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


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.


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.

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.


I Have a Better Idea!

after party

It was a simple little thing.  But I had a better idea, as usual.  We found ourselves without the songsheets to several hymns we would be singing at a gathering.  The introduction to the first song was climaxing and Mama whispered, “Would you go get copies of the words from the back?” 
Cue my “better” idea.  
“Yes, I’ll go get them right after we’re done,” I whispered back. We were in the very front, and as I glanced back at all the people behind us, I just knew that it would unseemly for me to walk past all of them while they were singing a hymn.  Why, that would be a positive distraction! 
Mama said nothing and did not even frown, but my conscience instantly smote me as I realized what I had just done.  Yet I was still slow on the uptake as I guiltily whispered during the first verse of the song, “Did you want those words now?” 
“That would be nice,” was her reply.  So I rose and fetched the words—a simple task, which happily proved not to be a spiritual hindrance to anyone present.  I even arrived back in time for the third verse. 
Ironically, it was during the singing of another song the next day that the Lord hit me with the full measure of what He had wanted to teach me through that little interchange with my mother.  I was lilting happily through “All Creatures of Our God and King,” but when I got to the fifth verse, the words stuck in my throat: “Let all things their Creator bless, and worship Him in humbleness…” 
The music faded in my ears and, like a waterfall, the realization tumbled upon me that it had been pride yesterday that had refused a simple opportunity to bless Mama.  It had been pride that had made me care what everyone sitting behind me would think.  It had been pride that carried me to the back of the building to get the songsheets when I finally did do the right thing.  And it was pride that was now preventing me from worshipping my first love.  My pride of yesterday with such a simple little thing had been but the symptom of a deeper big thing: replacing my first love with self-love. 
A thunderclap of conviction followed the waterfall of realization, and I knew that this pride was why I had been unable to worship the Lord with my whole heart in recent weeks.  That song service, however, when I confessed my pride to the Lord, was filled with blessing and joy and sweet rain to a thirsty heart. 
You know how once you started loving salted caramel treats you began to see salted caramel everything everywhere?  Or how after you first heard about kombucha you started being bombarded by kombucha from all directions?  It was the same way with pride: once the Lord showed me my problem, I started to find it in myself everywhere I turned!  I would be reflecting on a past conversation, hoping that I had come across as brilliant and sparkling, only to realize that it was pride that was dwelling on that hope.  I would be thinking about future interactions, planning how I would impress and astound, only to realize that there again was the ugly weed of pride.  I soon discovered that one of the most righteous kings in the Old Testament had the same problem that I have. 

“But Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up; therefore wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem.  Then Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.” -2 Chronicles 32:25-26

So instead of pride, I have a better idea…er, I mean, that is, God has a better idea!  To humble myself.  To look for little ways to die to self and bless others.  To focus on being God’s instrument rather than on impressing other people.  To refuse to be led by what others think and instead to be led by what God commands.  To be willing to say, “God, I want You to humble me as low as You desire.”  It really is such a simple little thing, but the results are simply huge. 

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


My Week

Went on an afternoon-long ramble through the woods with my siblings to forage for wild blackberries.

Made blackberry pie. {This gf pie crust is a winner--you cannot tell the difference! And, since there is no gluten, overhandling is not a concern like it is with normal pie crust. Chill every ingredient--even the flours--for maximum flakiness.}

Fantastic Gluten Free Pie Crust

In a food processor, blend together:
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup potato starch flour
1 cup sweet rice flour
1 rounded tsp. xantham gum
dash sugar
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt

Add and coarsely blend:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup coconut oil, shortening, or butter

Add and blend just until combined:
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup ice water

Divide dough into equal parts; wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. Roll into circles using sweet rice flour to temper the stickiness. For a baked crust, prick the pastry with a fork on the sides and bottom. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 for 10 minutes.

Airplane Wing Mountains Snow Water

Flew across mountains and farmland to spend four days in a home not my own but just as full of love, laughter, learning, and life.

We made sponge balls, which, as you can see, were a blast to create, soak, and then throw!

Favorite quote of the week:

Mollie: "Mikaela, your hair looks like a jellyfish!"

Me: "Umm...thank you!"

Clayton, the precious two year old, in a rare moment of rest.

Proud big siblings!

New mama's toes, which I stamped to commemorate the occasion.

Precious Stewart

Back in the Northwest for a ladies tea!


Fall Bounty

An outing with my brother

It is unseasonably hot and dry, but little evidences of fall are beginning to surface for the careful observer.

Today, Susanna and I travel to my aunt and uncle's house for a few days of cousin-sitting (that is to say, fun). That's Ryan leaning over the counter, Camryn sipping the soda, and Reed in his mama's arms. I'm looking forward to spending some extra time with these guys!

Airplane Wing Picture Credit: cdsessums
Fall and vegetable pictures taken by Susanna


It Is

Little Girl Lost

WHAT if being overlooked for recognition yet again is so that I recognize who the Lord overlooking all truly is?
What if that painful acne is so that I fall from the mirror to my knees in pain over vanity?
What if that brain fog that overwhelms when I can’t do it is so that I may learn the determination that can?
What if the death of that one person is so that eternal life will become more precious to me?
What if that bread I can’t have is so that I know that God is the Bread of Life?
What if that betrayal is so that I may find Him faithful?
What if that terrible day is so that I might find Christ waiting at the end?
What if that burning, unforgettable mistake is so that I might comprehend Christ’s unmistakeable perfection?
What if that pervasive stubborn streak is so that I might never back down in stubbornness for Christ?
What if that inopportune accident is so I could have the opportunity to encourage the heart of a hurting girl? 
What if that aching tooth is so that I could share the Gospel with an aching soul in the waiting room?
What if the loneliness that swathes my heart is so that I might grasp that I am never alone?
What if that tempting thought that worms into my brain is so that I can cry out to God with every breath in my being?
What if those cutting words that stabbed my heart are so that I can someday comfort another whose heart has been stabbed?
What if the fears that paralyze my soul are so that I may realize that they are a symptom of the love that does not dwell in my heart?
What if everything in my life is directed by a sovereign God so that everything I am may glorify Him? 
It is. 

Photo Credit: sleepfordays
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