nancy williams

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Archive for October, 2010

Facing Life’s Storms

We’ve seen the forces of nature cause destruction in our country before, and this past week 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 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.

Choose Your Words With Care

Do you use your backspace and delete keys on your computer or phone very often? I know I do. We write something, often hurriedly, and then realize we should have said it differently. Or, perhaps we shouldn’t have said it at all. It’s good to know we can start over. That is, of course, unless we hit the ‘send’ key and the words travel straight to the eyes, ears and hearts of those who receive our message.

I’ve been editing some writing recently, reviewing how I express my thoughts and searching for the “just right” phrases to share my message. I want to communicate clearly and authentically so I’m taking the opportunity to go back and consider what I’ve written. Unfortunately, all too often, we quickly send messages to others, sometimes without enough attention to how they’ll be received and the impact they’ll have. Abbreviations and symbols fill our texts, tweets, and Facebook posts, and we assume our readers can fill in the blanks and understand our intent. Maybe; maybe not.

Our words, our expressions, even our silence all send powerful messages and are integral parts of how we relate with others. Words have the power to edify, encourage, and lift someone up. They can just as quickly knock someone down, cutting like a knife and wounding the spirit. They can draw people closer together and they can tear relationships apart. Other times, they can leave us confused and unsure about a response. Yet we still tend to use words so freely, often without considering their potential impact. We impulsively blurt something out, only to regret it later on. We miss an opportunity to share our thoughts and feelings because we are afraid of saying the wrong thing. Or we say something, assuming it will be understood, only to get a response back that doesn’t make sense to us at all. We then ask: “Were you even listening?” And if the words are taken out of our intended context or the setting in which they are spoken isn’t clear, well…we know how the end of that story can read!

Take the following familiar-sounding phrases, for example. While you can probably assume their intended meanings, imagine if they were to be taken literally.

- Would you give me a hand over here?

- She hung her head in dismay.

- Her tongue got away from her.

- It felt like I was coughing my head off.

- His foot flew out from under him.

- His eyes dropped to the floor.

- I don’t know where my head was when I did that.

- If you give her a chance, she’ll talk your ear off.

- She threw up her hands, as he tossed his head.

- His promises were pie in the sky.

Okay: the above phrases are amusing perhaps, and your mind is probably now ‘bouncing around’ with other examples, but the point is worth considering. We do need to realize the power of our words. They are tools given to us to express what is in our mind and heart; we need to use them with care. We choose our words deliberately when talking to young children, as we teach them to communicate. We pause to consider our words when speaking to someone not familiar with our language.

When communicating with a person who has difficulty hearing, we talk slowly and clearly. And in these situations we also check to be certain we were understood correctly. When writing, we have the opportunity—if we’ll take the time—to review our message and edit if needed. The keys: time and consideration.

Bill Watterson had his cartoon characters Calvin and Hobbes share some insight that might be a word of caution for us:

Calvin: “Sometimes when I’m talking, my words can’t keep up with my thoughts. I wonder why we think faster than we speak.”

Hobbes: “Probably so we can think twice.”

My words of encouragement? Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and choose your words with care. Let them be grounded in truth, wrapped in love and delivered with respect. Remember: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” – the Bible.

October Brings Awareness, Celebration

Are the pages on your calendar turning as quickly as mine appear to be? It seems like just a short time ago we welcomed summer and now here it is—October. I wish time would move a bit slower because I like this month. Cooler temperatures are replacing summer’s heat and we have a bit of time, if we’ll take advantage of it, to slow down and enjoy nature’s gifts in the richness of autumn before the busyness of the holiday season kicks in.

October may bring celebrations for you and those you love as well. In fact, have you seen the commercials on television with various musicians singing “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday to you.” Notice, there’s no name inserted into the song to identify the recipient of the well wishes. Yet, when you look at the close of the ad you’ll find a reference to the countless numbers of people who are taking time this month to celebrate. They are breast cancer survivors and the family and friends who love them.

Women (and yes, men, too) within our community and across our nation are celebrating the gift of life—the gift of each day—as they battle this disease. Neighbors, friends, business associates, family members, and fellow church members are learning how to survive its havoc and move on with their lives. 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. 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 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 may not 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. Friends and family are waiting to come alongside with 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 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, love, 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.