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

12.26.2012

Christmas, Western-Style

From l-r: Melanie, Mikaela, Micah, Mama, {Bentley}, Papa, Lauren, Jonah, Susanna

It was high noon on a chilly December day. I was perched on my office desk (a black, well-used bean bag), a chick’o’stick in one hand and a cup of joe in the other (tea, Trader Joe tea, to be precise). All of a sudden, she swept into my office.  Her face looked of trouble itself; her piercing eyes probed my forgotten reflections.  “Are you surprised to see me?” she asked as I tried in vain to mop up the spilled tea using my hideously patterned tie.

“Of course not,” I managed. “Don’t you usually visit this time of year?”
“Yes, but this time I really need your help.  I have some new suspects here on this paper,” she said, handing me a rumpled napkin. “I’m counting on you.” 

“Sure,” I said, rubbing my chin, then looking up to discover she was gone. Seven suspects. OK, let’s start at the bottom. The sheriff (otherwise known as Jonah)? This will be interesting. See, whether you are good or bad folks, if you come a-visiting our town, you will probably be arrested at some point. Don’t let that stop you, though; it isn’t hard to break free (he’s allergic to tickling and kissing). And so I called him in for an interview (called down the hall, that is). “So sheriff, what’s on your record for this passing year?”

“Say what?” he asked, one eyebrow raised.
“What did you do?”
“Oh… well I got myself a spring-field bolt action WWI Sergeant York
rifle.”
“What?”
“I bought me a gun. I also did a fair amount of reading and writing and
fiddling.”
“And I’ve enjoyed some of your works of art.”
“Yeah. I like animals too,” he said salivating as he eyed my chick’o’stick sitting on its saucer. “And let’s see… well, back in May, I entered the double digits.”

Next I headed down to the diner where I expected to see the cowboy and some yummy grub. It took me a little longer to recognize him this time, ‘cause he never stays the same height for longer than a week anymore. He has now passed from the tenors to the basses, and he has just recently stolen my place in the town’s hall of fame for “the tallest westerner who is not the Mayor.” But I am OK with that now (counseling helps a lot). “Cowboy Micah, how’s it goin’?”

“Hey small.” See—it’s not that bad. “So you wanted to ask me some
questions.”
“Yeah, uh… the first one is: what did you do with your year?”
“Well um… I’ve done a lot of studying lately. I really enjoy history. I also
like to play the cello, and I am working on a Bach Cello Suite.”
“Sweet! Oh yeah, I mean—I’ve heard it. How has it been for your first
year as a teen?”
“I like it. I like being able to sit on the front seat of the wagon.”
“And I know you are always helping with stuff around town.” I closed, looking up at him as he nodded his head.

It was now time for a new approach, so I decided to stalk the person third up on my list. The Scientist. And in my investigation I found out that it is a very good idea to stay clear of the purple laboratory when the chemicals come out (my poor gummy bear), as well as the roads when she gets a hold of the reigns (she’s working on it). She also has become quite good in her piano-ing. And as for her Thursday nights? Well they are spent working for a Bible certificate, which she just completed! The Scientist (or Melanie to some) also taught a group of kids for a week long summer camp. All the kids walked away with a new understanding and love for science.

“O.K. Miss Teacher (To those of you who do not have her as your teacher, you either need to change that, or just call her Mikaela): how was your time used this year?”
 “I teach music to lots of great kids…”
“Hence the teacher part,” I said with a smile.
“Right. The Writer and I also just started serving on our symphony
board.”
“Y’all seem to love music…and speaking.”
“Yes, we do! Back in March, the Writer and I spoke at a girls’ conference
up in Gig Harbor. It was a lot of fun.”

The fifth suspect on my napkin is the Writer. She and the Teacher have always been pretty close to each other. “So Writer what have you been doing as of late?”
“Well we have been working on our columns (blogs). We just started one for Christian Heritage, and of course we’re still writing on One Bright Corner.”
“Yes—I was wondering how that’s going?”
“Good—it has been a phenomenal experience! Speaking of which, can you write another poem for me, detective? After your first one won that award, I’d love to post another one!
“Well, I’ll see what I can come up with, Writer.  Now haven’t you also been playing some concerts lately?”
“Yes!  We just did a benefit concert in November and a few more are
coming up!”

