preparing for the season of Lent

This is a short post. It doesn't happen often, so pay close attention.

I am preparing for the season of Lent. I don't know what this will mean, but I know I don't want to be about giving something up if I'm not adding more Truth to the daily mix. I want this time to be one where I understand better my history/why it is important, and how I will live differently beyond 40 days.

I just think I want to start some heart-preparing now.

I'm trudging on through the BRP (Bible Reading Plan) from the ESV study Bible and can't begin to count the blessings. Does anyone have any ideas, readings, books of common prayer, etc. that would be a good centering tool for this season (in addition to daily study)?

-------post script---------
Oh, and yes, I did watch the Super Bowl at Micah House tonight (amongst many uninterested Micah boys:) and I did see the pretty amazing two point conversion... and I did try to explain the game of fútbol americano to several Hondurans (fail). It was a good night!


I can't say much for the two days without posting...

only that my discouragement sent me into my little cave of questions. You know, if you set out to do anything, absolutely anything, and you have your own agenda about how it needs doing... you may (likely) be disappointed in the process. And this is me, disappointed.

So, what did my time in the cave teach me? Trust more that the Lord will complete the work, tarry on with God as means and end, serve and obey out of love for God and not for man, expect to see nothing/get nothing/show nothing for the work.

And what is waiting as I step into these lessons? Joy. Again, joy. The presence of the Lord awaits and (Ps. 16:11) there I will find fullness of joy. God promised his people through Jeremiah that "if you seek me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart" (29:12).

That right there is Truth I can hold onto... Truth I can cling to when I need to curl up into my cave in a mess of disappointments. I can hibernate on that and come out refreshed and revived. If I'm not shy about my heart for the Lord, He will not hold back in showing me His presence.

Now, for the doing...

be LOVE now

Last night I fell asleep reading Forgotten God and doing the Bible Reading Plan. I'm not saying that I started late and fell asleep. No, I'm saying I started at 6:45 pm and two hours later my unconscious head was crumpled next to my Bible, book, and journal. I still had my day-clothes on, and I wasn't quite sure if it was morning-noon-or night.

I'm still not really sure why I am so tired. I think I might be getting a cold. But, it seems almost ludicrous to be caring about such small things after a 6.1 earthquake hit an already ravaged Haiti. Who cares about sore throats?

My cousin Amanda posted this on facebook and I've got to agree:

haitian timoun foundation founder, rick barger's words: "The real disaster that has plagued Haiti is not the earthquake. It simply exposed it. The real disaster is its poverty. Poverty created the lack of infrastructure. Poverty provided the breeding ground for corruption that works to keep Haiti poor. Poverty keeps children from going to school. Poverty places people into a cycle of dependency. Poverty strips away dignity and crushes dreams."

This is the thing that should be causing us all to stop. think. question.

We shouldn't be asking, "where is the love after such a horrible event?"

We should be asking, "Where was the love before the earthquake?"

I personally know of several people who have seen the horrors of Haiti firsthand, even before the earthquakes. As much as our hearts break right now for the thousands and thousands of hurting, we must learn to have broken hearts before disasters.

Let's be love now.

no such thing as a future version of myself

This is a tweaked version of a little article to appear in the next Journey, the HS newsletter I write for the guidance office.

When I was in high school, a regular day would find me dreaming about a future version of myself... a very good looking version.

I wasn’t messy or disorganized. I was never late to work and always dressed exactly right. I was never over-stressed or panicked about what the next days and weeks might bring. I was responsible (but care-free), busy (but not overworked), tidy (but not obnoxiously so), and punctual (but flexible).

Basically, I created a dreamy, perfect version of myself and decided that would be my future.
I was comfortable thinking I would “grow” into this person and eventually have all the good habits and character traits I was missing.

Then, I went to college. I got a job. Then, I got another job. Now, I am here.

