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.

my desk is a brick wall

Hair wadded on the top of my head means business. It means there is no messing around with swoopy stragglers, determined to blur my vision. It means my just-clean, still wet hair is tightly bound with a wonderful elastic band higher than most cheerleaders dare to perk their tresses.

And this is me tonight, after a most random day. You've heard the cliché "writer's block," where the words stop forming at the tip of your tongue and the typewriter has been silent too long to be a hesitation or a dramatic pause or an intentional 'brain break.'

I'm not talking about writing (unfortunately, I have no reason to make a legitimate "writer's block" plea). I'm talking about work.

For the past week I've been waiting.
waiting for a telephone call about school closures
waiting for a demonstration to finish
waiting for stoplights that only blink yellow
waiting for the curfew to be lifted
waiting for internet to load news about my city
waiting in lines at the crammed grocery store
waiting for things to bake

The waiting was not peaceful. Rather, I should say finding peace amidst the wait has been a fight. I tried on lots of different responses to see if they would fit the (very) many moments:
Some moments I was antsy (truly fidgeting) and anxious.
Other moments I could appear resigned and even indifferent - kind of a, "whatever will be, will be" attitude.
Sometimes I would stretch my little creative fingers and try to make paintbrushes express the palette pushing at my brain.
A good amount of moments I've spent reading - classics and philosophy and studies.
Moments slipped away in regret for moments wasted.
Moments were thrown at wishes for moments to come.

So many moments and all that flustered, not-peaceful waiting were wound very tightly around a hope that someday we would return to school and find a routine hidden underneath the newness of a third "first day of school."

That day was today. The routine? Still looking.
I went from chapel to office to office to chapel to my desk... and quickly left to find others to meet with and de-brief with and compare notes with.

My mind is such a stubborn creature. I couldn't make it bend to the appropriate response to the moments of this day, which was of course, "Be productive!"

No matter how many times I tried to shove my thoughts into an unseemly straight pattern, I found myself sitting at my desk (the smallest amount of moments) busting the seems of the pattern because nothing was fitting. My desk is a brick wall.

All this was satisfactorily frustrating (I would be concerned if this behavior wasn't curious) and I came home tired (which I thought was completely unmerited). I won't bore you with the play-by-play, but I want to share a few moments where God seemed to open the sky and say "here is the beauty."

I was able to chat with my mom (trust me, I never though 'chat with my mom' would ever sound normal) tonight and she reminded me, in her wonderful motherly way,

"BUT God is still on His throne and He is God all by Himself. Give some thought to throwing out your ideas and plans and joining Him in where He is working right now."

And I say, "Okay, mom. I will try that."

Listening to: Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors
Drinking: Green Tea with coconut, ginger, and vanilla

papa

a poem for my dad
i might have been confused
about your love at first
all the whiskers, the wrestling -
the working, raw hands were the worst

those dreadful early mornings
when my 'turn' came around
I heard your voice in the stair
and then slowly tumbled down

I climbed upon your lap
no matter what my age
and we sat there together
and together there we prayed

then out to the milking barn,
too tired to complain,
I'd sit on a bucket and you'd ask,
"who's your best friend these days?"

I was a normal, growing girl
all moody and self-involved
and so I want to say I'm sorry
for not seeing your resolve

your persistence to know me
and your love I shrugged off
your interest and encouragement
when others called it a lost cause

thanks for giving pointers
on free throw shots and running form
thank you for attending
every time I would perform

I am sure that I passed over
and looked the other way
when you chose to sacrifice
so my joy could be displayed

I remember those nike shoes
you gave me once for Christmas
I don't know how you got them, but
the miami dolphins colors - delicious

every season with it came
a new thing for us to conquer
unruly bulls, flaming buildings, and

flooding basements almost put us asunder
any moment I've resented you
for punishments or curfews or tempers
is swept away with one small truth
that your love was at the center

in the several years since
I have lived outside your "roof"
I grow ever more thankful
for your tough love and your reproof

not all dads are like you
though many are very fine
I believe that there are very few
who can imitate Christ's love, divine

we are growing now, both me and you
we are struggling steady onward
I just want to say thank you again
for pressing farther in and upward

I never called you papa
though I always wished I could
but I'm alright to call you dad
because our love is understood

power of prayer

The Lord is sovereign over all Creation. I believe it.

