little things

I have a whole box of random things we’ve exchanged over the years – a wooden piggy bank from a thrift store and a tiny pencil drawing from Germany and a bouquet of plastic flowers from the dollar store in Waterloo, Iowa. Of all the things I could choose to bring to New York, my box of random gifts from Patrick would definitely raise the eyebrows of my minimalist friends.

When he came back from a work trip upstate last fall, he brought several treasures… including this little, red bird caller keychain. I love to picture his face when he gave it to me as he produced an identical one from his own pocket and proudly demonstrated the quiet, high-pitched squeak.

that little red thing squeaks like a little bird
that little red thing squeaks like a little bird

He loves the little things and he invites me to love them, too. It’s hard not to be amused by the question that accompanies every tissue covered treasure, “Isn’t this awesome?”

Because it is, all of it, and I have to grow my eyes bigger to take it in. I generally consider myself a joyful, wonder-filled human – more like the junior high students I work with during the day than the adults I hang out with at night. But, Patrick’s curiosity and love of little things inspires me to take notice, to consider what I might have overlooked.

And this is why I am saying good night to Henry, my statue pet pigeon (who now lives in the decorative bird cage Yeun gave me). I didn’t get the full story on the pigeon, but I imagine Patrick thought it a fitting gift for NYC living because pigeons seem to survive so well here. But (and thank goodness) it’s not just about surviving. Henry is my reminder that ordinary things have stories.

Ordinary days, where I am just an average human doing average things, are beautiful because they are made up of many little stories. Maybe Patrick and one of my favorite sages would be good friends…

“There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.”
– G.K. Chesterton

run the suns | walk the shades

The heat is heavy – like a blanket you can’t crawl out from under. It runs in front of you and pushes in behind you and squeezes on all sides. The heat is heavy these days.

A few weeks ago, I was haphazardly training for the 4 mile trail run I ran with my family this past Saturday. The Coast Guard Trail Run is not just any 7K race – it involves dunes and trails and an enormous amount of steps that take you to the top of a dune where you can see Lake Michigan touch the horizon. It was worth every step and much more fun when you have matching shirts that say “Nichols family running team.”

I know, we look like a Christmas card. It was unintentional – we were a bit loopy after the race!

But back to my training.

The heat seemed to suck all the smart out of me in those days leading up to the race. I kept deciding to run in the middle of the afternoon when the heat was most oppressive. Running isn’t something I plan around in my day… it’s something that happens when the window appears. It may be at 5 pm or 3 pm or 9:30 pm, but rarely if ever at 7 am (which of course is the coolest time of the day).

After about a mile on a 100 degree day around 3:30 pm, I had that familiar thought, “This might not end well.” The heat was getting into my throat and my legs were resisting the steady movement pounding the paved path.  It was like my lungs knew things were about to get desperate. Good thing I had mapped out where all the water was on my route, because I don’t think I would have made it without the rusty fountain in O’Neil Park. Right about that time I realized how far I was from my front door and how long it would take to get back there.

I devised a survival technique called “run the suns, walk the shades.” I would sprint through the sunny parts of the trail and slow to a walk where the shade hovered over the sidewalk. As I made my way home in this pattern, I thought of G.K. Chesterton and Moses.

I know what you are thinking – I was delirious. This very well may have been true. But, I’ve since drank lots of water and slept many nights and the thought remains. Though Moses went up to Mt. Sinai to listen to the Lord, he did not sit down across the table to have afternoon tea. It was a frightfully powerful experience. When Moses wanted to see God, he was told to hide in a cave while the Lord passed by. An ordinary encounter is the farthest thing from God’s powerful presence. In Chesterton’s book, “The Man Who Was Thursday” we see glimpses (the backside) of the Sunday character (God). This character is meant (I think) to be the sovereign part of God and we cannot bear the weight of it.

Because the sun is too strong. Humans have a heat threshold and when we reach it, our bodies can’t function anymore. There is a point where the heat jumping from the sun is too much for our skin and our head and our lungs. The sun is too strong.

If the power of the Lord unleashed, our eyes could not bear it. Our lungs could not breathe the weight of glory that He would display in His fullness. Even a glimpse would lay us out flatter than the most intense heat exhaustion.

