Archive for February, 2014

The Numbers Game

By Kathy NickersonFebruary 28th, 2014mercy2 Comments

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We get pretty caught up with numbers in our lives. Dollars in the bank. Pounds on the scale. Followers on Twitter. It can be overwhelming.

So I looked to see what the Bible says about the numbers game. The scriptures do mention numbers. 3000 people added to the church in one day. 4000 men fed on five loaves and a few fishes. But, mostly, the Bible talks about one person at a time. A widow. A fisherman. A blind man. A rich, young ruler. Even when Jesus healed ten lepers, the event focused on just one. (The one who came back and said thanks.)

For a writer, the temptation is to play the numbers game in sales, reviews, and likes on our Facebook page. When someone asks, “So, how is your book doing?” We know they mean “how is it doing in the numbers game?” Because that is the easiest measurement to understand.

The truth is, I don’t know how my book is doing in that game. But in lots of other ways, I know it is doing quite well. A life impacted. A prayer life inspired. Hope for change. Plans for a future.

When I hear those reports, I know my book is winning. Maybe not awards or spots on a best-seller list. But in the ways that matter most.

I hope you aren’t trapped in the numbers game in your own life. If you are, kick that scorecard out the door. Look for the measurement that matters, instead.

And tell us about it.

 

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Bringing It Home

By Kathy NickersonFebruary 24th, 2014mercy8 Comments

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We’ve had a major move at our house this week, and I didn’t have to pack a single box. It is all my husband’s fault, of course. We were chatting last week and I mentioned (again) that we needed to go to the East Coast this summer. “I need to do some research on police procedures in small towns in New England,” I told him. “For my book.”

Wendell is such a supporter. If I throw out the “my book” card, he will buy me a computer, send me to a conference, or even let me go AWOL from my day job for hours at a time. (That is a big deal since he is my boss.) He is my biggest fan and my best encourager.

But, he is not a fan of either coast. He prefers life here in the fly-over states of the Midwest. (Or the Rocky Mountains. He’d love for me to write a book with that setting.)

He had already told me months ago I should get my characters to move to the Midwest. And I had explained that I can’t actually tell my characters what to do.

But, in this conversation, he challenged me again to consider the setting. He pointed out I was working really hard to research a place when what I should probably be doing was telling a story.

So, I had a little talk with my main character. We discussed the options. And, suddenly, she agreed to move! I spent two days revising the first several chapters, and the story became so much better. Now, when I send her into the convenience store to buy milk, I know what the clerk is wearing! I can hear what the Pepsi man says about the local ball team. I can see the fireworks on the Fourth of July.

I love it when my greatest fan becomes my best critic. (And when he gives me a day off to write. Such perks.)

Note to Readers of Thirty Days to Glory: Expect to see a few Glory Circle Sisters show up in this story. Especially Bess.

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It’s Who You Know

By Kathy NickersonFebruary 20th, 2014mercy4 Comments

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Next week is the third birthday of our fifth grandson. He lives 900 miles away. Sounds like a sixth grade word problem, doesn’t it? If you are trying to figure out how long it will take a train traveling at 120 miles an hour to get to his house, just let me tell you. Forever. Plus a two-hour layover.

As a grateful member of the Long Distance Grandparenting Club (I’m grateful just to be a grandparent) I have learned some tricks to stay in touch. I still think grandparents are one of the most important assets in a child’s life. So, we do things like this:

* On this birthday, we sent a DVD, a set of cowboy guns, and a talking picture frame starring Grandpa & I. When the little guy pushes the button on the frame, he will hear us say “Happy Birthday and we love you.” I hope he presses it a million times a day.

* We routinely video chat with a couple of preschool granddaughters in another state. Their wise mother is already introducing her two-month-old baby to Grandma’s face on the computer. Eventually, that will translate to kisses in real time.

* I email short snippets back and forth with our pre-teen granddaughters. We cover important details like, “Who do you like in the figure skating tonight?” and “I’m really missing you right now.”