Please pray for these things tonight:
-cousin Livvy in the children's hospital in Denver for pneumonia of unknown origin
-grandma still in the hospital with little improvement today
-friend Anna, whose heart is broken into a million tiny little pieces
-student, Bryan Vasquez, here who had appendicitis and had an operation, but he has a blood condition and there have been many complications and he is bleeding now internally

God is sovereign and holds these things in His hands. He has weaved each one of us together and nothing escapes His sight. Each of these prayers is just all about brokenness. We are so broken. Humanity is so broken. We have to trust our Savior is Lord over everything.

please pray for my gram

My gram is on my mind tonight. I just got back from a praise/worship session and before I was at a potluck for my care group and before that I was playing capture the flag and before that I was organizing a surprise party with our 10th graders for my roommate and before that I was working.

But, right now I am praying for my grandma Phyllis because she is struggling to recover after having surgery for cancer in her colon. My heart is aching for the frustration I know she must be facing right now at being immobile. I know that the Lord is holding her in His hands, but the prayers of the righteous lifted up to Him are powerful and effective. My grandpa is such a strong, steadfast man with so much love to give. I know his support of gram is endless, but both of them need strength right now.

This verse that a student gave me awhile back is again reminding me the power and authority our Lord possesses.

Isaiah 40:28
"Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable."

I just praise God for his faithfulness and pray He will be the strength and steady hand guiding both my precious grandparents tonight.

for mother

Click on the image to see better quality.

I wanted my mom to see it first, but this is my little way of saying thanks. I know, some of you think it is corny (namely, my siblings!!). But, mom and I have a special corny language and we understand each other there. Some people send balloons or flowers or cards or thoughtful gifts. I guess I like to send rhymes.

Love you, mom!

lay your head down, a poem for Isaac

lay your head down
lay your head down, sweet one
enter deep slumbers of peace rest in the arms of your Beloved be not afraid of our sweet release

lay your head down, little one in the lap of your dear Father's love breathe deep in the fragrance as prayers of the saints lift above

lay your head down, dear one your first steps take toward the throne meet your Maker, Creator, Redeemer, and Savior and be blessed; you will not walk alone

lay your head down, precious one though questions may form in your wake you are resting forever, sweetly now and only joy your sweet soul will make

lay your head down, Isaac Brenton and remind us the grave does not win now gently held in goodness and grace we will rejoice with you one day again

Prayer Causes Things

http://www.youtube.com/v/3KzZJChhtvY&hl=en&fs=1

Every time I try to wrap my mind around prayer, I get dizzy. The Lord is so curious... that He would want to invite us to be a part of His plan. Despite his curious reasons (and my inability to understand them), what I do know is that God hears.

He hears every prayer and delights in answering the prayers of His children. We know when we approach the throne of grace with confidence, our humble prayers are as a fragrant offering. By praying to God, our Provider, we are also giving Him praise... because we know He is the One and Only who could possibly respond in such a way that things would actually change.

I believe in the past week that God has heard every single petition offered up on behalf of my brother and sister-in-law and delighted to comfort, strengthen, and offer peace to their hurting hearts. I really believe that the prayers of the saints held up my parents on the long drive out to Michigan and I believe that prayers caused the smiles and relieved sighs that we thought would never come. And I certainly believe that prayers led my beautiful sister to share her thoughts in this note:

In the midst of heartache and sadness, I know that we belong to a God who does indeed see trouble and grief, and considers it with great tenderness and compassion. I praise God that I belong to him and so does our son.

I also cannot express how thankful I am for family and friends. I have a wonderful husband who has tirelessly given of himself to me. Frineds and family, I feel your prayers. I really slept last night, praise God. It has never been so sweet to belong to the body of Christ. Thank you.

Please pray for us today.

Praise the Lord. All credit is due Him for the protection and provision He's given this past week.

Please continue praying!

patient and steadfast

This morning the message came from James (Santiago 5:7-12).

7Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

8You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

10As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

12But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your "yes" be yes and your "no" be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Pastor Norberto outlined the ways God asks us to live our lives with patience. Growing up a farmer's daughter (and then the niece of many farmers :), I know that no matter how much grumbling goes on... the rain will come and go in the Lord's timing. I remember my mother singing us the song, "Have patience, have patience, don't be in such a hurry. When you get impatient you only start to worry. Remember, remember that God is patient too. Just think of all the times that others have to wait for you." So, yes, the idea of patience was ingrained at a very early age, "Have patience, child!"

