Hello. Welcome.

I'm a very determined kind of individual. Sometimes my determination is misplaced and things get very ugly. But, sometimes my determination leads to laughter, deep thoughts, and words on paper.

I write everything. I'm not very good at filtering ... so you will see it all. Maybe there will be a little inspiration for someone else along the way. I hope so. My sister also likes to guest blog and I'm sure you will appreciate her wit and wisdom.

Friday, December 19, 2008

typical TIH moment

Today was the last day ... I leave tomorrow for Iowa and it is so surreal. I've never been on the receiving end of the Christmas tradition in the education system. I always saw my mom bring home cute figurines, generously decorated mugs, and an assortment of holiday sweets, but I never thought I would be receiving similar gifts. But, today the students came with anything from mugs to candy to jewelry to hand-made cards - so generous and so lovely!

One of the wonderful 7th graders brought me a basket with apples, grapes, and a bottle of Welch's sparkling grape juice. The apples, I later found out, are a Honduran tradition from the 50s when only the upper classes could afford them. They would purchase apples and give them to workers as a gift and it caught on as a tradition and now apples are a common Christmas gift.

Anyway, I thought tonight was just the evening to toast with my roommates, after our first couple months successfully behind us. We poured out the bubbly into our newly purchased real cup and saucer set (we got a 20 piece kitchen set at the grocery store!) and raised for my long-winded toast. Just as we put the teacups to our lips for a sip, the power promptly shut off.

We could barely keep it down we were laughing so hard! It was SO typical Honduras - a TIH (this is honduras) moment! We went through the apartment ceremoniously lighting all the candles we received today, knowing this would be the only time we could actually use Christmas tree candles before next year. The power outages don't bother me, really. There is ALWAYS some fun to find in the darkness!

Well, my packing took me a whole 15 minutes, so I hope I've not forgotten anything. I will see some of you very soon... and I will try my very hardest to keep this up while I'm traveling and enjoying time in the States.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

stealing my heart

Tonight we had the 10th grade Bible Study girls over for gingerbread decorating, cookie-making, crazy-fun-having, giggling, wet-wood-fire-starting, silly game-playing time. Heather and I are absolutely exhausted.

Here are some things I am coming to realize:
1. I am more and more in love with these girls. Does that happen with all people? It's this intense feeling that's somewhere between your heart and your gut, but certainly not indigestion... hard to explain... but when I see them I just want to give them a hug that would reach to their inside and warm their hearts. I LOVE them - deeper than our silly English word.

2. I am getting old. Today, I was running around like a crazy person doing stuff at school then randomly throwing gingerbread dough together over my 20-minute lunch so we could bake after school. At about 5:00 with 15 girls in our apartment I thought I could just collapse right there on our cold, tile kitchen floor.

3. I don't need anything. Seriously. I'm not just saying that to be charitable or "Christian" ... I literally don't need anything more than what the Lord is providing at this moment. We talked tonight about our response to the gift of Life and our response to the Giver. The greatest gifts come with much sacrifice... so what am I willing to give that is not easy? What am I willing to give that will hurt?

4. I am sometimes very foolish. I know this is not new news. But, ask me how I ended up under a broken table in the courtyard screaming tonight and I would have to shrug my shoulders and just say, "I wish I knew." It's not just being frightened, though. I absolutely, positively love to laugh. At first it's the giggles and kind of complimentary "hmmphs" but, if you get me going - if you really get me going, I can be rolled out on the floor. I can tell you one of the best feelings is getting up after a good, long roll of laughter.

There is more :) but I want to show you a few photos from tonight of my lovely ladies and the fun we had.

The girls said they were going to "nap" on my bed. Then they came out dressed in my clothes...

Carolina and MariaJose - two of my wonderful girls!

MJ came in from soccer like a crazy girl - I captured just a piece of it!

Here's making cookies and decorating!

These are apparently Heather and myself. I'm not sure how close it resembles us...

After the cookie decorating and dinner, we moved outside, where I tried desperately to make wet wood burn... but to no avail.

So, we settled for gas stove-cooked marshmallows and called it done.

Some of the girls already left, but this is part of our group!

