Contact Me

If you enjoy my blog and would like to contact me, you may reach me at this email:

Some of my stories are published in:
A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers and Daughters (Adams Media, 2009)
Chicken Soup: What I Learned from the Dog (2009)
Love is a Flame (Bethany House, 2010)
Extraordinary answers to Prayer (Guideposts, 2010)
Love is a Verb (Bethany House, 2011)
Big Dreams from Small Spaces (Group Publishing, 2012)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I am Like a Christmas Tree

Today is the day we take down the Christmas tree and all the beautiful decorations around the house.
I can cope with returning the decorations back to their storage boxes.
But the tree?
Bruce doesn't understand my grief.
To him, a Christmas tree is just a Christmas tree.
But for me, that lovely eight-foot Noble fir has become my friend.
We selected her among all the other trees in the lot.
We brought her into our home.
We clothed her with our Christmas finery.
Crowned her with a star.
Admired her.
Charged her with the guarding of our wrapped gifts, until the Special day.
She has presided over our Christmas parties, like a gloriously decked, honored Grand Dame of our affairs.
And today, we simply strip her of her finery, her crown, her lights. . . then drag her unceremoniously into the cold garage and cut her into manageable lengths  so that the waste management people will consent to haul her remains away.
I know it's silly, but I want to say, "I'm sorry, beautiful tree!"
I always need to remind myself that the tree is already dying.

I am like that tree.
My body is slowly dying, too.
One day, my own days of "Christmas glory" will come to an end.
The children and friends that I've cherished will have to say goodbye to me, too.
I hope on that day that I can know that I have been a glorious tree. I hope that my beauty and finery--laid on me by Supreme hands -- has brought joy and pleasure to those who've gazed on me. I hope that my little light--a reflection of His light -- has shed delight and comfort.

"Therefore, as God's chosen people. holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (Col. 3:12 NIV Bible)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Forgiveness After Christmas

I know you don't want to hear about it:

It's a pretty sore subject right after Christmas.
The relational dynamics surrounding this wonderful holiday can sometimes cause hurt feelings and misunderstandings.
For example, the the past couple of years, someone very close to me (but far away geographically) has neglected to send me a Christmas card.
I always send her one, and I can't understand how this could happen three years in a row unless she's maybe, I hope not, but possibly. . .  angry with me. After all, she sends a Christmas card to all the other close people we're both associated with.
It's not the card, you see. It's the fact that she gets one from me--hello? -- and then doesn't reciprocate.
Sounds silly, doesn't it?
If I'm not careful, I can get kind of miffed about this silly Christmas card thing.

Now, I know some family misunderstandings are much more serious than this.
But most of the annoying things that happen between family members during the holidays approximate my Christmas card example.

I'm glad I have some really wonderful words in the Bible to help counsel me. The following words help smoothe my ruffled feathers.

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Col. 3:13 NIV Bible)

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Eph. 4:32)

You may have had your feathers ruffled by a family member during the Holidays.
Today is the day to meditate on the truth of God's Word.

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love,  just as  Christ loved us. . . " (Eph. 5:1-2)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad!

I love it!
Everywhere I go people who wait on me at stores and restaurants are greeting and saying goodbye by calling out, "Merry Christmas!
People I hardly know are saying the same thing on the sidewalks outside shops.
Mostly they smile.
The spirit of Christmas has taken over, and it feels wonderful.
But I sense another emotion, just under the surface when people call out "Merry Christmas."
Subtle undertones of triumph, as well as gentle rebellion as I hear individuals proclaim:
"No one's going to take away my Christmas, by Golly."
"Jesus really is the reason for this wonderful season."
"It doesn't matter how many sappy Christmas movies Hollywood turns out about angels, or holiday romances, or restoring the "holiday spirit" -- whatever that is -- they keep churning out each year. We all know we're celebrating Jesus's birthday."

And so I say it too: You're not fooling us, Secularized Hollywood, Secularized Government, Secularized Shopping Centers, Secularized Schools.
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of JESUS CHRIST.
He may not have been born on this exact date, but the truth is, He WAS born.
God entered physical time and space and took on human form.
The hope of humanity.

And so we celebrate His coming. We display lights, we decorate, we send Christmas cards, we assemble, we feast, we give gifts, we sing, we worship.
Because, on the day that Jesus was born, God fulfilled His promise to us to send a Savior who would:

  • end sin's power over us, 
  • exchange for us the punishment of hell for the glory of heaven
  • take away the sting of death,
  • provide the Light of God's never-ending presence
  • provide grace for each day
  • welcome us into an eternal inheritance.