*On Valentine’s Day, I sent text messages to our  middle-school grandsons offering to help out if the girls mobbed them that day. I got back some LOL’s and an assurance from our eldest that, “I think I’ve got it under control, Grandma. But thanks.”

My grandchildren will never remember me as the lady who baked cookies. But I hope they know me as someone who cared about their lives, even far away, and who did my best to stay connected.

Because it matters who you know.

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And Then There Was Ice

By Kathy NickersonFebruary 17th, 2014mercy4 Comments

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One of the hardest scenes to write in Thirty Days to Glory was the one where Catherine gets trapped at home in an ice storm. No heat, no electricity, no telephone. (She hadn’t moved to the digital age, yet.) I actually felt her despair in that scene, because I remember how cold and lonely such a day can be. You feel totally cut off from everyone. Just knowing you can’t turn the tap makes you thirsty. And realizing you can’t call for help is frightening. No traffic on the road. No noise except the icy rain on the roof.

We are having a day like that today. Yet, it is nothing like that. Our electric lines are all under ground, so chances of losing electricity are slim. And although many of us are staying safely at home, we are chatting with one another on social media as if we were just in the next cubicle making plans for lunch.

So, instead of feeling lonely and isolated, today feels something like an unexpected holiday. (Even for me. I slid my way to the office in case anyone has an emergency, but the silent morning has been a gift.)

And I realized it isn’t that technology is making our lives less lonely. Our relationships are doing that. If we didn’t already love one another, it wouldn’t matter what drivel we posted on Facebook. But, I actually care what Josh is having for lunch or how Eliza’s video editing is going at home. Not because I’m a foodie or a techie. I’m just a fan of my friends. And I’m so grateful to technology that lets me connect to them even when the roads are made of ice.

 

 

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And They Lived…

By Kathy NickersonFebruary 12th, 2014mercy11 Comments

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Some of the greatest love stories you’ll ever read are true. The happily-ever-after part is usually hard-fought and only partly-true. But a great love can last a lifetime and be mostly happy. Consider this one:

Rahab the Harlot. Better known in our day as a prostitute. She shows up in the book of Joshua in the Bible and is famous for hiding some spies. This is the second time the Israelites have sent spies into the land God promised to give them. But Joshua doesn’t send his spies on a “let’s see if we can” mission. Joshua had been on one of those forty years before, and it ended badly.

This was a reconnaissance mission. A special forces, elite group sent in to gather intel and report back for a battle plan. There would be no doubt about taking land this time.

Even the people about to be taken knew that. When Rahab met the spies, she trembled. “We’ve heard the stories about your God,” she said. “We know we don’t stand a chance against Him.”

In that fateful encounter, Rahab risked her life to help the spies. In return, they promised safety for her and her family in the coming siege. It is a beautiful story of salvation, foreshadowing what Jesus will do for all of us. But the text of the love story is subdued. It first shows up in chapter 6, verse 25 where the writer says that Rahab and her family were saved. “And she lives in the midst of Israel to this day.”

We have to go forward several books in the history of Israel to see Rahab again. In the New Testament book of Matthew, she shows up as the great-great grandmother of King David. And here is the interesting twist in the plot. Let’s go back again and meet Rahab’s husband.

His name was Salmon, and he would have been less than forty years old when he met Rahab. He was a descendant of Judah and a member of the new generation of Israelites. (One of the spies, perhaps? Pure speculation.) But we do know where he would have been shortly before the battle. Imagine Salmon standing on the plains of Moab during the farewell speech of Moses. (It would later become known as the Book of Deuteronomy). Imagine Salmon looking over into the land and listening as God said through Moses:

“No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants for ten generations may be admitted to the assembly of the Lord. As long as you live, you must never promote the welfare and prosperity of the Ammonites or Moabites. Deut. 23:3,6 

A short time later, Moses dies. Joshua leads the people into their promised land, and Salmon the zealous son of Israel marries Rahab the prostitute from Jericho. He definitely promotes her welfare, and together they create a legacy that leads to Jesus.