“Well, thank you for your time,” I said, straightening my tie over the brown stain in my shirt. Ma is the next suspect? Yeah, right! Ma wouldn’t offend a spider. But I’ll follow her around, since she was on the napkin list. First of all, she’s an amazing woman that the whole town looks up to and admires because she does it all. She’s a cook, waitress, counselor, activities organizer, maid…and the list goes on. She has also been through a number of surgeries, the last one being in mid-November in Georgia. It was amazing to see how God worked all that out, from free airline miles to the Doctor being a strong Christian. Also, we are very hopeful that this surgery will be a permanent solution to all her pain, so we have much for which to be grateful.

Last but not least, the seventh suspect (or first, since we started from the bottom): the Mayor. As I observed our Mayor, one thing mainly stood out to me… He is kinda sweet on Ma. But that is OK, ‘cause I am pretty sure he likes the whole town. He also stays busy with church stuff and work stuff. This year he and the Cowboy cut down a couple trees near the town, and they have a foundation all ready for a small house (they call it a tree house, but forget the detail that it’s not in a tree). I also got the impression that the Mayor doesn’t like me wearing his ties (or using them for washcloths for that matter).

After I got back to my Office to write a full report of my investigation, I realized I had forgotten the Posse. My very best friend who was at my side for as long as I could remember would not give up her fight to stay with us. So back in March, our beautiful curly red-haired Sadie had to be put down. We were privileged to have the best of all dogs for over 14 years.  In August, we finally found a new sheriff’s deputy named Bentley—a puppy with an adorable curly tail! 

Now we are at the end. Where did the time go? In answer to this question that has been the theme of my investigation, I can proudly say it was spent…carefully. In love, laughter, sometimes tears, but it was always shared together. Oh, and if Miss Ghost-of-Memories- Past happens to come rushing in on you as you’re enjoying  a peaceful cup of tea, would you mind telling her my conclusion? (And hold on to that cup!) I only ever see her once a year. Wishing you all the best for Christmas, this is Susanna, Private I. Signing off.                                

All Our Love,
From Our Family to Yours

12.18.2012

Born to Deliver

After I read the first chapter of Born to Deliver, I closed the book and stared at the back in wonderment, re-reading Kathy Brace's bio and studying her picture. Was this scared, misguided, pregnant teenager whom the book opened with really the same as the peaceful, talented, godly woman who greeted me on the book cover?
 
The well-written true story caught my interest immediately, and I read it quickly--in one evening--because I couldn't possibly stop reading and leave Kathy in the severely dire circumstances that she finds herself for the first half of the book.
 
Kathy Brace and Natalie Wickham don't flinch from sharing Kathy's mistakes and sins, from out-of-wedlock pregnancies, to failed relationships and marriages, to cover-ups and lies. In honestly relating the story, they remain tasteful. Nevertheless, this is definitely an adult book, and one which I do not recommend for children and most teenagers.
 
All of the trauma and tragedy of Kathy's life culminates in a horrible accident halfway through the book, and from there, the tale blossoms into a precious story of redemption as God exchanges beauty for ashes and is faithful to allow Kathy to continue a generational legacy of midwifery, and to halt a generational legacy of immorality and drunkeness.
 
The theme of generational vision is powerful as the book quotes Exodus 20:5-6: "For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments."
 
Kathy writes, "In my quest for happiness and fulfillment, I was led by my own heart, pressure from the people around me, and the negative example of my parents--in short, everything but God. And yet, God mercifully 'ransomed [me] from the futile ways inherited from my forefathers (I Peter 1:18a)...' And now, by the grace of God, I wanted to pass a new heritage down to my children and their children after them someday--a heritage of those who love God and keep His commandments. A vision for something much bigger than myself was beginning to formulate in my mind."
 