I honestly feel so so blessed to know these girls - they are stealing my heart!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hogar de Madres Solteras

So, this past week we had a Christmas party for the Hogar de Madres Solteras (Home for Single Mothers), which is a refuge just down the road from our school. We have a unique opportunity to get to know these ladies and their precious little ones and I believe God is opening doors for that to happen right now.

I wish I had time to write more, for now here are some pictures:

The girls made and decorated cookies

This is my wonderful friend Alfredo!! His mom Santos came to our school for the Christmas concert because we invited the ladies to sell some of their jewelry. I never had so much fun chasing someone down!

This is Jensi, her daughter Marjorie, Santos, and Alfred at the jewelry stand. It was so great to see the students, families, and teachers see these women and their work.

It's so crazy to think that these little girls have little ones of their own!

The 11th grade girls are heading up the outreach - and I'm pretty sure they are never disappointed with how the Lord shows up (especially if its in the form of a sleeping little one!)

There were games and a candy cane message.

And lots of entertaining! Alfred LOVES to jump!

Like I said, I could write forever, but this is all for tonight. If you're interested in finding out more about this special place, please let me know!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

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!

Monday, December 15, 2008

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!).

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

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

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

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!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lineup and gift-giving

At a recent Christmas outreach to our students, we asked them to think about what Christmas would be like if they didn't receive a single gift. In my group, I only sensed a slight hesitation before the, "No," followed a shake of the head. I don't know what I was expecting... sunday school answers, I guess. But, when I heard their honest admission, I asked the same question of myself.

Lately, I've been racking my brain, trying to think of things to put on my Christmas list. You know - family and friends are thoughtfully asking what would make the perfect gift and I'm grateful to oblige. I hear myself saying, "Well, I have several pairs of slacks, but I could use a few more. I've been wearing these for several years now ... I guess I could use some money on an iTunes giftcard, you know I'm always wanting new music ... You know, now that I think of it, a toaster oven would be so nice to have in the apartment so we didn't have to toast bread over the open flame on the gas stove ..."

Even writing these now sends a shameful shiver up my arms. We only get one life and I'm asking for a toaster oven? Really?

I know that part of giving gifts is that they have to be received on the other end. I get that.

I guess I just wish I would understand that I do not need gadgets and frills and, well, stuff. Why is it I desire things that are so... I don't know, rusty. That's it - things that will rust. Why, instead, don't I find contentment in the necessities? I know - it's the same question every year.

Looks like I'm going to need to be in prayer this week. I know the return trip to the States will be more than overwhelming in all sorts of ways. But, I am so so so excited to see my family, play in the snow, have wrestle fights with my brothers, drink coffee in the mornings with my sister and mom, and YES sit on the heater in the dining room in the early morning when it is cold!

Here's the lineup for this week, we'll see how it goes:

feelings on leaving
I'm not sure how I feel about leaving this place. I've settled into life here and I know that 2 weeks throws a pretty large wrench in the system.

Christmas countdown
Here's a list of things I LOVE at Christmastime.

creative gifts
I have been in the past, but this year I'm trying even more to give gifts with meaning and my own personal touch. My family has been sending out gift lists for awhile, but I hope they don't mind me doing my own thing. :)

adventures of the life I wish I led
I realize that every adventure I write is only an introduction to the actual action ... so this week I'm going to try to write when something actually happens :).

grab bag
pictures, updates, comedy, art ... who knows?

much love to you all this week

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Moonlight sledding, top ten lists and lots of coffee: snapshot into my week

Hello long lost friends!
I don't have much time to write, but I thought I'd give you a quick snapshot into my week this week. We had an awesome moonlit sledding party...

I drank lots of coffee... between coffee dates with students, staff meetings, and the new coffee-shop like addition that was just added to my church, I have had to remind myself to drink water before working out because it's mostly coffee flowing through these veins. Notice what's in my hand...

