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


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.


Making Beautiful Baubles

There's a lot of window shopping that goes on on Pinterest. Take for example the unique pair of crystal earrings that caught my eye; I loved the rough-cut quartz that looked both rustic and feminine at the same time. When I set out to find myself a pair, I discovered some beautiful amethyst varieties on Etsy...for only $20 (plus shipping and tax). Needless to say, the thought of paying over $20 for a whim did not appeal to me. But when I discovered exactly the type of amethyst gems I needed in a cute Portland shop for only a dollar apiece, I jumped at the opportunity to make my own earrings!

You can find amethysts for $1.05 apiece here, but you want to pick stones that are roughly the same size, so a more sensible (and economical choice) might be to purchase 1/2 lb (7-12 pieces)for $2.95 (these ones are also supposed to be smaller than the first choice, so note the measurements and decide what look you'd prefer).

While I was at it, I also gathered a pair of brown wooden buttons and crystal buttons. These cost me less than a dollar per pair! How perfect would this be to include in Christmas presents? You can find the earring posts at this link on Amazon or at any craft supply store.

E6000 Craft Adhesive--this stuff is the best for jewelry making!

This took me back to my kindergarten days--seriously, all you do is glue, place the posts, and wait patiently! If I was making another pair, I would place the posts in the upper half of the amethysts. Because the rocks have some weight to them, they can droop, but placing the post closer to the top would solve this problem.

Placing the posts in the middle of the buttons worked just fine though, since these were lightweight!

I'm experimenting now with fabric flower earrings, but haven't quite perfected my technique and gotten them the way I like them. It's just another fun possibility, though, to try out, since you now have that whole bag of earrings posts that need to be used!
Happy Crafting!


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Behind the Scenes of My Last Blog Post!

Photo Credit
Tuesday mornings mean two things for me: prepping for a full day of teaching music lessons and publishing a blog post.  And two weeks ago, my Tuesday morning was a tangled one indeed.
As I was doing the preparing part, I was also doing the praying part, about what God would have me publish that day.  I had several ideas to which I was quite partial, but God suddenly prompted me: Why not post on pride?  I thought of several reasons why not to write an article on pride, but since most of them were based in pride, they fell somewhat short.  So the topic was decided (how turning my God-given light on myself in pride leaves the world in darkness: read the post here!), and I just had to find the time to write it! 
This particular teaching day, I had several cancellations which left me with a free morning.  There was the time to write my article, but where could I write it?
You see, Mikaela and I use a local church to teach our lessons on Tuesdays, so even though I didn’t have lessons to teach, I was still stuck at the church with no internet with which to publish a post.  As I began to think through the problem, I remembered that furthermore, the church had no three-prong plug-ins to even plug in my laptop cord, and our local library to which I normally would have resorted didn’t open for another hour. 
These all seemed like tiny hairs of an everyday tangle, but unbeknownst to me, none of them were actually a tangle: they were part of an intricately tatted thread of lace that God was weaving for my day. 

Melanie sitting in the same tea shop I was enjoying. Photo Credit
I was left with no choice but to go to my favorite tea shop, order a steaming hot Lavender Milk Tea with Mango Popping Boba (delicious!), and settle down with my laptop and Bible to write the post God had laid on my heart for the day.  That was my mission.  And yet, even as I was typing away about being a light in a dark world, I couldn’t have guessed that God was preparing another mission for me. 

