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


Favorites from 2013

Almost five years into this grand experiment called a web log, blogging has become a natural bi-weekly habit as I observe my surroundings, take stock of my inner ponderings, choose the most interesting of the several dozen pontifications that were profound enough to be remembered a few days later, and then type it up, revise it, and publish it on Tuesday morning. Some posts end up weird, others mildly entertaining, and a few (I hope) profound.

As 2013 slips away, I'd like nothing better than to celebrate the successes (and forget the failures) with a countdown. First, I share with you the top five most-visited posts on One Bright Corner:

Mikaela and I had been sent to bed long ago, but the falling summer sun was so orange and bright through our window and our gabled bedroom was so warm and stifling that we were certainly not inclined to fall asleep. We could wield our tongues with each other for time without end, and in the course of our whispered conversation we soon had crept out of bed to enjoy the night. We carefully opened the window and breathed in the sultry summer air. Sleep was forgotten. But the time of reckoning came. "Come down here," a voice suddenly called from the ground below the window. I slapped my hand to my mouth and stared, wide-eyed, at Mikaela. Read More>>

Waiting Room, Part II by Mikaela {but why would you want to start with Part II of this three part series? I'm linking to Part I!}
Have you ever asked God, “Why did you give me this vision—this desire that burns so greatly in my heart—only to leave it unfulfilled?” There are times in my life where I begin to think my hopes and dreams are just a mirage. Perhaps I was mistaken when I believed God anointed me for a very special task. Was I tuned in to the wrong station when I heard Him so clearly point me to marriage and motherhood? This isn't just an issue of marriage, though: college, discipling, and teaching music have all been points of desire and doubt in my life as well. Read More>>
Fun and random facts that offer a snapshot of our life in 2010. Read More>>

Lord, Let Me Declare by Mikaela
On my nightstand, one book has had the place of honor for a decade. This book, which began life as a charming black-covered creation with vivid red corners, is now a shabby stack of over 200 bound papers. The cover is long gone, the edges are curling, and the first ten pages have escaped the binding. This book, you see, began in the ninth year of my life, is my journal. Her name is Louisa, and here I offer you a look at my life through the last decade, complete with authentic spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors (oh, my!). Read More>>

Little Women by Mikaela
There is a little book which has resided on our family’s bookshelf as long as I can remember. Yet try as I might, I could never manage to finish the exactly 500 page volume. I began it at least half a dozen times over the years, never making it much past page fifty, despite its liveliness and my interest in it. Henry Thoreau was right, however, when he said, “read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all,” and so this very morning I completed the book: Little Women. If you have never gotten around to reading this treasure, I must warn you that while I empathize with your plight, I am on a mission to proselytize you. Read More>>

Since the most-visited posts give older posts a decided advantage in accumulating page views, and since only one of these posts was actually posted in 2013, and since everyone likes cliff notes, summaries, and big blinking arrows that say "turn here," allow me to present my personal top five favorite posts from 2013:

This is not a story of love at first sight. This is not a simple story of love, though this is the simple version. At times, it was messy and difficult and hard and required both people to die to their interest in each other. Nevertheless: this is my love story. Read More>>
“Mom, who’s Pilate?” “He’s the big shot.  Be quiet”
“I can’t see!”
“What do those words on the screen say?”
“Oh…oh…I am thirsty.  I am really thirsty!”
I was at an Easter play, trying desperately to get “in the mood”, but with the running commentary going on behind me, I might as well have been in Costco watching The Passion of the Christ on their big screen TV displays while people around me munched Polish sausages. I was getting fed up. Read More>>

Capitalization, in case the concept wasn’t painted across your forehead in grade two, is extremely important.  For instance, the time I forgot to capitalize God’s “Law” and several other synonyms in an important college paper all about God’s Law…and was docked ten points.  Ouch. Lesson learned.  If you want to gain points on school papers and camouflage your innate blondness, I highly recommend you capitalize on the discipline of capitalization. 

