Category Archives: Niki

Nowell Flood Update (and how you can help)

*This post originally began with song lyrics, then Benny woke me up this morning and told me I mixed the songs up and posted something I would never have posted if I weren’t so tired and had thought (and sang) through it completely. For those of you who read it, I apologize for the mistake! I make those a lot. ;)*

The flooding we’ve had here in Colorado this week has been terrifying. Unless you don’t have TV, or newspapers, or an internet connection (how are you reading this?) you have probably seen the pictures and videos of our scary spots. I say “our” because communities come together during tragedies.

My angle in the second picture is different, but if you look at the railing it will give you an idea of the water depth and the bike/walking path that is underwater. The third pic is the same bridge from the opposite side.

Boulder Bridge

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It’s difficult not to stay glued to the screen as devastation unfolds, hoping and praying those I love are safe. It’s frustrating being so close and not being able to get to those who need help. It’s maddening to read people’s rude comments on news stories and not turn into hurricane Niki, obliterating them for their stupidity and insensitivity. I’ve walked a fine line between faith and fury this week.

Our family lives in north central Denver. Our ministry, church, and part-time jobs are 25-35 minutes north and northwest of us in Boulder, Lafayette, and Longmont. Our house was not affected at all. We were never in any danger as the only major water near us is a big water park a block away. But, many people we love have been isolated and trapped, or dealing with flooded basements, or worrying about loved ones they can’t reach.

I cried today when we finally heard that our dear friends, Bob and Betty, (Our executive pastor and his wife/church secretary) were rescued after spending a day and night under a tarp on the side of the hill above their home as the floods raged below them. I am so grateful they are okay!

My friend Alyssa’s parents are trapped as well with her father needing medical attention. We just got news a few hours ago that the National Guard will be flying them out tomorrow.

Benny and I spent some time in Boulder today checking out the park where we host our Saturday meals and checking in with some of our street friends. Everyone we talked with seemed fine and we haven’t heard of any of our friends being missing. I hope we don’t. The rumors about the homeless being turned away at one of the emergency evacuation sites were true, but the situation was corrected pretty quickly with the Red Cross, the City of Boulder, and the site in question saying it never should have happened.

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Here’s the area of the park we host the meal. As you can see, it is fine. The creek isn’t very far away, but we think the worst is behind us and we’re going ahead with the meal tomorrow night. There are people who depend on us to be there EVERY week, but the food is only part of what we try to do.  Clean socks, encouragement, hope, listening, prayers, looking someone in the eye and speaking life into them…it’s what being a friend is about.

I’ve had moments when I was completely overwhelmed by the enormity of the need in my community. It’s paralyzing and makes me feel inadequate. I’ll bet you’ve been there too. Rather than holding on to those feelings, I started making a plan. Realistically I know I can only do so much, but my much with your much adds up to a lot of muchness. So how do we help?

Here are SEVEN ways to show compassion when disaster strikes your community:

  1. Donate bottles of water, bedding, and other needed items to evacuation sites.
  2. Donate food to your local food bank, and pet food to animal shelters. Their supplies run low during disasters.
  3. Check on your neighbors. They will appreciate it!
  4. Open your home to family and friends who are displaced. Ask others for help if feeding extra people is taxing on your family budget.
  5. Be the middle man. Don’t have stuff to donate? Collect stuff from others and drive it to the needed locations.
  6. Volunteer with cleanup efforts. The more people help, the faster your community will be back on its feet.
  7. Donate money, but don’t complain about the charities overseeing the work. If you don’t trust that your money is going to help those in need, then get off your ass and FIND one you trust. Help them – no excuses. Complaining (whether it’s founded or not) doesn’t absolve you from responsibility.