But, I don't think I understood patience in the sense that it is used here. Something interesting I've learned in speaking Spanish is that the verb "to wait" is the same verb "to hope." This may seem insignificant to you, but as I read this morning about patience and started connecting th dots, I realized that our patience and endurance in suffering is also our hope.

In verse 11, we read, "Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful." Those are blessed who remained steadfast. I did a quick definition check on steadfast and I found words like "firmly fixed, established, rooted, firm in purpose..."

Be patient! Be steadfast! Establish yourself firmly in the hope of the Lord because NOTHING else can withstand the suffering God allows for those becoming like Christ. I praise God for His perfect purpose, for His timing in allowing rains and droughts, and for His provision through the suffering - not just after.

I praise God for the way He has carried our prayers to the suffering hearts in Michigan. I praise Him for the plan we know nothing about. I praise Him for the life of Isaac Brenton, a beautiful baby who is now walking with His Savior. And I praise him for offering hope amidst suffering.

Continue to pray for Samuel and Bethany. Again, I know God is faithful to hear and answer our prayers. Pray for the memorial service, for the grieving process, and for healing. And, again, that God would be glorified in the lives of His servants.

words cannot express

Some of you may now know the specifics of my fervent prayer request yesterday. Bethany and Samuel went in for an ultrasound yesterday and there was no heartbeat. The doctors still don't really know what happened, but they'll know more after the autopsy. For now, Samuel and Bethany will be in the hospital until labor can be induced. My parents were able to drive through the night and arrive this morning to support them in whatever way.

Those of you who prayed today... please know that God is blessing Samuel and Bethany and my family through your prayers. I woke up praying throughout the night and often my prayers ended with "I don't know, God, you finish the rest." And every last petition reached His ears.

Yesterday I posted a passage from Romans 8 and I just want to point out these few verses:

Romans 8: 26-27, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."

I truly, firmly believe that the Spirit is interceding with groans words cannot express. I believe that God knows more intimately the pain and brokenness in this situation than I will ever be able to comprehend. I also know that, just as God aches for our pain, He is the same today as He was yesterday, "our Rock and our Shelter" as my brother wrote today.

In the midst of all of this, held up by the prayers of the saints, Samuel and Bethany are trusting "God will be glorified" in some way through Isaac Brenton's short life.

Continue to pray that the joy of the Lord would be their strength, for Bethany's health, for the doctors and nurses, for the next decisions that need to be made, and (per Sam's request) "most of all that God would be glorified."

Again, I believe your prayers - the prayers of the community of believers offered up humbly to our Provider, Maker, Redeemer, and Savior - are received by our God who feels the hurt more than we can imagine.

Keep on keeping on.

Please pray!

Friends, family, and strangers, please lift up my brother and sister-in-law in your prayers tonight and tomorrow morning. Pray that they will be comforted, encouraged, lifted up, and blessed. After some very tragic news today, my prayer is that they would cry out, "Abba, Father" and know that they can rest in a peace that passes understanding.

A friend shared these passages from Romans 8 with me tonight and if you could just pray through them with me for my brother and sister-in-law.

11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. 12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.

17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co‑heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope

21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?

25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

I pray that they will claim this in Jesus' name in the midst of every hurt and pain and brokenness.

feeling a bit fragile

I'm in a box with a worn, engine-red FRAGILE sticker clinging to the corrugated cardboard.

Okay, so it may not be that dramatic. But, as I try to pack my thoughts with my Christmas gifts, between the few clothes I'm bringing back to the States, I'm wondering just how this transition will go.

For two weeks, more or less, I'll be in the US of A. I'll be hearing English everywhere, zipping around in cars driving at reasonable speeds, and (heaven forbid) stopping at stop signs.

Just this evening a family from church invited Heather and I to dinner. We knew they would ask our preference for the restaurant, but like any good guest we deferred ... which is why we ended up eating at Chili's for the first time since we've been here. When the server gave us our menus, I didn't know what to do: SO MANY CHOICES!

I've heard that going back to the States can be a shock. Some of my friends here said they stood in front of the chip aisle for 20 minutes, just to stare at all the options and then she couldn't decide on anything. Another friend had a similar problem with Cheez-its. It may hit me in the cereal aisle, I don't know.

