, a brick mason and a loving mother, looked into her sparkling, blinking eyes, I wonder if they had any conception of what those eyes would see. A front-lines view of World War I would fill those tiny eyes for her first four years—images of iron-faced soldiers and buildings destroyed by bombs and mothers who gave up their bread for their children would pervade her childhood. I wonder if Karolina’s mother hugged her extra tightly—perhaps with a premonition of her own early passing that would change her little daughter’s childhood so drastically.

I wonder if her parents imagined the handsome young Polish boy—Jozef—that her eyes would fall upon one day. I wonder if they thought about the day that their little daughter would stand, hand-in-hand with Jozef, and pledge her life to him as long as they both lived, becoming even more Polish than German. I wonder if her parents or even Karolina herself knew the costs that would entail.

In October, 1914, as Karolina’s parents stared in fascination at their perfect little baby born into such a world of turmoil, I know they reached for her tiny hand and felt her little velvety fingers cling to theirs. But I can’t help wondering if they knew what her hands would be called upon to do in the years to come. Their chubbiness would fade away all too quickly, and then Jozef’s ring would be slid onto a finger. With those hands she would wave good-bye to her family as she and her husband started their life in Poland. With those hands she would knead her flour and water and squeeze her sauerkraut and form rows upon rows of beautiful, impossibly perfect pierogi. With those hands she would soon stroke the face of her own little son.

Those hands would soon become work-worn and calloused when the German army invaded Poland in World War II and she was called upon to either abandon her Polish husband and children to save her life or move back to Germany with all of them and see her husband sent into the German army. Her hands must have gripped her husband’s for what seemed like the last time as he was sent into Hitler’s front lines, for to her it was inevitable that he would be shot down and forgotten on a bloody field. And somewhere, somehow, her hands folded together as she lifted them up to the God whom she discovered would not abandon her, no matter Hitler’s cruelty or her own difficulties. She trusted in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, whose own hands were pierced with nails for her. That moment of folded hands when she turned her life over to God she described as “a bucket of cold water being thrown on me.”

From that moment on, her hands belonged to her God, and she, her husband, and her four children made it through those dark days—intact and together—a miracle beyond miracles.
But her parents could not have known any of that. Nor could they have known that her tiny feet would someday climb to the deck of an American ship around 1951 and pause as she gazed back at her homeland: tears and fears welling up inside her, but God’s love and promises calming even that inward storm. Those feet would never be still in the next years as she and her family served as indentured servants to a family in Alabama. But somehow, she and Jozef would put aside a few meager coins every month until they could afford the bus fare to Washington. They had a friend, Olga, whom they had met in refugee camps back in the Old Country, who lived near Seattle. And so Karolina and Jozef and their four children found themselves in Washington, and life got easier, but she never worked any less. Time passed, her children grew and married and had children, and one day, her beloved Jozef died.

Her wrinkles grew deeper, her back hunched over, her hair turned a beautiful dove-white, and she began to use a cane, but her eyes still sparkled, her laugh still resounded, and her hands still made pierogi for her loved ones. She gave the hugest hugs you ever could imagine, holding you in her embrace for forever, as if she didn’t want to let you go, and you certainly didn’t want her to let you go, either. My father bent down on one knee before my mother on Karolina's kichen linoleum, and as a young married couple they lived in her house for a month. Karolina would go to visit her friend Olga whenever she could, and the two octegenarians would hold Uno tournaments until late at night.
Two months ago, Karolina fell and broke her hip, and at one point in the hospital, her heart stopped. Her family surrounded her, weeping, when suddenly she opened her eyes. “Why you cry?” She asked in her thick, beautiful accent. “Don’t you cry—I go to Heaven!”

Last night, Karolina, my Bobcha, (from the Polish word babka) my “sweet old lady”, my Great-Grandmother spent the night in Heaven, with her Jesus. Do they have pierogi in heaven, I wonder? They do now! But her eyes could see His face perfectly, her beautiful hands could stroke His, and her feet could run to her Jozef without a cane or a limp. Last night, she had no tears, but we certainly did.