And had a simply hilarious time with the rest of the student ministries staff. This is more the norm than the exception. Isn't that great! I love how our offices are separated from the other church offices so we can be as loud and goofy as we want. Here's one of the things that made me laugh out loud this week- my boss was working on this for Underground (Sunday School.)
Ahh, I love youth ministry. :)

Ten Christian Reality Shows that DIDN’T make it

10. Run and Not Grow Weary: contestants run continuously until all but one has grown weary

9. Catacomb Survivors: contestants fight rats, unending darkness, and slimy stuff as they try to outlast each other in a succession of big-city sewer systems

8. Crossover: contestants alter the lyrics of popular mainstream songs in an attempt to be the first to convince a Christian music station to play their Christianized song

7. American Idols: contestants take turns competing with modern-day prophets of Baal as they call down fire on alter sacrifices

6. Hour of Power: oh wait, that’s actual a reality show

5. BIG Brothers and Sisters: obese people from the same congregation use competing Christian weight-loss programs to see who can get in the best worship shape

4. So You Think You Can Pray?: contestants vie to see who can achieve the highest prayer-to-answer ratio

3. Big Name Pastor Apprentice: contestants try to win a spot on Joel Osteen’s pastoral staff by competing in preach-offs and book authoring deals

2. The Biggest Loser: contestants compete to see who can most thoroughly “lose their life” in order to “gain it”

1. The Courting Bachelor: male contestants compete to see who can convince Stacie Orrico’s parents to let him ‘court’ their daughter

Friday, December 12, 2008

creative problem solving

Chapter 8 in the psychology textbook is on problem solving. The first section is entitled, "Thinking."

I hope you are at least smiling right now. I have struggled with class management, planning, and discipline, but this I realized quickly:
you can lead a student to learning, but you can't make him think
I could be the greenest teacher around, but I'm definitely learning that students have to decide for themselves that they want to learn something. So.... I pulled a few tricks out of my very shallow bag and we spent a day doing challenge activities out on the soccer field.

Here are some pictures of the students in the 4 different stations... some of them were still at the "lead a student to learning" stage, but most of them found out you could think AND have fun at the same time. BRILLIANT!
Blindman: Students had to direct a blindfolded classmate through a series of obstacles.

Spider Web - students had to get everyone from one side of the 'magic' web to the other ... every time they used a portal it could not be used again.

Magic Stick - students had to place both fingers nail side up underneath this stick and simply bring it to the ground ... I've never heard so many students yell "BAJEN" (lower) so intensely!

Ski Challenge - students had to move the skis as a team in a certain direction.

I'll write more later... what an exhausting week! There's more to come and much more to write.

What do you do for problem solving - classroom or otherwise?

Can I have "Home Alone" for 400 please?

This is, of course, the answer to my favorite Christmas movie. I could NOT love this movie more. Unless, of course, this movie and aweseomeness had a baby together...

And called it Home Alone 2.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Adventures of the Life I Wish I Led, part IV

If you've been following along (or if you haven't), every once in awhile I write a tidbit about "the life I wish I led." You can read previous short stories starting here. Today's little piece is inspired by a student, who challenged me to find a reason in the eastern sky to write something. So, here is what came out.

Fresh roasted coffee beans wafted outside the small, corner cafe. My steps hit the litter-speckled pavement underneath a blue, cloudless sky. Oaxaca, Mexico.

It had been awhile since I made any sort of trip without Jeremy and the dust on my shoes made me miss my traveling companion and most kindred spirit. Before I met Jeremy at the New Tribes Missions training center in Wisconsin, I had pictured my husband-to-be much differently. People said he would be athletic (a wrestler, maybe) and accomplished (several doctoral degrees, perhaps?).

I couldn't suppress the girlish giggle that found its way through the familiar feelings and escaped through my parched lips. Jeremy was a lot of things - accomplished in his own right (but without the degrees) and athletic only when necessary for adventuring (never really for sport) - but he certainly looked nothing like what people (or I) expected. I suppose that's why I fell so quickly and decidedly. Now, waiting for my childhood friend at the Cafe Sueno in Oaxaca, I half-hoped he would have made the trip with me.

I pushed the thought down with a few thick, flavorful sips of fresh coffee. This little eatery was quietly crammed between a panaderia and a friendly fabric store. It would only be a few cups of this good strong coffee before Elizabeth met me ... I smiled as I realized I no longer measured time by minutes. Two years had taught me time (and certainly punctuality) was a very fluid thing in Central American culture. I can't say I minded measuring things in cups of coffee or rainstorms or daylight or loaves of bread.

Sure enough, I was enjoying my third cup of coffee with a delicous postre when Elizabeth walked in. It had to be at least three years since we had connected in our token small-town, Midwestern Amish restaurant. In the moments before she saw me, I knew we would start as though no time had passed at all.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

'Twas the month before Christmas...

