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.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Something for FREE

Guess what? You can download this audio book for FREE on Christianaudio.com!! Every month, they offer a different book for absolutely free. You better believe I'll be taking advantage of this offer monthly! :) This month's book "Not for Sale" is exactly what I want to be knowing more about. With information like this, we simply cannot plead ignorance when it comes to caring for those in distress. The knowledge is out there... we just have to read it.

Download - Christianaudio.com

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

to be alone with you

So, this past weekend I was at a staff retreat. Apart from the ridiculous work of getting old-timers to catch the camp spirit... I absolutely thrived! I love camp!

It made me remember all of the fabulous weeks at Covenant Harbor in Wisconsin (where I spent one summer during college) and Hidden Acres in Iowa (where I spent one/two weeks every summer growing up) and thank God for the blessing of fellowship with believers out in His creation.

One of the night events was a talent show, and in typical Nichols fashion, I was in three groups (all thrown together on the same day, of course! :). Heather and I performed a parody of Freefalling... which we had masterfully adapted to We Love Honduras, complete with anecdotal verses that had the crowd laughing (at us or with us, I'm not sure). Then, a group of talented ladies sang "Love Song for a Savior" by Jars of Clay with some sweet harmony.

And my favorite was a duet performance with my friend Heidi, the high school art teacher and fellow lover of good music, the song, "To be Alone with You" by Sufjan Stevens. I loved it so much that I thought you should hear the real version by Sufjan himself.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

life is like the dentist...

I'm sure there is something profound that could come from that thought... but in the meantime, this is such a delicious tidbit of reality that I had to pass it on. I originally found it through a cousin of mine (thanks Michelle) and then decided it should be shared.

Oh, my! How did this dad keep the camera straight???

Sunday, February 22, 2009

praying for Africa

I just wanted to post something tonight to ask you to pray for my dad while he is in Africa. For those of you who don't know, my dad left for Africa over a week ago and will return in about a week. He and another man from my home church, Denny, are humble farmers from Iowa with a desire to share their gifts and talents with the people of Kenya. My dad caught the missions bug last year when he lead the first agriculture-related trip to work with PACE Kenya - the local organization we support.

When he came back, his stories were amazing. I really believe it changed his life, opening up parts of the world and his heart he'd never thought or expected. So this year he was drawn back with fresh ideas and another bag of tricks for the struggling farmers in the region. I praise God for the way he is using my dad to work out His purposes in Kenya... and the obedience I see as such an example in responding to the call.

This is the most recent message I've received.

They report both frustrating challenges and incredible encouragement.
Praise: They have not yet had to "teach" about raising fish!
They are feeling well and rested. There is great excitement about the poultry project and the people are so appreciative. PACE sends their greetings and thanks to our church. Dick and Denny report wonderful answers to prayer and thank all who are remembering to pray.

Prayer: They have 200 baby chicks that need heat at night to survive. So far the heat lamps are keeping them alive. Please pray that the electricity will remain constant (not a given) until they can get a generator in place- hopefully Monday. They also are having trouble with the incubators for the same reason.
They have 2 more days of teaching, then they are going on some farm visits.
I am praying that God blesses the work of their hands... and also that they are blessed by the people, relationships, and just creation.

Friday, February 20, 2009

photo scavenger hunt!

If you haven't participated in an unruly competition of 'photo scavenger hunt' I sincerely suggest it. Last night, I was chilling with a few amazing students for dinner when the plan hatched. For the next 15 minutes we hastily made the rules:

45 minutes
take a picture of each thing on the list
meet back at Quizno's
winner gets the glory

I know, not exactly complicated, but A LOT of fun! We split up into teams of two and captured these moments on camera (not mine because I was silly and left it at home):
-chewing 5 pieces of BIG RED gum
-posing with a street vendor
-doing a handstand on the sidewalk
-inside a fountain
-holding a menu to a restaurant
-with a banana
-lifting weights

We frantically rushed the city and returned to the Quizno's quite out of breath... I am proud to say Alexandra and I beat the other team handily (although we didn't figure in that one of them is currently wearing an ankle brace, but hey, it's a competition!). We took a few victory poses and compared our ridiculous pictures. My least favorite was me with an uncomfortable amount of Big Red chewing gum sitting on my tongue.