She was a sweet looking older woman who approached me, and I instantly realized had observed her earlier, chatting with two older men in suits. 
“I couldn’t help but notice,” she said with a smile as she came up to me.  “But is that a Bible on your lap?”
“Yes!” I replied, wonderingly. 
“That is the tiniest Bible I have ever seen!”  She exclaimed.  “How do you read out of that?”
“Well, it’s my travel Bible,” I explained, and we exchanged a few other pleasantries before she handed me a tract and began talking.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that we were not on the same page and that, in fact, she was a Jehovah’s Witness.  (You can read about another witnessing encounter with a Jehovah’s Witness here.)
Finally, she asked me point-blank, “What are you?”
The ultimate question, loaded with existential preconceptions.  I gulped a quick prayer before diving in. 
“I’m a Christian,” I said, and wasted no time in getting to the “good” stuff.  “I believe that Jesus is the only Son of God, and that He died and rose again to save me from my sins.”
She was nodding in agreement with me.  “Oh, yes, and you have it so right that Jesus is the Son of God, because so many people get that wrong!” 
I knew she was misunderstanding, although I wasn’t yet quite sure what she was misunderstanding, so I tried a different tack.  “Yes, but I believe in the Trinity, that Jesus is One with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.” 
Suddenly, she didn’t quite agree with me anymore, and a new door opened in our conversation as she said, “But you can’t find that in the Bible!” 
“No,” I agreed, “That word ‘Trinity’ isn’t in the Bible, but the Bible clearly teaches that God is three in one.”  At this point, my heart pounding with adrenaline, I scraped through my brain to try to remember a verse, any verse, that could help communicate this truth to this lady.  And you know what?  Thinking back, I can’t even remember which verse I took her to at that moment!
I do know that the passage I found after thumbing through my Bible, was not “The Perfect Verse for Empirically Proving the Truth of the Trinity.”
I know that the words I used did not follow the “Three Step Plan for Converting a Woman in a Tea Shop.” 
I know that the conversation that followed was not “The Benchmark Conversation You all Should Replicate with a Jehovah’s Witness.” 
But I do know that the Holy Spirit she was discounting as a “force” lives inside me and was guiding me, comforting me, helping me. 
I know that for about ten minutes I was able to discuss Jesus with a woman who used His name but missed the entire person of Jesus Christ our Lord! 
I was able to share with her from John 1:1-3

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”

To a woman who says that God the Father created the world, but Jesus did not, I imagine that verse was worldview-shaking. 
I also turned to one of my favorite chapters, John 17, and although the conversation took a different tangent before I could get to these verses, they would have been perfect to share as well:

“That [the believers] all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one.” {John 17:21-22}

As she prepared to leave, I told her I wanted to leave her with this thought, which I know the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart: “If you do not believe that Jesus Christ is one with God, and that while on earth He was fully God yet fully man, then you can’t believe that His redemption on the cross for all mankind was enough.”
“But it was enough!”  she insisted.
“Yes,” I agreed.  “But you can’t believe that unless you believe that Jesus was one with God.” 
With that, she left.  As soon as she did, I wasted no time in googling “verses to share with a Jehovah’s Witness about the Trinity.” 
I found all the verses I should have shared.  I found this excellent website, with all the information I should have known. 
And I encourage you to study to show yourself approved, and to be prepared.  But I also encourage you to seize those precious missions that God entrusts to you at the moment they occur and do one thing, perfectly prepared or not: talk about Jesus. 
Jesus, after all, is the stumbling block for all other religions. 
Jesus, after all, is my first love! 
And Jesus, after all, is the reason we share, not to prove how intellectually brilliant our crippling arguments are.  Thank goodness! 
So there I sat, my lavender tea cooling on the table, my Bible opened to John, my cursor blinking in the middle of the last word I had typed in my article on being a light in a dark world. 
And I prayed.  For a nameless woman who seemed so lost.  For my own failings in sharing. 

And I gave thanks.  For a free morning and for three-prong laptop cords and for a library that opened an hour too late.  It was in that giving thanks that I began to realize that perhaps the library opened right on time for God to turn these tangled hairs of my morning into a thread of lace that was beautiful beyond my wildest dreams. 

Photo Credit: Photo 1: Jonathan Kos-Read
                       Photo 2: Raquel
                       Photo 3: Marlana
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Staircase to the Clouds

Once upon a time, there lived a girl who dreamed of living in the clouds. She was but a poor peasant toiling away in the fields all the day long. In the summer, the hot sun would beat down upon her and scorch her neck and parch her lips. In the winter, the fierce winds and icy sleet would whip her slight body and inflict pain at the first--until the cold numbed her limbs to feeling. Rare were those perfect days--the cool, foggy mornings, when the ugliness was concealed and the beauty popped out like never before. The world seemed so peaceful on those mornings; she could only see a step ahead of her, and yet it calmed her to not see the sprawling acres of land waiting to be hoed.