I finished the book praising God for His goodness. As I read about God's miraculous provision in Kathy's life, I remenisced about those same times in my life. As I rejoiced to see her daughters making wise decisions and learning from their mother's mistakes, I renewed my resolve to learn from my parents' life experience and wisdom. And as I marvelled at Kathy's honesty, I realized the importance of transparency in all of our lives and what a ministry that honesty can be.
 
You can read the first chapter here. And if you decide to buy the book for yourself or for a Christmas present for that certain someone, then click below to buy it from Amazon--paperback for $17.60 or Kindle edition for $9.99

 

We're giving away our copy of the book to give more people a chance to read it, so why not enter?
a Rafflecopter giveaway


 
 
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved

12.12.2012

Snapshots of God's Woman


12-07-10 So I'll Wait On Some Other Escape
Photo Credit

 
What does a woman after God’s heart look like?
 
These are a collection of personal thoughts I have been thinking lately.  If I truly want to be called a woman after God's heart in the same way that David was called a man after God's heart, then what is a snapshot of that woman? 

  • This woman would rather get lost in the Word of God than lose time on entertainment.
  • Her gratefulness to her mighty Savior is so great that she seizes every opportunity to deny self and bless others, simply because it brings joy and glory to Him.
  • She is so in love with Christ that she forgets herself.
  • She knows what she believes and can clearly communicate those beliefs with conviction and assurance from the Holy Spirit. 
  • She fails (and perhaps epically), but she makes it right before God and man. 
  • When she is shaken, Christ overflows.  When she is pricked, she bleeds Christ.  {Inspiration here}
  • She enjoys, delights, and takes pleasure in the heart of God more than anything else the world has to offer.  Because of this, she trusts Him implicitly. 
 

Photo by Bethan

12.04.2012

The Wedding is Almost Here

So I had this dream...
 
It was an elegant linen cream envelope that I pulled from the mailbox. The elaborate calligraphy inscribed on the front was addressed to me, and I slit open the paper with excitement. A classically styled invitation announced the wedding of a dear family friend--almost a second father--to a dear cousin, and I couldn't have been more elated.
 
Except, of course, when I received a call a few days later from the groom-to-be. "We were wondering," he began, with very little preliminaries, "if you are available to come early and help out with all the preparations. I know my bride would appreciate the help getting ready for the big day!"
 
"Oh, of course!" I agreed, most honored to be asked.
 
One week before the wedding was to occur, I arrived in town. "Oh, we have so much catching up to do!" I declared, as I slid into the backseat. The bride and groom had come to pick me up from the airport together. How cute! "So how did it happen--how did you get engaged?" I pressed, and they smilingly gave up all the details on the event. We stopped for dinner, and before I knew it, the evening was gone. I went to my hotel room with promises to call the next morning for instructions.
 
The next morning, I got up bright and early and made my way downstairs to the lobby for breakfast, when who should I run into, but an old friend, also there for the wedding! We chatted all morning, before I excused myself to go call the bride and get busy.
 
"Oh, hi!" She exclaimed. "Say, can you hold on for a minute?" I waited patiently, thumbing through a tourist magazine. "I'm back! Sorry about that--I was in the middle of a dress fitting. So, when can you come help?"
 
Dress fitting! I sat up with a start, remembering the dress I was planning on wearing to the wedding--the dress that was still fabric yardage and pattern paper in my suitcase at this point. "Well..." I stalled. "I actually just remembered something really important. I haven't finished the dress I'm wearing for the wedding yet."
 
"Oh," she paused. "OK. No problem. You work on that and give me a call as soon as you're ready, OK?"
 
"Sure thing! Talk to you soon! Oh--and can I borrow a sewing machine?" The rest of that day and the following day were completely consumed with sewing. Not to worry, however--with four days left for the wedding, I was ready to pitch in and help.
 
