delight; the overflow

A pumpkin stem.

Can harvest pumpkin brownies determine a day's delight?

You can argue, but I have a Tuesday chock-full of evidence to hold up against your argument!

I have a sneaky little suspicion that this string of so-good-very-great days is no accident. It's a little something called overflow. I'm no physicist, but I'll propose a theory called "overflow" to explain this strange turn of events of the past week that has resulted in an abundance of joy. If you'd really like to know, the formula is complicated and cumbersome, so I will give you the wordier version (which happens to be my expertise).

I wish I could just write the numbers and letters and slashes and signs, because delight too often eludes description. Let me paint you a picture on this flat-screen canvas.

PAINT ME THIS: fellowship with the saints by way of several amazing biographies... hours... beautiful hours... spent with students who push me to be convinced about my convictions words, words, words... in books and articles and conversations... ...listening to sermons around the world and here in the city with a grateful heart that I can do just that... challenged to THINK ... but completely and passionately, knowing that knowledge always produces acts of love... ...baking a recipe for the first time with a wonderful partner in cooking crime... and filling almost every minute with laughter

I know... I just read over this "paint" list and I wish I could give each ambiguous phrase a story as perfect as the reality I am walking through. The bottom line is... my delight is not about the pumpkin brownies as much as it is about the overflow of my delight in the Lord. God keeps pouring more of Himself (Romans 5) out through His Spirit and I can't help but burst with joy. I keep thinking it's the coffee, but now I'm convinced it's the overflow. The more the Spirit pours out into my life, the more overflows everywhere else.

People get blessed... God gets glorified... and it's another good day.

But, tonight I feel I have to fail at any further explanation and ask you to take my word for it!

Here are some tangibles that have inspired: Andrée Seu has an article on Psalm 40:3 that spoke directly to my heart Tim Challies shares thoughts on being a better listener (a message I always need to hear) and also how we can make frugality an idol as Christians I've got a little something stirring with my partner in cooking crime here ... but only click if you want to discover the collision of two worlds in a kitchen :) Desiring God National Conference just happened this past weekend and I am slowly but surely going to listen to as many of the messages as I can.

I hope the next time I start a blog submitting I have some sort of theory it ends better than this!

Delicious Adventures!

Last night, we experimented with a recipe from my Good Housekeeping Healthy Choices cookbook. The recipe was for tortilla pizza, but we transformed it into a lasagna and it was so wonderfully delicious! My roomie is a veggie (my affectionate term for the vegetarians in my life), so I'm always on the lookout for recipes that we would both like. This one turned out to be the BOMB! Then, for dessert, I made baked apples with a recipe from the same cookbook in an effort to welcome fall to the rain and sun of this country that knows not the four seasons.

Tonight, I'm having my high school girls over for movies and THIS incredible apple cinnamon cupcake dessert! Doesn't it look amazing?

Here's the description from the website:

Shredded apple replaces some of the oil and keeps the cake moist in these cinnamon-spiked cupcakes. There is a generous amount of fluffy marshmallow frosting to mound or pipe on top for a festive look.

via Apple Cupcakes with Cinnamon-Marshmallow Frosting.

We'll see how it turns out!

****UPDATE**** Here is the result of several hours in a warm kitchen... lots of laughter... and maybe a few foibles. The recipe is posted below the slideshow.

[slideshow]

To make the CUPCAKES

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded peeled apples
  • 1/2 cup diced dried apples (I used a baked apple leftover from yesterday to save on cost)
  • 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar, plus 3/4 cup, divided (I used 1/2 cup loosely packed for less sweet)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk (I made my own with milk and vinegar)

FROSTING

  • 1 cup light brown sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 teaspoons dried egg whites (I used 2 egg whites)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for garnish

PREPARATION

  1. To prepare cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups with cupcake liners or coat with cooking spray (I made about 17 cupcakes with this recipe)
  2. Combine shredded and dried apples in a bowl with 3 tablespoons brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Set aside. Beat oil and the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Beat in eggs one at a time until combined. Add vanilla, increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute.
  3. Whisk whole-wheat flour, cake flour, baking soda, salt and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk to the batter, starting and ending with dry ingredients and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, until just combined. Stir in the reserved apple mixture until just combined. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. (The cups will be full.)
  5. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before frosting.
  6. To prepare frosting: Bring 2 inches of water to a simmer in the bottom of a double boiler. Combine 1 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup water in the top of the double boiler. Heat over the simmering water, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Add reconstituted egg whites, cream of tartar and pinch of salt. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until the mixture is glossy and thick, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the top pan from the heat and continue beating for 1 minute more to cool. Add vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and beat on low just to combine. Spread or pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle cinnamon on top, if desired.

life: worth doing right

Film poster for Amistad (1997 film) - Copyrigh...

