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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tonight I'm Recommending

For the past two nights, my beloved green tea has betrayed me (in the form of crazy, wakeful eyes deep into the night), so tonight I am just going to leave you with some links and non-links to check out.

This is the recipe (from allrecipes.com, my newest online obsession because it stores and categorizes everything for you!) that I used tonight to make cookies for tomorrow. The title enticed me right away - Best Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie and I've gotta say, I wasn't disappointed!

I've been tickling my ears with some different sounds these days. I won't get into any philosophizing about it, but I'm a huge new fan of briterevolution - I mean what could be better than supporting a cause AND good music at the same time? Anyway, through the site, I found out about Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, who I would highly, highly suggest if you are searching for chill harmonies and simple melodies.

I'd like to recommend my mom. Yep, she is pretty wonderful (see previous post). She also has a blog where she is writing about her two African sons, staying with my parents for a year on an exchange program. The stories are funny, but I think I mostly love it because I know my mom is behind the keys!

Fold laundry. Yes, I guess you could say this is a non-link. It's something that relaxes me and slows me down. Sometimes, as I am folding I wonder how creative one can be or how precise or what kind of fold minimizes wrinkles. All of these thoughts are good and welcome because they mean I am not thinking other thoughts and I think that is healthy.

Send/receive packages (another non-link). Today, I got a package from my amazing mother. Inside were things I love: almonds, kashi granola bars, orange spice tea, Real Simple magazines, a few letters and announcements, and WORLD magazines. I am not ashamed to say I read the Real Simple family edition cover to cover... and enjoyed every page!

I've been pondering what community and the church and the Body of believers is kind of morphing into (by way of social networking online) and I think this article in Christianity Today is interesting.

And lastly, as I am in the midst of praying for many people who are hurting, struggling, journeying, and trying to figure out where God is... this passage from Lamentations is a beautiful reminder:

Lamentations 3

1 a]">[a] I am the man who has seen affliction
by the rod of his wrath.

2 He has driven me away and made me walk
in darkness rather than light;

3 indeed, he has turned his hand against me
again and again, all day long.

4 He has made my skin and my flesh grow old
and has broken my bones.

5 He has besieged me and surrounded me
with bitterness and hardship.

6 He has made me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.

7 He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
he has weighed me down with chains.

8 Even when I call out or cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer.

9 He has barred my way with blocks of stone;
he has made my paths crooked.

10 Like a bear lying in wait,
like a lion in hiding,

11 he dragged me from the path and mangled me
and left me without help.

12 He drew his bow
and made me the target for his arrows.

13 He pierced my heart
with arrows from his quiver.

14 I became the laughingstock of all my people;
they mock me in song all day long.

15 He has filled me with bitter herbs
and sated me with gall.

16 He has broken my teeth with gravel;
he has trampled me in the dust.

17 I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.

18 So I say, "My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the LORD."

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.

20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.

21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."

25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;

26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

wish words were better

have you ever found yourself so easily expressive when you are at the bottom? the words come out like a water hydrant - broken, spewing and streaming out of control.

but then blessings come like the most beautiful downpour and then... nothing.

this is how I feel right now.

God unleashes the most gentle, welcome shower of promises today and all I can do is smile up at the sky with a silly wet face.

Monday, September 28, 2009

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

Sunday, September 27, 2009

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)

Friday, September 25, 2009

papa

a poem for my dad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

every season with it came
a new thing for us to conquer
unruly bulls, flaming buildings, and
flooding basements almost put us asunder

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 24, 2009

making baleadas

If you ever find yourself in Central America, called to work at a Christian school... And if that school has only been in session 12 1/2 days due to swine flu and political crises... And if that length of time spent outside of your work (without seeing students' faces) forces an inner struggle with purpose... And if that inner struggle turns into a more tangible questioning... And if all of this builds to an unaccountable climax, you may wonder what to do.

May I suggest making baleadas?

Emily and I ventured out today and walked the streets, which seemed strangely normal. Everything from traffic to hot dog stands to stocked produce shelves at the grocery store. It made yesterday seem like a day-long dream.