I doubt if her parents, looking into her tiny face 95 years ago, could have known the legacy she would leave. They could not have known that she would bear four children, and they in turn would have many children until at her death her descendants numbered 51! They could not have known that she would live to see her Great-great-grandchild. They could not have known that because of her love for Jesus through everything that most of those 51 descendants are walking with the Lord, destined to see her again, but I know it. I can just hear her saying “Oy, yoy yoy!” at all this fuss, but I can equally hear her whispering, “Jesus!” during any prayer, and I can hear her heartfelt and passionate prayers in Polish. I know my dad saw her kneeling by her bed every night, and he knew she was praying for him. I know that every time I visited her, her Bible was sitting on her table, open, with her glasses lying at the ready. The Polish words that filled page after crisp page of her Bible were clear and dark, and they were her very sustenance.
My Bobcha’s legacy is that of a woman who persevered through darkness and cruelty, a woman who kept her family together through incredible odds. A woman who worked night and day at menial labor so I could sit here today, never having seen the front lines of war. A woman who loved Jesus most of all and who trusted in Him with a faith that would not be shaken by bombs or angry tirades. A woman who was the first to become a Christian in her family and did not give up until her husband became one, too. A woman who hugged me long and hard every time I visited her and, looking into my eyes, said, “Next time, I may be in Heaven.” Now she is, and it is in honor of her that I ask you: what is your legacy? What is my legacy? If she made it through World War II with Jesus by her side, why cannot we make it through the fierce spiritual warfare of today with Jesus by our side? If her legacy is generations of people who follow the Lord, why will you or I be the generation to leave Him? I will not be the one to abandon her legacy of faithfulness, and someday I will tell my own children of my Bobcha, my sweet old lady. What will your Great-Grandchildren tell about you?

6.10.2010

Not Your Typical Thursday

Yesterday was such an exceptionally splendid day. Of course, our regular readers already know that something catastrophic is rumbling, because we only ever post on Tuesdays and Fridays, and here we are invading your dashboard on a Thursday! But in order to explain that anomaly, we must go back to the aforementioned splendid Wednesday. Any day that involves music (which is everyday, these days) is automatically filed under the "good day" category--and yesterday was no exception. So, though yesterday yielded almost an inch of wet stuff, it didn't stop us from splashing through the beating rain to attend piano lessons and take brother to cello lessons. You know all those stereotypes you've heard about Washington being rainy? They're true. We broke our own record for the rainiest May in this area, and let us tell you--we don't have paltry rain records!

That evening, our family had time to meet a very special person--a brand new baby girl born yesterday to special friends of ours. See now? An inch of rain, piano lessons, and a new baby girl. June 9th was shaping up to be a noteworthy day.

After a wonderful time of prayer and worship at church, we were enjoying a beautiful drive home (the rain had disappeared). Spread below us was the Columbia River, with Mt. St. Helens looming in the background, and boats chugging along in the foreground. While discussing the merits of strawberry shortcake versus brownie moose track ice cream for dessert, one of us spotted an odd billow of smoke in what looked to be the center of our smallish town. The closer we got, the bigger the smoke got.

"Is it our new Jo-Ann's?" Mama wondered, which made everyone groan from the horror of the thought.

"I think it might be the elementary school!" Mikaela guessed.

"It looks like its on the other side of the river," Papa calculated. He was ready to give up the chase and go home, but he took a vote--and the majority voted to continue driving toward the smoke.

As we got closer, the traffic got thicker (what else is there to do on a rainy June day?).

"I think it's the water treatment plant!" Papa said. We wanted to argue--isn't there some sort of impossible irony connected with a water treatment plant catching fire?--but we couldn't. The source did indeed seem to be our town's one and only water treatment plant.

The stream of cars was bumper to bumper until we realized with a sigh of relief that it was an abandoned house fifty feet from the water treatment plant. The firemen stood back and watched the inferno very nonchalantly, so we guessed the blaze was a controlled burn.

"They should have sold tickets!" someone quipped.

But since we were not shameless gawkers and elected not to park the car and stare at the burning building with those who were shameless, we wound our way home. Once there, strawberry shortcake was in process--we had the shortcake part of our dessert in the oven--when Lauren came rushing downstairs.

"Mikaela! Mikaela!" she said. "There's something weird going on on Blogger! We got twenty new followers? I think it's a mistake!"

We ran up to her laptop, determined to get to the bottom of this odd turn of events. Clicking on the counter statistics, we were both speechless to see that we had gotten almost 1500 new visitors since we had last checked the blog six hours before. Clicking on the referring websites solved the mystery, though. Every single one gave Blogger home or Blog of Note as the referring website. For some reason as mysterious as it is delightful, One Bright Corner was named "Blog of Note" by Blogspot--that is to say, Google likes our blog! This, then, is the real root of our strange Thursday posting: we have had no earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or elopements to warrant a Thursday post, but we have been liked by Google!


