Archive for April, 2009

Life in the Castle

By Kathy NickersonApril 29th, 2009happy endings4 Comments

Being married to a doctor has its perks. Tonight we are sleeping in a castle. Well, a chateau, actually. On the lake in Branson, Missouri. But it looks like a castle from the outside, and it feels pretty opulent in our room. We are here so Wendell can attend seminars to catch up on the latest in medical advances and so I can write undisturbed for hours at a time. The great news is this: The extravagant room is a business expense, so the office is paying. The bad news is this: We own the office. So, technically, the whole working vacation is really coming out of our pocket either way. But we sure notice it less when it comes out of the pocket on the business side of our suitcase.

I admit I like this stuff. Fancy hotels, a reasonable excuse for room service, and the whole heady environment of hanging around people the whole of our society considers important. Or at least expensive.
This evening we strolled through the grand hallway to the conference desk. We passed a water fall, exotic birds, ornate tables, and plush chairs. Eventually, we reached the display honoring the out-going president of our state medical society. We actually know the guy. In fact, we hung out together when our children were younger. He even delivered one of our babies. And since I’m pretty easily sucked in by all the glitz, you would think this would have put me over the edge.
Instead, it brought me right back down to earth. Because there was Rex, posing in all his cowboy glory complete with hat, boots, and his favorite Missouri mule. That is when I remembered Wendell and I are just a couple of country kids out on the town. We’ll go back in a few days to our two-bedroom house at the edge of the cornfield, and we will be extremely glad to be home. 
But, for now, I’m going to revel in the castle and the man who married me thirty-five years ago next week. That’s my kind of fairy tale.

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Never Trust the Cup Bearer

By Kathy NickersonApril 25th, 2009family, happy endings, The Bible5 Comments

I just read one of the saddest lines in the Bible again tonight. “But the cup bearer forgot about Joseph.” This is the Joseph who was thrown into a well, sold by his brothers, entrapped by a seductress, and abandoned in an Egyptian prison. Things started looking up a little, though, when he told a fellow prisoner the good news about his dream. (The baker in the other cell didn’t get such a great report.) Joseph told the cupbearer, “Your dream means Pharaoh is going to spring you out of jail and promote you back to your old job in three days.” Wahoooo! Great things ahead for the cup bearer. While he was dancing a little jig (or whatever) Joseph said, “By the way, when you get the promotion, please drop my name to the CEO.” (Wall Street translation.)

Of course, said cup bearer forgot all about Joseph when the time actually came. The point of that story for me right now is this: People are great. We love ’em. We need ’em. We couldn’t get along without them. But, only Jesus is our Savior. 
I’ve been guilty many times of wanting to lean on the cup bearer for my security. Sometimes he was my husband, or my mom, or my boss, or my pastor, or even one of my kids. Sometimes he was an editor or agent I met at a conference. Even though all those people are tremendously valuable to my life, they are just people. And chances are pretty good they won’t be able to live up to my lofty expectations.
But Joseph’s fate wasn’t really in the hands of the forgetful cupbearer. Eventually God nudged Pharaoh, and he remembered Joseph. He promoted the former prisoner to the second highest post in the land.
That is good news for us, too. Despite the lousy economy, the shrinking job market, and the daily threat of annihilation by pandemic and/or terrorist attack, our true fate lies in the hands of God. We don’t have to trust in the cup bearer, because the One who bore the cup of suffering will never forget us.

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My Posse

By Kathy NickersonApril 23rd, 2009Uncategorized5 Comments

We are blessed with a passel of grandchildren. Until recently, they all lived within an hour of our house, which was a miracle we held as lightly as a soap bubble in summertime. Now three of the granddaughters live in different states and we are learning the art of distance relationships. We aren’t very good at it yet, but we will get better.