Taxi drivers still sat in the same spot by the hospital, shirts folded above their bellies and mothers still walked arm-in-arm with their grown daughters down the street to catch the bus. Furniture stores were still selling furniture and our favorite frozen yogurt place still sold frozen yogurt.

My brain quickly tired of trying to come up with explanations of why everything looked so... normal. We finally made it back home and I guess we both thought we'd like to turn our minds to the kitchen to tackle something important and patriotic... like baleadas.

Wikipedia says the name baleadas comes from either the bullet shape of the bean () or a legend that a woman making them was accidentally shot (bala means bullet). I'm not sure where the name comes from, but the taste is absolutely delicious. I've had baleadas at some of the most "local" places in the city - on the street in Guanacaste and at the stadium market - and I definitely appreciate the flavor. My neighbors from church also invited me over for baleadas one Friday night and I got to see the whole process unfold right there in the kitchen.

Well, I know we didn't do everything right. And, to be honest, the result was probably not near as "Honduran" as I let myself believe (could that be due to the fact that we got all of our recipes online instead of from a wise, aging Honduran neighbor?).

Here, I'll invite you to see our "normal therapy" today:
Emily started the beans YESTERDAY. That's right, they took over 24 hours. I think we picked up the wrong beans at the store yesterday, but who could blame us? It was mayhem! I think she added garlic, chili powder, and cumin. After soaking and cooking them forever, she smashed and then blended them, adding a little oil.
I looked up directions for tortillas (something I was convinced everyone said was super easy, but I would find to be hard) and decided I would master it. Of course, I am doing whole wheat tortillas because I've got to try to make these things healthier because they taste so good. I found a recipe with five ingredients and simple directions (thanks sarah pachev). I added my tortilla-pounding skills from my church friend Maria, who used the brim of a plate (for uniformity, of course). After making about five, I realized why those women in the market sweat so much, with their hands constantly over a skillet!

Then, on to the eggs. Emily cut up onions, red peppers, and green peppers, and then I cooked them in a bit of oil and added tomato paste and water (we didn't have tomatos). Then we added eggs and minutes later we were all through!
I know this doesn't sound like a big accomplishment - refried beans, eggs, and tortillas. But, the big test is tasting the Honduras in everything. Because it's not just beans, eggs, and tortillas... it's way WAY better.
I think the baleadas was just the antidote our minds needed tonight. You know, I'm appreciating more and more this perseverance I see to do normal life, amongst very abnormal circumstances. Baleadas was the most normal thing we could think to do tonight after four days of uncertainty, no school, and mounting questions. Baleadas just felt right.

And tonight, after we heard we weren't having school again tomorrow, we knocked on our neighbors' door to ask the family of three if they would like to have dinner with us on Friday night. You know, because that is normal and this is life here, with or without demonstrations and school and my own understanding of purpose.

Honduras, land I love

Many of you are probably already aware of the situation here in Honduras. If not, please read as much as you can from as many news sources as you can (preferably some in Spanish) so you can understand the fullest story. I don't want to re-hash what you can read in reliable news sources (see: www.online.wsj.com), but I would like to share some pictures I've gathered from the internet and the news sources I'm reading/consolidating to get my information.

Before all of the chaos of Mel's return, graffiti and demonstrations were the extent of tensions here. After his arrival, the graffiti/demonstrations have climbed to extremes and so have the tensions.
This is an example of what some of the Mel supporters (La Resistencia) are doing on the streets. Mel's return, he rallied his supporters outside the Brazilian Embassy with the words, "I am here for the restoration of democracy," which I think should seem strange to many people, because it is exactly democracy that calls him to account for illegal acts. He also said, "From now on, nobody gets us out of here again, so our position is homeland, restitution, or death." Apparently, he is prepared to die in an effort to again become president of this country. I wonder what good that would do us - a very determined and a very convicted, dead president.

