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.

Monday, August 31, 2009

running through my mind

1. rooster/dinosaur
So, when we first moved in, we battled the rooster without any sense of time and the squawking macaw birds (who I've affectionately re-named birdinosaurus) who have no respect for city ordinances on sound. Some people come to Honduras and pay $10 or $20 to go to look at these Macaw birds... I just step out into my back porch and peep over the fence. Or, actually, better yet - I just sit still for about 17 seconds and then I hear the sound that forces me to wonder if the crazy thing has broken into my house!

2. sand pile
Here's a little lesson in "the way things are" on the streets of Honduras. A few days ago, Emily and I were on our way home when we turned a familiar corner on a regular, residential street to find an ENORMOUS pile of sand dumped right in the middle of the road. This wasn't just a bit of sand for a personal project. The road is actually every bit of the construction site. There's a huge crane parked out there right now that says "BAY CITY" (I wonder how that got here!?) and now this huge sand pile that I prayed the little Honda Civic over. TIH!

3. cereal mixture
I know this is random, but I'm going for it. I like to mix my cereal. It may sound simple, but there's really quite an art to it. I first started mixing cereal when I lived with my grandparents for the summer. My grandpa is the KING of cereal-mixing - he knows the exact ratio needed to make the perfect bowl every time. I don't think I've mastered the ratios yet, but when I got the boxes I sent on the shipment from the states I was overjoyed to find I sent cereal (it's really expensive here). Every morning is an adventure and always brings me around to thinking about my grandpa!

4. nesting
I almost am hesitant to use this word with so many LOUD feathery friends nearby, but I think it describes my stage of city living right now pretty well. When I was at home this summer, one of my favorite things to do was just sit outside with my grandparents and watching the birds stop by their backyard. If I was a bird, I would definitely make the Sponslers' backyard my hangout :) My grandparents love to give a narrative of the lives of these birds as they get their nests ready, tend to the family, and deal with spats over food or territory.

I can picture my grandparents narrating my own comings and goings lately. And I know, just like those silly birds, I am trying to make what was first just empty space into a home, a place where I am settled and productive and adventurous and free. I have picked up very random things for decorations lately. We had a cabinet in our office that was warped so the glass sliding doors on front didn't work. So, I brought them to my house and hung them on the walls. Emily and I will eventually paint scenes on them for different rooms. Let's see... I also commandeered several discarded wooden frames from the shop class and those are now on my wall. And, of course, the pictures from my friend Pat are posted in my room (which makes is really feel like home because they've followed me since junior year of college). It feels good to make a house a home!

5. card party next door and baleadas
I am slowly getting to know my neighbors and LOVING every single moment! Sometimes we hear trumpets or clarinets. Sometimes we hear people coming in late or getting up early. This is strange, but I really love the sound of the roaming vans with load speakers fastened onto the top because it reminds me of the State Fair. I wake up to that sound and I can't help the excited feeling rising in my chest... like there are ribbons being won and livestock being shown and sky gliders being ridden. I know, call me crazy, but the memories are so sweet!

So, back to the neighborhood: I think there is a card party or dinner every Monday night because the laughter streaming from my neighbors is becoming quite regular. I love listening to the slow rumble and then building roar after someone tells a joke.

I also recently visited a family from my new church. They gave me a ride after the first prayer meeting and mentioned inviting me over for baleadas sometime, which I would NEVER turn down! So, last Friday Doña Maria called and they picked me up for what I thought would be a short ride around the corner, but we whipped through streets about 15 minutes from where I live. It was quite an experience - all Spanish, all night - but absolutely beautiful.

Believe me, much MUCH more is running through my mind, but this is all the attention I have for now.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

treasure

Thursday, August 27, 2009

enter craziness

If my life were played out on a stage, now would appear a stage direction in parenthesis (enter craziness).

I guess I must note that when I use the term craziness, it is in a very affectionate and joyful way. Craziness makes my life spin around and usually when I collapse dizzy on to the floor I have a smile on my face. I suppose that's a way to explain it. Take these last two days for example - Tuesday and Wednesday we had retreats for 7/8 then 9/10 respectively (today was 11/12 and apparently three days was too much skipping school!). So, in one day we are expected to build the kind of atmosphere, unity, and crazy fun that the kids would normally find in one weekend.