"If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right." Thanks, mom.

I grew up angry at these eight words because hard work was always the guilty result of this catchy little phrase. It appeared when we discussed our 4-H livestock projects and how little we had worked with them (if you are not from the country, you wouldn't understand leading a cow around by a halter in your yard). It wedged into conversations about refinishing projects and youth group commitments and grades in school. Many a conversation ended with a knowing, stern look from either Mom or Dad and these words, "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right."

Now, working with youth, I wish more parents used this guilt trip method to motivate their kids. I realize guilt should not mainly motivate us to do things 'right,' but guilt is not the lesson that has stayed with me these 25 years. The lesson is about worth.

Last night I watched one of my favorite movies - Steven Spielberg's "Amistad." In one of the last scenes, the attorney speaks on behalf of the Africans being prosecuted for insurrection on the slave ship where they were so inhumanely transported in the slave trade en route to Spain.

John Quincy Adams, played by Anthony Hopkins, says these words in front of the Supreme Court (7 out of 9 of which are Southern slave owners),

"Yea, this is no mere property case, gentlemen. I put it to you thus: This is the most important case ever to come before this court. Because what it, in fact, concerns is the very nature of man."

At this point in the movie, something very human in me connects with the John Quincy Adams leaning against the polished hardwood handrail. I want to shout, as his quiet words seem to do so well, "Yes, gentlemen, what are WE WORTH? What is man worth?" Is our nature - the nature of man - carry some inherent value or is rather something to discard?

I can tell you what I felt about our worth as I watched one of the captured Africans, Cinque, struggle against the chains that bruised his wrists and neck.

We were not made for this.

In Genesis, when God breathed life into the man He'd formed from the dust of the earth, He was intentional. His ways are perfect, so I refuse to believe any part of His creation process was not done "right." Every piece and particle, from the smallest micro-organism to the most complicated systems in the human body, God designed us exactly right.

In His image we were made (Genesis 1:26-28), male and female He created us in His image. I can't help but think my parents' old adage came from a deeper understanding of God's own very intentionality in our design. If creation was worth doing at all (and, I'll admit, sometimes I wonder), then God would be the only One able to do it right. I really believe the 'nature of man' is a question of beginnings, which (not so ironically) is what the word "genesis" means.

Our genesis (beginning) is bound up in the intentional mind of a sovereign God, whose purposes are forever, beautifully... right.

I say all of this because I am pondering what it means to live life. I made up a word last week when I was trying to process the biography of Bonhoeffer because I was grasping at dictionaries to find a description for his approach to living out theology. I came up with vivology, after a quick greek/latin roots and suffixes search.

The question bouncing about in my head lately has been, "How do I live right?" Because, I know live is worth living (God's intentional, perfect design)... so it must be worth doing right.

What are your thoughts?

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Today, I'm doing my best to

let LOVE FLY like cRaZY.

bursting with joy

Cover of "The Four Loves"

I'm sitting here, under my tree, with books stacked high to my right and my heart full to overflowing with thanksgiving. I just spent way too much time looking at old blog posts trying to find some musings from the book, "The Four Loves" by C.S. Lewis, but I came up empty-handed.

I'll have to rely on my memory to relate the bliss I'm feeling and how I think Lewis explains it best.

It is only fitting, I might add, that I'm comfortable under my tree, where roots are stretching out underneath, reminding me where I find life.

Many of you are probably well aware of Lewis's famous book on the four different types of love, but I want to just skim the surface of what has me flying so high tonight: friendship. Lewis suggests (apologies for my crude summary) that friendship draws out God-designed parts of us that we never knew we were hiding. In community, we are able to watch God reveal Himself in us because of the way we are made to live in community together.

Isn't that magnificent?

Today is a repeat of so many other times in my life where I realize there is joy bubbling up in my soul that is set free when I place myself in community. It's like a pen full of words that finds paper or a box full of seeds that finds ground.