The police, admittedly a rough lot, have united with the military to try to contain the violent protestors. They are using tear gas and water cannons (at least that is all that is being reported) to keep vandalism and violence at bay. Though we would hope the military has only the best interest of the common citizen in mind, it is likely they too have their own agenda and methods to end the unrest. Some of the Resistencia seem to have little care for who their actions effect. USAToday reported that some protestors stormed an ambulance and attacked three Red Cross workers, accusing them of being part of the coup. Meanwhile, the UN delivered hot dogs to Zelaya and supporters inside the Brazilian Embassy (msnbc reports) because, of course, nothing else was available in a city under curfew.
On Monday, the city of Tegucigalpa began this curfew (which basically means we are confined to our houses under the threat of being detained by military if we leave) at 4 pm. Originally, the curfew was to be imposed until the next morning at 7 am. On Tuesday the curfew was extended to 6 pm that night and then until the next morning. We were reading as many reports as possible when we could get an internet signal, as we do not have cable, and in one report I read that Honduras is losing $50 million every day its citizens are not allowed to work.

Though Emily and I live in the city (and within 7-10 minutes walking from the Brazilian Embassy), our neighborhood has been very quiet. We learn about the riots from friends who call worried about us and our location. We were somewhat skeptical of their reports until on Wednesday we were allowed out for a window of time in order to get groceries and visit the pharmacies. As we drove around the city - with the rest of the curfew-abiding citizens - we were surprised at the patience (at times) combined with fear we saw in the people.

(One of my students took this picture in a local grocery store, where her family had gone to get the necessities for an undetermined amount of time. The store ran out of sugar, eggs, bread, and all the staples and the people were starting to get in a frenzy. When the cart came with bread, the shoppers became out of control and people were crazy to secure a loaf.)
We later learned that Mel supporters had not only stormed several grocery stores in the previous nights (where curfew was imposed), but left them vandalized with broken windows and nothing on the shelves. They even went to the extremes of digging up rocks on the cobblestone street to throw at cars parked on the streets and in parking lots. They moved on to gas stations and fast food restaurants as well, even taking the little money collection bottles at the counter intended for "Kids with Cancer." (Cadena Nacional - a local news station reported this with footage I cannot find)
Originally, we believed the government released us from the curfew because it would be extended (and the nightly news then reported) indefinitely after we secured food and medicines. Now, however, we speculate that we were encouraged to get groceries because of the irrational nature of the Resistencia. We woke up this morning, Thursday, and the curfew was not extended. Though this was a surprise, the only reason we can see is that those of us acknowledging the curfew were not the people making trouble. The mob of protestors who ignored the imposed curfew was only growing and the problems were increasing the past couple nights. The government wanted us to have access to groceries before the mob stormed more grocery stores and made more chaos in the streets (that's our guess).

Though I'm sure I do not understand the whole ordeal, I do know that Zelaya is being encouraged by what he calls the "international community," basically Venezuela, United States, Brazil, and Nicaragua. However, without the support of the United States, many speculate the Zelaya's return (commended as valiant by Hugo Chavez) would not have been possible. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the persistence of Obama, Clinton, and other international leaders to bring Zelaya back into power is absurd if not embarrassing. Though an official, current Honduran Constitution is hard to come by, we do know that Zelaya's actions warranted a response. The response his Congress chose, though it may not have been best, may have been one of few options. And, now that we see the tension and unrest resulting from Zelaya's presence here, we might more fully understand their desire to have him exiled.

Reports today from Bloomberg.com say Zelaya is now telling supporters that he knows of a plan (by the current government) to storm the Brazilian Embassy and kill him, claiming it was a suicide. Michelletti's office, of course, denied these claims and pointed to these extreme statemtns as Zelaya's methods to incite the mob.

I could go on and on, but I encourage you to do your own research and then join me in prayer. Though I am definitely not in favor of Zelaya, I know there is corruption on many if not all sides in this crisis. I have friends and students who believe (though not in favor of Mel or the violent protests) the Resistance campaign is only calling for due process and adherence to the Constitution laws in full, not only when it benefits the other party. Unfortunately, this is not a crisis where we ask, "whose side are you on?" but one with complicated details that begs the question of lesser evils.