Here are a few don’ts for you:

  1. Don’t donate teddy bears and other crap lying around your house when charities need money, food, and supplies. That sounds harsh, but it happens. A lot.
  2. Don’t point the finger of blame on an agency when things don’t move quickly enough for you. The response time is NEVER fast enough when you are in the middle of an emergency.
  3. Don’t give up hope. There is ALWAYS hope, and it may come in ways that surprise you.
  4. Don’t get mad when you see stuff like this:

Colorful Colorado Waves

Several of my friends are posting pics like this on Facebook. They aren’t being disrespectful. We’re all trying to get through this and sometimes you just need a laugh. For some it is too soon for joking like this, but for others, it’s a much-needed tension breaker. If you want to get mad about something, let it be about the jerks who are posting that this flood is God’s judgment on Colorado. Before I get all caught up in that, let me bring this post to a proper close.

There are plenty of ways to help. SEVENS focuses on our street friends who have ALL been effected by the rain and flooding. If you want to help us help our friends by making a tax-deductible donation, click on the “DONATE” page button at the top of the page. To donate through PayPal, click on the yellow button on the side of the page. PayPal donations are NOT tax-deductible at this time. If you’re a local and have extra sleeping bags, coats, shoes or boots, bottled water, or ready-to-eat food you want to donate, let me know where I can meet you to pick them up. nikinowell@gmail dot com.

Thank you! 🙂

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Filed under Making a Difference, Niki, Reaching Out, Uncategorized

Greeting Cards & Bubbles

I guest blogged on Sacred Margins last week with the following post. Be sure to check out their site when you’re done reading here!

So many nights I’ve cried out to God asking Him for reassurance that we’re still doing what He called us to do with our street ministry. The heartache and lack of respect are draining, but there’s also been a drop in financial support, and increased criticism. We’ve reached a rocky incline and I’ve found myself doubting my ability to keep going, wondering if I’m making a difference at all.

I spent last weekend in bed with the flu and had to miss our weekly meal in the park. I was too sick to care, but then my family brought this card home to me. My breath caught around the lump in my throat as the gesture sank into my heart. Somehow, my street friends had scrounged up a greeting card. The inside was filled with their names wishing me peace and love, get well soon, and angels all around me. I was stunned, and renewed. It reminded me of Galatians 6:9 which says,

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Don’t give up. I matter. Got it.

Most of us are not in the habit of reassuring each other of our significance, which makes it easier to believe the lie that we don’t matter. But the truth is who we are makes a difference even if we don’t see it and need to be reminded. Sometimes those reminders come in strange, unexpected ways.

A few years ago, I sat slumped at my desk, working on a writing project I didn’t think would matter to anyone but me. Lost in my melancholy mood, I sat there so long my screen saver popped up.

I love bubbles. I watched as they bumped and bounced, passing over or through each other, and sometimes sticking together for a bit.  Some moved faster than others, some stayed in one general area while others made their way to all corners of the screen. I thought to myself, we are just like those bubbles, confined to a certain space and have no control over who we bump into on our journey. Notice the words confined and control – good indicators of my mood. But then I watched something amazing happen. As the bubbles touched each other, they changed colors, and it struck me that we’re like that too. While there is constant motion in our lives, we are all changed by our interactions with others.

That’s true for you no matter who you are and what you do in this life. You are changing the people around you just by being you. That’s pretty significant. And it’s okay if you need reminders now and then. They may be as bizarre as a screen saver or as sweet as a greeting card, but they come when we need them, because we are loved, and we all matter. We need to say it and live it.

Who are the people you’re bumping up against today? Tell them they matter.

You just might be the reminder they need to keep going.

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Filed under Making a Difference, Niki, Reaching Out, SEVENS Partners

Update on Eddie

Sorry for the delay in an update, but I wanted to actually have new info. for you.

