Archive for December, 2016

Coming Home to be Counted

By Kathy NickersonDecember 18th, 2016mercyNo Comments

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In one of last year’s Christmas specials (Call the Midwife, PBS) Sister Monica Joan wandered away from the house where she lived. She had suffered from some form of dementia throughout the story line. So, when she wandered away while suffering from a fever we knew things were going to get serious. And, it was Christmas!

In her delirium, Sister Monica Joan returned to her childhood home. It was terribly neglected, but fortunately inhabited by some vagrants. (I won’t tell you more. You should look for it online or on Netflix. Warning, though. The childbirthings are pretty realistic. It might not be suitable for your children.)

When Sister Monica Joan arrived, she made this beautiful Christmas statement.

“I have come home to be counted.”

Isn’t that what we all do at Christmas? Like Joseph going to Bethlehem because he was of the house and lineage of David, don’t we all long to go back to our roots? Back to the people who “know our name and are always glad we came”?

The problem, of course, is that we can’t always do it. Either home is too far away. Or, it doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe it never did. Or, maybe we don’t feel anyone would want to count us if we showed up there.

But that is also the miracle of Christmas. Jesus came to create family where there was none. To draw shepherds and magi to the same cradle for worship. To release angels with a message about Peace on Earth.

If you feel you have nowhere to go this season, Dear Reader, please pause for a moment. Ask the One who made Light to shine from darkness to show you the way. If you don’t get an answer, please let me know. I’d be happy to hear from you, and maybe I can help. There are still shepherds and wise men seeking Him, and they will always make room at the manger. Some of them are in your neighborhood.

 

 

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And it Came to Pass

By Kathy NickersonDecember 10th, 2016mercyNo Comments

I love how the Christmas narrative in Luke starts with this phrase. As if we are stepping into the story in the middle of the action. (All editors tell writers to do this.) God stepped into the middle of all history in that moment. He hit pause long enough to slip a fragile baby into the world while no one but angels and shepherds were looking.

Those four words make me hold my breath for a second each time I hear them. I can almost feel the shiver in Heaven as the Creator of the Universe prepares to be born.

I’ve never heard these words spoken more beautifully than during the first Christmas with my future husband’s family. As his eighteen-year-old fiance, I was the newcomer. More of a mystery to everyone than the newest grandbaby. She, at least, had a family resemblance.

As we gathered in the church sanctuary, someone placed a chair before the altar and then led Wendell’s grandmother to that seat facing the congregation. Grandma-Great was mostly blind and had been for years. But she had memorized much of the Bible. And in a voice that trembled with age but rose with faith, she began.

“And it came to pass in those days …”

Years later, when Grandma-Great had gone home to glory, we found ourselves with little cash for Christmas presents. Wendell was struglling through a grueling hospital internship of 36 hours on and 12 off. We had four little kids and a Grinch-sized mountain of student loan debt. Several members of his extended family would be coming through our city at the same time, so we decided to have an improptu Christmas gathering. But I had no gifts to give. Especially nothing worthy of the man who was working so hard.

Then, I had The Idea. Once we had gathered around the tree in our tiny rental house and covered all the small talk, I told everyone that I’d like to give Wendell my present first. He liked it so much that I’ve been giving this present every Christmas for the past thirty-five years. In case you don’t have a Grandma at your house this year, I’ve recorded it here. Feel free to borrow:

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Show Me Your Christmas Tree

By Kathy NickersonDecember 9th, 2016mercyNo Comments

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This, Dear Reader, is the tiny tree in the front window of our little cottage this year. Before you start feeling sorry for me because I don’t have an eight-foot Scotch pine, please hold that thought. We’ve had lots of trees over the past forty-two years. We started with scraggly cedars from the family farm, decked with ornaments made by our children. I loved those trees and still want a few clippings around just for the smell. (My huband does not share the sentiment, but he plays along.)

When one of our daughter’s developed an allergy, we moved to artificial trees. Then came the season of themed trees. I was especially fond of the late 80’s when we had teenagers who were into crafts and actually helped design a blue and white tree with matching wreaths for our French doors. Beautiful.

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Then came grandchildren, and we were back to less formal trees. Now, everyone is scattered. We still have big gatherings for Christmas, but they are often held over New Year’s and rarely at our house since we have downsized. Even if we are here, we need more space for people than for trees. Thus, the tiny tree.

Our tree is pre-lit and almost pre-decorated. I add a few not-quite-crytal icycles and sprigs of red berries. Also, to fill in a few sparse places, I tuck in some branches of greenery and pinecones that I found at Hobby Lobby a few years ago. The whole thing is done in a few minutes. I put Father Christmas under the tree to remind us Aslan has come to defeat winter forever. Then, I add the new ornaments my niece, Molly, made. They are the covers of the novels I wrote this year in small silver frames. Perfection.

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With our busy schedules running a medical practice, writing novels, loving our large family, and being active in our church and community, this tiny tree is a perfect fit. When we slow down for a few minutes each evening and snuggle on the sofa, it provides the perfect Christmas glow.

I hope yours does the same.

 

Now, if you want to explore more Christmas tree fun, please join hostess Terri Steffes, at her blog Our Good Life for a tour of other Missouri Women Bloggers and their Christmas trees!  img_6407-1

 

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The Blue Christmas

By Kathy NickersonDecember 3rd, 2016mercyNo Comments

 

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We listened to Christmas music when we traveled to Omaha last week, and I hit the skip button when Blue Christmas came on. I didn’t want it to remind my mother this would be her first Christmas in more than 62 years without my dad. I didn’t want the song to make her feel bad.

When we took family pictures later, I posed everything except the group of our children and their spouses. I didn’t want to make our newly-divorced son stand out. As if by not taking the picture, I could erase the status.

But none of that works.

My mother loves Christmas. She is enjoying every minute of the build-up. Yet, occassionally, Christmas will be blue for her this year. Very, very blue. And I cannot fix that by skipping a song on the radio.

My son is making new traditions with his chidren. Good traditions. Single-dad traditions full of new memories. But some moments will be hard and sad and broken. I can’t fix that by skipping the awkard photos.

Walking through a gift shop today, I saw a bright, winter cardinal ornament. I almost reached for it as the perfect gift for my mother-in-law’s December birthday. Then, I remembered she isn’t here anymore. I reminded myself she doesn’t need a bauble with all the glories of Heaven. But, let’s be real. Even with the comfort of Heaven, for a moment, I was the deep kind of sad nothing on earth can fix.

I am so grateful that I’m not limited to earth stuff, though. If I were, I think, like the psalmist said, “I would have despaired.” I don’t know how the Creater of the Universe is going to fix all the brokenness in our world. I only know this: Blue is a color of Christmas, too.

It comes in seasons, sometimes in waves. If you are experiencing it now, Dear Reader, I pray it has not come to stay. And that somehow, somewhere, the other colors will break through. The silver bells, the Rudolph reds, the ever-greens. The glorious golds that remind us of streets we will walk upon some day.

I pray that whatever is making you blue today will eventually give way to everything that is merry and bright.

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