this is our story

I sat at the front desk with a temp worker named Chelsea two days ago. We exchanged high pitched pleasantries and filler words about college and travels and restaurants in the city. Then the Senior Director waved me into his office and told me with kind eyes that our company is a family. He wanted to know “the story.” I fumbled the details out and my vision blurred. Three sentences felt insufficient, so I added halting additions in an attempt to introduce my boss to Will, “He is…ahem was an engineer… He works, um.. worked for a conveyor company out there.”

And, when I couldn’t keep my face tidy anymore, I just nodded as I walked out with pursed lips and squinty eyes. I dabbed my face back at the front desk while I told Chelsea (the temp worker) the “story” in one sentence. And I hate that story – that final story I keep telling about my brother Will. The final story I’ve smashed irreverently into one memorized, mechanical sentence that sounds more like a news report than anything else… the story I feel obligated to follow with the words, “It’s okay,” and “We are fine…” because no one is comfortable with death or grief or sorrow. Everybody shifts uneasily when absence happens like that.

And everyone wants to know the story.

Sometimes, my urban life plays make believe. New York City dresses up in everyday routine, and it almost almost feels like my life on earth isn’t altered forever, like it is “just another day” where taxis have road rage and college students are hung over and teenagers buy too much at Forever 21.

But then I am walking toward Bryant Park on 42nd Street and there are too many people, all of them strangers and none of them Will. He has never been to Bryant Park, but his absence follows me around like a shadow hovering over all the spaces he is not.

We are a weathered lot. Dad calls often with a shaky voice and as many questions as answers. We talk about “how things are going” and “getting better” and “benchmarks,” but there is no good news, only words to put in quotations because we don’t know what else to do with this grief. We want to honor him with our efforts and to love the God who gave us 27 beautiful years. But we are all hiking fumbles in office buildings and front porch swings and backyards. We are all shrugging shoulders and breathing sighs and letting the pain sink to our depths, because it would be wrong not to.

This is our story, stretching out like a rope between mourning and hope. All the threads are intertwined connecting what feels like opposites on either end.

There is peace, yes. And there is pain.

But our faith is not simply pragmatic. Our minds, knowing Will’s salvation, cannot tell our hearts, knowing Will’s absence, to “move on.” Nothing in quotations works in real life. We can’t “make progress” or “get better” by some mental acrobatics. Our minds and hearts are meshed together in constant, internal marathons – chasing reason and running from emotion or the other way around.

I walked into the copy room today and found five guys hanging out where there is room for two. To their silence I said, “Is this a secret meeting?” They side-glanced with smirks that looked like they were hiding a freshly painted “boys only” sign behind their backs. “Yep, top secret meeting,” one said. I chuckled at their mischief, “I know what’s going on… I have three brothers.” The words stung my eyes.

This is our story of peace and pain.
And there is still much to be written.

things I never ordered & things I never knew I needed

I fell asleep on the train home after work on Monday, but roused in time to jump out at the Winthrop stop and grab heavy whipping cream before climbing the stairs to our apartment. The sleeps shook off in the hustle of preparations – Tam posted signs on the neighbors’ doors and arranged the toppings table, Patrick toasted coconut and fried bacon, I started mixing up a new pancake recipe, and we all sang snippets of the songs in our heads. It was kind of a normal Monday ruckus, but that ruckus was provision.

It wasn’t all the “trial runs” of the new jamcake batter that made me so content. It was the very special and very specific provision that sustained me enough to overflow on our Pancake Mondays guests. It didn’t matter that I was tired or that I was procrastinating thank you notes or that I was dreading a full work week. As I stepped into each of these provisions, I knew I was cared for and loved by a God who has not forgotten us. God did not give sparse helpings and I am counting blessings.