GOOD TIMES! We have a re-match scheduled for Monday and I'm definitely bringing my camera this time!

Well, this morning I am off to the teacher's retreat. I'm hoping to find some rest, relaxation, and possibly some sweet outreach ideas.

I hope you all have a splendid weekend!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

did I mention I now teach PE

Okay, so the blogs had a couple rough weeks. Sorry. But, did I mention I now teach Physical Education to 10th and 12th grade?

That's right folks. Not only am I slightly less than qualified to teach students sitting in desks, now I'm also trying to teach students who wander around with no anchor, forget their gym clothes, and constantly complain about the heat.

When I told my siblings (on the most ridiculous conference call ever made), they couldn't stop laughing! I can't really blame them. During my first class, with the 12th grade girls, it was raining so we were forced inside with no lesson plan. Within five minutes, someone was straightening her hair, another girl pulled out an evening dress to show off, and two other girls whipped out cell phones to take pictures of the 12th grade boys PE class (dutifully on task within eyeshot!!). How did I get into this mess?

I have to admit the humor. Without laughter I might have given up alltogether. I'm teaching three PE classes a week so that our PE teacher can take a college class at the nearby university where she is finishing her degree. I know it sounds crazy, but I'm doing my best to not appear as desperate as I feel to make this arrangement work out without too terribly impairing these girls' physical education.

I'm holding on to Psalm 94

Psalm 91

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. a]">[a]

2 I will say b]">[b] of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."

3 Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.



14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.

16 With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation."

I'm just going to keep on delighting in His promises and know that HE alone sustains, protects, defends, comforts, and guides.

But... just out of curiosity... how would you teach a high school girls PE class? The next sport in the lineup: badminton. That ought to be interesting... real interesting.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

hearty whole wheat bread, and other things I should do more often

I wasn't so sure when I started out. All I knew was that I discovered a gem (whole wheat flour) randomly on the shelf at a grocery store and I simply couldn't let the opportunity pass without a good attempt at homemade bread.

I am good at making excuses. I'm pretty great at it, actually. Homemade bread takes an ENTIRE afternoon - that's a big chunk of time and I boast a pretty packed schedule. Blah blah blah. But, today, after efforts to meet with students failed, I decided I would put the time to good use. I chose the "hearty whole wheat bread" recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook my roommate brought back after Christmas. I had to do a few things on the fly after forgetting items and wrestling with the ice cream bucket (still our only bowl big enough to mix in)... but, four hours later the results were remarkable.

I think I could have consumed both loaves if not for the carb-guilt that follows!

I wish you could see the steam coming off these delicious pieces of goodness! And taste the hint of brown sugar in the hearty mixture!

As I was thinking and waiting and grading and punching down dough and thinking and rising and flouring and waiting... I came up with some insight I want to start applying. Nothing new really (is it ever?).

It is simply this:
I'm going to set out to change my should(s) and could(s) to did(s)

Grammatically a mess, I realize, but after watching four hours turn into a glorious creation, I knew there was more to be had than an absolutely fabulous piece of hearty goodness.

I'm very much like my dad in many ways - I laugh a lot, I live for conversation, I like to really know people, I am constantly scheming about the next thing, and


I can easily pass an entire day writing about dreams of what could be and what should be. Dreams are enchanting; in fact, sometimes I would rather live in dreams for the absolute endless possibilities . When it comes down to it (and where my mother is such a great balance for my dad), things just need to get DONE.

Hearty, whole-wheat bread is not an impossible thing. It's not a dream that can never be realized. On the contrary, in a few short hours, many can be blessed by its goodness. In the same way, there are very practical things that can move from the 'dreaming' category into the 'done it' category.

Let's see how that works out!

What are things you'd like to move from 'dreaming' to 'done'?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sweet Dinner 09

So, before we started one of the craziest days of our Honduran lives, Heather and I decided that we were not going to expect any return on our investment. We knew that this sweet dinner was first an expression of our first Love and second an expression of our love for these girls - neither of which required something in return. This is a heart investment...

