nancy williams

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Archive for June, 2008

First Things First

Unmistakable. Undeniable. Unending. My passion for music has been weaving its way through my heart and my imagination since my earliest days. Desire, curiosity and hope have always stirred within my soul, preparing me for whatever musical experiences God has planned. I remember when my parents told me I could take piano lessons. I don’t think I could even quite put it into words back then; but my 6-year-old mind swirled with possibilities.

Soon after their announcement, that long-awaited day finally came – my first piano lesson. I soon discovered, however, the experience was not quite what I imagined. I took with me a sense of awe and wonder, believing I would experience something special, something exciting. I remember meeting my new teacher and looking up at her with brown eyes full of anticipation, as if she were my fairy godmother, there to grant my wish and transform me into a wonderful pianist. I just knew that after our first session together I would go home and begin playing wonderful sounds. She knew something else.

She led me into her music room, and I took a seat at the piano, next to her. Then we talked. No, we didn’t play. We talked. She explained that I needed to learn some basic things before I could make the music of my dreams. She showed me how and where to sit at the piano and how to hold my hands. She explained the instrument’s design and introduced me to the pedals, which my feet could barely touch. My determination battled with my impatience as I listened intently.

Finally she presented me with a book, “Teaching Little Fingers to Play.” I couldn’t wait to get started; but I soon discovered there were not many songs to be played that evening. “First things first,” she instructed. Then I learned that music doesn’t happen just at random. In all its creativity and freedom of movement, there are some fundamentals and boundaries that enable the composer to transfer the music from the creative mind to the written page so that others can experience it firsthand.

I began to learn how composers blend various musical concepts so they work together in harmony with each other. There are lines and spaces, measures, key signatures, treble and base clefs, sharps and flats, naturals, incidentals and numerous expression symbols. You can phrase notes in such a way that creates rhythm and flow. All these things make the intended music come alive; but it requires passion, creativity, vision, discipline and even restraint at times, to weave these elements into the musical piece the composer envisioned. Then the music flows, the soul is touched and your heart sings.

As we celebrate our country’s heritage this week, we have the opportunity to remember once again that many years ago a group of leaders had a flame burning within their souls — desire, vision and hope. Sounds of freedom stirred their hearts and echoed throughout the land. As they stepped out on a new journey they, too, learned the importance of drawing on a strong foundation to guide them. They blended their hopes and dreams with discipline and even restraint, working together in harmony to accomplish their vision. We will reflect on the principles they set in place for our country to build on as we read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and as we sing our national anthem and celebrate with fireworks.

We are facing so many challenges and changes as a nation, a community, as families and as individuals. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, confused, fearful, and to veer off the path. Let’s not lose sight of the foundation laid for us by those who established this country. Let’s honor the principles that have been set in place to guide us, beginning with God’s commands for us to put Him first in our lives, to love Him with all our hearts and to follow His commands. As we seek Him and place our trust in Him, He promises to guide our steps.

May the music flow from within each of us in a way that brings harmony to our nation and peace within our hearts; and may God bless America.

Summer Treats That Won’t Drain Your Budget

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.” Hum a few bars of that old blues song and you’re already on your way to unwinding from a busy first half of the year. It’s traditionally the season when many people take a vacation. Students are out of school, we have more daylight hours to enjoy, and life seems a little more relaxed. We’re ready to get away from our routine and experience something fun, something different, something to help us slow down and enjoy life. We need to do that from time to time; and I’m afraid many of us don’t do so often enough. So when summer comes, we seem to give ourselves permission for a little self-care and perhaps family time together.

If your mind and body want to get away but the rising travel costs are dampening your spirits, don’t give up on finding a little summer pleasure. With some creativity and determination, you can relax, unwind, step aside from the seriousness of life and play a little. For a few moments, for a day, or even longer. Try some of these ideas to rejuvenate your body, renew your mind and refresh your spirit.

Reread a favorite book. Visit a nearby park. Take yourself to lunch at a place you’ve never been. Help out a stranger. Try a new food. Go to the library. Take naps. Enroll in a class. Do something you’ve always wanted to do. Contact someone you’ve been thinking of. Surprise a child. Sing in the shower. Walk in the rain. Give something away. Call a friend. Spend 15 minutes playing with your pet. Treat someone to lunch and linger over good conversation. Take a walk or bicycle ride. Look at the stars.

Buy a ticket to a special event. Browse through an antique store. Organize some small corner of your life. Pop some popcorn. Turn off the TV and talk to someone. Draw a picture, even if you can’t draw. Bake something. Buy yourself some fresh flowers, or cut them from your yard and bring indoors to enjoy. Send a card to someone for no reason. Clean out your wallet or purse. Look at old photographs. Walk barefoot in the grass. Visit a lonely person. Encourage a young person. Go for swim. Start a new project. Volunteer some time to a good cause. Fly a kite. Have a picnic with a special person. Spend time with people who like to laugh.

