trees and used books

Whoa. Christina's post yesterday (all the way from LA, I might add) sure rustled some feathers! How true, though, that the only way to expose darkness is with Truth. Regardless of the sin you are dealing with - unhealthy views of the body can take all sorts of forms - Truth exposes darkness and leads to Christ, the only Healer.

Well, here's what I'm reflecting on, many countries and cultures away...

The blooms of white flowers on my favorite tree outside our house gate. The smell is something like lilac mingled with gardenias, but not in a strange perfume-mixing way. No, it's in the just-the-right-amount kind of way that grabs my senses every time I walk by and makes me stop to admire.

I think Psalm 23 is something like that. God's beauty and peace is so strong a scent that we are made to lie down in green pastures and led beside still waters. There is something in the beauty of it that demands attention and response. So, I respond every morning and every night as I walk past. So sweet the smell!
This week is trudging right along, but I am finding so much encouragement from Joni Eareckson Tada, whose words just happened to be shelved tightly between a weathered Mary Higgins Clarke and a worn paperback Tom Clancy in the used book stacks at Metromedia. I have been so refreshed by her sincere heart and wisdom. The yellow pages smell like Laura Ingalls Wilder and deep trunks full of treasured things. The wisdom - oooh the wisdom - is a treasure in itself!
Here is a little tidbit:
Suffering sets the stage on which good qualities can perform. If we never had to face fear, we would know nothing about courage. If we never had to weep, we would never know what it was like to have a friend wipe tears from our eyes.

and here's another:

When God tells us to suffer, sometimes our tendency is to use our very trials as an excuse for sinning. We feel that since we've given God a little extra recently by taking such abuse, He owes us "a day off" when we can do as we please. This is a continual inner battle for me...And it is so easy to justify. Son't I already have to give up more than a lot of Christians just be being crippled? I say to myself. Doesn't my wheelchair entitle me to a little slacking off now and then?
When we feel like this, if we sit down and examine our lame protests in the light of the Bible, they will vanish one by one.
And all this from a woman who became paralyzed from the neck down after diving in for a swim as a teenager. What a testimony her life has been since! Check out more here.
Hope this day is blessed for you and always remember, even in suffering....
let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

oh, and PS, you should check out my brothers from Tanzania and Nigeria and the story of their first/last prom in the US.

downpour, quinceañera, and sister

Since I believe apologies are not acceptable, I'm moving very quickly past the place where I might make one for not writing in so long. With a few well-placed headlines, I'll let you in on some of the goings-on here in Tegus while I eat some deeee-licious Honduran-style beef stew.

torrential downpour Last Friday night was the overnighter event for the elementary kids. Though I'm not involved in the outreach with the little ones, they asked me to help with the game CLUE that our HS students had come up with a few months back for our own outreach event. ... And play human CLUE we surely did! We ran to different "rooms" and played games in order to receive clues and try to solve the mystery.

After all that madness ended (God give me grace when I have crazy, screaming little ones!), I loaded up good 'ole Louis and down the mountain we went. (I still don't have a muffler, but I'm working on it and I've told myself that's good enough right now.)
The rain started just before we threw backpacks into the trunk and ourselves into the seats. We didn't get very far before I realized that this ride down the mountain would be less about what music we were rocking out to and more about getting down safely. I was wiping the windshield with one hand and steering with the other. It was foggy in addition to the less-than-stellar defrost sputtering out of my dashboard. The girls were respectful and less crazy, but the rain kept coming. We prayed.
I successfully dropped off one student and then we came upon a lake in the road. Yep, it was a lake almost as big as the pond behind my house where we went swimming. And it was still raining. I kind of just followed the lights in front of me, but definitely felt we floated for a second or two.
On the way back, we encountered the same lake and I had to turn around after watching a car sink too low for my comfort. So, I made all the drop-offs and arrived at my house with a curious scraping sound accompanying me. Yep, that's right... last week Louis lost a muffler and this week he's dragging something on the front end. These roads are shaking him to pieces - literally! But, praise God for safety and PRAISE GOD for rain!
Today, I was on my hands and knees inspecting the damage like a real trooper. I like to think my brother William would be proud, but he would probably ask if I fixed the problem and then I would have to say no. I'm not really sure what the purpose of that silly, sturdy piece of plastic... and I couldn't figure out how to jimmy-rig it up with rope, so I just shoved in a few places and hope that it will stay in place long enough for me to get to someone more handy!
When you turn 15 here, it's like a sweet 16 party but much, MUCH bigger! I'm talking color-coordinated decorations, a 'program' of events for the night, three special music performances, high schoolers in suits, fake champagne, super fancy dresses, a sermon, a serenade, a video, and lots of fun. And that's where you would have found me on Saturday night - in heels my dad found at a thrift store and a dress my mom sent me a few years ago that I hemmed and altered for fun. It was a beautiful way to celebrate Jennifer's life and also a great, grand introduction to Honduran tradition of quinceañera!
Have I told you how much I love my sister? Probably not, because she's gets uncomfortable when people get mushy (which of course is my specialty). Well, tonight as we were talking, I remembered how much I loved her all over again. It seems we always swap stories of our mishaps and mistakes. I think we sound like broken records, but I guess I'm encouraged that much more - that we are sisters in our repetition. You see, it doesn't matter if the stories from work seem not to have moved in a week or if our hearts are struggling in the same ways we thought we'd moved on from, or if our haphazard living styles have not moved to a less-embarrassing state... it doesn't matter because we love and encourage each other in the midst of all the mess.
Today, as we were talking ... I started to share about my current dream-squasher: fatigue and failure.
I want to press on, but I'm tired.
I want to believe change will come, but failure creeps on my shoulder like an ugly monster.
Anyway, no surprise, right? You've heard this before if you know me at all. I had an imaginary conversation with my mom a few weeks ago, when I was knee-deep in stress about my students and their decisions.
Honey, she told me, the BEST you can do is pursue your Savior with your whole heart. I said, I know. She said, do you have anyone to sharpen you and push you deeper and further into your pursuit of Christ. Not really, I said. Well, she said, maybe in this time God is trying to teach you that He is all-sufficient. Yes, maybe, I said.
So, weeks later, I am relaying two dream-squashing excuses to my sister and expressing my frustration and she says something like:
You know, I was trying to have some time with the Lord the other day and I kept trying to wrestle Him into giving me answers and get productive with my time. Finally, I just decided to be with Him... to sing and praise and love and honor Him. I realized I just needed to be with Him, not to just ask Him to figure out my problems.
I give up on things and let my dreams get squashed into the pavement because I try to have hope in an end HERE... I go to God hoping He will give me more tools to be effective instead of trusting Him to work.
I want results when I love people. I want improvement.
I want something significant to come out of gas money and coffee dates.
I want something spectacular to prove God's glory here.
Well, guess what? God's glory does not need proven.
My desire to see results shows that I am not TRUSTING in His plan to reveal His glory. If I really want eternal results, than I will throw myself into time with my Savior and trust He will work all things according to His will and purpose. And who am I to doubt His work will be significant?
Thanks, sister, for reminding me that time with my Savior does not need to end with a 'take-away' objectives and keys to unlock more ministry.
Time with my Savior is truly time to