We ate our strawberry shortcake in wonderment as our family said awfully nice things and quickly caught up on our latest post. They told us we were famous and asked if we'd still love them anyways. Of course! And the beautiful, irreplaceable, noteworthy day came to an end.

No fears, though. Today is shaping up to be just as inimitable--not only have we gained 60 new followers since yesterday, but we've received 2,000 new visitors just this morning. It's that sort of day where we will dance around singing "Hallelujah Chorus" all day long. At the top of our lungs. Very high, and very screeching. But won't you stick around, anyways? Look around and let us know what you think. We promise we'll be back to our normal selves tomorrow. And, after all, if we are "blog of note," then you are the highly honored readers, followers, and commenters of note--thank you so much! Oh, and our neighbor just called to say there was a mysterious minivan that plunged into the creek on our road, but not to worry. Just another atypical day around here!


and

6.08.2010

A Celestial Hike


On Saturday, we undertook a daring scheme of mammoth proportions: not one hike, but two, totaling eleven miles of woody trails climbing 3,000 feet closer to the sky. The first hike was a simple 2 ¼ miles, with almost 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Beacon Rock, as it is called, is the second largest rock in the world, and was first discovered by Lewis and Clark who named it “Beaten Rock.” Like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, we got a small glimpse of the glory we hoped to see from the peak of our next hike. “They could not look steadily through the glass; yet they thought they saw something like the gate, and also some of the glory of the place.”


We snapped pictures of ourselves, greeted Russian families coming down, and somehow communicated with a French clan who—surprise!—spoke French. These many different people, from many different cultures, with many different talents and dreams, all sweating, striving, and strategizing for one goal: the top!

After lunch, we commenced our big challenge. Hamilton Mountain stretched before us with five miles of terrain up, and a steeper, but shorter, four miles down. After the first mile, we had a beautiful resting spot, with two gorgeous waterfalls to enjoy.



The most delightful part of the reprieve, though, was the “Pool of Winds.” Standing on a rock outcropping, we were able to position ourselves right in the middle of a giant waterfall, with wind whooshing through our hair and cool water spraying our hot skin. Smiles broke involuntarily as the enchantment of the place seized us.




This beautiful corner was not our final destination, though. We kept moving, though ¾ of the people crowding around the falls beside us turned around and missed the ultimate goal. We encouraged each other, passing the time with songs and games, but never forgetting our purpose for being there, and never letting our eyes off the prize. Alone, many of us would have stopped, but together, we continued.


Three hours of hiking, and we were certain that we were almost to the top. “How far is it to the top?” I asked a man who was coming down.
“Oh…about two hours,” he said, and then continued on his way.

“And Atheist said, ‘I laugh to see what ignorant persons you are, to take upon you so tedious a journey, and you are like to have nothing but your travel for your pains….There is no such place as you dream of in all this world.’
‘But there is in the world to come,’ replied Christian.
‘When I was at home in mine own country, I heard as you now affirm,’ said Atheist, ‘and from that hearing went out to see, and have been seeking this city this twenty years; but find no more of it than I did the first day I set out [Jer. 22:12, Eccl. 10:15].’”


Instantly sobered and practically sickened, we all looked at each other in disbelief. Two hours? How would we ever make it? We continued stumbling along, but discouragement had set in like a roaring lion. The trees gave way to brush, and we found ourselves sweating in the hot sun. One foot in front of the other. Up, up—always up, never down. Dust sticking to our wet skin and water bottles getting low. Should we turn around? Should we quit?



“Now, I further saw, that betwixt them and the gate was a river, but there was no bridge to go over: the river was very deep. At the sight, therefore, of this river, the Pilgrims were much stunned; but the men that went in with them said, You must go through, or you cannot come at the gate.”

And then, thirty minutes after the prediction of our very own false prophet, we reached the top. Mount Adams, the Bonneville Dam, the Columbia Gorge, and the picturesque Columbia River stretched before us with trees blanketing the mountains in endless repetition. The most incredible echoes bounced back at us as we yelled, hooted, and yodeled. Down in a small corner of the vista, we could point out Beacon Rock, which had seemed so high at the start, but which now seemed so small. The scene we had observed from there was now expanded many times over, and we could see the entire landscape without any hindrance or obstruction. Everything came together in one completed and unified panorama, and each winding switchback now made sense. We had finished well.