And I felt the power of the sun as I raced to the shade.
I’m a very steady kind of grateful because though the Lord could lay us all out flat with the weight of His glory, He gives shade. He provides covering in Christ that allows us to stand now in front of the Lord redeemed and under His shade until He returns.

That’s a mysterious combination of glory and grace and it makes me want to

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

how many daisies?

Lake Michigan, 2012

“Natalie. Build. Castle!”

“Oh, are we building a castle?”

“Uh-huh! Yep! Build castle!”

“Wow, look at that ca–”

“Natalie step on it!”

“Yep, you sure did. Now what are we going to do?”

“Natalie. Build. Castle!”

And so it went this past week – back and forth from the water to the shore and back again. Dig, rinse, scoop, pour, stomp. Repeat.

There’s a beauty in a child’s monotony that big people miss. We want our actions to produce something that wasn’t there before we started. We want results that make sense.

And we are annoyed when rhythms appear (to us) to move without purpose. We don’t delight in doing simple things over and over again. There’s nothing delightful about laboring for underwhelming results.

We’ve lost our awe of little things.

But, oh, I wish you could have seen Natalie’s face! She got so industrious with that shovel and had such purpose with the big red bucket. She kept beautiful busy – building or destroying – and every once in a while she would invite someone else to join her. Try explaining to great, big  2-year-old blue eyes that digging, rinsing, scooping, pouring, stomping and repeating isn’t a good use of her time. Just try it.

Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I wonder what he would say to my 2-year-old niece who does the same thing over and over again and watches the result like it’s the first time she’s ever seen it.

She isn’t expecting something different (she knows full well what is coming), but when “it” happens, she blooms with joy. Every time, like it’s the first time.

G. K. Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy Chapter 4:

“A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

I love it.

love how Natalie could have the same amount of joy every time she built up the sand and every time the water washed it away… Every time I hid under the blankets and every time I appeared from underneath… Every time she said, “Natalie go outside, please” and every time she convinced someone to follow her.

Most of all, I love that “God is strong enough to exult in monotony.” Every once in a while we stop and admire the way the water comes in to the shore and splashes the beach, but God makes the water work in rhythm every day with crazy, consistent joy. I love to think that God “has the eternal appetite of infancy.”

Because how many times have we succumbed to sin, “growing old” with maturity marking our progress? How many times have we decided we don’t have time for monotony or aren’t interested or amazed by it anymore?

And how many daisies did God make today, delighting the same in the monotonous beauty of every one?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

misplaced humility

Maybe we just have things turned around (wouldn’t be the first time for the human race). Maybe we’ve shelved things in the wrong place and now it’s hard to find what we’re looking for.
Maybe it’s like when you are making a recipe and you know you bought cumin, but you’ve torn apart the whole kitchen and still can’t find it. Then… after admitting defeat and cranking a can of Progresso soup open in disgust, you see little Tommy flying a plane around the kitchen with little cumin as its pilot.

Maybe that’s what we’ve done with humility.

“What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be.
A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.

Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert–himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt – the Divine Reason. . . .

The new skeptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. . . . There is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it’s practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. . . .

The old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which makes him stop working altogether. . . .

We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.”

G.K. ChestertonOrthodoxy [Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1957], pp. 31-32

Powerful insight once again from G.K.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, (b. 29 May 1874 – d....

pink grass – an illustration

A couple weeks ago, I wrote the post, “what if the grass was pink?” and thought it made all sorts of sense (of course, all my ideas do… in my head). Judging from my sister’s blank stare and a stranger’s lengthy comments about how I wanted to dismantle the entire psychiatric system (among other things), I decided I had maybe missed my mark. This is my attempt to give an illustration that will hopefully make it more understandable and less like I want someone on acid to take over the world.

This is an exercise in imagination, so put on your best thinking hat. Ready?

A collection of cans of paint and other relate...


Imagine a palette of paints with every color possible (I know, it’s a pretty big paint palette). Now, imagine your world in monochrome. Imagine everything you see and touch today as some shade of black/white/gray. Imagine the computer screen and your clothes and your make up and the flowers on the table and the sun outside… imagine everything you see is like the world of “I Love Lucy.”

Things are pretty dull in the colorless world, yes?