I am still waiting for the perfect version of myself to appear and introduce all the habits I thought would just grow into my life. Six years later.

What went wrong?

Let me share a little secret the great, big, nasty world has been keeping from me: I will never get “there.”

No matter how many people tell me it gets easier and no matter how many times I convince myself this crazy phase of life will pass, it won’t. There are some things about who I am that will never change. I can’t change my personality or the way I was wired to try a thousand things at one time.

There are other things (like being punctual and responsible) that I can change with a little bit of good, old-fashioned discipline. Apparently, what I should have been thinking about (during my daydreams in Mrs. Tietz’s classes) was making habits out of that future picture of myself.

I am setting out to change the habits I form with my everyday decisions. I'll try to stop daydreaming about a future, perfect version of myself and instead try to make habits today worth keeping.

thoughts from today

These are some thoughts and quotations that found their way into my journal while reading "Forgotten God" by Francis Chan:

  • The Spirit desires to use us when: our hearts are aligned with His vision, we are filled with genuine love for the church, we desire to see the church grow in love for God and others.
  • God's intention is that the gifts of the Spirit would point to God, not man, giving all the glory and praise to God and none to man.
  • I want to serve and use the gifts God has given me in a way that people give God praise and forget that I was involved.
  • miracles ALWAYS point to something GREATER
  • when you so casually say you were "called to a place" what do you mean? what would that place look like if you weren't there? what would the church look like if everyone gave and served and loved like you do... would it be healthy?
  • God may have called you to be exactly where you are. But, it's absolutely vital to grasp that He didn't call you there so you could settle in and live out your life in comfort and superficial peace.
  • I shouldn't be rejoicing in the gifts given, but in the GIVER and the GRACE freely given!

1 Corinthians 12:7
we are given a "manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" ... "empowered by One and the same Spirit who apportions to each one individually as He wills."

This morning I did some reading and planning my mornings for this week (, then I went to read and journal in El Centro, and then this afternoon I went to the feeding center. It was SO good to be back!!

stopping at 8

I don't care what you say, you phantom, cyber late night guilt-tripper. You can call me lame or loser or whatever you want to call me... I'm stopping at 8. I'm going to be done with electronics and planning and cleaning and thinking about anything but:

journal. Bible. bed.

If this goal seems slightly out of character for me... well, it is. It just kind of rolled off my fingers in the blank that says, "Title:" above this post. But, after it came out I decided it would be a bold goal. I will use a few of these minutes to give just one thought.

It all starts with this quote I picked up from over at my friend Kaci's blog.

"Entering the day without a serious meeting with God, over his Word and in prayer, is like entering the battle without tending to your weapons. The human heart does not replenish itself with sleep. The body does, but not the heart. We replenish our hearts not with sleep, but with the Word of God and prayer.” - John Piper

I read this today in the morning and sighed super heavy. Everyday resolutions struggle to be free every morning of my life. I'm not talking HUGE yearly ideas like losing 20 pounds or drinking wheatgrass everyday or becoming a professional singer or seamstress. I'm talking about every single morning when my alarm beeps at 4:45 a.m. I have this crazy inner wrestling match (strangely void of any physical motion) about how important it is for my resolutions to start this very day. It's always a toss up who wins. Now that I am reading through the Bible in a year, there's a lot going on in my mornings, so I really have to get moving, resolutions or not!! This quote brought it all back to center.

And there is God.

This morning, as I gathered details and permission slips for the orphanage field trip, I found out Michelletti (the current President) was going to visit. Nevermind the fact that this would never happen in the States, we pretty much lost any hope of salvaging the morning once the students found out. I can't try to explain how everything went down, but it was pretty neat to watch.

About 40 minutes after Michelletti left, I loaded up 25 7-12 graders into a bus to go to the orphanage for an afternoon of crafts, games, and a drama. We acted out Daniel in the Lion's Den and then we made Lion masks out of paper plates.

