A Funny Thing Happened on the way to Christmas

Kathy NickersonDecember 10th, 2018mercyNo Comments

My kind, thoughtful husband told our friends recently that he was worried about me because I hadn’t even put up our Christmas tree this year.

The tree has been lit for two weeks.

In fairness, here are some things to consider:

1. He doesn’t care a great deal about decorating, but he cares a bunch about me, and he knows how I love the sparkle.

2. Our life is in a major transition, and small details like Christmas are actually in danger of being ignored. Overshadowed by where we shall live and work in our next season.

3. Days are a bit draining as we prepare to close the clinic we’ve loved for sixteen years. We are both tired and distracted when we get home at night.

All that considered, here is the funniest part: I plopped down on my favorite side of the sofa the next night and pointed at the little tree glowing from a corner of the dining room. “How could you miss that pretty sight?” I asked.

My patient husband raised an eyebrow, looked toward the dining room from his vantage point and said, “I can’t see a thing.”

Sure enough. The tree is completely blocked from his line of sight. I felt like a jerk for making fun of him. And, a few mornings later, I added lights to a small tree in the living room right in front of his spot. 

I tell you this story, Dear Reader, because I want you to remember what matters. Every year, when I put up even the tiniest tree with twinkling lights, I feel like I’m fighting back the darkness of life just a smidgen. I’m declaring to the world that the Light has come and that He is coming again. My faithful husband understands this. He was fighting for me.

So, light your tree. Hold onto Hope. Snuggle the ones you love. And spread the great news of Peace on earth, Goodwill to men. Hallelujah. 

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A Christmas Tag Line You May Have Missed

Kathy NickersonDecember 3rd, 2018mercy1 Comment

So many famous phrases come from the original Christmas Story in the Bible. You can probably quote lots of them. One of my favorites, though, doesn’t show up on the traditional Christmas card.

It happened a year or so before Jesus was born. We don’t know the exact date. Zechariah, a small town priest, was taking his once-in-a-lifetime turn offering prayers to God in the holiest spot in the Temple.

As usually happens, God flashed in at the most unexpected moment. He sent Gabriel, one of His lead angels, to have a little chat with Zechariah. Gabriel told Zechariah that his wife would have a baby who would prepare the way for the coming Messiah.

Now, Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth was old. And barren. A true curse for a woman in those days. So, Zechariah responded in the way humans have been responding since the Garden of Eden.

“How can I be sure about that?”

I love to picture the next scene. Gabriel is not a cherub from your Hallmark Valentine’s Day card. He is the Chuck Norris of angels. I imagine Gabriel straightening his shoulders and lifting his chin above Zechariah’s head. Gabriel’s folded wings rise out to a span that fills the room. (Can you hear them rustle?)

Then, in a voice that rumbles like Sean Connery, he says, “I am Gabriel, and I stand in the presence of God.”

Nuff said.

Gabriel goes ahead and gives a bit of explanation. But his opening line is enough to silence Zechariah until the promised baby is born. It’s as if Gabriel looked at the little, old priest, considered his question, and then said, “Duh.”

Every time I’m faced with the impossible (or the unlikely) I remind myself to Believe God. Not just believe what He said, but to believe Who He is. Gabriel reminds me of that. I hope He will remind you, too.

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Open in Case of a Blue Christmas

Kathy NickersonNovember 26th, 2018mercy2 Comments

Fair warning: I’ll be posting a whole lot of happy in the next twenty-some days. I love Christmas.

However, I’m aware that this is the most dismal time of the year for many folks. I’m not trying to rub happy in your face. Depression is real. It is mean. It behaves as if it is the boss.

It is not.

I also understand that whether you are feeling a bit blue or are clinically depressed, the trappings of Christmas can simply be too much. I’m sorry. I apologize in advance for the decking of the halls and the ringing of the bells. I’m sorry if all the joy in the world simply accentuates your sorrow. I’m truly, truly sorry. 

If your sorrow is from grief, or illness, or poverty, please know we are not making light of those things when we scatter tinsel everywhere. People have real problems in this world, and none of us will escape that.

So, what are we to do, then? The Bible says to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. I suppose the only thing we can do is tell one another. If you are mourning, or depressed, or sick, or poor- tell someone. Maybe your neighbor or the preacher down the street. Maybe a counselor or your doctor. Maybe your mom or your spouse. Keep telling until someone listens long enough to get you help. Of course, the only help may be the passage of time. But, it is good to pass time with people.

And Christmas? With great compassion and deep care for your pain, I’m going to celebrate. All the lights, all the trimmings, all the fal-la-la-la-la I can find. Because the story of Christmas starts in darkness. 

But, the Light always comes.

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Of Turkey, Tables, and Thanking the Universe

Kathy NickersonNovember 21st, 2018mercy1 Comment

I love women’s magazines. I loved them more back in the day when they included a good short story and some actual articles instead of ten pages of beauty tips. But, I still like looking at the pretty pictures. And, some of my favorites still include a few articles sprinkled between the fashion news and recipes that call for ingredients I’ve never owned.