Okay. Now go back to that palette of paints with every possible color (even colors we can’t think up). Imagine someone choosing, color by color, how to bring your world to life. With an infinite palette of options, the possibilities are endless.

Roses could be… turquoise. Tree trunks might be… sapphire. Sunlight will be… purple.


It’s not hard to imagine ourselves as artists painting a canvas where up is down and the sunshine glows blue. I suppose today they call it abstract.

So, why is it so hard to imagine the infinite number of options God had when He created everything in the beginning? We’ve since found thousands of reasons to explain WHY the sun shines golden and the grass grows green, but couldn’t it have turned out differently?

God could have chosen any color to paint the sky.
He chose blue.
Now there is a whole new beauty wrapped up in the mystery of a blue sky.
God could have chosen any of an infinite amount of colors.
He chose blue.

Yes, we can explain why it is blue scientifically, but it didn’t have to be blue. God didn’t consult science textbooks as he spoke things into existence, to see whether certain color combinations were possible or if the law of gravity would really be universal.

Science just attempts to explain how God ordered everything by divine choice.

If the sky was green we would find scientific support that would lead us to believe it couldn’t be any other way.

And that is how we cheat ourselves out of the magic of Creation. I mean magic in a good and not creepy sense.
I mean… the look you got in your eyes when you first saw fireworks because you didn’t think such beautiful explosions possible.
I mean… the building emotion you feel when you watch a stunning sunset or witness a double rainbow or wake up to see mysterious fog lifting from a lake.

There is a healthy sense of awe I hope I always feel when I stop to think about how (out of an infinite palette of options) God chose the luscious color green for grass. Because, you see, it could be pink.

what if grass was pink?

I recently watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (one of my absolute faves) and remembered why it is so magical. “Fantasmagorical” is exactly RIGHT!


It also got me thinking about G.K. Chesterton (I like to call him GK or Gilbert) because I finished Orthodoxy not too long ago and it’s been on my mind ever since. In the book, he essentially debunks the current philosophies contrary to Christianity, but he takes a very charming and unorthodox route – by way of his own story.

I am the absolute worst summarize-r, so I am just going to give you a few nuggets (as my friend Becca would say). Chesterton compares the tales of the childhood nursery with the mature practicality we are expected to grow into as we age. This world (we are taught) is a place where pigs can’t fly, pumpkins are never carriages, and grass is the color green. These things are true because they just are and we must believe them because not believing them would not make them any less true. I agree with Chesterton when he says this mature practicality is unbelievably boring and I simply refuse to grow into it.

Sure, the grass is green.
Sure, the fact that it is green is explainable by pages of science and double-checked research.

But where is the magic of the nursery rhyme? Of the beanstalk that reaches the sky?

Magic has no place in reality, you say (followed by “you poor, ignorant fool” under your breath).

This is where I like GK so much. Here he explains we can indeed be certain of some things, by way of reason, but that does not lead us to believe all things in the same way.

There are certain sequences or developments (cases of one thing following another), which are, in the true sense of the word, reasonable. They are, in the true sense of the word, necessary. Such are mathematical and merely logical sequences. We in fairyland (who are the most reasonable of all creatures) admit that reason and that necessity. For instance, if the Ugly Sisters are older than Cinderella, it is (in an iron and awful sense) NECESSARY that Cinderella is younger than the Ugly Sisters. There is no getting out of it. Haeckel may talk as much fatalism about that fact as he pleases: it really must be. If Jack is the son of a miller, a miller is the father of Jack. Cold reason decrees it from her awful throne: and we in fairyland submit. If the three brothers all ride horses, there are six animals and eighteen legs involved: that is true rationalism, and fairyland is full of it.
But as I put my head over the hedge of the elves and began to take notice of the natural world, I observed an extraordinary thing. I observed that learned men in spectacles were talking of the actual things that happened—dawn and death and so on—as if THEY were rational and inevitable. They talked as if the fact that trees bear fruit were just as NECESSARY as the fact that two and one trees make three. But it is not. There is an enormous difference by the test of fairyland; which is the test of the imagination. You cannot IMAGINE two and one not making three. But you can easily imagine trees not growing fruit; you can imagine them growing golden candlesticks or tigers hanging on by the tail.