That's a LOT of screaming, hand-springing, jumping, chanting, singing, cart-wheeling, and altogether uninhibited fun-having. Last night I collapsed when I arrived home at 6:30 pm and by 7:30 pm I wondered what was the absolute earliest hour I could officially go to sleep without being completely lame and old. By 7:34 pm I decided I didn't care about lameness... I cared more about my lower back pain from playing "volleyball" with a bunch of 14-year-olds and a giant ball the size of the sun (it seemed).

But, I love it. I love being silly, leading cheers, breaking the ice so the next guy has it a little bit easier. He can say, "Well, I may look ridiculous, but did you see Miss Nichols? Now, that teacher is trippin'!!" I don't mind one bit. I think it's kind of a gift, actually. And, if it gets out some of that awkwardness right away at the beginning, we may make some more headway in the true purpose of the day.

Yesterday, as I fell off the bleachers into the shaking hands of 9/10 graders to illustrate trust, I wondered if I'd gone wacko. Really, one of these times someone is going to get the shakes and move at the wrong moment and I'll be rushed to some backwoods clinic because some kid decided he didn't want to follow simple directions and save my skull. No, just kidding. But, the neat thing is, they did catch me. There are so many ways we can use that illustration... about trusting. First, trusting the Lord and knowing that if every single person in our lives disappoints us and breaks trust, He will not. He is faithful to the end. And, second, recognizing that God created us and called us to be part of the Body of Christ. As the Body we are responsible to support the community, though sometimes it may be scary or uncertain or even painful. This is the work of the Body of Christ.

You know the neat thing as you are "ministering" is that God ministers to your heart as well. At least, he does mine. Yesterday, I just felt such a strong sense of release that God will do the work of ministry faithfully with or without me. If I boast, let it be in His work, because He is sure to succeed.

Praise God!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

she said YES

I hope you don't feel strange that I am SO excited that Daniella said "YES" when I asked if we could meet one on one for discipleship. I'm not sure she knows yet what she's getting into, but after I met up with her tonight at a coffee shop I just kept praising God for the opportunities. I can't begin to describe the ways He is blessing me... and giving me ways to be a blessing to others!

After I left the triumphant meeting :), I picked up a friend in El Centro and drove to Micah Project for the Night Service again. And again it was beautiful. The boys are fantastic - great Spanish teachers and just really good brothers. The service is always special, simple, and intimate - we sit in a circle in the little courtyard and sing songs then hear a message.

I am tired from a long day, but very VERY blessed.

If you are tired and weary and carrying around some doubts, read Isaiah 41. A woman gave a testimony in church this morning and used this passage to encourage us... even as the times are uncertain, that we must remember who God is. So, go ahead and take a few minutes, even an hour and just meditate on the person of God.

Blessings to you!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

LOOONG list of first's'



Don't worry - I did not take these pictures. I was driving! Hopefully I'll have some to share soon, until then these from the internet will give you an idea of the streets.

What an absolutely crazy crazy day! Up until today, my experience driving here has been tame, enjoyable, and (I will now emphatically add) sheltered. Today I got the REAL primer on driving in this city and I remembered why I must totally rely on the Lord to always protect and provide a way out (especially in instances of crowded streets, one ways, and watching minor collisions with the ensuing public spectacle of deranged drivers). When I pulled in to my little cage tonight and clamped the padlock, I was EXHAUSTED, my nerves were still working overtime, and I think my neck is permanently stiff. However, I have more reason than ever to give God all the glory and praise, because even in this He has answered my prayers.

Today was the first day back at the feeding center. We had been stirring up the new teachers and so a good size group wanted to go and experience the joys of sharing songs, laughter, Bible stories, and hugs with dear little ones on the top of a different mountain. I thought this was fantastic... until I found out I would have to drive four of them, and I got a wee bit nervous. They met me in the city and before we started our journey we prayed for the day, the safety of the trip, and that God would receive the glory. Because, you see, this is exactly the reason I bought the car in the first place. [Well, actually, I can say we and include all those supportive people back home who both prayed and financially gave so this car would be a reality.]

So, I took the LOOONG way around to meet up with Pastor Marcos because I was most comfortable with that route. We got to the gas station without too much incident, although the girls did get a pretty thorough tour of the countryside (PS I could NOT have asked for better passengers - they were so encouraging!). We left the car at the ESSO, locked and prayed over (totally safe to do, by the way - we've done it with other cars at this station), and jumped into the back of the truck. This so reminded me of my first time going to the feeding center and things really came full circle when I was doing the explaining and tour guide-ing.

