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

4.27.2012

Marked


Photo Credit

Give me a room full of people, and I can pick out the violinists.  Give me a crowd of violinists, and I can pick out the dedicated devotee from the halfway hobbyist.  It’s simple, really—no magic or mind-reading necessary: nearly all violinists develop a tell-tale mark just under their left jawline.  On some, it’s only a shadow.  On others, it’s a raw, red patch or a bruise.  But the mark—combined with calloused fingertips—is the violinist’s mark of pride and dedication to his art. 

I still remember when my teacher first told me about the mark, and I was in awe: People play the violin for so long that they get a mark!! And then I began to develop a small one, which development I observed with great pride!  Once, when Mikaela and I attended a performance by violinist Nadja Salerno Sonnenberg, she asked Mikaela, "Do you play the violin?"
"Yes," Mikaela replied.
"Let me see your practice mark, then."
Mikaela obligingly turned her head, and Nadja clucked her tongue.  "Oh, you don't practice enough." 
The mark, you see, gives people away as a violinist, and it whispers tales about their dedication to all who are savvy enough to listen. 

Likewise, in the movie Little Women, Jo March’s ink-stained hands gave her away as a writer to Professor Bhaer.  A farmer’s tanned skin and dirty fingernails give his profession away, just as the pocket protector gives the engineer away!  But as I contemplated the phenomenon of the mark last week, the thought occurred to me: Do I have a mark that gives me away as a Christian and reveals the extent of my dedication to Christ? 

Because wouldn’t it be fabulous if Revelation 14:1 were true right now of all of us?

“Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads.”


Would that not be amazing to be able to look around a room and see YAWEH enscribed on foreheads all around?  Having my Father’s name written on my forehead would be a more effective evangelism tool than a Christian sweatshirt or a fish bumper sticker or even a tract.  Just as those who are not violinists puzzle themselves over my perpetual red patch, those who had no idea who my Father was would inquire with curiosity, “What’s that signature on your forehead?” 

“It’s my Heavenly Father’s name, and I am marked as His,” I would be able to tell them.    

It would revolutionize more than evangelism, though; it would revolutionize fellowship!  Those who know my Father could embrace me with love in the bread aisle at the grocery store, even if we had never before met, for we would recognize immediately that we were siblings in Christ. 

Sadly, patience is necessary before this incredible prophecy will come to pass.  Neverthless, even though I may not be emblazoned with the Father’s name on my forehead any time soon, I do see another mark with which I should already be emblazoned.  John 13:35 tells the secret:

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”


Love is the mark of the followers of Jesus Christ!  It may not be as fantastical as having a signature on your forehead, but its very simplicity brings up the toughest sort of questions.  Can people pick me out of a room as a disciple of Jesus Christ because of my obvious love for my family?  Can they tell that I am a dedicated devotee of Christ’s because my love for the unloveable is wholehearted or am I apparent as a halfway hobbyist with half-done love? 

Truth be told, if people can’t see the callous of love on my fingers and the well-worn wrinkles of smiles on my face, it matters not one iota if my tongue claims the name of Christ.  I can claim to be a violinist until the cows come home, but if the marks are not there and, indeed, I cannot play, then I am only a delusional wannabe.  I must be marked—from the inside out. 


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

4.24.2012

Waiting Room: Part II

Untitled



Preparation


One of the beautiful facts of life is that it does not consist of fifty years of shuffling in a holding room and one moment of glory, followed by thirty years of debriefing. As the audience at a horse race, all we see is the horses chomping at the bit—waiting for the moment when the gun goes off and the beautiful animals can run as they were meant to. But we are not tromping in stalls, waiting for the races to begin. We are in the races—we are running on the racetrack, galvanized by the explosion of the gun that went off the moment we became a follower of Christ.

How did David use his God-given time of preparation? As he courageously vanquished a giant, responsibly carried out his father’s wishes, sincerely penned the psalms of his heart, lovingly made friends and married, and faithfully honored his king and nemesis, he was growing in character and Godliness. His was a life full and rich; by running the race, he was both intentionally and unconsciously preparing for his role as king of Israel.

Finagling Forbidden

Make no mistake: preparation is not a code word for finagling. When given the opportunity to kill King Saul and secure his God-ordained place as king of Israel, David said, “'Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?’
David said furthermore, ‘As the Lord lives, the Lord shall strike him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall go out to battle and perish (I Samuel 26:9-10).”
  