deep clean // Things are a little crazy at our apartment. We are moving in a couple weeks, but Patrick also just barely moved all of his life in. Tam just got back, so now we are three almost-moving roommates, navigating sorrow and survival in this city. What I’m trying to say is: our apartment is cluttered and crazy. When I got home on Monday, Tam had cleaned the kitchen, emptied recycle bins, reorganized the common space, and tidied up all the corners. All I had to do was put my apron on. #provision

aprons // Speaking of aprons, all of mine have a story. And the one I wore on Monday was handmade by my sister as a wedding shower gift. She stitched out Iowa on the front with a heart where we grew up. It feels real good to host with it on, real good. #provision

pancake batter // There is something about getting out my most giant bowl, something about tripling a batch that thrills my heart. We never know how many are coming on Pancake Mondays, but I start with tripling. On Monday, I made two additional batches after we ran out of the tripled first! More batter means more bellies and it was quite a crowd. I think we had 21 in all and not a pancake left.

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cinnamon pancakes stuffed with jam, topped with toasted coconut, powdered sugar, strawberries, and blueberries

taste testers // They both make fun of me for my nervous antics, but every Monday (also every time I make/bake anything), I inevitably forget to read the second half of the instructions that says “chill for 13 hours” or I do things out of order or I make some crazy substitution. And that is why I love our Monday taste tests. Around 7:15 pm, I flip a few samples and ask for their honest opinion. I love watching their faces and deciphering what needs changing. If I ever own a pancake restaurant, every batch would be different and pancakes would need to be “tested” every hour. #provision

neighbors // First, I missed them – my neighbors, I mean. We share geography in common, but Pancake Mondays is space for conversations that can’t happen in hallways or elevators or sidewalks. And I missed them crowding the table and getting full on my pancake batter. This week the combination was prime: neighbors from Patrick’s old apartment + strangers (friends of friends) who are new to the city + our neighbors down the hall + friends of neighbors down the hall + some of our besties + one guy who saw the signs on his way up to a different floor. Such a precious combination.  #provision

open door // I know it isn’t for everyone, but for me an open door is therapy. I love leaving it cracked and saying, “Come on in!” from the kitchen when I hear someone hesitating. I love their faces when the pancake / bacon smell reaches them and I love that they love walking right in. #provision

the kitchen // It is a funny thing that Patrick has had to get used to, but I love hiding in the kitchen. I usually have good reason, like making more pancake batter, heating water for coffee/tea, or refilling toppings bowls. But, it’s not that I don’t love the noisy crowd huddled around pancakes in the other room. I just love so much that I get to feed that crowd. I have also found that people follow me. One or two at a time will wander in so I can ask questions about work or what books they are reading or what they miss about where they are from. We don’t do pleasantries in the kitchen and I like that. #provision

things I heard // There are the normal things, like, “These are seriously so good!” But then there are the things like I heard this week, when our neighbors were telling us how they talk about Pancake Mondays to recruit their friends. “You won’t believe what our neighbors do – no, seriously you have to rearrange your schedule to come here on Mondays. It’s so cool!” It was like we were their “show and tell” and I never thought I could be that in this city. #provision

invitations // It’s fun when our neighbors turn the tables. We got invitations to a board game night and to a viewing of American Ninja Warrior (which is, apparently, the greatest ninja show I never knew about). #provision

same neighborhood // Remember when I said we were moving? Well, it is one of the most stressful things you can do here in the city. Patrick and I were dreading the search (see this article for a sample of an apartment listing), but believing God would be faithful. In three days, we found an apartment on the exact corner where we had decided would be best to live – 377 feet from the train station, a view of the park from our window, walking distance to grocery stores, and (most importantly) the same neighborhood. I didn’t realize how important this was to me until Pat told me the address. We can invite the same neighbors on Mondays, visit the same coffee shop friends, and escape to the same park. I needed some “same” in my life and God knew it. #provision

prayer // Text messages, phone calls, emails, facebook posts… people are praying and I am being held up as they meet with Jesus on our behalf. The Lord is good and part of my joy in being so much prayed for is that I know people are getting into God’s presence and that is doing them good, too. #provision

husband // Sometimes, I can’t squeak out my thanks because I’m afraid it will sound trite, but walking this journey with such a man is a gift. God knew I would need such a man for laughing fits and for skipping across the street and for asking, “Why is skipping so much fun?” God knew. #provision

Pancake Mondays was about opening all this provision – things I never ordered and things I didn’t know I needed.

praying for more belief

I’ve been sleeping a lot.

