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


Looking Back and Looking Forward

Six years ago, on this exact day, we posted our very first post to "One Bright Corner." Since then, it's been an unforgettable experience. Through blogging, we've made friends with ladies we still keep in touch with to this day (we love you Keilah and Charae!), and we've gotten to know in-real-life friends all the better (we love you Elanee and Ruthie!). We got to ride the wild ride of being named Blogger's Blog of Note and have had the privilege of having many thoughtful people contribute to "One Bright Corner" in the form of guest posts.

We started our very first post only a year out of high school with so many events unexperienced, so many lessons unlearned, so many plans for the future, and so much love for writing. We've now completed 500 posts and find ourselves six years older with many experiences, lessons, and plans fulfilled. Yet life keeps rolling, the learning keeps happening, and our love for writing never wanes! We're so grateful for you, our dear readers, for supporting us, reading what we put up here (the good, the bad, and the ugly!), commenting, following, and sharing. Your encouragement is such a treasure.

Nine inches of snow and a week of temperatures in the single digits and teens have left Maryland a very frigid place (at least in comparison to the verdant, spring-like Washington State!). But good things do come of such weather: meet Hugo, the gentleman snowman. Isn't he cool? (Pun intended.)

Baby and I are now 17 weeks into the pregnancy and doing very well! Here, at his 14-week ultrasound, you can see him waving to his Mama and Papa, which of course prompted tears of joy, love, and awe. Is this truly our baby, already so perfectly formed yet so tiny, whom we'll get to hold in 23 weeks? Can he really begin to hear us now, with his fully developed ears, as the doctors tell us he can? What should we name him? Is that his tiny foot I feel, or merely lunch digesting? How can I love a little being so much, when I have yet to meet him or even know his name?

Becoming a parent is an incredible experience!


Cupcake Party: Hazelnut Mocha in Cupcake Form

Chocolate is amazing. Coffee is almost as amazing. Hazelnuts are third most amazing. So it didn't take too much contemplation on my part when faced with the task of creating a chocolate cupcake to put all three flavors together in one neat package. One word: amazing.

You might be surprised at some of the other flavors hiding in these cupcakes--almond flavor, cherry cola, and applesauce, for instance. These all serve the sacrificial purpose of deepening the chocolate and coffee flavors, however--you won't detect their individual flavors in the final product.

I based this recipe off of the "Blue Ribbon Chocolate Cake" from The Gluten-Free Gourmet Makes Dessert by Bette Hagman.

Measure out the dry ingredients...
...and whisk them together well. (I love my silicone whisk for dry ingredients! It's so much more...grabbier. There. Isn't my vocabulary impressive?)

Then cream together the fats and sugar.

Melt the chocolate and mix in the espresso powder. I could eat this bitter combination just like this.

This is Modern Art Exhibit A. Notice the beautiful spatters. 

And this is beautiful compromise right here: applesauce makes these cupcakes healthy and balances out the cherry cola (which is the secret leavening ingredient that keeps these gluten free cupcakes light and airy).

This recipe was adapted from the aforementioned cookbook--emphasis on adapted. All those notes and scribbles are my changes, additions, and mathematics along the way. Thanks, Mama, for making me do my math!

While your cupcakes cool, make the frosting (taken from here). It's as simple as assembling the ingredients and...

...whipping them together! Yum! (Modern Art Exhibit B, by the way.)

Spoon the frosting into a decorator's bag and start piping! I bought the biggest round tip I could find and still didn't think it was big enough. When I took the tip off and used the utilitarian coupler (meant to attach the bag to the tip), I found that it gave me exactly the look I was going for!

Sprinkle the cupcakes with toasted hazelnuts and coffee beans.

And enjoy!

