Archive for May, 2010

Climbing Mountains (or at least tall hills)

By Kathy NickersonMay 31st, 2010happy endings6 Comments

On top of Independence Rock

Today, I climbed a mountain. Well, it probably only qualified as a hill. I’m not sure it was ever measured by an Englishman. But, it was a mile-high masterpiece for me. I’m not particularly athletic. (If any of my siblings are reading this, they are now lying on their respective floors, holding their bellies, and howling with laughter over that understatement.)

I’m telling you, I could feel the plaque rushing out of my arteries as we climbed. And I was thinking what an amazing feat for someone who lacks only six months of qualifying for the senior citizen discount at fine dining establishments and movie theaters. I was jazzed!

Lately, I’ve been uncomfortably aware of my age. I always thought I’d age gracefully and embrace the autumn season of life with all its benefits and glories. Instead, I’m noticing how quickly I wear out every day. I’ve been a little worried that maybe I really have gone over the hill and I’m on the downward slide in life.

But not today!!! Today I climbed straight up that hill and stood on the top, braced against the wind. (Well, Wendell braced me, but I stood.) It  was thrilling and encouraging and made me believe I still had other goals to reach.

I came off that rock feeling forty years old! So, I decided to race our five-year-old granddaughter on the perfectly smooth sidewalk on the totally flat ground of the nearby rest stop. Fortunately, I didn’t break anything in the fall.

Here’s to more mountains!!!

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The Right Place at the Right Time

By Kathy NickersonMay 23rd, 2010happy endings, mercy, The Bible5 Comments

Maybe I should keep a marching band on retainer, just in case

I love hearing stories about bits of writing showing up in unexpected moments and moving from “just something I jotted down” to front-of-the-store-center-aisle-display-space fame. Like the family Christmas card that ended up becoming the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Or the front page of the church bulletin that grew into a series of charming books by local pastor Philip Gulley.

It is an age-old story, actually. God used the technique more than once in the Bible. For instance, one night a restless king was unable to sleep. He sent for a servant to read from the book of kingdom chronicles. Evidently he expected to be so bored by the details he would nod right off. Instead, the book was flipped open to the account of a man named Mordecai and the day long ago when he had saved the king’s life. (You can read the whole fascinating story in the Book of Esther. I’m going to totally paraphrase here)

This perked the king right up, as you can imagine. And he determined to honor this hero Mordecai. He asked, “What lucky fellow is in the castle tonight who can help me throw a party and a parade?”

The servants answered, “Haman just walked in. He’s a high-ranking official and could do the thing justice.” So, Haman was summoned.

Now, the really interesting thing is this: Haman was on his way to report some atrocious lie about Mordecai. In fact, he had just built a gallows on which to hang his mortal enemy. (Mordecai is the good guy, in case you’ve never read the story.) Instead, Haman gets the job of parading Mordecai through the streets and shouting out praises for everyone to hear.

All because a little notation was written down in a book, tucked away in an archive, and then resurrected in a prophetic moment for such a time as this.

I’m not longing to ride a donkey through the streets wearing a royal robe someday. I’d just like to be the lowly scribe who penned that account in the book. (I’m pretty sure he was standing on the balcony with a smile.)  I’d like to write something that pops up in an unexpected place some day and makes a huge, strategic difference in a life or in the world.

If you are listening, Lord, maybe you could use that frivolous family email I accidentally sent to my entire address book including every agent and editor I’ve queried in the last three years? I’m just saying.

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The Life of a Disney Princess

By Kathy NickersonMay 20th, 2010family5 Comments

Felicity as Charity Church Mouse, Jesse as Risky Rat, Claire as a member of the church mouse choir, and Ada as a kid in the attic choir.

So, Felicity graduated from college on Saturday, and this week she became the equivalent of a Disney Princess. Our school has been working for months on a musical based on the Psalty Songbook video series. And, Felicity played Charity Churchmouse.

She did an awesome job, of course. But the best part came after the performance. All the children wanted to pose with her for pictures. It was like being a Disney Princess in real life. Especially the part where her face nearly broke from smiling so much.

Watching her perform opposite her son, Jesse, who did a magnificent job as Risky Rat, was like seeing a family vaudeville act back in the day. Claire as a church mouse and Ada as one of the kids in the cast also turned in stellar performances. And I thought about all the Disney Princess dolls we bought for Felicity through the years.

Now, she has become one. I always knew she would.

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What I Didn’t Expect

By Kathy NickersonMay 16th, 2010family, happy endings8 Comments

I expected to feel proud. I didn’t expect to sob when I caught sight of her.

We’d already been sitting in the auditorium for an hour (with six small children) when the graduation ceremony began. I was pretty sure the fatigue of the day, the soreness in my throat, and the crush of the crowd would keep the moment from being particularly memorable for me. I expected to endure.

Then Pomp & Circumstance exploded into the room, and the faculty began floating down the aisle in their many-colored robes. Suddenly, I felt impressed. Then, the graduates began their parade, and someone in our row said, “There she is, I see her.” Sure enough, shining out above all those other faces was our beautiful first-born. I’d expected to smile and wave when she walked in front of us. I didn’t expect to feel all the joys and sorrows of her life come rushing through my soul and streaming down my face.

I’d planned all week for the specific photo I wanted from this day. One with Felicity in her cap and gown, surrounded by her husband and children. It would match the one of our family when Felicity was the eight year old child and her dad was the gowned graduate. I expected to blog about it, with an emphasis on family tradition.

We got that shot. And it is nice.