They tell me, “Sorrow is exhausting,” so I guess a twelve hour stretch of slumber is allowed. The days are perfection, hovering at 70 with dreamy cloud cover and begging to be biked. We stuffed my purple, craigslisted road bike into the trunk on our return trip from Iowa, so now I get a better wind return for my energy investment. But I get tired even on perfect days.

I’ve been reading through old posts lately, like this post I wrote on Black Friday, the day Will and Grace came to visit. I felt like I had really climbed inside Lent, like sadness was a weight I wore for clothes. It was heavy and I couldn’t wait to trade it for white lilies on Resurrection Sunday. But it is strange looking back now at these words…

This is the darkest day, but there is hope on the horizon. There are rays hiding behind the dark sky, lit by the glory of the Creator – our God who knew all along that there would be a resurrection. And the resurrection lights the way for our love of one another.

All those days in Lent when I felt weighed down by solidarity with Christ feel like feathers now. It’s like Black Friday happened again, or is happening, or is some sort of constant, awful undercurrent.

It can get mechanical, navigating grief. The deepest feelings I had before now feel like dramatics. But I know this is not the case. I know in my head that it was the blackest day when Christ died. I know we are not mourning without hope, because I know Christ did not stay dead.

But we are mourning.

And it is hard to be selfless. It is hard to take a genuine interest in the welfare of others, to think eternal thoughts and love without condition. Those were hard things before grief.

I feel it the worst with Patrick and our less-than-two-months marriage. I want to blame my bad communication and silent treatment on mourning. I want to crawl inside my sadness and away from the tension of hope, even for a little bit. I want for him to know what I need, magically, without me saying a word and I want for him to know when that changes. Grief is tempting as a great excuse for sin, maybe, and it is stretching us to the maximum.

We never got tickets to that “honeymoon phase” people talk about. But I do remember, on the worst day of my life, what it felt like to be held by someone I trusted completely. We had been married less than one month when we got the news that my brother (and my husband’s best friend) had died. Neither of us decided to let the other inside the pain, it just happened. I let my grief press up against his chest and I let his consolation cover me while I rambled incomplete sentences and tried to keep afternoon appointments. I never once wondered if I could trust him with all this, I just did.

I found this post recently from the same week leading up to Easter.

It is frightening, unless you believe in the God who keeps promises. This God, who loved the world so much that He threw His seed to the earth to be sown in death. The evidence is in the palms of His hands and the scars on His sides.

The resurrection is waiting on the other side like the buds breaking through dead branches and the sprouts peeking out from dry ground. Resurrection is hiding, buried safe in God’s plan for redemption.

This week is about death, but it was always about life to God.

It is frightening, unless you believe in the God who keeps promises. I am learning that life, sometimes, is still frightening… while you are believing. So, we pray for more belief. In our marriage, we pray for more belief that God is keeping His promise to us so we can keep our promises to one another. In our family, we are praying for more belief so we can be support and love when we feel weak. In our friends and neighbor circles, we are praying for more belief to talk about the weird tension of mourning and hope and all the in-between that makes no sense.

That last line is heavy, “This week is about death, but it was always about life to God.” It’s about Christ on the cross, but it is also about Will because he became new when he trusted Jesus. The death in him was gone when he believed Christ stood in death’s place on his behalf.

This is what I know and what I believe, but I am praying for belief that brings peace when this trade doesn’t make sense.