Joel and I really enjoyed these cupcakes. We both found them to be light (not at all dense as some gluten free baked goods and even some regular homemade cakes can be) and very flavorful. They have a rich chocolate flavor and a definite, though not overwhelming, coffee flavor with a hint of hazelnut. Joel thought they were slightly bitter, which I attribute to his lack of appreciation for coffee. If you're not as much of a coffee fan, however, you might want to decrease the amount in this recipe. We both thought they were a little dry and crumbly on the first day (a weakness of gluten free foods), but actually much improved on the second day! I'd recommend making these the day before, frosting them, and then simply letting them sit out until you're ready to consume them the following day. The dryness is almost completely gone. The frosting was incredible; it's flavor and texture was delicious, and adds the perfect touch to these cupcakes. I can't wait to make this recipe again!

Hazelnut Mocha Cupcakes

1 3/4 cups white rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted, or butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 eggs plus 2 egg whites
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cherry-flavored cola
1 cup unsweetened and plain applesauce

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup hazelnut spread
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1-2 tsp. heavy cream or milk
Optional: toasted hazelnuts and coffee beans

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line cupcake pan with paper liners and spray with vegetable oil.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, xanthan gum, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Melt the unsweetened chocolate; stir in espresso powder. In the bowl of your mixer, cream the butter, oil, and sugar; add the chocolate mixture. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and add the flavoring. 
  4. Combine the cola and applesauce and add alternately with the dry ingredients in the bowl of your mixer using the paddle attachment. Beat on medium; do not overbeat. The batter should be thick but not stiff. Add water if necessary.
  5. Spoon into cups, filling about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Remove from pan and let cupcakes cool completely on a cooling rack.
  6. To make the frosting: Beat butter and hazelnut spread together until combined. Slowly add powdered sugar and continue mixing until combined. Add vanilla and cream, mixing until smooth.
  7. To decorate, fill a decorator bag fitted with coupler (and a decorating tip if desired) with frosting and pipe swirls on top of cupcakes. Sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts and coffee beans.
Yield: 30 cupcakes (Note: Batter can also be baked in a 9"x13" pan for 35 minutes or three 8" round pans for 25 minutes)

Have you made cupcakes recently and blogged about it? Leave the link in the comments below!

Cupcake Party: Chocolate Edition

Double Peanut Butter Chocolate
Chocolate Chunk Lava Fudge


For When You're Ready to Give Up

I felt like I was gripping a cobwebby tightrope above a vast and murky chasm.
And even as my toes curled around the lifeline, my arms flailed as I was pelted with lie after lie:

You're a failure if you can't even get it together here!
God is far away from you.  You'll never be close to Him.
You're only a big fat pretender to say you're a Christian with this lurking sin.

And there I could have fallen into the bottomless death of discouragement had not the sunlight of truth dawned, and I looked down.  In that instance, I saw that it was all a farce.

While my arms had flailed weakly against the onslaught of lies, my feet had been walking along the lie all along.  For the rays of sunlight revealed that there was no chasm beneath the path on which God was leading me.  Instead, I was quiveringly walking a tightrope only an inch above firm and solid ground.  The chasm, then, was only between the facade of the precarious tightrope and the reality of that protected path.  It was a great chasm--but great in deception, not in depth.

The enemy wanted me to imagine that I needed to claw for sure footing when God had already given it.
The enemy wanted me to fear an imminent fall when I would only be falling into my Shepherd's arms.
Most crucially, the enemy wanted me to believe I was already defeated when in fact the victory had already been won.

The roughness of the path, the sorrow, the pain--that was all too real.  But the yawning chasm was but a rickety backdrop no better than a middle school drama set, designed to drive me to cling to cobwebs of comfort rather than to the firm foundation of Jesus Christ.  

How trustworthy is Jesus' path and Jesus' love for me? Remember, He is the one who will even go to the extent of stopping the sun from setting to protect His people: 

"And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the LORD heeded the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel." {Joshua 10:14}

This is the greatest chasm-destroyer I know: He has fought for you...He has fought for me, and He has already won the victory on the cross.  So let's live in this beautiful reality:

"‘Death is swallowed up in victory’ ‘O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’  It is sin which gives death its power, and it is the Law which gives sin its strength. All thanks to God, then, who gives us the victory over these things through our Lord Jesus Christ! And so brothers of mine, stand firm! Let nothing move you as you busy yourselves in the Lord’s work. Be sure that nothing you do for him is ever lost or ever wasted." {I Corinthians 15:55-58, PHILLIPS} 

“The Chasm,” © 2007 Eric, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license:

Joshua 10:14 taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
I Corinthians 15:55-58 taken from J. B. Phillips, "The New Testament in Modern English", 1962 edition by HarperCollins


Sarah Hearts Chocolate!