My first task was bird seed. First, I spent a good long while researching on Pinterest just exactly the perfect method for creating birdseed packets. I then proceeded to create origami envelopes and fill each one with birdseed. Creating 500 of these took quite a bit of time (two days, to be exact).
 
Two days till the wedding: "What needs to be done?" I texted the bride. Almost immediately, she sent four text messages, one right after another, all filled with her to-do list. I couldn't help but feel peeved. "Don't you think this is a bit much? :( " I texted back. To which I received no reply, but on my way out of the hotel, I made sure to share my sentiments with my friend as well, who thoroughly sympathized with my feelings.
 
To cope, I spent the morning in a corner of the church thoroughly reading a definitive book on weddings by Martha Stewart. Upon completion, I was thoroughly schooled in the art of what not to do for weddings, and I lent my expertise wherever it was needed. The day before the wedding was spent in busy preparation, as well as documentation (of course, I knew all my facebook/twitter/blogger/pinterest/myspace/flickr/tumblr/instagram/youtube/wordpress fans were just dying for updates!).
 
That night, it hit me--look at all that was left to be done! I spent the entire night frantically scrambling to help finish the food and decorations, my tired brain too fuzzy to consider Martha Stewart's remonstrances any longer. I awoke on the day of the wedding exhausted and with barely enough time to slip into my dress, brush my hair (and my teeth), and find my shoes.
 
I'm a procrastinator at heart--what of it? We got it all done, the wedding was pulled off in fabulous style, and I made it to the church before the kiss!
 
When I got back home and had a solid eight hours of sleep behind me, however, I began to contemplate an impending wedding of much greater proportions. Would I be the foolish, unprepared virgin at that event as I was at this one? Would the week of the wedding find me engaged in all manner of idiotic, inane activities as the week of this wedding did? Would I be grumbling and gossiping against the Bride--the Church--as I was against my cousin?  

"Stay Awake"
 

"Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles....But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for 'love will cover a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:1-3a, 7-8).'"

 
The end of all things is at hand; haven't I spent enough of my past lifetime in serving the whims of my flesh and the world?
 
And then I woke up. ;-)





Photo Credit: 4ThGlryOfGod

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Note: This is a parable--a work of fiction. It did not happen.

11.27.2012

When Fairy Tales and History are the Same Thing


It was the day before Thanksgiving, and Mikaela and I were braving the freeway madness to pick up two very special people from the airport.  We were sweating over the traffic and trying not to get lost when Mikaela exclaimed and pointed to a sight neither of us shall soon forget.  It was a ginger-haired young man, standing beside the side of the freeway, cars careening by him, with a bouquet of flowers and a sign that simply read, "Home."

I cried. 

Two weeks earlier...

The sun was still asleep when Mikaela left Mama and Papa at the airport for their flight to Atlanta, Georgia to see a specialist for Mama.  She was scheduled for surgery the week before Thanksgiving, and we were steeling ourselves for the worst-case outcome.  We could not have fathomed the miracles that God would work through her surgery.  But in the meantime, when the van returned home without two of its passengers, we were just six kids on our own, canning quarts of applesauce and pints of tuna and feeling loved by our church family and missing our parents dreadfully. 

That first week passed quickly, and Monday brought "The List" of Thanksgiving ingredients, as well as the mammoth shopping trip.  Tuesday was a full day of teaching for Mikaela and I in which Melanie and Susanna managed to cook up a storm of Thanksgiving food, and Wednesday brought dessert preparation and that day we had been awaiting for two weeks: the day of Mama and Papa's arrival home!  Mama's surgery had gone so much better than expected, the doctor in Atlanta was a Christian and the perfect surgeon for her, and God truly healed her body in miraculous ways.  We were overwhelmed by all the answers to prayer.  Still, she was in a lot of pain, and this we knew as we inched along the freeway, the exit to the airport completely at a standstill.  Yet we still couldn't wait to envelop her and Papa in huge hugs of welcome. 