Note: I’m not sure how much this grief needs written out, but maybe you’ll be patient with me as I do some sorting. 

for the times I want to hide, a joy report

It seemed like a silly thing to organize from the passenger seat of a Ford Fusion en route to Brooklyn from Iowa. We had just spent the strangest week of our lives mourning loss and rejoicing victory with some of our favorite people on the planet. No one would have faulted us for wanting to hide. But the group text messages went out and a small tribe agreed to gather for prayer and a potluck dinner in our apartment.

We had never hosted a grief party before (has anyone?), but our friends seemed to understand the necessity because they accepted the invitation to mourn/rejoice with us. They came, our patchwork Brooklyn family of transplants, one by one in the late summer rain. They dripped into the apartment with all the potluck fixings for barbecue tacos.

We opened leftover wine from our wedding and accepted rainy hugs. Everyone was sweet and none of us knew what to do because grief is terrible. So, we shared the details of the past week’s events as we topped tacos with cilantro. The Christian camp culture in us formed a rough outline of a circle as we mechanically and emotionally shared our purpose in inviting them in. But they were not confused and they did not come to mourn with us in despair.

They came to mourn with us in hope.

So, we celebrated and laughed and prayed and cried and poured more wine. And I realized that joy is not a Heisman situation in times of sorrow. There are no bootstraps to pull up, not even if you grew up Midwestern. The joy is already claimed in Christ, apart from our strong-arming efforts.

Before Tuesday night had ended, our friends’ 11-month-old, Reed, learned how to walk (and then run). I believe it is God’s grace that laughter sounds so similar to tears and it was God’s grace that Reed made us laugh so much that night, with his wobbly steps and with his face full of achievement.

There is joy to report, like the adult lunchable my friend made for my first day back at work and like finding out all the days I was gone from my job were paid. There is joy, like provision in apartment searching and seeing familiar faces in my neighborhood. There is joy, like wise words from friends and strangers who know grief well. There is joy, like bike rides and fresh flowers and salvation stories.

I’m the kind that wants to hide. I want everyone to think I’m with someone else when I’m really hidden, anonymous in a coffee shop or on a patch of lawn or in the corner of my bedroom. When I need to think, I like to disappear.

This would be one of those times I want to hide, but God is inviting me into His presence where there is joy. Fullness of joy, even. He will not forget us, for He has engraved us on the palms of His hands and invited us to find joy and pleasures forevermore in His presence. We are not alone in the dark with our demons.

Grief wants to push back – to reject that joy can live in the same space with sorrow. Grief wants to refuse me laughter and sunshine and a face curved with delight.

But it is okay to stretch with tension. It is okay to have joy to report. It is right and good to believe the promises of God will find me in the times I want to hide.

in the dark with our demons

It’s a line from a song by The Oh Hellos called “I Have Made Mistakes.” It made sense before I felt broken in two, before the day I met grief, but it makes more sense now that demons are trying to live in my dark.

Demons, like returning to a regular job and navigating crowded city streets and breathing in slow, evening minutes that seem painfully unaltered by Will’s absence. Demons that stare at me in the lamplit dark of this little apartment and whisper things like, “What are you doing in this city?” and “Why Will?” and “Why don’t you feel like being productive or looking presentable?” Demons.

But I keep hearing these words from the sermon at Will’s service last Friday,
“Death is not normal.”

Nothing is normal now, except grief headaches pushing like bricks on my ears. Apartment hunting is different, marriage is different, sunshine is different, morning is different and friendship is different. I am different.

I am different and things won’t get better because we were not created to die. We were created to live. Being alive is normal. Ten days ago, I could pretend that living was normal here on earth; I could pretend that everyone has time to dream and time to be lazy and time to have time. And then I answered an ominous phone call and drove across the country with my husband to hug a line of 450 people who loved my brother Will.

We are not forever young because we are not forever. It’s a hard thing to reconcile, really. Will was not forever and I am not forever, but it feels like we should be – like we should have indefinite time to plan adventures and let laugh lines mark our faces.

We were made for life, so that is the “normal” we crave. But, in our sin we chose death, so that is the normal we face.