PRAY
Please pray that Christians will unite as one in prayer. Also, as we are kept from school these past three days, pray for the teachers and staff whose purpose right now can only be to remain diligent in prayer and faithful in communicating with students. Pray for the students, that they would not fear, but know of the Love that casts out all fear that comes by way of the world. Pray for the people here, who are struggling after missing days working - it hurts on every level, from business owners to the cleaning maids.

I have added links to photos and videos below.

Slideshow at Wall Street Journal


Slideshow with captions at Washington Post


Video in Spanish with footage from ransacked grocery stores


News article from Wall Street Journal (the publication we are most following here)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

oh what a night!

Yes, tonight I did go out to eat and then to the mall dressed RIDICULOUSly with some of my girlfriends to celebrate Macayla's fleeting single status. I was a little bit ashamed, but at the same time a little bit thrilled to be back to doing the silly things I cherished in college. Here's a picture to give you an idea of our little escapade. Notice the silver confetti in our festive plastic glasses and the absolute randomness of the whole ordeal. It reminds me of college sophomore year in Gilmore (during sorority rush) where we created our own "frarority" called Galpha Franarara. The whole point of it was to dress silly and go out in public. Completely clean fun and fantastic photo opportunities (just the way I like it!).
Here's also some promo materials for an activity coming up for hands and feet, the high school service organization.

These are posters for the upcoming SLEEP-OUT event, where we will raise support (kind of relay-for-life style) for the kids to sleep outside on the soccer field on cardboard boxes. We will invite the Micah Project to come and be guests and we'll have other activities as well... Please pray that this event happens and brings glory to God in the process!



Saturday, September 19, 2009

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.

Friday, September 18, 2009

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)


Thursday, September 17, 2009

dear diary

dear diary,

i am reading this new book. it's flashy and trendy and has exactly the right amount of author honesty stamped on its clean white pages. the beautiful stories of someone else's life has got me hooked like a helpless fish and grasping to make her struggles and dreams somehow part of my own.

on the pages of a book even the tragedy of loss seems strangely romantic. yesterday i picked it up again and flipped through several chapters. i can't help but see her life as dreamy and extravagant, though the typeface admits her daily struggles with life's everyday-ness.

i don't fit there. i'm almost positive there will never be a time when my 'everyday' includes spontaneous trips to europe or annual vacations to private islands or elegant dinner parties or frequent flyer miles to visit old friends. i mean, i guess i can't be totally sure.

but, i'm okay with that. why do i feel like, as i'm reading, that this has to be my story too? that what this author pens as her dreams and tales and desires... somehow has to reflect the bud wrestling to burst forth from the little tree inside of me?

it doesn't, right?

my 'everyday' discoveries of joy and my less elegant, far simpler dreams of what my life will become ... those are legit too, right?

i believe yes. i believe that if five years from now i'm still making art on canvas that no one understands (we'll just call it abstract ;) and still wishing for solitary places to write from my imagined deep, philosophical gut with the hopes of one day writing something that is significant and still acting 17 though I will be pushing 30 and still floundering about without a "normal" job and financial plan and still wishing that I could be part of something outrageously bigger than myself (though not completely sure what that might be) and still just doing the day-in-day-out randomness that seems to be the puzzle pieces of my life...

if i'm still that person, i guess that's okay.

and i guess, diary, what i want to say is that i'm learning that loving people is hearing them ask this same question and then hearing different answers. even the author, i'm sure, as she was writing, was daily proving her legitimacy - of dreams and joys and struggles and pains.

loving people, maybe, is knowing that what i've got to say may not resonate with you. and what you're telling me may not make any sort of sense at all. but hearing each word - a little gift bundled in a (sometimes) messy package - open up to reveal a teeny bit more about who we are.

i think when i was in high school i had this quote on my wall: "to understand any living thing you must creep inside and feel the beating of its heart." according to my google search, W. Macneille Dixon said some version of this so he gets the credit.

the wonderfully crazy thing about creeping inside anyone and feeling the heartbeat, is that this kind of deepest love always, always, always reveals who made us.

now that is significant.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

DIA de INDEPENDENCIA

What a beautiful day yesterday! I celebrated with Honduras their Independence Day and I tried to experience all that the capital city had to offer (which was much less this year because of all the political commotion).

