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.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blessing Facilitator

You know, if I had to create my own job ... I might consider using the title "Blessing Facilitator."

The job description might include: This person works behind the scenes to allow for the greatest blessing impact, best use of resources, and most of all the attention to people as priority. The person in this position must know blessings well - where they originate and from Whom. This person must also possess a desire to see people filled with thanksgiving and also a desire to celebrate gift-giving. This person must have a unique understanding of the giver-receiver relationship, as the giver is often blessed as much if not more than the receiver. One of the most difficult aspects of this job is bearing the burden of watching so many blessings. If you like to stand under a waterfall and feel the rush and weight and life of the refreshing water bubble down, you may just be right for this job.

I like to facilitate blessings. Here are some pictures from today. :)







As I have started to say, "Ya." As in, done, finished, enough. I am ready to see my family tomorrow. :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

More Blessed to Give than Receive

Cliché ... maybe. But, test it out and then see if you want to have a fight over word choice. Blessing others is like peeking through a window at God's glory and goodness and then getting knocked off your feet at its splendor.

Well, here on earth it is less romantic. If we get knocked off our feet, we land on a dirty, dusty earthen floor. But, let me tell you, God's splendor is no less magnificent because we live in a sinful world. Not at all. God's splendor will always be the same: perfect. So, no matter what kind of earth we are standing on today, we can reflect the image of God by blessing others.

Here is what happens when you do:)

ALP teachers and staff (Honduran and North American) came together this Christmas to bless Amor y Fe y Esperanza, a school started about 4 years ago next to the garbage dump outside the city of Tegucigalpa. Classes used to be given under nearby trees, but now are conducted in classrooms in the four buildings constructed for that purpose. The ministry seeks to provide education and resources to children who only have a future searching through the garbage dump piles for food, money, and livelihood.

We took the idea of Operation Christmas Child and made it local - for our own city and our own neighbors. We posted names, ages, and grades and staff then picked from the list and created boxes (or bags) to send to the school. We collected and delivered them and ... it was beautiful. Here are some pictures of the journey:













Here is a description of the ministry of AFE in 30 seconds.
video

Today more blessings came in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Some of the blessings came after my muscles were so tense and my heart so anxious that only afterward did I realize how much the blessings depend on God and not me. All I can do in my worrying is take away from God's steadfast promise to be there as sturdy as an oak.

More stories will follow...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

speaking gibberish

Today: beautiful. I will update with pictures soon. Words won't do.

Tonight: I discovered when I can't sort through all the random tasks my mind is asking me to do, I begin speaking a form of gibberish my own mind doesn't even understand. Somehow, I ended up out buying supplies tonight for crafts and celebrations for the kids at the orphanage this weekend. When a friend called me to return several missed calls, I am sure she hung up saying, "That girl needs to chill - she's not making ANY sense."

She wouldn't be lying. I wasn't. I just kept talking and skipping subjects and blurting out how I felt about this or that. But I knew even as I was saying it that it could not make any sense. I apologized because I couldn't remember where I left off or what ground needed to be re-covered.

Whew.

Well, some things on the list just won't get done. And other things - the most important (people) - will take priority and in the end I hope I will be singing (as I so loudly and obnoxiously was in my car):

Recibe TODA la gloria
Recibe toda la honra
precioso Hijo de Dios

I could sing this line forever and feel it every time.

Night, folks.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

tradition, tradition (with rolled Rs)


For me, the "Christmas spirit" in recent years is less fluttery and less emotion-driven. Especially these last two in Honduras with it being so warm and just very, very different. I am attaching new sentiments to this time of year. I am finding incredible joy in giving and reaching out and loving. I'm sad for the years I thought Jesus' birth was about me, so now I feel in a frenzy to flip everything around.

I was thinking about all the memories and traditions I hold close to my heart... and thinking that I would someday want to create a home much like my parents did for me. Even if it took me years to understand the beauty in this season, I so cherish the moments I can look back and see how every Christmas pointed in the direction of heaven.