“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands….And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes (Revelations 7:9, 13-14, 16-17).”



Quotes from Pilgrim's Progress taken from Project Gutenberg.

6.04.2010

A January Conversation


Several years ago on a frosty January morning, I went over to a dear friend's house to conduct an interview for a school assignment. Ever since I did that interview I have loved digging it out to read over it again so much that I thought you might enjoy it, too! Perhaps you will even be inspired to interview someone as well--it is such rewarding experience. We have so much to learn from our elders--so many life lessons, and so much wisdom and history! Mrs. K is rich with these blessings, so without further introduction, here is the interview between my 16 year old self and Mrs. K!

Lauren: Good morning! Thank you so much for doing this interview with me!
Mrs. K: Of course—I’m excited to get started!

L: All right—first question. Were you born here in this town?
K: Yes—I’ve lived here or in this area my whole life.

L: And how old were you when you became a Christian?
K: I was nineteen years old.

L: How did you meet your husband?
K: Roller-skating. I wasn’t a Christian at the time, but he was. He wasn’t “interested” in me for a while, though, even though I liked him.

L: What was invented during your lifetime that you remember best?
K: Microwaves…self-cleaning ovens (laughs)I love those!… and minivans.

L: What is the best decision, choice, or sacrifice that you ever made?
K: Marrying my husband. He actually brought me to the Lord.

L: Wow! I didn’t know that.
K: Yeah. Some people aren’t really comfortable about that, but I feel that the Lord actually had his hand on me throughout my whole life and used Mr. K to bring me to Him. All of my brothers and sisters divorced several times and two of them died because of alcohol, so I can really see how the Lord protected me from bad influences.

L: And you had four brothers and sisters?
K: Yes.

L: Did you ever recommit your life to Christ?
K: Um, not really. I mean, I’ve gone forward in church several times because the
sermon spoke to me or I really agreed with it. So, I guess some people would call that recommitting your life, but I wouldn’t.

L: And when were you baptized?
K: Well, I don’t have the exact date, but it was September 1964.

L: What historic event do you remember most vividly?
K: Probably the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. That was the one we were nearest to,
you know, and I think it affected us more than some of the nationwide or global events.

L: What event that occurred in our town do you remember best?
K: What event? (pause)… I guess the thing that comes to mind is when they built the mall. It took a lot of the industry away from the downtown and really changed the downtown area.

L: Oh—interesting! I didn’t realize that. Here’s another history question: did the Vietnam War affect our town in any big way?
K: Oh, yeah. We lost a lot of men; a lot of men.

L: Were there any protests or anything?
K: Um, not that I remember; I don’t think so. (laughs) At least, I wasn’t involved.

L: Well I guess that’s good! Now, what is your earliest memory?
K: When I was three, I think, I got stuck between some bars in our chicken coop.
Mom had to come rescue me!

L: (laughs) What fad do you remember best?
K: The poodle skirt.

L: Did you have one?
K: Definitely! They were very popular!

L: Is there a tradition that you have or had that is special to you?
K: On Thanksgiving we always make butter in my butter churn.

L: So, tell us the story: where did you get the churn?
K: I got it a long, long time ago at an estate sale of a friend. I asked her to save something special for me, and she got me that, so every year the kids look forward to making butter in it!

L: What was your favorite thing to do when you were growing up?
K: I loved to go roller-skating. My brothers and sisters and I skated five nights a week. We would walk over from our house- which was quite a long walk!

L: Wow! Five nights! When did you have time for homework?
K:(laughs) Homework? No, actually we’d roller skate mostly on the weekends—you know, Friday, Saturday, and even on Sundays we’d go over.

L: Did your dad fight in WWII?
K: No, he didn’t.

L: Did anyone that you knew fight?
K: Yes, an uncle of mine did fight.

L: When you were growing up what did you want to do with your life? And did you ever actually do that?
K: Actually, I always wanted to be a mom and a housewife… and yes, I did do that!

L: That’s so great! Now, did you ever have a job outside your home?
K: Um, just for short durations, like six months and things like that. I worked at the mill two separate times for a short while.

L: Did any famous person ever visit our town, and if so, did you see him?
K: Bill Clinton. I didn’t see him because I was in Seattle at the time. But I remember him coming because someone parked in our driveway since there were no other parking spaces. [My son and his wife] came up and saw the car in the driveway, so they wrote a nasty note and put it on the windshield. Well, it ended up that it was actually an old friend, so that was quite interesting!