Benny has been to see Eddie twice, and he is SO discouraged and worried about his future. He is in Boulder County Jail and being held without bond due to the serious nature of the charges. Everything was confiscated as evidence, so we took him some reading glasses today. We’re having a Bible shipped to him tomorrow as it has to come directly from a bookseller. I’m learning all of the restrictions, and they are many. Benny is the only person that has been to see Eddie since his arrest, which is depressing. The good news is that he can receive mail. He needs all the love and encouragement he can get, so if you’re interested in sending him a card or note, please email me (nikinowell at gmail dot com) and I’ll give you the address. We’ve promised him we won’t forget about him, so we’d love some help keeping his spirits up.

The Daily Camera (the Boulder paper I don’t like) posted a new article today about him. You can read it here:

http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-news/ci_19247680?source=most_viewed

Everyone who knows Eddie is giving the same story: he’s a decent guy, non-violent, and pretty trustworthy. But, the road ahead is a long one. And though our judicial system is supposed to be “innocent until proven guilty”, it appears to be just the opposite. Eddie is going to have to prove self-defense. Please pray for him and his family.

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Filed under Eddie, Niki, Reaching Out

Prayers for Eddie

(Originally posted at nikinowell.com)

Yesterday I got a text from a friend who had heard about a stabbing in Boulder involving 3 homeless men. She wanted to know if we knew them. I read the article and looked at the thumbnail picture of the suspect and was thankful that no, I didn’t recognize the face or the name. But one of our other street friends posted something on Facebook today that made us investigate further and we were shocked to find out that the suspect was in fact our friend Eddie. I hadn’t recognized him because he wears his hair differently than the picture and because you couldn’t enlarge it to see it better.

Eddie, who plays the guitar left-handed on the mall. Eddie, who has 2 sweet little girls that live with their mom. Eddie, who Tanner met when he was here for Spring Break and reconnected with this summer while he was here interning with us. Eddie, who visited church with us and wept through the service. Eddie, who is grateful for everything he has. Eddie, who I happily introduced my parents to last Sunday. Eddie, my friend.

Benny is doing his best to get in to see Eddie, but we have heard, and the newspaper has now run this as well, that he claims it was self-defense. He is not a violent guy and the other street people know this too. Many have given that statement to the police. It is still under investigation, and I would appreciate it if you’d pray for my friend. Even if it wasn’t self-defense – and I believe in my gut that it was – I would stand by Eddie through this process.

Being homeless isn’t easy, and it’s not a choice for everyone. I’ll end this now before getting on that particular soapbox. I’ll update this when I know more. Thanks for praying.

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My how I’ve changed…

A man’s body was pulled from Boulder Creek yesterday. It’s the second time this month, and my very first thought was, “Oh God! Please don’t let it be anyone I know.” It’s not what I would have thought before we moved here. Back than I would have thought, “How sad!” and gone on with my day. Now news like that stops me cold. It got me thinking about how far I’ve come – how much I’ve changed. I am still me, but I’m a better version. Growth is good. My edges are smoother, the hardness softened, I have thicker skin, and more patience. God has made me pliable, more loving and forgiving, and definitely more dependent on Him. I’ve let go of so many preconceived notions about others, found a deep community of friends, walked through healing of some of my childhood horrors, and stepped into a new life of writing and speaking.

Yes, I’ve changed. The past 7 years have held such beautiful moments of triumph and crushing moments of sorrow. I’ve experienced new life and the sting of death. I know more is to come, but this post is about seeing how I’ve changed in practical and visible ways.

7 years ago, if the weatherman reported a forecast of a blizzard, I would smile and think, “Yes! Good napping weather, hot chocolate, pajama days.” Now I worry about my friends who live on the street and hope they find shelter with warmth and welcome.

7 years ago, I threw away food when it hit its expiration date. (Like it magically goes bad at midnight on that day??) Now, I am choosy about the food I get rid of and I not only share with friends in need, I feed my family on America’s leftovers. I use lots of coupons, shop at bakery outlets, and frequent a food bank.

7 years ago, I thought homeless people were middle-aged men with missing teeth, holding brown bags wrapped around a bottle. Now I know they are just like me. They have family and friends, problems and stress, and cover all ages from birth to 100 years old. They are someone’s daughter, son, father, or mother. Like me, they have a story to tell and need someone to listen and care.