Then, at about 5, I tried to say I would "collapse," but instead I said I would, "complatz." I can't even reason out that I was smooshing two words or flip-flopped letters... it's just messed up (where did the 'm' come from??).

And I think back to the morning. And I think about the world and how big it is.

I think about the earthquake strong enough to flatten a city. I think about people who have survival first and

computers and
buses and
teriyaki and
music the last thing on their minds.

So, what will be the first on my mind tomorrow morning? The very first?

Be Thou My Vision

Tonight's post is not inspired of anything inside me. I just want to share a hymn that is increasingly powerful in my life. As I pray for my brother traveling home from Colorado and my long distance friend in Canada, for my family snowed inside in Iowa and my unpredictable students here, for mission trip details and planning the talk for tomorrow night... as I do and think about all this, these words bring me back to center:


Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

it's so... cold?

Everyone in the region of my home state would guffaw me right off cyberspace if they heard me say this, but I'm saying it anyway, "I was cold today."

The dampness kind of crept in and up under my light corduroy jacket and kept my hands damp and kind of tingled my bones a little.

I just had to say that one thing about the cold and now I'll move on because I know of many others who are waking up super early to scrape ice off windshields and at night snuggle under electric blankets and trudge around in feet of snow in negative 25 temperatures. I'm sending my warmth to you, friends!

I kicked back with some more jasmine green tea tonight, but the craziness is starting to settle in. I found out this morning that I am going to speak this Friday on joy and suffering at our outreach event for 10-12 grades. What a topic! Ay!

Please comment with ideas and suggestions and love!

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!


Today, I went to the orphanage in Miraflores. I found out last night at 9 pm that this was the plan. And, yes, blessings do come in unexpected ways.

Hmmm. I just decided right I don't want to re-hash my day... to describe each event in a battle to find the right words. I'm content with the pictures without words in my mind. But, I will share these thoughts (I'm really into the bullets and numbers lately!):

  • LOVE spending time with students... I mean I really love it (like not in a it's-my-job kind of way)
  • these are things that have crazy effects on my hyper-active levels: coffee, sugar, and balloons (I know what you are thinking - is this girl 5 years old??)
  • had one of those "I live here" moments today... sometimes I just repeat to myself, "This is home," to remind my mind how deep my heart is getting in
  • startled myself with the question, "when does your mom not become the first person you want to comfort you?" ... and what of those without moms? oooh. que cosa!
  • this week is getting shorter and now I am wondering if it is as much trying to get everything done as it is that I actually really just like being here...
  • you know what confuses me: family traditions. am i the ONLY one that is still holding tightly to those beautiful, expected "typical" family things we do every single year (or whenever possible)? I don't know how many times I've told our Christmas traditions stories (like the time we packed the sugar cookies and frosting and decorating supplies last year when we went to Colorado so the decorating contest could stay alive!) to people with blank faces that respond with, "Well, we open gifts on Christmas Eve." I'm like, "What?" I have to hold myself back from inviting them right there to Nichols Christmas because I love it so much. Makes me want to pack it all in a miracle shoebox and carry it with me wherever life is leading. I just can't part with it!

Love and peace and joy. The blessings of this season are available all year-round, folks!

to life, to life lechaim

Lechaim means to life in Hebrew and Yiddish

After two batches of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, one batch peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, and one loaf of pumpkin bread, I am feeling a toast welling up in my soul. I raise my weary glass of lukewarm water and toast to life.

Yesterday, I shared some lost and found items. By the way, have any of you found my composure or exercise? Those are two things I'd really be glad to get back!

Today, God reminded me that He is good. He is good and unchanging. I cannot begin to see the stretches of His goodness. I cannot begin to put them in boxes built by words or strokes painted by hand. I just cannot. His goodness never ends. My goodness can only begin with Christ and He never ends... what hope I have for my goodness (or God's goodness in me, rather)!!