Which brings God the greater glory: to be worshipped by wretchedly sinful, incompetent beings or to be worshipped by completed, perfected beings? Read More>>  

In Theory by Lauren 
I wonder if Thomas Edison were one of our generation whether he would have theorized 10,000 possibilities for creating the light bulb, but never actually tested them. I wonder if Paul Revere were one of our generation whether he would have moaned about the poor colonists who were about to be taken unawares, but never actually mounted a horse to warn them. Read More>>
It's always fun to reminisce and look back, so I hope you enjoyed this journey as much as I did! I'm also enthusiastically looking forward to 2014; happy New Year everyone! Do you have a favorite memory or blog post (from your own blog) to share? I'd love to hear about it in the comments section! 

Photo Credit: ginnerobot


The Last Page

Today, I turned the last page on The Last Battle with Jonah.  Nagged with secret guilt over our failure to read this culmination of our favorite series, he and I finally decided the only remedy was to make the time.  And so, several months ago, we plunged in together, and I read aloud to him this masterpiece by C.S. Lewis.  

Although there were parts that I loved as well as parts with which I did not agree, we made memories reading this dear book.  We gaped at the Ape’s brashness while driving to help clean a friend’s house.  We held our breath in suspense for the king’s life while on our way to dinner.  And with near giddiness we rediscovered our old friend, Reepicheep, in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  But today, at our lunch table, I turned the last page and read the words that will be seared on my heart forever:

“‘The term is over: the holidays have begun.  The dream is ended: this is the morning.’ And as [Aslan] spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.  And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after.  But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.” 

Even our most festive of holidays here on earth are only a shadow of the holiday of Heaven.  And thus even the most draining of exams in this life is only a part of the school term that will soon be over. 

Yet this short term of life is necessary.  It is God’s term of gift-giving, of sinner-loving, and of saint-commissioning.  It is my chance to fall to the depths of the ocean and find His love still there.  A chance to soar to heights of prowess and find His glory still greater.  A chance to despair that all is lost and the way out gone forever, only to see His saving Hand outstretched toward my shrinking fingers.  A chance to see the holy beauty of God in stark contrast to the wilds of this world. 

This world is only the Shadow-Lands.  It is only the school term; it is but a dream.  It is the landscape seen rushing past a car window.  The dress rehearsal, the prologue, the eternity. 

This busy December Tuesday, hold fast to this hope without wavering: the end of the term will come before you know it, and then the holidays will begin!  

Photo Credit: Jonathan Kos-Read


It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

My 2013 Ornament

I love the month-long traditions and anticipation of Christmas. I physically make ready, but I also spiritually and emotionally prepare for the exciting morning that is so inextricably linked to the cross and the resurrection--the Gospel itself. Don't miss these learning opportunities!

:: Hallmark Ornament Shopping with Sandi and Ron
:: Christmas Programs galore
:: Family and Church Advent readings
:: The creamy minty goodness of Candy Cane Lane Tea
:: Reflecting on the fact that, for Jesus, Christmas was a humiliation. It is grand and glorious   and worthy of celebrating and rejoicing over, because it is a part of God's master plan, but it signaled pain, temptation, and suffering for Jesus Christ.
:: Frosty snow! {Sledding, snow angels, snowballs, snow forts...}
:: Majestic Christmas concerts--attending and performing
:: Time with loved ones
:: A heart filled with gratitude to God as Joel and I continue to daily add to our burgeoning gratefulness list
:: Christmas movies {It's a Wonderful Life, The Nativity, The Christmas Carol}
:: Attending an outdoor reenactment of the Christmas story and understanding to an even greater degree the beauty of that night in Bethlehem so long ago.
:: Decorating
:: Christmas Eve candlelight service--a time for reflection and peace
:: Finding the perfect gift for each person
:: Getting our Christmas tree from the same farm as always, taking a picture in front of the chosen beauty same as always, riding in the trailer with the tree to the hot cocoa station--same as always--and listening to "The Happiest Christmas Tree" on the way home {same as always}!
:: Christmas CDs: old favorites and a new favorite from Joel, with the lyrics about Jesus: "the Promise showed their wildest dreams had simply not been wild enough."
:: Teaching Christmas songs--from "Friendly Beasts" to "Up on the Housetop" and everything in between.
:: Eggnog
:: Not bowing at an empty manger, praying to Mary, glorying in the angels, or shutting my Bible at "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel {Isaiah 7:14 NKJV}", but continuing on to "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." {John 1:14 NKJV} and rejoicing in "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." {John 3:16 NKJV}