All the newbies (Sara, Christa, Stephanie, and Cara) loved it. Hearing the words, "This is what it's all about. This is what we came to see," made my heart so happy! Of course they came to be teachers, but to see that their hearts are for the Lord's work in this struggling country, outside the walls of the North American compound, well, it's like ice cream on a hot August day.

We went to feeding center #1 because we were such a big group, so I actually hadn't been there in a long time. Nelson asked if I would teach a lesson to the older girls... which completely caught me off guard! So, after the prayer and singing, we split off into groups and I taught a lesson on Psalm 139 ... how well God knows us, inside and out. It was amazing and crazy at the same time. I'm sure I made lots of mistakes, but I also think the Lord totally worked through the little extemporaneous lesson. Those girls are SO precious. I'm thinking maybe we'll be going to center #1 this year for that reason!

Afterwards came the tricky part. We got dropped off at the gas station and watched a car parade (in favor of Mel) block off the street we would soon try to enter. I followed Melvin a little ways before I jumped the median with all the other cars because no one could pass. That was a first in a LOOONG list of first's'.
1. First time jumping the median
2. First time navigating the streets of Comayaguela
3. First time following someone through narrow, windy, confusing city streets
4. First time watching a bus-taxi collision
5. Oh, yes, first time with four passengers who all happened to be new teachers
6. First time driving in El Centro
7. First time stuck in El Centro traffic
8. First time driving by the stadium
9. First time dropping off passengers at the Rapidito
10. First time on the anillo
11. First (okay, second) time watching a pro-Mel car parade from behind my windshield

Whew! There were probably more, but that's what gave me edgy nerves and a stiff neck. The Lord is so very, very faithful. I know for certain He was there, guiding and protecting us the entire way.

I have much more to share... about what I am learning, the excitement that is building for this year, books I've just finished, and the decoration process of our wonderful little place in the city. It will all come soon, just you wait!

Friday, August 21, 2009

the postmodern missionary

I wrote this poem for my newsletter that came out and thought you might appreciate reading it. It's been awhile since I posted poetry, but this is something that I've been thinking about as I read the news and sit in conversation with my contemporaries. I suppose you see how I feel about the mess I found. Don't be mistaken, I'll include myself in these tendencies as well.

amidst trends and fashions
we set out to reach “the lost”
though even that word itself
is starting to sound odd

what is lost anyway?
we are not quite sure
but we are certain we can
lead others to be secure

with less than compassion
and little thought of the best
we ‘make do’ with half-hearted
and we settle for less

a model contrived
of our own skilled volition
jaws determinedly set
to accomplish this mission

little notice we give
to saints of the past
who have weathered the storms
we are sure not to last

of such relevant struggles
old hearts know not one thing
each day is brand new
with new messages to bring

we will persevere, though
in our own way
don’t you dare say different
or we’ll lead you, too, astray

step aside now, concern,
don’t mottle our path
wisdom comes too slow
time to wait has now passed

tradition, stay clear,
we need not your sturdy presence
you will only hinder
our mission and strong cadence

listen here, Lord,
please don’t show your face
we’re content to chase our passions
and Your presence might be a disgrace

Please leave your comments and let me know what you think... is it too harsh? Am I imagining things? What is to be done? All questions and no answers. That's where YOU come in! :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

what's wrong with lemons?


I am sitting here (listening to the clacking heels of my neighbor just arriving and the various yelping dogs) and sipping on some wonderful "I Love Lemon" Bigelow tea. And I wonder, how did lemons ever get a bad rap? What did they do to deserve being smeared across ugly stories of car sales gone wrong? Well, I am here to pay some narrative (and philosophical) restitution. I love lemons! And I propose that the situations we written off as sour may actually be sweet in disguise.

Case in point:
Though I tend to lean toward optimism, the back of my mind keeps pounding on the front door saying, "Why did you leave that safe mountain?" My closest friends from last year still live there, along with all the amazing new staff. Ministry events happen there. Cleaner air is there. Carpooling happens and hikes happen and impromptu worship sessions happen and all sorts of good things happen up there.

I re-read my blog from yesterday and God is so faithful to point out where we are blessed! But, tonight, whatever was left in a "lemon story" of my move down the mountain is gone and all that remains is the sweet tasting "I Love Lemon" tea my grandma so thoughtfully sent with me when I left the states.