This month, every magazine is filled with gorgeous Thanksgiving tables and perfect turkeys. Just looking at those photos makes me feel warm and fuzzy. My table will never look that way, and I don’t even aspire to become a master baker. But, I appreciate the craft.

And, there is one other thing … 

Every magazine includes a brief article or photo heading about “Being Thankful.” Even television news programs are talking about gratitude this week. As an eternal optimist, I do appreciate all these thankful vibes going out into the universe.

But, here is the problem. We aren’t thanking the universe. If I attend a great party, I don’t walk back into the empty dining room the next morning and announce, “Thanks for a great night.” No. I send a card or text or email and thank the host and hostess.

Gratitude requires a recipient.

So, let’s be grateful. This week and always. And, when we count our blessings, let’s remember we are thanking the Host who created the universe.

👋

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A Grateful Nation

Kathy NickersonNovember 10th, 2018mercyNo Comments

My little brother was born on Veteran’s Day a few decades ago.We called it Armistice Day back then, in honor of the signing of the armistice, or truce, that stopped the fighting in World War I. (100 years ago this weekend)

I remember my grandfather being especially excited that Kenny was born on such an auspicious day. I must not have shown the proper enthusiasm, because my grandfather said,

“It might not mean much to others. But I’ll tell you it meant something if you had a brother over there on a ship in the ocean that day.”

Yes, it did. I think those of us who live in a global culture can’t imagine what it meant for those boys to be taken off the farm and marched away to another world. It would have been traumatic and disorienting even without shells, bayonets, and bullets.

My dad in WWII. His quiet nature inspired a bit of the character named Elmer Grigsby in my novel,
Thirty Days to Glory.

My grandfather’s brother came home from the war. And, my father came home from the next one. We are fortunate. Too many wars have scarred our world. Too many sons, daughters, fathers, mothers and brothers have not come home. The Bible tells us it will be that way until Jesus comes back to make all things new.

So, for today, we pause to remember. And, we join millions of other people  around the world who say, 

“On behalf of a grateful nation, thank you for your sacrifice.”

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We’re Still Chasing Dreams

Kathy NickersonNovember 2nd, 2018mercy1 Comment

The children blame me. They claim that my constant encouragement to “be anything you want to be” caused them to actually believe they could. The girls say they began to doubt me just a smidge when they were in high school. They were watching Olympic synchronized swimming, and I said, “You could do that.”

The magic didn’t completely evaporate, though. We all continued to believe there weren’t many things out of our reach. So, when a national television show came to the Midwest looking for the next Amazingly Famous Singer, we took note. (We evidently signed disclosure forms that keep us from naming the show.)

Felicity, Serenity, Charity

Felicity, Serenity, and I gathered around Charity to cheer her on as she chased the dream. She made it all the way to Round Two, which was one of the most fun experiences we’ve ever had together. At least, I thought so.When she got knocked out on that round, a producer with a cameraman chased her down in the hall and said, “So, what will you do now?”

All around her other contestants were talking about following the tryouts to the next city and giving it their all once again.Charity shrugged and said, “I think I’ll go home and start a family with my husband.”And she did.

Photo cred to Ryan Long – the Papa.

You might think this is a post about giving up on unrealistic dreams. That would not be true. This is a post about chasing dreams AND recognizing the ones we have already achieved. Serenity is still writing novels even though none have been published yet. However, she already has a world-class literary agent in her corner. And, she married Michael Bohon, the boy of her dreams since fifth grade. They have made three amazing young men.

Felicity is writing beautiful poetry that the world has not discovered yet. She’s also working on a novel. In the meantime, She married a handsome musician, and they have given the world four musical kids who are going to blow us all away.

Charity did continue to sing. She is a worship pastor at her local church and has cut a couple of albums. She once did a guest appearance in Latin America and sang before 10,000 people. Yeah. That was fun. This year, she told her growing daughters that despite all those successes, being their mom is still her Best Thing.

Photo cred to the amazing Tricia Harvey

So, here’s to chasing the dreams God puts in our hearts. And, to having lots of fun along the way. Here’s to recognizing the dream we are living right now. And to hugging the people who got us here – every day. 

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How I Name My Characters

Kathy NickersonOctober 7th, 2018mercyNo Comments

 

From the acknowledgements page of The Marvel House: Thanks to Ada Jewel for naming my characters. You launched the story on that car ride.

 

Naming the characters in a novel is quite similar to naming one’s children. The task is huge. What if you tell everyone her name will be Clementine, and then she is born and she looks exactly like an Alexandra instead? And, you’ve been calling her Clementine all these months. You hand-painted the giant “C” for her nursery and even pre-signed a few Christmas cards with all three of your names.

