Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Year in Review (July-December)

Wednesday I started a look back at the year 2010, with the idea that with the perspective of time, we can often be grateful for situations and circumstances that at the time created stress and concern. Here's a look at the final half of the year.

—God showed up in the middle. In the middle of the year, in the middle of our lives, in the middle of Texas, in the middle of the country, IN THE MIDDLE, life changed for us. After 26 years of full-time service in local church ministry, God directed us to something new. Russ resigned the pastorate and joined me at the communications firm. This necessitated a move out of the parsonage. Where does a couple live when they both work from home and can live wherever? We asked God to show us, and after looking over several options and towns, we had complete peace to move to Brenham, Texas (smack dab between Austin and Houston—another MIDDLE). That led to a whole new set of questions. Where should we rent? Where should we worship? What about recommended doctors, butcher, hair salon, restaurants, etc.? We pared down our belongings to "must haves" and let the rest go to charity. Mayflower picked up what was left and moved it for us. How fitting—we felt like pilgrims in a new land and Mayflower was our ship of choice!

—God taught us we can't provide for ourselves all on our own, we must wait for Him to provide, and in the waiting room of life, there is always room for more learning. Just a couple of weeks into the move and I landed in the ER for bronchitis/pneumonia. My lungs were officially welcomed to my new surroundings.
After about 30 phone calls with potential clients, with a proposal written for each one, we waited for God to bring in the clients. And waited. In the mean time, God showed us where to worship, and we became part of the Champion Fellowship family. We didn't know a single soul in town, but that was only a temporary problem after coming to Champion. We joined a home team and other small groups and soon learned the names, faces, and hearts of new friends. We stayed busy with projects, but certainly needed to know some extra cash would be coming in soon. One August project was writing a book proposal and sample chapters with co-author Rhonda Rhea. Now we are shopping it around to find a home with the right publishing house.

SEPTEMBER—God used reversals as a teaching tool. Before my big September event, Mom came to visit us in our new surroundings. One of the perks of living here is that Mom is only 5.5 hours away. She came for some Master Gardener training nearby, and we enjoyed a good visit. She traveled home and I traveled to Houston to fly out to Kansas City to serve as apprentice on faculty for CLASSeminars. It ended up quite different than what I expected or planned for. An hour after my arrival, having settled in to the hotel room, I twisted my ankle and did a major number on that foot. It swelled to Fred Flintstone proportions and kept me from getting to do some of what we had planned. It was quite an ordeal and I ended up in physical therapy for a while, fighting the resulting reflex sympathetic dystrophy that developed. This forced me to cancel speaking at CLASS Christian Writers Conference in November, and led to more waiting on God to provide, since I'd missed the conferences where I normally pick up clients and referrals. It's starting to sound like a theme, right?

OCTOBER—God held off just a bit more with provision, just long enough for us to be okay with whatever came our way. Okay if that meant learning to say "Welcome to Walmart." Okay if it meant a completely different way of life. Okay if it meant redefining the services we offer with KCWC. Just okay with "whatever." True contentment. And funny when that contentment surfaced, so did the provision necessary so we could continue without finding outside work!

NOVEMBER—God stretched my wings. Three big highlights this month. I recruited new friend Amy Weaver to assist with table hosting for a local fundraiser for Faith Mission—Candlelit Christmas. We designed the table and chair decor, the dessert menu for itty-bitty yummies (which also served as our 2 tiered centerpiece), and decorated for the big night. The program was a big treat for me, made extra-special shared with friend Erin Eddings. Another great experience was going through the Jonah study with the Tuesday Night Ladies Bible Study group. Thanks, Hope Batchman, for leading it! And another highlight of the month was sharing Thanksgiving with Leno and Mary Yellott, and their family. This was our first road-trip after moving to Brenham. New clients came to KCWC and we started looking forward to 2011.

DECEMBER—God blessed me with a sense of stability. He built our clientele and provided for our needs. Makes me think of the song, "In His Time." This month, often known for celebrating Christmas and family and for looking into the New Year, ended the year right on schedule, having fulfilled all its duties.
I was invited to speak at the Ladies Christmas Banquet at church, and that put me in the Christmas spirit. Mom came to spend a week with us, and just having her here also made it seem more like Christmas. Russ and I spent time evaluating the year and praying about new developments for the new year. And we received peace of mind that it was the right time to plan for a home here in Brenham. So as the year came to an end, we enjoyed the most stability of the year, looking forward with anticipation to what is to come. Sometime in June we'll have a new home built and ready to move in. And we have new clients to serve. Starting in January we'll make arrangements to get out speaking more too; Russ filling pulpit for churches and me speaking for special events. It took a while to get to this point, and we certainly haven't "arrived" by any means, but we're ending the year with a greater sense of stability. It doesn't seem like we will have to punch the panic button after all! And you know what? God knew that all the time.