How do you prepare for Christmas?


What Your Schedule Says About You

If you’re anything like me, then the celebration of Thanksgiving Day last week signaled the start of a season in which eight days’ worth of activities and to-do lists are crammed into seven days of time.  The season in which my head still peels off my pillow at 6:21 in the morning, but doesn't find the pillow again until too late each night.  The season in which all the usual responsibilites fill the hours in between, but all the extra doings overflow the cup. 

But Thanksgiving is a day set aside for giving thanks, not giving gripes, and on that day the quiet conviction of the Holy Spirit was beckoning me to hold off on the chaos and join Jesus for time together. 

It was a wondrous morning hour, with blue sky in my window, and beautiful silence stilling my heart, and Jesus and His Word and me.  However, I soon discovered that I wasn’t spending that morning with Him just to experience wonder and beauty, but also to be cloaked in conviction, to taste humility, and to embrace repentance. 

For as I moaned about how strong fleshly habits are in my life, little did I know that He had foreordained 1 Peter 4:1, and that He had foreordained that I should read it on Thanksgiving morning with a heart ready to listen.
“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.”  {I Peter 4:1}
Arm yourselves also. 

Here I have been struggling against the current without a life preserver. 
I have been carrying water without a bucket.
I have been running the car without an engine.

Most days I do read my Bible, but that’s often all that it is.  A cursory reading rather than a timely reveling.  And the Thanksgiving revelation of I Peter 4:1 is that I can struggle against sin and the flesh all I want, but unless I am armed with the same mind as Christ, my struggle is as useless as carrying water in my fingers to a raging fire.

Not spending that time with Jesus in the morning is the ultimate act of pride.  It is the supreme choice to love sin. 

It says, “I am powerful enough to live today with food and water, but without Jesus.”
It says, “I already know what needs to get done today, and it doesn’t matter if my ideas matter for eternity.” 
Conversely, even five minutes of quiet with Jesus is the ultimate expression of humility.  It is the greatest step towards victory over sin. 

It says, “I need you, Jesus my Savior.  I can’t make it through this day on my own.”
It says, “Teach me, Lord, what You want this day to be about for eternity.” 
Don't twist this humility.  There is no glory in the act of taking this step of quiet time, no bonus crowns stored up in Heaven as points for every extra chapter you read in Scripture.  No, the step itself is not glorious, but Jesus Himself is all glorious, and He knows whether I am dismissing Him on my to-do list, or listening to Him as my Lord. 
And the next time I find myself stickily bound in the quagmire of sin or boarding the train of chaos headed to despair, I know the Holy Spirit will again remind me: “Did you arm yourself with the same mind of Christ today?"  If so, the exit sign for the quagmire and the chaos train is that-a-way!

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Photo Credit: martinak15


A Seaside Excursion

The first year six of us spent a fall weekend at the beach, we had to look out carefully for the cottage we were renting, holding our breath that it was actually going to be decent. We stopped constantly for pictures along the scenic drive, and we holed up in our cottage on Sunday morning because of our uncertainty about any good churches in the area. We were between the ages of 17 and 20, many of us still in high school with part-time jobs at best. We counted every penny, drove in fear of snow, and couldn't change a flat tire. {Read more about our trip three years ago here}.

