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

4.30.2013

A Love Story

 
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. 

I do not remember life without Joel—nor, I think, does he remember life without me. Since we met twenty-two years ago (when I was a babe of 3 months old, and he was a disinterested toddler 3 years of age), life and God have always kept us in touch one way or another. First, we were childhood playmates and friends. I loved the stories he would tell me, invented from his own imagination, and died from suspense as he made me wait week to week to hear the next part of the saga. Together, we explored the woods and played in musical ensembles; from him, I learned chess and the finer points of shooting a basketball into a basket. It was a simple time—three children (because Lauren was also part of our gang!) having delightful times together.
 
Top to bottom: 2004, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2010

As we grew older, our relationship necessarily became more distant. We challenged each other to read through series of books, we made music together with voice and instrument, and we saw each other weekly at church, but our friendship changed and was replaced by friends of the same gender.  

Somewhere along the way, I grew up. And with that growing up came a new awareness. I looked at Joel and admired his leadership, his passion, his purposefulness, his love for God and family, and his great mind, heart, and soul. Slowly and gradually, like the dawning of the sun, I began to think that he would make a wonderful husband and father.  

This was something I struggled with, because Joel had not pursued me. I had no basis and no permission to feel this way. So I prayed, I cried. I thought hard, I thought not at all. Gradually, God made me see that I needed to share this with my parents. If Joel found a nice girl and married her, I would desperately need my parents by my side! Moreover, if Joel decided I was that nice girl he should marry, then my parents would already know my heart.

So two years ago, I went to them and shared what I had never joked about with my girlfriends. What I had never uttered to Joel. What I had never even written in my journal. With tears and more nerves than one girl should have to deal with, I wondered aloud to them—was Joel the one? They listened to me and loved me. They didn’t condemn me, but nor did they encourage me. This was definitely out of our control, and we would just have to wait and see what God was going to do. My relationship with my parents has become even more sweet and precious since I shared my heart with them that night.

In January of 2012, I made a New Year’s Resolution. I usually avoid such resolutions for the obvious aversion to feeling like a failure. This year’s commitment, however, was inescapable, and so I resolved to make God preeminent in my life and on the throne of my affections, so that the things of this earth would grow strangely dim. 

God lovingly and graciously brought so many challenges into my life last year that brought me to just that place. But, oh, the pain.  

At the end of January, Joel took a job as law clerk in Maryland. He was in his last year of law school, and had been looking for just such an ideal job as this to begin to gain experience. Through this and many other circumstances, God ripped Joel from my heart—and replaced him with Himself. I completely died to my vision for my life and what I wanted, and I submitted myself to God’s plan for my life. (My blog post written in the midst of this journey through pain might make more sense now.)

This was also the year that I heard from God truly and clearly for the first time. The year that I came to know God like never before. The year that God became preeminent in my life, the King of my affections; the year that the things of this earth grew strangely dim. 

Then Joel came home for the holidays and to spend the next two months studying for his Bar Exam. I was very interested in not talking to him and, in fact, avoiding him, because I still didn’t trust my flighty heart! He, however, had other ideas. He wasted very little time in emailing my Papa about getting together. And so on December 31st—the last day of that eventful year that I had given to God—he met with Papa and asked his permission to court me. On January 19th, he came over to my house and, with the full permission of both sets of parents, asked me if he could court me, to which I joyfully agreed! 
On the night of our engagement!
 
Our courtship brought limited contact, as he was immersed in his studies for the Bar and went back to Maryland shortly thereafter. We certainly managed to make the most of our time together, however, and held email and phone conversations constantly! At the beginning of April, Mama, Papa, and I flew over to Maryland to spend ten days with Joel, and on April 6th, Joel got down on one knee and proposed! I hardly let him finish, so great was my joy and confidence and delight in saying yes to one of the best men I have ever known.
At Gettysburg
 
There is much more to share—the details of how our courtship worked, the process God took me through to confirm that this was His will, and the wonderful story of our engagement. All this and more I will delight in writing about over the coming weeks.
 
For now, let me just remind you: God is good and God is great! I cannot stop marveling at how good He has been to me. He has truly been the author of my love story!