Today after school, I rushed home and worked a few details of the week out like a veteran navy soldier untying knots. Capital job, I thought! Then, I headed downtown to go to the street kids Christmas party at my church. This was a totally new experience! I have worked tons with Micah Project, but with those boys there is the luxury of using the past-tense (they were living on the street). These boys that came to the Christmas party at the church were definitely present-tense. Well, I don't know if you can call their glue-dependent existence living, but they showed up and smiled a lot, anyway.

They checked their glue at the door and Hector wrote their names on each bottle so they could pick them up on their way out (2 hours isn't going to de-tox anyone). And we sang songs, served lasagna, laughed, and (the WORST part) popped balloons. I was so embarrassed for my reactions I had to leave the room several times. They, of course, thought it was hilarious that I jumped like I'd heard a shotgun ... so they played it up to the fullest.

Praise God for every new day.

This may not be your cup 'o tea, but tonight I am feeling the whoa-oh-oh's and the cadence my feet are stompin'

Lost and Found

Over the past week, I have ridden waves of emotions. Today, as I walked to church and home again... as I cleaned my room and quickly dirtied it... as I cooked green beans in the middle of the afternoon and then met up with friends to celebrate a birthday...

Today, I thought about the things I've lost and found. I thought, it would only be reasonable to sort these things in my mind in pairs.

1 Lost = 1 Found
So, here's another list:

Lost: my composure and my determination to "keep it together"
Found: a much needed convo with my mom... well, rather, I talked and she listened and then asked the hardest, best, and only thing I needed to answer, "How is your time with the Lord, sweetie?"

Lost: time for exercise
Found: oh, about 10 pounds :)

Lost: (actually I never had) great entertaining/hostess skills
Found: a sincere comfort when the ties of my apron are wrapped around my waist

Lost: the shallow, meaningless talk
Found: (kind of always there) a stronger desire to do/talk about things that really matter

Lost: appetite for gooood, fresh cooking
Found: my lovely green beans take so little time and are SO good

Lost: Dave Ramsey budget
Found: an idea to write to Dave Ramsey so he could write a book entitled, "Financial Peace for unstable missionaries who have unreliable income and mission everywhere."

Lost: my desire to cover up failures
Found: my desire to be genuine

Lost: desire to clean my room
Found: a strange comfort in my living space reflecting the mess on the inside

Lost: my ability to wear contacts (for now)
Found: possibly allergies or sensitivity to city pollution? AND many complements on my glasses (5 yr. old pair and $12 pair)

Lost: determination to wake up super early on the weekend
Found: dreamy smile at 8 am when I rouse thinking it is 11 am

Lost: quiet times with my Savior
Found: a void only those times can again fill

Please pray this week (if you want) for these things:

  • Giullana Gonzalez and her family
  • Giving all the gifts that need to be given... that God would give me just a beautifully light heart that He can use to shine His light and where He can work out His will
  • Micah Project and my church are hosting a Christmas party on Monday for the street kids - those who are not in the discipleship program and still struggle to survive on the city streets
  • Mission Trip Christmas party on Wednesday... just pray for details and that it would be a time where we can grow together and build stronger community
  • The coordination and distribution on Thursday of 138 Christmas gifts to children in the Amor y Fe y Esperanza school at the garbage dump (the devil is tempting me with stress over this... Tuesday we will check which names have not been covered and fill gifts for them)
  • Friday, I'm picking up a Dallas HS student at the airport who raised $4,000 to buy gifts for kids at the orphanage we will be working with on the mission trip in March. We need lots of prayer to cover her, her mom, the gifts, the transportation, the weekend. We will be delivering the gifts on Saturday and I'm hoping I can get the mission team together.
  • Please just pray that I will be a willing heart this week - for whatever it is that God needs done. Pray I will draw so near to Him to hear His heartbeat for this life and these people and this day.

Thank you and MUCH love.

