Archive for December, 2010

Solidarity

By Kathy NickersonDecember 28th, 2010family, happy endings9 Comments

Serenity and I a few minutes after our cuts.

Our family is pretty big on doing things together. We’ve been known to gather twenty family members in the waiting room when a new baby is born. In the last few years, though, geography has limited some of those interactions. (Baby Violet was sadly lacking in a receiving line this year. We made up for it with group hugs at Christmastime.)

Today we met a different kind of milestone, and we took full advantage of technology to share it. (Thank you very much, Danieljohn!)

In case this is your first visit to Mercy Street, please allow me to summarize: Our daughter, Serenity, is going through her second battle with Synovial Cell Sarcoma – a rare and aggressive cancer. She was cancer-free for about two weeks this summer, which is a HUGE milestone. A miracle, really. And, we were appropriately grateful. Then, two tiny nodules showed up in her lungs.

Now, one huge shark-bite-to-the-shoulder-blade later (sometimes called a thoracotomy) she is cancer-free again. Praise God! However, the doctors all agree she must endure  preventative chemotherapy this time. In anticipation of the hair-loss that is pretty much guaranteed, Serenity decided she would cut her thick, beautiful lion’s-mane of hair.

Her sisters and I knew what a big deal this was going to be. So, we joined her. Although we were in two different states, we all went to the salon and had our hair chopped. Then we video conferenced to share our stories and our new looks. Occasionally, we each caught ourselves staring into the camera and adjusting our bangs rather than actually looking at the other people on screen.

But, that’s one of the things we love about each other. We might be trembling on the inside, but by golly we’re going to look good!

Video Reunion

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Merry Christmas from Our House to Yours

By Kathy NickersonDecember 24th, 2010family1 Comment

This isn’t our house.

But, we rented this place for a few glorious days in August and reveled in having all our clan under one roof. We swam, played, laughed, and prayed. We stayed up way too late and had lots of conversations like the one pictured above. These days were reminiscent of our lives when all the kids were at home. Only now life is better, because they’ve replicated themselves about a dozen times.

We were celebrating a myriad of things, including five years of cancer-free life for Serenity. Shortly after this, we learned her cancer had recurred. She’s had surgery now, and she will start chemo in January. She is brave, beautiful, and strong through it all. If you want to follow her progress, check out her blog.

Wendell and I continue to celebrate life together. We welcomed another granddaughter, Violet Emery Long, in November. That makes 11 on earth, 2 in Heaven, and 1 arriving in the spring. In case you are counting. We still love working together at his medical clinic, and we are blessed to be part of an intentional community called Heartland. Our church ministers to hurting people from all walks of life, and we are privileged to play a part.

In our spare time, I still write a local newspaper column, a church bulletin, and occasional magazine articles. Wendell helps keep the county safe by serving as a deputy sheriff and the court bailiff. At the end of the day, our favorite event is going home together where we love our cozy, empty nest. We are wishing all of you a Christmas that is merry and bright!

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Still the Same

By Kathy NickersonDecember 20th, 2010Friendship, happy endings6 Comments

We're still here, too!

We got a Christmas letter this week that started out, “We’re still here, living in the same house, doing pretty much the same thing.” I think my friend was making a disclaimer right up front that this wouldn’t be one of those end-of-the-year letters featuring “outstanding family achievement awards.” In fact, I think she was hinting the letter might be boring.

But I wanted to stand up and applaud. I wanted to shout and to cry and to high-five my friend across the miles for still being here. How many people can say that? My friend went on to say she knew having a stable marriage, a secure job, and a healthy family was a lot to be thankful for.

But I don’t think she had any idea how her words would impact me. It was as if she were saying, “Life may feel rocky. Christmas may be clouded by cancer. Other friends may have disappeared. But we’re still here.”

I’ve been hearing those words over and over all week. I know life hasn’t been easy for her this year. Yet, she is still in the same place, with the same man, doing the same day-to-day things that make the world a better place for more people than she can imagine.

So, I’m going to stand up with her today. I’m going to stare trouble in the face, get a grip on all that is good in our lives, stick out my chin and say, “Yeah. We’re still here!”

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The Kindness of Strangers

By Kathy NickersonDecember 9th, 2010mercy, The Bible1 Comment

Penny plates amaze me. I’m talking about those receptacles we find at every store, cafe, gas station, and post office out here in the country. People routinely drop in spare change to help their fellow man. Then, at the gas station, if you miscalculate the final squeeze (and who doesn’t?) and end up pumping $20.01, you can grab a penny from the communal plate instead of breaking a five to make the change.

We take those plates for granted, but it is pretty amazing when you think about it. I mean, we could each hold onto our own change so we had a penny when we need one. Instead, we give it away, totally trusting that the next guy will do the same thing for us.

And, while we are talking about the kindness of strangers, what about blood drives? I’m not talking about the clinics that actually buy your blood. I’m talking about neighborhood gatherings where people walk in, lie down, and pour out the essence of their lives by the quart. For strangers. No cost. Seriously, have you thought about how ludicrous that would sound if you didn’t know it exists?

We recently spent eight days in a big-city hospital facing scary, painful, life-threatening issues with our daughter. And, I continually encountered the kindness of strangers. Like the desk clerk who allowed me to cancel a previously arranged hotel reservation and then promised to pray for our daughter.

We found those people everywhere. They are the same folks who drop pennies in the gas station plate and extend their arms to give blood. I’ve been pondering what makes us behave this way. Why are we humans so willing to extend kindness to strangers?

I’m sure I don’t have it figured out. And, if I ponder long enough, I’ll remember how rotten we can all be. But, this week I’m thinking that maybe our nonchalant dropping of pennies and blood and promises of prayer has something to do with our desire to be good — to be Godly. Maybe we are all trying in a small way to make up for that one guy, long ago, who said, “There is no room in this Inn!”

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Money I Don’t Regret Spending

By Kathy NickersonDecember 3rd, 2010happy endings4 Comments

My husband and I are celebrating this month in a big way. We are out of debt for the first time in our 36-year marriage. Out, baby. All the way. We don’t owe a cent on our cars, our kids, our credit cards or anything else. It isn’t because we are smart and savvy. It isn’t even because we’ve been following Dave Ramsey Rules (though we have radically changed some things, thanks to Mr. R.)

We are out of debt because several years ago, a good friend helped us make a good choice about an investment. It doesn’t always go that way, of course. But this time, things worked exactly the way we all hoped. And now, we are out of debt and paying cash for every purchase. We still have credit cards, but we use them like debit cards and pay them off right away.

But, even back in the day when every paycheck was squeezed until it screamed, we spent some money I’ll never regret. The list goes something like this:

An occasional splurge at Olive Garden or Cheesecake Factory or some other franchise thinly disguised as upscale dining with people we love — like our kids.

A trip to the movies with various kids and grandkids to see something amazing in 3-D. With popcorn and soda.

Christmas gifts.

Birthday cakes.

A tank of gas to cross the state when another grandchild was born.

The dimes, dollars, and double portions we’ve put in offering baskets through the years.

I don’t, in fact, regret any dollar ever spent on someone else. And, I hope I never do.

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