Transplant

Don bought me flowers. More pointedly, he purchased two hibiscus shrubs, each displaying one beautiful flower. New house. New yard. New plants. We loaded them into the van and drove them home.

We waited a day to transplant them, taking time to contemplate the perfect spot. Within those 24 hours, the ninety-degree heat took its toll and each lost its flower, its prettiness, its initial attraction. By the time we shoveled a hole and buried the roots, they were thirsty. So we watered; and watered some more.

We still water.

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As we water, I watch as many of the lower leaves turn from a deep green to yellowish-green to yellow. Every time I walk outside I pluck a newly-turned yellow leaf from the foliage hoping to stimulate and strengthen the plant, hoping to see new growth, new blooms.

I was told transplanting is hard on plants (it’s called transplant shock), but with proper care (trimming, watering, patience) they should bounce back and flourish again.

I am a transplant–most recently uprooted from IL and implanted in FL. As the transfer affected my new plants, so has the upheaval affected me. It seems my flowers have fallen off and my leaves are yellowing. My roots are searching for new ground to grasp. I am thirsty.

There is an appropriate time to prune and pluck and re-evaluate oneself–a time to go back to the Creator and ask to be cared for. This is my time. I’m on my knees. I’m in the Word. I’m worshiping. I’m listening. I’m waiting. My roots are long and healthy and I have plenty of deep green leaves, so I know I will eventually bounce back and flourish again.

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Maybe the sight of a big, bright yellow flower on my hibiscus shrub will inspire a small bud in my life.

Bread Crumbs and New Beginnings

bread crumbs

God began tugging at our hearts, individually and then, over time, jointly. We didn’t know where specifically He was leading, but we started to pay attention and follow the trail of crumbs He laid down for us. Books like True Religion: Taking Pieces of Heaven to Places of Hell on Earth by Palmer Chinchen and Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker brought us to our knees. We felt as if we hadn’t completely understood God’s directive to reach out to the brokenhearted. We weren’t connecting with the unchurched like we should.

I knew the stirring was leading up to something big. I read Simple Living by Lorilee Lippincott and 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker and began purging my house of extra items in preparation of something, not knowing what.

On we followed, crumb after crumb, wondering and anticipating with excitement where the trail would lead. We asked questions, we perked our ears, we focused our eyes. We explored various new avenues of ministry. God led on, crumb by crumb. We narrowed our search, discarding anything not lining up with our thoughts and beliefs. And the phrase that kept surfacing out of discussions and books was “church plant.” He plopped church planting authors’ books in our laps. He put people in our path that were pursuing a church plant. Just as God had used people who had adopted, were adopting, and wanted to adopt to tell us to adopt, the topic of church planting came up so often we couldn’t ignore it. So we pursued it . . . bread crumbs.

And one day before the end goal had solidified (it was still quite fluid and abstract), I came face to face with my sinful nature of desiring comfort and stability. I came to the passage in Luke where Jesus asks some men to follow Him. Each had an excuse. Each excuse I had.

While Jesus had “no place to lay his head,” I had the comfort of a nice home with a newly remodeled (did I say beautifully remodeled?) bathroom & kitchen. And similar to the man who wanted to “bury his father,” I wanted to continue living within three hours of my mother so I could take care of her should she need me. But the hardest obstacle to hurdle was the last. The final man asked to “go back and say goodbye to his family.” And the weight of reality sunk deep. I did not want to say goodbye to the “family” I would leave behind: my 20-year-old son. His decision was clear. He would not go. He would stay back to finish his degree.

I wrestled with these excuses, these obstacles, these real-life issues. I knew I could not pursue God and continue to hold on to these securities. “Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'” (Luke 9:62) So I let go. I wrote in my journal that day, “I know God is asking me to lay it all down for Him and His glory because of Him, because of His kingdom, for His children . . . in recognition that it is not about me. He cannot increase if I do not decrease.”

So we are going. Our bread crumb trail leads to Wildwood, FL . . . and a new church aptly named Hope Community Church. On August 1, four Winters family members and one new college graduate, Samuel Cutshall, will begin the process of planting. We have been warned it won’t be easy. But we are confident we are pursuing God’s plan.

I invite you to check out the church website HERE and like our facebook page HERE. I also ask that you pray for us as we transition and consider contributing a special gift or monthly gift toward the start-up of this ministry. If you would like more information, let me know.

Run on the Right Path

Fear motivates, and I run. What from?

A ghost? A memory? A potential confrontation?

