nancy williams

Real Women, Real Answers, Real Joy Real Women, Real Answers, Real Joy Real Women, Real Answers, Real Joy Real Women, Real Answers, Real Joy

Archive for November, 2010

Don’t Let Stress Rob Your Joy

Welcome to December. I enjoy holidays, especially this time of year as Christians celebrate God’s expression of love through the gift of His Son. Twinkling lights decorate neighborhoods and shopping centers while the glorious sounds of the season ring out in our homes, our churches, the radio, and even in many businesses in our community. One holiday tune tells us, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” And yet, it’s also a most hectic time of year as we attempt to pack so many things into this month.

Our to-do lists are overflowing and our budgets are being stretched. If we’re not careful, holiday anxiety begins to creep in as we wonder, “Will I find the perfect gifts? When will I decorate? What will I wear to the parties? Will everyone be happy with the gifts I give? Do I have enough time, money and energy to accomplish everything on my list? With all I have to do, should my cards read Merry Christmas or Happy New Year?”

Holiday stress. We attempt to avoid it, yet it finds its way into our lives, and we’re faced with a choice. We can try to fight it, we can pretend it’s not there or we can acknowledge its presence and decide how to move through it while not loosing touch with the meaning of the season. Rather than letting this stress create anxiety that impacts us emotionally as well as physically, we can use it as a motivator, challenging us to sharpen our focus, clarify our goals and choose responses that will best lead to our success. The following suggestions will help you successfully move through the stress of the weeks ahead and enjoy the spirit of the holidays.

  • Determine your overall goals for the holiday season and keep them solidly in mind with each choice you make.
  • Be reasonable in your expectations of yourself and of others. Exercise patience, understanding, reason, grace, and forgiveness.
  • Set a budget for gifts, meals, decorations, and entertainment. Then commit to stay within the boundary you’ve set.
  • Prioritize your tasks.
  • Use a daily and weekly planner to organize activities and help stay on track.
  • Recognize that every time you say “yes” to something you say “no” to something else. Consider the cost before making the commitment of your time, energy, and resources.
  • Take care of yourself physically with sufficient rest, healthy eating and exercise. Don’t overdo working, eating, drinking or being merry. Overindulging in any of these areas is draining afterward.
  • Treat yourself to times of relaxation that will refresh and renew your mind and body with a warm soak in the tub, a massage, a leisurely walk, quiet time to unwind, candles and aromatherapy, a holiday-themed book and music to warm your heart and stir your spirit.
  • Enjoy time with others to share the spirit of the season with laughter, play and worship.
  • Consider gifts of service. Rather then buy something, give your time, talent, ability, energy, and presence. Mow a yard. Rake leaves. Teach a skill. Play a game. Help clean out a garage or clean a house. Prepare a meal. Share your baked treats. Babysit. Pet sit. Spend time with someone who is lonely. Volunteer at a local organization that helps those who are struggling. Make a donation in someone’s name to a charity.
  • Allow others to help you tend to some of the tasks on your list.
  • Be flexible. Glitches are going to happen, even with the most well-thought- out plan. Give yourself a break and don’t stress out. Instead, take a step back to reevaluate your plan, then make adjustments as necessary.

And one final suggestion to help manage the stress that is so prevalent during this season: take time to slip away from tasks, lists, worries, even from friends and family. Be still. Take deep breaths and let your mind focus on the true meaning of this season. Ask God to open the eyes of your heart to experience the gifts of love, joy, and peace He has for you. Then ask Him to show you how best to share those gifts with others during this special season of giving.

Finding Thanksgiving in Troubled Times

I followed a car recently that displayed an interesting message on its bumper. “Gratitude: better than therapy.” Well now, as a therapist, I might take exception to that comment. And yet, I know so very well the power an attitude of gratitude can have on us. Calming our anxious hearts, comforting our troubled spirits, and prompting us to replace despair with hope.

Next week holds the day set aside as Thanksgiving: a time for us to gather with friends and family as we express gratitude for the blessings that are ours. Oh, how we need that focus. 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 may lie ahead. Yes, life brings its share of challenges and disappointments. But it also brings joy: solutions to some of the problems we face, things we do have, opportunities seized, relationships built, promises made and kept, yesterday’s dreams becoming today’s reality, hope to cling to in the face of our fear. Blessing upon blessing.

I know I’ve shared this story before but I think it carries a powerful message to ponder, especially in these present days when we’re facing difficult challenges in so many areas of our lives. So allow me, please, to take you back a few years to a visit my husband and I made to the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

As we neared the town of Provincetown, our gaze was set on a slender tower reaching heavenward and marking Pilgrims’ Point. Stories about the Pilgrims and the voyage of the Mayflower whirled in my mind as I imagined what it might have been like for those travelers to anchor on that coastline in 1620. As I uncovered the story of their voyage, I realized Cape Cod was not in their original plan. They were headed further south along the coast; however, storms prevented them from reaching their intended destination. So, they made their way alone the Massachusetts coastline around the tip of Cape Cod.

