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

5.27.2014

Mud: It's Good for the Soul!


This is not me, but it might as well have been!

Last weekend found me sitting atop a twelve foot tall rough wooden slide, staring down at a deep vat of mud below.  This was what Melanie and I had come for: to get dirty and leave tired!  Yet the question of sanity does come up when faced with giant mud vats in which you have paid to dunk and steep sandy bluffs which you have paid to climb.  
Melanie and I "BM": before mud

But if this is insanity then I am certifiable, for as I contemplated my impending immersion, I could only think of one thing: getting as muddy as possible.  This thought was quickly followed by the frantic recollection to keep my mouth closed, which registered only slightly too late. 

And thus began the most dirty 45 minutes of my life. 

Hug a wall, balancing on two inch wide footholds to escape windmilling into another mudhole? Check.
Successfully navigate the monkey bars while the guy who has gained ten pounds of muscle in the last month couldn’t hang on? Check.
Complete a 5K mud run by swimming through an ice bath with my brave sister Melanie? Check.
Get completely covered in mud while so doing?  Check.
The whole muddy gang who ran with us!
As I crossed the finish line, exhilaration swelled up within me, and not just at the prospect of a hot shower.  I had just spent an hour about as far out of my comfort zone as I could get, and, comfortable or not, at that moment I was exhilarated!

When my alarm rang early that morning, I had been exhausted.
When I faced the first obstacle of the race—a slippery plastic pipe that went up to my chest—I had been nervous, sure I would fall and make a fool of myself.
And when I neared the finish line, I had been more disgustingly dirty and sweaty than I had ever been in my life. 

Nevertheless, when I crossed the finish line, I was exhilarated.  And it was in that exhilarated, mud-caked state that I realized something revolutionary: being comfortable is not a sin, but it can be a distraction, a beguilement, and an idol.

It can become a barbed wire fence that walls out what God wants for you.
It can become an insatiable lion, with an appetite that always wants more.
It can become the benchmark by which you make all decisions, replacing the Bible as absolute in your life. 

But what if I lived every day like a run through the mud?  What if every day I sprinted at the start line, lived outside of my comfort zone, and finished exhausted and stinky, but satisfied?  Those would be days to remember. 

So get out of the easy chair.  Put down the iced latte.  Roll up your sleeves.  Say good bye to hallowing comfort above completion, and get ready for some mud!
Still muddy even after the ice bath and soap suds!

5.20.2014

Waiting in God's Best

After a whirlwind four-month courtship (which was really the culmination of a 22 year-long friendship), Joel and I got engaged (read our "Love Story" here!). We had stars in our eyes, we knew we loved each other--and we knew that God had called us to this marvelous thing called marriage. Less than a month later, however, we were both plunged into the darkest valley of our lives. Joel lost his job and so many things seemed to be spinning out of control. (You can read about our reunion in the midst of this, "Raindrops on Roses," here.)

I questioned God with honesty, sincerity, and fervency. Some of my rawest writing came out of that time, including "Jesus Wept {With Me}." And life didn't get easier as I hoped it might. "Joel's Graduation" was a bright spot of achievement during the summer, but our potential wedding date came and went. "You can't live on love alone!" I laughingly told the people who asked, while bleeding saltwater inside. 

God continued to provide for Joel in the lack of a full-time job through odd jobs and part-time work, proving Himself over and over again as the great Provider. Furthermore, He spiritually provided by continuing to teach us about Himself, such that Joel experienced a transformation in his relationship with God that affected every facet of both of our lives. As we drew closer to God, we also drew closer to each other, coming to know one another in a way that never would have been possible had the first wedding date not faded away.

And still no full-time work. There was the job that seemed God-given--but was given to someone else. There was the job that was an exciting adventure--but whose moral grayness caused us to examine our own convictions and led us to refuse the position. There was the job that was perfect! Joel applied for it in December, while he was visiting me ("Keeping Christmas"), and we were elated when he got not one but two interviews--and then an assigned project as part of the interview process. However, as the weeks stretched into months, we shivered against the cold question: "What if he didn't get this job?" When we were together in March ("On the Other Side of the Continent"), we found ourselves ecstatic to be together, but exhausted by the waiting and wondering. Miraculously, I was no longer questioning God. I was praying desperately that Joel would get this job, but I was also asking for strength to joyfully accept God's will no matter the outcome.

