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


Though He Slay Me

A fool hanging out with similar brats, Joachim decided to spend a day with his pals in church. It didn't matter that Joachim's father had preached the Gospel, and his grandfather, and for that matter his great-grandfather, and even his great-great-grandfather. No, he was actually looking forward to the sport of mocking the pastor and his congregation. But on that Sunday in Germany in 1670, God had other plans for Joachim, and the Holy Spirit came upon him and convicted him mightily, and soon after, God saved him, and he had dedicated his life to God. 

Photo Credit
By 1680, Joachim was a pastor and the "first hymnwriter from the Calvinist branch of Protestantism [1]." He was also dying of tuberculosis at the young age of thirty. As he strolled through his favorite walking spot, a beautiful gorge with a river flowing through, he composed one of his most famous hymns, writing joyfully,

Praise ye the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation.
O my soul praise Him, for He is thy Health and Salvation.
He died soon after writing "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty." 

After Joachim's death, his favorite spot was named after him, and still exists today. Sadly, however, in 1856, his name became synonymous with something other than hymnody and God. For Joachim's last name was Neander, and the gorge became known as Neander Tal (valley in Old German). It was 1856 that miners discovered bones in the valley and a professor of anatomy declared them the "missing link." So was Neander's legacy one of humanistic evolution or praising the Lord, the King of Creation?

Move forward to 1943; the world was in an upheaval, taking sides, shouldering arms, and going to war. At the center of the chaos was Germany with a madman at the helm, but at the epicenter of the insanity in Berlin was a spacious house filled with people making music. There was a friend on the violin, and several other friends rounding out the choir, but the rest of the singers and musicians were all from one family—the Bonhoeffer family. They were practicing a German cantata—“Lobe den Herrn,” and ten days later, they serenaded Karl Bonhoeffer, the patriarch of the clan, on his 75th birthday, with their voices raised in praise to God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor, theologian, and spy in the German resistance, sat at the piano and sang along with his family as they blessed his father and enjoyed the grand occasion, but less than a month later, he was arrested by the Gestapo for rescuing Jews. Self-pity, however, was not on his mind, and he wrote his parents from prison, “I can still hear the chorale that we sang in the morning and evening, with all the voices and instruments: ‘praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation….shelters thee under his wings, yea, and gently sustaineth.’ That is true, and it is what we must always rely on [2].”

Months later, Dietrich wrote his good friend, “It makes me so happy to remember you practicing the cantata…last year! It did us all so much good [2]!”

A year after Dietrich Bonhoeffer's arrest, that great hymn was still ringing in his mind, for Dietrich brought it up again in a letter to his father and wrote that the difficulties of the past year had only confirmed the words that they had sung. From that gloomy cell, held hostage by the diabolical Nazis for doing what was right, Dietrich could truly say that his torturous experiences of the last twelve months had only made his testimony stronger. He could sincerely exclaim, “Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore Him!”

Those on God's side do not always win the battles. Sometimes they become synonymous with godless evolutionism rather than God-glorifying hymns. They are imprisoned and afflicted, martyred and mocked. They are tortured and persecuted. Brightening a corner does not mean that you will be the brightest, the most revered, the most blessed, or the most well-known. Ultimately, however, the Neanderthal fossils have been disproven as a missing link between so-called cave men and humans, and Christians the world over have praised God using Neander's ancient words.

"Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."
Job 13:15a

Bonhoeffer, like Neander, chose the Lord’s side long ago, and it was never a question for him of whether or not he would resist the God-hating men ruining his nation. Another year passed before Bonhoeffer was martyred for his courageous faith, but he was still praising the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation. “This is the end,” he said when he was moved to a concentration camp to be hung on the gallows. “For me, the beginning of life.”

Photo Credit: Samurai John
[1] Morgan, Robert. Then Sings My Soul. 2003, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson.
[2] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Letters and Papers from Prison. 2010, Fortress Press.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


The Colors of the Sea

Sarah Plain and Tall's colors of the sea--blue, grey, and green--were on display at Kalaloch Beach, although grey was the starring hue.  Grey though they may be, however, the frigid fog that enshrouded everything and the wild driftwood had their own sort of beauty.    