And so, Secularists, if you think I'm going to exchange CHRISTmas for your puny version of "holiday spirit," you are absolutely crazy!

I'm going to keep saying over and over again, "Merry Christmas!"

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King.
Let ev'ry heart prepare Him room,
and Heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and heaven and nature sing." (Isaac Watts/George Frederick Handel)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Art of Slow Enlightenment

I've probably taught thousands of music students during my 35 years of teaching.
And one of the biggest, most important points I try to instill in my students is the art of "milking" the music.
Most beginning musicians hurry through  the music --the mark of an amateur --like it's their duty to get it over and done with as quickly as possible.
"Do you see how this part of the music should be emphasized?" I'll ask my student. "Slow down. Make a statement here. Bring out this note in the harmony; It'll make the audience cry. Spend more time at this cadence. Make the audience wonder what's coming next.

Books are Like That, Too.I just read The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. The book is masterfully written. The author sets up the three distinctive and fascinating main characters with just enough information to really make me want to find out more. Then she skillfully lets slip more details and facts as the story progresses. However, the tension of these questions:
  • What was the terrible thing Minny did to Miss Hilly?
  • Are the society ladies going to discover what Skeeter is doing?
  • Will Skeeter's book get published, and if so, will it affect any great societal change?
  • What if the secret interviews get outed?

These questions remain unanswered, making me, the reader, breathless to find out what will happen next. (I didn't find out till the very end.)

I think this art of "slow enlightenment" should imitate the ways of our heavenly Father. Of course He knows everything about us. But we are thrilled as He gradually reveals the wonders of His character, His love, His grace, His plan for our lives.
No book is more thrilling, no music can compare.
And you can see His wisdom at gradually giving us a greater picture of Who He is.
Because we couldn't take it all in at once.
Enlightenment. . . but at a mortal pace.
What a consummate artist God is!
Let us imitate His skill and artistry in our own art.

"If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened,
more strength is needed
but skill will bring success." (Ecc. 10:10 NIV Bible)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Worth the Risk

We read and hear a lot about all the male heroes of the Bible: Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Daniel, Peter and John.
Today I started mentally checking off the female heroes of the Bible.
They each have one big thing in common. . .


RAHAB risked her life to hide the Hebrew spies when they came to look over the land surrounding the city of Jericho. She said, "I know that the Lord has given this land to you." (Joshua 2:9)
She then goes on to relate to the spies how she and her countrymen had heard of the Hebrew God and how He had shown His power among other nations. Because of her faith, God spared her life and the lives of her family. She is mentioned in the book of Hebrews for her great faith.

ESTHER risked her life by speaking up for her fellow Hebrews when they had been scheduled for annihilation under the reign of King Xerxes.

RUTH left her home and family to follow her mother-in-law, Naomi, a Hebrew. Her decision could have resulted in starvation. But God honored her loyalty to Naomi by providing her with a wealthy Hebrew husband. Ruth is the great-grandmother of King David.

MARY chose obedience to God even in the face of possible dishonor and stoning.  She might have been divorced and even stoned to death for becoming pregnant.

My Heroes

These women are my heroes, just as much as the great men of the Bible.
They each demonstrated faith not merely by their words, but by their deeds.

Am I willing to risk my life, my honor, my comfort, my property, my next meal
for the sake of God?
I want to be a risk-taker.
Oh, not the type who base-jump, or race cars, or bungy-jump off of 200 foot bridges.
I mean real risk.
Risk that saves a life,
or loves the unlovely,
or challenges evil,
or meets an impossible goal.
Risk that will count for all eternity.

Is God calling you to risk something? 

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for." (Heb. 11:1-2 NIV Bible)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why We're "Merry" on Christmas

I have a friend who's continually working to improve herself.
  • reads books to improve her mind
  • travels extensively
  • attends cultural and artistic events and performances
  • volunteers in the community
  • gives money to charity
  • practices her yoga faithfully
  • watches her diet
  • tries to be a good and considerate neighbor and co-worker
  • is a good wife and mother

She sure sounds like model citizen and an excellent friend. Right?
But she bristles when I dare to mention anything about my faith in Jesus Christ.
You see, she doesn't want to hear that all of her energetic attempts to perfect herself, and to make herself acceptable to God aren't enough.

She can't--no --she chooses not to believe that something so wonderful as the Gospel can be true.
Because then she can't take any credit for all this wonderful self-achieved perfection.
It's sad.

I guess she hasn't yet reached the "end of her rope."
When you get to that spot, you realize that only God is good enough.