let LOVE FLY like cRaZY


honest about my wishes

Sometimes I have these romantic phases in my mind (okay, often) ... and in those times I desperately wish everything would make sense together. Today, as I am going about the most random list of things "to do" I am taking mental lists of some of those wishes. Indulge!

  1. I wish, when I read a good book, I could be COMPLETELY in the book and not preoccupied with the desire to finish it, to know its contents, or to have a conversation about it later.
  2. I wish Simon and Garfunkel more regularly appeared on my "recently played" list.
  3. I wish my ambitions to be a neat and tidy person were more natural and less guilt-driven.
  4. I wish my distracted approach to projects yielded masterpieces like Picasso that everyone strangely admires, rather than disaster like the "derelict" fashion line in Zoolander that everyone pities.
  5. I wish my passion for people and causes could have a least common denominator... something I could refer to at the beginning of every day and then have an obvious, mathematical approach to deciphering the day's greatest needs.
  6. I wish I could be in several places at once (typical super-human power, right?)... and actually FULLY be there in mind and heart.
  7. I wish steady, standard routine was not something I only wished and planned for... but something that HAPPENED consistently in my life.
  8. I wish I was less likely to order Diet Coke and more likely to order water.
  9. I wish I knew how NOT to be wasteful, but creatively thrifty to the max!
  10. I wish I wasn't so good at making resolutions (though I always deny making them) and better at DOING.
  11. I wish I wasn't so overwhelmed by all the good things going on the world, thinking I have to in some way be a part of all of them... and just be GLAD good things are happening (especially in the name of Jesus!)
  12. I wish overflowing love out my mouth was effortless.
Well, there are some wishes of mine, folks. Will some life-wish fairy grant me these? Nope. But, sometimes you just need to call a spade a spade in your life and face up to the wishes you are secretly wishing.
I hope you are all doing well, my friends, this fine Wednesday.
don't forget to
let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

spring cleaning and bullet points

I've decided to succumb to the temptation to title a post like millions of others will this spring. Partly because the idea is very fitting for all the clutter I've gathered in my life and partly because I am very literally spring cleaning. The laundry is going out back, the trash is beckoning from all corners of my seemingly small abode, and my room is desperate for some attention.