It seems so strange to jump in and out of life within a matter of weeks. I feel I'm finally getting accustomed to a certain routine, to my role exactly where God has placed me for this time. It's funny because modern technology continues to make the miles smaller and smaller. A few decades ago, someone doing what I am doing would have to wait months for mail (well, I still do sometimes) and might be lucky to make the occasional phone call.

Now, I sit here writing on my laptop and checking to see if anyone is available to talk on skype. How things change! In some ways the technology makes it easier to be away from the ones I love and in other ways the option of travel makes it harder to set my feet firmly on this Honduran ground.

One thing I'm not confused about: my anticipation in seeing my family! I am full of joy already at the thought! I better finish up tonight before I get too soft.

Do you have any advice for re-entry? Post it here!

Christmas countdown

I don't know about you - but there are certain things around Christmastime that make me feel so grateful for this life. I've compiled a short list, but not in any order and definitely missing things. I hope this brings back memories (or gives you ideas for this Christmas!).

Movies
1. White Christmas
2. Home Alone
3. It's a Wonderful Life
4. A Christmas Carol (both the original AND the Muppet version)
5. Elf

Songs
1. All I Want for Christmas by Mariah Carey
2. Happy Holidays by NSync
3. Soundtrack to Charlie Brown Christmas
4. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (acoustic style)
5. ALL the Christmas carols with all the verses ... so beautiful!
6. Whatever Christina and I end up performing for church

Activities
1. trying to snowboard for the first time behind a four-wheeler
2. road trips in the middle of snow-storms to Chicago and Indianapolis
3. sledding down a hill on a picnic table
4. hot chocolate, tea, coffee - anywhere, anytime
5. cards, cards and more cards (especially at my friends the Kolts')
6. board games with the fam!
7. COOKIE DECORATING contest (I always lose, but sometimes I manage to get some award for creativity)
8. Cranium
9. baking and cooking ... and being in the kitchen when it's being done
10. breakfast! early mornings are the best!
11. Looking at ridiculous Christmas displays

Traditions
1. Christmas caroling to neighbors
2. cousin sleepover with all the girls
3. Christmas Eve service with candle light "Silent Night"
4. Christmas Eve dinner before the service and gifts afterward
5. Christmas day with G&G Sponsler, and whatever day works for the Nichols masses
6. DOUGHNUTS with Jane at the Nichols'

There are too many to list! Oh, how thankful I've become by the bottom of the list. Wow! Please feel free to add your Christmas countdown favorites here and let me know if I've missed some of my own!

crazy routine - delightful and unexpected (guest writer!)

So, our mom took the bait and has shared this little gem. Hop on over to her blog to read more about her crazy, routine adventures!

Crazy routine - delightful and unexpected


Two phrases stuck out to me when reading this blog last night:
"....routine.......crazy"

"..delightful, unexpected, life things..."

So, because she was asking for guest writers for this week (and it's already Thursday), and because I am enjoying a wonderfully relaxing day while my students are at an honor choir, I am sharing this tiny space of ...space... with her.

At some point in everyone's life, if they are productive and passionate and purposeful, (please note alliteration- I worked very hard at that), they find out that, oddly enough, routine and crazy actually work out very well together. The key is realizing that each have their time and place, and knowing when to roll with routine and rock with crazy. Flexibility! Those of us who are control freaks have a hard time with this, but believe me it's one of the most valuable lessons to learn in life. Side benefit: aids in learning to trust our Heavenly Father!

Which leads to the second phrase rolling around in my head. If we are flexing, trusting, rocking, and rolling, we will discover "delightful, unexpected, life things!" Those serendipitous moments that push us out of our routine and into crazy. Those "out of control" things that happen when we least expect it, but we learn to cherish because of their infrequency. Things like unexpected compliments, deep conversations, touching compassion, random acts of kindness, surprise encounters.
Enjoy your crazy routine, my daughters. In it you will find the delightful and the unexpected.

In the News...

Today is so full of joy (for many reasons)!

In his first season as head coach at South Haven, our brother Samuel, will be playing his third playoff game this week. His success (in my opinion) depends greatly on his dedication to his team and the sport as a ministry. For those of you skeptical of sports and the impact that can be made there, talk to my brother.

Ever since he first started taking on responsibilities at Holland Christian while still in college, his heart for reaching young men through the sport of football has impressed some of the most convincing skeptics. I remember sitting in the stands with Bethany at some of the early games (several losing seasons) and watching Samuel encourage and inspire his team. Many times after games he would be in tears.