The second day of the cupcake party has arrived! Join the festivities over at Sarah's blog to see how to make her Gluten Free Chocolate Chunk Lava Fudge Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from the incomparable DC Cupcakes Gluten Free Recipe). These look scrumptious! And you don't even have to be gluten free to enjoy them.

And while you're over at The Lord's Lass, read Sarah's introduction to the cupcake party "Scheming Still." So much more than an intro to a cupcake creating craze, she wrote a memory-filled post about the three of us growing up together--complete with vintage pictures straight from the nineties.

Happy Reading!


Why My First Kiss Was on My Wedding Day

Kissing is Beautiful in the Marriage Context

I grew up around kissing; my Papa and Mama demonstrated it regularly for all their children to see. When I was still in the pigtail stage, I’d tease them by exclaiming “gross!” But secretly, I didn’t think it was disgusting. When I was in the braces stage, I’d look the other way—but secretly, I delighted in the inexplicable security that came from seeing my parents kiss. And eventually, when I was in the “I-guess-maybe-I’m-an-adult-now?” stage, I’d smile at my parents’ romance and hope for the day when I, too, had someone to kiss. After years of observing it and now 5 months into practicing it myself, I can say with certainty that kissing is a wonderful gift. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine {Song of Songs 1:2 ESV}.” 

Kissing Outside of Marriage Risks Temptation

So I grew up around kissing, but I also grew up being taught to save my kisses for marriage. I was encouraged to wait for that time when I had joined together with a man in the covenant of marriage—and only then to kiss my man. “Marriage [is] honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge {Hebrews 13:4}.” Once I grew past the pigtails and braces stage, however, I began to understand more fully why it might be a good idea to wait on kissing. And on the day of my wedding, when Joel and I had our first kiss, I understood even more. “So this is why we waited!” Joel and I said to each other.
Scripture doesn’t say that kissing outside of marriage is a sin; nor do I believe for one moment that unmarried kisses are sin. Nevertheless, God has a lot to say about lust, fornication, and adultery—and none of it is good. He warns against even a hint of such things {Ephesians 5:3}, and He commands us to flee youthful lusts and follow the things of God out of a pure heart {II Timothy 2:22}.  Jesus raised the bar on sexual immorality when He said that just lusting after a woman was committing adultery with her {Matthew 5:28}. Wanting to kiss is a natural desire—but acting on that desire outside of marriage opens the door to temptation and can easily lead to sin. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren {James 1:14-16}.”

Love Your Neighbor, not Kiss Your Neighbor 

One of the greatest ways Joel loved me (and I'm not just talking about romantic love, but also the second-greatest-commandment-love-your-neighbor kind of love) in our 19-month “pre-married” relationship was by exercising self-control and not kissing me. Likewise, this was a way I showed my love for him. For us, kissing each other at that point would have been purely selfish—fulfilling our own personal desires, knowing full well that the satisfaction and fulfillment of those desires would give birth to sin. As a sinner saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and operating under the astounding grace of God, I certainly had the liberty to kiss before marriage. (Remember? It’s not a sin.) But as I matured from my reasoning of “my parents say I shouldn’t and it’s gross anyways” to “I want to kiss this man that I love so much, but I also earnestly desire to walk in the Spirit,” I realized that my flesh and the Spirit are at war. “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not [use] liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, [even] in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." ...I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish {Galatians 5:13-14, 16-17}.” 

I Waited Until My Wedding Day to Have My First Kiss Because I’m a Sinner

Notice that I didn’t say I “saved” my first kiss for my wedding day. Nor was there any mention during our ceremony that our public kiss was also our first. By waiting to kiss until August 30, 2014, Joel and I were not proving that we are Christians on steroids, or that our purity exceeds that of all the other Christians who have kissed before their wedding day. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” If our deliberate choice says anything about us, it says that we are sinners who fall and fail every single day. It says that we recognized the war going on inside of us between the Spirit and the flesh, and that we wanted to give no opportunity to ourselves to sin.