Tonight, I have moved my computer combo (what I now lovingly call my laptop/computer monitor combination) to the dining room table and now I have the grandest ambitions to do some spring cleaning (or planting, maybe?) in the area of writing.
My operation looks something like this, if you put them both together on the kitchen table:
This week is Semana Santa (Holy Week) and most all of my friends and students are off to a coast or a country or a lake to enjoy the week off from school. Meanwhile, I am reading feverishly and awkwardly adjusting to this strange, SLOW pace of life. Yesterday, as I sat outside reading and sunning, I told my mom, "This week is going to be fantastic and so needed. I really just need the rest."
This morning I woke up and felt the usual antsy-ness creeping into my system. "A whole WEEK of this!?!" I asked to all the stuffed up, hot air in my house.
I know I have A LOT of catching up to do here on the blog, and my default method when I have lots to say is to use bullets, so I hope this will give you a picture of what has been happening.
Bullet points are kind of my way of spring cleaning my mind. I have a tendency to make all my physical spaces reflect the mayhem and madness in my mind...
translation: my desk, room, craft space, work space, car space, all space looks distracted and dysfunctional.
solution: bullet points. it may not make the mess go away, but at least I can look at it with some kind of order.
First of all, I don't know where to start with this one... I'll give you the best I got (in slimmed down, bullet-version of course) of the mission trip where I took 9 students to team up with 29 coming from Texas for a week working at an orphanage, planning carnivals for rural schools, and doing various work projects.
  • I have a greater understanding and appreciation for the ministries being "served" on short-term mission trips. Whew! It's definitely NOT about the work that the high school kids can accomplish in one week (it can be done faster, cheaper, and better by locals). It IS about the heart. period.
  • The opposite happened than my mission trip norm (personal devotions become a last priority) I practically LIVED for that hour in the morning to keep my head on straight.
  • I love watching students learn and love and feel the love of God come out their fingertips. It makes my heart downright giddy.
  • I have a hard time fitting in to the "adult" table and "adult" meetings and "adult" discipline of a mission trip... will have to work on that in the future
  • I am a WORLD CLASS WORRIER! If I had a quarter for every time my students said, "Miss, chill. Seriously, just chill." I would have been able to pay for all the mission trip expenses! I admit, I got a little out of control with the worries. There is no excuse, but I think having a co-leader could be a good idea. It was just too much for me to think/plan/coordinate... and frankly (no matter how many times they say, "chill") someone has to worry about the details or guess what? nothing happens. I've tried "chilling" to the max and basically it is un-productive.
  • Every day since the mission trip ended, I have felt a huge burden to continue encouraging the students.
  • pursuing any cause, mission, goal, or idea as an end in itself (or for my own accomplishment as an end) is to pursue death
  • I want more Bible. I want more Jesus. I want more God. That's the best way I can explain my deepening desire to KNOW my Lord more. Whenever God calls me from Honduras, I know I will be going to pursue more Bible instruction. I am considering this option, a ministry of Mars Hill Church in Seattle: Re:Train I want to learn under the best teachers and be forced to question every assumption based on the WORD as Authority. I want to be fully equipped for mission with a great dexterity in wielding the sword of the Spirit.
  • physical "things" are so fluid... well, they are mostly flowing out of me right now. I think I am a financial planner's worst nightmare. No, that can't be right..... a financial planner wouldn't know the first thing to think about me (probably that someday I'll end up living in my parents' basement). Funny, cause this 'money flowing out' thing can only work as long as it's flowing in... and I still want a blackberry and a new Mac laptop. Guess I can't shake all the materialism off, can I? :)
  • Loving the inspiration coming from musicians like this: Robbie Seay Band, The Civil Wars, JJ Heller, Rhema Soul, The Arrows, Luke Brindley, Trevor Davis
  • Loving the preaching/teaching of these good folks: Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, Chris Tomlinson, Vessels of Mercy, Jared Wilson, The Gospel Coalition, WORLD magazine
  • relationships, relationships, relationships. I thought this year would be simply a building year, after spending last year reaching out and in the ambiguous and easily excusable stage of 'getting to know' students. My assumption that I could reap so quickly has led to many humbling experiences. Regardless of response or excitement or fruit, I am called to do the same thing for the students here: LOVE fiercely and SHARE the Truth of the gospel unashamedly.
  • God, in His grace, has given me beautiful glimmers of the blessing of His refining process and His timing. I have been able to REJOICE with students who are seeing Him clearly for the first time. Actually, I think they are seeing just the edge of His garment and are surprised at the joy they find. WHAT a BLESSING to watch them discover!!
  • I am trying and testing my heart to know how I can best love these students in discipleship relationship. I want them to HUNGER and THIRST for the Lord. ... and then I remember being in high school and how strange that sounded. But, regardless, I feel an URGENCY to insist they pursue the BEST and not just okay.
  • Angel of Mercy by Baker
    This book blew me away - crazy what the passion of one person can do. She blazed the trail for the indigent insane to receive care in the United States and some countries in Europe.
  • The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
    For doubters, skeptics, and YOU. That's right. I think EVERYONE should read this book because it will sharpen your skills to understand and examine WHY you believe in God.
  • Twenty Years at Hull-House by Jane Addams
    Read a bit about her in college, but returning to read about the amazing work Jane Addams did in Chicago with the poor and needy. She's said by some to be the mother of modern day social work.
  • Becoming Conversant with the Emergent Church by DA Carson
    I'm revisiting this knucklepunch. It's pretty heavy (over my head, if you will), but I want to learn.
  • Lord, Is it Warfare? Teach me to Stand by Kay Arthur
    Oh, boy. I picked this up off my shelf because I feel like I desperately need it.
  • Basic Christianity by John Stott
    I bought this awhile back and need to dive in.
  • The World is Flat by Friedman
    I'm feeling an urgency to know how small our world is getting, because I think it has crazy implications for the Gospel!
Okay, friends. I could go on and on and on, but I know you would never make it to the end of the post and then I would be too tired to continue to write this week. So, I will leave it here. To come: mission trip pics, funny driving stories (YES THE CAR IS UP AND RUNNING!), 17 again anecdotes (I have way too many!), and aspirations to make an herb garden, sew some t-shirts, and accomplish 3 loads of ironing. :)
and please, please, please...
let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

here I am, Returning

I'm back.

My room is a mess. My overflowing suitcases lazily rest on the floor where I dumped them after a 16 hour journey, a bed of rumpled blankets boast the 12 hour nap that directly followed my arrival, each thoughtful gift I received over Christmas lays half-pondered on the ground where I have very good intentions about fully pondering it, a strange collection of mail that should've been shoved in one of those convenient blue boxes is still clinging to the insides of my suitcase,

and I am sitting here, drinking jasmine green tea and typing.