But that's what's so wonderful about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The good news is that you don't have to drive yourself crazy trying to earn your way to heaven.
You can't.
And God, in His great compassion, sent His Son to do it for us. He did the work. He paid the price.
All you gotta do is believe.
When Jesus raised His friend, Lazarus, from the grave, He said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (John11: 40 NIV)

 I'd love to say to my friend, "Give up. You're not fooling God. In spite of all your works of charity, He sees right down to the middle of your soul. Get squared away with Him first. Then, continue to do your works, recognizing that those good things don't make God love you any more than He does already.


During this Christmas season, I'd love to be able to say to my friend, "this is why we celebrate Christmas. Jesus was born to provide us rest from all our weary and ceaseless labors in search of God's forgiveness and acceptance. So stop trying so hard. Relax. Let God give you His perfection.

"God rest you merry, Gentlemen,
let nothing you dismay.
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day. . .
to save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!"

Monday, December 12, 2011

How to Please God

From the book of Luke we read the words of Elizabeth, spoken to Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ:

"Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"(Luke 1:45)

That's a message for each one of us today. We are indeed blessed when we believe what God says.
Before Mary was visited by the angel, Gabriel, this same great messenger was sent to announce some good news to Zechariah (Elizabeth's husband.)

How to Displease God
Unlike Mary, this man of God, a priest, did not believe. He had obviously been praying for a son for a long time. His wife, Elizabeth was barren. Nevertheless, when Gabriel said, "Zechariah, your prayer
has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. . . "
Zechariah doubted. He wanted a sign, some sort of proof that the angel, and God, weren't  just messing with him.

As often as I've read this passage, I've said to myself, I'd probably be just like Zechariah. I'm skeptical of all good news.

On the contrary, Mary's response always amazes me. When the angel Gabriel announces that she will be the mother of God, she understandably asks, "How will this be. . . since I am a virgin?"

She does not challenge the angel. She does not ask for proof of his words. She simply responds with,
"I am the Lord's servant. . . May it be to me as you have said."

Humble trust
"Wow! What faith? What trust!

About fifteen hundred years earlier another man of God responded in a similar way:
"Abram believed the Lord, and He (God) credited it to him as righteousness." (Gen. 15:6)

How to please God
So, Believer of Unbeliever, the first step to pleasing God is to listen to His Word and believe it.
  • God doesn't lie.
  • God doesn't kid around.
  • He doesn't tell His prophets something and then mumble "not" with His hand over His mouth.
  • He always keeps His promises.
  • He is completely holy; He cannot sin.

If you put your trust in him, He will be eternally faithful to you.

And so, by believing Him, you are saying in essence:
  • I believe that You are God
  • I trust You
  • I recognize your holy character
  • I choose to go Your way, not mine.

That's the way to please God.
Like Mary, we should all say:

"I am Your servant; may it be to me as You say."

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." (Heb 11:6 NIV Bible)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

7 Reasons to Ha-ha-ha-ho-ho-hee-hee

I love to laugh. Who doesn't?
But sometimes, when things get hectic and stressful, we forget to laugh.
Scientists have been studying laughter for a long time, trying to figure out why humans --only humans --laugh.
Think about laughter. Why does it feel so good?

I've read studies that claim that laughing is good for you. (I guess no one would argue with that)
  1. gets your heart rate up, like a good jog
  2. increases circulation to the muscles and organs in your torso
  3. gives your lungs a good work-out
  4. aids in digestion
  5. makes your face glow
  6. decreases stress hormones
  7. and some claim that laughter raises your immunity to infection and can even treat disease.

So, if work or school or shopping or commuting or relationships or preparations for Christmas are making you feel a bit on edge, take a break.
Go sledding with friends,
play a silly board game,
gather others and sing silly songs.
Grab friends or family, pop in a funny movie and prepare to ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.
(I love old Laurel and Hardy movies, or America's Cutest Pets, or re-runs of Candid Camera.)

Remember Mary Poppins? Remember the scene where she and the children go to visit Uncle Albert?
Every time Uncle Albert laughs --which is often--his body begins to float upward toward the ceiling.
Uncle Albert:
"I love to laugh. . . ha-ha-ha ha
loud and long and clear.
I love to laugh. . . ha-ha-ha-ha
so ev'rybody can hear.
The more I laugh. . . ha-ha-ha-ha
the more I fill with glee
and the more the glee. . . ha-ha-ha
the more I'm a merrier me!"