I just got back from a beautiful prayer meeting at church. I'm going to a different church now, in El Centro (the center of the city) and its close enough that I can walk or use public transportation (in daylight, of course). I have several co-workers who attend the church, but for some reason never tried it out. I have this strange fear of looking flimsy when it comes to commitments, so when I start something out I try to stick to it (which meant a whole year of commitment to Impacto last year).

I went last Sunday for the first time and it felt so good to worship in Spanish again! I also saw several boys from the Micah Project (the street kid ministry I keep talking about) and I finally started to see my worlds merging... local church with outreach and outreach with work. It's crazy how the mind tries to keep those separate. Anyway, I loved the service and I felt the pastor really spoke Truth from the Word.

A chaplain from another school also goes to that church and I recognized him at the service. He invited me to the Micah Project service that same night and I'm so glad I went. He knew I was still trying to decide about churches, but he sent me a message letting me know about the prayer meeting tonight. After a crazy day at work, I needed a good walk and mid-week reminder of the Lord's purpose, so I went. What a blessed night it was!

Standing there, singing "De Los Montes" and truly believing the words, I was swept up by a new sense of 'locality' that I never felt last year. I went to the service by myself and afterwards met many beautiful people afterwards. I am always amazed at how gracious people can be with a stuttering second language speaker! I met Johanna, who sings in the band, and she is studying psychology at the university and wants to get together to "hang out." And, I found out Santa Maria and her family live close to me (they gave me a ride home!) and they invited me over for baleadas!

With all of this confirmation, it is so very clear God desires the city to be a place where I love lemons. I think we sometimes look at situations that surprise or disappoint us and say, "Well, I guess you'll have to make do." or "Maybe this season is just mean to be a bit sour."

I think different.

Situations that surprise or even disappoint are often about to be the most wonderful we've ever experienced.

... I got all that out of one cup of "I Love Lemon" tea.
Wow. Thanks, grandma!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Counting My Many Blessings!

Well, I am a bit overwhelmed. Where do I start? How do I begin?

I kind of feel this way in several areas. The familiarity of the school, city, and people balanced out by my moving to a new place, finding new staff, and adjusting to a different position. There are so many good things, I have a hard time focusing on being productive (which, if you know me, drives me crazy!).

So, I wanted to make a list... so I could visually see the ways God is working and blessing the ministries here. He has already made so many confirmations in my life in these short weeks since my return to Honduras and I would love to share them!

1. Apartment in the city
Last year, I prayed for ways to expand ministry and outreach. Living on top of a mountain, believe it or not, is not the most accessible and central location. I was part of a beautiful community and breathtaking scenery, but I sensed a desire to be better connected to the heartbeat of the city. I'm not sure how this makes sense with my farm-girl roots, but I'm sure it has something to do with appreciating Creation - both in the still, sturdy work and in the multitude of faces. Well, all of that to say, I MOVED. I am in a wonderful apartment with a new roommate, Emily. We are within walking distance of about anywhere (if you have no timeframe in mind) and my feet have found such joy in exploring the new surroundings. I am close enough to meet students for coffee, host fellowship dinners, pick students up for church and drop them off after events on the mountain.

2. Ministry Opportunities
I have only been down here a few weeks, and to be honest, I've had moments of wondering, "When will all those things I visioned happened? I don't have ANY plans for the night!" But, God is faithful even when I am impatient. Last night, I went to a service with Micah Project, an organization that rescues street kids and disciples to live and serve as Christ, while learning a trade and going to school. The service was just so great - simple. But, a perfect reminder that the Lord will show me where He wants to use me this year. I just have to be willing to wait for the opportunities and obediently follow.

(this is also the organization I collected jeans and shoes and supplies for when I was in Atlantic... and it's a good thing because they were in DESPERATE need of just those items!)

3. New staff
I've also been praying (along with many prayer warriors) for the incoming staff to just be filled with a fire and vision for the Lord's work here... Not just within the classroom, but also in relationships with students and pouring into the city. Well, God has done just that. He has brought a fantastic group of teachers who are ready to serve and love. I am so very thankful!

4. Students
Tonight we made posters with the incoming seniors to put up on the walls - inspirational quotes and Bible verses so the students will be greeted with something lively when they arrive on Thursday. This was totally voluntary and separate from an "official" school function, but a good 15 students showed up and I was so encouraged! We prayed and sang a few songs to usher in the new year. This makes me even more excited to see my girls from last year (who I've been in touch with) and get things rolling once again.

