Archive for June, 2011

Weaving Words

By Kathy NickersonJune 29th, 2011mercy1 Comment

One of the quirky things I enjoy is stumbling across a popular scripture and realizing we have taken the passage totally out of context. Our friend, Kris, recently taught a great series on how to study the Bible. He said the root words for context in Greek actually mean “to weave it all together.”

Isn’t that lovely? And don’t we fail to weave it way too often?

For instance, tonight our friend Joe quoted (in context) the famous scripture from Phillipians 4: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

This one is in every Promise Box. We have stitched it, stamped it, named it, and claimed it in several languages. And we generally use it to bolster our courage. To remind us how victorious we are going to be over that nasty obstacle in our way. Out with disease, poverty, and difficult calculus exams!! We can do all things through Christ!!!

Tonight, however, I heard these words woven together with all the words around them. Words about hunger and fullness. Poverty and wealth. Good times and bad. The writer was saying, “I’ve learned how to be content in all those things, because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Through Jesus, I can do all things.

Even suffer.

 

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Wherein I Take One Baby Step

By Kathy NickersonJune 27th, 2011writing5 Comments

Just one step away from a big splash

Last weekend, I walked across a grocery-store parking lot and thought about how thin I felt. Now, this is ludicrous on so many levels. I am still months away from my goal weight. Lots of months. I send the dial on a bathroom scale much further than it has ever gone before. And, I was surrounded by actually thin college students at the time.

But, for the first time in years I am doing something about this problem. And, the doing changed my feeling.

The principle holds true in other areas of my life, as well. Maybe I can only do ten minutes on the treadmill Monday morning because I crammed in too many morning chores. But, I will¬† do those ten minutes. That is enough to remind me I have a heart, to release some feel-good endorphins, and to establish a circuit in my brain that says, “This is a habit. It is what I do.”

So, now, I am writing this blog post. My plan for the afternoon included this plus the rough drafts of three articles. But, I had to run an unexpected errand. A long, unexpected errand. Rather than give up the idea of writing all together, I left my kitchen in a mess just a few minutes longer and wrote this post. I can feel that brain pathway sizzling, “You are a writer. This is what you do.”

It is just a baby step. But I’m okay with that.

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A Time to Smile

By Kathy NickersonJune 23rd, 2011happy endings, mercy3 Comments

It only takes a smile...

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the mass of hurting people in the world.¬† I am not talking about a montage on the evening news. These are people I know. People who walk through the halls of our clinic every week. Many of them carry four generations of poverty, pain, and despair. When I pray for them, I do it by clans. If I took time to whisper every name, I’d be late for work.

And I wonder if we are making any difference. I know Wendell does. He is a much better Christian than I am. When a demanding patient irritates me at the front desk, Wendell spends an extra ten minutes soothing their soul in the exam room. Sheesh. Why didn’t I think of that?

When I feel overwhelmed, though, I give myself a little shake. I’m no good to anyone in that state. So I remind myself of the psalmist who said, “I would have despaired if I had not seen the goodness of God in the land of the living.”

And, I’ve seen it. In people like our friend, Tass, who was Once an Arafat Man. Today, as a follower of Christ, he is helping shape an entirely new culture in the Middle East one family at a time. All because a wealthy patron smiled at the nervous bus boy in an upscale dining room one day.

I’ve seen it in sweet Sadie, a widow with a hard life when she came into our first clinic twenty years ago. She was gasping for breath that day. I barely remember the brief prayer I said while holding her hand and waiting for the ambulance. But Sadie says it was a turning point for her. These days she beams when she tells me the latest happenings in her beloved Methodist Church. And she includes Wendell and I in the list of birthday and anniversary cards she sends by the dozens.

When I remember people like these, the problems of life don’t seem so overwhelming. After all, Jesus really is the answer. And he can sometimes be found in a smile.

 

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A New Measure

By Kathy NickersonJune 17th, 2011family3 Comments

Birthday blessings to you, Charity

If you asked me on almost any given day how old our children are, I would have no idea. If that worries you, let me explain: I’m usually not sure how old I am, either. Of course I paid attention to such things when the children were living under our roof. I knew how many months were left before the next one departed for kindergarten. I knew how many weeks until we had another new driver in the family. And, of course, I knew exactly how many more days our graduating senior would ride in the car pool with me.