Have breakfast in bed. Take a different route home from work. Watch the sun set. Teach yourself something new. Go on a silent retreat for a day. Throw a party for no particular reason. Get a spa treatment, massage or facial. Go on a spontaneous day trip with no preplanned destination. Write a story, even if you never have. Fix something that’s been broken. Meet someone new. Ride a horse. Play a game. Start a collection. Listen to your favorite music. Count your blessings.

Escape from the “wired” world by taking a day or two to unhook totally from your laptop, cell phone, TV, Blackberry, and e-mail. Make yourself available for a true emergency; otherwise, disengage from all things technological. Spend a day in a place where you can get back in tune with nature and with the One who created it.

Here’s one more treat that won’t drain your budget. A mini mental vacation. Sit comfortably in a chair, relax your hands, roll your shoulders around to loosen up, and close your eyes. Take a deep breath in and exhale slowly. Repeat as you begin to imagine your favorite relaxation place – the beach, the woods, on a mountaintop, in your favorite chair at home, under a shade tree – wherever you like to go to escape with friends, family or by yourself. Consider the sights, sounds, smells and things you feel in that place. Let your mind dwell there a few minutes. Smile. Then take another deep breath, open your eyes and return to your routine.

Whether you choose to travel across the world or stay in your own backyard, make the most of the time, resources and opportunities God has provided in this season of your life; and have a great summer.

Celebrating A Cord of Three Strands

Summer has arrived. Heat. Humidity. Allergy attacks. Mosquitoes. A battle on our lawns to see which can grow quicker: the grass or the weeds. Increased gas prices just in time for vacation trips. Children looking for entertainment to fill their days. OK, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to depress anyone. Summer does bring some pleasures as well. More daylight hours. Outdoor concerts. Barbecues. Vacations. Visits from family and friends. Celebration of our country’s heritage. Relaxation in our attire and our activities. And weddings: oh, so many weddings.

The community sections of our newspapers overflow with photographs of couples proclaiming their love for each other as they become husband and wife. Family and friends gather to celebrate the journey they are beginning. Often during the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom hear words of challenge to work together, to honor, respect and support each other, and share all that life has in store. Friends and family offer support and encouragement as the couple pledges to be life partners. The music plays, the vows are spoken, the rings are exchanged, God’s blessing is sought, the partnership is declared and the journey begins.

While the idea of working and sharing together is strong at the beginning, relationships can easily drift as each partner focuses on building, achieving, acquiring, meeting needs and managing what comes along their path. If they are not careful, the sense of partnership can fade from the shining promise of togetherness to a dark cloud of aloneness, as each goes in search of independent dreams and desires.

But look again at the newspaper. You’ll also see the glowing faces of couples that have protected and nurtured their partnership, now celebrating many years of marriage together. Gather with them in times of celebration. Hear their stories of weathering life storms, sharing each other’s burdens and enjoying each other’s successes. They have learned how to blend together their personal life experiences and perspectives in a way that honors both their individuality and their union. Sit at their feet and allow them to teach about joy, strength, sacrifice, compromise, unselfishness, support, compassion and commitment. Listen as their hearts proclaim the privilege of having and being helpmates. Partners.

I read some comments recently from a young woman whose great-grandparents celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary. There were six children, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren in their clan. As this young woman spoke of her strong family ties, she mentioned that there had not been a divorce in the entire group. “We are all committed to working on our relationships because none of us want to face my great-grandparents. They’ve told us that if they can work at having a good marriage for 75 years, so can we!”

This month, my husband and I will celebrate 34 years of life together as husband and wife. We took some time recently to slip away from the demands of our busy lives to share some relaxation time together and reflect on our relationship. To celebrate what is working well for us, and to set some goals to strengthen our relationship as we step into a new year together. A marriage check-up of sorts. Nothing complicated, just an opportunity to renew our commitment to God and to each other, to celebrate the love He has given us, to hold ourselves accountable to how each will strengthen the relationship and to look ahead to all God has in store for us. Successful business partnerships know the importance of periodic reviews to assess what is working and make adjustments as needed to strengthen the business and foster success. Our personal relationships need the same careful time and attention if we want them to be all that God designed.

Opportunities for partnership extend beyond marriage to neighborhood, business, ministry and community relationships. As we create these bonds, let’s be careful not to become so focused on acquiring and achieving, or becoming so independent that we miss the beauty found in joining together to share both the challenges and blessings of life. May we acknowledge God’s presence and seek His guidance as we take purposeful steps to honor, nurture and protect the partnerships in our lives. “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12 – the Bible).