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


The Recital Tragedy

The room was closing in on me as if I were suffocating under a heavy woolen cloak.  My shaky legs wobbled to the front of the room and I heard the applause as though it were from a distant mountain top.  I sank onto the bench, willing my choked lungs to work, willing my heart to stop overworking, and willing the worked-up trembling spasms in my legs to disappear. 

I wasn’t appearing in the Roman Colosseum facing a flesh-hungry wild beast.  But at that moment I was facing something that felt just as impossible: my piano recital. 

I was playing Debussy’s Reverie.  Trying not to think about how easy it would be to tangle myself in the web of left hand arpeggios, I lifted my clammy fingers to the keys.  The beginning notes slid into the air with ease, and I relaxed into the cushioned bench just a bit.  The measures began floating by, shaping whispering castles in the air that vanished into the clouds of melody like scenery passing into the distance 

Suddenly, a raucous note shattered everything: the castle in the air abruptly crumbled, my fingers were lost, and panic squeezed my heart.  The silence felt a mile long as one part of my brain grappled with that ridiculous next note that eluded me while the other part warded off the image of the audience suddenly on the edge of their seats, enjoying my suspense. 

Finally, my fingers fell woodenly into a passage a few lines before, and I grasped it like a drowning girl clutching driftwood.  But it was only temporary relief, for the earlier chasm approached.  I closed my eyes and ran with it.  When I opened my eyes again and breathed, I had leaped the chasm, skipping the problem section that I couldn’t remember as well as the whole page of music surrounding it, and I stumbled to the finish line.

I was devastated and mortified.  Several friends had been there to witness the debacle, and I could barely stand the agony of embarassment.  Whenever I thought about my performance I grew hot with shame, and all my teacher’s stories of his worst-nightmare performances did little to salve the burn.  The only way I felt any better was by tossing the memory into the recesses of my brain and burying it. 

I had all but forgotten about that recital, the ignominy fading with time.  Then, only a few months ago, I felt that same feeling all over again, and the memory was unburied.  This time, however, the shame didn't stem from a memory flub at a recital, but from a moment when I inadvertently let out someone else’s secret.  It was a big, life-changing secret, and it slipped out both because I hadn’t at first known it was a secret and because I had forgotten that someone else was in the room.  You can only imagine the silence following the premature revelation. I felt that same familiar shame and that same mortification.

Those whose secret I had slipped extended grace to me, but it wasn’t until I was lying in bed that night that I realized that what stung the most was that I had hurt them and needed their forgiveness and love to cover my mistake.  I had messed up royally, and, just like the piano recital of years ago, the only way to carry on was to accept that they loved me enough to carry on. 

It was then that I realized one of the most important lessons of my life.
I could extend grace to others.
I could stand tall and say, “I forgive you.”
But after making an unforgivable mistake, kneeling in humility, forgiven, and letting go of my shame and guilt could seem unthinkable.  On the other hand, chastising myself with my own mortification seemed perfect penance.  I had the Gospel all twisted up. 
In the words of my grandfather, spoken to me when I was fourteen and wrestling with the same burden of guilt: “Lauren, there was only ever one perfect Man, and they killed Him."

While I thought I was setting a high standard, I had subtly been seeking what Lucifer had sought.  I had inadvertently turned into Eve, faced with the tantalizing opportunity to be like God and falling prey to being like Satan.   

My pride shattered then, not under the weight of unforgivable guilt like Javert from Les Miserables, but under the weight of God’s grace and mercy.  I was stripped like Adam and Eve, holding out my arms to receive the fruit of sacrifice, the animal-skin covering of grace.  

Grace.  I never understood just how big a word it is until now, when I realize how tiny my mistakes are in comparison to its covering.

“Day 37-Playing piano,” © 2009 Vladimir Agafonkin, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license:


Easter the Gift

Christmas is synonymous with the Gift and, consequently, any and every gift. The holiday is all about giving and receiving, and so many traditions are centered on these actions of love. On Christmas the world was presented with a Gift in the form of a Babe, but there was no reckless ripping of wrapping paper followed by squeals of joy and "it's just what I always wanted!" Instead, there were curious looks as we held the odd-sized gift and examined it. It didn't make any sense to us, still under the shackles of the Law. And so we held that present all these 30 years between Christ's birth and resurrection--we shook it and felt it and inspected it and began to guess at what it was.