Community is a place God has specifically designed to reflect Him and point to His glory. I love how C.S. Lewis says that God ordains our friendships. There are certain people ordained for certain times in our lives for a very certain purpose - to draw out ways in which we never knew we were capable of giving God glory.

How beautiful!

I can't tell you all the ways this makes sense for today, but I can tell you that this day (beginning, middle, and end) made me ready to burst with the joy and inspiration of community. God's design is so very good!

Here is one of the reasons for my joy... one of my students Alejandra! She has a wonderful way of drawing out something strange and silly and spectacular... and I always walk away blessed!

I hope you are intentionally putting yourself in the company of others who are pursuing Christ. You will be so blessed by the new ways you find to give God glory for His design!

As always, .let LOVE FLY like cRaZY.

pursuing lower pleasures

Here's something I wrote in May when my friend Heather was visiting, but it certainly applies to tonight. I just got home from a MARVELOUS night of capture the flag with my favorite seniors, then dinner, then dinner #2, and then various antics following. I think my joy almost burst a couple times I was so full of it! I laughed and laughed and laughed and I praise God for every surprising snort and crazy convulsion. I love laughter. I will have to write more about that later. For now, enjoy this REPOST from May.

-------------------- After a crazy day, an afternoon filled with charades and catch phrase and laughter, and a typically cheesy serenade for the 11th grade girls... Heather and I went for coffee and finally caught up a bit. I chose the Latte Au-Lait, which means I am now WIDE awake and she's zonked out (getting the sleep she needs so we can leave at 5:45 am to lead worship tomorrow at staff devotions).

I just want to write something quick tonight... maybe it will turn into a poem, but right now it's just thoughts about pleasure. As I think about the students and this culture and (maybe) popular culture in general, I decide that our greatest sin is pursuing lower pleasures. I know C.S. Lewis probably illustrated this idea more deeply than my brain can think it right now, but still it seemed a mini-revelation tonight.

God promises in Psalm 16:11 that in His presence there is FULLNESS of JOY and at His right hand there are PLEASURES forevermore. Wow! What a promise!

God promises the kind of joy that bursts out from inside our souls and overflows to uncontrollable laughter... the kind of joy that you can't keep from showing on your face... the kind of joy you can't wait to share with everyone you meet... the kind of joy that makes your heart feel like fire and makes you want to dance and shout and play in the rain...

NOT ONLY that, but also pleasures forevermore. God offers us pleasure that never ends - He created us with the desire for pleasures forevermore and He is delighted when we pursue the highest kind. He planted that little seed inside us, in the soil of our humanity, that tries to break the surface and soar toward the sun... all the ways our humanity longs to have pleasure can be traced back to the way we were created in His image to experience pleasures forevermore.

The moment I decide to pursue a less pleasurable pleasure than what I was created for, I am choosing sin. I know, it sounds confusing. Usually we associate pleasure with sin, but right now I am saying that we sin when we pursue less pleasure or lower pleasure. Because I know God created me and placed in me a desire to have infinite joy and pleasure, I know that anything less than a pursuit of THAT means two things:1. I am not experiencing the most pleasure possible (can only be found in and through God)2. I am trying to make lower pleasures fulfill my God-given desires for the BEST pleasure (which, of course is a fail from the start).

God created us, knows us, and delights when we are absolutely bursting with joy.

chocolate cupcakes

Normally, this day would have already ended. I'd be tucked in my bed and flipping pages (trying frantically to finish with Germany and Bonhoeffer so I can read over all the scratches I've made in the pages) until I finally fall asleep. Not so tonight. After school and a teachers' meeting, I met up with the first of two Vivians. We caught up and zoomed around town and jammed out to Coffey and smiled the perfect amount.

Then, I met up with Vivian number two and we endeavored to make chocolate cupcakes for tomorrow's even with the seniors (a hopefully very competitive capture the flag game). We got creative about the frosting and thought up this new recipe: 2 cubes almond bark 1/2 stick butter 1/3 cup powdered sugar 1/4 cup milk 1 - 2 tablespoons peanut butter

Add in this order over a medium-low heat stove top. Taste OFTEN and continue stirring. Taste for adjustments. Lick the spatula (then swear to not tell anyone you licked the spatula). Let it cool a bit and thicken. Add to cooled cupcakes and put sprinkles on top .....

ENJOY!

[slideshow]

falling, falling, falling

I have a history (see fright story 1 and fright story 2). Before you ask about a traumatic encounter I had as a small child, I am completely unaware how this dreadful thing started. All I know is, surprises often find me on the floor or grabbing the nearest arm.