What I'm Reading: The Singer by Calvin Miller
What I'm Listening to: A Little Bit of Love by Joy Williams, Disappear by Stephen Speaks

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.

dream squashers

Alright, folks. I'm losing steam. Something has GOT to be wrong when I sit down at 7 pm and all I want to do is crawl under my covers with a warm mug of tea and drift off where it is safer. Where dream squashers can't find me.

Do you know what I mean when I say dream squashers?
These creepy, powerful things sneak up without warning and the antidote is extremely illusive. These dream squashers are not necessarily people or institutions or conversations. But, then again, they can be found in all these things.

Dream squashers make their way into your mind and then let loose on your dreams with a mallet like that childhood game of Whac-A-Mole. Every time a dream pops up through the tedious surface of everyday, a dream squasher is there with a heavy mallet to end whatever hope of life the dream ever had.

Do you know of these dream squashers? They are evil little things. Sometimes they've got the dream squashed before I can ever really get my hands on what it is exactly. Other times the dream has mysteriously crept past the menacing mallet so I can see it in full view... only to watch the dreadful sight as it is destroyed entirely.

Of my dream squashers, I am aware of several: doubt, busy-ness, hopelessness, resources, inadequacy, the little voice that says, "you shoot too darn high," peers, the status quo, adulthood, students, maturity, procrastination, laziness, tiredness, facebook, envy, pride, fear, FEAR is a big one

Let me bring it around... all the way around so I can look my dream squashers right in their mallet clinching faces. If I'm honest, then sometimes all my dreams conspire together in my mind to squash everything just for some peace and quiet.

For the past couple days, I've felt a bit this way. Last night, I came home from parent-teacher conferences with a solid list of 5 things to do. FIVE things in the course of several hours did not seem too much to ask. But, there I collapsed on my bed with the champion dream squasher cheering itself in the quiet of my mind where no more dreams of world changing could erupt. Maybe that's why I've been so tired... maybe coming up with dreams and then watching them get squashed is very draining on one's spirit. I'm not sure, I just know I don't like dream squashers one bit.

As a direct challenge to all those sneaky devils, I'm posting this video in favor of a brilliant movement called Advent Conspiracy. It's made me dream about how I can make this Christmas less about consumption and more about compassion.

Will you help me defy the dream squashers??

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

joy and hope

Today, as I sat in church, I started to smile.

We listened to passages from James, Ephesians, Romans, and Psalms interspersed with singing and preaching and this was the overwhelming message: the joy and hope of our salvation is not dependent on the circumstances of this world.

Though we are part of this world for a time, our true citizenship is in heaven. Our true and perfect leader is seated on a throne so far above the unruly rebellions of humanity. The pain and brokenness of the world (and things Satan intends for cursing) God intends for blessing... and for opportunity to reveal more of His glory.

We have hope and our hope does not disappoint (Romans 5).

Praise the Lord for this beautiful Truth!

this is the painting on glass I did (motivated by our neighbors coming over for dinner)

the apron

When I put it on, I feel kind of like I'm shrugging into a more familiar version of myself. I imagine the same would happen if I slipped into some overalls or mismatched rubber boots. The funny thing is, an apron wasn't ever really a familiar piece of my wardrobe growing up. But, now it symbolizes so much of what I love about my "growing up" place.

I made the apron with my gram and mom this summer. It was on my little list of 'things to accomplish' before coming back to Honduras. I love that my mom is so goal-oriented that she even took my little list under her wing and made sure I crossed everything off before I stepped on the southbound plane.

The vision unfolded as I made the journey home in June and it materialized (literally) in one short day at my gram's. The fabric came from my mom's little hamper (which used to hold a much grander collection, when we needed it for projects and dresses and mending) and I recognized the blue and mauve patterns from our previous living room colors.