Now, after taking his first head-coaching position, I know that his passion for the sport and the young men has only increased. I haven't been able to talk to him much about it, but luckily the Holland Sentinel newspaper wrote a story on the upcoming game. Click here to read it!

If you still want to know more, you can click here to read another article, in the Kalamazoo Gazette. If you still want to know more, you can go over to his blog (which I'm sure he's having a hard time updating with all this excitement!).

Basically, today is one of those days my pride could burst my buttons. Congratulations, bro!

Hallo-when you gonna tell us what you were for Halloween?



My honorary nephew and God-son (Tina said I could call him that if I wanted... I definitely want... dang those protestants for not assigning God-parents!)was a sock monkey for Halloween.
I could just die from his cuteness. I love him so :)

What were YOU for thanksgiving? Post your costume ideas with pictures! We'd love to see them! :)

Hugs to Honduras- HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CAROLINE!

Happy Birthday, Dear Caroline!

This is your present from your dear sister, sending you happy birthdays from up North. From Iowa, to Kentucky, to Canada, people all over the world love you, sister, and we wish you the best of days today. You are so special, and we love and miss you!


From your cousin Heidi and honorary niece, Amaya in Lincoln, NE:

Caroline! I have so many memories with you! You have been such an encourgement in my life! I can remember layng in the hospital, being somewhat drugged, and seeing your beautiful face. I could NOT believe that you traveled two hours just to support me. Even though I was just laying there, Amay inside me still. You are so loyal and so caring for others. Today, you need to be selfish and take a "Caroline" day. It's your Birthday! Have an AMAZING day Care! Know that Amaya an I love you and are praying for you! Happy Birthday!

From your cousin Anna at Truman State College in MO:
I love Caroline because she is hard-core! We have kayaked all the way
across clear lake and back because she is tough and likes to take on
challenges! Every time we kayak we have the best conversations because
Caroline is so personable, easy to talk to, and full of encouragement
and wisdom! I love her passion for missions and for serving others.

Anna and Jaime in Kentucky:

Caroline, remember the time we were at Impact in Des Moines. You, Me, Margee, and Crystal stayed in the same room. You woke up really early one morning and started singing "Naked Parade, Naked Parade!" at the top of your lungs. Margee thought it was funny and Crystal and I were so annoyed because you woke us up early! That was a really fun time! I miss you and hope you have a beautiful birthday.
Anna
Happy Birthday Caroline!! We love you!!

From Mitch and Karen in Canada:
Happy Birthday Caroline! We wish we could be with you to eat......whatever it is they eat in Honduras on birthdays! Well the Lord has you (and us) outside the good 'ol US of A for His purpose and His glory. Our birthday prayer for you is that you continue to hunger and thirst after righteousness, and seek His will for your life day by day as you serve Him. Remember Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future." We love you as a daughter, and know that you are blessing others and being blessed as you serve the Lord in a foreign land. We look forward to a day when we can give you a big hug and talk about our adventures. Have a Groovy Birthday.
We Love You!! Mitch and Karen


From Jared, Tina, and Titus in Indianapolis:

Caroline...
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! We miss you and think about/pray for you often! So... we would love to think of a hilarious story to send your way, but instead we are going to be sentimental... thank goodness you aren't Christina and can handle a little mushy stuff... haha. I hope you know by now that we absolutely adore you... you are honestly one of the most thoughtful, caring, loving, and selfless persons we know!!! You are always smiling and Jesus' love is reflected so amazingly in you! You are like a little sister to us and we love you SO very much! We are planning on sending you something soon.... until then, have a marvelous birthday...
Love, Jared, Tina, and Titus

Crystal Becker in Des Moines, IA:
Happy Birthday Caroline!

I've been putting off writing a birthday note to you because I wanted to come up with some smart, memorable thing to say. But then I realized that you are the one who does that. You always have such insightful things to say. So I gave up trying to come up with something original... and I'm just going to speak from the heart.
You are a JOY Caroline Marie. Every time I see you that's what I think. You bring joy to all those around you. It's been such a joy for me to be able to know you the entire 24 years that you've been here at our temporary home. And I've seen God do such a might work in you throughout the years. You've always been the mature, insightful one... and I've been the dramatic and... well, the dramatic one. :) And our bond is strong because of one little word: cousins. I've learned so many things from you over the years and I look forward to learning from you in the years to come. And I'm excited to share in all the joys that the Lord blesses us with.
Happy Birthday Care. I've included a picture of the Nichols cousins... and whenever I see it, it makes me smile. It's my JOY to call you cousin and friend. And I take great joy praying for you daily.

