nancy williams

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Archive for November, 2009

‘Tis the Season of Giving

Okay, we’ve finished the leftovers and waved goodbye to the company who shared a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with us. Now December is here and a new holiday season has officially begun. Dreams and plans about decorating ideas, recipes for holiday treats and celebrations to share with family and friends whirl through my mind, interrupted on occasion with reminders about the number of shopping days left before gifts are exchanged.

I know some of you already have your presents bought, wrapped and under your beautifully decorated tree. To you I say, “Congratulations!” Of course, you’ll miss all the holiday lights. No, not those that adorn the houses in our neighborhoods, I mean those red taillights the rest of us will be staring at as we crawl along in traffic heading to the mall.

You won’t experience the thrill of the hunt as you cruise around for that one last empty parking space, and the exercise from hiking your way across the lot as you juggle your packages and search for your keys. You’ll miss fighting the crowds for the last minute sales offered on the few sought-after items still on the shelves. You won’t get the adrenaline rush that comes from hurrying to creatively wrap gifts and get them under the tree before it’s time for family to rip that paper right off.

To those of you who, like me, are busy making your gift list, creatively reworking your schedule to find shopping time, and mustering up the courage to dive into the crowds and experience holiday shopping at its best (?) I say, “We can do it. Just take a deep breath and repeat after me: ’tis the season to be jolly!”

My family has begun our annual conversation that goes something like this. Me saying, “What would you like for Christmas? Need anything? Want something special?” to which the reply comes, “I don’t know. Let me think about it and get back to you.” Get back to me? What do they mean? Haven’t they heard those warnings from the media that time is running out?!

‘Looks like once again I’ll need to generate my own idealist: what to give the special people in my life. All complaining aside, I look forward to this season of sharing. It’s a wonderful time to express my love to the people God has brought into my life. Some have needs that are apparent: I know just what to give. Others invite creative thinking on my part as I consider how to share the spirit of the season with them. There are gifts that require a purchase while others ask only my time and attention. Some will be experienced the moment they are given while others will be enjoyed long after the season ends.

If you, too, are working on your gift list, perhaps some of these ideas will be the perfect fit. In fact, these suggestions may encourage you to add to your list of people to honor this holiday season.

• Make an extra portion of your favorite homemade dish to share with a neighbor.

• Baby-sit for a single parent who has some shopping to do.

• Donate some gently used clothing to an area mission.

• Participate in a holiday program your church offers as a gift to the community.

• Offer your volunteer services to a community organization or ministry.

• Stay in touch with someone you know who is dealing with a loss in life.

• Take care of your own health as a gift to your family.

• Donate to your favorite charity in honor of someone.

• Be patient with the sales clerks who are trying to meet everyone’s needs.

• Hold the door open for the person behind you.

• Rake the leaves and pine needles for someone who has difficulty with yard work.

• Smile at those who cross your path.

• Create meaningful times of celebration and memories with your family.

• Give a hug.

• Give hope.

• Share the story of God’s amazing gift of love: His Son.

I could continue on but I have to hurry: the clock’s ticking and there are gifts waiting to be given. Happy holidays!

In the Spirit of Thanksgiving

Oak leaves tumbled their way downward to blanket the ground beneath. Squirrels scurried across the mountainside as their feathered friends sang from the soaring pine trees above. The clear blue sky, crisp morning breeze and cool water flowing along the rocky stream joined in the proclamation from nature that fall had indeed arrived to the hills of Arkansas. And I must tell you, it was a treat to be in the midst of God’s creative splendor.

We spent a few days recently on Petit Jean Mountain with our siblings and their spouses along with a special uncle to enjoy some family time together. Our homes are scattered across the country and the busyness of life, along with growing families, makes it a challenge to get together; however, once a year we set time aside to do just that. To gather and enjoy each other’s company. No fuss. No frills. No preset agenda. No pressure. No alarm clocks. Just a few days filled with fun, laughter and lots of memories.

As I listened to my husband exchange stories with his family about their childhood adventures, I thought about how special it is to share memories with those we love. All too often, it seems as though our conversations involve plans and to-do lists, instructions to our children about our expectations for them and concerns about the challenges of life. We focus so intently on what we need to do that we may not take time to reflect back and share our experiences with those we love. I recall a few tales my grandparents shared with me about their lives back in “the ol’ country” (Ireland) and stories my parents related about their own childhood. Yet, I realized as I listened to the conversations during our recent time with family that I have memories I want to pass along to my own children and even stories to write down for the new little granddaughter I will soon cradle in my arms.