Were we nervous about our first kiss (in front of 420 people no less!)? Certainly. Was it awkward? Not in the least. It was one of the sweetest, most romantic moments of my life—and it only got better from there. Have you considered waiting to kiss until your wedding day? I ask you to prayerfully consider it—not as some legalistic expression of holy, pious purity, but as a meaningful way to love your man (or woman) “as yourself” and as a practical way to avoid the progression of sin. It’s worth the wait! 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Photographs from our wedding taken by the incomparable Christa Taylor


Cupcake Party: Double Peanut Butter Chocolate Takes the Cake

Peanut Butter and Chocolate.  Like storms and roaring fires, or rainbows and rain, or Joel and Mikaela, these two just go together.  Therefore, even as I debated the merits of Nutella cupcakes or coconut chocolate cupcakes, my heart was in the end stolen by these Double Peanut Butter Chocolate beauties!

By the way, if you missed Tuesday's post introducing our monthly cupcake parties, you can check that out here!  This month, Sarah, Mikaela, and I are kicking it off with chocolate.  So let's get baking!

 I'm one of those bakers who actually always like to get out all of my ingredients before starting a recipe.  I don't normally take photos of those ingredients, but it was just such a pretty line-up...

First, mix the dry ingredients.
 The only flours in these cupcakes were almond and coconut.  I had my doubts as to how light the end result would be, but let me tell you: I was floored by the texture!  If they can be that delicious with no white flour, then that means I can have a couple extra cupcakes, right?

Behold: the real me!

 In goes the wet stuff: eggs, honey, and oil.

 Mix it all up thoroughly without over mixing!  The almond flour tends to clump up, so make sure it's completely smooth.

Mix up your peanut butter filling ingredients separately, then scoop one tablespoon of peanut butter into each cupcake liner.  Finally, fill the cupcakes with 1/4 cup of batter each.

Fresh out of the oven!  Do you smell that chocolate?  (As you can see, a few of the cupcakes caved in in the middle, which I suspect was because I didn't follow my own advice and mix my batter thoroughly enough.  Thank goodness for frosting, though!)

Speaking of frosting, I was planning on topping the cupcakes with chocolate ganache until I discovered a dearth of whipping cream in our house.  Peanut Butter Cream Cheese frosting came through however, making these officially double peanut butter!

The finished beauties strike a pose!

I drizzled them with melted chocolate, topped each one with a mini peanut butter cup, and then stood aside for the stampede!

Tell me that doesn't make you hungry!

Yup.  That picture about sums things up!  
Be sure to link your own cupcake-making post in the comments below to join in the fun!

The Recipe
(From Elana Amsterdam's Gluten Free Cupcakes)

1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 large eggs
2 Tbs. grapeseed oil (I used olive oil)
1/2 cup agave nectar (I used an equal amount of honey)

1/2 cup creamy roasted peanut butter
1/4 cup agave nectar (I used an equal amount of honey)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line 9 muffin cups with paper liners.

To make the batter, in a large bowl, combine the almond flour, coconut flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining batter ingredients.  Blend the wet ingredients into the almond flour mixture with a mixer until thoroughly combined. 

To make the filling, in a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and mash together with a fork until smooth.

Scoop 1 tablespoon (I used a cookie dough scoop) of the filling into each prepared muffin cup, then cover with 1/4 cup of batter.

Bake for 20 to 24 minutes, until a toothpick inserted 1/2 inch from the edge of the cupcake (to avoid the peanut butter center) comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.  Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 1 hour, then frost and serve.  

 Cream Cheese Peanut Butter Frosting
(From The Cupcake Diaries by Katherine Kallinis and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne)

4 tbs. butter, at room temperature
6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 cup creamy (smooth) peanut butter

Combine all ingredients with a mixer and mix on high speed for 3-5 minutes or until light and airy.

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