I've become pretty good at recovering from these episodes. Unfortunately, the stories keep piling up! The only good thing to come out of this fright syndrome is that I have crazy good material to make people feel better about their follies. I love to see people walk away saying, "I might be embarrassing, but HER stories make mine look like nothing!!"

So... with that, I'll give you some material to refer back to the next time you feel foolish.

Location: Office Cause: 7th grade student, Ricardo Story: I'm not sure why, but I arranged my office so my desk and I face the wall opposite the open door. So, when students or staff come in quietly, I am unaware. It just so happens that Ricardo is a very wonderful and mischievous 7th grade boy who had not been informed of my response to surprises. Last week, as I worked away at my desk, Ricardo slipped in and gave a shout directly behind my chair. With the scream of an adolescent girl, I jumped and promptly fell off my chair, grasping the edge of my desk as I went. The worst part is the few moments following, when I realized the entire hallway had heard and several classes wondered who had just seen a ghost. SO embarrassing to have the guidance counselor be (rightly) the one to blame for such an interruption!

Location: Micah Project Cause: Nelson slammed a door or dropped a chair, I'm not sure which Story: This past Sunday, I was spending some fellowship time at the Micah house... and by fellowship, I mean, ducking from flying soccer balls and rough-housing with the boys who behave like wild brothers. So, we were fellowshipping and I had turned my back for one second from Nelson when I heard the most surprising BANG and my hand shot out, uncontrolled, toward Kristi who happened to be right in front of me. I grabbed her arm and scattered my feet until I regained my composure and then hid my head in her shoulder... Ah! The worst weakness to show a bunch of adolescent boys is that you scare easily! They wouldn't let me leave without making me jump a hundred more times!

Location: Victoria's house Cause: this time I'll blame it on the dark and the cowboy boots I love Story: I had just spent some wonderful time hanging out with Victoria, a senior who has a special place in my heart, and her new puppy Milo. The cowboy boots were a gift from my mom this summer, anticipating the birthday in October when I'll be here. It's amazing how boots can make such an impression - it pretty much carried my smile all day long, straight up until I was walking out her front door. It was dark and we were talking... and then next thing I knew I was floating backwards through the air and onto my back in the grass. Slow and fast quite together explain the descent, but once I was there comfortably situated in the soft grass, I realized how silly it must all look to the guard who stood a few feet away! Victoria could barely pull herself together to help me up, she was laughing so hard. So, I lay there in my green cotton dress and cowboy boots, looking helpless and embarrassed as red punch. When I finally got up, I said, "Victoria! Oh my gosh, you can't tell anyone that I just did that!" but, moments later I followed, "uh... just kidding, I'm sure I'll tell everyone tomorrow!"

And, so I did!

Especially today, don't forget to

let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

Jesus, Savior, pilot me

I love hymns. I love hymns like I love traditions and tree roots and old friendships that remind you what it's like to be warm. I love hymns like a heritage uncovered and future realized.

Tomorrow, my parents arrive and the craziness of this week begins. I am thankful God slowed me down today (in the form of a very red eye, a doctor's visit, and prescription drops that warranted administering every three hours). I am thankful because I read a book (The Stranger by Albert Camus) and I took a nap (in a hammock) and I made a frozen banana/frozen strawberry smoothie (when they are frozen you don't need ice and it is more delicious) and I spent time with my Bible Reading Plan (much MUCH needed!) and I walked (home from the eye doctor and then ventured out once again between drop administrations) and I spoke with my mom (who was strategically packing and re-packing suitcases and responding to my strange requests) and I journaled (pen to paper is great therapy).

I am so thankful God is sovereign and knows when we won't admit our failures or our needs. In between some of these very slow-moving activities, I listened to hymns. This hymn, re-worked by Bifrost Arts (a new favorite collection of my already-fave artists), was actually written in 1871 by Edward Hopper, whose ministry was to sailors at the Church of the Sea and Land in NYC.

The words, well, they speak for themselves. Hopefully, they meet welcome ears... especially those who feel a bit cast about these days.

always

let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

Jesus, Savior, pilot me

Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treacherous shoal.
Chart and compass come from Thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

While th’Apostles’ fragile bark
Struggled with the billows dark,
On the stormy Galilee,
Thou didst walk upon the sea;
And when they beheld Thy form,
Safe they glided through the storm.