We severed that eternal thread when we decided to go our own way, but I have never yearned for life more than right now. I have never longed for eternity or ached for God’s perfect “normal” than I do these days. I am holding tightly to the belief that Christ came to restore that order.

The normal we crave vs. the normal we face. The tension of the two is trying to break me in the dark with my demons – trying to make a defeated sluggard out of me.

I feel like I got painted into a watercolor and left out in the rain. I have made mistakes in my mourning and I’ll continue to make them. I’ll be impatient and silent and stubborn. I will refuse to look presentable and I will forget my manners. But I will not pretend to be strong. I will not pretend that we were created to die, that this “circle of life” is just “how it has to be.” I want God’s normal – the way He created Adam and Eve originally in the garden, before their decision to eat that rotten fruit and before my sin claimed the same rotten fate.

Sometimes the only thing keeping you from being defeated is believing you are not.

And I believe. Simple sermons are okay, I think, like this one my aunt sent me last night from Deuteronomy 33:27, “underneath are the everlasting arms.” The everlasting arms holding me up also defeated the demons in my dark and made a place for me in heaven.

Will | a remembrance from James

This is a guest post from my brother, James. This is the remembrance he wrote to share at the Celebration of Life service last Friday. Please know that we are all still available to talk about anything you may have questions about. Also know that the memorial fund established in his name is still accepting donations that will go to three different ministries where his legacy as camp counselor, handyman, and mentor will live on and touch youth with the message of hope in Christ.


 

William and I had an interesting, different, and sometimes frustrating relationship. Growing up as Will’s little brother was no easy task because of his influence on others. I spent a good portion of my life being frustrated in Will’s shadow. He was a leader in sports without saying anything but working hard. He was a friend to all without leaving people out. He was cool without doing what others did or had done.

As we went through the years it was easier and easier to see why others were drawn to him in this way. For the counselors at Bethany Camp, he was a father, friend, counselor, and mentor. Two people come to mind when I think about Will’s lasting impact there. I did not hang out with Derick or Becca that much before they worked at Bethany Camp with Will. When he was gone for the year for school and I was still at home with them, I saw how he taught them to love others. They both demonstrated through action how Will lived. I could ask them for anything, tell them anything, and rely on them to down for anything. Becca has been talking about it recently about how she always said, “I miss Will.” I can remember countless times that this came up in conversation when we would be hanging out and she would remember a time when they did this or that. I never realized the significance of that or how impactful that was on her. For Derick I am reminded of love of helping people, a trait Will and he shared. Derick would do anything for anyone without a regard to himself or what he had planned. Will’s most important discovery at Bethany camp was, of course, Grace. I will never forget his giddiness after meeting her and starting to date her. Never had a woman had this effect on him. When I heard Will singing, “If this isn’t love, this is closest I’ve ever been!” from Anberlin, I knew that whatever this was, it was different. William loved Grace with all the love that God loves us with.

In the past few years, after learning about Will and myself, I started to get over my pride and actually be open to what Will had to say. He would never force this on me, he would just be in the background ready to offer helpful advice when it came to money, cars, mopeds, kayaks, and most importantly love. I remember a conversation I had with him about Carly as I was driving over to her parents’ house one weekend night. I can’t remember talking to Will at all about this subject in our entire lives, but when I needed him most he was there. He just listened and coached and counseled and listened some more. I know at the end of the conversation he told me that he trusted me, he believed in me, and he loved me. We have had many conversations since then, all ending with him trusting and believed in me. Never had it felt so good to hear those things from someone that I had looked up to for so long.

After saying all these things, I think it would be a miss to not talk about why Will was the way he was. Christ’s love and service flowed out of Will like water through a stream. Will had this love because Jesus died on the cross all our sins. He was saved by the grace of God through faith in the death and resurrection of His son. If you do not have this faith, you can talk to any of us so that you will know for sure where you will spend eternity.