The tradition is still going strong. This time, the six of us met at a charming bubble tea place in town for lunch on Friday. The requisite car drama (there's always something!) was dispensed with before lunch, and we were on our merry way to the seaside! This time, when we stopped in our favorite Astoria thrift shop, the owner remembered us from two years ago. And when we reached Cannon Beach, we drove straight to the same, comfortable, cozy little cottage with its eccentric leopard print carpet that suits us just right.

We took rambling walks on the beach, elected not to do the hike we had planned (because the skies stormed and raged in a fascinating fashion all weekend), ate quantities of good food, attended a mediocre play, watched Bleak House (yes, all 8.5 hours of it!), laughed until our stomachs ached, soaked in the hot tub until the fumes made us ditsy, stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, and ate lunch at 4:30.

We discovered the best coffee of our lives (and that is saying a lot, coming from 6 coffee connoisseurs!): Sleepy Monk Coffee. The freshly roasted beans, the creamy richness, and the not-too-sweet flavor of the "foofy" coffees beckoned us not once but twice over the course of the weekend!

We re-visited the church that we had ventured to two years ago and were just as delighted! The pastor remembered us, and I was blessed by the commonality we all shared as one Body--dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Throughout the course of the weekend, we read through James, sharing our thoughts and applications in a wonderful, rambling manner such that everyone came away with something and all of us were blessed by the reading of the Word! {To see what we talked about two years ago on our beach getaway, click here!}

It seems as though we all might be a wee bit older this year than the first year we travelled to the beach together. God has been faithful to bring us along on our journey through life. But, ah, how thankful I am that my journey these last years has intertwined with these ladies' journeys and has included so many wonderful weekends at the coast!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wait Till Sunrise

The sunlight sparks my gaze,
Filling my ears with music golden.
My fingers yearn for its rays
To gather them as life for my soul.
A dark hand defeats me;
The sun dies in smoldering embers.
My hope shrivels blackly,
And fear slithers in, stealing my soul.
Nightmares wail, shadows bound,
Darkness suffocates, the music ends.
My own thoughts hunt me down—
The sun is gone, and with it, my hope.
A missive of light glows.
My eyes seek the sun, finding instead
The rising moon’s halos
Sending a message borne on sunlight:
The test of darkness betrayed
Your hope to be fragile as fine glass.
The sun died not, but bade
The moon glow for your wait till sunrise.

Photo Credit:blinkingidiot


Precious Life

A Father's Tenderness

The story of Tim Bowers ended tragically last week [1]. It wasn't one of those beautiful fairy tales in which the good guy triumphs, the villain hobbles away, and the last page concludes with "and they lived happily ever after" and a large, flourishing "The End." Tim Bowers' story took a turn no one--least of all he--expected. In a heartbreaking moment, he fell 16 feet while hunting, leaving him paralyzed from the shoulders down. The story of his life was forever changed--nothing would ever be easy or even happy again. But with his mental faculties fully intact, his life story wasn't over!

To a culture that murders helpless babies in the womb, though, his life story was over. To a society that increasingly scoffs at the helpless, his story had no meaningful contributions left. To a world that has granted terminally ill patients the right to commit suicide, his story had ended.

This man would never be able to hunt, never be able to hold his baby, never be able to walk, and never be able to feed himself. Doctors said that he might not ever be able to breath on his own. Yet he would still be able to converse, kiss, laugh, think, debate, cry, and live. His life was still precious!

There is a time to cease artificially keeping someone alive--but this is a decision arrived at slowly and carefully. I will never know what caused the Bowers family to consider taking out the breathing tube only 24 hours after the accident or why, when they took Tim Bowers out of sedation to ask him, Tim consented to going off the ventilator. I grieve with them for the loss of this precious life.

And I grieve for my country that extols such a decision. When we end a life and praise the "control" it brings to an out-of-control situation, we set ourselves up as God. When we end a life because of its messiness, we take selfishness to its farthest possibility. When we end a life based on future possibilities, we react in irrational fear.