Though the sea be smooth and bright,
Sparkling with the stars of night,
And my ship’s path be ablaze
With the light of halcyon days,
Still I know my need of Thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

When the darkling heavens frown,
And the wrathful winds come down,
And the fierce waves, tossed on high,
Lash themselves against the sky,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me,
Over life’s tempestuous sea.

As a mother stills her child,
Thou canst hush the ocean wild;
Boisterous waves obey Thy will,
When Thou sayest to them, “Be still!”
Wondrous Sovereign of the sea,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

When at last I near the shore,
And the fearful breakers roar
’Twixt me and the peaceful rest,
Then, while leaning on Thy breast,
May I hear Thee say to me,
“Fear not, I will pilot thee.”

melodies and parodies

I like to be silly and creative and hopelessly sentimental. So, when Heather was here, we wrote up this little parody for our 11th grade girls. Last year we did a parody of "All the Single Ladies" and this year it is "Soul Sister." The funny thing is, when we do these parodies, we don't know the original songs, so we have to learn that as we are writing the parody.

So, here's the video - mess ups and voice breaks and random improvisational interludes and everything in between. Enjoy this little ditty - hopefully you will see how much we love these girls!
WORDS:
Heey Heeey heeeeeeeeeeeeey
Your sophomore year slipped away just like a dripping tear
You knew we wouldn’t forget you
and so we went and let you get inside our hearts
Your sweet, sweet smiles
and the laughter filling every single mile
We knew that when we started you’re the ones we have decided
this love will take us far
Hey, soul sister, forget those mista mistas in the barrios, don’t you know
the way you groove, just let it show
hey soul sister, please don’t miss a single moment of this life
Heey Heeeeeeey Heeeeeeeeeeeey
Just in time, we’re back together to celebrate this life
We’re searching out direction
in our lives we want affection, don’t even lie -ie-ieee
We’re so impressed
you’ve made it another year without a great big mess
We’ve got faith in you, you know it, girl now
you’ve to show your beauty inside
Hey soul sister, forget those mista mistas in the barrios, don’t you know
the way you groove - keep it free you know
hey soul sister, please don’t miss a single little moment of.... this life
(bridge?)
Well you can find the joy
deeper than any kind of speed
so gorgeous, just enjoy
the life God’s given you and the dreams
Just be yourself now finally
forget the lies and find the love sweet
the world won’t let you see
Hey soul sister, don’t let those mista mistas in the barrios, make you go
the way you’re made is for something great you know
Hey soul sister, please don’t miss a single little moment of ... .this life
Heey heeeey heeeeeeeeeeeey (this life)
Heey heeeey heeeeeeeeeeeey (this life)

http://www.youtube.com/get_player

i write, i dance

So, I don't know if any of you realize this, but.... May is OVER! It took me a whole day to get used to the idea. I'm pretty excited, now, though, because it means my parents come on Sunday, my sister a week after, and (with MUCH time hanging out with students in between) I'll be heading for a stateside tour on June 24. I'm not a big fan of countdowns (I'd rather count on today), but I do find myself a bit antsy for barbecues, family gatherings, road trips, and beaches.
Well, in my favorite bullet style, here is a rundown of what I've been up to (or some of it at least!)
  • My cousin Anna visited for TWO whole weeks! Other than a rough departure, the rest of the time was amazing! We even played in the junior high band concert because they needed more instruments! She wanted to experience life here and I think she did just that :) It was truly a blessing to have her and to see her big heart to serve and love and seek the Lord. In her searching, she also encountered an unbelievable amount of mosquitos, possibly a parasite, many rainy days, and an uncomfortable amount of airport hassle. It makes me love her even more to know that she enjoyed it despite everything that happened! This is an awkward junior high picture we took at the concert. Do we look like we are 20 and 25? Nope, I didn't think so!
  • I'm still reading through Luke with Mars Hill Church in Seattle and learning so much. Here is an interesting little piece on adolescence as we read about John. Kind of strong, but thought-provoking I thought.
    http://www.marshillchurch.org/v/hyan4gewgdny
  • Here's an article by Andreé Seu in WORLD magazine I read recently that really blessed me: http://online.worldmag.com/2010/06/01/friends-of-god/
  • THIS, my friends, THIS is a gem. Remember how I tried to write every day in may? I was inspired by Frenchtoastgirl for that challenge (by way of Christina).
    Well, now I'm going to try to become part of this little movement, started by Molly over at i dance the revolution
    She is trying to learn how to dance from her friend amanda and she wants us to be part of the revolution. I am pretty excited about it, especially because my college friends and I always talked about knowing a dance to do at all of our weddings. Just so happens that I have THREE of those weddings coming up in summer/fall and I would love to have this ready! :) Anyway, they post one video a week and the first 24 seconds looks HARD!
So, there's that. Oh, and I also am wrestling with some sort of parasite or tummy nuisance along with a ferocious red eye. Hopefully all of that will clear up in the morning, where we will go to school for the first time this week (classes canceled due to national emergency, courtesy of Agatha).
as always, friends,
let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