I was in Iowa for almost 1 1/2 weeks. The snow wooed my warmed, Honduran heart and the faces of favorite people filled my vision. There were not enough hugs and jokes and convos and laughs... but there were so many! The laughter made me certain of God's goodness (if I wasn't before), because if we are made in His image then He must be the Ultimate at laughter and that makes me love Him all the more. Sewing with my grandma and crowding my mother's kitchen, running around with cousins in the snow and cuddling up in a blanket with my sisters, wrapping a cold night with the wise words of my grandpa and chilling with my best friends who also happen to be my siblings...
I'm returning to community and family. I'm returning to the admission that we need people.

My best friend Meghan asked me to be her maid-of-honor. Our eyes filled up a little bit, but life is mostly the same between us - we share the kind of understood love that doesn't necessarily send emails or letters or phone calls, but it prays and hopes and is still so fierce.
I'm returning to the joy of the heart friends I only see once-in-awhile. I'm returning to believing I can love them without a face-to-face coffee date.

I snuggled into two books before I jumped on a big Continental bird to fly back here. One I have nearly finished after two days: Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner. Winner's writing style reminds me why I love getting lost in between black and white typed words. I heard her speak when I was in college, but my too-skeptic college self didn't allow me to believe her story was good. Well, it is. The other book is Forgotten God by Francis Chan and it is proving just as delightful ... my heart is necessarily challenged at each page-turn.
I'm returning to believing things are good and worthy of hours of thinking and digesting and several cups of jasmine green tea.

I bought a new journal at Target in Michigan. The store startled me with all the bright reds and discounted prices, but I managed to find a $3.24 eco-friendly journal with wide pages and a wire binding (very important, as I like to flip each page completely behind).
I'm returning to writing with a pen. I'm returning to saying my prayer with bold strokes. I'm returning to a personal account of fears and failures.

My sister Christina's birthday is today. I only left the states a couple days ago, but memories always make me feel uncomfortable with my love. My sister isn't really one for precious, picture moments with fluffy words and embraces. She is the queen of conversation and wild with wit... but sometimes I just have to know that she can feel my love without words or corny phrases. I know it, I do and I'm whispering happy birthdays today for her.
I'm returning to confidence in how people understand my love. I'm returning to believing that my sister doesn't need to be persuaded - she just knows how much I love her even when my hands are empty.

My friend Chels is my new mentor (she doesn't know that yet). I turned my head slightly after college to pursue what I thought important. It was easy, as we all went separate ways ...but a few years later here she emerges as this gentle well, deep with wisdom. I am sad to not have watched the process or been more supportive as she grew brilliantly toward the light of Love.
I'm returning to knowing I have much to learn. I am returning to humbly searching the deep, deep wells of the wise ones around me.

here I am, returning.

More Blessed to Give than Receive

Cliché ... maybe. But, test it out and then see if you want to have a fight over word choice. Blessing others is like peeking through a window at God's glory and goodness and then getting knocked off your feet at its splendor.

Well, here on earth it is less romantic. If we get knocked off our feet, we land on a dirty, dusty earthen floor. But, let me tell you, God's splendor is no less magnificent because we live in a sinful world. Not at all. God's splendor will always be the same: perfect. So, no matter what kind of earth we are standing on today, we can reflect the image of God by blessing others.

Here is what happens when you do:)

ALP teachers and staff (Honduran and North American) came together this Christmas to bless Amor y Fe y Esperanza, a school started about 4 years ago next to the garbage dump outside the city of Tegucigalpa. Classes used to be given under nearby trees, but now are conducted in classrooms in the four buildings constructed for that purpose. The ministry seeks to provide education and resources to children who only have a future searching through the garbage dump piles for food, money, and livelihood.

We took the idea of Operation Christmas Child and made it local - for our own city and our own neighbors. We posted names, ages, and grades and staff then picked from the list and created boxes (or bags) to send to the school. We collected and delivered them and ... it was beautiful. Here are some pictures of the journey:

Here is a description of the ministry of AFE in 30 seconds.

Today more blessings came in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Some of the blessings came after my muscles were so tense and my heart so anxious that only afterward did I realize how much the blessings depend on God and not me. All I can do in my worrying is take away from God's steadfast promise to be there as sturdy as an oak.

More stories will follow...

tradition, tradition (with rolled Rs)

For me, the "Christmas spirit" in recent years is less fluttery and less emotion-driven. Especially these last two in Honduras with it being so warm and just very, very different. I am attaching new sentiments to this time of year. I am finding incredible joy in giving and reaching out and loving. I'm sad for the years I thought Jesus' birth was about me, so now I feel in a frenzy to flip everything around.

I was thinking about all the memories and traditions I hold close to my heart... and thinking that I would someday want to create a home much like my parents did for me. Even if it took me years to understand the beauty in this season, I so cherish the moments I can look back and see how every Christmas pointed in the direction of heaven.

Sure, it may SEEM like more fun to have your head glued to a TV screen or stuck in endless shopping lines, but I prefer really living and cherishing these moments with the people I love.So, here are some of our family Christmas traditions I would like to share with you:

