nancy williams

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Archive for September, 2008

Stay Connected to Your Power Source

“I am so tired.” How many times have you heard that sentiment expressed in these past few weeks? We’ve been through such a stressful time as we prepared for, rode through and then began the journey of recovery from Hurricane Ike. That stress has taken its toll on us physically and emotionally, perhaps spiritually as well. We took steps to protect what’s important to us. We huddled together as the storm came our way. We began the tiring work of cleanup and repair. We waited, and waited and waited for our power to be restored and our lives to get back to a familiar routine. We had to dig down deep to find the emotional and physical resources to press on through this stressful time. Now, we’re tired. Drained. Struggling to regain the energy to face the activities and challenges of our busy lives.

Like so many, I too struggled with this sense of storm fatigue. So, what has given us momentum to press on through the challenges of recovery and regain a sense of normalcy in our lives? We may find strength from many avenues; however, I’ve noticed three particular sources of energy that have kept us going – with or without generators.

(1) Neighbors helping neighbors. We stepped outside and reconnected as we worked together to clean up the debris left by the storm. We ran wires from house to house to share power. We gathered around barbecue grills to share whatever was in our refrigerators and pantries as we waited for stores to reopen and power to be restored. We didn’t worry about how we were dressed. We were accepting of each other, at ease with each other, gracious and forgiving of each other as we drew together – an extended family of sorts. We caught up on each other lives, perhaps even met new people we had only waved to in passing before Ike came to visit. Perhaps most important, we shared words of encouragement as we celebrated survival and committed to helping each other get through the stressful aftermath. We knew we were not alone. We could ask for what we needed and we offered our help. No need to explain. No need to feel bad.

(2) We turned to our faith as we strengthened our trust in the Lord and his faithfulness. Believing his promise to carry us through whatever comes in our lives. Despite our frustration, questions, concerns, and our losses, we clung to the knowledge that he loves us; and as Proverbs 3:5-6 says, when we trust him with all our heart and not let ourselves be limited by our own understanding, when we acknowledge him in all that we do, he will indeed direct our paths. His love and promises fueled a spirit of hope to sustain and energize us to face the challenges of recovery.

(3) We chose to adopt an attitude of gratitude as we looked around at who and what we do have in place in our lives. How we got through the storm. How we have drawn together since then. How resources have assisted us. How we have gotten through each day. The blessings around us that the hurricane didn’t destroy. There have been days when it was easy to tap into this focus; yet other days we had to dig down deep to find that attitude of gratitude, that positive outlook to energize and prompt us to look ahead toward a brighter tomorrow. Each day we had a question to answer, “Is your glass half empty or half full?”

These three sources of power carried us through the storm and continue to uplift us as we recover, renew and rebuild our homes, our businesses and our lives. It’s my prayer that we don’t disconnect these resources once we get back to a sense of normalcy in our lives. They are vital and they are available if we reach out and tap them. They cost little, yet they provide powerful energy that will keep us moving forward and prepare us for whatever storms may come along in our lives in the days ahead. Stay connected – with your neighbors, with the Lord, and with an attitude of gratitude. When you do so, your light will shine, even in the darkness.

Facing Life’s Storms

I’m sitting here with my eyes on the computer screen and my ears tuned to the weather channel, wondering if Hurricane Ike is going to pay a visit. It was a long day at the office today, as I met with several people facing significant life challenges. Relationship struggles. Job loss. Depression. Anxiety. Spiritual battles. Then I came home and found a note from a friend undergoing treatments for a rare form of cancer.

Storms. They’re all around us. In the Gulf of Mexico, in our businesses, in our homes, and in our minds and hearts. Stirring. Challenging. Threatening. I heard someone use a phrase recently that caught my attention: storm fatigue. Interesting concept about the impact of facing storms. We hear about a possible storm approaching and we quickly prepare to protect ourselves and deal with whatever is coming, whether we choose to leave or stay to face it head on. We consult with experts to understand what to expect and we gather resources. We’re ready.