Sure, it may SEEM like more fun to have your head glued to a TV screen or stuck in endless shopping lines, but I prefer really living and cherishing these moments with the people I love.So, here are some of our family Christmas traditions I would like to share with you:
  1. Christmas caroling to neighbors and friends... this is one of my most loved. We stuff ourselves into the van with gifts for each house and then every one - from dad to brothers to sisters to mom - lift our voices for sweet choruses of joy! (sometimes they don't sound so sweet but we have fun and we hope those listening do too!
  2. Cookie decorating contest. This is serious business. Every year the "rules" are brought into question because it's so competitive and everyone is trying to find their edge or angle to seize the championship title. William and Christina have by far the best workmanship. Samuel and Bethany always somehow are a judge favorite. James is the best sport about the whole thing and always comes out my best friend:) Me... well, let's just say my cookies are pronounced "abstract."
  3. Mom (in our younger days and now all of us) baking in the kitchen while others wander in and out and end up plopping down on the linoleum floor for some of the best conversations ever.
  4. Christmas Eve dinner: potato soup for the "kids" and oyster soup for the parents, anadama bread, cheese and crackers, egg nog (recently switched over to light), sparkling grape juice:) and tapioca pudding... So simple and so good!!
  5. Candelight service at church - my favorite part is when we all file out of the auditorium into the fellowship hall singing "Silent Night" the groups in the two separate rooms inevitably find different tempos, but we all get back on track in time to fill that cozy space with joyful song.
  6. Opening gifts with my parents and siblings... one at a time because every gift has a story
  7. Watching the little red tin on the dining room table grow every year with our tithes and offerings that will go toward a worthy cause.
  8. It may not be the same every year, but you can bet it is a tradition to invent some crazy outdoor activity. One year I wanted to learn to snowboard, so I had my brother hook up a rope behind the four-wheeler and I rode behind it in the yard! Another year, my brothers and a few friends went sledding... on a picnic table... down an ice hill... without shirts on. When we were younger, it was always piling into the pick-up truck and finding a good soft sledding hill where we could use our saucer sled and plastic pieces. I do remember a few bruised bums when we tried a gravel road :)
  9. Christmas with Gram and Gramps (Sponsler) on Christmas day is a favorite. We get there early for a brunch and then munch all day and lay around nursing our stomach aches :) The presents have become less important and the time spent together PRIME.
  10. Nichols Christmas. Whew! How do I explain it? Can you picture homemade doughnuts (which begin before 5 am with Aunt Jane's preparation)? Can you picture the reunion of aunts, uncles, cousins (I'm sure we're over 60 people in all now) who haven't seen each other in awhile but still feel like we never left? Can you picture a day full of laughter and storytelling and the annual "aunt walk" and random road trips to the dollar store? No, you cannot picture it, but it is amazing!
Okay. I have to stop at 10 because I could go on forever and tomorrow is a BIG day. I am going to the garbage dump. Why? You ask.

Well, because people live there. Every day, all year round. The garbage dump is their reality and there's a beautiful light called Amor y Fe y Esperanza (Love and Faith and Hope) that seeks to love and care for and be Jesus to these people. There is a school with 138 children and we are delivering 138 gifts with the name of each child.

God is so good. I can't wait to see His face in these children!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

heave.sigh.breathe...

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

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

to life, to life lechaim

Lechaim means to life in Hebrew and Yiddish

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

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

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

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

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

Praise God for every new day.

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

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lost and Found


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

  • Please just pray that I will be a willing heart this week - for whatever it is that God needs done. Pray I will draw so near to Him to hear His heartbeat for this life and these people and this day.
Thank you and MUCH love.


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

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

bringing broken pieces


Today I am thankful God asks us to bring brokenness before Him... I am thankful that complete, pulled-together-perfection is not His expectation as we meet Him at the throne.

As David writes in Psalm 51,
A broken and contrite heart, Oh Lord, you will not despise.

Thank you, Lord, for inviting such messes into Your presence. Thank You for hearing our angry questions and fears. Thank you for knowing the robust rebellion of our hearts and still whispering words of peace.

Thank you for not changing. Oh, thank you Lord for not ever changing!

Lord, I am trusting You to be faithful. I am trusting You to care for the broken-hearted better than any earthly touch. I am trusting You to be in the gaps where we can't possibly understand. I am trusting You to be the strength and love and peace where there seems to be none. I am trusting You, Oh Lord, to be You today.

Monday, December 07, 2009

in addition to the previous list

  1. I got hit by a car - no worries I'm fine, just minor bruises and scratches (I was walking)... and confusion over pedestrian confidence/driver conscience
  2. I shared this silly analogy with my grandparents and I feel it's fitting: I feel as if I'm running around in circles... and then I realize I actually am and I better sit down before people around me think I'm crazier than I already am for playing an imaginary game of duck-duck-goose.
  3. It does not feel like December... at all.
  4. I'm getting a little discouraged. A lot bit, to be exact.
  5. I don't think I can do all this ... and do it well. My mom always told me - if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well. What if there are LOTS of things worth doing, mom? What do I do then?
  6. I'm SUPER excited about several Christmas service projects that have me KNEE deep right now: gifts for the kids at the trash dump school Amor y Fe y Esperanza, Christmas party for the 11th grade girls, Christmas concerts (where I will be singing and playing in the band), helping to sell baskets and jewelry to raise money for the feeding center, and welcoming a student from Texas who raised $4,000 to share Christmas with an orphanage in Valle. WOW.
  7. Above is evidence that God is good. All the time.
  8. Answering the invitation to meet with a Savior who came oh-so-humbly... and being blown away.
  9. I'm reading a wonderful, borrowed book called "The Singer" by Calvin Miller.
  10. Listening with great fervor to new and old Christmas music. Please check out one of my new favorites: Wake up the World by JJ Heller (below).