sadness and love

"sadness reveals the depth of our love"

I spoke these words today at the airport, as I put my friend Heather on a plane bound for Canada. Her kindness has touched so many lives and one of the students at the airport was taking her departure kind of rough. I leaned over and said this bit about sadness and she just looked at my blurry-eyed.
I thought more about it today... about goodbyes and hellos and departures.
I'm still not sure if it makes any sense, but my heart seems to understand the reasoning. God has placed in us the desire to love and be loved because He is Love. When that love inside is stretched, bent, or tested, a certain sadness settles in because the love we can give and receive is not perfect. I don't think goodbyes were part of the Garden of Eden. I don't think tears at the airport was ever part of the perfect plan. Our hearts are stretched when the love planted inside of us rebels against the world its constrained to live in. And then words come out like they did today, reminding me that sadness can be beautiful too... even just that the broken pieces reveal the One who can mend.
That is my writing for today.
"sadness reveals the depth of our love"
let LOVE FLY like cRaZY
...even if it leads you to sadness

jam-packed

I'm not sure why they say the phrase, "jam-packed," but I'm sure that is exactly what this day was!

I woke up super early (after saying goodbye to students at like 11:30 last night) to clean, do laundry, and prepare for cousin ANNA to arrive today. Then Heather and I met up with Jess and Danie for a roommate reunion breakfast, which we left in hot pursuit of the airport, where Anna arrived on a plane full of other well-intentioned, big-hearted people.

We went then to Alvin's house (pastor of Manos Extendidas) and from there to the feeding center to love, hug, serve, sing, teach, laugh, and smile with the beautiful kids.

We waited out a rain storm before we made our way back down the mountain where we enjoyed some bruschetta at a Honduran hippie coffee shop before going to a free movie sponsored by the European film festival. We were all glad we didn't pay for it, but after we went out for coffee and redeemed the night.

Finally, we arrived home and I hope Anna isn't too tucked out!

I wanted to share some creative words - a rap I wrote with a student as tribute to Heather who leaves tomorrow. I have struggled, admittedly, with this "Every Day in May" thing while having visitors and entertaining, but can you blame me? Really?

Rap for Primmer
This is a song for Primmer
for the girl we love
the one who plays wild guitar
and always gives lots of hugs

this is a rhyme for the time
when you found me all low
when I was searching for love
and a safe place to go

I was looking all around
turning over every stone
to find the answers to my questions
and ended up all alone

at the point of my sadness
when all else looked bleak
my exhaustion hit me hard
and made my bones feel weak

with the eyes of Christ
you looked out to find
me sitting there alone
with no reason or no rhyme

Now I just wanna say
thanks for taking the time
for listening and helping me
believe it all will be fine

Girl, this year's been rough
the battle's been strong
but we know you got our backs
you've been there all along

Up there in Canada
where you say "eh"
we know you remember us
in your prayers everyday

when you go back
remember one thing
it's a LOVE attack
comin from your family

in Honduras we are
(farther south than you)
tryin' to get through it's hard
but we'll manage, it's true

because you always said
and we'll never forget
we should strive for the Hope
that conquers all sin

so we wanna thank you and
leave you this memory
remember you've always got a friend
and you've found a friend in me
-------------------