Then the storm hits. Or, perhaps it passes us by and we breathe a sigh of relief, “We made it.” We put away the supplies and get on about our lives. Then, we get the word: another storm is approaching. “Oh, no. Here we go again.” Time to gear back up for whatever is coming next. Tiring. Stressful. Discouraging. We find ourselves wondering, “Can we fight another battle? Weather another storm? Deal with another challenge?”

Life is like that for many of us. Storms come. We find a way to weather them. We breathe a sigh of relief as things settle down. Then, we turn around and find something else approaching. “Now what?” Do we gear back up and prepare? Can we? We want to deal with whatever comes along; however, we find ourselves struggling to find the energy to fight again. Fatigue can easily set in. Will we give in and give up? Or, will we press on and face whatever may come.

We’ll find it helpful to look back and see how we weathered past storms. As I wonder about the possibility of Hurricane Ike approaching, I need to consider how I dealt with past hurricanes that threatened our coastline. I remember when we faced Hurricane Rita a few years ago. We had a choice: we could ignore it, we could let our concern spin into fear and panic – prompting us to make improper decisions or no decision at all, or we could resolve that with God’s help we would get through whatever was to come.

As much as the positioning of the storm itself, the attitude we chose to embrace determined our steps. We had to look within for determination, courage and focus to assess and make wise choices. We looked around for information and support. Most importantly, we turned to the Lord for guidance and protection. We moved from uncertainty about survival to belief in recovery.

Then the storm came. We didn’t know how it would impact us, but we pressed on, placing our faith in God’s protection and provision. Believing that with His help, we would deal with whatever was to come. In that assurance, we found courage and strength.

Perhaps that’s a blueprint for dealing with whatever storms come our way. First, choose a positive attitude, confident that we will get through whatever comes along. Then gather information and seek guidance from experts. Identify support systems. Take care of physical needs. Most importantly: call on God and claim his promise to stand beside us, guide our steps and carry us through whatever comes. Promises like the one found in Isaiah 43 (the Bible).

But now, this is what the Lord says…“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Storms come and storms go, but we can press on and confidently face whatever comes with God by our side.

Facing Life’s Storms

We’ve seen the forces of nature cause destruction in our country before, and recently we experienced that horror again, this time in Southern California. The devastation of homes and property has been astounding as fire and wind combined strength to reek havoc on the lives of over half a million people. We watched as innocent survivors gazed at piles of ash, twisted metal and charred stone that was once their homes. Their voices of relief in escaping unharmed contrasted with the emptiness in their eyes as they stood in disbelief. As I watched the events unfold, I recalled another time, not so long ago, when our neighbors to the east faced similar losses from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

When Katrina struck the coastlines of Louisiana and Mississippi, we opened our hearts, homes and financial resources to our neighbors. We offered compassion as we listened to their stories. We pledged our commitment to help them deal with losses, and provided assistance as they began to consider how to rebuild their lives. We offered prayers of provision for them and expressed thanksgiving that we did not experience such a tragedy.

Then we heard the news: Hurricane Rita entered the Gulf, headed in our direction. OUR direction. The stories and pictures of the devastation our neighbors experienced flooded our minds as questions whirled: how do you prepare for a storm? Important question to consider: how DO we prepare for the storms that come into our lives?

As we’ve listened to the stories about preparation and survival from those who have suffered from the horrendous fire storms in California, we recall our own responses to storms that have impacted our community. Similar, perhaps, to steps we can take as we weather physical, emotional and perhaps financial storms in our lives. While the storms may vary on the surface, our preparation and survival have common threads.

When we found ourselves facing a possible hit from Hurricane Rita, we had a choice: we could ignore it, we could let our concern spin into fear and panic – prompting us to make improper decisions or no decision at all, or we could resolve that with God’s help we would get through whatever was to come. As much as the positioning of the storm itself, the attitude we chose to embrace determined our next steps. We had to look within to find determination, courage and focus to assess and make wise choices. We looked around for information and support. Most importantly, we turned to the Lord for guidance as well as protection. We moved from uncertainty about survival to belief in recovery.