This month holds a special day set aside to express gratitude for the blessings that are ours. Oh, how we need that focus. I’m afraid that all too often our minds are drawn to our problems, things we are doing without, opportunities missed, relationships lost, promises not kept, dreams not fulfilled, fears of what the future may hold. Yes, life brings its share of challenges and disappointments. But it also brings us joy. Relationships strengthened, opportunities seized, promises kept, calm in the face of fear, laughter to lighten our load, hope to guide our path.

Thanksgiving Day invites a special time to thank God for His blessings to us. As we do so, let’s not only remember the major things in our lives – food, shelter, family, friends, jobs, health and freedom. Let’s also consider the many other ways He blesses us every day. God has graciously poured out His amazing love to me in countless ways – to you, too. Just look around at the gifts that are ours from His creative hand and the guidance He provides as we travel our life journey. Perhaps this holiday season can also be an opportunity to share stories of how God has blessed our past and how He has carried us through life challenges. Passing along the lessons we’ve learned from both the joys and sorrows of life can be a precious gift to share with those we love. Legacies that will live on long after our lives on earth come to a close. During this special time of thanksgiving, let’s pause to express our gratitude to the One from whom ALL blessings flow and then to share that joy with those around us.

“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the Lord Himself is God. It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name. For the Lord is good. His loving-kindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100).

Happy Thanksgiving – from my heart to yours.

Those ‘Gettin’ Through’ Times

My husband doesn’t want me to watch HGTV anymore! For those of you who don’t recognize those initials, I’m referring to the Home and Garden Television Network that features shows about remodeling your home. Personally, I think it’s one of the better channels, however my husband cringes when I turn it on. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that the programs featured tend to stir my creative juices toward projects that often involve my husband. Now, I must say, he’s an excellent craftsman and can successfully tackle anything I come up with; however, I wonder if I push that envelope sometimes.

We’re in the midst of some remodeling projects right now, pleased with the selections and the work being done, yet currently inundated with dust. The kind of dust that comes when you use jackhammers to break up a tile floor. A soft layer of grey powder covered everything in sight and even traveled to places I never dreamed it would go. I knew there would be some dust to deal with but the contractor exceeded my expectations as his workers took over my house. Now we’re left to clean things up so we can return to some sense of normalcy.

My mind bounces back and forth with varied emotions. I’m pleased with the remodeling choices and the work we’ve done, yet overwhelmed with the effort it will take to return everything to its proper place. When I look at all there is to be done, I shake my head in dismay. How are we ever going to tackle all we need to do to finish the renovations and get things back to a place where we can function again? What were we thinking when we decided to go down this path? Are we ever going to see a light at the end of the tunnel? It feels as though we’ve been working so very hard, yet we have far to go before we reach the finish line. And that’s just for the projects we are currently working on, not to mention those things we have still on our wish list.

As we reflected on the status of things, my husband and I recalled other times when we’ve been in the midst of challenges that felt overwhelming. Times when we wanted to throw up our hands and walk away. Times when we looked for distractions so we would not have to deal with the issues at hand. Tough times. Yet, we got through them and we know we’ll get through this time as well.

A few things seem to help us right now. First, we’re keeping our focus on the finish line and talking about how things will be once we get through the challenging time. We’re supporting each other with encouragement to press on and affirmation for the effort we’re giving to tackle the challenge. We’re each other’s cheerleader as well as accountability partner, fostering a “can do it” spirit that spurs us on. Another thing we do is pace ourselves, working hard but also taking some breaks to renew our energy and recapture our momentum when it fades. Perhaps one of the things that’s most helpful to us is a sense of humor. We laugh at ourselves, at each other and even at the situation in general as things sometimes take interesting and unexpected turns.

I suppose the steps we’ve followed to get through this renovation are the same steps we’ve taken to deal with other life challenges. We commit to work together. We keep our eyes on the goal, pressing on and not giving up. We work hard and we give ourselves time to rest and regroup, to renew our energy so we can go the distance. We get help when we need it and find the tools to accomplish our task. We fuel our sense of humor to lighten the heaviness of the challenges we’re working through and we support and encourage each other.

Today it’s dust; but whatever tomorrow may bring, with God’s help, we’ll roll up our sleeves and press through whatever challenges may come. I hope you’ll do the same as you face your own ‘gettin’ through’ times.