nancy williams

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Archive for October, 2008

Hard Things Are Hard

Had things are hard; and there are times when life is just plain hard.

Rev. Charles Poole spoke of this in his book “Don’t Cry Past Tuesday.”

“You cannot escape life’s hard things. There are no detours around them or shortcuts over them. All the power of positive thinking you can muster will not take the hard edge off hard things. All the ‘silver lining in every cloud’ clichés you can recite will not make that which is truly hard into something soft or easy…Hard things are hard,” he wrote. How well we know that right now as we try to get back on our feet after the hurricane and in the midst of present economic challenges.

Sometimes life is hard because of wrong choices we make and the consequences that follow. Other times, we find life hard when we go through our busy days without taking time to connect with God and seek his guidance. Yet, sometimes life is hard, not because of our own doing but as a result of the choices of others. Things over which we have no control. The actions of others have consequences in our lives and we find ourselves struggling. Then there are the hard things we must deal with that can’t really be traced to anyone’s wrongdoing. They just come into our lives.

Hard things are hard.

So, we search the scriptures for answers on how to cope. We consult with spiritual leaders and counselors, looking for understanding, only to realize the truth: we live in a world where bad things can, and do happen. So, what can we do to get through the hard times in our lives?

Rev. Poole’s writing took me to two men in the Bible, Jeremiah and Paul, who dealt with hard times by doing two specific things. First, they told their stories. Jeremiah cried out to God, “Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable?” (Jeremiah 15:18). In the first chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul shared his story with his friends, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” Both men began by telling their story candidly and honestly – not as victims but as strugglers – that hard things are hard.

Perhaps we can begin where they did. Like Jeremiah, we can talk to God about the hard things we are facing. Then like Paul, we can share our story with someone we can trust who will listen and understand. That’s the first step, but not the last. Paul went on to tell his friends of his trust in God’s deliverance even in the face of possible death, “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.” Jeremiah and Paul embraced hope, believing that God would do in the future just what he had done in the past. Carry his children through the hard times of life. When hard things come our way, we can begin by telling our story and continue on by holding onto our hope. Then we can press on, even in the hardest times.

Rev. Poole tells of a man who owned a plum tree that was ravaged by a tornado. He and his friends assessed the damage as one neighbor asked, “What are you going to do with it?” After a long pause, the man replied, “I’m going to pick the fruit and burn the rest.” He planned to find whatever good he could and then get on with life.

Sometimes the fruit we find in the midst of life’s storms is in the form of insight. Or, perhaps in the comfort of friends and family. Sometimes the fruit waiting for us is increased awareness of God’s presence, promises, and provision. We may have to look deep because the fruit isn’t always easy to see under the rubble; but it’s there.

When the hard times come along, remember to tell your story and embrace hope. Then pick the fruit, let go of the debris, and move forward, knowing you’re not alone. God is with you, even through the hard times.

It’s October: Think Pink!

I hope as you read this column, you’re finding your way back to some kind of normalcy after dealing with Hurricane Ike. Not the most powerful storm to visit the Texas Gulf Coast perhaps, but a strong one that turned our lives upside down for a while. We prepared as we deemed best, got through the rough part as safely as we could, and then began the work of recovery and restoration. Some of us dealt with inconveniences that were soon taken care of, while others faced major losses and must now look at rebuilding their homes, their businesses, their support systems – their lives.

A friend of mine is recovering from chaos that Ike imposed on her home and her business. She prepared well, she got through the storm, and now she’s focused on picking up the pieces and moving forward with her life. At the same time, she’s also battling another storm that caused chaos in her life: breast cancer. And she’s not alone. Women (and yes, men, too) within our community and across our nation are battling this storm as they learn how to survive its havoc and move on with their lives. Neighbors, friends, business associates, family members, and fellow church members are experiencing the effects of this storm. There are some whose fight with this disease is well known to us. Others face cancer’s challenges quietly and we are unaware. Yet, in many ways, it touches us all.

God has given me opportunities to walk alongside some courageous women as they battle breast cancer. On this journey, they’re the teacher and I’m the student. Their strength, wisdom, courage and honesty have influenced me in countless ways. Rather than defining themselves as victims, they choose to see themselves as survivors. I have opportunities to encourage them and meet some of their needs, while they continually teach me so much about life. In their honor, I’ll share a few of the many lessons I’m learning. Gifts to reflect on as we move through October’s National Breast Cancer Awareness.

* Cancer is no respecter of persons. It invades the lives of men and women from all walks of life, regardless of age, background, financial status or spiritual journey.

* Life is not always fair.

* You don’t always have a choice about what comes into your life but you do have a choice about how you will respond, the attitude you will choose to have as you move through the experience. Will you see yourself as a victim or a survivor?

* Fighting cancer is hard work.

* It’s important to take charge of your life and your health. Understand how your body functions and then make healthy lifestyle choices. When in doubt, ask, and keep on asking until you understand.

* Some of the most beautiful women I know are bald.

* Planning for the future is important, but the reality is this: you have the certainty of only this present moment. How will you make it count?

* Don’t take anything for granted.

* The journey of life takes unexpected twists and turns. While we are each responsible for how we travel along that path, we don’t have to make the trip alone. There are friends and family waiting to offer assistance and companionship.

* Laughter is great medicine.

* Encouragement is a priceless gift.

* Prayer is powerful, not just for the one with the need being voiced, but also for the one offering the prayer.

* Don’t save the good china just for company.

* When you think you can’t take another step, stop and rest. Then take a deep breath and dig into the center of soul where you’ll find strength and courage for the next step.

* We all have much to teach each other, and so much to learn. Take time to share those life lessons with those around you, and listen.

* Never give up. Never.

To those of you who are breast cancer survivors, I offer my respect, support, encouragement and prayers. I also give my commitment to make the lessons of your life count in my life, and to share those gifts with others. God bless you.