One of our goals as the children grow is to host Cousin’s Camp every year. I have been planning it since the summer we added two grandsons in three weeks. I had a glimpse of what our clan might become, and I wanted to make the most of it. Last summer we gave it our first shot. The oldest camper was eight, and the youngest was still in diapers. Day One was all about the boys. They are pictured here in the attire they wore for most of their stay. The hats once belonged to their great-grandfather, and I’m pretty sure he never expected to see them used this way.
The Camp coincided with the olympics that year, and we let the big boys spread their sleeping bags in the living room. They all stayed up late and held their breath with Grandpa until Michael Phelps’ fingertips made that amazing brush against the pool and set a world record.
I hope I’ll remember forever the sight of those gangly arms and legs in our living room as they leaped and shouted and high-fived one another. And I hope the posse will keep coming to Cousin’s Camp at least until they are old enough to break some world records of their own.

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Peeps and Posse

By Kathy NickersonApril 20th, 2009Friendship, writing4 Comments

Networking is an interesting word. A network ties together a group of computers making this conversation possible in the first place. Insurance companies use networks to decide how they are going to pay various doctors. You get paid better if you are “in network.” Today, I was grateful people like Blue Cross and Humana consider Calvary Medical Center among their peeps. We got some checks in the mail.

On the other hand, a network can be something like a spider web. “I’ll tie myself to you in some cyber-savvy way and you tie yourself to me so one of us can lure in the innocent fly we want to profit from.” I’m sure it is never that bad. But I find myself asking these days whether I want to be a Facebook friend because I really want to know what the other person had for lunch or if it is because I think the other person can do me some kind of favor that will help me buy some lunch.
At our recent conference, we talked about the difference between our peeps, whom we probably only know in the virtual world, and our posse whom we could call up at a moment’s notice when we need to go round up some bad guys. Or move some furniture.
The interesting thing is this: If you spend enough virtual time with your peeps, some of them actually become your posse. They may be too far away to help you move the sofa down three flights of stairs. But they are certainly close enough to pray when you lose the job that necessitates that move.
That is the kind of network I want to weave.

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Reckoning Myself a Writer

By Kathy NickersonApril 17th, 2009Uncategorized5 Comments

Reckon: to regard or think of as.

That is how Mr .Webster defines the word, and it is a good description of what I went through over the weekend. I attended a writer’s conference at a little lake retreat that was actually billed as a Mentoring Conference. That meant I actually had to decide if I was a magazine writer, novelist, non-fiction book writer, children’s author, or screen writer and then sign up with the appropriate mentor. 
I picked magazines, since that is the only place I’ve been published so far. My mentor was an amazing gentleman named Eric Reed of Christianity Today International. One of the most important things he did for our little group was to challenge us to admit we are writers. I think I’ve been afraid to do that since I was a teenager watching John-Boy hide his Red Chief tablet and stubby pencil under the mattress so his family wouldn’t find out he longed to squander his life as a writer instead of taking up a sensible profession like cutting timber on Walton’s mountain.
So, I reckoned myself a writer. I sat at breakfast and chatted with the acquisitions editor of Harvest House. I exchanged pleasantries with the children’s editor from Tyndale, and I boldly accosted the screenwriter from L.A. and asked if my daughter could interview her for a book.
And, do you know what I discovered? They are real people, with real issues, and real dreams not-yet-fulfilled just like the rest of us. And, I am one of them. I’m a writer.

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Just be Nice

By Kathy NickersonApril 11th, 2009family6 Comments

 I’ve had a particularly grumpy Monday, for which I’m totally ashamed. Especially since the most important part of my job involves being nice to people when they arrive in our clinic. My mother taught me long ago that one of the most important things you can do in life is just be nice. (whether you feel like it or not.)

The truth of her lesson struck me one day when I was standing in the bread aisle at the grocery store. I was trying to choose between the soft, white sandwich bread or the brown version my husband preferred for digestive health. That was long before the whole-grain craze of our day, so I reached for the white. That is when I noticed the short lady in her dark coat and raggedy head scarf.