And if that's not enough to convince you to take some time to laugh each day, God reminds us in Proverbs:
"A happy heart makes the face cheerful
but heartache crushes the spirit." (Prov. 15:13

"A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." (Prov.17:22 NIV Bible)

What do you do to make yourself laugh? I'd love some more ideas. HAVE A MERRY DAY!

Monday, December 5, 2011

I was blessed to have been born into a family where both my mother and father held a deep appreciation for the arts.
Hardbound classic literature stuffed our book shelves.
I routinely poured through art books filled with full-page colored photos of Giotto's paintings, Michelangelo's sculptures, Rembrandt's soulful portraits, on up through the romantics, realists, impressionists, and so on.
On Saturday mornings, my parents would make a big, scrumptious breakfast --usually pancakes, eggs and bacon -- and put classical music on the "hi-fi."
We listened to Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, Scarlatti piano sonatas, Beethoven symphonies, Brahm's piano concertos, Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.
By the time I was in high school I could identify the music of just about any classical composer.
But I always associated the beautiful music with the special breakfast shared with my entire family.
Saturday breakfasts became a kind of sacred time: food, togetherness, and classical music.
The weekly experience helped bond us together as the family Nicolaisen:
In no other family do they make pancakes in precisely the way we make them in the Nicolaisen family.
In no other family but ours do we hum a Haydn tune and then giggle at each other because we know what we were discussing the last time Haydn was playing.
In no other family do they associate Puccini with arguing about how much cinnamon to add to the egg batter for French toast.
Bruce and I carried on the musical breakfast tradition into our own young family.
The music is a little bit different because we are a family of deep Christian faith and so our musical mornings also include various styles of Christian music. But the laughter, the in-jokes, the appreciation for each other, and the shared memories are precious.

Now that the children have grown and gone on to create their own family meal traditions,
Bruce and I are starting to create some new traditions.
I like to make omelets. But Bruce is the master waffle-maker. He makes banana waffles, raspberry waffles, strawberries and powdered sugar waffles, or just plain waffles. If you want the best, lightest, most delicious waffles, here's the recipe:

1 1/4 cup flour
2 teasp baking powder
1 teasp baking soda
1/2 teasp salt
4 eggs separated
2 cups orange juice
1/3 cup melted butter
1/4 teasp cream of tartar
In large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Separate eggs: yolks in one bowl, whites in a mixing bowl.
Beat egg yolks until creamy. Blend in orange juice and butter. Make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour in egg mixture. Stir until just blended.
Beat egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff (but not dry)
Just before baking, fold in the whites.
Recipe makes about 5 waffles.

I hope your try the recipe and then let me know how they turned out. Have a great day!

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God." (Col. 3:15-16 NIV Bible)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Creepy Little House by the River

When Bruce and I were first married, we rented a cottage by the Fox River in Illinois.
That place was creepy.
It was an old story and a half structure that --the locals say--had once been a speak-easy during prohibition days.
Legend has it that Al Capone used to boat his bootleg up the Fox River from Chicago and cache the stuff in various houses along the way.
This little cottage may well have been one of those places.
The lower level of the cottage still sported smoky windows. Now, only ancient bar stools and cobwebs populated the once thriving speak-easy. 
When I returned from work each evening, I had to park on one side of the house, then walk around the old saloon and go up some dark, creaky steps onto a deck that led to the "front" door.
I didn't like doing that at night. . . and alone.
Anyone could have been lurking, just waiting to pounce. Or so I imagined.
The upper floor, where we actually lived, had been updated with plush carpet, two bedrooms, a nice bath and a modern kitchen.
 But for me, just knowing about the place's history gave me the creeps.
On top of that, a deep, swift-moving canal skirted the front yard like a castle moat, and dark woods surrounded the remainder of the property.
On nights when Bruce was away on business and I was all alone in the cottage, my mind concocted all sorts of suspenseful scenarios involving escaped convicts, bad-intentioned aliens, or flesh-eating zombies clawing at the outside walls with rotting fingers.
Those were the nights when I cursed the fact that, as a child, I'd filled my mind with too much horror TV.
One particularly scary night I called an older, wiser Christian friend. (I was a baby believer then.) She encouraged me to replace my negative thoughts with  wonderful thoughts from scripture.
Here are a few that have helped me banish the old thoughts:

"Never will I leave you;
Never will I forsake you." (Heb. 13: 5)

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy --think about such things. (Phil. 4:8)

"He will cover you with His feathers,and under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day. . . " (Psalm 91: 4-5 NIV Bible)

The faithful presence of God is much, much more real than the stirrings of an over-active imagination!