Archive for April, 2010

A Friend who Forgives

By Kathy NickersonApril 27th, 2010Friendship, happy endings, mercy11 Comments

Everybody loves a friend

We were in third grade when I totally betrayed my best friend. Troll dolls were the problem. Their ugly mugs and outrageous hair fascinated us. Most of us managed to beg a small dime store model from our parents. One of our friends, however, came to school with a six-inch, authentic troll sporting luxurious, silky hair that could actually be combed! We girls were each allowed to hold the troll for a few minutes. My turn came just before recess.

If I ever start to doubt the basic depravity of man, I simply remember what happened next.

I held the troll in one hand and a blue ballpoint pen in the other. Then some basic, evil, insane drive inside me brought the two together. I drew a thick blue line in the crevice between the trolls grinning lips. (Maybe it was just the writer in me thinking every blank space can be improved with ink.)

Anyway, I dropped the troll back on the owner’s desk and followed my classmates out the door. When the graffiti was discovered, our beloved Mrs. Lowry beseeched the culprit to confess. No one came forward, of course. And, then, when suspicion leaned toward me, I succumbed to my Judas moment. I whispered to some of the girls, “I think Judy had it last.”

Why did I do that? Judy had been my best friend practically since we emerged from the womb one month apart! See above sentence concerning the depravity of man.

As childhood tiffs will do, that one blew over. We went on to face much bigger trials of friendship in the decades that followed. Yet, the memory haunted me. Not daily. Or even annually. But every now and then I remembered that betrayal and felt sick in my soul. During one season when God was dealing with junk in my life (which happens often) I suddenly decided to confess.

I knew it was crazy. I figured no one else even remembered third grade. But, I wrote a couple of letters and confessed. And repented. And told my friends I felt like a wretch.

And then, the beauty of friendship and mercy kicked in. Judy forgave me. She basically said, “No problem. And thanks for telling me. I have wondered a few times why all my friends stopped speaking to me that week.” (Pierce. My. Heart!)

Today, Judy and I are both grandmothers. And writers. And still friends. She leads the Language Arts department of the school we attended. And she told me recently that she uses the troll story now and then. She says it helps students who think they have messed up so completely they can never recover. She tells them not to worry because there is still time to make amends. Even if it takes another thirty years.

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Birth Pains

By Kathy NickersonApril 26th, 2010family, mercy7 Comments

I was chatting with an expectant mom at our church this week, and she asked me about the story I always tell first-time mothers when they tweet something like, “tell me your tricks for getting labor started!” I felt the same way with our first child. I was young and immature even for my age. And having a baby was still much more about me than about the baby.

So, I whined. A lot. And took to my bed. And groaned. And asked the doctor several times if he didn’t think we could have the date wrong. This was long before ultrasounds, so he made his best educated guess and agreed that, “Yes. We could be off a couple of weeks.” So, he induced labor.

I’ll spare you the details. The point of the story is this: We were not off on the date. Felicity came two weeks early. It was long before the days of neonatal intensive care, and she nearly died. She stayed in the hospital fourteen days and was too weak to eat. She lost weight every day, and the nurses couldn’t wake her even by thumping the souls of her little feet or washing her face with a cold cloth. I’m still convinced the only reason she lived is prayer. From lots of people, but especially from her nurse, Fern, who went home every night and got on her knees begging God to show the staff how to help little Felicity.

God, in His magnificent mercy, intervened. He eventually let us take home that little five-pound bundle of wonderfulness and raise her up into an amazing woman of God.

I learned a lot about patience and about putting someone else’s welfare above my own through that ordeal. I was equally miserable and impatient with the next three children, but I didn’t beg. I waited. And, I think the waiting and the misery of those last weeks of pregnancy is really part of God’s mercy, too.

He lets us reach a point where we are so desperate to stop sharing our body with an alien that we would do anything for relief. We are so miserable in our current state we will endure anything just to change. We are so helpless under the terrible weight that we will accept any conditions of surrender.

It helps to remember that when the labor pains begin.

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I Want to be Like David’s Dog

By Kathy NickersonApril 22nd, 2010Uncategorized1 Comment

This is actually Mick the Wonder Dog in early training with our son, Joe.

When I pull into our neighborhood the last few evenings, I’ve seen my friend, David, exercising his dog. A golden retriever, I believe, with wonderful manners. Nicolas sometimes accompanies David to the office (upstairs from mine) and is pretty well-behaved. For a dog. There is still a lot of sniffing involved in his greetings.