When the news came on April 2 that Joel hadn't gotten the job we had waited three months for, my spirit surged with peace. I sobbed, absolutely. I survived the first couple of days in a semi-catatonic state. Howbeit, I didn't question God anymore. I didn't even cling to the hope that something better would come along. That hope had fizzled months ago. Instead, a series of scenes flashed through my brain. In the kitchen with Mama as she shared of trusting in God through death. In the back of our church as a dear friend hugged me and said, "Trust God." As I whimpered back, "But it's so hard!" She repeated over and over again, "You have to trust God. You have to! Trust Him!" And then at my computer Skyping with Joel as he reminded me of the two most important things to remember: God is always good and be grateful.

My commitments still existed in a state of committed non-committal. My wedding seemed so far into the future that I could no longer even reach it. My harbored dreams for spring and summer plans were radically changed. Despite it all, I was OK. Suddenly I wasn't waiting for something better. Joel and I were in God's best right at that very moment. Far from being on hold, our lives were a construction zone for God--and He was about His best in our lives, just as He is in the lives of every one of His sons and daughters. 

Mid-April brought another application, which neither Joel nor I got excited about. Then came an interview...and another one! Proceeding so fast that we couldn't quite focus on the image, Joel abruptly had a job on May 5! Joel said it best when he wrote, "As you can imagine, Mikaela and I are very excited at this provision--one we have been praying for and desiring for a long time. And while it is easy in this moment to proclaim the Lord's goodness, we both can truly say that God has been just as good in the last many months of waiting and toiling in the other work He's provided. That was His best for then, just as this job is His best for now. Thank you all for your prayers and love and support through this year-long journey. Please continue to pray for Mikaela and I, as God continues to perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle' us (I Peter 5:10) in the days to come. He is good; He is trustworthy!"

So whatever your story is currently--whether it's the waiting or the fulfillment, the sorrowing or the rejoicing, never forget: God is good, and He is about His best in your life!

5.13.2014

Honey, Do You Need a Tissue?



We girls understand getting emotional, even if guys sometimes don’t.  There are just times when one thing stacks up on top of another until the tower of turmoil becomes overwhelming.  Then there is nothing to do but to plop down in the middle of the floor and have a good long sob.  And by sob, I don’t mean the pretty kind of movie sob in which the heroine’s eyes glisten like diamonds afterwards.  I mean the full-on runny nose, splotchy red face akin to the chicken pox, and uncontrollable crying kind.  Trust me—I take the drive-thru with sunglasses on after that kind of a sob fest. 

And then there are the moments of shining glory in which emotions go the other way and the uncontrollable giggle fit starts.  It always happens at the worst moment, in front of people you most want to impress.  Suddenly you’re gasping for air, choking out a word at a time as you try to continue speaking without completely losing it.  Going, going…gone. 

While my family will tell you I’m not the most emotional girl in the house, when I have an emotional moment, I have a moment, and those aggravating emotions can seem to be all inconvenience and embarassment. 

But when I stopped to imagine the alternative—life without emotions—the prospect wasn’t attractive.  It’s true that the depths of loneliness, the twisting pain of being forgotten, the blackness of brokenness, and the bitterness of hurt would all disappear. 
But so would my knowledge of my need for my Savior. 
And so would my joy in finding His bigness and greatness far bigger and greater than my most back-breaking load. 
Not to mention missing out on heart-to-heart connections with those I love. 

In the words of Jesus to those whose emotions are salved by superficial hankies,
“But woe to you who are rich,
For you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full,
For you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now,
For you shall mourn and weep.” {Luke 6:24-25}

By contrast,
“Blessed are you who hunger now,
For you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now,
For you shall laugh.
Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man’s sake.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.” {Luke 6:21-23}

When it all gets to be too much, and heartache moves in and tears threaten to flood your heart, remember that those painful emotions are a neon flashing light pointing to the cross where Jesus Himself cried out to God. 
When your heart yearns deeply to be loved by someone special, know that it indeed needs to be filled with love by Jesus every day. 
And when joy gushes from every pore of your being, don’t hold it in—leap for joy!

Treat your emotions as a daily (or hourly!) reminder to take your eyes off of yourself and put them on the glorious Christ. 