  1. Christmas caroling to neighbors and friends... this is one of my most loved. We stuff ourselves into the van with gifts for each house and then every one - from dad to brothers to sisters to mom - lift our voices for sweet choruses of joy! (sometimes they don't sound so sweet but we have fun and we hope those listening do too!
  2. Cookie decorating contest. This is serious business. Every year the "rules" are brought into question because it's so competitive and everyone is trying to find their edge or angle to seize the championship title. William and Christina have by far the best workmanship. Samuel and Bethany always somehow are a judge favorite. James is the best sport about the whole thing and always comes out my best friend:) Me... well, let's just say my cookies are pronounced "abstract."
  3. Mom (in our younger days and now all of us) baking in the kitchen while others wander in and out and end up plopping down on the linoleum floor for some of the best conversations ever.
  4. Christmas Eve dinner: potato soup for the "kids" and oyster soup for the parents, anadama bread, cheese and crackers, egg nog (recently switched over to light), sparkling grape juice:) and tapioca pudding... So simple and so good!!
  5. Candelight service at church - my favorite part is when we all file out of the auditorium into the fellowship hall singing "Silent Night" the groups in the two separate rooms inevitably find different tempos, but we all get back on track in time to fill that cozy space with joyful song.
  6. Opening gifts with my parents and siblings... one at a time because every gift has a story
  7. Watching the little red tin on the dining room table grow every year with our tithes and offerings that will go toward a worthy cause.
  8. It may not be the same every year, but you can bet it is a tradition to invent some crazy outdoor activity. One year I wanted to learn to snowboard, so I had my brother hook up a rope behind the four-wheeler and I rode behind it in the yard! Another year, my brothers and a few friends went sledding... on a picnic table... down an ice hill... without shirts on. When we were younger, it was always piling into the pick-up truck and finding a good soft sledding hill where we could use our saucer sled and plastic pieces. I do remember a few bruised bums when we tried a gravel road :)
  9. Christmas with Gram and Gramps (Sponsler) on Christmas day is a favorite. We get there early for a brunch and then munch all day and lay around nursing our stomach aches :) The presents have become less important and the time spent together PRIME.
  10. Nichols Christmas. Whew! How do I explain it? Can you picture homemade doughnuts (which begin before 5 am with Aunt Jane's preparation)? Can you picture the reunion of aunts, uncles, cousins (I'm sure we're over 60 people in all now) who haven't seen each other in awhile but still feel like we never left? Can you picture a day full of laughter and storytelling and the annual "aunt walk" and random road trips to the dollar store? No, you cannot picture it, but it is amazing!

Okay. I have to stop at 10 because I could go on forever and tomorrow is a BIG day. I am going to the garbage dump. Why? You ask.

Well, because people live there. Every day, all year round. The garbage dump is their reality and there's a beautiful light called Amor y Fe y Esperanza (Love and Faith and Hope) that seeks to love and care for and be Jesus to these people. There is a school with 138 children and we are delivering 138 gifts with the name of each child.

God is so good. I can't wait to see His face in these children!

bringing broken pieces

Today I am thankful God asks us to bring brokenness before Him... I am thankful that complete, pulled-together-perfection is not His expectation as we meet Him at the throne.

As David writes in Psalm 51,
A broken and contrite heart, Oh Lord, you will not despise.

Thank you, Lord, for inviting such messes into Your presence. Thank You for hearing our angry questions and fears. Thank you for knowing the robust rebellion of our hearts and still whispering words of peace.

Thank you for not changing. Oh, thank you Lord for not ever changing!

Lord, I am trusting You to be faithful. I am trusting You to care for the broken-hearted better than any earthly touch. I am trusting You to be in the gaps where we can't possibly understand. I am trusting You to be the strength and love and peace where there seems to be none. I am trusting You, Oh Lord, to be You today.

reformation day... and the end of october

This is a picture of me trying out the box as bed before the sleepout last Friday night.

Tonight is a night for lists, so check this out:

-in honor of reformation day, check out these links:
Ligonier Ministries
Reformation Day Meditation

-to try at home:
homemade chai in several variation (I could NOT find cardamoms here and it turned out okay)
baked butternut squash or winter soup with butternut squash

-to listen:
city on our knees by tobymac (see previous post)
anything vince guaraldi
hank by ben rector

-to craft:
i'm going to try patchwork postcards

it's been a good couple days, folks. a good couple days.

i am missing, a bit, the fam around this time of year. i sure do love 'em.

little miracles

art from my new fave: funky art queen

I'm praising the Lord. This post is one of thanksgiving - for all the people God puts in my life to save the day. These are heroes - real, live ones who will probably never be duly thanked for the way they (in one way or other) line right up next to Timothy, in taking a genuine interest in the welfare of others. That really sets a person apart, you know?

Here's my all-star list:
Douglas drives bus number 8 and wears aviator glasses. Last year, whenever I ended up on his bus, I always thought he didn't really like his job (especially when it involved carting a bunch of gringos around) because of he kept quiet and often listened to headphones.

But, this year he sure did surprise me! He was the one who picked me up at the airport and then helped me get the car ready to drive and then... quickly turned into my dependable and trustworthy mechanic. I seriously can't explain the kindness and honesty ... and the patience about all the questions, scattered Spanish, and constant pleas for "cheaper." He is seriously a blessing (so whoever was out there praying for me to find a good mechanic consider it answered!).

Jose Miguel
Hm. I don't quite know how to start this one. I had a friend come visit from the states. I took full advantage of the convenience in my car... driving around the countryside, the mountains, to my student's house, and back again to the city... then I took one wrong turn and ended up in a neighborhood called 21 de Octubre... at night... in the rain. And at that moment (not any other moment, like for instance on a curvy mountain road or in a isolated location) my right wheel decided to stop responding to the steering wheel.

Long story short(er), God provided moment by moment and led me to the doorstep of Jose Miguel, not a 2 minute walk away. He was so kind and helpful and promised to work as quickly as he could. Then his nephew drove by and Jose Miguel volunteered him to take us home (in his little teeny pinto with cardboard covering the windshield). So we arrived home and we could not stop exclaiming about God's providence and timing... and then 2 hours later as we were trying to figure out the schedule for picking up the car the next morning, JM called to say he finished and he would drive it to my house. WOW.