In a novel, of course, the writer can theoretically change a character’s name at any time. Except, you can’t. It is exactly the same thing. In a historical novel I’ve been writing for decades, I tried to change my little shepherd boy from Jonas to Reuben. It isn’t working. I trip over the name every time I read a section. I’m going back to Jonas.

All that to say, I’m thrilled when something comes together. During the brewing days of my new novel, The Marvel House, I gave lots of thought to names. I didn’t have the story clear in my mind yet, but I suspected names and their meanings would become important. (I was correct.) So, on one long trip with a carload of granddaughters, I asked for suggestions of character names just to pass the time.

Ada Jewel snatched up my phone and started recording the ideas. By the time we stopped for lunch, every character in this novel had exactly the right name. (Plus, we have a few left over for other books.)

A couple of years ago, those names were just blips on a screen. Today, they are so dear to me I might include Aspen or Quinn on my Christmas list before I remember they live only in my imagination. And, I hope, in yours.

You can meet Aspen, The Mighty Quinn, and the rest of the Marvel family by ordering here or by catching me at one of the upcoming events. Watch my Facebook page for details.

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Best Words from a Husband

Kathy NickersonOctober 1st, 2018family, Marriage3 Comments

 

Last week, I went shopping for a black skirt and a pair of slacks. If you know me, you are aware this is a form of self-inflicted torture. I shall admit up front that I failed. Mostly because I got lost in the Christmas aisles at Hobby Lobby and used up all my time. However, I am determined to try again this week.

I did get something of great value from the trip, however. Better than the perfect skirt or a bargain on tinsel, I got the best words from any husband ever. These would be the best words from the husband of a supermodel. They are especially best from the husband of a grandmother who is trying to age gratefully, but who is failing in a few areas.

As I pulled into the parking lot at the department store, my phone dinged, and I found this text:

While you are shopping for clothes today, keep in mind when you look in the mirror you are looking at the woman I love. That woman is the most attractive woman I know. 

Yes, I swooned.  Now you understand, Dear Reader, why I am dedicating my newest novel to Wendell:

My husband, lover, partner, and friend.

Thanks for choosing me every day since 1973.

To celebrate such love, and to set a mood for this month’s soon-coming release of The Marvel House, here is a song from the famous duo of Ryan & Charity Long.

 

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The Best Way to Celebrate Fall

Kathy NickersonSeptember 24th, 2018mercy2 Comments

 

So, this is my favorite way to celebrate fall: Release a new novel! Today – the official cover reveal for The Marvel House, coming in October. Thanks to the wonderful Becky West for providing the original cover art. And, of course, to the amazing Anna Swartzentruber of ScribblesandScribes.com for turning the painting into this cozy cover.

It was great fun to write this story about the quirky Madge DuPree and her attempt to become a nanny/housekeeper for the Marvel family. (Not the superheroes. Just a dad, a mom, four daughters, and the family divorce lawyer.)

I mixed in a little Narnia, a bit of Peter Pan, and – most important – a good dose of the Glory Circle sisters. If you haven’t met these church ladies yet, I suggest you buy or borrow a copy of Thirty Days to Glory, which is book one in the series. If you hurry, you can read it before The Marvel House comes out.

Stay tuned for more details about where and when you can find the book. One more thing, dear reader. Thank you for all the encouragement along this journey.

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Even When I’m Old …

Kathy NickersonAugust 30th, 2018mercyNo Comments

My hubs with his sappy mama a few years ago.

 

Several years ago, I tagged along one day when my doctor-husband made rounds at the community nursing home. Things were pretty normal, and slightly unsettling, as they always are when one encounters advanced age and infirmity. In one room, a sweet saint greeted us from the bed where she spent her nights and days.

“Doc,” she said, “Why am I still here? I’ve asked the Lord and asked the Lord to take me home. I’m no good to anybody. I can’t do a thing but lay here.”

My wise husband looked around the sparse room and then out the window. School buses were pulling up across the street at the local high school. “Well,” he said to his patient, “you can still pray, can’t you?”

She could.

“Some of those kids probably don’t have anyone else praying for them. Maybe that’s why you’re still here.”

His response became a seed in my imagination. The seed eventually sprouted into a book series called The Glory Circle Sisters. The church ladies in these books are well-described in this portion of the psalms.

“They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green.” Psalm 92:14

I’ve made it my goal since then to lead a sappy life. To lay up more treasures in Heaven than on earth. And to tell stories that encourage the sap in readers. The first book in the Glory Circle series is currently getting a face-lift in the form of a new cover. Watch for that reveal in a few days. Then, coming in October is Book #4, The Marvel House, which features the very sappy Madge Dupree.

On this Labor Day weekend, we will celebrate the contributions of workers to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. (According to the US Labor Dept..) Let’s also celebrate the contributions of those who labor from more restricted life circumstances. Let’s remember the saints who pray.

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