But, then, I caught this moment with Dan and Felicity walking down the street together. And suddenly, the best shot of the day had nothing to do with pictures from the past. It had everything to do with the future. With endless possibilities. With Dan and Lici embracing everything God has in store for them in the years ahead. Wonderful things. Adventurous things. Requiring-every-breath-of-your-life-kinds of things.

I expected to celebrate the culmination of something on Saturday afternoon.

I didn’t expect to glimpse the future.

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A Worthy Read

By Kathy NickersonMay 10th, 2010Uncategorized41 Comments

I’ve never done a book review on my blog before, but I couldn’t resist mentioning this one. It was written by my favorite priest. I’m not Catholic, so you might think that gives Father Mike an unfair advantage in the favorite priest contest. But you have to understand he’s up against some pretty tough competition like Bing Crosby in Going My Way, or Father Flanigan of Boy’s Town. And, with all that, Father Mike is still my favorite.

This book is a collection of stories from his ten years in one local parish. I don’t know a single person in the book, yet I know them all. These are stories of faith, of family, of community in the very best sense of the word.

And most of all, these are stories from a shepherd’s heart. To quote another favorite movie line, Fr. Mike has the usin’ kind of religion, not just the meeting house kind.

My family has been the recipient of his love many times through the years. In fact, one summer we found ourselves between homes for a few weeks. All our friends felt terrible about the problem. While they were all talking about what to do, Fr. Mike started airing out the closed up rooms of his rectory. He ordered two new air-conditioning units from the hardware store, and he warned the housekeeper to lay in some extra Diet Coke.

Then he opened the door, waved his long arms, and said, “Come in, come in! Stay with me!!!”

And so we did.

That is why I love this book so much. Because while Fr. Mike set out to describe the wonder of his flock, he revealed the essence of himself. And in that essence, I see Christ.

Not the serene, benevolent, smiling Christ of classical paintings, though. This is Jesus in real-life. Fr. Mike describes prom dresses and basketball games, death-beds and weddings, laughter and tears. In one story, he talks about a hospital visitation where he found a grieving father in the hallway. The man said, “I don’t think my little girl is going to make it through the night.”

Father Mike gathered his annointing oils, glared at the door of the sick room and said, “The heck she isn’t.” That four year old is a high school junior now.

If you’d like to read more about Fr. Mike and his friends(and donate to the worthy cause of the parish school) just email me and I’ll send you the address to order your own copy. It’s a worthy read.

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Here’s to Hope

By Kathy NickersonMay 4th, 2010family, happy endings, mercy6 Comments

Our crew five years ago.

This week, Wendell and I will celebrate 36 years of life together. I’m so grateful for what that means, for what he has given me in these decades. Here’s a list. It isn’t complete.

In-laws.The kind you can share a back yard with and still be friends. The kind you miss when they are gone to Florida for the winter. (welcome home, Mom). The kind who really become your own big brothers and sisters, too.

Offsrpring. Felicity, Serenity, Joseph, and Charity. And Jared by heart, if not by birth. Which leads to Michael, Dan, Rochelle, Molly, and Ryan (in order of appearance) Followed by John, Andrew, Jake, Jesse, Claire, Ellery, Ada, Macy, Elena, Adele, Nola, Peter, Jude, and Simeon. (not in order of appearance) Plus one more who never appeared on earth but will be waiting for us in Heaven.

Security: Not just the deputy-sheriff kind (though I like that one) but the arm-to-hold-in-high-places kind, and the don’t-be-afraid-to-try-something-new kind, and the I’ll-be-here-when-you-get-home-from-your-writing-adventure kind.

Glory: Like C.S. Lewis in The Last Battle, he is always encouraging me to go “higher up and further in.”

Humility: We are also celebrating another milestone this month. Wendell’s five-year commitment to a recovery program for impaired physicians. That is the politically correct way to say that five years ago we discovered how truly broken we both were when Wendell became addicted to prescription drugs. The season was brutal. The healing has been a treasure. And the five-year anniversary is a bright star in my heart.

Hope: Six years ago, he gave me a slip of paper tucked inside a picture frame for Christmas. He was already very sick by then, and life looked bleak and sad. He had written one word on the paper. Hope. That is what he wanted to give me more than anything else in life.

And, he has.

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A Song of Ascent

By Kathy NickersonMay 3rd, 2010Uncategorized3 Comments

I love the Songs of Ascent in the Bible. These are the psalms people actually sang as they walked up to Jerusalem on pilgrimage. (Check out Psalms 120-134). These psalms contain some of the most famous passages in the world. (and some less famous which happen to be my personal favorites.) Phrases like these:

I lift my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord.. 120:1

I was glad when they said unto me, “let us go into the house of the Lord. 121:1

Those who trust in the Lord area s secure as Mt. Zion. 125:1

When the exiles came back to Jerusalem, we were like people who dreamed. 126:1

Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. 126:5

I love the music of these words (especially in older translations), and I love the hope they convey. The words move me even more when I actually picture people chanting them as they literally ascend the mountain called Zion. In ancient Israel the actual land was considered more holy with each step one took toward Jerusalem. The dust of the street inside the sheep gate was more holy than the dust of the road in the valley. The marble pavement of the women’s court was more holy than the street. And the inner sanctuary, behind the thick veil, was the holiest place of all.

This morning, I’m praying that my life will be a song of ascent. That every step I take on the mundane road of daily living will become holier and holier until I somehow reach the glory of God’s presence. That every thing I experience in life will become a verse of the song. That every moment will bring me closer and closer to Him. Even on a Monday.

Selah.

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