She didn’t acknowledge me, or even glance my way. Even so, I recognized her as a rather eccentric neighbor of my parents. So, I said, “hello,” just as my mother had always taught me to do.
The neighbor looked up in surprise. Then she looked around to see who I was talking to. Then she narrowed her eyes, and nodded. I thought she didn’t recognize me as a grown-up, so I mentioned my maiden name. “Oh, I know who you are,” she said. “I’m just surprised you spoke to me.”
She studied me for a minute and I couldn’t think what to say. “I guess you are just like your mother,” the neighbor lady said. I wasn’t sure how to take that, so I was glad when she kept talking. “People think I don’t know what they say about me. But I’m not dumb. I know I don’t look like those ladies on the magazine covers. I know I’m not exactly like other people.”
This was true, but I didn’t want to admit it, so I just waited for her to go on.
“I know people laugh at me,” she said. “and talk about me. But, not your mother. She always spoke to me no matter where she saw me. Always. She always spoke. And I guess you’re just like her.”
She smiled then, and I melted. 
It was the greatest compliment I’ve received in my whole life, and I strive every day to live up to it. My mother has an amazing ability to see the best in every person and to expect the best response from them. My children say Grandma probably thinks Osama bin Laden just had a rough childhood. That was her explanation for every bully we ever met in school. Come to think of it, she is probably right. 
That day in the grocery store, I was so grateful for a mother knew how to be nice. And I’m determined to do better tomorrow. 

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Our Easter Tradition

By Kathy NickersonApril 9th, 2009Uncategorized6 Comments

One of my favorite traditions involves otherwise sensible grown-ups clawing through the tall grass of my father’s sheep pasture looking for little plastic ovals filled with chocolate eggs and marshmallow chickens. We’ve followed this particular tradition for at least three decades. Before that, Easter Sunday was marked by a picnic somewhere in my great-grandparent’s woods. I think we had a brief lull in the fun back when my siblings and I were too teenage-cool for such things.

We are over that now. In fact, we are so over it that a few years ago both my brothers climbed to the top of a tall tree in search of an egg peeking from the top of a squirrel’s nest. It was sleeting at the time. But, the hunt has two rules: If you find someone else’s egg, you are sworn to silence and cannot tell where it is. Rule Number Two: No one goes to the house until everyone finds their egg.  
We were all rooting for that second brother.
My parents have pretty much perfected the art of family traditions, in general. We still hunt the eggs pretty much the same way we did when all of today’s young parents were toddlers. But this year we will hunt on Saturday instead of Sunday so everyone can be in their own church Easter morning. 
I know my parents would love to have the whole bunch of us crowding into pews and singing “Up from the Grave He Arose” with them on Resurrection morning. Instead, they will send us each back to our congregations where we will teach Sunday school, lead worship, serve as ushers, welcome guests, and be faithful members of the congregation. 
And that is the best part about strong families with great traditions. We multiply.

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Bread and Wine

By Kathy NickersonApril 9th, 2009The Bible5 Comments

I’m not actually having either of those things tonight. But I have a strange desire to turn on the Sabbath Prayer scene from Fiddler on the Roof, light some candles, drink some grape juice and pretend for just a few minutes that I’m living in that culture. That I’m sitting around a campfire somewhere in ancient Jerusalem listening to the Passover prayers.

When I was a child, my grandfather preached a message one Sunday on the significance of the first Passover. I remember being enthralled by the story of slavery and deliverance. And I remember being a little frightened by the image of the Death Angel that rose up and waved around in my mind. Then, he talked in great detail about the way the Hebrew fathers applied the blood of the lamb to their door posts. In my always vivid imagination, I saw that old Death Angel swoop down over the house with his sword drawn. But, in the last second, he saw the blood and veered away. I could almost hear the swoosh as his long, grey garment swept the roof of the house.
Tonight, I want to remember that scene again. And I want to flash forward to the Passover meal where the Lamb of God sat with his friends for a final meal. I want to hear him talk about the new covenant, the one sealed with His blood and demonstrated by our love. And I want to thank Him again for being the sacrifice that keeps the Death Angel away from my door every day.