Will | a remembrance from Christina

This is a guest post from my sister, Christina. This is the remembrance she wrote to share at the Celebration of Life service last Friday. Please know that we are all still available to talk about anything you may have questions about. Also know that the memorial fund established in his name is still accepting donations that will go to three different ministries where his legacy as camp counselor, handyman, and mentor will touch youth with the message of hope in Christ.

Anyone who knows me knows I talk about my brother William like he is a superhero. I think maybe they thought I made him up or was a little overboard in how I spoke of him. The way he could fix any car (in fact, when he moved to CA I was SHOCKED at how much it costs to get your car fixed. Because I’d never paid) the way he’d leap on a sofa and sing and dance to Newsies at the drop of a hat, the way he knew how to do everything. Everything. The way was speaking with Grace a few days ago, and she was telling me how he would speak of me to any who would listen… in much the same way. That I was the real deal, that I really ‘got it’, that he was so proud of who I was and what I was doing. And that meant so much to me, but I wasn’t necessarily surprised. Because as Grace said, “he loved you guys an insane amount.” Anyone who knows any of us knows, that’s true of all of us. We love each other an insane amount.
 
And so it seemed fitting for us all to share with you some thoughts.
 
There’s a Phil Wickham song that says “if you’re the sun, I want to be the moon, I want to reflect the light that comes from you.”  And that’s what was true of William. In William’s love for Christ, he was made more like Christ every day, and reflected such wonderful things about Jesus to each of us. In this beautiful transaction of accepting Jesus Christ’s payment for our sins and becoming part of his forever family, we also give him our whole selves. And William gave Jesus his whole self. And Jesus made something wonderful out of his beautiful life. William was a sinner. But through Christ, he lived his life as a forgiven, redeemed man. And every part of his being lived like he was absolutely determined to make the most of it.
 
Will was someone who loved incredibly well, who seemed almost overtaken with glee to talk to you or be with you after it had been some time. He showed me a picture of the immensity and immeasurability of God’s love. For in his friendship and care, I never felt insecure to ask something of him. In fact, my last 100 or so text messages with him are from car dealerships and while reading craigslist ads, asking for his gracious advice.  That’s what Jesus is like.  His love for us is immeasurable and immense, and we never need to be insecure about asking for or needing that.
 
Will was committed to and passionate about his marriage to his Grace. He picked an amazing, Godly woman to spend his life with, and they loved each other fiercely and did the hard work of marriage in order to make it great. That’s what Jesus is like. It says in Scripture that Jesus is the groom, and the church is the bride. He loves us fiercely and will not let us go for anything. I have seen this in action in the body of Christ this week.
 
Once you were important to William, you didn’t fall off this list. And he was your absolute biggest fan.  And that made people, including me, feel infinitely special. To have, to quote Patrick “the coolest guy anybody knows” think you were important, that felt so special. In that, you believed you could do that big thing, you could get that job, you could do better. That’s what Jesus is like. He cleans us up from our sin-filled hearts, and then sees us as clean and lovely! Then he is on our side forever, not only rooting us on but giving us the power we need.
 
I hate so much having William gone from us. And while I have infinite Will stories, I’m heartbroken that I won’t have more. And I don’t understand God’s plan. BUT. I believe that when William trusted Jesus Christ with his whole life, he gave over the reins of his life to Jesus to do with it, whatever he wanted. I, and we, have done the same. So his life, and mine, they are for God to use however he pleases. And I know that He is good. And that William is now so much more alive than he ever was on earth, finally sin-free and basking in the glory of God.  “We mourn, but not as those who have no hope.” And if you feel like you have no hope in these moments, please talk to one of us on this stage. Something that we keep saying is “William loved his Jesus and his Grace.” And I know without a shadow of a doubt that he would want you to know them both.
 
And Grace, we love YOU an insane amount. And we will forever.

 

Will | a remembrance from Sam

This is a guest post from my brother, Sam. This is the remembrance he wrote to share at the Celebration of Life service last Friday. Please know that we are all still available to talk about anything you may have questions about. Also know that the memorial fund established in his name is still accepting donations that will go to three different ministries where his legacy as camp counselor, handyman, and mentor will live on and touch youth with the message of hope in Christ.