James Elrod, one of the new teachers here at Pinares, graced us with this poem at the Christmas party this past Saturday. I thought it was worth sharing! It gives a great picture of some of the comical, frustrating, and endearing things about life here.


'Twas the month before Christmas and all through the fog

Not a creature was stirring, not even a dog.

The bookbags were hung in the lockers with care

In hopes that the homework would do itself there.

The Meesters and Meeses were starting to wane,

So ready to trade knee-deep snow for the rain,

And up on the mountain Pinares stood still.

Who, in God's name, builds a school on a hill

Where it sits in a cloud for days upon days

Until it feels like the sun was only a phase?

The lights all a-flicker; we smell like King Kong.

"The power is on! Oh wait, we were wrong."

Mittens and scarves and jackets galore,

I sleep with four blankets but I'm looking for more.

Some teachers are saying this season won't last,

That this is way worse than it's been in the past.

Pretty soon we'll be praying for coolness and breeze,

But I'm already checking the prices of skis.

I'd fly down the mountain to kilometer nine,

Past Rapiditos to the house that is mine,

Look out for the dog who is preggers again;

It's about time that they build her that pen.

But I have digressed from the topic at hand;

We were waiting for Santa, but he has been banned.

Then who has been eating the cookies and cream?

I turn on the light, and I let out a scream!

The roaches all scurry; there's crumbs on the plate;

The power goes off; I start cursing my fate.

I hike up the mountain, grab the library key,

Fill bottles with water, drink up, and then pee.

I can't make my tea on an electric range.

I try using candles; I must be deranged.

I feel moments away from a panic attack.

"Don't be so dramatic; this isn't Iraq."

At least break is coming: a beacon of light.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


What would you write in Christmas poem?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Parties are Exhausting!

I've never thought of myself as the best host, but I am usually pretty good at being busy. Well, this past Saturday we hosted the staff Christmas party (my invitation above) in our apartment and I was certainly busy! We went to the market in the morning and then didn't stop running around until after 9:30 pm (that's late, by the way, for all you youngsters!).

Apparently, we inherited the tradition of hosting the Christmas party when we moved in to the apartment. However, no one thought to mention that to us as we sifted through all the leftover articles of clothing, christmas lights, and random decorations shoved in the closets... so we threw them out! Instead of buying more decorations, we went on a thieving spree a couple hours before the party ... we picked up trees and decorations from here and there and ended up with quite an endearing display!

We made dozens and dozens of sugar cookies with four different colors of frosting. Every Christmas party needs a cookie decorating contest!

Cutting out cookies definitely reminded me of home... all those sweet memories of getting creamed in the decorating contests just drifted back to me. This year, I'm hoping for a close second place (I usually take 4th or 5th out of 5, but I'm convinced last year the judges were tricked).

Out of all the wacky Christmas attire, this definitely beat all. These girls WERE the gifts. We had a talent show, where they performed a Christmas medley dancing number brilliantly, and for which I introduced them as, "your gift for the evening."

Heather and I whipped up our little rendition of Let it Snow (Let it Glow) which we thought was pretty stellar for a 5 minute prep time. And I'm pretty sure I can say that a fun time was had by all. Near the end of the night, after the cookies were judged, food eaten, and talents shown, we somehow real naturally moved into a time of worship with guitar and hand drum. We sang, danced, and grooved for awhile, just loving in this blessed community.

What a great way to start this season! Have you had any Christmas parties? What is your secret to hosting?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Leaves in the Winter

Gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. That's how I would describe this day.

You might remember my pitiful posts from a few weeks ago, trapped inside without electricity or sunshine. Well, today is different - MUCH different. The sun is out and showing all its glory against the pale blue cotton sky. Even the birds seem to find cause for chorus this afternoon.

I finally finished the painting project in the kitchen. Actually, it had more to do with starch and fabric than paint. I saw this idea Christina used in her living room and decided I would try a variation here. I am so glad to say it worked and we love it! The seasons aren't here quite the same as Iowa, so a daily reminder of changing leaves is refreshing.

Well, well. This week has flown by almost as fast as the motorcycles at the gate. I'm pushing through these last few weeks with a new teaching approach, refreshed perspective for purpose, and daily in wonder at the gift of life.