"But isn't it wonderful," Mikaela commented exuberantly, "to think that in every one of these cars are people who are going to be reunited with someone they love tonight?"  It indeed was a sweet thought, and that explains my tears for the hitch hiker. 

At last, after an eternity of stopping and going, we caught sight of our parents.  That vision of Mama on the sidewalk rushed a wave of homesickness over me, even though I had been at home these last two weeks.  And though for us our Thanksgiving really began at that moment, the next day was precious beyond belief!


Papa gave a turkey-carving lesson, with Mikaela perfecting the gravy in the background.

Roasted brussel sprouts are a favorite Thanksgiving food!

Tasty dishes, with the requisite sweet potatoes on bottom that only two in our family even bothered with.
 
 Garlic rosemary mashed potatoes!  Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without the aroma of roasted garlic permeating the house!

Sparkling cider and a sparkling centerpiece created by Susanna!

The food was but the accompaniment to the star attraction of being together.

Gluten-free apple pie and Pioneer Woman's Pumpkin Gingersnap Caramel Pecan cheesecake.  In a word: delish!

After stuffing ourselves with food, we went around the table and shared from our hearts about the abundance of things for which we were thankful.  Then we cozied up to a fire and a wonderful story about Squanto by Eric Metaxas that Mikaela recently found.  It begins, "Every once in a great while, the hand of God is easy to see, and for a brief moment, fairy tales and history are the same thing.  This story is about one of those times."  So, might I add, is this blog post.
 

 
 
The day would not be complete without a game, and the American version of Settlers of Catan fit the bill! 

And there I'll leave this sweet story, with the fire still crackling, laughter still erupting over a game, and the warm aromas of turkey and garlic mingling in the air.  Together at last, we were home. 

11.20.2012

Zippered Pouch Tutorial

 
Is it too early to talk about Christmas gifts? I generally operate under the principle that the Christmas season does not commence until the day after Thanksgiving, except where music and gift preparations are concerned. And seeing as how I've been teaching Christmas music since July, and playing it since October, I do believe it is high time to get working on some Christmas gifts! For 2012 birthdays, I gifted many of my family members with a handmade zippered pouch, just the right size to hold and protect their fragile booklights. These pouch sizes can be adjusted to hold just about anything, from cell phones to ipads to laptops to coins to make-up. How fun would it be to whip up a couple of these for Christmas and embellish them with only your own creativity and the moon as the limit?

 
(Those two small rectangles pictured above with the four big ones? Ignore them. You don't need 'em. They were drafted for a embellishment idea I had that failed miserably.)
 
Materials:
 
Outer fabric (I used synthetic leather, fashion denim, and home decor linen for my three different styles. Try to pick something with some weight and stiffness to it.): 2 pieces 9" x 7-3/4"
 
Lining (I used fleece to cushion and protect): 2 pieces 9" x 7-3/4"
 
1 zipper, cut to 9"
 
Optional Embellishments:
 
~Bow~
2 pieces 10" x 5.5"
1 piece 2" x 5"
 
~Pinked Edging~
(Used on the purple flowered pouch along the zipper)
2 Fleece pieces 9" x 1"


If you're doing the bow, pay attention! Otherwise, you get a free trip past "Go": you may collect $200 and move on to the next step.
 
Take your 2" x 5" rectangle and fold it in half lengthwise, right sides together. Sew along length with a 1/2" seam. Press seam and turn right side out.
 
Pin the two 10" x 5.5" rectancles, right sides together. Sew along the length of both sides with a 1/2" seam. Press seam and turn right side out.
 
Slide the ring over the rectangle and arrange until you have a satisfactory bow. Voila! Tack the ring and bow together by hand to keep the shape. Pin to the front rectangle piece of your outer fabric and baste together with a 1/2"seam.

 
Now it's time to make a fabric lasagna! Start with your outer fabric rectangle, right side facing up. If you're doing a pinked edging, place the 9"x 1" strip on top, keeping edges even. Next, place the zipper, halfway zipped, right side down, edges even, as shown. Top it all with the lining rectangle, right side down. See all those layers? You'll only have three if you're not doing the pinked edging. Pin everything together, taking care to keep the edges even.
 