4.23.2013

The Changing Kaleidoscope

"Isn't it funny how day by day, nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different..."
{C.S. Lewis}
 
waiting for the train to black and whiteville
 
I remember over a decade ago sitting in our yet-unremodeled dining room (carpet in a dining room with kids? Not a good combination)--I probably had braids in my hair, because that was my gold standard for hairstyles back then. And as a youngster of ten, I had an epiphany about the passage of time while eating my Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. "Mama, Mama! In ten years, Micah will be ten, and Susanna will be twelve, and Melanie will be SIXTEEN and Lauren and I will be TWENTY!" Oh, the unfathomableness of twenty.

I little dreamed that God would bring another little brother to join our family. Or that terrorists would hijack planes and run them into buildings I had never heard of before. Or that I would teach violin and piano--and love it. Or that God would speak to me and reveal Himself to me in such precious ways, constantly drawing me to Him and sanctifying me for His good purposes.

Life is funny that way. All your plans vanish in the face of the unexpected. And then, one day, you gain that thing they call "perspective," and you look back with gladness at the forks in the road and the unforeseen events. (Though, admittedly, my perspective is quite trivial and my experience short with only 22 years of living!)
 
When I look back to compare then with now and find everything different, I am filled with a yearning to make everything the same. To have all four sisters sleeping in the same room, Lauren and I talking until late at night about all our plans for a woodland fort, Melanie and Susanna eavesdropping and conspiring to cause a ruckus. To have Jonah toddling around and actually enjoying the kisses I bestow upon him. To go for our annual shopping trip at Fred Meyer to procure the essential saltwater sandals (wear them at the beach! church! and everything in between!). To have Micah carefree and eager to go out with me in the dark night to collect eggs from the "bak-baks"--he didn't know it, but his happy presence was what kept my heart from pounding, my adrenaline from coursing through my veins, and my imagination from terrifying me about things that go bump in the night.
 
All these precious things are forever gone. I cry at the realization of it.
 
Then I look around. Susanna, taking the phone from Jonah just to say hello during a break in my day. Lauren, with me wherever I go as we teach and play and help a friend pack and sit through board meetings and so much more. Jonah, asking just two weeks ago to have a slumber party in my room after a year-long hiatus. Melanie, finding science experiments for my latest project, and taking advantage of kitchen duty together to talk a blue streak. Micah, meeting me at the car to carry up my things and playing with me during the church worship service.
 
Precious.
 
On the eve of my 12th birthday, I wrote in my journal,

"Here is a list of things I'll try too [sic] do when I'm an adult;
  1. If I have any girls I'll try too [sic] do a tea party a year.
  2. I won't spank when I'm angry, nor will I spank more than 7 times.
  3. I will try to sew most of the clothes we wear.
  4. I will not accquire alot [sic] of junk. (ie after getting a happy meal toy we will throw them away etc.)"
How on earth I came up with such a motley assemblage of resolutions, I have no idea, but it provides both amusement and inspiration now that I seem to have reached this adult stage.

Where will I be in ten years? (I'll be THIRTY-TWO!) Where will my family be in ten years? Ten becomes Jonah so well. How could the years possibly march on and turn him into a twenty year-old?

In the spirit of my twelve year-old self, I give you four new resolutions to provide both amusement and inspiration:
  1. I won't fret over what others think of me.
  2. I will love my family and those around me unconditionally as Jesus did--not based on performance, but based upon their preciousness in the sight of God.
  3. I will read a book a month.
  4. I will not buy my children happy meals. (Solves two problems in one! No junk toys and no junk food! Do you know what's in those things?)
Ten years...it's a long time. Only God knows what it will bring. When I look into the eyepiece, expecting to see the path ahead magnified, I realize I am not looking through binoculars--I'm peering through a kaleidoscope. The view is colorful and bright, but indiscernible and unpredictable. It's going to be a beautiful, wild ride! And, meanwhile, I am more determined than ever to savor the preciousness of every relationship.



C.S. Lewis quote taken from Prince Caspian
Photo Credit: M. Jeremy Goldman

4.16.2013

It's Easy

Matriarchal Love
Photo Credit

Today... 

...when the sun dances on your eyelashes, and you stretch in your beautiful lace nightgown, and the morning welcomes you with open arms, it’s easy to smile. 