I started out to meet a friend for coffee in Parque Central, by the Cathedral, but quickly found out this day refused to be like all the other September 15 holidays. Though everyone was surely celebrating, there were certainly two sides. In Parque Central everyone gathered in red to support the exiled President, Mel Zelaya, while others dressed in blue crowded the stadium a short 10-minute-walk away. I walked through and saw each processional (impressive in their own ways) and was thankful that a unspoken vow of peace surrounded each ceremony. Police and military were lined up outside on the streets and at main government buildings just in case things got out of hand, but they didn't.




Unfortunately, I didn't know I would be happening on such an event, otherwise I would have brought my camera. The pictures you see above are taken from one of the main publications, El Heraldo(www.elheraldo.hn), but you can insert my face in some of those crowds.

The most impressive (to me) was watching about 8 paratroopers dropped from helicopters somewhere above the stadium and then seeing their precision as they glided down to perfect landings in front of the huge crowd. I felt kind of proud of my little adopted country. I think I felt a lot proud yesterday, actually, that I could take part in celebrating the independence of a beautiful place with such wonderful people.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

links for Tuesday

Hello there are HAPPY Tuesday! Here are just a few things I want to recommend. Check them out and let me know what you think :)

Day of Light Movie

Day of Light from Love Light & Melody on Vimeo.



Is this inspiration for projects here at the trash dump? I think maybe yes. :) I definitely think our students are capable ... now it is a matter of possible.

Brite Revolution
This is a website where independent artists post two songs a month and for a subscription ($5/month) you can download everything. You are supporting the artist AND you are supporting a cause, because each artist picks a cause and some of the proceeds every month go to that organization. Pretty cool way to get legal, awesome music, right? Right! Check it out!

Dave Ramsey - Peace University
I know I already gave Ramsey props yesterday, but I really do think that this is such a beautiful way to make your wallet reflect your heart. Just take a look and see what you think.


I'm making this short because lately I've been LONG-winded! :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

stewardship

When I say steward, my mind inevitably jumps to church and elders and offering plates. I'm not sure why, though, because stewardship is a thread woven through each day and almost all decisions.

To be honest, money kind of scares me. It nearly always has. I grew up in a beautiful family and we survived on SO little for most of my childhood, so why am I so nervous now about my finances?

Maybe it's because I went through college working two jobs to make the next payment or maybe because I'm constantly bombarded with messages that I don't have enough. Or maybe it is because I am just nervous that I won't do what is best with what I have and then later regret it.

For whatever reason, I fear debt like the black plague and my private-school-tuition-condition is not easily cured by a simple vaccine. What is more is the addition of living and working at a Christian school in Honduras, partially supported by people in the States who believe in the the work the Lord can accomplish through me. They are taming the lion of loan payments, supporting outreach ministries, and blessing me in so many ways. Though I labor joyfully to write updates regularly (see my newsletters), I still want to show people exactly how their money (or God's money, rather:) is being used to further the kingdom.

How can I live and work here, accepting generous gifts and tithes AND also be at peace with my spending habits? I needed accountability!

Enter Dave Ramsey.

Though I never took the class, I had seen several videos, listened to his radio show, and heard many friends rave about the transformational nature of his philosophy of money. I know my situation is different. I am not the person who will call into his radio show, distraught at making $600 rent payments for an apartment, $400 payments for my brand new car, and paying minimum on at least 4 credit cards, not to mention the horrendous burden of college debt.

This is not me (if this is you, don't freak out, just go to Dave Ramsey's website!), but these concerns I do have: college debt and financial accountability for funds raised. After much thought this summer, quickly reviewing some of Ramsey's materials, and talking with several people who had been through the class, I realized that discipline was the one ingredient that would help put my mind and heart at ease this year.