Using your machine's zipper foot, sew a straight line along the zipper teeth. Feel for the zipper with your finger, or find a point of reference on your foot to keep a straight seam line that is as close as possible to the zipper teeth. When you reach the zipper fastener, lower the needle into the fabric, raise the foot, unzip the fastener out of the way, lower the foot, and continue upon your merry way!


Once you've finished, your creation should look something like the first five pictures in this set. If it bears no resemblance, I suggest you start looking for your seam ripper, a different gift idea, or better teacher.
 
Starting with picture six of the above set, you can see the visual for creating the fabric lasagna for the other side of the pouch. You're going to flip the previously sewn fabrics right side out to get them out of the way, and then lay your unsewn outer fabric face up. Upon that, place the other 9" x 1" strip (if you're doing the pinked edge option), the unsewn side of your zipper (face down), and your lining (face down). This pin and sew in the same manner as before.


Catching the vision? Now's a good time to perform a pleased happy dance at the beautiful results already taking shape! Here's where you'll pink those cute little strips to whatever width suits your fancy.

 
Topstich as closely as possible to the edge to create a lovely finished look and keep the fabric lasagna from shifting.

 
Unfurl your pouch as shown in the first picture, with right sides of the outer fabric together, and right sides of the lining togther. Simply sew along the perimeter with a 1/2" seam, leaving several inches open in the lining to turn the pouch right side out. Clip the corners and trim the seams and zipper bulk if necessary.
 
Are you ready? Truly and really?
 
Turn it right side out. And ladies and gentlemen: we have ourselves a pouch! (Not an authentic pouch, however, until you handsew that lining shut. Let's not get ahead of ourselves!)
 
 

 
This, you see, is the booklight for which these pouches were intended to hold and protect.

 
What will you put in yours?


11.13.2012

Grasshoppers, Elections, and One Very Special Email

Blowing in the Wind


A week ago today I could not shake the feeling that November 6, 2012 was a day that my children’s children would look back on and say, “That day was the beginning of the real end of America.”
 
From my perspective in the spiritually dark Washington state, things could not get any worse after this year's presidential election.  Voters here legalized recreational marijuana, legalized homosexual marriage, elected a slate of anti-God leaders, and voted to re-elect the most liberal president of all time.  It would be a true statement to say that I was depressed after voting in my second presidential election. 
 
And then I thought to flip back in my journal four years ago to the night of my first presidential election, and what I read from my eighteen-year old’s heart brought tears to my eyes.  I share the gist of it with you here with the hope that it will encourage your heart:
 
Someday every knee will bow to Christ and every stammering tongue will confess His Lordship.  I, though I so often resist my Lord, will bow.  Barack Obama will bow.  The vilest murderer on death row will bow. 

Isaiah 40:21-23 and 25 tell the story:


“Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?  It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.  He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless….‘To whom then will you liken Me, Or to whom shall I be equal?’ says the Holy One.”

 
This election then is simply another step in grasshopper-man’s millenia-long plod of sin.  And God, He knows. 
 
Not a baby can be murdered without God’s knowledge.  I weep as I write that.  Yet does not God sob before He welcomes a precious little one to His safe arms?  Does not God care more than I ever could?

Yes.
 
Then I rest, not in the wisdom of the American people, but in the omniscience of God.
I rest, not in the power of my vote, but in the omnipotence of God.
I rest, not in the shortness of Obama’s term, but in the infinity of God.
I rest, not in vindictiveness towards the president-elect, but in the mercy of God.
 
I find my haven next to that unwanted baby who now feels the warmth of God’s unconditional love.  I put my hands into the palms of God’s; I place my feet on His.

I cry, “I am as big a sinner as Barack Obama.  I do not know Your plan, but if You would use him to judge my nation, I beg that You would use me to bless it.”