God has created each human being in His own image! Europe and North America--I will take the 95% of down syndrome babies you are aborting [2]! They are precious lives! The 673 Oregonians alone [3] who have committed physician-assisted suicide were precious lives from whom my generation had so much to learn about courage, love, and selfless sacrifice. To the hospital who refused to treat a baby until threatened with legal action--is this now survival of the fittest at its finest [4]?

The Old Lady and the Birds

Oh, precious lives! Who will speak and defend and care for them?
Weigh in: At what point is life support artificially keeping someone alive and when should it be pulled? Do you agree with Tim Bowers' decision?

[1] Paralyzed Hunter Chooses to be Taken off Life Support
[2] Caroline Mansfield, Suellen Hopfer, Theresa M Marteau (1999). "Termination rates after prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, spina bifida, anencephaly, and Turner and Klinefelter syndromes: a systematic literature review". Prenatal Diagnosis 19 (9): 808–12. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-0223(199909)19:9<808::AID-PD637>3.0.CO;2-B. PMID 10521836. This is similar to 90% results found by Britt, David W; Risinger, Samantha T; Miller, Virginia; Mans, Mary K; Krivchenia, Eric L; Evans, Mark I (1999). "Determinants of parental decisions after the prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome: Bringing in context". American Journal of Medical Genetics 93 (5): 410–16. doi:10.1002/1096-8628(20000828)93:5<410::AID-AJMG12>3.0.CO;2-F. PMID 10951466.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Trynes
Photo Credit: Christopher Walker


Doing Friendships Wrong

Photo Credit
A precious little boy I know hazarded playing with a new group of kids.  Spurning and teasing shut him out like a slammed door on a smiling face, and those were just the responses of the Christian children. 
You might say that’s terrible.  And it is. 
You might say that’s rare.  It is not. 
Indeed, I suggest to you that the majority of Christian young women have friendship just as radically wrong as those kids did. 
We speak of “having” a friend as we speak of “having” a charm bracelet. 
We see our friends as means of entertainment with whom to while away boredom.  (Are we talking about a television or a human being, here?)
We share with our friends all the things that eternity will erase and leave unsaid the crux of our souls. 
We sob and suffer through loneliness while surrounded by over 7 billion people.
Our happiness and comfort is the Lens through which friends will be viewed, the Ruler by which friends will be measured, the Law by which friends will be judged, the Password by which friends will be permitted.
And that list hardly cracks the door on the room of lies with which Satan has bewildered our friendships.  The Bible is our standard for everything in life, yet why have we lived as though it does not define the purpose of friendship? Jesus said, 

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” {John 15:13}

Greater love. 
No one speaks like that anymore.  We don’t contemplate laying down our lives for someone before we “friend” them on facebook.  We no longer say we love a friend with great love or that she is a “friend who is as your own soul” {Deuteronomy 13:6}.  Instead we put our happiness first and use trite phrases like “BFF” and speak of “having” a friend.  We are satisfied with the mediocre, when Jesus called us to the greater.
Jesus said being a friend meant having a love so great you would step up to a murderer.  You would tell him, “Take me instead," giving up your life and with it your hope of holding the hand of your grandchild, your dream of journies across the world, and your daily chance for a morning sunrise. You would throw your own body across your friend’s to take the bullet and feel, not fear and bitterness burning in your throat, but deep forgiveness and overwhelming peace along with the scorching pain of death and the joy of eternity. 
Why? Because you love that person more than yourself or your happiness. 
Jesus was that friend to us, so it should not surprise us that friendship was God’s idea.  From the description in Genesis we can picture the deepness of Adam and Eve’s relationship with their Creator. Unfortunately, this means we also grieve all the more intensely the depth of their loss in discarding that one perfect friendship.