 Micah shows off a piece of baleen from the mouth of a whale.  According to the ranger talk, the whale fills its mouth with water, then closes its mouth and pushes the water out through the baleen.  The baleen filters the water, trapping krill and other food in the whale's mouth.  A little known fact?  The "whalebone" that you have heard of corsets and hoopskirts being made out of several centuries ago was actually made out of baleen! 

 "Oh no, oh no, oh no!  Here comes the big one!"
We waited on the rocks, watching the surf in anticipation.  As a wave would creep closer and wet our toes, we would shriek and scream with delight!  Jonah was completely drenched, but we had a wonderful time! 

 Susanna and I know exactly how to dress for the freezing beach! 

 Sometime on our trip we saw a sign that succinctly stated: "Big Cedar".  We pulled off to discover just that--a big cedar! 

 After our three nights of camping that Mikaela wrote about, we moved to a comparatively plush cabin: running water, bathroom, and electricity!  Not to mention the clear azure waters of Crescent Lake lapped the shore just a few feet from our back door! 

 Micah loved the swing near our cabin! 

Our family on the final day at the cabin. 
Back: Papa
Middle, l-r: Melanie, Micah, Mikaela, Susanna, Lauren, Mama
Front: Jonah
We took a short ferry to get to the beautiful Whidbey Island on our way to our next stopping point, and we all enjoyed going out on deck to feel the gusty wind and see the beautiful ocean! 

 Fort Casey on Whidbey Island was built in 1890, and the boys loved seeing the great cannons! 

 "Here, just let me..."
"Hey, leave my hat alone!" 

 Kites of all varieties! 

Doesn't the job of lighthouse keeper just sound amazing?  I'm probably romanticizing it way too much, but the lighthouse keepers of days gone by have always been fascinating to me! 

Camera war!  Melanie tries out her new camera skills against Mama's!   

 That evening, we had dinner with our aunt, uncle, and cousin who live near where we stayed for the next two nights.  It was wonderful to catch up with them, and we were able to see them two more times throughout the next few days!

  The next morning, we woke up early and caught a ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.  This was voted unanimously by the family as our favorite part of the trip!  The harbor welcomed us with its beautiful array of boats, and Sarah Plain and Tall's colors danced before our eyes as they never had before!

 All sorts of quaint shops lined the harbor!  We had coffee at "The Bean" and lavender ice cream at "Pelindaba." 

 The best store by far was Serindipity.  It might as well be named "Heaven for Book-lovers," because that was the store in a nutshell!  45,000 used books lined every nook and cranny of this adorable shop!  Books over doorways, books lining the walls, books in stacks and towers and piles.  Yet everything was perfectly organized and categorized!
 The shop owner was a woman after our own heart.  Whenever we would begin to ask her about a book but couldn't quite remember the title or the author's last name, she would immediately fill in the blank, and had, of course, already read the book and was ready with a recommendation!  I bought Charles Dickens's Bleak House and Bess Streeter Aldrich's A Lantern in Her Hand (fabulous book!) among other things.  It was quite difficult to tear ourselves away...

But lavender fields proved a good incentive!  Acres of lush purple blossoms, the ubiquitous fragrance of lavender, the task of gathering a lavender bouquet--a girl's delight!

 San Juan Island is known for its Pig War--the war that we but narrowly escaped after an American farmer shot a British man's pig.  Tensions were high between the British and the Americans already, and the pig apparently was the last straw.  While the two nations waited for, oddly enough, a German leader, to decide which country could claim the island, they both installed military camps on San Juan to keep a foothold.  This is where the American camp stood. 

 This Union Jack was donated by the UK as a sign of the friendship that exists between the two countries now that everyone has the swine situation figured out.  (-:

Trying to spot a whale! 

 Jonah shows off his new shirt that reads: I do all my own stunts! 

 A beautiful purple sea star nestled just below the surface of the ocean.

 Our day at San Juan Island was beautiful and unforgettable, and as I fell asleep that night, I  still had the sensation of being gently rocked on the ferry as it plowed through the sea, and the colors of blue and grey and green have endeared themselves to me forever!