Abraham finagled when he fathered Ishmael with Hagar; he doubted God’s promise that he would have a son. He seemed to think it was his job to fulfill his calling to be the father of multitudes, and he forgot that God had it all under control (as He always does). Guilty of finagling, as I am? We are in good company, for not only did the father of Israel fail in this area, but also Rebekah, the mother of Israel (Jacob).

God revealed the future of her sons, but once again in classic human form, Rebekah decided it was her job to make it happen. Rather than use that valuable time to train both of her sons in character, wisdom, and righteousness, she raised one son who married against his parents wishes, and another son who had no qualms in going along with her plan of deceit and treachery. How much time, energy, and resources are we expending upon making things happen in our own strength, whilst ignoring the beautiful time of preparation God has gifted to us?

Wait with Character

While “waiting,” David developed a widespread reputation for strong character.

Then one of the servants answered and said, “Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him (I Samuel 16:18).”

Are you known as one who is skilled at her pursuits, who is strong and courageous, careful and wise in speech, beautiful, feminine, and indwelt by the Spirit of the Lord? “And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the Lord was with him (I Samuel 18:14).” That list alone should keep us busy for quite a while.

Wait with Submission

David also served with distinct appreciation for and submission to his authorities. “ Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, ‘Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.’ And Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a young goat, and sent them by his son David to Saul (I Samuel 16:19-20).” David honored the king who sought to kill him (I Samuel 24:8), mourned his death, and executed the one who had dared to kill the King of Israel (II Samuel 1:16).

Wait with Evangelism

In all he did, David proclaimed the name of God to those around him and sought the face of God before taking action. To Goliath he bravely declared,

You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied (1 Samuel 17:45).”

It’s easy to declare the name of God when giving testimony at church, but how about when someone uses His name in vain? Do we speak up against the enemies of God, or do we fall into a weak silence? If we are led by God in everything, there should be no doubt when the time comes to speak up:So David inquired of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?’ And He answered him, ‘Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all (I Samuel 30:8).’”

Wait with Honor

There are so many other things David did right in his time of waiting to become king of Israel. Saul himself said in I Samuel 24:17, “You are more righteous than I; for you have rewarded me with good, whereas I have rewarded you with evil.” David surrounded himself with Godly, righteous men as friends and comrades; he was always busy about God’s business for him (whether babysitting sheep or toppling giants); he was a leader in his generation; and he never lost sight of the calling God had given him so long ago.

There will always be times of waiting in everyone’s life, whether you are a three year-old dancing in anticipation of Christmas, a twenty-five-year-old searching for Prince Charming, or a ninety-six-year-old gasping for heaven. God holds each of us in the palm of His hand, bringing simultaneous times of waiting and fulfillment in different areas of our life. It is up to us to use every moment for His glory and purposes in His time. Choose to wait courageously, diligently, lovingly, adventureously, with character and godliness. Whatever it is you are waiting for, don’t wait passively: wait with God-ordained productivity.

The end result is worth every minute of waiting--and that's what we'll get to in the final part of this series. Read Part III here!




Photo Credit: *raymond

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

4.20.2012

Four Sisters. On a Road Trip. Learning About God.

 4:30 am, Saturday morning.  My alarm pulled my sleeping mind from my wacky dreams, and the day's adventure began.  Still in the early morning darkness, I backed our van up and coasted down the driveway with Mikaela riding shotgun and Melanie and Susanna eating breakfast behind us.  Several hours of driving later, Mikaela and I shook Melanie and Susanna awake with shouts of, "Look!  This is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge!"  It was stunning, and we were so proud of our Washington rival to the Golden Gate!  (A bit less proud when we had to pay the $4.00 toll coming home!)

 Our trek ended two and a half hours from when I had pulled out of our driveway, in the parking lot of a church, where we attended a "Becoming Beautiful" Conference.  Do you remember that fabulous guest post by Ruth Rogers?  She invited us to attend the next conference she was putting on, along with Johanna Feehan.  In the photo above, Johanna (on the left) and Ruth (on the right) are demonstrating for a session on modesty how we girls tend to overload on the bling simply because we love it so much. 

We had such a wonderful time listening to all of the sessions.  We learned about God's treasure of reconciliation with Him and how treasure hunters are willing to walk away from and sell everything they own to go after the treasure.  We learned about a beautiful heart and how God's purpose for my life is rooted in that.  I especially appreciated the emphasis on choosing joy!  We also learned about modesty, and how our appearance is a reflection of our hearts.   