Stacy, Laura, Steph, Cara
You may or may not be aware that in the past few weeks I've had countless opportunities to use my animated, excitable nature to... fReAk oUt. With the 24/7 prayer room and the Sleep Out and various other activities (oh, yes, and don't forget randomly not having school after winning against El Salvador), I felt the stress to the max. These girls jumped right in, constantly asking if and what I needed. My sanity is probably still in place because of the thoughtfulness and compassion of these girls. May their reward be great!!

We don't have to say much, Jess and I. We kind of just know that we are always in need of support and she does a darn good job of giving it! She is such an encourager... and I think we are like-minded in wanting to be fully in our ministry here. We have this kind of respect between us - where we may make plans, but time with students always trumps. All I know is, in the past week, Jess has constantly spurred me on and I'm so thankful!

I won't lie - it's been difficult. Last year, Heather and I did pretty much and completely everything together. We led Bible study, went to the feeding center, got groceries, explored, worshipped. We were a team and a pretty good one. Well, it seems that we were almost too good. God wanted us to split up so we'd both depend on Him more and each other less. I haven't enjoyed going solo, but I have seen the Lord show me things I need to change in order to rightly represent Him. Heather? She's in Canada, which may sound far, but from the notes, emails, and (yes, even!) packages, it sometimes feels like she's still close. The only thing I hate is that condensing my thoughts is so time-consuming that I don't feel like we really ever adequately 'catch-up.'

So, I'm taking Spanish lessons from this angel of a woman named Lourdes. Every other Tuesday I get to sit under her tutelage and her wisdom. God is using her in my life to bring strength and courage and affirmation. I cannot express how blessed I am to share time and space with a woman so devoted to God's purposes.

Gerardo drives bus 12 and always wears a baseball cap. I know Gerardo pretty well because he's my bus driver. I'm not sure if it's the Caedmon's Call song (bus driver) or the fact that my grandpa is a bus driver, but I just have a pretty grand appreciation for the profession. In any case, Gerardo takes great care with his job. Every turn and stop is precise. Some of the kids on the bus share a special handshake and others always make sure to share some conversation before leaving. He's softspoken, but so tender-hearted. When he drives the late bus he always drives right to our gate instead of dropping us at the end of the dark street. His kindness is really impressive.

Where do I begin with this girl? She is in 9th grade and she's earned the title of "my rock star" and I'm not kidding around. The Hands and Feet service club meets once/week on Wednesdays and Eloisa is always getting down to business. Her commitment and creativity has (many weeks) been the brightest spot in my day. This past weekend for the sleepout, she offered herself every spare minute and then followed me around after school running errands. We don't have many students who are that perceptive to the needs of others, but this one sure is. I'm so grateful!

I know there are many, many more who bless my life each day. But, today, these are the heroes. Praise God for them!

wish words were better

have you ever found yourself so easily expressive when you are at the bottom? the words come out like a water hydrant - broken, spewing and streaming out of control.

but then blessings come like the most beautiful downpour and then... nothing.

this is how I feel right now.

God unleashes the most gentle, welcome shower of promises today and all I can do is smile up at the sky with a silly wet face.

the last two weeks

A week ago, I was lamely wishing for 48 hour days and bodies without need of rest.

Now, I've had almost an entire week without school, thank you gripe porcina (swine flu), and more time than I thought possible. Yes, that's right. Monday was going along like any day, when my principal appeared in my office doorway. In a calmer voice than the situation warranted, he said, "We are not telling students at this point, but we will not be having classes for two weeks starting tomorrow." He would have walked out, too (in the same unceremonious way) if I had not stopped him and made him listen to my gawking, confusing responses.

"For two whole weeks?" "Just like that?" "The school is closed - like we can't work?" "What will we do exactly?"

I finally let him leave, but I was almost in tears. I knew almost immediately this was an attack spiritually, because we are really at a tipping point for students. The first spiritual life activities were planned to start this week and they were canceled. It is also just a crucial relationship-building time with students (my first Bible study was to be this week), where we are just getting to the place of trust and confidence and they are making decisions about what this year will look like. Here is a sample of my Bible study poster for 11th grade and the breakfast club Bible study for 10-12th grades.

As always, what Satan intends for evil, God can always turn to blessing. After my initial shock, I ended up joyful to enter into these two weeks where I really felt led to meet with as many students as possible. I posted this on my facebook:

Caroline Nichols
gripe porcina decided it wanted to close our school for two weeks... so I decided to OPEN 'camp nichols'. Feel free to check in for a free night or a week at my humble abode in la campaña - bring your own food and entertainment. I'm now OPEN for business and ready for visitors :)

and about I went. I've had girls over, one spend the night, and plans for more this week. I am trying to meet up with them, but also take the time to do some reflecting, planning, visioning, and nesting (no, I'm still not done with that phase!).