Anyway, David was standing on his front step with a tennis racquet in his hand when I came home yesterday. I was about a block away when David whacked the tennis ball across the street and out into an empty field. Nicolas exploded from the yard in pursuit.

The dog snagged the ball and whirled around toward home. And I thought, “that stupid dog is going to race across the street right in front of me and make me slam on my brakes.” Before the thought had completely formed, though, David held out his arm with one hand flexed in a stop sign.

Nicolas obediently dropped to the ground from a dead run. He remained perfectly still with the tennis ball clutched in his jaws until I’d turned the corner and David motioned him on. My first thought was, “That is one well-trained dog.”

My next thought was stranger. I wondered if I stop and drop that way when my Master extends his hand. Do I respond to the promptings of God so willingly? Or am I too eager to prove my worth by fetching the ball? Do I just run on ahead as if I know what is best?

When I mentioned to David that I might blog about this, he wanted to make sure I included a disclaimer. He isn’t the local dog-whisperer, and Nicolas is not really a wonder dog. I just caught him having a very good day.

Yep. That’s what I’m going for. Every day.

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Disciplining My Art

By Kathy NickersonApril 19th, 2010work, writing4 Comments

Artists don’t generally hang out at the gym. You don’t see a lot of musicians running marathons or writers entering the olympics. We may take a long walk on a spring day, but we are more often in search of our muse than our muscle tone.

Don’t get me wrong. Not all artists are couch potatoes. Some artsy folks are tremendously fit (especially if they are dancers or actors) But discipline, in general, doesn’t fit the style of the artist. We like to think of ourselves as floating in clouds of creativity, waiting for a brilliance to flood our souls.

It never works that way, though. Creativity doesn’t float into my life anymore than a slim body comes from watching Marie Osmond do Nutri-system commercials on t.v. (Don’t I wish).

Instead, creativity arrives when I begin to create. I call it disciplining my art. I can’t even remember now where I learned that, but I’ve practiced it for years. No one else in the entire world is going to care today whether or not I write 500 words on my possibly-useless work in progress. No one is going to withhold my paycheck if I fail to post this blog. Nothing is going to goad me on as a writer except… me.

So, I did my little self-talk this morning. I forced myself out of bed and into my prayer-chair. Later, I cajoled myself onto the treadmill and then onto the floor with my hand weights. And, just before I dashed out the door for work, I made myself sit still and capture these thoughts my good friend, Cheri, stirred in my soul this morning.

Not a bad start for a Monday. (Thanks, Cheri)

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Orphans Preferred

By Kathy NickersonApril 15th, 2010work, writing5 Comments

Hyde Park, St. Joseph, Missouri

This month is the 150th anniversary of the historic Pony Express. I am especially fond of this piece of American History since it’s headquarters are only a couple of hours away in one of my favorite towns, St. Joseph, Missouri. Some of our own family history was written there when Charity married Ryan under the shade trees of Hyde Park.

An early advertisement for riders of the Pony Express suggests that orphans were preferred. Evidently, the danger in the job was great, and the company didn’t want to deal with grieving parents along the way.

This risking of life and limb for the greater good has marked much of our nation’s history. Consider Abigail Adams and her efforts to eradicate smallpox among the troops before the revolutionary war. She and all her children received the experimental vaccine and suffered weeks of horrible illness, facing down death to prove the vaccine was safe. Meanwhile, her husband labored miles away in an effort to establish a new government.

Today, we enjoy the benefits of both their efforts. The Pony Express, however, only lasted eighteen months. It became obsolete the moment the first telegraph wire reached California, and all those orphans were out of a job.

These riders taught us something about ourselves, though. Whether we use the Pony Express or the Blackberry Curve, we are designed to communicate. To make contact. To share news, views, and thoughts. This trait in humanity is so strong that some are willing to risk death for the sake of it.

I, on the other hand, am willing to risk public humiliation by putting my thoughts in an electronic pouch and hurling them out for the world to see. It isn’t nearly as noble, of course. But, it’s my way to ride.

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Full Circle

By Kathy NickersonApril 12th, 2010family, happy endings, mercy8 Comments

I can’t imagine being Hannah in the Old Testament and giving my first-born and only son away to God. I mean, really giving. Not just standing at the altar one Sunday while the pastor prays and agreeing that we will “raise this child in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord.”

She actually took the boy by the hand (He may have been as much as four years old) and walked him down the rocky hills from Ramah all the way to the Tent of Meeting in Shiloh. And then she left him there. With Eli. And his corrupt, despicable, none-too-priestly sons.