The design? Well, that's a funny thing, really. My gram just held up a newspaper to my chest and "eye-balled" it (the funny term we give for trusting our eyes instead of a measuring tape) and then we folded and cut out. Woala! (How in the world do you write that word?) Pattern created. We fumbled around with different ways to spice it up - the collar, a large button, a giant crafty pocket, and ties that came around to knot in the front.

I wore it for the first time at the ministry dinner at my church and have since donned it here to make pizza for students, to wash dishes, make waffles, and yes, even to just feel like I'm doing something productive in the kitchen.

I was even excited to get it dirty. I wanted to wipe my hands on it and use it as a dishtowel and get all kinds of spices and flour and soap on it. I wanted it to be instantly lived in and worn and handled and as familiar with me as I want to be with it.

Maybe I love it so much because I feel like I bring a part of my mom and gram right into my little kitchen with me to snap beans or make soup or cook up strange versions of my favorite meals. Maybe I love it because it makes me feel a little more grown up and established. Maybe I love it because it represents a little bit of who I want to be and I'm taking steps towards that place every time I wear it.

Or maybe it's all of the above.

merely a shadow

Today I feel like my dramatically lowercased "dear diary" entry yesterday is so silly and shoddy. Why do I try so hard to make those last lines of my contribution to cyberspace echo with meaning? Why can't I just write something honest and not care if it makes sense and has a 'moral of the story' to go along with it?

Well, I'll give it to you straight.
The moral of that particular story (and maybe at the root of my frustration) with this trendy book I'm reading about God and faith is really two things: 1. This woman wrote a book that's honest and fresh and published and I didn't and 2. In my cynicism (and simultaneous reading of Heaven by Randy Alcorn), I very much disagree with what seems to be her conclusion about celebration and joy

I hold nothing against the author (as well I shouldn't, having just confessed sincere jealousy of her success), because I really do love the way she has knit her straight-from-the-soul words together in such an accessible way. I guess I just might be frustrated with the mortality of words written to celebrate life here on this little earth... if they are not paired with the promise of what every good, beautiful thing in this world represents.

I turn a few pages back in my journal and read my notes from the Heaven study I'm doing (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED). The study guide asks me to read Mark 8:34-38 and think about what questions Jesus is asking. He asks very plainly (don't you love when studies basically lead you to the answer like a horse to water) "what does it profit to gain the whole world and forfeit your soul?" "What can a man give in return for his soul?"
I wrote: You can insert anything in the first question for "the whole world" - like health, prosperity, peace, two parents, the most elegant dinner party, a house full of children, career success, even clean drinking water - and we end up with the same problem: a forfeited soul without Christ.

I believe this, I really do. I believe that no matter how happy we make ourselves or how well we revel in delight in the good things God has allowed us, there is no amount of any of these that would replace the loss of a soul.

So. If I were to write a book about celebration, there would be tales of doubled over laughter and glorious rescues. But, and I don't know how, I would have this responsibility to share that these moments of delight are merely a shadow of the explosion that is to come.

MERELY A SHADOW! Can you believe it? I believe it, but I know I don't quite understand it.

The first week of school, I had the following conversation with a student.
MJ: This is my motto for this year, "Don't take life too seriously because in the end no one ends up alive."
me: Hm. That's interesting. So, where does everyone end up?
MJ: (with duh on her face) Dead, Miss.
me: Uh-huh. So, what should we take seriously?
MJ: What? Death, I guess.
me: Yeah, something like that. You know, the place where we'll spend eternity?

I look back on that conversation (so providential and completely 'out of the blue' and yes, it's they all call me "Miss") and I know that this is what I am meant to celebrate. Not the fleeting, celebratory moments as ends in themselves, but the deepest delight comes in knowing that there is an eternity that will echo with the brightest of celebrations. And, in all this, how can I celebrate... how can I bear to celebrate so deeply and with such anticipation and then keep this beautiful eternity to myself?

(there I go again trying to get all one-liner worthy at the end of this post. ugk! so I'll leave you with videos instead that have eternity in mind)