When I left for Michigan to go to college, William was my kid brother.  He was still very much a boy.  The boy that he was, in many ways, is everything I hope my children to be.  Energetic, trusting, hard working, problem solving, up for anything that was William as a boy.  Subconsciously, I think that is who he will always be to me.

The boy that jumped in the back of the car and wrongly trusted me to drive him down the road to feed the cattle.

The boy who took my love for building tree houses to a whole new level (figuratively and literally).

The boy with whom I spent hours of scaring cityfolk at the state fair with the famed spider.

Great stories of our youth aside, today I would much rather tell you about the moments that assured this protective older brother that William was heeding my mother’s daily petition to “remember who we are and who we represent.”  That is to say that he was acutely aware of his legacy as Nichols’ and more importantly our individual and collective identity in Christ.

One such moment was evident in the way he dealt with a bad situation and subsequent football suspension.  Instead of watching from the stands, William decided to practice his 9th grade season knowing that he would not play a down.  His character grew so greatly through that experience as did his willingness, or even desire to hit opposing players and even referees really really hard.  More importantly, his teammates would forever be altered by the strong, quiet leader that emerged from that adversity.

The following year, William visited me in Michigan to attend a Fellowship of Christian Athletes football camp.  While there, he found himself as the one white Iowa boy in a bible study of inner city football players.  On the ride home, we spent three hours discussing the opportunities William had throughout the camp to share his faith through the avenue of football.  This experience noticeably softened his heart to the needs of others while helping him put sports in proper perspective with life and faith.

Later in high school, William’s ability to lead on the field and on the wrestling mat converged with his faith as he built a cabin on our back 40.  I remember William excitedly calling to share how the cabin served as a place where his teammates and friends have clean fun.  William felt so blessed by God to be able to use his natural gifts of building, leading, and getting stuff for free as a means of living out his faith.

As William’s world widened so did his desire to “remember who he was and who he represented.”  During our bi-monthly road talks, I remember being humbled by his desire to know how my wife and I did everything from devotions to finances.  He desired with all of his heart to be Godly husband that Grace needed and deserved and I have always been in awe of his willingness to serve her so selflessly.

That said, what I treasure most about those conversations is the openness with which William was willing to share his struggles and his heart for the people around him.  William knew, better than anyone, that he was a sinner in need of a savior; an imperfect vessel that God was using to do his work.  He believed wholeheartedly in the truth of the gospel and that his hope was in Christ alone.  It is that same hope that enables me to stand here both missing my brother and rejoicing that he now present with and praising our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

William Mark Nichols | the dash between the dates

William Mark Nichols was born on September 30, 1986 to Dick and Cindy Nichols. He was the fourth of five in their original tribe of seven (that continues to expand) who grew up on the little dairy farm outside Lewis, Iowa.

Mediocre did not exist in his vocabulary. From the time he could walk, William’s mischief was worthy of superlatives. His imagination led him to search through cupboards, toolboxes and engines to create things like a lawn mower go-cart, a telephone pole cabin, and a giant, floating dock called the Hornswaggler.

Many would say he was the best at being loyal, the best at giving advice, the best at shooting off fireworks, the best at problem solving, the best at power naps, the best at listening, the best at laughing out loud, the best at middle-of-the-night excursions, the best at building things, the best at encouraging others, the best at car talk, the best at sing-dance-screaming, the best at cheering people on, the best at sincerity, and the best at loving his wife with a servant heart.

He wouldn’t say he was the best at anything, because he didn’t like to talk about himself.

Irrepressible, that’s what his mom calls it. It was his ability to show up for family and friends when they were in need – his ability to produce hearty laughter or a bargain car part or a perfectly timed witty remark or the right type of old wisdom. He did not rush conversations with Grandpa in the shop, did not hesitate to go out of his way to celebrate someone else’s success, and rarely turned down an offer to dance, especially in a car. His strength made everyone believe he was invincible, including himself.