I have given our children back to God sometimes in ways that felt almost that real. Releasing them to dreams that would take them far away. Watching while they walked through fires I could not quench. Believing for His best even when death was on the line.

Sometimes, as a mother, there is nothing left to do but make our child a little coat each year to demonstrate our love. The rest we have to leave with God.

And, God always comes through.

Samuel grew up to become a great prophet in the land. He anointed the future King David and set the country on a path for peace. Hannah went on to have other children, and the family celebrated with Samuel every year.

And, then, God plopped this little dollop of mercy on top of the whole lovely thing. The Bible says when Samuel became a great man of God, influencing an entire nation, he made his home in Ramah — the city where his mother lived.

I’m not expecting God to bring our distant children back to Missouri. They are doing perfectly fine right where they are. And, I’m not even expecting him to shield our family from any more trials by fire. Those are sure to come.

I am expecting Him to walk with us through the trouble, though. To heal us when we’re broken, to find us when we’re lost, and to lead us all together to a City someday where no one will ever have to say good-bye. Not ever.

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It’s Daisy Newman’s Fault

By Kathy NickersonApril 8th, 2010writing5 Comments

Yes, this book inspired our daughter's name

I’ve been wallowing a bit in writer angst this week. Another “no thank you” on a recent book proposal launched me into the depths of who-do-I-think-I-am-and-what-am-I-trying-to-do land again. Since I’ve promised my husband I won’t threaten to actually quit writing anymore, I didn’t have that out.

I did, however, give myself permission to reconsider what I write and where I send it. The question of the day was this: Am I supposed to be a novelist or not? I could just continue writing articles and essays. That is a satisfying pursuit and one that fulfills my goal to publish His praise and tell everyone about the good deeds He has done.

In the midst of all my conversations with anyone who would listen, a voice of wisdom rose above the din in my own head. My good friend Darin said, “So, why did you want to start writing novels in the first place? If you figure that out, you’ll probably figure out whether to continue or not.”

Such a good question. Such a wise friend.

I started writing novels because Daisy Newman changed my life. Her novels about a Quaker community stirred a desire in me to live in grace, mercy, goodness, and hope. I didn’t become a Quaker, but I did institute a practice of “centering down” every morning like the characters in the book. I’ve been doing that for twenty years now, and it makes all the difference in my world.

So, despite my desire to shove the latest manuscript in a drawer and pretend it never existed, I think I’ll just let it rest a few days. Then, I’ll take it out, fill myself up with a good dose of the Holy Ghost for anesthesia, and start the brutal surgery necessary to turn a mediocre manuscript into a life-changing story.

I hope.

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By Kathy NickersonApril 5th, 2010Uncategorized3 Comments

Lots of people were missing from our traditional Easter Egg Hunt this year. We knew the scattering was inevitable. It is the way of life, and it isn’t a bad thing. I’m glad our children are living productive lives and influencing their communities – even if they are hundreds of miles away from where they were born.

Instead of focusing on the gaps, though, I was determined to contemplate gratitude. The list of things to be thankful for this year were endless, of course. Here are just a few:

Macy unwraps her candy

Traditions – Macy is the youngest this year in a long line of great-grandchildren who have hunted eggs on Grandpa’s farm. This event goes back so far that I remember Easter picnics at my own Great-grandmother’s farm.

Grandpa give instructions

My Dad: Who was so sick at Christmas we weren’t sure he’d see another Easter, let alone hide the eggs and give the annual Rules for the Hunt.

And Cousins of all ages: From Jake and Macy in the preschool set to Grandma and Norma who have qualified for the senior citizen’s discount for a couple of decades now! We are blessed.

Jake and Macy with Felicity

Grandma and Cousin Norma

Grandma and Cousin Norma

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Mostly Good for Us

By Kathy NickersonApril 1st, 2010mercy, The Bible6 Comments

I want to write something profound about Easter. And I find myself without words. Or phrases. Or images that could possible convey even a tiny bit of the power of that day. The words seem thin when compared to the sacrifice. The sentences feel flat when compared to the glory.

And the only clear thought I really have is that Good Friday was mostly just good for us. For Jesus, the Son of Man, it was a very, very bad day.

And yet, He endured. The Bible says he endured the torture and the death for the joy set before Him. And, even that was good for us. We are part of His joy.

There are no words for that. I simply can’t write my gratitude. But, maybe I can live it.

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