Then the storm approached. We didn’t know how it would impact us, but we pressed on, confident that we did our utmost to prepare and would weather it as best we could. I’ve talked to several people who went to sleep the night Rita made landfall. They were confident they had done all they could to ready themselves; and they placed their faith in God’s protection and provision. They believed that with His help, they would deal with whatever was to come. In that assurance, they found a place of rest.

Just as we weathered the threats and damaging effects of hurricanes that have whipped across our land in years past, the people of southern California will find a way to recover from the devastation and begin to rebuild their lives. Our hearts go out to them as we once again offer our compassion, prayers and resources.

As we continue to consider this most recent destruction and loss, we are once again reminded that storms do come into our lives. Hurricanes, fires, floods, health problems, financial difficulties, or perhaps the loss of a job or relationship. Some storms we can anticipate, while others catch us off-guard. We must do all we can to live a life, not of fear, but of readiness. We must look to God, our source of wisdom, to know how to best prepare. We must draw close to Him as our source of peace as He offers rest in the midst of the storm. Then we can step out, confident that with His help, we will move through whatever may come.

Keeping First Things First

“What are you doing here? You need to be with your team.”

Barbara’s words were faint yet encouraging as she looked across the hospital room at her son-in-law. Coach Hugh McCutcheon stood at his wife’s side, believing without a doubt he was in the right place, a difficult place, but the right place for him.

Olympic Men’s Volleyball involves what is described as soaring sets and vicious spikes. The emotions stirring within him must have been even more powerful and extreme that day. Earlier that morning, one day after the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing China, he was preparing his team for competition with a gold medal in mind. Then without warning, he got a call from his wife, Elizabeth, who had been touring Beijing with her parents, telling him her father had been fatally stabbed and her mother seriously injured. So, what’s a coach, a husband and a son-in-law in the face of a tragedy like that supposed to do? The answer, for him, was clear.

“My first thought was, obviously, how do I get there, I’ve got to get to my wife, and I’ve got to support her,” he said in his first interview after the tragedy. While some wondered how he could determine what to do, he explained, “Volleyball is my job, my family is my life. That distinction has been very easy for me. At this stage it’s very easy to focus on the task at hand, which is taking care of my immediate family.” With that firmly in mind, the coach missed his team’s first three games while he and his family grieved. For a while, many people wondered if he would return to the games or travel back home to the United States to handle funeral arrangements and continued care for Barbara.

At the encouragement of both his wife and her mother, McCutcheon stayed in China and guided the men to a gold medal victory. He said if he hadn’t been convinced that his wife could cope with her loss and care for her mother, he wouldn’t have returned to the games.

“When the final points went in, it dawned on me that we just won the thing,” the coach said. “I grabbed my staff. They’ve been so instrumental in our success. For the first three matches of this tournament, they won without me. After I shook the coaches’ hands, it was a little too much. It was all starting to sink in, and I had to step out, collect my thoughts and collect my emotions, and come back out. Obviously, this is the best of times and the worst of times. But I’m going to delve into both those emotions and embrace them accordingly.”

No one can begin to comprehend what the man went through during those 15 days in China. What do you do when the challenges of life demand that you make difficult choices? Choices that pull in such opposite directions? How do you determine the right thing to do?

For this man, the decision was made long before he traveled to China. It was made when he set his priorities in place, when he determined how he would handle difficulties and when he learned the importance of being true to one’s beliefs, no matter what. So, when tragedy came, he honored the values that were a framework for his life. Those that didn’t know him wondered what he would do. Those that knew him, however, knew what to expect and stood beside his decision with respect and support.

Life brings choices for us, sometimes through great tragedy while other times in every day experiences that vie for our time and attention. So how do we determine what to do when faced with life’s challenges and uncertainties? Matthew 6:33 in the Bible tells us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” My understanding? If we put God first in our lives and build our foundation on his principles, then he’ll guide our choices and be with us each step of the way, no matter what.

Thank you, Coach McCutcheon, for reminding us of the importance of putting first things first.