L: And when did he come visit?
K: 1996. September of 1996.

L: What is your favorite memory?
K: My favorite memory…. That’s hard; I have a lot of favorite memories…. I guess being together at Christmas. Once the whole family came over to our house for Christmas, and that was really neat to be together. Especially because now a lot of them are gone.

L: What would you say is your favorite song?
K: Oh, what is the name of it! I want it sung at my funeral, and I even have it written down… “When We All Get To Heaven”…that’s it.

L: Oh, I love that song! Now, if you could relive your life, what would you do differently?
K: Teach my kids the value of money. They saw me taking money out of the bank all the time, but I never explained to them that their dad had to work hard to get that money.

L: Mrs. K, did you go to college?
K: No.

L: What year did you graduate from high school?
K: ’62.

L: What would you like people to think of when they think of you?
K: Helpful… considerate… I guess just willingness.

L: What was the most frightening moment in your life?
K: While the Cuban Crisis was going on my aunt and uncle found out that they weren’t actually legally married, and so my mom went down to Reno to be a witness for their wedding and left me with all of the household money. I slept with the money in my bed- actually I didn’t really sleep that night. I was so scared!

L: Wow! Was she gone just for that night?
K: Oh no, she was gone for several days.

L: What was your favorite subject in school?
K: Well, I didn’t really like school, but let me see… what would have been my favorite subject…. I guess it would have been Home Ec! I loved to cook and sew.

L: What is your favorite book?
K: The Bible. There is also another book that is actually in the church library now, but it is really good; it’s called Whiter Than Snow. Also I like the book Not My Will.

L: I’ll have to check those out! Now, what do you remember about Kennedy’s assassination?
K: Oh, yes. Well, just the shock. I think it really changed everyone in America. I had just bought my first TV, and took it home and turned it on for the first time. We all saw the news report come on and we were saying, “What’s this?”

L: So did you like him…I mean, did you vote for him?
K: Well, I couldn’t vote at the time. But I think he was pretty good. I’m not sure if I would have voted for him because he was Catholic and everything, but I liked him.

L: Well, that’s all of the questions that I have! Are there any final thoughts you would like to share?
K: Well, you know, just that my life was really changed by the Lord. I can definitely see God’s hand all throughout my life!

L: What a great testimony! Thank you so much for doing this!

6.01.2010

Project Wardrobe Makeover

This summer, I have resolved to rid my wardrobe of the clothes that rarely, if ever, see the light of day. Some of these articles are ill-fitting; some are worn; some are just not my style. However, rather than handing down, giving away, selling, or throwing away these clothes, I have also resolved to look at each article in a new way and challenge myself to redesign it. Project Wardrobe Makeover has officially begun!


My first challenge was this dress:

Believe it or not, I've had it for seven years! I've worn it often, but lately, the prairie-simple style just has not meshed with my more romantic-feminine style. It's modest, in good condition, and in a classic style, though, so I can't bear to get rid of it. Thus it is the perfect candidate for Project Wardrobe Makeover.

First, I trimmed off the hem. This dress is a lovely length, but the skirt is so straight that two buttons have torn off from the stress of my strides; hopefully a shorter length will mend this problem! Next, I cut 2 1 1/2" strips from the bottom of the skirt.


From these strips, I cut four 12" long strips and two 19" long strips. I sewed down the middle of the six strips (3/4") using a basting stitch and leaving long tails on either side.











Then I ironed each strip in half, using my seam as a guide.



Depending on your personality (or the day of the week), this part could be the thrilling chapter or the hair-pulling segment: gathering! Gather all the strips by taking a long tail of thread hanging off your basting stitch and pulling it while pushing the fabric. Gentleness is the key to avoid snapping threads! I gathered the short strips to 6 1/2" and the long ones to 10".



I have ruffles! You can use these basic principles and ruffle anything and everything--who doesn't like a good ruffle?




The funnest part of the whole project was arranging these ruffles on the dress and sewing them on. It's taking shape!





To finish up, I shortened the sleeves to a more flattering length, took in two back darts 1/2", and hemmed the bottom.


Now I feel as though I have an entirely new dress--for free! What could be better?






I plan to add this to Tea Rose Home's weekly link party. If you've never visited Tea Rose Home, check it out--it is full of creative, resourceful, and ruffly ideas!


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