The Hills Are Alive

(With the Sound of Music)

The only remotely acceptable excuse for the lateness of this blog post (which is still a Tuesday post by Pacific Time Zone calculations) is that last night was the culmination of a week-long fantastic adventure. And as anyone who has been on an adventure knows, there's the requisite sickness, fatigue, and general catching-up which follows the next day. Since I wanted to relay every detail of this adventure to you, I've been working on this post off and on all day and now bring you our family vacation to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.

 We traveled to the Olympic National Park, which takes up most of that little part of Washington that juts out into the Pacific Ocean (otherwise and more succinctly known as a peninsula) and houses the only rain forest in the contiguous United States, with an average of 12 feet of rain per year (by comparison, the "rainy" city of Seattle only receives 34 inches per year). Being the hardy Washingtonians that we are, we scoffed at the rain forest and planned to camp, rain or no rain. (Honesty check: some people scoffed and some people cried.) We were incredibly blessed, however, because not one drop fell from the sky until our very last day driving home.

This is a vintage postcard illustrating the peninsula. That empty space in the middle? Federally protected wilderness, accessible only by hiking the intimidating Olympic Mountain Range.

One special thing we did around the campfire every night was to pick someone about whom everyone shared an appreciated characteristic. It was great to hear seven different things we loved about the chosen person!

 Susanna slept well!

 Our first full day--Tuesday--we trekked up to Hurricane Ridge to enjoy the beautiful scenery and what one ranger described as June-like conditions because of the unseasonably cool and wet weather.

 Papa, Micah and Jonah posed in front of the Olympic Mountains.

 Susanna and Mama take their turn!

 Seven of us set out for a six to seven mile hike down Hurricane Ridge and ending at our campsite on the Elwha River. That's me in back, Lauren, Melanie, Susanna, Micah, and Jonah in front.

 While we hiked, Mama drove into Port Angeles, and--judging by her memory card--found some excellent opportunities for pictures!

Patches of snow dotted Hurricane Ridge, even though the temperature was in the 70s.
 We identified wild roses, mountain daisies, tiger lilies, columbine, paintbrush, bachelor buttons and more on our hike. The wildflowers were simply breathtaking! (And Melanie took most of these breathtaking pictures, I might add, with her new Canon camera.)

As the scenery changed from timberline simplicity to lush meadow to sun-dappled forest, we all began to ache from the strain of pounding downward, which is just as strenuous as uphill hiking, but in a different way. As our pace began to lag, however, Jonah had an unfortunate encounter with a beehive which resulted in 28 stings over his body and almost a dozen on Papa as he raced through the swarm of bees to help Jonah.

Jonah betook himself like a man, despite his nine years, and set the pace for our last mile: he was in a hurry to get back to camp!

 Mama saw to it that we ate well on the trip; dutch oven cheesy potato casserole was our dinner after the hike, and we had hot breakfast every morning! S'mores, roasted corn on the cob, hot dogs, hamburgers, pulled pork, and more all figured into our diet at some point or another!

 Dutch Blitz was the game of choice for late-night, lantern-lit tournaments!

 Deer, elk, squirrels, birds, and sea otters were some of the many wildlife we spotted on the trip. Isn't Jonah's expression priceless?

 Of course, what better thing to do the next day after a grueling hike than to go soak in hot springs? Sol Duc pumps the hot spring water into their pools, and we spent five hours soaking in that 104 degree water. It was blissful.

 Then we had to finish the evening with a hike to waterfalls.

 I laugh at this picture--Susanna mesmerized by the view, Lauren and I engrossed in conversation, and Micah and Jonah tussling playfully.

 Susanna at the falls with the sunlight cooperating beautifully.

 Day three was our trip to the true rain forest of the park--the Hoh Rain forest. We ate huckleberries and apple-hearts from the path (yes, we had permission from the rangers) like true natives while the Russians, Japanese, English, and the like (so many nationalities!) stared at us, as if they were waiting for us to keel over from ingesting foliage and red orbs.

That day concluded with a soak in the Hoh River and a pleasant drive back to camp. What fun we had exploring parts of our state we had never visited before! Hopefully you've enjoyed seeing the peninsula through our camera lenses (Papa's...and Mama's...and Melanie's...and mine), because there are still three more days for Lauren to cover on Friday!

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