When your friends bring you gifts just because, and your family asks how they can best lighten your load, it’s easy to smile.

When a tall stranger holds the door open for you, it’s easy to smile.

When your window is down, your favorite station is filling the car, and the wind is tousling your hair, it’s easy to smile. 

When you feel loved and needed and wanted and admired, it’s easy to smile. 

When everything is going your way, it’s easy to smile.

When life is all those things and it’s easy to smile, the world shrugs their shoulders.  Those smiles are still beautiful, and still tell a beautiful story, but it’s all too easy for the world to miss that story.
 

The next morning ...

...when the thunder wakes you with a start and you groggily roll out of bed at an hour too early to claim the name “morning,” it’s easy to gripe. 
 
When your friends don’t return your messages and your family brings their sorrows to you, it’s easy to cry.

When a stranger cuts you off on the road, it’s easy to seethe.

When your window won’t roll up, your favorite station is begging for money, and the wind ruins your new ‘do, it’s easy to fume.

When you feel disregared and overworked and underpaid and unappreciated, it’s easy to sulk. 

When everything is going terribly wrong all at one time, it’s easy to give up.

When life is all those things and it’s easy to give up, but you smile anyway, that smile is priceless. 
 
Without warning the world sits up. 
They stare.
They wonder.
They have never seen anything like it. 
And they have no explanation. 
 
They know there is nothing particularly noble in smiling when your day is going swimmingly.  But when you’re drowning, and you smile anyways, that is Christ in you, the hope of glory {Colossians 1:27}.  That is a resplendently beautiful sight. 
 

Photo Credit: Brandon Warren

4.09.2013

My Pleasure

“Most of them want to come for reasons other than serving or helping, so I require something of them. Those kids have money to burn and closets full of designer clothes!” I overheard a friend talking about his ministry to the homeless in Portland, OR. Of course, my conscience contentedly patted me on the back—I had gone to help him this past fall, doling out hot breakfast, warm clothes, hygiene essentials, encouraging words, and friendly smiles for four hours in the pouring rain.

My friend, however, wasn’t done. “So, there’s a few junior-highers that still come every month. And you know what they say to me when we’re done? ‘I had fun.’ And I think, ‘I didn’t bring you out here to have fun! I didn’t want you to have fun! Tell me you were shocked or humbled or embarrassed—but don’t tell me you had fun!’” He paused a moment to consider. “Maybe these kids can’t be shocked anymore…maybe ‘I had fun’ is the only way they can express themselves.”
 
I moved on, but my thoughts stayed on this conversation. I could have just as easily been one of those flippant teenagers saying, “Thanks! Watching five year old homeless boys come out of the woodwork to get a hot meal was fun! I had a great time!” In fact, I could remember many serving opportunities I had judged by the measure of enjoyment they provided.

We insincerely say “it was my pleasure” as if our entertainment is the highest compliment we can pay to a
nother human being, when it is often just an indicator of our sinful hearts. In this egotistical, self-centered, instant-gratification society of ours, we seek one thing above all others: amusement. The US spent $10,632,527,005[1] (yes, that’s BILLION) on movie tickets alone in 2009—and that doesn’t even begin to include the total entertainment budget. As the world becomes increasingly humanistic and men fall on their faces in awe and worship of themselves, the highest fulfillment—the greatest compliment—the most rewarding purpose has become fun. We are becoming “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God (II Timothy 3:4).”
 
A commercial I recently saw was advertising a website with thousands of movies available for instant streaming. “In fact,” the geeky guy exclaimed as he touted his company, “It would take you an entire year to watch all of the titles we have available!” Then he got a dreamy, far-away look in his eyes (or maybe it was just a dumb, idle stupidity—I couldn’t tell). “That would be the best year of my life.” Everyday, men and women pursue the fleeting sensation of fun—and this cotton-candy-like experience claims costly, nonrefundable hours of one’s time. Time, though, is pocket change compared to what many people sell to fuel their addiction: their souls.
 