I have no idea what their love story looked like. What it took to make such a marriage work. I only know this: It must have been beautiful, because it inspired their son, Boaz, to offer the same love to a Moabite widow named Ruth.

In this family, not once but twice, mercy triumphed over judgment. And that is the greatest Love Story of them all.

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Permission Granted

By Kathy NickersonFebruary 10th, 2014mercy8 Comments

1779823_10152269209883128_1451765767_nThis week, I had a cold. The kind that makes your head three times too big and sucks the strength from your bones. And, I was so grateful to be able to take to my bed and stay there for a bit. Actually, I was surprised at myself for doing so. The advertisements on television always say to do that.

“Rest in bed, drink plenty of fluids, and take (insert product of your choice) to reduce pain and fever.”

But we never do. We’ve developed this crazy idea that what we should really do with a cold is march through it like Napolean’s army through Russia. (That didn’t end well, in case you have forgotten your history.)

So, we push. We take our coughing, sneezing, wheezing selves to the office where we spread the virus to every elevator button, telephone, copy machine, and door knob we touch. We tell everyone who asks that we “sound worse than we feel.” Which is mostly a lie.

I don’t know why we do this. Is it because we feel indispensable? Or are we too proud to admit a cold can get us down? Or do we just not believe we should give ourselves time to heal?

Because, here is the thing. Rest helps. Our bodies need to use all their strength to fight the virus, without having to also fight traffic, technology, and office triage.

So, I stayed home today. And I rested. I did not spread my sickness to my fellow office-dwellers. I’m not sure why it has taken me so many years to give myself permission for this. But just in case you suffer from that same disease, let me relieve you. Next time you have a cold and wonder if you should stay home, stay home.

Permission granted.

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The Best is Yet to Be

By Kathy NickersonFebruary 6th, 2014mercy5 Comments

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My favorite person is turning sixty this week. And you know what I regret? That I didn’t know him those first twenty years. Because the past forty have been such a blast.

I remember when Paul McCarty turned sixty (more than ten years ago, by the way). I felt total shock that someone I considered a contemporary could be so old.

But now? Sixty is rockin’, Baby!

I think the fun has actually just begun. And so I say “Happy Birthday to the Love of My Life.” And, as the poet said (and as Wendell wrote on my Christmas present this year)

“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be,the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!” Robert Browning

 

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The Thrift Shop and the Fur

By Kathy NickersonFebruary 3rd, 2014mercy9 Comments

Fur coat

One morning last week, I sat in the lobby of a downtown hotel watching an extended family who had come to town for a wedding. All the ladies of a certain age were wearing fur coats. Some of them full-length. I became acutely aware there is a whole other world I’ll never visit. And that’s okay. Except for this one thing: I once had a fur coat.

It belonged to my grandmother, who received it from my Aunt Anice. She wasn’t a blood relative. We called all the older ladies in our church “Aunt Whoever.” I miss that.

Anyway, Aunt Anice had moved to Kansas City years before, but she sometimes boarded a bus and rode four hours north to our tiny berg. Just to attend church with us. She wore rouge, smelled delicious, and seemed rather queenly to me. One year, she gave my grandmother a hand-me-down fur coat.

My grandmother never had occasion to wear the coat since she was the wife of a country preacher. So, when my husband was in medical school and we were trying to feed four children, she sacrificed it. Vintage clothing had become the rage about then, and a resale shop in our town paid good money for such things. I needed a winter coat, so Grandma gave me the fur to sell. I took the money to J.C. Penney and bought something sensible.

I wish I hadn’t. I wish I’d gone to the Salvation Army and gotten a second-hand parka and kept the fur in the family. I’ve never had occasion to wear a fur anymore than my grandmother did. But I might. Someday.

Sitting in that lobby, watching the ladies off to a wedding in their finery, I was reminded that the expedient answer is not always the best.

You don’t need to feel sorry for me. Heaven knows I have much nicer things than fur coats in my life. But, the next time I have to choose between the thrift shop and the fur, I’m keeping the fur!

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