7 years ago, I relied on a steady paycheck with insurance for my kids and money to pay for swimming lessons. Now I rely on God moving in people’s hearts and donations to our ministry so we can pay our bills, feed our family, and share what we have with our street friends. There is no money for lessons or insurance.

7 years ago, I was nervous pulling up to a stop light if there was a person there holding a sign asking for money, food, or work. Now stop lights are opportunities for me to chat, ask a name, and offer bottled water, new socks, and snacks to the person with the sign.

7 years ago, I hoped for miracles of healing. Now I manifest them.

7 years ago, I stepped out of the church (full-time ministry) and into the world. Now I step out of the world (full-time ministry) to speak at churches.

7 years ago, I was pretty self-centered and loved people like me. Now I’m less so and love people whom I have little in common with, and I’ve been surprised by who those people are. They’re not who you might think.

7 years ago, I thought my faith was real. Now I know it is.

I’ve come a long way and I’m looking more and more like the me I am made to be.

What about you? How have you changed in the last 7 years?

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Filed under homelessness, Niki, Testimonies

Mourning the loss of sweet baby Christopher

Here it is. The post I’ve been avoiding for a few weeks. After the last exciting post, I’ve truly dreaded writing this one. My heart aches daily and I can’t fix it. If you’re my friend on Facebook, this is old news by now. Little Christopher, the blessing I delivered on July 12th, went home to be with Jesus on July 22nd.

While I am grateful for the 10 days we all got to love on him, I have struggled every day since then to understand why, how, and what if. I’ve been a part of his life both in and out of the womb for the past 8 months and now I feel like I’ve lost another child. According to all of the paperwork, I’ve lost a grandchild. Lexi listed me as her mother. As big of a responsibility and honor as that role is, I’m at a loss trying to comfort her when I’m grieving so deeply myself. I love her and I know she knows it. God help me to love her like she needs me to.

I said in the last post that some things are too sacred to share, and some are just too private, but I can tell you this: Little Chris got an infection in his umbilical stump inside of his body after his cord fell off. By the time he was admitted to the hospital, the infection had spread and surgery was required. He was transferred to Children’s Hospital in Denver where they did everything they could for him, but he died the next day. I can’t say any more. It makes the top 5 worst days of my adult life.

Gathering around a table to remember what we’ve been given and to celebrate life is fairly normal for my family, so we held a memorial service for Little Chris at the park in Boulder, underneath the library. There were about 20 people there: some street friends, volunteers from Stand Up for Kids, a few close friends, and of course our family and summer interns. We played a slide show of the pictures we had taken of him, and lit a candle for each day of his short life. Everyone was given an opportunity to say a few words, and I choked my way through my brief speech. We ended our time together in a circle of prayer, and at Lexi’s request, a group scream. You had to be there.

I had strewn small river rock over the table, so we invited everyone to take a pebble with them or throw one in the creek that rushes by the library. I scooped up 11 pebbles, and one by one, my friend Nesti and I threw them into the creek as reminders: one each for love, healing, hope, friends, family, community, peace, joy, strength, and the promise of seeing him again someday. I kissed the 11th stone and asked Little Christopher to please tell my sweet baby that I love her and that I’ll see her someday too, and I aimed for the rapids and let it fly. Nesti and I stood there and cried together for awhile. As I was beginning to calm down, Benny pulled me into a hug, kissed me, and whispered that he too had thrown a rock in for our baby. I love that man!