But in the meantime, if ever you see me in the middle of the floor with a red-spotted face, you'll know to bring the tissues!
 




Picture © 2009 Kammuri Makoto, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/.

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

5.06.2014

Jury Duty


I clicked on the website and scanned the text for the seventh time in the last two weeks. Eagerness filled me when I saw my group number and realized that I was being called in the next day for potential jury duty! I researched tips for getting picked for a jury (because if I was going to cancel all my music students for the day, I certainly did not want to be sent home without having served!). I laughingly picked out my outfit the next morning ("low-key with a hint of liberalism") and joined 30 others waiting in a warm room. I was grateful for Joel's suggestion to bring a book, but the hour-and-a-half of waiting dimmed my enthusiasm for the day.

It soon brightened again, however, as we were called into the courtroom, met the judge and attorneys, and began answering dozens of questions. The judge graciously explained the process to us, and he informed us that Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Paper 83: "The friends and adversaries of the plan of the [constitutional] convention, if they agree in nothing else, concur at least in the value they set upon the trial by jury; or if there is any difference between them it consists in this: the former regard it as a valuable safeguard to liberty; the latter represent it as the very palladium of free government." I needed no further convincing. As misaligned and grumbled about as jury duty is, it is still a powerful means of fulfilling the Constitution and the "radical" views of liberty and self-government upon which our country was founded.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, I was one of the chosen twelve (I'm sure it was my attire!)--the youngest on the jury of six men and six women. The trial lasted through the next morning, and shortly before noon, we convened to deliberate over a working lunch. This was the first time we'd been allowed to discuss the case together (or with anyone), so we pulled together our notes and the exhibits admitted as evidence and began to talk through what had happened.

We had a man named Patterson (the defendant) who had a shady past. Now, 30 years old and four years from his last conviction, he seems to be doing well. He has moved to our county, gotten engaged, and works odd jobs doing construction and roofing. But four months ago, he was caught on the roof of a vacant for-sale house with his hands on a window (albeit a window too small to fit in). And as he nervously gets off the roof and tells the home owner's friend that he is a roofer, a woman slinks around the house and jumps into Patterson's truck.The two quickly drive off, leaving a back door ajar, a pile of wood in disarray, and the hose unwound. 

Was Patterson an idiot or a burglar? Did his friend truly just drag him there for the view and did he truly just get on the roof to inspect it and try to land a job, as he claimed? Or was he caught in the nick of time after being pulled into his friend's scheme to burglarize a home that had sat empty for an entire year? Could we, beyond reasonable doubt, know that he was guilty of attempted burglary--of intending to burglarize the home?

These are the questions my fellow juror and I wrestled with. Along the way we confronted our ideas about responsibility, trespassing, "youth these days," and any number of preconceived notions. For the lawyers picked 12 people with opinions, minds, and pasts--and like it or not, we each brought bias to the table. We did our best, however to be impartial in deciding, and we talked for close to two hours before everyone was convinced of his guilt...except me.

They kindly listened to my concerns, shared their thoughts. We talked about the trial, we got off on tangents about animals surviving being run over. We talked some more; we thought some more. All the while, my mind raced. Could I know, beyond reasonable doubt, that this man was guilty--that he intended to burglarize the home? It soon became evident to me that I could know--and I did know. And finally satisfied that I had done my duty, I agreed to declare Patterson "guilty."

Back in the court room, as the verdict was read and Patterson's fiance rushed from the room, and his family members sat in stunned shock, and Patterson's eyes filled with tears, I too felt sorrow. The old excitement drained away and the annoyance at waiting seemed petty. Hearing from the judge later on that Patterson would likely be sentenced for four to seven years for his wrong choice was heavy, and when I got into my car that afternoon, I began to cry. I cried for Patterson and his family and prayed for their salvation. I cried because of the responsibility I felt in declaring a man "guilty." 

The home owners were vindicated that day; Patterson was called to accountability that day. And I learned a lesson that day. Jury duty is inconvenient, difficult, annoying, or emotional at times. It is also important. For as Thomas Jefferson said, "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet devised by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." Someone get me an "I Served Jury Duty" sticker, because I'm proud to have been a part of the Constitutional process!


Photo Credit
Blog Widget by LinkWithin