Sunday, December 06, 2009

a great big list of things

You know, I am pretty comfortable admitting that I live far below my expectations for myself. Case in point: this blog. I could probably link back to the MANY times in the past I've posted a post like this.

I've (strange, yes) asked this cyber-journal for forgiveness and begged understanding. Well, I'm done with that. So, now I want to try to capture the past two weeks of blog-writing delinquency in this lengthy list. Don't expect order in this mess, I'll be lucky if I remember half of the crazy things that transpired. Enjoy:)

November 18 - December 5
  1. Rode in an ambulance with a 7th grader
  2. Was told by a student that I seem "19 years old"
  3. Went through an identity complex after I heard the above comment
  4. Quickly assured myself of same-age friends by hosting my new church friends Johanna and Gaby for vegetarian lasagna
  5. Cooked my first turkey ... ever. It was 11 pounds. I defrosted it in my kitchen sink. Massaged out the ice (because I didn't plan for an all day de-icing event), named him Terry.
  6. Took suggestions from students (who apparently take their know-how from a guy named Anthony Bordaine?) about how to season the turkey (I think there was oil, thyme, italian seasoning, rosemary involved?!?!)
  7. Led the kids at the feeding center in singing and prayed for one of my favorite little ones and her father, who is blind.
  8. Had our first two mission trip meetings (I'm leading a group of high schoolers on a mission trip here in Honduras in March)
  9. Cherished every Sunday night I can spend with Micah Project, worshipping
  10. Found my new favorite Christmas song: Winter Snow by Audrey Assad (also on Chris Tomlin's Christmas CD)
  11. Re-discovered my love for walking the city (the car has been in the shop for several weeks)
  12. Hosted 11th grade girls for Thanksgiving .... lasagna - their choice! :) and made my first ENORMOUS cookie
  13. Watched 2012 at the mall... then walked 30 minutes home from the mall thinking the whole time if walking home from the mall was what I wanted to be doing at the end of the world.
  14. Wondered why all the world leaders (minus the US) in the movie 2012 were white... hmm?
  15. Crafted and conspired (although less than I would like) for Christmas... I am truly making every gift (or supporting causes here) and it gets a bit tricky with the brothas!
  16. Met a Jehovah's Witness on the street (they have a headquarters a few blocks from my house) and then later met to talk over coffee... for 2 1/2 hours. I'm hoping there will be a friendship. Her name is Larissa.
  17. Spent the night at a student's house... again.
  18. Watched as one of my dearest girls was baptized.
  19. Lamented over my horrible upkeep of my newsletter. It's depressing, so I don't like to think of it. I WILL have one written before I leave. It'll be some crazy November/December combination:)
  20. Decided to be on the worship team at church... starting in January.
  21. I have savored many moments quiet.
  22. I have asked many times forgiveness in these last couple weeks.
  23. Tried to make very solid things abstract because it's easier for my mind to think in colors and shapes and strange, vine-like things that wrap around all the stubborn, tangible realities.
  24. Painted a watercolor.
  25. Missed my sister pretty intensely.
  26. Fought a bit with what I affectionately call "devil-eye" - where my eyes get mean and red and hate contacts altogether. These are the days when laser eye surgery should be cheaper. Or pollution less? I think that's part of my problem living in the city.
  27. Decided to pray for one of my brother's football players and already feeling connected to the mighty work of the Lord in Michigan.
  28. Felt the ebb and flow of frustration in consistency. Well - there is no flow. There is no consistency with my girls. It's painful, really.
  29. Went to a church conference with a student... interesting experience
  30. Worship night with the kids... pretty awesome.
  31. Thought and dreamed a lot about what my life will be like and how I can serve... but then realized that I am here in a dream and living service...
  32. caught myself being foolish A LOT!
  33. Caught up (a little teeny bit) with friends in Michigan, Chicago, and Indy.
That's it for now, folks! I love you and half-way promise to be more regular in my writing.

LOVE.