nancy williams

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Archive for March, 2008

A Sight To Behold

I traveled to California recently with friends to attend a writers’ conference, excited to be spending time with some great authors and editors. The flight was smooth and we made our way quickly from San Jose to the conference center near Santa Cruz. I grabbed a few quick glances at the scenery as we made our way over the mountain, but our focus was primarily on our goals and objectives for the upcoming four days that would be packed with workshops and meetings.

We quickly checked into our cabin, picked up our materials and headed straight to the first session. Soon I settled into the routine that would fill my days there and then began to look around at my surroundings. Awesome. Tranquil. Majestic. Alive. There we were, nestled in the midst of towering redwoods and a terraced landscape filled with lush greenery – a wonderful playground for artists and photographers as well as birds and butterflies. From the stately trees that seemed to nearly touch the clouds, to the Camilla bushes overflowing with pink blossoms, down to sprigs of playful wildflowers peaking out of the rocks along the creeks and winding paths, Spring was indeed making a grand entrance there in the small hillside community of Mount Hermon.

I attended some great workshops and enjoyed opportunities to network with other writers and editors; however, I found myself stealing a few moments here and there to slip away and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. All too often, we get so caught up in the tasks at hand, we miss the beauty that’s around us. How glad I am that I didn’t let that happen there. Watching the sky change from the morning sun’s rays that pierced through the trees to the clear blue of midday and on to the evening dusk as stars scattered across the night sky, I found myself dwelling on phrases from Psalm 8. It’s a song of praise for our place in God’s creative handiwork.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

The conference proved to be the great experience I expected, and before we knew it, we were on the airplane heading back to Houston. My carry-on was overflowing with reading material, more than enough to keep me occupied during the flight. I began the journey, intent on getting things accomplished; but then I glanced out the window and saw mountains that looked as if they’d been dipped in white chocolate. I gazed at their majesty for a moment and then went back to the book in my hand. “I really need to finish this before we land,” or so my mental to-do list told me.

It wasn’t long before my eyes wandered back to the window, this time taking in the view of canyons carving their way through the rocky terrain of the Southwest as the sun’s late afternoon rays lit up the terra cotta cliffs. Breathtaking. Again, I found myself caught up in the awe and wonder of God’s creative hand at work. This time, my book could wait.

I arrived home and barely unpacked before heading to the hill country where I enjoyed the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush emerging across the rolling landscape of central Texas. Once again, nature beckoned me to pause from the tasks of life to be still, breathe some fresh air and soak up the beauty before me – gifts given for us to enjoy and care for.

Oh, may we always take time in the busyness of life to look around and find pleasure in the work of God’s hands.

Season Arrives on Wings of Hope

Some weeks are filled with ordinary days. Days when we follow familiar routines. Days that seem to come and go without particular notice. Events we anticipate and expectations that unfold as planned. There can be a sense of comfort in that pattern, and yet, if we’re not careful, that routine can promote complacency that prompts us to pass through the days without much care.

Not this week, however. This is no ordinary time, at least for me. Two events occur this week and two more follow a few days later. The 20th of this month will usher in the first day of Spring. A season of new beginnings. A time to clean out the dust and clear away the clutter of days passed to make room for the changes that are in store. It’s a time to plan and plant, and then wait in anticipation of what is to come. It’s a time of hope.

Next week I’ll celebrate yet another birthday. How old? Well, let’s just say my family had to stop putting candles on my cake many years ago. While I’m not too crazy about the number, I’m indeed glad I have another one to celebrate. I’ve just nestled into this midlife stage and am trying to make the most of it before I turn yet another corner. Actually, this is a good time in my life. I’m taking opportunities to reflect back on the blessings that have been a part of my past and am looking forward to new memories to be made. While I would like to avoid any more gray hair or aching joints, I do want to see what God has in store for me in the days ahead. It’s a time of hope.

There’s another day of remembrance coming ahead soon for me. A few years ago at the end of March, God reached down from Heaven to take my mother’s hand and carry her to the place He prepared for her – with Him. She left this world behind and stepped into an eternity with the One whom she loved most of all and spent her life serving. While our family misses her dearly, we believe without a doubt that she’s experiencing a joy she never knew before and a peace that surpasses our understanding. Death may feel like an ending, and yet, when you have a relationship with God you know it’s not an ending at all but rather a time of transition from a temporary place here on Earth to an eternal home. It’s a time of hope.

