By Kathy Carlton Willis –
We had just moved into our new home and the new sod, trees and landscaping floundered. Of course, it didn’t help that we were melting in a 100-degree heat wave. But the crux of the problem was transplant shock. Uprooting those green leafies from their old, comfortable setting and placing them into strange new surroundings traumatized them.
We did all we could to “love on” our greenies. They received refreshing drinks of water once or twice a day, requiring my husband to spend a good amount of time rotating the sprinklers to saturate the entire property. Even with the proper care, the bright green leaves of grass, trees and plants faded to a straw-like gold. Transplant Trauma.
We noticed it took time and proper care for the transplants to adjust to their new surroundings, and then they snapped out of the shock and turn green again.
Many Americans move to new locations as transplants. The month of May spotlights National Moving Month and Creative Beginnings Month. It’s no surprise that many of us look for fresh ways to start anew and learn to bloom where we’re planted.
I’m a transplant too. I’m not from around here. Perhaps you moved to a new area because of a new job or you moved your membership to a new church. God rarely has us planted in the same soil for life. God uproots us, taking us from the comfort of what we know and love, and moves us to a new area where we can flourish. Maybe God moves us to revive something that is parched and dry, to rejuvenate with our refreshing green ministry efforts. Hurting people and hurting programs look for a fresh new covering of green. Because of our faith in the Lord, we are part of the landscaping team to provide a spiritual covering, a layer of prayer support and green renewal of life.
But when we move to our new surroundings, sometimes it takes a while to get acclimated. We can’t minister or encourage others, because we no longer feel rooted as deeply into our spiritual nourishment. We fade as we go through a period of transplant trauma. Shock. The refreshingness of our green—the good intentions we bring with us—are temporarily turned to dry hay. With the right amount of time to adjust, and with the loving care of our new surroundings, we green up again. It’s good to know it’s just a temporary condition.
Sometimes we come to a new place still grieving the loss of our previous setting. We bring that trauma with us until we come to accept it. Other times, eager to get started in our new surroundings, culture shock stands in our way. We adapt. We add the water of the Word, confirming our calling to our new spot. We soak in the SONlight. We allow our Heavenly Master Gardener to tend to our needs while we tend to the needs of others.
And when in doubt, repeat this phrase, “Transplant trauma is temporary. God’s tender loving care is permanent.”
“They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do” (Psalm 1:3 NLT).
By Kathy Carlton Willis –
“Is it okay to use cheese that has mold on it? Can’t I just cut off the mold and use the good part?”
This was a recent question on the Rachel Ray television show. It got my attention because I’m guilty of letting food park in my refrigerated “garage” too long. I hate to let things go to waste, but I won’t use food that might make me sick. So how do you know?
Rachel Ray answered the cheese question by saying the moldy cheese will never taste as good again, even if the mold is removed, unless it was a moldy cheese to begin with, such as Gorgonzola. She went on to mention another offensive item in the refrigerator, anything past its expiration date. I’ve heard it time and time again that the expiration date is there for a reason—I get that. But what if the date is a “sell by” date instead? Then how do you know if the item is still okay? Usually it is the milk that has a sell by date, and there is an easy way to tell if it has gone bad—if you are willing to recruit your nose for the job!
One tip I learned early in my marriage was how to know if eggs are still fresh—and these can be used past the expiration date. Put the suspicious egg in a bowl of salted cold water. If it floats, throw it out. If it sinks, it is fresh. If it swims somewhere in the middle of the water—neither floating nor sinking—it is safe to use for baking or for deviled eggs, but not fresh enough for an eggs and bacon breakfast.
All this talk about expiration dates got me to thinking about our time to leave this earth. Some believe when it is your time to go, it will happen no matter what you do to alter the date and time. I know a few cases documented in the Bible of people who actually were able to bargain with God for a later expiration date.
One thing we should focus on more than the expiration date is the “use by” date. Yep—I fooled you. That is the same as the expiration date. You know what that tells me? All creation is meant to be useful to the very end. Usefulness to God might look a lot different from the “usefulness” we struggle to achieve. While doing good works is good, what God really finds useful is when we are in fellowship with Him. He created us to walk and talk with Him. And really—can’t we continue that to the very end?
In the great egg test of life, I hope God finds that I sink rather than float. And if you knew my swimming ability, you would realize just how possible that might be.
Feeling expired? Trade it in for feeling INSPIRED.
“And there are distinctive varieties of operation [of working to accomplish things], but it is the same God Who inspires and energizes them all in all” (1 Corinthians 12:6 AMP).
By Kathy Carlton Willis –
Have you ever wondered where ideas originate? I love cooking up ideas, so it’s a natural fit for me to celebrate International Ideas Month in March.
I recently joined Pinterest—a social networking site for members to share virtual bulletin boards. You can pin images and ideas on your board to share a variety of interests. How brilliant! And it all started with an idea to save, share, and swap more ideas.
Have you ever asked God to give you an idea? As a writer, I designate time for brainstorming. During some of these think tanks, my thoughts surge so fast and furious, I call them brain tsunamis. Other times an idea hits when we least expect it—and we have to be ready to jot it down. I’ve had ideas strike at red lights, bank drive-thru, waiting rooms, and during church. I’ve learned to capture the gist of the idea in my idea notebook because just as quickly as ideas appear in my mind, they can disappear. I hate it when that happens!
The best evidence of ideas is when I’m speaking to a group and I see faces light up. I can be fairly certain they’ve just experienced an “aha moment.” See why I celebrate ideas?