I love you,
Crystal Minnie


From the Maakestad Family in Pella, IA

Dear Caroline,
How well I remember you as a toddler, with a china doll face and such a big heart. And you haven't changed at all - you are still awesomely beautiful and so very caring that you are halfway around the world caring for kids. Please know that Aunt Sherry in Pella, Iowa, is very proud of you and I wish you a very blessed day on this your birthday. You are so precious and important, and you are loved by so many.

All our love,
Sherry, Mike, Hannah, Kirsten and Sara Jane

From Margee in Mexico:
I wish I had my pictures with me! There are so many photos and memories! One of my favorite pictures is of us lying in my bed when I had a very bad cold,drinking ice cream floats and being ridiculous. It always reminds me how much fun we had doing everything (which was usually nothing).
Happy Birthday!
Love, Margee

Aunt Jane in Atlantic, IA:
Caroline--
Sweet Caroline~! Just like the song--I hope you can sing your way through this day and remember that back in the USA there are alot of people that love you and are wishing you the VERY BEST on this your 24th birthday. Your testimony, your faith, and your ability to care and show that you care I'm sure are speaking VOLUMES as you are doing God's work this year.
Hope you have a GREAT day and again, remember, we love you and miss you!
Aunt Jane

Mom and Dad in Lewis, IA:
Dear Caroline,
If you were here we would make a Caroline sandwich (like the picture) and hug you to death! But since you are in Honduras, you will have to get your new friends to do this for you and pretend it is from us!
We love you.
Mom and Dad
ps
If I could give you a birthday present in person, I would give you a flashlight to take on future adventures! ....and a Garmin...and some trail mix....and some hiking boots....and some Puma repellent!!!

From your friend, Amanda Hoye at Dordt College in Iowa:
Hi Caroline!
Just wanted to wish you happy birthday and say thank you for all you've done for me over the years. You've been such an amazing example for me and my sister! I am always surprised during camp to find that I get as much (or more) out of the speakers than the campers do! It was true this year, as always, and your message throughout the week reminded me how much I want to be involved in missions- even if it's a mission to Atlantic, Iowa. Remember being my counselor, by any chance, at Bethany Camp about...oh, 5 years ago? I do, very well, because you were such an encouragement to me. All the late-night cabin talks...we were in the smaller lower room. I learned a lot that year, especially from you. You're an incredible person, and I've been blessed by knowing you. I'm really excited to see where God continues to use you, because it's going to be awesome! Happy birthday again, and I hope you enjoy your year!

In Christ,
Amanda H.

Grace from UC Davis, CA:

So when I thought of fun memories, I thought of our road-trip to "New
York." And specifically, the "series of unfortunate events" that we
encountered when we decided to stop at Bob Evans.... dun dun dun! Between
you sliding off the road and almost hitting whatever that big thing
was, William losing his phone, and the crazy winter storm that we ventured
out into that was one of the craziest days I have ever experienced!
Happy Birthday Caroline! I love you!
Grace



Caroline,
Hope this makes you smile on your special day!
I am sure missing you on this day- wishing I could give you a big hug and an even bigger care package. But alas, I'm not on the ball enough to get a package ready a month ahead of time! So you can get excited for your gift that is to come, all these birthday greetings and more from the many people who love you, made into a hard bound book for you in Honduras. It’s called

Hugs to Honduras.

I love you, Sister!
Christina
PS- Maybe you should take a cue from when you were little and lost at the state fair- and some nice person brought you back to the fam b/c of a shirt that said your name. Might be nice for your next "lost" experience? A shirt with your name and where to return you to? :)

Since we've been gone...

My sister Christina is guest posting today... So, I realize the blog has been silent this week. Well, it's because we've been together! We spent 3 days in Clear Lake with family (awesome,) then 1 1/2 days in Muscatine with Bret and Katie (wonderful,) and now I'm back to work, and Caroline is enjoying Chicago for the week! Here are some pictures of the fun we had with our wonderful family this past week...

We danced on the boat...

We hung out with the cutest kids ever...

Our family did a skit that involved us all doing "the robot"...

Other families danced as well... :)

We hung out with people we love a lot...

Then headed to Muscatine with Bret and Katie! They're amazing!

Such a great time. We love our family!