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”  {Genesis 3:8}

And so we have been hiding ourselves ever since.  Not just from a friendship with the God of the universe, but from the knitting of our souls to the soul of another human being whom God miraculously placed on the planet at the same time and in the same place as us.  From giving without reserve of the treasures of our minds to strengthen.  From depleting our depth of emotions to encourage.  From loving face to face and soul to soul. 
And so, instead of laying down our lives for our friends, we find ourselves in the position of laying down our friends for our lives, our way.  Of doing coffee and going out to a movie and never really getting to know the soul of the girl who sat next to us through it all.  Of loving the comfortable mediocre more than the demanding greater.  Of loving our happiness with the status quo more than the little boy with love to give.
But “greater love has no one than this…” 
It’s time to get this one right, girls. 

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


When Music Imitates Life

People who would never say "I don't like snacks" or "all parks bore me" blurt out their distaste for classical music with sweeping generalizations. I can understand disliking a piece or two, or even professing an avid aversion to a composer (Schoenberg, anyone?), but this? This I cannot condone.
A journey: this is classical music. It requires commitment, intelligence, optimism, and patience. But from that first note, you find yourself flying along, as though a magic carpet has swept you off your feet. The music soars into the treetops--you peer over the edge of the carpet and see the entire piece mapped out in front of you, like a charming village. Violins sing legato notes--the flute trills harmoniously. All is beautiful, perfectly planned, and wonderfully predictable. You could stop here, and everything would be clean, organized, and respectable.
Continuing on, however, brings a tangled mess. When you least expect it, the carpet dives for the ground with alarming alacrity. The cellos are rumbling, the oboe is crying, and the flutes are nowhere to be found. Everything that looked so clear and marvellous from the sky is now confusing and ominous. You crash into the earth with the mighty sound of the cymbal, and suddenly conflict reigns supreme as you fight your inner demons and those around you. Dissonance is everywhere. The tympani is thundering, the violas are wondering, and the french horns are plundering.
At the height of the loudest fortissimo, minor explodes into major and dissonance blooms into consonance. You find yourself on a mountain peak much higher than the aforementioned treetops, and the violins are playing their hearts out in gorgeous melody. Every single instrument trembles with passion as they create a lush, glorious sound of unimaginable beauty. Then slowly, slowly, the music drops to a soft, peaceful, comforting close. Satisfaction abounds.
The magic carpet lets you off, and you wonder at the journey you just experienced. It was not at all what you expected or planned. It seemed easy before it got ugly and frightening. But the ugliness turned into something beautiful; you're not sure how it happened, but you are sure that you would never have noticed the beauty if it were not for the former ugliness.
Do you understand now? Classical music is a journey of life. Don't scorn the dissonances, or you'll never hear the consonances. Don't cringe at the crashes and bangs, or you'll never understand the melody. Don't be content with your summit, or you'll never reach the true mountain peak. And don't faint when your anticipation proves false--the unexpected will bring beauty in the end.


The Future Begins in the Present

The day I gaze into the eyes of God, fully and utterly satiated, shaped into a manifestation of Him, will be the best day of my life.  I explored the crevices of this verse in my mind, lying on my bed enveloped in utter darkness.  But as I dwelt upon this future glory, I realized that the promise of the future begins in the present.
As for me...
I may not be able to gaze into the eyes of God on this earth, but I can gaze with sheer wonderment when I get a glimpse of His hand or an echo of His voice.
As for me...
I will not be perfected in righteousness while this sinful flesh lives, but I need not gaze on wickedness--the hand of the devil--while wishing I could behold God's face before my eyes are closed to this life.
As for me...
I may not be able to digest the fullness of God before I come to the richness of eternity, but I will gorge on His Word during this short life until I find an end to my soul's famine.
As for me...
I believe without a doubt that one day I will start up from sleep and find myself in the presence of my Redeemer, shaped into a manifestation of Him. 
But I also believe that this future resurrection stands on the foundation of a past creation and rebirth and a present sanctification. 
I was made in the very image of God already. 
I am now a new, beautiful creature in Christ. 
One day, I will awake in the likeness of Christ. 
Therefore, I abide in the present under the cool, sheltering shadow of that future promise, but I rest upon the Rock after Whom God has already fashioned me.

Background Photo Credit:seyed mostafa zamani

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