And on Sundays--the one day of the week when she didn't have to work--she would lie on her back in the woodlands and stare up at the sky. It was such a delightful thought to think of somehow capturing that beautiful foggy cloudiness and living within its peaceful confines. It would be soft--so soft. It would afford an excellent view. It would be unusual and different and clean and comforting.

"Hello Miss!"

The girl jumped from her reverie to look up at a young man--the funniest she had ever seen. He was wearing a roughly woven green tunic that ended in a zig-zag hem. Underneath the tunic, his two long, skinny, bow-legged legs protruded, covered in purple britches that billowed and ended at his knees. His easy grin revealed a missing tooth; his face was sharp and skinny; and his eyes were a vivid green that sparkled with life.

"Whatcha' dreamin' of?" He asked impishly.

For some reason, this girl trusted him, so she answered simply and without fear of being made fun of, "The clouds. I wish I could live in one."

"Have ye tried?" The man asked matter-of-fact.

"Oh!" The girl laughed. "How does one go about trying to live in a cloud?"

"On the day next, when the fog rolls in thick, it's the clouds comin' down to earth itself. On those days, you do live in a cloud!"

"Oh!" said the girl again, because she wasn't sure what to say. "But I want to live in a cloud in the sky--with no solid ground beneath my feet."

"Well that's a trick, now, ain't it!" The man exclaimed, not as if he didn't know the answer, but as if he wasn't sure he wanted to give it. He looked at her for a few minutes in a brown study before saying anything else. "Come with me, then."

The girl wasn't sure if she was silly or smart, but she went with him. He led her far deeper into the woodlands than she had ever gone before. She lost sight, in fact, of the clouds--even of the sky and the sun. The woods had grown so dark, she felt as though it must be dusk, even though there was still several hours before the sun set. Finally, her practicality prevailed over her faith. "Sir! Where are you taking me?"

Fog ... or did we walk into a cloud?

"To the staircase to the clouds, miss, to be sure! Where else did ye suppose?"

The girl was afraid to ask any more questions, so she kept following him, through bramble and brush, through creeks and over hills. Finally, he stopped at the biggest oak tree she had ever seen. It was bigger around than her outstretched arms could measure--it seemed nearly as big as her small hut! And its height knew no end, for it seemed to continue through the forest canopy until her eyes could no longer see any farther.

The man jumped into the first branch and began to climb with energy, so the girl followed him. Ever so soon, however, the man began to climb farther and faster than her.

"Please, sir! Don't leave me! I need you to show me the way!"

"Miss," he called down from his perch far above her, "I have shown ye the way! It's up to ye now."

She climbed and climbed, and soon after, lost sight of the strange man. Her muscles ached, and her chest heaved, but still she pressed on. The branches did not grow smaller and weaker as she went on--they remained just as sturdy as the bottom branches. And then, all in one moment, a still, white, beautiful fog surround her. She had reached the sky and found herself in a cloud.

She took a step off the tree and found that the cloud supported her. She jumped and found that the cloud caught her. She breathed and found the moist, cool air so refreshing. She laid down and found the cloud softer than the newest feather mattress. She tasted and found the cloud deliciously satisfying. And then, all of a sudden, she felt a wonderful warmth on her body. She crawled to the top of the cloud and peeked out, and was met by the sun. Its beautiful rays warmed and invigorated her.

"Hello, sun!" she said. "It's so nice to see you." And she laughed to think about how much she had hated the sun. It was so beautiful from her cloud, as was nearly everything. Our girl lived in that cloud for the rest of her life--though to be sure, she came down to solid ground every day to work and perform her duties. But it was in discovering the joys of cloud-dwelling that she came to appreciate the beauty of everything else too. From her cloud, she no longer minded the sun, the rain, the snow, or the wind. Her view had changed, and in it, everything else seemed to have changed as well.

#1 Photo Credit: PhotoAtelier
#2 Photo Credit: Vivek
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