Here are some stories that will make you laugh, I hope!

a few funny stories
minor accident - So, last Monday we found out there would be no school for two weeks. How do we celebrate? Well, I picked up Daniella and MariaJose and we went out to coffee. Though I know I depend solely on the Lord to make the car function and bring us safely to our destination, the girls have been pretty impressed with my driving abilities. This night was no different. However, as we pull up to the little coffee house parking lot (no bigger than a bedroom and right off a busy street), the parking attendants couldn't do enough hand motions to get the lady in front of me to stop backing up. So, she didn't. She backed right into me!! Boy, was that interesting! I received a crash course (tehe) in fender-bender protocol. Good thing was, this woman was hugely sorry and ended up just giving me cash (that she randomly left at a fabric store for me to pick up!?) to fix the chrome grille molding.

contra via- After meeting with Daniella one night, I was driving her to church and she motioned to take a right on the next street. Before I got to far, the drivers were hanging out their windows yelling, "contravia!" which of course means that I was going the wrong way. Don't worry, this has only happened on three occasions! :) I corrected myself and playfully yelled at Daniella, who could not stop laughing. "It USED to be two way, Miss, I swear!"

painting at a student's house- One day this week, I woke up and leisurely went about a lazy morning routine before I headed over to MariaJose's house to lay in the sun (at 9 am!) on her little back porch and then paint her sister's bedroom.

home improvement projects
I'm not sure if it is the fabulous apron I made with my grandma, or if it is the new apartment in the city... whatever it is, I just love to make creations in the kitchen. When my students came over last week, we endeavored to make homemade pizza from scratch. Of course it took ENTIRELY too long for them to appreciate and enjoy, I had fun and we had lots of time to hang out in the kitchen :) My favorite and easiest addition to my diet is hummus. I have only had a few varieties that I really like, so what is better than to make it the way I like it right here in my own kitchen?! I use black beans with the garbanzo beans and I use less lemon juice than they suggest. I also add a splash of spice and there's my snack for the week!

I have also welcomed the re-discovery of decorating this new place. I have painted a few canvases, experimented with lanterns, and really thought about how to use my home as a physical reminder of my spiritual goals.

What else? This is getting too long already. I realize I haven't written in such a long time. I promise I will make it up soon! A September newsletter is on its way! While you are waiting, check out this video of the crazy macaw birds that live next door. :)

she said YES

I hope you don't feel strange that I am SO excited that Daniella said "YES" when I asked if we could meet one on one for discipleship. I'm not sure she knows yet what she's getting into, but after I met up with her tonight at a coffee shop I just kept praising God for the opportunities. I can't begin to describe the ways He is blessing me... and giving me ways to be a blessing to others!

After I left the triumphant meeting :), I picked up a friend in El Centro and drove to Micah Project for the Night Service again. And again it was beautiful. The boys are fantastic - great Spanish teachers and just really good brothers. The service is always special, simple, and intimate - we sit in a circle in the little courtyard and sing songs then hear a message.

I am tired from a long day, but very VERY blessed.

If you are tired and weary and carrying around some doubts, read Isaiah 41. A woman gave a testimony in church this morning and used this passage to encourage us... even as the times are uncertain, that we must remember who God is. So, go ahead and take a few minutes, even an hour and just meditate on the person of God.

Blessings to you!

5 Thoughts for Friday

Did any of you grow up watching Feature Films for Families?

Rigoletto came popped into my head this morning and "The Melody Within" has been skipping through my fragile-Friday mind ever since. It hasn't bothered me one bit!

5 Thoughts for Friday:

1. I don't think I'll grow out of being obnoxious. Though I have put great effort into controlling my spontaneous (sometimes delirious) nature, I've come to the conclusion that my silliness is absolutely unavoidable.... which of course leads me to the conclusion that teaching holds a very questionable future for me.

2. I love trees. It's a weird obsession, kind of like being preoccupied with wise old men who have already passed on (like Blaise Pascal and C.S. Lewis). I love to think about all the symbolism wrapped into the roots of strong, solid oaks and the uniform beauty in a row of evergreens. I just love 'em.

3. Being rational is sometimes overrated. Notice I didn't say all the time. There is a great place for reason in life, though I too often forget and consider it the infrequent exception instead of the rule. Being irrational is more exciting, easier, faster, more accessible (and sometimes more damaging). All that said, reason can just as easily argue us right out of a perfectly valid risk - and of that I am not a fan.

4. Lemonade. The only satisfactory refreshment for all that is hot and sticky. Though lemons here actually look like limes and the end result hardly resembles the powdered concoctions of "Countrytime" fame, the refreshing citrus is still familiar (and the changes welcome, I might add)! Fresh-squeezed lemonade simply could never be replaced as the choice back-porch summer beverage!

5. dance, dance, dance. Lately, I've been feeling a freedom in my spirit... remember the song, "Every time I feel the spirit, moving in my heart I will pray" and the gospel choir song, "When I think about Jesus, and what He's done for me, when I think about Jesus and how He set me free, I could dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, dance all night!"? Well, I'm feeling it.

Unnumbered number 6. I hate that the 5 things I just thought of are all about me. Pooh that.

Have a great Friday, y'all!


The craziness of the end of quarter three is upon us! Students are pleading for extra days to finish late work, teachers are planning secret weekend escapes/grading parties, and my friend Rosa (who runs the cafeteria) is having a mad dash on chocolate to keep both students and teachers pacified.

After school today, the new teachers finished up the last of three video sessions of a rather dry philosophy class (love the content, but the old man sitting by a fire for a solid hour just doesn't invoke a whole lot of interaction. Heather and I made a quick, random dinner (most of our dinners are SO random - I'll have to write about that another time), I went to care group, then we had an amazing time of staff worship... and finally I came back to crash.

And then this monster called

crashed my party and has me wondering where I draw the line with students. I know I have already worked through some of this and received some AMAZING advice from wiser folk than me, but I think I might be on a circular road, because I'm always coming up to this intersection.

