nancy williams

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Archive for March, 2009

My Irish Eyes Are Smilin’

Ah, top o’ the’ mornin’ to ya!

OK, so it may not be morning as you read this and we’re not in Ireland. But St. Patrick’s Day is on this week’s calendar; and I’m hoping you’ll humor me a little as I pay respect to my dear Irish ancestors. Whether or not you have blood that flows from the Emerald Isle, why don’t you fix yourself a cup o’ tea and a scone while we chat a bit. After all, this is the time of year for the wearin’ o’ the green, the bellows of bagpipes, the tellin’ of tall tales, even the search through the clover for a four-leaf sprig to bring good luck. We’ll need that to combat those feisty little Leprechauns my grandfather said can stir up a kettle o’ trouble.

Each year, around this time, I find myself recalling precious time spent with relatives who came to this country from Ireland. The strains of their Irish brogue still ring in my ears as I remember stories about life in the ‘old country’ and their journey here in search of a new beginning.

They came by boat with few belongings, leaving behind family and farmland to cross the Atlantic and establish a new home for family and friends who would follow. The first two who arrived were welcomed by other Irishmen in Philadelphia where they would find jobs and a room to rent. Once settled, they would send for two more. Then again, until my grandmother, her seven siblings and her mother all settled into their new surroundings. But it didn’t stop with them. As soon as they could, they extended that helping hand across the ocean to others who wanted to write the next chapter of their lives on American soil. With great effort, fervent prayer and determined spirits, they made their successes happen.

Through their examples, I learned a lot about life, family, God, and about love that’s an integral part of all three. Oh, they didn’t have much; but what they did have they shared with each other – their advice and encouragement, their food and homes, their laughter and prayers. The doors of their homes and their hearts were always open; and I’m grateful for the opportunities I had to enter both.

They also taught me about the value of working hard to achieve my goals. Life’s blessings, though many, didn’t come easy to them – in Ireland or in America. With determination and fortitude characteristic of their heritage, they met life’s challenges head on, demonstrating the truth that good things in life come to us most often as the result of time, energy, sacrifice and faith in God. They were willing to risk failure for the possibility of fulfilling their dreams.

What their lives reflected is applicable for us today: if we want our goals to be met with success and if we want to get through life’s tough times, we need to seek God’s guidance to show us the path He has prepared for us. We need to draw together as friends and family, to encourage each other, to celebrate our successes, to grieve our losses and to roll up our sleeves and apply some old-fashioned hard work.

My mother, like her Irish ancestors, had her share of trials and heartaches, yet she drew on the strength of her heritage as she moved through the challenges of life and looked forward to the future with hope. Her utmost trust in God’s provision enabled her to avoid dwelling on the past and to take each day as an opportunity for a blessing. Even in the most painful times of her life, God faithfully guided her steps and filled her heart with His love. If she were with us today, I know she would encourage us to face our present challenges in this same way.

Out of the overflow of my rich heritage, I’ll extend my own word of encouragement through a favorite traditional Irish blessing.

“May the road rise to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face.

And rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.”

Sage Advice for Today’s Tough Times

“Never give in – never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Those challenging words were spoken by Winston Churchill as Adolph Hitler threatened to overrun England and Western Europe. This short, powerful speech was intended to fuel determination into the hearts and minds of a nation that looked to him for direction. Churchill knew the importance of facing adversity head on, refusing to give up or give in unless there was good reason.

There’s another passage of encouragement, spoken by a man who knew much about pressing on through adversity – the Apostle Paul. Shipwrecked. Often challenged. Beaten. Imprisoned. When you read Paul’s writings in the Bible’s New Testament, you see that he didn’t minimize his struggles, but he didn’t wallow in the suffering or give in to fear. He didn’t give up. In a letter he wrote to a church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 4:8-9) he described the resiliency God had given him.

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.” He goes on in verse 16 to say, “we do not lose heart.”

When I read Paul’s writings, I see a man who knew his weaknesses and clearly acknowledged it was God’s strength that carried him through tough times. Paul was writing to people who were facing their own challenges; so he drew words of encouragement from his struggles to fuel a spirit of determination and strengthen their trust in God’s guidance and provision through life’s difficulties.

Now, here we are today – facing uncertainties, challenges, trials and disappointments. Wondering what the future will hold for our nation, our community, our businesses, our families and ourselves. We’re blessed in so many ways, yet our conversations and thoughts seem to frequently center around our struggles. No wonder we’re experiencing anxiety, fear, depression, even for some, a sense of hopelessness. It concerns me that people around us are feeling so overwhelmed and want to give up. We may need to make adjustments but we can’t completely give up on life. We just can’t. We have to look deep within for the determination to get through tough times; and we have to reach out to help those who are struggling to find that strength to press on.

How grateful I am that we don’t have to give up or give in because God offers us four powerful tools to see us through life’s challenges: His strength, His guidance, His provision, and His promise to walk with us. We may feel knocked down but we’re not knocked out. God can provide the resiliency to help us bounce back. We may feel lost but He knows just where we are and will guide our steps. We may feel all alone, yet He’s beside us at every turn. We may feel too weak to take another step, but He’s right there to carry us. We may not be able to see what lies ahead but He knows and has a plan to see us through.

As I write these words, I realize you’ve probably heard it preached in church many times, or you’ve read God’s word and know His promises. You may have experienced His provision through other struggles or watched as friends or family members faced tough times. I have as well. Yet, it seems like when we hit life’s challenges, we need to be reminded that no matter how difficult the adversity is, God was, is, and will be faithful to get us through. Always. No matter what.

So, this is a time of challenge, and a time to watch God at work. To draw close to Him and experience His presence in a fresh new way. A time to hold His hand and then extend the other hand to help those around us who may be stumbling along the way.

Hold on, my friends, hold on.