Hardly any guesses were correct, however. Indeed, it wasn't until the curtain rent in two, the stone was rolled away, and the scales fell off our eyes that, with delirious ecstasy, we finally understood the Gift.

The gold, frankincense, and myrrh weren't the Gift. Even the Christ Child Himself wasn't the fullness of the Gift. Easter is really the Gift, for there is no greater gift than the sacrifice Christ made for us and the salvation He offers to us. And His resurrection on the third day means that His Gift is not only one of sacrifice and love but also life and hope. Now I understand the Gift!

{These pictures are from our egg-decorating adventures this year using the time-honored Polish tradition called pisanki. We applied beeswax using a "stylus"--shown in the second picture--then dyed the eggs to a royal blue or emerald green, and then melted the beeswax to reveal the white eggshell underneath which formed a beautiful design!}


Is it Easter Again?

Spring has returned from her hibernation. 
The yellow-frothed daffodils declare it.
The bumbling bees distill her sweetness.
The warm sunshine embodies her return.

I shouldn’t be surprised, but for some reason I am.  I’m in the midst of my twenty-fourth  sun-dappled spring, and I still stare with beauty-hungry eyes at the indescribable thrill of Winter peeling away and Spring emerging.  It’s as if I stumbled upon a Monarch emerging from her cocoon.

Why should I be surprised, though, when God promised that “While the earth remains,
seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease”? {Genesis 8:22}

God promised, and the birth of spring this year is as if He is saying to me: “I am a living God, and I am worthy of the trust of your heart.”  The very sunrise and moonrise that I think so inevitably routine is really the height of His exhilarating faithfulness to me and to each one of you! 

And look—here it is the Passover time again.  It is the week in which each step Christ took was a step nearer the cross.  It is nearing the Sunday on which we recollect His resurrection, sing songs in that section of the hymnal we otherwise ignore, celebrate a feast day, and dress up in our very prim-and-proper best. 

And yes, for the twenty-fourth time I’ll be celebrating Easter this Sunday. 
But that celebration is anything but inevitable.
It is anything but routine, and it should be anything but glib. 

For on that day, two thousand years ago, the inevitable Winter of death was vanquished forever. 
On that day, the Autumn routine of hazy rituals and symbolic sacrifices was proven to be all a preparation: for the Spring of Christ!
On that Spring Sunday, a day of death turned into a day of resurrection, a day of mourning into a day of giddy joy.  And that was only the prequel to what the blinding light of the Summer reign of King Jesus will be!

Glance at any calendar, and the first day of spring will be calculated out.  “Easter Sunday” will be noted for all to see.  But the beauty of spring coming each and every year is not that God lacks the creativity to invent a new season, but that each winter I forget that spring exists. 

And the grace of Easter coming each and every spring is not that God has nothing He can do to top that climax of the Gospel so He has us watch reruns every year.  The grace of Easter coming every spring is that in moments of anguish, I would otherwise forget that the miracle of Resurrection Sunday even exists.  

“Say You Will,” © 2009 Brian Wolfe, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license:
“the winds of skagit,” © 2010 Ryan Heaney, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license:
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


The Real McCoy

Who Are You?

Who are you really? Are you the responsible person your employer says you are? Are you the wise person those you are discipling say you are? Are you the good-hearted person those discipling you say you are? Are you the rambunctious person those who only knew you as a child say you are? Are you the disrespectful person your critics say you are? Are you the cold-hearted person your enemies say you are? Are you the person you think you are? Are you the person others think you are? Are you some amalgamation of all of the above, such that you are both nothing and everything in one fell swoop?

Wounds and Kisses

Give full credence to these voices and you are in grave danger. Blacklist these voices immediately and you risk ignoring a God-sent "Nathan" or "Barnabas." For if you believe and act on the words of every critic, you will become a broken and manipulated person who has forgotten that he is an image-bearer and who disbelieves the praise of loved ones. If you soak in every praise, every drop of flattery, and an ocean of love and forbearance, you'll find yourself a haughty, narcissistic, dependent individual who needs the acceptance of others like a parasite needs a host. You'll turn deaf ears to the words of pleading critics trying to show you the error of your ways.

"Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ's, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he [is] Christ's, even so we [are] Christ's." {2 Corinthians 10:7 NKJV}

There is an opinion that matters more than any voice in your ear or head. Are you Christ's? If you are a blood-bought sinner, then you are now a child of the King, known by Him completely, utterly, and perfectly. Anything good you have done is through Him; any sin you have committed is covered by Him. You are made in His image, you are His masterpiece. And so are your critics and your group of adoring fans. 

So take it to the Lord. Take the criticism and the jabs and lay it before your Father Who knows you more than you know yourself. If you truly have the character flaw of which someone spoke, then you have not been unjustly accused. If this is not a character flaw of yours, your faithfulness to continue to act with character will eventually bring fruit. And, whether we're talking of praise or criticism, if your primary concern is not how you're looking on the outside (oooh!! does that look right? how will she perceive this or that? will I be able to convince him that this is who I truly am?), but rather to be known by God and to do all for God, controlled by the love of Christ and convinced by the unity that ALL Christians have together in Christ, then you have just hit the nail on the head. God will work on your character flaw--whether perceived or real. "Vindication" may not ever come. But if you can manage to do what you do for God, and let the rest take care of itself, then you will be in a place of peace. If you do what you do to convince man of who you are (persuading people because of your fear of man, not your fear of the Lord), then you will remain erratic, running betwixt and between the whims of others.

Remember, though--there is just as much (if not more) danger in pleasing words. For doesn't Proverbs 27:6  say "Faithful [are] the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy [are] deceitful"? Take those kisses to God. Don't take advantage of them; don't act for them; don't ask for them.

Be Well Pleasing to Christ

"Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things [done] in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences. For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have [an answer] for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, [it is] for God; or if we are of sound mind, [it is] for you. For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." {2 Corinthians 5:9-15 NKJV}

 Live a life controlled by Christ and who you genuinely are will be known not only to God, but also to you.

Photo Credit


On the Other Side of the Continent

No matter where I am going, that moment the plane lifts off the ground, I am a little kid again.  Two weeks ago, I was staring out the postage-stamp window of an airplane, enthralled by the clouds.  Mikaela sat on my left, Mama on my right, and we shared the same exhausted anticipation: we were going home!  When we finally levelled out, I leaned back in my seat, unable to sleep with the excitement of all the adventures that I had just experienced. 

A week before, we had left the Northwest on another adventure to the East coast.  The main objective was for Mikaela and Joel to see each other, and since they had been limited to skype for the past three months, a visit was long overdue!  Mama and I tagged along, excited to see Joel, meet his friends, tour his house, and visit Washington D.C.

We arrived late on Wednesday night, and Joel met us at the airport with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers for Mikaela.  That meeting was every bit as sweet as you would expect a romantic airport reunion to be!  

Although we stayed at a hotel the first night, every night thereafter a family from Joel’s church hosted the three of us.  They were an incredible, dear family, and the more we got to know them, the more we wished an entire continent did not separate us!  Mrs. B. and Mama had so much in common it is amazing they aren’t sisters! 

Mikaela and Joel in front of his house in Maryland
 On Thursday, I enjoyed discovering Joel’s new hometown.

Although it was incredibly windy, we went to Harper’s Ferry in the afternoon, a town so endearing it is hard to imagine the chaos that shaped its history. 

On Friday, I was in heaven. 

Mama and I braved the DC metro system and landed on the doorstep of the Smithsonian American History Museum!  Fancy that!  For a history geek like me, there was grave danger of getting lost in that remarkable building, but I did eventually emerge having gone on a whirlwind time-travel journey spanning centuries. Here are some of my favorite artifacts from the museum:
A cello with the signatures of hundreds of dignitaries and celebrities
A boat sunk in the Revolutionary War and unearthed in the 1930s!

After the museum, we took the metro to Old Town Alexandria, where we strolled along the waterfront, visited Christ Church, and watched a man perform an amazing rendition of Ode to Joy on waterglasses! 

The brilliant finish to the day came when Mama and I dined at Gadsby’s Tavern, one of the oldest restaurants in the United States!

It was built in 1792, and George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and many others dined there.    

 I enjoyed the “George Washington’s Favorite” for dinner (on the left), a dish that he wrote about in his memoirs and which featured grilled duck, scalloped potatoes, rhotekraut, and creamed corn.  