I know it's completely cheesy, but Natalie and I are about to sing it tomorrow morning at the airport and I'm sure it'll bring a smile!
What are you doing to ....
let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

snippets, anecdotes, and 7 worst things

Okay, I'm ba-AACK!
Last Saturday, we ventured up the infamous, cloud forest mountain (noteworthy because of my first failed attempt and following lost-on-mountain-adventure). The quaint little cabins welcomed us in the little town of Rosario after the long hike. I was especially glad to reach our destination because we took students with us.
The night was filled with food, conversation, laughter, books, worship, laughter, scorpion spotting, laughter, scorpion killing, worship, and more laughter.
Again, I realized how important it is for laughter to be involved in my life! We woke up early and ventured out to see the sun break through the cloudy haze and then spent quiet time, worship time, reading time, and breakfast time.
We hiked out Sunday morning and we were "sucking the marrow" right out, as Thoreau suggests. I almost collapsed when I got home, if not for the dark chocolate Heather brought from Canada. I took in a Mars Hill sermon, cleaned a bit, and then we made dinner before going to Micah Project. Whew!
So.... I am not making excuses, I just want you all to know that "Every Day in May" took place in my journal for the past two days. Well, that's not entirely true. On Saturday night, Heather and I wrote a song that will never be sung again or written down. I wrote the words as they fell off my lips and I happily considered it my writing for the day.
Today... well, I decided to go back to the prompts from creativewritingprompts.com and I landed on number 231 which says, "List the 7 worst things to say to a person who just got dumped."
Hm. It's not really my cup 'o tea, but we'll see how it goes. I do like that it is going to be short, because I am WIPED out! Today after school, we met up with Diana and Maria and played some cards in McDonald's... then picked up Sara and made some AMAZING orange, mango, ginger chicken with vegetables over long grain rice.
So, maybe 7 things is all I can muster right now, anyway. :)
SEVEN worst things you can say to a person who just got dumped (in no particular order)
1. "Oh, don't worry, that girl I saw him with was probably just his sister."
2. "Hey, you'll survive! I mean, I've been dumped many times... and you kind of just get used to it, you know?"
3. "What did you do? I thought you guys had such a good thing!"
4. "I'm sorry. I mean, I can't say I know how you feel, since I got married and everything... but it must be real tough."
5. "I never told you this, but me and him... we, uh, well, we like each other."
6. "I guess God doesn't want you to have a boyfriend."
7. "I wonder what you'll do now..."
Hm. I'm a fan of creative writing prompts, but this was completely and unsatisfactorily uninspiring.
Well, I'll just say it was probably inevitable to have a day where I didn't love the prompt, the character, or the process. It happens.
Every Day in May Project, day TEN (days eight and nine are in my head or my journal)

Okay, now for that fleeting, precious thing called sleep...

hiking shoes

I just laced up my hiking shoes (courtesy of one of my dad's successful thrift store expeditions) and I am heading out to conquer La Tigra, infamous cloud forest and puma hangout. We will be hiking to a hostel tonight and then heading back tomorrow.

So.... I am not going to rush my creativity. Today or tonight I'm going to do some very thoughtful writing in my new journal that arrived with Heather and then I'll post it on here for you to see.
Until then, what are YOU doing this great May day? Please share!

Day 1, Every Day in May

This is the first day of May. It also marks the first full day of life for Natalie Renee Nichols, born yesterday at 3 pm by natural birth to my brother and sister-in-law (Samuel and Bethany). I love her so much already and have tried to gather all I can from my brother's sporadic tweets and my mom's antics on skype.
Today is also the start of a month-long endeavor, inspired by @Christinakeeps who was inspired by @frenchtoastgirl to do the thing you love every single day for the month of May.

Well, there are a lot of things that I love doing... most involve laughter, some involve people, many involve words, and a few involve canvas. The one thing I chose: writing.
I know, it doesn't seem that ambitious (because this is already a standing goal of mine), but I'm not just going to try to write on the blog everyday in 'dear diary' style. In fact, I don't even think I need to post every day to be legit about the challenge. I want to do a writing exercise every day, something challenging or new or personal.
I'm probably going to need to look up some writing prompts so I'm not just completely random. If you have any ideas, let me know. If you are doing Every Day in May as well, DO SHARE!
Okay, below is my writing for today. This is in response to two articles I recently read. The first, "Survey:72 percent evangelicals more spiritual than religious" appeared in USA Today based on research by Lifeway. The second, "Separate truths," was written by a religion professor at Boston University and appeared on Boston.com.
Read the articles and then see my thoughts here in poem form.
--------
How Deep the Depths

How faint the fool who treads the way
and tarries about; runs blind to the fray.

How heavy the heart, hardened by years
of abuse and betrayal and manmade fears.

How sad the sigh learned by repetition -
disappointment, abandonment and man's wild volition.

How complete the chasm built with words great;
explanations attempt to determine eternal fate.