A hard situation? . . .

People?

Instead of staying, I run. Instead of facing, I hide.

My desire: stop running from something. My choice: run to Someone.

When running from something, my head turns back. My eyes gaze on potential danger. My feet falter.

When running to God, my head stays forward. My eyes focus on Him. My feet uphold. The threat of peril disappears & safety abounds.

The environment persists. The situation continues. The potential confrontation lingers. But much has changed. Trust motivates. Truth triumphs. God prevails.

I am free to persevere through the trial as He leads or follow Him down a different road.

path 1

Can I clearly see the resolution? Not always. But the path is unobstructed. As long as I follow Him, my feet are secure and the answer is in His hands.

path 2

Corners are less menacing.

path 3  path 4  path 5

The unknown feels adventurous.

path 6  path 7

God’s guidance reassures—a friendly Presence.

path 8

And, while tomorrow’s answers may be a mystery, the ultimate destination remains the same—Paradise.

paradise

When faced with difficult situations, do you run from them or face them head on? What would it look like if you chose to run to God instead of running from something?

Back-out Barbie Battles Princess Barb

Identity_crisis

My back went out.

That four-word sentence contains much meaning and significance.

I struggled with chronic back pain for nine years. Then in March 2011 I underwent back surgery. Until recently I would have said (and might still say) I was miraculously healed. I was the poster child for this type of surgery.

So three weeks ago, when I felt a familiar painful pull in my lower back, old emotions and fears rushed back as reality soaked in. Hence, my original statement that much meaning and significance are wrapped up in the short sentence, “My back went out.”

I am uncertain how this will play out. I could be back to “normal” in a month or two.

Or not.

My mind is reeling with questions, my body has a life of its own, and my emotions are out of control. In the midst of this roller coaster, it has been difficult to pinpoint what is so bothersome—maybe because there are so many layers to unravel.

However, I managed to identify one worry: I don’t want to be “that person.” You know, the person who always talks about some issue or ailment he/she has.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Back-out Barbie. I have back problems.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t pick that up. I’m Back-out Barbie, and I have back issues.”

“Could you hand that to me? I’m Back-out Barbie, and my back isn’t cooperating today.”

“My children are unloading my grocery cart for me because I’m Back-out Barbie, and I can’t bend over.”

I don’t want people to whisper, “There goes Back-out Barbie. She’s got a bad back, and her husband and children take care of her.”

Back-out Barbie feels guilt, self-pity, and disappointment.

On the contrary, Princess Barb walks in her identity as a child of God. She knows her hope is in Christ and this world is not her home. Princess Barb immerses herself in her Father’s love and acceptance and, consequently, reflects His love and acceptance to others. They say, “There goes Princess Barb. She looks so much like her heavenly Father. Even in times of distress she smiles and radiates His love.”

The vigorous battle between Back-out Barbie and Princess Barb continues. I don’t know who will emerge moment to moment.

But I’m certain who wins in the end.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Phil. 3:20-21

Are you having an identity crisis?

What false identity are you battling?

Unwholesome Talk and Our Need for Filters

We watched God’s Not Dead last night. Part way through the movie a boyfriend (Schmuck, as Don called him) and girlfriend are dressed up and eating at a fancy restaurant. The man tells the woman he got a promotion at work. The woman looks at the man with fear in her eyes and says, “I have cancer.” There is a slight pause before the man says, “You couldn’t have waited until tomorrow to tell me this?” (Schmuck!)

It was at this point in the movie Kenneth spoke up, “You know how we all have a filter from our brains to our mouths? You know, something that stops you from saying things out loud? Well I think this guy has a giant hole in his filter.” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

I picture this brain-to-mouth filter as a screen. A properly functioning screen looks like this:

screen

 

 

 

Some of us have a screen in need of repair.

screen with tear

Just like the screen in my illustration allows unwanted wasps or bees into our home, the broken filter in our brains may allow inappropriate thoughts out of our mouths.

I think our uncaring boyfriend (who obviously has a hole in his heart as big as the hole in his filter) has a screen that looks like this:

screen with big hole

Only bigger animals and objects are going to be stopped by that thing. A rock could sail right through without slowing down. And those hurt! Almost as much as unfiltered thoughts sailing past our lips.

What does your filter look like?

Is it in need of repair?

Does it need a gigantic patch?