I LOVE the opportunity to get closer to students, though for a long time I drew the line at email. I even set up a separate account name the students could use that would be re-directed to my main email. Then those plans went to pot when I realized these are people... real, broken, lovely, beautiful people that I see every single day and pray for as much as they're on my heart. This whole computer communication thing isn't what I would prefer, but it's the way things are going and I'd rather have them talking to me (and having even a teeny bit of accountability for who sees their profiles) than doing something sketchy, right?

I'm not really sure. What I do know, from my convo with a stellar student tonight, is that we are planning to do karaoke next week to some High School Musical, she kinda sorta likes this guy, and she was on the computer for several hours.

Personal/professional... I feel like a youth worker/teacher/counselor/friend/mentor/sister - and it's got that whole "job" role thrown in a confusing heap somewhere in the corners of my brain. It's going to stay there, too, for the night... because I'm logging out!

just be

I've been trying out this new thing. It's called being.

Sometimes God, in His grace, allows us to see the sin in our lives before someone else brings it to our attention. Other times, in His grace, He allows a brother or a sister to call us out on our sin.

I've been experiencing God's grace in the latter, being called out (of course wishing for the former), and finding that there is sweetness in a lesson you feel you've learned 100 times before. Sweetness isn't quite the word I'm looking for, but with this headache, it will have to do.

I guess what I'm realizing goes back to that one night in my bunk bed, junior year of college. My best friend confronted me (I almost got sucked into reading old posts just now :), after the lights were out, about some sin in my life. Now, years later, I find myself in a similar situation and feeling the same relief and blessing wash over me. The God of all peace promises to restore it in our lives if we confess to one another. 1 John 1:8-9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

As a child memorizing this verse, I focused on the confessing. Now, as I read it, I see God's faithfulness. That when we confess, God will forgive AND purify us from all unrighteousness. There is such freedom here!

So, this is where I sit. I think my inspiration is drained. What is precious, though, every morning now, is waking up to smile at the Lord. He knows me - really knows me. And I know that He loves me enough to let me be refined in this way. So, I'm working on just being with Him. Hopefully I'll soak up strength and wisdom and courage in the process.

In the meantime, while I'm doing all this learning, God is blessing me beyond IMAGINATION with these absolutely amazing students. Here is Alexandra. She is one of the reasons I love my elective. We decided to make a cartoon series with my computer one day and this is what happen. I think it has definite flip-book potential!

It's hard to know where to start with this precious soul, so here's where I'll end: every, every time
I see her face, a goofy smile plasters itself across my gringa cheeks and I instinctively rush for a hug. Ale is reaching out, questioning, wondering, and seeking. She won't settle for opinions or rumors. She wants the real, hard stuff of Truth. I'm praying her right on to that narrow path.

Wearied Inspiration

Well, folks. Let's just say I'm taking a new approach to the blog for awhile (seems like its the same approach to my life these days): stay above water. In so many areas of my life I feel like I am at a very dangerous tipping point, treading water and exhausted.

I am right now listening to Eric Schrotenboer (who I highly recommend!) and processing what the Lord is teaching me and how I'm going to get through tomorrow.

Have you ever been overwhelmed with how much you don't know?

But, at the same time, overwhelmed by all the lessons you've already learned that shouldn't be plaguing your present like they did the past.

That's where I'm at. I don't know SO much. But, God's also shown me many, many things that I am painstakingly learning over and over again.

In all the learning and refining, one of my students has challenged me to write poems back and forth with her and its really got me digging deep to find expression.

Here's what I wrote today. I'm not sure if it's finished yet.

melodies played
over deep dreams made
inside a comfortable shell

imperfect and unseeing
flaws mask true being
and in distance dwell

easy is self-seeking
turns quick to misleading
and farther from my heart

why am I repeating
constantly competing
distractions without regard

willpower defeated
my own strength depleted
I am nothing but lost

then grace softly spoken
in quiet hours unbroken
to a frail soul at great cost

with Truth now leading
the pain leaves me heaving
embarrassed and ashamed

Be encouraged today, as you sort out what God is teaching you, how He is growing you, and (yes!) even in the lessons you feel like you are re-learning.

What I've been up to

Maybe I should name the post "When I've been up 'till" instead, but that's pretty big news!

Bedtime since moving down here (actually since graduating from college) has been on a steady downhill roll until this week. We have the student retreat coming up this weekend and we are really feeling the opposition pressing in heavy. It's been hard to recruit students and convince them it's something worthwhile.

It's so rough trying to make things cool, you know? High schoolers are just obsessed with making sure things are 'cool,' even down here. But, we are praying and hoping that the Lord will bless us with a group that wants to be real. Forget cool. That's what I say.

And that's how we ended up with this outrageous video to promote the weekend.

Seek me with all your heart

In my devotions this morning, I was reading about Zacchaeus... you know that "wee little man" you sang about as a child? I tried to separate the Sunday school image and focus on what the Lord is saying through His Son's actions.

I stumbled on this verse in Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart."

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Sorry, I've been repeating it in my mind all day and I really think the repetition is finding a solid, steady groove in my soul. I am taking such comfort in the knowledge that God's promises are never empty - so when he says I will find him, I believe it!

But, what's holding my heart in conviction today is the last part of that verse. You will seek and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Tonight I'm exhausting, but remembering the same promise God gave me at the beginning of the day, "Seek me with your whole heart, child and you will not be disappointed! I am here!"

Zaccheaus found. Jesus saw into his heart that he was desperate for even the sight of Him... and the Son did not disappoint.