How stuffed the souls with semantics and speeches
and tolerant voices crowding out holidays at beaches.

How lost the lonely, desperate to find
a rhyme or a reason to be sanctified.

How dead is this end, and reason to fight
with an honest confession, broken and contrite.

How firm the foundation, without shame
is the cross that bears my Savior's name.

How perfect the peace in God's Word alone
that restores and revives a heart once of stone.

How deep the depths of this great Love, divine,
to reach through foolishness and make the faint soul alive.
-----



.let LOVE FLY like cRaZY.

pray for baby nichols

Hello friends!
I just finished a fairly big project and I'm not as happy as I should be, but there is something to jump for joy about today.... and that is BABY NICHOLS on the way!
Please pray for my parents tonight (www.myafricansons.blogspot.com) as they travel across several states to reach my brother and sister-in-law, who are super ready to bring their daughter into the world tomorrow morning.
This baby is already loved so deeply and so well. I'm praying for strength and for energy and for joy when the family of two becomes three. :)
Here's a few thoughts about it:
i'm not sure what you are thinking, little one,
but i wonder these things as i cover you with love

are you excited to enter this new world?
will you see its beauty?

what will you reach for
and toward what will you run?

will you twirl in circles and sun rays?
and will you love to dance?

how will you smile and will you love laughter?
and how will you like your chocolate?

oh, little one, i wonder these things
while i pray over you and sing

oh, little one, don't you know, you are loved!
you are so dearly loved!
Friends, please pray! Pray for safety and for God's blessing over the delivery tomorrow!

something sweet

Okay, if you haven't heard about my obsession with my family's famed "sweet dinner" then here's an introduction(previously: here and here and here). I wasn't super inspired to write a blogpost tonight, but then I received an email from Focus on the Family encouraging me to write an essay about my dinner table traditions as a tribute to my mom and I thought, why not?
So, below you will find the less than 250 word essay (with cheesiness to the MAX) about how my mom served up our dinners with heaping helpings of love. ;) The above picture is our most recent family Valentine's day (circa 2006?), but we are missing Samuel, Bethany, and half of mom's face.
Also, Mom: if I by chance win, they'll be calling you because they didn't have a space for international entries. :)
-----
Growing up on a small farm in rural Iowa, we were well accustomed to skimping. It just meant that the State Fair would be our family vacation, an understood one-gift Christmas expectation, and wearing hand-me-downs proudly.
My mother somehow managed to raise five children, complete the never-finished duties of farmwife, and (often in the midst of total chaos) do everything but skimp on such tantalizing spreads for dinner that all previous disagreements would subside after the prayer.
One meal in particular remains a favorite (apart from the charming and compulsory 'etiquette dinners'), so much so that I've duplicated it in several places I've lived since, giving my best effort to not skimp on the love my mom spread out so lavishly.
Valentine's Day, or Sweet Dinner as I affectionately call it, was not a day for special dates or sweethearts. Valentine's Day at the Nichols house was about love. The wonderful, true, dependable kind of love. Mom labored all day secretly in the kitchen (which itself is a feat with our curious fingers) and produced a table resplendent with pinks, reds, and candles aglow. We all received a personal poem, heart-shaped cake with pink frosting, and red-dyed tapioca pudding. Much fuss was made about the fine china (a wedding gift), which helped display the roast beef, carrots, and sweet corn (frozen from harvest). Without fail, discussion would turn to our love for one another.
When Jesus narrowed things down, He didn't skimp on love and my mother followed suit.
-----
PS: Mom, you should enter the contest too! How awesome would it be if we could have a Focus on the Family sponsored girls night! :)
.let LOVE FLY like cRaZY.

car repair on a shoestring

....no, I don't think you understand.

I mean literally on a shoestring.
Yesterday, early in the morning before I left for school, I tied up my dangling car part with shoestring. Yep, I sure did.
I rummaged and rustled until I found shoestring and a piece of crafting wire and out to the haula I went to examine underneath the engine where this strange piece of protective plastic lay irresolutely on the ground. I pushed and shoved and jostled into place the shoestring (which was actually several tied together I had previously used to hang pictures in my room in Austin.
Who knew that a couple years later it would be holding a piece of my car together?
Here's the best part: It's still in tact!! Check out another from my long list of car stories: Bittersweet Taste of Humble Pie

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!
quinceañera
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!
sister
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
:)