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Eph 4:29

A Way of Life

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I stood on the porch and watched my eight-year-old son emerge from the house with his head hanging, mouth turned under and eyes focused on the ground. Moments earlier he had bounded into his dad’s (my ex’s) house to ask a question as I waited for the answer.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“I let the door slam and got in trouble,” was his reply.

“Well, you know what to do. Tell them you were wrong and seek forgiveness,” I stated.

“We don’t do that here, Mom,” my son informed me.

I remembered this scene a few months ago while teaching on reconciliation. The last point of the session was: make extending and seeking forgiveness a way of life.*

Many of us know what God requires and even practice His ways under certain circumstances (at home with our families, during Bible studies, and possibly with our Christian friends). However, outside a “Christian” setting (and sometimes within) asking for forgiveness, putting others first, or standing up for the undefended is awkward, uncomfortable, and frowned upon. It’s a sign of weakness, not strength. We fear ridicule and rejection so mumble through with a wimpy, “I’m sorry,” take a defensive stance or say nothing.

I don’t fault my son for living a dichotomized life; at his young age he knew no better. Yet we cannot be true followers of Christ by picking and choosing when Christian behaviors apply and when they don’t.

Let’s be people who proactively participate in God’s ways in the midst of life no matter where we are or how tough it may be. With the power of the Holy Spirit’s leading, let’s “do that here”—let’s make implementing Christian mandates a way of life.

*Victorious Christian Living Conference taught by Don and Barb Winters January 2014 – To download the teachings, go to the VCL Conference tab above the family photo

An Orphan Boy, A Pregnant Girl, and Teenage Rebellion: What’s the Connection?

Today my children and I finished a book about a boy who is orphaned twice, once as an infant and again when his family dies in the plague that hit London in 1665. As DCFS was non-existent at the time, this eleven-and-a-half-year-old boy is left to fend for himself. He is dejected and downtrodden, believing his life is worthless. The boy meets up with a man willing to help him out “temporarily.” This man is a wanderer who doesn’t necessarily care if he makes enough money today in order to eat tomorrow. And while he is a huge asset to the boy, the boy’s picture of himself remains one of bleakness.

Last week, I read a non-fiction book in which the author, a girl, fakes a pregnancy for her senior year project. This girl’s mom became pregnant at the age of fourteen, had seven children, and, later, birthed the book’s author out of wedlock. Most, if not all, of the author’s seven older siblings had children before their senior years in high school. The author’s project centered on the thoughts and feelings of teen moms as well as stereotypes and expectations. She believes a person’s image of him/herself and subsequent behavior is highly affected by others’ expectations and actions toward him/her. Even though the author had vowed to stay celibate through high school and was in the top 5% of her class, she heard comments like, “I knew it. It runs in the family,” when she announced her (fake) pregnancy.[1]

During Don’s sermon on Sunday, he held a Styrofoam cup in one hand and a crystal wine glass in the other.[2]  One is disposable, the other precious. Some people see themselves as the throw-away cup—useless, unnecessary. God sees them as the crystal wine glass—valuable, beneficial . . . priceless.

Yesterday I began reading a book called Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion against Low Expectations. The authors believe teenagers have underperformed for years because that is what society expects. They are calling for teens to rise above these expectations and excel—to push themselves beyond what comes easy, to take responsibility, come out of their comfort zones, and rise to their potential.[3]

How we see ourselves is paramount in determining the choices we make. Too many times we allow others’ beliefs about us to affect our choices. We tend to rise or sink to the level of expectations of those around us, forgetting that the truest things about us are what God says.[4]

And what about that eleven-and-a-half-year-old boy? He stumbles upon a mapmaker willing to teach him. In the process, the mapmaker sees in the boy the qualities and artistic skills necessary for making maps. At the end of the book this Master gives the boy a home and tells him, “To me you are of great consequence—an heir for my treasure. Not sacks of gold. I speak of the treasure in my head, my eye, my fingers. . . . You are the gift of God, an empty cup sent to me to pour my treasure into . . .”[5]

And so, you are of great consequence—you are the gift of God, an empty cup (crystal wine glass) sent for His treasure to be poured into. Do hard things—things that can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit backed by the belief that you are valuable. Along the road, encourage others to rise above the status quo and display God’s wondrous power.

Ephesians 2.10


[1] The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez with Jenna Glatzer

[2] For a link to Don Winters’ sermon Physical & Spiritual Blindness, click here.

[3] Do Hard Things by Alex & Brett Harris

[4] See Ephesians 1

[5] Master Cornhill by Eloise Jarvis McGraw