Me with Mr. John Hall, a gentleman from the 1800s who happened to be at Gadsby's that night!
 On Saturday, Mama and I drove down to Montpelier, James Madison’s home (shown here), and Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home.

This was one of my favorite days on the East Coast!  Getting to walk through James Madison’s dining room and stand in the room where he planned the Constitution and stroll through Thomas Jefferson’s gardens and see his many inventions was like going back in time.  It was truly magical! 

Mama and I attempting a selfie with James and Dolley

The famous domed room of Monticello!

The sun had just dipped behind Monticello, the last shuttle bus down was leaving any moment...and I was trying to freeze time in this photo!

Sunday brought a delightful breakfast with the B family, and a wonderful visit to the church they and Joel attend.  We were all fed well spiritually by the sermon, physically by the feast of a potluck, and relationally by all the wonderful conversations afterward! 

Despite the threat of snow and the bitter cold (though the day before the weather was 60 degrees and sunny!), Mama and I ventured out to Gettysburg—after all, it was only 30 minutes away!  We took a whirlwind tour of the museum, and then followed the audio car tour that Mama had done when she was here last year.  

I was able to see the monument to the 20th Maine, led by Joshua Chamberlain, and even got in a good ½ mile run, racing to photograph the spot where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address before we had to leave. 

Mama and I found warm coffee to thaw our bodies, and that evening we enjoyed dinner with Joel and Mikaela at the Cracker Barrel—a family favorite of ours!  While we had been busy touring, Joel and Mikaela had been catching up with each other, spending time with dear friends of Joel’s, and visiting places special to him. 

The threat was not an empty one, for on our way home that night, a gentle snow began to fall.  We had only 30 minutes to go, but after we had already travelled 20 minutes, I noticed a sign for another Cracker Barrel.  “That’s odd,” I proclaimed.

It was then that we realized: we were passing the same Cracker Barrel we had eaten at!  Somehow, the GPS navigator (who couldn’t have been me!) had inadvertently set the GPS for the Cracker Barrel after we were already on the freeway, and we had enjoyed a nice lazy Sunday drive—in freezing, icy conditions! 

God brought us safely to the B family’s home, however, and when we woke the next morning to 8 inches of snow and cardinals at the bird feeder, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with them as well. 

The boys cleared off our car, and we tentatively took off, knowing that all the government buildings in DC were closed, and grateful we had already done the Smithsonian!  We made our way to Georgetown, where we indulged in DC cupcakes like the chocolate mint cheesecake: a decadent cupcake with a graham cracker crust and chocolate fudge bottom, filled with chocolate mint cheesecake and topped with chocolate ganache!

 We also had to buy some macarons to save for later, and on our way out of Georgetown, we discovered a bagpiper playing on the streets in honor of St. Patrick’s Day!  

 Mikaela was with us for this excursion, as Joel had to work, but then she took the train back to spend the afternoon with him.  Mama and I went to the Spy Museum, which was suspiciously fascinating.

 I also went to see the White House, but was slightly confused by the green water spouting in front of it until I realized they had dyed the fountain green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day!  Unfortunately, I did not have time to build a snowman on the National Mall, though I knew I would regret not seizing that opportunity!  

 Tuesday was our final day there, and Mama and woke up incredibly early to pack and leave to see the Ford’s Theater, where Lincoln was assassinated.  Standing where John Wilkes Booth crept behind the audience to carry out his plot definitely gave a creepy atmosphere. 

As our last hurrah in DC, Mama and I went to visit some of the Memorials.  As we were walking through the Roosevelt Memorial, taking in the beauty of the sculpture against the snow, the camera we were borrowing from Melanie met a sad demise against the concrete.  Thus, my final good-bye to DC, the Jefferson Memorial, lives only in my memory, with no pixels or pictures to prove I was there.  But I was, and I stood on the edge of the tidal basin relishing the special gift of the past week and wishing I could hold it tight instead of watching time slip through my fingers and adventures end.  But standing in the shadow of Jefferson, and then leaning back in my seat as the airplane headed west, I was also grateful that time doesn’t stand still, and that though we had those amazing adventures, God was bringing us back to future adventures on the other side of the continent. 

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