Last year, when I arrived, I tried to enter every single receipt into an excel document, which of course, was a great idea until I could no longer fit my purchases into the categories I made and the receipts started to get so burdensome.

So, now I am working on a new system. I planned out what I thought my budget could look like for each month (with the helpful planning materials) and commandeered some very nice looking, large manila envelopes which I made into my organization system in my closet.

Though it may not be wise to keep large amounts of money lying around my house, I am thinking of adapting Ramsey's suggestion of all cash and putting "play money" in the envelopes. Most of my transactions can be done with a debit card here (and this is much safer). But, if I take the fake money along, I know that there is a limit to my spending. I also know where the money is coming from and can track it by category.

This first month has been hard, I'll admit. I'm trying to figure out just how much of what I am spending is one-time costs and what will be recurring. I moved into a new apartment, so there are many things (like a mirror or mosquito spray or a mop) that will not be monthly purchases. I guess I'm just trying to get an idea of what is necessary in each category. So far, I've been filing each receipt in its proper envelope. At the end of this month, I will go through and see how much I spent in each category.

I'm not sure how this will work, but I do know one thing: it feels much better to have my finances out in the light instead of haphazardly stored in the creative filing system of my brain. I truly, truly want to live as a wise steward of the resources I have been given.

When the students ask me how I got my car I usually say something like this, "Well, it's actually not mine. It's the Lord's car. A lot of people were very generous to make it possible for me to pick you up tonight. This is the Lord's car that He is letting me use for ministry."

I love saying that because it reminds me that every single thing I possess is really just on loan. I want to be faithful with the littlest of bits because I know nothing material can echo in eternity.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

this is my confession

Without going into too much detail (and making this cleansing process about me instead of the Lord)... I finally dealt with a very heavy guilt from a past sin. I knew the Lord was asking me to confess to the offended party and now I know Satan has nothing to hold over my head. Though I had asked the Lord for forgiveness long ago, I knew in my heart I needed to confess to the person as well. I ignored this conviction for years, but in the past week I finally relented and OH the sweet release!

Now, when Satan tries to deceive me with his lies of guilt and inadequacy, I just point straight to the cross and Truth. This week has been about God's healing, redemption, and the work He can do through our brokenness in the lives of others. I just praise God for His victory over what is so filthy in our lives. I am honestly humbled everyday with the foolish, stupid things I do. I am more and more in awe of the Lord's patience with such a wayward soul.

Sometimes I wonder if He rolls His eyes. I mean, I sure would if I had to watch me make so many mistakes. But, you know, I don't think He does. I'm convinced that therein lies the beauty in His character - He never, ever changes. He is ALWAYS good and ALWAYS faithful, ALWAYS patient, and ALWAYS True. always.

I heard this song for the first time this week and it just seems to fit with this beautiful, redemptive lesson. This is almost exactly how I felt whenever I thought about this specific sin: dirty, ashamed, nothing to offer or bring. All of this I bring, all the rags, to the feet of my Prince and believe that His beauty will cover me.

wait for Your rain by Todd Agnew
I cannot believe I'm this dirty
I'm ashamed to even ask to be clean

'Cause I can't think of anyone less worthy
I have nothing to offer or to bring
I throw myself on Your mercy

I throw myself at Your feet
I throw my filth on the grace of
One who's beauty is beyond me

And I wait
And I wait
I'm not even sure how I got here
Wondered to this darkness from Your light

I still remember walking in the garden with You
Now I'm just stumbling through this night
I throw myself on Your mercy

I throw myself at Your feet

I throw my filth on the grace of
One who's beauty is beyond me

And I wait

And I wait

I wait for Your rain to fall

The waves of Your grace wash over me

I wait for Your rain to fall

Strange how forgiveness comes so easily

When I call Your name

And wait for Your rain

Lord, this desert is killing me
My throat's dry from screaming Your name

I want to come home but the sands of time surround me
The dirt's finally covered my shame
So I throw myself on Your mercy

I throw myself at Your feet

I throw my filth on the grace of
One who's beauty is beyond me

And I wait

Saturday, September 12, 2009

the last two weeks

A week ago, I was lamely wishing for 48 hour days and bodies without need of rest.