 Ruth and her husband Chris shared a session on their courtship.  It was very inspiring, and they challenged us to pray, "Lord, whether you call me to a life of marriage or singleness, I already accept."  Another prayer: "Lord, I will not marry someone unless I can serve You better with him than without him."  Powerful! 



 We broke into smaller groups for "skill classes."  Susanna and I attended one on hairstyling. Pure girl, that session was!

 Mikaela joined us for a fantastic class on hospitality. 

 Melanie was the talented photographer for the weekend. 

 The Rogers opened their home for us to stay in Saturday night, and we had such a wonderful time with them.  Their two children are absolutely precious--we regaled our family with three year old Leo's quotes for nearly an hour after we came home!  You can tell that Chris and Ruth love the Lord with their whole hearts, and their passion was infectious!  After going to church with them on Sunday, we had lunch on picnic tables overlooking Gig Harbor.  It was such a peaceful, happy spot, and the sun even decided to shine on us! 


 Seagull with his head cocked: Dude, are you a giant crab?


 After we left the Rogers, we did some thrift-store hunting, and then we took Melanie and Susanna to Shipwrecked Beads, one of the largest bead stores in the world!  The selection was crazy--aisles and aisles of seed beeds in every color and finish you could imagine. 

 We were like kids in a candy store...or...girls in a bead store, for that matter! 


What would a girl weekend be without a foot shot?  Over the course of the weekend, people would ask, "Are you just good friends spending the weekend together?"  We four would smile at each other, then reply, "Yes, and we're sisters, too!"  To which the astonished person would reply, "You are all sisters?  You are so blessed!" 
My reply?  "Yes, I definitely am." 

Check out the conference website: a new Becoming Beautiful Conference is tentatively scheduled for July 7th.  I would love to go, as I know it will be just as refreshing and challenging as this one!  There is no fee for the conference, so there is no excuse not to go!  Maybe I'll see you there!

4.17.2012

Dog Years



Fourteen years ago, Lauren and I had a litter of puppies to choose from: we chose the beautiful red pup with curly ears huddling in the corner, shy and uncertain.

{Top: Susanna and Sadie, 1999. Middle Left: Micah. Middle Right: Jonah}


{Top Right: Lauren, Susanna, Mikaela, and Melanie, sleeping under the stars with Sadie. Bottom Right: Jonah once again using Sadie as a pillow.}

And from that day when she joined our family of four girls as a rascally puppy who chewed through everything (including hoses, house siding, chickens, and trailer wiring) and taxed our impotent training efforts, she has grown with us and won us over long ago with her loyalty, love, and playfulness.


{Top: Mikaela, Lauren, Sadie, Susanna, Micah, Jonah, and Melanie.}

She insisted in following us around everywhere. When a toddling Jonah tried to escape down the driveway, we found him with Sadie by his side. We regularly biked to our neighbors to babysit, and Sadie would lope alongside of us, laying patiently at their house until it was time to head home. And when we went for a morning run a few weeks ago, assuming that we could sneak away without Sadie noticing (even though she had never missed a run before), we were once again astounded by her careful watchfulness over us. Despite her arthritis and hip displasia, and unbeknownst to us, she hobbled after us, until she fell in the road and could go no further.



Yesterday, we had to put our beloved dog to sleep. She rests now next to a creek on a grassy hill, which has been known as "Sadie's Hill" for the last decade because of her affinity for it.


4.13.2012

Don't Dare Believe in Yourself

Photo Credit


How many of you have seen this movie? A beautiful girl or a handsome boy has an impossible dream.  Yet a great tragedy interrupts, a debilitating injury threatens, bullies block the way, or some other plot device interferes.  Everything looks bleak, and then a beloved mentor swoops in: “Follow your dreams,” the mentor advocates.  “Believe in yourself.”  From there, of course, the movie climbs up to its tear-jerker ending with all dreams fulfilled.  I’ve seen this storyline countless times, dressed up in various ways, but with the same message.  You would think that if it was asking too much for the screenwriters to offer a correct message they could at least strive to be creative! 

G.K. Chesterton had this wisdom to offer of America’s favorite motto:

“Once I remember walking with a prosperous publisher who…said of somebody, ‘That man will get on; he believes in himself.’

…I said to him, ‘Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves?  For I can tell you.  I know of men who believe in themselves more colossally than Napoleon or Caesar.  I know where flames the fixed star of certainty and success.  I can guide you to the thrones of the Super-men. The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.’ 

He said mildly that there were a good many men after all who believed in themselves and who were not in lunatic asylums.

