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.

Find all the writings on grief at this link and join with us as we mourn in hope.

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 Europe 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.


Find all the writings on grief at this link and join with us as we mourn in hope.

rain & sadness

The drip, drip, drop little April showers are finally ushering in a Spring that will stay in the city – I think. I don’t mind pulling on my rain boots in the morning or carrying around an umbrella. I don’t mind at all because there are bird chirps in the morning and sun shines behind the clouds. I don’t mind because last night I wore a dress without tights for date night and lingered over coffee on the Lower East Side with my favorite human after going to an event with only tourists in attendance. I don’t mind that the rain started when we walked home because he covered me with his coat.

Rain is also the most fitting backdrop to this week of lament, nestled inside the forty day reflection of Lent. I have a hard time knowing where to store all the sadness that weighs like literal weight on my soul. I am sad for my own sin, heaped on the back of my Savior. I am sad because my sin makes the cross a necessity. But heaped upon those heaps is a sadness for whitewashed Christian fellowship.

Christ went to the cross for that, too – for all the ways we fail at Christian community, all the ways we do not trust and obey.

I’ve been thinking about Christian fellowship quite a bit lately and then I read this today in my devotional.

The way of Christian fellowship is empathy, which means we must not assume that everyone around us is fine. In our conversations, we must listen for complaints and cries and help them become laments. In our gathered worship, we must acknowledge the hurting and leave room for struggle and silence. In our counsel, we must pray with and over and for the hurting. This is essential to authentic Christian faith: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

We are not fine, that’s why Christ had to die. In his death and resurrection, He secured our freedom but we will not be truly “fine” until we meet Him in eternity. There is struggle here and the Christian community is not a place to hide that struggle, but instead a place to share it.

And, maybe, it is our ability to bear one another’s burdens well that looks different to the world. Maybe our joyful suffering together is the kind of testimony to the suffering of the cross that this generation would understand.