nancy williams

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Archive for December, 2010

Time to Sip a Cup O’ Kindness

I like this time of year, just after the whirlwind of Christmas preparations and celebrations; just before we gather with family and friends again to welcome in the new year. It’s a quiet, calm, relaxing change of pace that invites us to linger a bit.

Linger. A perfect goal for these few days. To let our thoughts about the holiday we’ve just shared together and memories from this year that is coming to a close just linger a bit. Remain. Endure. Persist for a time before fading away. Relatives have traveled back to their homes. We returned all that needs returning, took advantage of those after-Christmas sales and finished up the leftovers.

Now we’re trading the melody of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” for the New Year’s Eve traditional favorite: “Auld Lang Syne.” Scottish poet Robert Burns adapted the phrase “auld lang syne,” which can be translated as “old long ago,” in the late 18th century from traditional Scottish songs. For decades, people have agreed it makes a festive way to close the ‘old long ago’ of days past and usher in the hopes and dreams of a new year.

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of Auld Lang Syne? … So here’s a hand, my trusty friend, and give a hand o’ thine; we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet for Auld Lang Syne.”

Life has slowed down a little this week, offering time for reflection. What memories do we want to tuck away, with kindness, in the closet of our hearts? Treasures that can take their place among the gifts of ‘long ago,’ ready to be opened and enjoyed in days ahead.

The music of Christmas continues to play in my home and heart this quiet, December afternoon as I enjoy my holiday decorations just a bit more before I must pack them away. I’ve also been considering those that I want to pass along to my children and granddaughter as they build their own treasure chest of keepsakes. I want to share with them, not just the ornaments from the tree, but also reminders of the laughter, joy, sorrow, hope, and love that has woven our hearts together. How important it is for us to pause with family and friends—to linger a bit—as we reflect, with kindness, on what life has brought our way. Lest we forget those days of ‘auld lang syne.’

The past year was filled with some varied experiences. Victories to savor. Losses to grieve. Opportunities to seize. Challenges to master. Obstacles to overcome. Joys to celebrate. Pain to endure. Some experiences have been cause for celebration. Others, I’m grateful to have survived. Yet through them all, I have found life lessons I want to carry forward and build on in the days to come. Nothing to be wasted but rather wisdom and hope to be invested in the future and passed along to my family and friends.

Right now, in the peacefulness of this winter day, as I curl up in my favorite chair with a steeping cup of coffee, I want to savor the spirit of the season that has brought warmth to my home and my heart. And I want to pass along a new year’s wish for you, one I hope you’ll enjoy as this year draws to a close.

Find a favorite place to settle down, let your thoughts linger a bit and find warmth for your soul. Sip a ‘cup o’ kindness’ as you reflect back on the days of ‘auld lang syne.’ Tuck away what is to be treasured, restore what has been broken, share what can be passed along and look for the lessons God has for you as you reflect on His unfailing love.

May the spirit of joy and the music of hope fill your heart as you ring out the old year and ring in the new. And, “May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way” (2 Thessalonians 3:16, the Bible). Happy New Year!

Oh, Christmas tree! Oh, Christmas tree!

While driving down the highway recently, I spotted a tree along the roadside. A lone evergreen, perched firmly on the embankment in the midst of brush that had already experienced a touch of winter’s chill. It was simple in stature and unpretentious, except for one thing: someone chose to adorn its branches with a touch of Christmas spirit. Sparkling garland, ornaments, and a star on top greeted those who passed by.

As I took a second glance in my rearview mirror, I recalled a story television journalist and traveling reporter Charles Kuralt shared years ago about a similar sight on the high plateaus of the Colorado Rockies. His story was not strange sounding, perhaps, until you consider that trees didn’t typically grow there due to poor soil and rough weather. In fact, I understand you didn’t find many people adventurous enough to live in that area either. It wasn’t conducive to much except providing passage from one part of Colorado to another. Perhaps that’s why this small tree stood out to passersby. It was a juniper, growing all alone beside Highway U.S. 50 without another tree in sight.

As the story goes, someone either filled with Christmas spirit or with a sense of humor put a Christmas ornament on the tree one year. No one knew who started the decorating activity but it continued throughout the season and then again the next year, and the next, and the next. By Christmas Day each year, that lone little tree was glowing with holiday spirit as it greeted the highway’s travelers.

Interesting thing about this sprite little tree: it survived year after year, against all odds. Neither the summer droughts nor the winter storms could take its life. The juniper stood firmly in its place near the road, shaken at times by passing trucks but not uprooted. When highway builders took steps to widen the road in that area, they could have easily taken the tree down. However, they chose instead to begin their work just a few feet beyond. The tree defied the expectations of man and nature as it firmly claimed its place and its life: a testimony to the determined spirit of a survivor.

People living in Grand Junction, thirty miles one way, and Delta, Colorado, fifteen miles in the other direction, knew about and loved that tree. It belonged to no one, yet everyone felt a sense of connection with the tree that offered encouragement throughout the year and a special touch of holiday spirit along a lonely path.

Our reporter closed his story with this observation: “Just looking at it makes you think about how unexpected life on Earth can be. The tree is so lonely and so brave it seems to offer courage to those who pass it – and a message. It is the Christmas message: There is life and hope even in a rough world.”

As Christmas Day nears, many of us are decorating trees in our yards and in our homes to embrace the holiday spirit. Adorned with lights, ornaments and special remembrances, they draw us together with family and friends to celebrate a season of love. Twinkling lights illuminate the darkness while shiny glass balls bring a spark of joy and beauty. Ornaments passed down from year to year unlock treasured memories while a soft flowing garland wraps the strong branches with its gentle spirit. Tucked around its base, we find the spirit of giving. At the top, we carefully place an angel, a star, or perhaps a cluster of specially chosen flowers to draw our eyes and our hearts upward.

It’s not just a simple juniper on a highway. It’s more than a decorated tree in our home. The Christmas tree is a symbol of life and love, of courage and survival, of joy and giving, of hope and peace. So, gather near a Christmas tree and let your heart embrace the majesty and wonder found in this season: the beauty of life, the light of hope, the sweetness of shared memories, the joy of giving and the gentle warmth of hearts wrapped in God’s most precious gift of love.

Merry Christmas, from my heart and home to yours.