The cremation was a few days later and nothing prepares you for that experience. I had to sign a waiver to be present at the cremation, and now I understand why. The mortuary was wonderful to us and they tried to prepare us the best they could, but it was a jarring experience and one I hope never to repeat. Every one of us that was present at his birth was present at his cremation. We all decorated the box he was cremated in, and wrote letters to him. I poured my heart out in a 3 page letter, then sealed it and watched as Lexi placed it inside. I said what I needed to say, and there was a little healing in that for me.  It was difficult to watch Chris (Little Christopher’s dad) go between silently pulling into himself and weeping. We all grieve so differently. I just wanted to wrap my arms around him and tell him everything would be O.K. when I myself was feeling the sharp sting of death. I think we all did a pretty good job of encouraging each other through that day, and what had begun as friends 3 weeks earlier, brought us close together and made us family.

Today I received a package in the mail for Lexi and Chris – molds of Little Christopher’s hands and feet – a gift from Children’s Hospital. We’ll open it together when I see them on Wednesday, and there will be more tears (probably mine) as another milestone passes. I hope tomorrow will be a little easier than today.

My sincerest thanks goes out to Bob Flory, the director of Pastoral Care at Children’s Hospital Colorado, all of the wonderful nurses and doctors from Boulder Community Hospital and Children’s Hospital, and John DeMers of Crist Mortuary in Boulder. These people were kind and supportive during this horrible time. God bless you all!

To my fellow grievers and friends who have loved us through this tragedy, thank you for not letting us walk this path alone!

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How I delivered a baby with my iPhone

  • I used Google Maps to find the house where my friend was in labor.
  • I timed contractions using the timer function.
  • I played soothing music on my iPod to keep my friend as calm as possible.
  • I checked the weather to see how long the rain would last.
  • I played Words with Friends while my friend sat in the tub for a bit.
  • I texted with my husband for moral support.
  • I chatted with my midwife friend for general information.
  • I updated Twitter/Facebook to tell everyone I had just delivered a baby.
  • I took lots of pictures.

So I got your attention with the title of the post, now let me share more about the experience itself. My friend, who prefers the term “houseless” to being called “homeless”, told me back in January that she was expecting. For the past several months we’ve been talking and planning what would happen on the big day when it arrived. Being the hippie that she is – and I use that term with love – she wanted to deliver at the campsite she and her boyfriend were staying at, and I begged her to let me be a part of it. Instead she was staying with a friend when the baby decided it was time. (Click on the images to enlarge them.)

A week ago today, I got the phone call I had been waiting for and made the drive to be with her as she labored. This being my first experience with a home birth, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had been a doula (care person for the mother) for two of my friends, but it had been in a hospital. I was a little out of my element this time, but tried my best to be prepared for anything. Little did I know that I would be catching a baby.

The dad, a friend we’ve known for a couple of years, was a great support person. I was so proud of him. We passed the day chatting, timing contractions, and doing everything we could to make my friend comfortable as she did all the hard work. Labor and delivery are fascinating! The body knows what to do and my friend had to pay attention and figure it out as she went along with the cues her body was giving her. I tried to make suggestions when I could, but it was up to her, and she was a trooper.

A midwife friend coached me through delivering the baby and the placenta, taking care of the umbilical cord, everything. It was amazing! 9 hours after I arrived, little Christopher took his first breath. I whispered a quick blessing over him as I laid him on his mommy and began cleaning him up and looking him over. I was nervous but had been praying all day for wisdom, guidance, and peace and felt all of those things. God is so good! My friends gained 6 lbs. and 14 oz. of blessing, and I will never be the same for having been a part of it all. There is so much more I could say, but some things seem too sacred to share on the internet. My friends are now learning how to parent and be a family, and I’m honored that I can speak truth, love, and hope into their lives.

Yes, my iPhone came in pretty handy, but it was nothing compared to God’s calming presence as heaven touched earth and I experienced the miracle of new life with my friends.

         

*I want to thank our friends Jeff & Katherine from the 11th & Willis church of Christ in Abilene (our last SABBATH group) for providing many of the items needed during and after delivery, including the cute blankets we wrapped Baby Christopher in. 🙂

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Filed under Big Announcements, Making a Difference, Niki