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I Like My Day Job

By Kathy NickersonApril 6th, 2009writing2 Comments

Please refrain from throwing the rocks you are holding in your hands. I, too, fantasize about having uninterrupted hours alone in a mountain cabin (like the one pictured here) where I can think, write, rest, and write some more for days on end. But I live in the reality of a material world where a pay check is more than just handy. Then, today I had an interesting thought: I might not quit my job even if I could.

The thought is theoretical, of course. I see no immediate danger of having to make the decision. It was comforting, though, to realize I like my 
job. Of course, it helps a lot that I work with my husband in a rural medical practice we’ve been dreaming about since our first date 36 years ago. As Serenity pointed out, I do still have a serious crush on the man. But, with good reason. I mean, I saw him bring a man back to life a couple of  weeks ago. It wasn’t the same as Jesus raising Lazarus after three days. But the man was dead. Not just mostly dead — Miracle Max could not have helped this man. He was sitting in our office, and his heart stopped. His breath stopped. He expired.
And my husband knew exactly what to do to give him every possible hope of a second chance. It was amazing. Terrifying and not-exactly-pretty, but amazing. Today that dead man walked into our office and complained that his chest is hurting from the CPR and the shocker paddles. I wanted to shout “Hallelujah! You lived to complain another day!!!”
Most of our days are not nearly that exciting, and sometimes not nearly that happy. Yet, I find myself waking up eager to go to the office. (almost every day) I know that is a blessing, and I’m trying not to take it for granted.
I’d still like to have long hours to contemplate and create. In the meantime, I’m grateful for a job I like. In fact, in today’s economy, I’m grateful for a job at all.

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Chocolate Milk and M&M’s

By Kathy NickersonApril 5th, 2009happy endings, mercy8 Comments

Once upon a time in my life, I directed a day care center with about forty-five preschoolers enrolled. They are all grown-ups now, living productive lives and blessing may heart every time I hear from one of them. Hearing from one is what prompted me to tell this story, for which I did ask permission.

I had just grabbed my purse that morning and was headed out the door to run errands. I knew it would take a couple of hours, and if I left immediately I could get back in time to help with lunch. I was standing up to leave when Emily appeared at the office door. Her big brown eyes were snapping, her little jaw was set, and she was poised to resist whatever she was about to encounter with everything in her four-year-old soul.
By this time in my career, I had earned the sad title of “The Spanking Lady.” We tried to limit the use of such corrective behavior. A well-placed swat on the derriere was always used as a last resort, and only the Director was allowed to administer it. I could see from Emily’s face where we were headed.
I don’t have any idea now what the original infraction had been, but I know willful disobedience had been the root. And we had a rule about willful disobedience. What’s worse, Emily’s dad had a back-up rule: If Emily earned herself a trip to my office, she had to take my correction like a lady.
I took another look at Emily and knew things were not going to go well. Then, an unexpected thought flitted through my head. Before I could think it over, I said, “Emily, do you want to go for a ride with me?”
We stopped at the gas station first. Emily was still silent and apparently braced for the scolding to come. It was almost morning snack time, so I bought myself a Diet Coke, and I got a bottle of chocolate milk and a bag of M&M’s for my little charge. She smiled.
I don’t remember what we talked about on that drive twenty years ago. I only remember the pleasure of riding down the road together, sipping our drinks and sharing our M&M’s. I have thought about that day many times. Especially on occasions when I think God must be looking at me, shaking His head, and saying, “I know she needs a good spanking right now, but I’m going to give her My mercy instead.”
So, here is to Mercy. To chocolate milk and M&M’s. To sweet Emily. And to not always getting exactly what we deserve.

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