None of our children have lived with us for nearly a decade, though. (Eight years to be exact. I think.) And our daily lives are no longer tied so closely together. Because of that, I measure things differently now.

I measure by conversations. I remember every one we’ve had in the last few months. And by Coming Events such as another trip to where they live, a gathering of grandchildren for cousins’ camp, a family reunion that gets everyone under one roof for at least 24-hours. Or even a video chat to catch me up with daily details of their lives. (and to see the grandchildren)

Evidently, our youngest child is hitting a milestone this weekend. (I won’t mention which one. The adult milestones generally start at 21, so I’ll just tell you it’s beyond that.) And as much as I hope to keep better track of her age since I’ve been reminded of it again, I’m sure I won’t. By October, I’ll need to pull out a calculator and do a word problem to figure it out.

But ask me where she is in life and I’ll have an answer. I’ll tell you about her handsome husband and the unexpected friends they are finding in the film world. I’ll tell you about her motherhood which manifests in a style I’d never have dreamed of and which I deeply admire. I will tell you about her worship and how she takes people with her when she soars.

Ask me any of those things, and I can tell you. Because, I measure things differently now.

 

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The Words We Give Away

By Kathy NickersonJune 12th, 2011writing3 Comments

Grandpa and Violet do some web surfing.

Let’s be clear. I am a writer. And I like to sell stuff. Essays, articles, stories. A novel would be nice, though I have not experienced that one yet. Being paid for my work makes me feel validated. Affirmed. Legitimate. No matter how many times my husband tells me I’m a great writer (which he does) I’m never as convinced as when I hold an actual check in my hand.

However, some of my words are meant to be given away.

When I get an idea, concept, illustration, or story (which mostly happens in the shower) I wonder where it belongs. Is it an essay for the magazine I’m trying to break into? A scene for the novel I’m working on? An article for a market I haven’t even discovered yet?

Or, does it belong to one of the places where I give my words away? This blog for instance. I’m so grateful to the writers, editors, and agents who give their words away on professional blogs every week. They give us a tremendous education for free. I’m sure I don’t have that much wisdom to impart. But I try to do my part.

I also give away my words in a neighborhood newspaper column and our Sunday church bulletin. Those are tremendously fulfilling, especially because of the immediate feedback I get. When someone stops me at the local steakhouse and tells me how much they enjoy reading about our Heartland Happenings, it is better than a paycheck.

I think we all have words to give away. They might be in a conversation with a three-year old or in a comment on a student’s paper. Maybe it is the sentence you toss at your husband when you leave for work or something you consider small talk at the coffee counter. Somewhere during the day, the words you give away could make all the difference for someone else.

Words are powerful. And we never know for sure which ones really are worth gold.

 

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More Than a Memory

By Kathy NickersonJune 9th, 2011mercy7 Comments

Grandpa Adair holding my first real baby, Felicity.

Yesterday, I tried to buy a sympathy card for a friend. Most of them said something like this: “May the wonderful memories of your loved one carry you through this difficult time.”

I have news for the card-writers of the world. Memories are not enough.

Take, for instance, my pastor and grandfather — J. Bryan Adair. He bought me my first baby doll when I uttered my first full sentence. He drove me hundreds of miles to church camp meetings (several times) even though he knew I was more interested in the cute boy in the third pew than in the faith we were celebrating. And, he bought me ice cream on the way home the year that boy broke my heart.

My grandfather baptized me, performed my marriage ceremony, and shared a table with me at every birthday, Christmas, and Thanksgiving for twenty-one years.

But, I can’t remember his voice.

Not clearly. The longer the gap between his death and my present life, the more dimly his memory shines. Until much of it feels more like legend in my mind than a reality I experienced.

I’ve lost many loved ones since Grandpa died in 1976. Family members, friends, grandbabies. And I’m more convinced about some things than ever. When my soul is lying on the floor, and I’m trying to stifle the urge to wail, memories bring no comfort. When the raw grief surges, and I burst into tears at the grocery store, memories offer no solace. When the shining, white stone beckons to me from the graveyard as I drive to work, memories inspire no courage.

Yet, I am not without hope. Because my grandfather left me with something much better than a memory. He left me with this:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. First Thessalonians 4:16-17

Put that in a Hallmark card and you’ll actually make a difference.

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