Sandwiched in between these two weeks is Easter. As this season unfolds, I’ve found myself reflecting on how Jesus’ followers dealt with such a time in their lives. They had spent three years believing they were on a journey toward deliverance and that Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for. They sat at the feet of their teacher as He opened the eyes of their heart to a deeper understanding of God. They stood by His side, ministering to others. They shared their hearts with Him as they broke bread together. The future looked full of promise. Then, suddenly, their dreams shattered and their joyful hearts flooded with fear. Hope seemed to slip through their hands as they watched their Messiah taken from them, crucified and then buried in a tomb. Imagine their sense of loss, their pain, and their feelings of hopelessness.

The next day for them was the Sabbath, a day of worship. What a challenge to draw close to God and follow in worship and obedience, in the midst of what seemed like profound loss and future uncertainty. Yet, God carried them through that Sabbath into a new day and showed them that what felt like an ending was in fact a part of His ultimate plan for their lives, and for ours, as they met their risen Savior – God’s promise fulfilled. Easter: it’s a time of hope, indeed.

Whether these days are ordinary ones for you or they hold special remembrances as they do for me, let a spirit of hope fill your heart and guide your steps as you enjoy this time of year. Blessings to you all.

Growing Season Requires Preparation, Trust and Time

The calendar says we can expect the official arrival of spring on March 20th; however, if you look around you’ll see signs of the new season already in place. The temperature is creeping up on the thermometer, as the sun takes longer to set in the evenings. Only a few winter clothes remain on the clearance racks as the latest in swimwear is making a debut. Ball players are swinging their bats in preparation for a new season as neighbors step outside to reconnect with each other. Gardeners are beginning to revitalize their yards, replacing plants that didn’t survive winter’s chill and pruning those that did.

Pruning the plants: I’ve been told it’s important. My husband – the family gardener – has explained to me the significance of this annual process. Approaching the plants with sharpened clippers, he carefully examines each one to determine its state of health and potential for growth. Then he proceeds to cut. Oh, it’s not just a little nip here and a tuck there. He cuts, and cuts, and cuts again. I tolerantly stand by and observe this ritual, trying to be supportive of his dedication to grooming our yard and providing such beautiful blooms throughout the spring and summer. However, I have a difficult time when he’s pruning the plants, even though I’m certain he means well.

Knowing my struggle, he patiently tolerates my complaints that he may be too aggressive with those clippers as he explains the purpose of this procedure once again. I just know what I see. There before me are plants that once were tall, mature-looking, well-formed specimens. Having demonstrated their productive capabilities, they’ve now been stripped of their tender limbs right down to the main arteries that give them life and hope for the future. Beside them lay once prolific branches now slated for the trash pile. There we stand, side by side, my husband with a sense of accomplishment and me with a sense of bewilderment.

Then we wait. Now, my husband knows patience does not always come easily for me; so, with all the empathy he can muster, he gently turns my attention from a past loss to a future possibility. We begin to talk about the potential for these plants and recall past pruning that provided us with beautiful, fragrant flowers. Reality reminds us though that it will take time, patience and attention to details. We’ll need to fertilize, water, and pay attention to how the sun will greet the plants each day. We must watch for any unexpected, last-minute dips in the thermometer and protect tender new growth from the March winds. Once again, I’m reminded that my role is to do what I can, to trust in my master gardener and to wait for the results to come.

Recently, I read the story of the prophet Habakkuk in the Bible’s Old Testament. As I understand, this man saw his society crumbling around him, so he turned to God with his complaints and waited for Him to respond. The answers he received, however, caused him even deeper distress and perplexity. He was shocked and frightened at first but then resigned himself to worship God and trust Him, no matter what. Habakkuk didn’t understand God’s ways but he acknowledged God’s wisdom, goodness and power. He drew strength and found joy as he waited. Listen to his words found in Habakkuk, Chapter 3.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

While I wait for new buds on the bushes in my yard and answers from God for concerns in my life, I’ll take a tip from Habakkuk and find joy in my relationship with my husband who tends the garden and with God who tends my life as I wait to see what unfolds in the days to come. Perhaps Habakkuk’s approach can be a source of encouragement to you as well as you journey through this season.

Be encouraged.