But, the Lord is so gracious! After the careful thought, planning, and YES even a creatively-spun parody to the tune "all you single ladies" by Beyonce, we were so blessed by the night!

Here are some pictures of the preparations... of which there were many! And, yes, I almost started crying when I randomly found heart-shaped tins at a local grocery (one of my mom's dear traditions!).

We played games ... one of them was a challenge to write a valentine's poem with the words we gave them in an envelope. Then we had a poetry reading:)

Then, the girls took over - or rather their fondness for the microphone - and we had KARAOKE time! It definitely gave me some great ideas for the future!

Then came the (cheaply) candlelit meal of vegetable and beef lasagna, baguettes, and a plush salad. Oh, don't worry mom, we started out with sparkling grape juice and made a little toast:)

Then, toward the end of the night Heather and I performed our adapted version of Beyonce's ridiculous song, single ladies (I would attach the video, but it would take all night to load). We dedicated it to our 10th grade girls and then we had a Bible study where we talked about How Much God Loves Us and How Should We Respond?

After all the Bible study we split up into groups and tried to open things up to let the girls share their hearts. We love them so much... I almost think they are bored of us saying it, but it's so true!

God provided an amazing way to bless the girls while blessing another ministry as well... We gave the girls all earrings that we purchased from our dear friend Macayla, who has recently started a jewelry ministry for the teen girls at the feeding center (see her blog). Because she has only met with them three times, she is still trying to get the right materials she needs. But, in the mean time the girls have done a wonderful job already making many things. So, we decided to buy the jewelry she had, which happened to be pretty close to what we needed, and bless our girls. Isn't God amazing??

PS. I wholeheartedly recommend your own version of a sweet dinner. Make it your tradition to celebrate the Love of Christ - the first and best love!

Monday, February 09, 2009

setting up for sweet dinner

Okay, some of you may know about the family tradition that vies for first place in my book (and one I've tried to pass on). It comes around this time of year, the color scheme is inevitably pink and red, and the theme is horribly predictable: LOVE.

Yep, that's right. Our Valentine's Day family tradition every year growing up consisted of a much anticipated home-baked dinner around our big, wooden table. But, don't worry, it doesn't stop there. Oh, no. Each child (5 of us) received an original poem, written by the hostess extraordinaire (mother, dearest). The table set with pink, red, and white decorations (from last year's clearance of course!) and beside each plate sat our pink tapioca and a heart-shaped cake with special pink frosting and our name spelled out on the inside.

Throughout the evening, the fam would laugh, share stories, and just let some serious love happen. When I was younger, I'm not sure I thought it was super cool, but I think I appreciated it deep down. Now, boy do I ever love it. I repeated it in college with my roommates junior year. I sent letters to parents, raided the local Dollar Tree, and kept it a surprise until the night when I served roast on our coffee table covered with reds, pinks, and whites. It's one of my favorite memories from college.

And now we're going to try to give a shot here, on Tuesday with our 20 girls from the 10th grade. I'll let you know how it goes. The idea is to get our minds off of what the world makes of love and back on to the real meaning. It's a GREAT idea to celebrate love... we just have to make sure we do it the right way.

Thanks, mom. You're the best!

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Voice of the Lord

On Wednesday night at staff worship, someone read from this passage and it so moved me that I just had to share it.

Psalm 29

A psalm of David.
1 Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his [a] holiness.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
Sirion [b] like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD strikes
with flashes of lightning.
8 The voice of the LORD shakes the desert;
the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD twists the oaks [c]
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, "Glory!"
The LORD sits [d] enthroned over the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as King forever.
The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace.

Read over it again and just meditate on the awesome power in the voice of the Lord. I really believe in the Lord's power and tonight (Friday) was another example. We had high school outreach in the youth room at the school and as I huddled with some of my favorite high school folks, I just kept feeling an overwhelming sense of love.