I went to sleep last Tuesday night with this prayer on my lips, and later on Wednesday morning was greeted with this email from my father to his family:
 
“As I was walking into my office this morning, I was blinded by a ray of sunlight breaking through the cloud-filled sky. 
  

‘Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. {Lamentations 3:22-23}’

"As I turned my gaze to the sky, there in the western horizon was a beautiful brilliant rainbow, radiating in vivid color.  My thoughts turned to the promises of Genesis 9:16 and Isaiah 59:19:
 

‘So shall they fear The name of the Lord from the west, And His glory from the rising of the sun; When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. {Isaiah 59:19}’”

Yes, the first Tuesday in November was a dark day.  But not for Christ-followers. 


Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

11.06.2012

A Handsome Face

A World In Motion is a World Upside-Down

We Notice Beauty

Let’s get something straight—I’m not blind. And most girls I’ve met are not either. So whether we’re watching a movie or walking through an airport or looking through a dusty scrapbook from 1843, we’re pretty adept at noticing the handsome guys. We definitely know the difference between an ugly face and a comely one! This discernment is by no means a sin, either. Scripture makes many such observations, such as that David was “ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking (see I Samuel 16:12),” and that Moses “was exceeding fair (see Acts 7:20 KJV).”  
 

When Beauty Becomes Our Downfall

Innocent as it can be, however, our uncanny ability to zero in on the countenances that are goodly to look at can easily be our downfall. Lust starts with a look and a wrong heart (Matthew 5:28), and when Samuel wondered why God didn’t choose David’s older brothers, God responded, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (I Samuel 16:7b).” Our Saviour Himself “has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him (Isaiah 53:2b).” 
 

Be a Beautiful Soul; Look for a Beautiful Soul

This earthly house I’m in—it’s not me. It’s not eternal. It will be destroyed very soon. If my husband falls in love with me because he likes the house, and knows nothing about the “building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (II Corinthians 5:1),” then he has made a very poor choice. Likewise, if I give over my left ring-finger real estate for a face, or write off a godly suitor because he’s not that great to look at, then I am a very foolish girl indeed.
 

Walk By Faith

This is where we must walk by faith and not by sight. In choosing a marriage partner, remember that “while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things [done] in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (II Corinthians 5:6-10 ).” 

Notice the handsome face—fine. But don’t ogle it. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t fall in love with it. Don’t marry it for its sake alone. There is an eternal soul behind that face; is it beautiful or ugly? Moreover, please don’t say “I do” to someone who’s only enraptured with your pretty face. In this area, as in all areas of life, be contrary to your natural inclination, and walk by faith, not by sight, for one day we will all be accountable before Christ for our actions today.



Based upon II Corinthians 5:1-10

Photo Credit: Brandon Christopher Warren

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved

10.30.2012

This is My Story

remember to thank all the books you haven't read over the past three years
You’re one stammering silence away from a complete failure of a conversation.  Face to face with someone you’ve just met; racing brain to racing brain with someone who is just as much at a loss to think of what to say; clearing throat to clearing throat, but not much of value is coming out.  Cue crickets. 
 
So you do what you can: you keep the conversation going at all costs.  If you’re anything like me, you have standard questions you resort to, faithful stories you tell, solid answers you’re ready to give to the questions you already know they’ll ask.  And you keep the conversation going, which is a skill in itself. 
 
But it’s at moments like these, walking away from a conversation heaped with job-jawing and school-speaking with a good helping of hobby-haranguing and a sprinkle of weather-warbling, that these words that I pinned on Pinterest a few weeks ago fill my mind:


“You know my name, not my story.  You’ve heard what I’ve done, not what I’ve been through.”

 And more often than not, the other person is probably thinking the same thing.  Because we all have stories that make us who we are.  We all have experiences that shape our very core.  And those things are more a part of us than our name or our resume.  But this weekend, God dug a little deeper into my paradigm of just how to take that leap from weather-warbling to story-sharing from the heart. 
 