Chesterton was observing that people were taking this “reason” and applying it to all things in the natural world as if they were “rational and inevitable.” How dreadful – that everything would have a perfectly good explanation! GK goes on to explain how imagination helps us marvel at all the pieces that don’t fit together – everything is not here by some rational calculation. The grass is green, but it could have been PINK or blue for that matter. Things (material and otherwise) are as they are, but it could have turned out in a zillion different ways. Who are we to say that when we cut a tree it has to fall? God could have chosen to make it float or melt or disappear.

I love this comparison to Crusoe that Chesterton uses to bring back some of the wonder we should feel at every thing revealed in Creation.

But I really felt (the fancy may seem foolish) as if all the order and number of things were the romantic remnant of Crusoe’s ship. That there are two sexes and one sun, was like the fact that there were two guns and one axe. It was poignantly urgent that none should be lost; but somehow, it was rather fun that none could be added. The trees and the planets seemed like things saved from the wreck: and when I saw the Matterhorn I was glad that it had not been overlooked in the confusion. I felt economical about the stars as if they were sapphires (they are called so in Milton’s Eden): I hoarded the hills. For the universe is a single jewel, and while it is a natural cant to talk of a jewel as peerless and priceless, of this jewel it is literally true. This cosmos is indeed without peer and without price: for there cannot be another one.

This might be too much for your Sunday afternoon. I get it.

But, if your imagination is rusty enough that you can’t picture purple grass, I’d challenge you to a duel. I would say you can bring your reason and I’ll bring my imagination and we’ll see who is standing at the end of a little tussle. Or maybe I should say, we’ll see who is smiling.

I don’t know… it’s just these things I’m thinking about on a Sunday afternoon. I’m loving the grass not because it had to be green, but because it could be so many other colors.

What are your thoughts, friend? What color can you imagine the grass in your yard today?

If you wonder what all this GK stuff is about, check out Orthodoxy online!

Oh, and don’t forget to

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

(postscript: if this makes no sense at all, you should check out this illustration I wrote to help fill in the blank spaces… people have told me pink grass makes MUCH more sense after the illustration!)

thoughts on Easter

As I thought over the past few days about the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection, I was tempted to stop several times because it’s just too much. It’s too much to think about how marvelous God must be to have a perfect, sovereign plan. It’s too much to figure out how many ways God set up history to reveal Christ’s glorious moment on the cross. It’s too much to understand the agony and suffering and war that must have waged in the very flesh of Christ during the final hours. It’s too much to grasp the encompassing all of Christ’s payment. It’s too much to believe that I can stand approved and righteous in front of a holy God because of Christ’s completed work and victory over the grave.

It’s too much.

I think so often we give up when it comes to understanding the Lord. We say things like, “Well, we’ll never understand anyway” or “Who are we to understand?” Sometimes it might be genuine awe of God’s greatness and sometimes it might just be laziness. What I’m realizing this week, through amazing conversations with friends and words in books and time spent with my Savior, is God’s intentionality in giving us a mind to understand. We cannot love a God we do not know. So, God gives us the ability, through our mind to become alive in our love for Him.

Regarding the command to love the Lord with all our mind, Piper says in his book Think, “loving him with all our mind means that our thinking is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express this heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things.”

When we get lazy or distracted or discouraged, our thinking fails to engage fully, express deeply, and (most importantly) treasure God supremely. The strange thing is, the so-called shortcut is only hurting ourselves. When we choose to NOT treasure God supremely, we cannot experience the joy of all joys that flows out from this treasure!

I’m reading and processing and reading and processing. Is anyone else reading (or has read) the book Think by Piper? What are your thoughts? Here are some other things that I’ve been browsing that you might find interesting:

The Overflow of Easter: A whole theology of resurrection in one chapter

I’m kind of obsessed with this website: ChristianityExplored and not just because the people talk in English accents. I love that they answer hard questions and share personal stories about the power of God in their lives. If you need a little inspiration, check it out!

This quote is still so relevant today even though it was written in 1908 by G.K. Chesterton. This is pretty powerful stuff.

“What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert–himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt – the Divine Reason. . . . The new skeptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. . . . There is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it’s practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. . . . The old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which makes him stop working altogether. . . . We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.”

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy [Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1957], pp. 31-32

let LOVE fly like cRaZy
with all your HEART, SOUL, MIND, and STRENGTH
toward the Savior