With the same voice the Lord spoke us into existence, He also calls us to Himself out of His abounding love. And with the same voice that spoke the parable of the good samaritan, He calls us to love one another as He loves us and gave Himself up for us.

God really showed His grace when He allowed us to love. To look at someone else and feel so moved by the compassion in your heart... it's like no other feeling on earth.

After the outreach tonight, we went to a student's house ... they tried to teach us meringue, I tried to teach them a few breakdancing moves... we took pictures, laughed, and just plain delighted in each other. I can't believe how much I love them!

Blessed Be His Name!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

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

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Reflections on Samuel

1 Samuel 3:19 “The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground.”

Wow- what an incredible verse. I read this yesterday and I still haven’t gotten over it. I’m still trying to figure out what it means honestly. I keep thinking… what would it mean for none of His words to us to fall to the ground? How amazing would it be for us to take His words to heart (not head) and do what He says, transforming our lives. What would it mean for none of my words to fall to the ground, like Samuel? What would it mean for me to be so in tune with God’s Spirit that every word that comes out of my mouth makes him greater? What would it mean for us, as hearers of God’s Word, to take what he tells us and DO it.

During Jesus’ life- even at his trial, out of all the questions he was asked, he only answered two. In response to all their questions, he would only say that he was born to be a King, and that he was the Son of God. Jesus could see people’s hearts- and to what their genuine intentions were. At the trial, the intention of the people was to find fault in Him and find a reason for Him to die. He saw that these people had hard hearts to his gospel, and that they were not open to his life-giving words. Jesus also spoke in Parables, because it made his messages easier to remember, but they also communicated truth to believers but hid it from people with hard hearts.

In Matthew 13:15 Jesus says in regards to why He spoke in parables… For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

I fear that we say many empty words, have faith without works, knowledge without life-change. I fear that the Lord’s words fall to the ground with us as well- that we read our Bibles out of obligation and for a “nugget of truth” to get through the day. I pray that, like Samuel, we would truly understand what this life with Christ is about and DO it and that our words would reflect that. Let’s start with Acts 2:42-47 What would it look like if we actually changed our lives and were the church? What if we loved each other like this? Let these Words not fall to the ground, but let us be transformed by them, see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and understand with our hearts.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

heart healthy when, a poem for patrick

Sometime in the middle of a confusing rainy season (confusing because the seasons are so strange here), I was in a conversation with my mejor amigo Patrick and this poem kind of just came out. I give all credit to him - he didn't let me stop until I was good and finished. The significance of this day of all days is that TODAY is when people everywhere, from Africa to Honduras to California to Oregon to Iowa to Illinois to ______ will celebrate Patrick's birth.

heart healthy "when"
much time has passed, but little is said
all the while, the girl sits on her bed
she reads, laughs and giggles as stories form
from cracked out messages memories come like a storm

though miles separate and distance is great
every single time these messages anticipate
grateful, inspired, but wondering too
why the friends don't just talk
instead of bumbling around in this hullaballoo

not every word finds its special place,
but each is wrapped in fine friendship lace
a joke, a tear, a well-intentioned word
laughter always finds it way to be heard

for this fine frenzied finale is quite like a dream
only honest and true, spoken not in extremes
keep centered and stationed with Love an anchor
even when the helpless, heart fabric became well and worn

rough is the way going, no signposts or guides
only trusting each step for sure goodness lies
not within earthen vessels built by human hands
nor in one another, created by the same plan

but two better one, and three even more
though a circle solves not, it binds one accord
broken sees broken and searches release
seeks redemption together and there finds peace

confusion forms bold question marks
emotions hold sway and claim its a farce
with wait and wonder impatience sets in
and from her belly wells up a heart-healthy, "when?"

patience comes, never easy or sweet
pressing in fragments, she yearns for complete
with no sure answer and no physical sign
from obedience liberty and from duty delight

Monday, February 02, 2009

Is it possible?

Is it possible to love someone you've never met?

Is it possible to miss the face of someone you've never seen?

It is, because we do.

Love you, Isaac Brenton.

Prayer Causes Things

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!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

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.

You 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.

As 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.