I'm following John Piper's sermons via video each week and as we make our way through John, my heart is full of gratitude. Not so ironically, at the same time I am studying Beth Moore's, "Jesus the One and Only" devotional. I'm getting to know Jesus - the person. How strange to think that Jesus wandered around as a child, questioned adults about things as a young man, and watched his siblings fight.

I am gearing up for this week and I'm excited to see what the Lord will do. Here's a bit of what might show up on the blog.

Life of the Party
So, a very long time ago I was going to write about something that happened at the fall party. Now, I've waited long enough to just make it a double and write about the Christmas party we had on Saturday as well.

Even though I'm not shivering in below zero temperatures, I still see all the crazy "Christmas" holiday decorations, advertisements, and ridiculous light displays. There's even a Santa train that goes up and down the boulevard. How is Christmas about the giving?

At the Cinema
So, our family has a lot of traditions at Christmas. Watching a few movies is usually one of them. Christina's favorite is -- well, I'll just let you read about that this week!

I'm doing a unit (believe it or not it's IN the textbook!) on critical thinking and problem-solving. I'm trying to get them to make connections with real-life... instead of always relating things at school to school, I want them to open up about how we daily have problems that need solving... especially in our relationship with God.

Grab Bag
Who knows what this will be!!

This Christmas is difficult in weird ways. Actually, we're trying really hard to make it feel like Christmas, without cold and snow and family. I think we're doing a pretty good job, but I can tell you I am eager to step off that plane in Omaha to greet a couple bound for a little farm in southwest Iowa.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

New Honduran Horizon!

Click here for the new edition of the Honduran Horizon.

These last few weeks have been such a whirlwind. I'm still wondering how time can seem to stand still each day and whisk by each week. Sometimes I feel like I've just arrived and other days I feel like I'm at home.

My heart is broken for my students, many who are searching for something that will fill up the holes in their lives. For some it's drinking, for others it's friends, and still others turn inward when life turns cruel. I have learned, though, that love is not soft. Love is a very sturdy object, anchored in Truth and pointing to Hope that does not disappoint. Try explaining that to a distressed student who just received a detention for talking in my class... again.

My heart also breaks for the broken humanity that greets the morning in this country. Children, women, men, mothers, daughters, brothers, graduates, schoolteachers... poverty knows few boundaries and brings humanity to dreadful ends.

Today, after a rough run-in with 7th and 8th graders, I found myself (the Counselor) being counseled by our Dean of Students. I suppose he saw I was a bit depleted. What started out as a good idea (fundraising competition for the women's shelter) turned into students' decision to stop at nothing to win. Every opportunity we see for blessing, Satan sees an opportunity for sin. Our enemy will always send his legions to frustrate the plans to bless others.

May our hearts always break at broken humanity. I'm no less broken than these students and these battles should always, always send me to my knees.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Check this out - I took this class in college and it DID rock my world.

See if you can find one in your area and then SIGN UP. God will work wonders with your willing heart!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

In the News

Last time I wrote about someone in the news, it was my brother Samuel. This time, I'm so excited to say it's my school...and we made the 24-7 prayer website news based in the UK.

Read this article and rejoice with me in the blessings of His glorious grace!

delightful surprise

I walked into my office after a break yesterday and found a plastic package sitting on top of scattered papers, ungraded quizzes, and cold tea. It was addressed to me, so I ripped it open to find these two gems of books by Joel Rosenberg.

They were sent directly from the distributor, so I'm not sure who my secret saint is, but I am superbly glad to have fiction I can jump into. What a delight this week will be! I was just talking with two good friends/mentors from my home state not too long ago about how they were starting their own little book club with his books and I envied a bit the idea of coffee and conversation over some challenging fiction. I can't wait to catch up with them!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Weekend in Copan

I am doing horribly at keeping up, but I have some new pictures to add from adventures in Copan. I hope you enjoy!


so regular a day, it came

so regular a day, it came
absent majestic procession,
void elaborate flairs
and articulate expression

the trumpets were silent,
without pomp of parade;
without anticipated celebration
or beautiful serenade

so regular a day, it came
to blind eyes and deaf ears;
nestled in among ordinary,
adoring eyes with salty tears

a dull, shameful ache
I can’t bear to hide
the thought of the glory
wrapped in poverty’s thick side

though the earth was still,
the humble moment forgotten,
the bold beginning of new life
of the One and Only begotten