So what is a Christian to do? Shun all movies? Live like a medieval monk? Read only the Scripture? Boycott Monopoly? Ultimately, of course, we must come to terms with Hebrews 11:25: “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” John Piper offers a practical and sobering suggestion too: "think about your death. Think about your death a lot....I think about the impact of death, and what I would like to be found doing, and how I would prepare to meet him and give an account to him (see the endnote to read his excellent article in its entirety).[2]" When we have chosen to suffer with God’s people and shun sinful amusement, then we can enjoy a balanced diet of wholesome “fun.” Psalms 35:27 says, “Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.”

However, may we remember in all our doings and prosperity to say first and foremost, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created (Revelations 4:11).” Therefore, the next time you go out to brighten your corner, consider changing your typical “Oh—it was my pleasure!” to something more profound and honest. It’s not all about you, and it’s not all about fun, but it certainly is all about God.
 
This is a repost of an old favorite.  I hope it was a blessing!

[1] http://www.the-numbers.com/market/2009.php
[2] http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/AskPastorJohn/ByTopic/13/3907_How_can_I_break_free_from_an_addiction_to_entertainment/
Picture source: http://trappedinh4mess.files.wordpress.com/2007/09/chained.jpg

4.02.2013

My Favorite Celebration

Our family loves to celebrate.  And this Easter was no exception.  Tried and true traditions mixed with brand new ones and the expected was spiced up with the surprising.  The constant, though, was the reason for the celebration: He is risen.  For that reason, Easter (or Resurrection Day!) is my favorite holiday, so I share something very special with you in sharing the story of pictures that follow. 

On Friday, we went to a Good Friday service and, as always, it helped me focus my distractable mind on Christ Jesus.  Saturday afternoon, after having scrubbed the house from top to bottom, we engaged in a favorite family activity: egg decorating!  This year we tried a new marbling technique.  The results were a resounding success!

Jonah in the middle of the dying process.



Sunday dawned with our first surprise: sapphire-blue skies and a daffodil-colored sun.  It was so beautiful, in fact, that Mikaela had the inspiration to eat outside, a new twist for a holiday that is usually rained out around here. 
 
But first, we arrived at church bright and early for a breakfast with our dear church family, followed by joyful singing and a challenge from Scripture.  Following church, we had two families of friends over for the afternoon. 

The adorable Carter shows off his discovery.



Bentley, now so grown-up as to look like a relative of a polar bear, discovered an egg we had hidden on top of his dog house.  Before the children were any the wiser, he leaped up, nosed it off, and devoured it whole! 

Mama and I

Lovely Mrs. M.

"Look--what do you see right over there?"

Inspired by various sources (including this one), I decided to plan a different sort of egg hunt this year.  I wanted it to be fun for my siblings who were getting a mite too old for the traditional version, as well as pointing everyone back to the true meaning of the celebration.  Thus, the "Epic Egg Hunt" as Mikaela called it, was born.

Mama and I sneakily stashed clues (which consisted of Bible verses which would lead sleuthers to their next destination) all over while the family waited in suspense inside.  The twist to the whole thing?  The hunters were in pairs, literally: they were tied together three-legged-race style!

Your first clue: "Heavenly hosts praising God."  Go!  After reading that verse, the teams took off until they finally discovered the correct location (our stack of hymnals) which led them on to the second clue.

No one is competitive in our family!
 
Papa and Mr. M. enjoy the show.

It's a race to the finish line!  Down the driveway raced (loped? limped?) the two teams, neck and neck, but in the end Mikaela and Jonah were the grand prize winners of gift certificates to our favorite local frozen yogurt shop. 

Susanna's coconut cake confection
 
These photos let you hear the laughter from our day, meet our friends, and feel the sunshine, but even if a picture is worth a thousand words, yet all of them together fail to capture the essence of what the celebration is to me.  
 
In order to begin to get a glimpse of it, I suppose you would have to have a snapshot of me the week before my fifth Easter, bowing the knee to Christ as my Lord for the very first time.   
 
In order to get the tiniest taste of what Christ's resurrection means to me, you would have to hear me talking to Him during a quiet moment on Easter Sunday, saying, "Thank you, thank you, thank you." 
 
And in order to know why Easter is my favorite holiday, you would have to have a picture of what I have been saved from. 
 
Jesus died for me, and every year and all the days in between I want to be in awe, in tears, and on my knees because of this indescribable, inexpressible, incomprehensible truth: Jesus is alive
 
 
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