I was at a graveside service, my coat pulled tight against the chill, the rain pouring the tears of Heaven down around those who loved the man who was now with the Lord.  My gloved hands awkwardly turned to the song we were about to sing, “Blessed Assurance.”  My tongue intoned the words, settling into the comfortable grooves of the melody I had sung so many times before.  But then I came to the chorus, and I had one of those lightning bolt, tear-inducing moments of truth from the Lord. 
 
“This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long!” 
 
It hit me like an exploding pressure cooker lid barrelling the ceiling.  I am not the protaganist in my story.  I’m not the supporting character in my story.  I’m not even the actor in the movie version of my story.  Instead, my body and soul are the vehicle and backdrop of my story.  The place where God has chosen to stage the greatest adventure, the greatest romance, the greatest history, and the greatest mystery, all at once. 
 
I Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us,
 


“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.”

 
That’s why my story can be a masterpiece, because I’m not the hero.  God is.  That’s why, from now on, right after you know my name, I’ll want to ask, “Would you like to hear my story?” 

Photo Credit: Natalia Osiatynska
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

10.23.2012

Lessons from a Tea Set





When Lauren and I were not older than ten, we and a group of girls and their mothers hosted a tea party for all the ladies in the church. Each family hosted a table, contributing to the delicacies on the menu, arranging the table, and practicing hospitality to the women assigned to their table as well as two guests from outside the church of their choosing.

I don't remember who sat at our table, or who one of our guests was, but I do remember our other guest. Mrs. Alberta W., the elderly wife of our former pastor, was a gracious woman whom I didn't really know well, but whom I respected and was more than happy to host.

The tea went well--no embarrassing gaffes or shining moments that stand out to me now, twelve years later. The extraordinary moment came several weeks later, when we unexpectedly found a box on our doorstep. Inside was a typewritten letter resting on top of mounds of tissue, the essence of the contents being as follows:


Dear Lauren, Mikaela, Melanie, and Susanna,

 
Thank you for having me at your tea. The food was delicious, and I was happy to be your guest. In 195-, when I married my husband, my daddy gave me a set of china.  I've used and kept it all these years, and now I want to give each of you a teacup and saucer from that set as a thanks for the wonderful day. I hope you will cherish and use them as much as I have.

 
Sincerely,
Mrs. W.


We gasped in childish delight as we burrowed into the tissued depths of the box and retrieved four teacups with a cream background, gold edging, and the most charming minute pink flowers imaginable. These were our cherished possessions, adorning every tea table from that point forward.

Then, a year or two ago, my piano teacher received a long-awaited shipment from Germany: all the china and tea service from his grandparents' estate. The happy occasion quickly turned sour, however, when he opened the box to find piece after priceless piece in shards. Only the silver survived, and as he told us this sad tale and showed us the sad remnants, he handed the remaining teapot, cream, sugar, and teacups to us as a gift.



I'm not deserving of these special gifts; they came with family history and heritage, and the china was given to four clumsy children who preferred a spot of tea with their milk and sugar and peanut butter and jelly to cucumber sandwiches. I hardly think that, were the positions reversed, I could ever part with such treasures; I have yet to master the principle these special friends live out so well:


"Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." ~ Luke 12:33-34

 

I still remember the dear old lady who has long since moved from the area, and who may not even recognize my name, because of a sacrificial gift she gave to my sisters and I that far outweighed anything I had given to her. And I will never forget the giver of the beautiful silver who, for no reason at all, bestowed upon us a gift--a link to his family and heritage--made even more precious because it survived the perilous journey from Germany.


The lessons of the tea service have been great. Do not hold on to your possessions so tightly that you miss an opportunity to greatly bless the life of another.


Above all, do not forget the consummate sacrifice and gift our Savior made for you and I on the cross so long ago.



I smile in delight every time I sip a cup of tea (several times a week), and I marvel and worship God for my salvation and every time (each moment of every day) He gives me His strength and grace. I am indeed, a blessed and unworthy recipient of many good gifts.

 
Photo Credits: Raquel of God's Daughter
New King James Version, © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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