What William wanted to love most was also what made him most strong: Jesus. William’s faith in Jesus Christ fueled his efforts as an athlete on the sports field, as a counselor and mentor at Bethany Camp, and on every crazy, daring, fearless adventure. His faith looked like loving teammates and campers and friends with a steady fierceness that made people want to be in his circle. He wasn’t exclusive about his generosity. If he had something you needed, he would find a way to make it yours.

William attended Iowa State University and graduated with a degree in Agricultural Engineering, although most would say he never needed the degree. He worked as an engineer at Quality Manufacturing in Urbandale, Iowa and at Sierra Conveyor Company in Rocklin, California. He was determined to be a man of integrity in school, at home, and at his work. He was involved in intramural sports, Campus Crusade, family tailgates, garage sale-ing, snowboarding excursions, and many road trip escapades to California, Canada, New York and New York with the friends he counted as brothers.

When William met Grace Kristy in 2007 at Bethany Camp, his love put a permanent dorky grin on his face and he spent the whole summer trying to impress her. After three weeks, he asked her to be his girlfriend on the roof of the cabin he built. For the next seven years, Grace was his joy. He loved serving her, adventuring with her, sharing her gifts with family and friends, and living everyday life with her. In their love for each other, they worked hard to serve and love well. They demonstrated Christ’s love to each other and to others, encouraged many to find hope in Jesus and they were determined to do the hard work of marriage to the glory of God. He was a better man because of her love.

William died in a car accident on August 2, 2014 near Sacramento, California. He was preceded in death by his grandmother, Avonell Nichols; his nephew, Isaac Nichols; his mother-in-law, Wendy Kristy; and his grandmother-in-law, Mary Ann Kristy. He is survived by his wife, Grace Nichols; his parents, Dick and Cindy Nichols; his grandparents, Joe and Phyllis Sponsler, Fletcher and Colleen Nichols; his five siblings, Sam (and wife Bethany), Christina, Caroline (and husband Patrick), James (and fiance Carly); and his niece and nephews, Natalie, Levi, and Joel; his father-in-law, Scott Kristy; his brother in law (and wife Erica) Ben Kristy and their son Grayson; Grace’s grandparents, Bill Kristy and Ken and Judie Whitham. William is also survived by a whole host of cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, and honorary brothers and sisters.

A Celebration of Life will be held at 10:30 am on Friday, August 8, 2014, at the Evangelical Free Church in Atlantic. The family will be present at a Visitation from 6:00 to 8:00 pm (with a prayer service at 7 pm) on Thursday, August 7, 2014 at the Evangelical Free Church. A Celebration of Life will also be held in California on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 4:30 with a reception to follow at Covenant Community Church in Vacaville, California.

William’s family encourages a contribution to a memorial fund that will be established in his name. Memorials will be distributed to ministries that were important to Will, including Bethany Farm Christian Camp, Freedom for Youth, and In Faith Ministries, supporting Sean and Rebecca Trostrud.

although we are weeping

Caroline:

This song is the picture of my soul today. He is building the kingdom and He is using the weepers.

Originally posted on musings in montage:

Mouths filled with laughter and tongues loosed with joy, that would be ideal. It’s the kind of delight your lungs can’t handle.

But, that kind of delight is not a constant state of emotion and maybe that’s why I liked singing this song so much on Sunday during communion. It is a peaceful prayer that believes God is faithful. It is a prayer that believes God will keep His promises. It is a prayer that trudges through death and sorrow and ugliness, believing God can and will restore.

Psalm 126 (Our Mouths They Were Filled)

Our mouths they were filled, filled with laughter
Our tongues they were loosed, loosed with joy
Restore us, O Lord
Restore us, O Lord

Although we are weeping
Lord, help us keep sowing
The seeds of Your Kingdom
For the day You will reap them
Your sheaves we will carry
Lord, please do not tarry

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