5. Safety
Wow. I guess this is a blessing in so many ways. I feel beyond blessed that I arrived safely here, after a LOT of crazy traveling confusion (mostly traveling stupidity on my part - but did you know God shows grace even when we are stupid?). Amidst political turmoil in this country and a bit of fear in the people, I have never felt threatened in any way - praise the Lord. I also feel the Lord's protection every time I get into the Honda Civic (Lewis, as we affectionately call him) to drive somewhere. To be honest, I was very nervous about driving, but from the very beginning I knew the confidence and safety are in the Lord's hands and I've had peace ever since. Every time I get in, I say a prayer that God would cover us with his hands and I know He is faithful.

The Lord is SO very good. I hope that you hear that today, more than anything else. Our Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is good. He is the same MIGHTY God who has delivered His rebellious children time and time again and He will remain faithful to the end. It is part of His character. That amazes me.

Blessings to you!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My new place - take a tour!

Okay, I know you have all been waiting to see what my place looks like in the city, so I thought I could give you a tour. Check it out and tell me what you think... and when you plan to come visit me!
video


Once again, I am so enjoying this time to prepare for this school year. I am certain the Lord is already doing a great work within me in preparation for His great work here. Please be in prayer, as I know many of you are, for the political situation here. Though it is not what the news may make it out to be, we need prayer for wisdom in our highest government offices and in the lives of the everyday folk.

Today I am having lunch with friends, hanging out with my new roomie, and then meeting up with old/new staff on the mountain for a reunion of sorts. Work officially starts tomorrow morning at 8 am!

Honduran Horizon - JULY!

It almost passed by without as much as an email or blog post... but I just couldn't do it. July was just too wonderful to not commemorate with a newsletter. So, even though it is a little late, I hope you will enjoy this edition of the Honduran Horizon newsletter.
Click on this link or the picture below to go to the newsletter page.




Highlights of the past couple weeks:
I am settling into my new apartment in the city and I absolutely LOVE it. I love the nearness to so many places, the people I can call neighbors, the Spanish practice (that is now 24/7), and mostly the feeling that I am a part of this place.

I have to share this short anecdote:
In the process of moving all of my stuff from the top of the mountain into the city (picture the most precarious pile of belongings hoisted, shoved, and stacked ... with bits of nylon rope to secure everything in place ... on top of a beater pick-up truck driving at questionable speeds down a curving mountain road), I forgot some things. I figured I could gather most of the things I forgot and drive them down in a couple days, but my hangers I could not do without. So I took the little bus up the mountain and found my giant bunch of hangers, tied together with a useful piece of nylon rope, and made my way back to my unpacked suitcases. I jumped off the busito at the base of the mountain and started walking toward my new place, when I saw a woman on the sidewalk. We exchanged the expected, "Hola, buenos dias" and as I was moving on my way, she pointed to my bundle of hangers and said, "Se vende?" Yep, that's right, she was wanting to buy hangers from me. I was so shocked at the question I'm not sure what I mumbled, but I do remember being so excited that I fit that well into the city landscape that I would be confused as a vendor!

I am now a confident driver on the Honduran roadways! I am so thankful (not proud, mind you - because my safety has nothing to do with me, I'm convinced!) that God has been gracious in this learning process and I continue to begin every road trip with a short prayer that it be in His hands and timing.

I am working on Bible studies, service plans, and student contact... everything bundled into a great adventure I am setting out on with my Prince (the way I affectionately call my Lord now, after reading Authentic Beauty by Leslie Ludy).

Well, this has to be all for now, but expect many, more frequent updates my friends! I am back in action and I have missed writing. I do not feel guilty, however, when I go on blog-strike (which usually happens when I return to my Iowa home) because I know it means I am focusing on the face-to-face ... and finding joy there is so beautiful!

Blessings to each one of you today!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Honduras: how do we know the truth?

Well, here are a few things to help us figure it out.

This youtube video shows the chronology of recent events here in Honduras.



This article is an interesting look at the impact recent events and controversy has had on Honduras as a country. We need your support!

Why I Came to Honduras

Shared via AddThis

Don't worry - I am working on many of things to share with you. It has been a crazy amount of time and I wish I could tell all of you everything. My weeks at home were more than I could have hoped for. Every memory and conversation and face and prayer encouraged me in such fantastic ways. Thank you all for being so wonderful! Those I saw and those I didn't, I am just reminded of my roots in family, friendships, and most of the Body of Christ.

I will write soon!