I can imagine their dismay at plans thwarted. Disappointment. Discouragement. Despair. They sacrificed so much along their journey and fought through so many challenges, determined to turn dreams into reality, only to find themselves in a different place. Not at all what they hoped for. Not at all what they planned. I know that feeling. Perhaps you do, too.

Yet, they didn’t give up. They didn’t turn back in defeat. They paused and took time to collect their thoughts, replenish themselves after their arduous journey, and gather information about other options. Then they moved ahead with courage, hope, and optimism—on to the future in a new direction.

The next fall, 1621, they gathered together—not to mourn dreams unfulfilled but rather to give thanks for blessings bestowed. Their first year in this new land was filled with challenges, uncertainties, heartbreak, and grief. Historical accounts report that they built more coffins than huts; over half of their original population died from disease or starvation. Yet, these Pilgrims gathered to celebrate life and give thanks to God for His provision in difficult circumstances. They shared their bounty with those around them, and they graciously received the gifts that were brought to the table.

Many of us also face challenges, uncertainties, heartbreak and grief. We can learn much from these men and women about being grateful for the blessings we do have and not taking God’s provisions for granted. We, too, can set aside time from the busyness of life to express that gratitude and share our blessings with others.

An attitude of gratitude provides a lifeline to carry us through the darkest moments and uncertainties of life as it reaches into the depths of our souls with awareness of God’s faithful provision for us. That same spirit of thankfulness causes our hearts to overflow with joy that spills onto those around us as we celebrate the goodness of life that is ours.

From my Thanksgiving table to yours: let’s take time, not just this holiday but daily, to express gratitude to the One from whom all blessings flow, and to celebrate the riches of life and love with family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving!

Local Women Find Education, Inspiration

I’m always excited to see opportunities for men and women to receive insight and encouragement along with strategies to help them manage life well—both personally and professionally. With all the challenges life brings, we need to take advantage of training that will equip us physically, emotionally, spiritually, and professionally to live life to the fullest. The organizations, churches and businesses in this community offer many events with this focus throughout the year and one is slated for this week. The Lake Houston Chamber is featuring a Women’s Expo with the theme, “Inspiration, Education, Success.”

The theme is very fitting, because if you take a look at the lives of successful women, you’ll see both inspiration and education present. They surround themselves with people and resources that inspire them and they are open to discovering, learning, and growing in all dimensions of their lives. Successful women also inspire and educate other women. They pass along lessons they’ve learned and they mentor others who want to develop their own unique measure of accomplishment.

As you take steps toward your own achievements, consider how the successful women you know approach various aspects of their lives and how their choices impact their relationships and influence others.

1. Clarify who you are, what you are passionate about, and what you desire your life to reflect. This focus will be your foundation to build upon, a centering place to connect each aspect of your life. Ask God to show you His design for your life and how to step out in the direction He has planned for you.

2. Establish priorities. These will provide structure and guidelines as you determine what to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to among the many challenges you face. The wise woman recognizes that while priorities may be set, circumstances of life change, calling on her to consider how to respond flexibly without losing touch with those things of fundamental importance.

3. Set goals that will honor your priorities. If you’re not careful, you can easily get caught up in reacting to immediate issues and become scattered as you move from task to task. Then you wake up one day and realize you are not moving forward. Clearly defined goals provide direction and encourage opportunities for growth. Once they are set, you can develop a plan to turn them into successes and honor what’s important to you.

4. Identify your source of strength and support. Where will you turn for wisdom and guidance? What will renew you when you feel drained? Who will be there to help you maintain focus and provide accountability? Who will be your encourager, your personal cheerleader, your constant friend? Who will offer unconditional love and acceptance as you celebrate success and cope with failure?

5. Gather resources. Today’s successful woman recognizes she will need assistance to meet the demands coming her way. She may turn to family, friends, church programs, community organizations and the business community for education, support, networking, and relationship-building.

6. Take care of yourself. While God tells us to put Him first and to have the heart of a servant as we connect with others, He also gives us clear direction to take care of ourselves—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet, today’s woman often neglects these areas of her life. “I’m too tired.” “There’s not enough time.” “I have to get everything else done first.” “I need to take care of someone else.” “I feel selfish doing something for myself.” However, when she does take care of her needs, in essence she’s taking care of someone’s wife, someone’s mother, someone’s employee, someone’s friend. Everyone benefits.

As women in today’s world, our focus may be channeled in different directions between home, workplace, church and community.

We have different skills, different interests, and different opportunities before us. Yet, we all share a common denominator: each of us has been given a unique blend of talents and abilities, along with opportunities to use them. It’s important to honor those gifts to the best of our ability, wherever our life journey takes us. To learn all we can and then share our insight and encouragement as we embrace all that our Creator has designed for us.