Now, I've had almost an entire week without school, thank you gripe porcina (swine flu), and more time than I thought possible. Yes, that's right. Monday was going along like any day, when my principal appeared in my office doorway. In a calmer voice than the situation warranted, he said, "We are not telling students at this point, but we will not be having classes for two weeks starting tomorrow." He would have walked out, too (in the same unceremonious way) if I had not stopped him and made him listen to my gawking, confusing responses.

"For two whole weeks?" "Just like that?" "The school is closed - like we can't work?" "What will we do exactly?"

I finally let him leave, but I was almost in tears. I knew almost immediately this was an attack spiritually, because we are really at a tipping point for students. The first spiritual life activities were planned to start this week and they were canceled. It is also just a crucial relationship-building time with students (my first Bible study was to be this week), where we are just getting to the place of trust and confidence and they are making decisions about what this year will look like. Here is a sample of my Bible study poster for 11th grade and the breakfast club Bible study for 10-12th grades.


As always, what Satan intends for evil, God can always turn to blessing. After my initial shock, I ended up joyful to enter into these two weeks where I really felt led to meet with as many students as possible. I posted this on my facebook:

Caroline Nichols
gripe porcina decided it wanted to close our school for two weeks... so I decided to OPEN 'camp nichols'. Feel free to check in for a free night or a week at my humble abode in la campaña - bring your own food and entertainment. I'm now OPEN for business and ready for visitors :)

and about I went. I've had girls over, one spend the night, and plans for more this week. I am trying to meet up with them, but also take the time to do some reflecting, planning, visioning, and nesting (no, I'm still not done with that phase!).

Here are some stories that will make you laugh, I hope!

a few funny stories
minor accident - So, last Monday we found out there would be no school for two weeks. How do we celebrate? Well, I picked up Daniella and MariaJose and we went out to coffee. Though I know I depend solely on the Lord to make the car function and bring us safely to our destination, the girls have been pretty impressed with my driving abilities. This night was no different. However, as we pull up to the little coffee house parking lot (no bigger than a bedroom and right off a busy street), the parking attendants couldn't do enough hand motions to get the lady in front of me to stop backing up. So, she didn't. She backed right into me!! Boy, was that interesting! I received a crash course (tehe) in fender-bender protocol. Good thing was, this woman was hugely sorry and ended up just giving me cash (that she randomly left at a fabric store for me to pick up!?) to fix the chrome grille molding.

contra via- After meeting with Daniella one night, I was driving her to church and she motioned to take a right on the next street. Before I got to far, the drivers were hanging out their windows yelling, "contravia!" which of course means that I was going the wrong way. Don't worry, this has only happened on three occasions! :) I corrected myself and playfully yelled at Daniella, who could not stop laughing. "It USED to be two way, Miss, I swear!"

painting at a student's house- One day this week, I woke up and leisurely went about a lazy morning routine before I headed over to MariaJose's house to lay in the sun (at 9 am!) on her little back porch and then paint her sister's bedroom.

home improvement projects
I'm not sure if it is the fabulous apron I made with my grandma, or if it is the new apartment in the city... whatever it is, I just love to make creations in the kitchen. When my students came over last week, we endeavored to make homemade pizza from scratch. Of course it took ENTIRELY too long for them to appreciate and enjoy, I had fun and we had lots of time to hang out in the kitchen :) My favorite and easiest addition to my diet is hummus. I have only had a few varieties that I really like, so what is better than to make it the way I like it right here in my own kitchen?! I use black beans with the garbanzo beans and I use less lemon juice than they suggest. I also add a splash of spice and there's my snack for the week!

I have also welcomed the re-discovery of decorating this new place. I have painted a few canvases, experimented with lanterns, and really thought about how to use my home as a physical reminder of my spiritual goals.


What else? This is getting too long already. I realize I haven't written in such a long time. I promise I will make it up soon! A September newsletter is on its way! While you are waiting, check out this video of the crazy macaw birds that live next door. :)
video