We can miss two important steps with ideas though. First, we have to make sure it’s a God idea if we want to be operating in His purpose and for His glory. How can you be certain it’s a God idea, not merely a good idea? I ask Him to show me a green light in the form of peace if my brainstorm is from Him and give me a red light in the form of doubt if it doesn’t fit with His direction for my life.
The final step to ideas that often gets overlooked is fulfillment. Some people have fun conceiving ideas, but have a harder time working the idea through—taking action steps to bring to completion what started as a brilliant concept. Ideas are only wishes until we act on them and see them accomplished. Can you think of those uncompleted projects that seem to hang out forever on your To Do List?
Ask God to lead the way. May He:
• Inspire the idea.
• Endorse it so you know it’s from Him.
• Give you the resources to complete the idea.
• Give you the discipline to stick to it when you’re tempted to quit.
Then praise God when you experience the reward of checking off the idea from your list and you can say, “It is finished!”
Never forget, God will complete us as one of His good ideas, too. “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6 (NKJV).
By Kathy Carlton Willis –
This past summer I felt challenged to be intentional in how I form expectations and how to plan ahead to address unmet expectations.
There are times that no matter what we do, others will let us down. We have great expectations because we want them to live lives in the light of God’s favor and blessing. But they choose a different way, flirting on the edge of darkness.
Over the course of the summer I learned a great deal about how to deal with my own unrealistic or unmet expectations—especially when it requires tough love.
- Sometimes others will do things that are not acceptable—that’s not judging, it’s just discerning. Because I want the best for them, my expectations will be unmet when they choose what is not acceptable.
- God wants me to still love them, but I don’t have to love their attitudes or actions, and I don’t even have to like the person right then! Often, I don’t like the person they are becoming. But I can still be hopeful that they will realign more with God’s principles (because I want His best for their lives).
- My prayers for these times should be more about how I can best show God’s love to them rather than praying they respond in a way I find acceptable. I should evaluate, what does God want from this? How can I share the truth in love? How can I release my feelings so they aren’t invested in this? How can I be okay if this is never resolved to my satisfaction? The answer is, to realize “it’s not about me.” It’s about reflecting God’s Light even when others don’t care to stand in that Light.
- This also requires discernment to know how involved to be with someone who isn’t going to be a positive part of my life. Maybe they are toxic to me. Or maybe they choose to go down the wrong path. The words “mark and avoid” come to mind from scripture. I know that sounds severe, but sometimes loving the way God loves requires tough love. He doesn’t expect me to hold their hands when they are slapping mine!
- There are times that no matter what we do to make something right, the other person isn’t going to do right, and we have no control over that. All we have control over is our response. The way we deal with our feelings. Our choices. I can choose to not keep doing favors for these toxic ones if they’re going to treat me poorly.
- Love doesn’t mean we roll over and play dead. It means we will release them, much like the prodigal son, to find their way back to what God wants in their lives. It also means being willing to receive them back when they come with repentant hearts.
- While waiting for someone to make the right choices, I can’t allow myself to get worked up about their faults and flaws. I’ve learned not to focus their self-absorption, distorted perspectives, or poor communications skills because obsessing on their shortcomings can render me ineffective for God’s use. And often the very thing I get frustrated about in someone else is something I need to make sure I’m not fighting in my own life. It is healthy to use their dysfunction as my mirror—to reveal with might be going on with me that needs adjusted. Perhaps that’s what Jesus was getting at when He said I needed to extract that big ol’ plank in my eye before I assist someone else with the speck in their eye. I’m learning!
Now it’s your turn. How will you deal with expectations in a different way?
By Kathy Carlton Willis –
County and state fairs abound throughout the country this time of year, and the fair food is my favorite attraction! Lemon shake-ups are always my beverage of choice. They shake together freshly squeezed lemons, simple syrup made from hot water and sugar, and ice. As a child, I enjoyed running a lemonade stand, and I still make lemonade at home.
At this moment, our home is stocked with another kind of lemonade. I’m taking the lemons of life and turning them into lemonade. Have you ever wished for something sweet and received something sour instead? I’ve had to learn to work with what I get when it comes to life zingers, and I’m guessing you have too. These bad-news situations could easily sideline a Christian and zap them of any spiritual strength. Instead of allowing these circumstances to overcome me, I choose to overcome my circumstances.
Each of us has our own life-trials. By evaluating the ingredients of lemonade, perhaps we can learn to turn our life-lemons into a lemonade stand—serving up something refreshing to our neighbors.
- Lemons-the setbacks and trials in our lives.
- Hot Water-the words from people who attempt to make our lives miserable by increasing the sour taste of the lemons (often referred to as “Job’s friends”).
- Ice-the emotions we experience when we get bad news.
- Sugar-the positive outlook we add to the recipe, because we realize our Heavenly Father is in control, and He can create a positive outcome from any situation.
The creation of the lemonade is as important as the ingredients. Just when we think we can’t take any more pain, there are two more steps. First we must allow the sugar to melt into the hot water. If we don’t have enough sugar, we produce a bitter beverage. For the final step in the process, we must squeeze the lemons, to produce the juice. Often, we feel like the lemons (trials) are squeezing the life out of us. If we choose to be a lemonade maker we refuse to let the trials get the best of us. Instead, we squeeze out all the juice and let God create a real treat. The end result for this lemonade recipe isn’t just a refreshing beverage—it’s a refreshing life.
“Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” (James 3:11 KJV).
My cousin Vicki sent me a cheerful yellow floral arrangement, which featured real lemons in the vase. Her thoughtful card read, “You’ve been handed some lemons lately. I hope these are more welcome.” And you know—they were.
What will you choose to do with the lemons of your life? What a difference in our neighborhoods, if there were these sorts of lemonade stands on every corner!