‘Yes, there are,’ I retorted, ‘and you of all men ought to know them. That drunken poet from whom you would not take a dreary tragedy, he believed in himself.  That elderly minister with an epic from whom you were hiding in a back room, he believed in himself.

'If you consulted your business experience instead of your ugly individualistic philosophy, you would know that believing in himself is one of the commonest signs of a rotter.  Actors who can't act believe in themselves; and debtors who won't pay.  It would be much truer to say that a man will certainly fail, because he believes in himself.  Complete self-confidence is not merely a sin; complete self-confidence is a weakness.  Believing utterly in one's self is a hysterical and superstitious belief...the man who has it has ‘Hanwell’ [a lunatic asylum] written on his face.’1


You truly cannot afford to believe in yourself.  For in such self-reliance you open yourself up to all the strength and possibility you can muster, but that is no more strength than an hours-old baby!  Yes, the baby can cry out that he is self-reliant, but in the end it is the mother who answers the cry with satisfying, life-giving food. 

Likewise, for all our boasted-about self-belief, it is God who upholds our every breath!  We say follow your heart, yet the only reason that heart is still pumping is because of God’s great mercy.  Following a deceitfully wicked organ will only lead to despair. 

We say follow your dreams, yet it would be better to follow the One who gave us those dreams in the first place. 

We say believe in yourself, because in a world that says we were an accident with great-grandparents in the monkey family, we want desperately to think we are worth believing in.  John 1:12 and 13 tells us that our worth lies in our special position as precious children of God:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”


Do these niceties bother you as much as they do me?  Don’t be pulled into the whirlpool by a stirring soundtrack and beautiful speeches.  Don’t you dare believe in yourself: you just might find yourself in a lunatic asylum one day.  Instead, believe in Christ who offers so much more possibility than our own brains could ever imagine:

“Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’”  (Mark 9:23-24)



1. Chesterton, G.K. Orthodoxy.  Project Gutenberg, May 1994.  Page 5. 

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

4.10.2012

Celebrating Because He Lives

Our celebration began two weeks ago with an Easter Concert, then continued one week ago with a family get-together, and culminated this weekend.

The Saturday before Palm Sunday, Aunt Hiedie and Uncle Joe hosted everyone at their house for brunch. How cute are these make-your-own yogurt parfaits? (They were delish, too!)

 Micah had some fun bonding time with cousin Reed. Mr. Reed was main attraction of the day, but he had a decided preference for the guys. (I am happy to report that he still tolerates kisses, however, so that saved the day.)
An undercover agent engaged in the critical task of hiding eggs, I take my job seriously and coordinate my camoflauge according to the season (browns and olive greens just will not hide a body when everything is blooming soft green and bright pink).

Cousin Rebecca (back) and Lauren (front) are equally dedicated to their mission of hiding every egg in a cleverly concealed creative cache.

Jonah grins with a bag full of eggs. He is just too smart for us hiders!

Irresistable!

Micah and Jonah are the chicken farmers of the family, and they recently incubated and hatched 15 chicks to add to their flock. Springtime has definitely arrived!

On Good Friday, we decorated our eggs in all manner of crazy colors and designs. And, yes--my fingers were almost as colorful as the eggs when we finished.

In the afternoon, we attended our community Good Friday service with our "adopted" grandparents. How good it was to reflect on the sacredness of the day, the precious and gruesome sacrifice of Christ, and the melancholy that comes with realizing that it was our sin that put Him on the cross.

 Sunday was a day of rejoicing--He is risen indeed! An early church breakfast, fellowship, and an excellent sermon on the salvation God offers through Christ's atoning sacrifice were all a wonderful part of our day. Friends joined us at home for a midday feast!

Micah and Susanna

Loved ones

Lauren and I, putting the finishing touches on our parmesan-crusted asparagus.

Papa

The exclamation point on the end of the day was Boccone Dolce, a dessert that has remained a family favorite for many years. Ours was a magnificent Easter, revelling in good music, good food, and good company; relishing Mama's recent good health; and rejoicing in the hope we have because the tomb is empty and Christ is alive.

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!

Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!

Lo! the Sun's eclipse is o’er, Alleluia!

Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!

from "Christ the Lord is Risen Today!" by Charles Wesley

 

{There are ten verses to this beloved hymn, only four of which are normally given hymnal space, but nine of which I chose for our church's worship service. They are all beautiful and full of doctrine, so I hope you will check them out and sing them throughout the year.}
 
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