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 Year in Review (January-June)

For this last week of the year I'm looking back over 2010. What does a "Grateful Gratitude" list look like from the perspective of 365 days? It's fun to look back to where I was, ahead to where I'm going, and right now to where I'm at. Reflecting is a good place to be. Living in the moment of certain 2010 circumstances, I didn't have the benefit of hindsight. But now, with just a little bit of time passing, and a lot bit of God working on my heart, I can see with a different perspective, and can offer a YEAR IN REVIEW—Grateful Gratitudes.

JANUARY—God flooded me with fellowship. Much needed heart-bonding. I opened the year with our student ministry activity. A new friend entered my life. Jordy. The Link Family came to sing/play at our church, and we renewed our friendship with two Link generations. We toured the Rio Grande Bible College and enjoyed time with the staff there. I traveled to Florida to be the retreat speaker for Word Weavers and enjoyed time with the entire bunch. It was great to stay with host Cheri Cowell and to finally hug (in person) my long-ago writing mentor, Laurie Barker Copeland. Lots of heart conversations and brainstorming happened in January.

FEBRUARY—God redirected my path. CLASSeminars invited me to consider starting the training process to join their faculty. My first official event in this training capacity was the CLASS reunion in Palm Springs, CA. I enjoyed getting to know the others, and co-teaching with Linda Gilden.

MARCH—God stretched me. My business required more intensive skill, more consult calls. Just MORE. And my everyday life situations caused me to dig deeper with my faith walk.

APRIL—God became even more real to me. The Easter service was extra special—a woven blending of music and message, seamless reflection of the price He paid for me, of the power of His resurrection, of the hope found as we anticipate His return. I served on faculty at Quad-Cities Christian Writers Conference and while there God's presence was evident in manifold ways. A "random" drawing selected Robin Steinweg to receive a special grant from my communications firm, but what I couldn't have known is that God was directing our steps to knit our hearts in an extra-special friendship. I got to attend worship with my sister-friend, Twila Belk, and soaked in an incredible day of sharing life stuff. I found out that my longtime assistant, Gina Stinson, needed to give resignation notice, and we both cried at the thought of this separation. She stayed on through our KCWC staffing transition and I remain grateful for her faithful service over the past three years.

MAY—God nudged me to step out. When our May Tea was canceled, I was disappointed. I'd put my heart and soul into planning the event over the past year. But I knew it was the right move. After the cancellation, an opportunity opened up to go for more CLASSeminars training. How obvious that God was moving me to work with this wonderful organization! I roomed with Gerry Wakeland, and had Betty Southard as my mentor. Wonderful to have two new godly women in my life, for such a time as this! It also became obvious that God was preparing our hearts for a move. He allowed doors to shut and other doors to open. Difficult times in the moment, but looking back with the perspective of hindsight, I can be grateful for His direction.

JUNE—God reminded me to write plans in pencil to allow for last-minute "life" adjustments. I served on faculty with Write-To-Publish. What an incredible writers' conference! Thanks to Lin Johnson, Joyce Ellis and Jane Rubietta for bringing me in to share with the attendees of the Career Track. After the conference, I met family for a reunion in MO and while there we were called back to Texas prematurely to bury a man we greatly loved and respected. What didn't happen was the rest of our family vacation, my participation as emcee at the AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) conference, or attending the International Christian Retailers Show in St. Louis. Not going to those events caused me to miss out on the new clients I normally pick up for the year. We had just signed a lease to rent a home in Brenham, TX as Russ was to come on board with my KCWC firm starting in July. We were (and are) certain God directed the change, but with the canceled conferences, all of a sudden with the wheels in motion, all the security blankets were pulled away and only one thing remained—trusting God for our future.

(Friday I'll post Part Two, July through December, 2010)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Today's Message: God With Us

Today, Pastor preached a Christmas message from the book of Matthew. What stood out to me was just how important it is that God came to be with us. Immanuel. Jesus put on human flesh, yet remained sinless to pay the debt we could not pay. But this year, Immanuel means more than the fact that God came to Earth in the form of the baby Jesus. This year, I make it more personal and more of a day-to-day gift than the gift of salvation. Not just God with us. God with ME. God with YOU. What does it mean to me to know that God isn't just in Heaven, but He's here helping me, talking with me about normal and important stuff, nurturing me. And it's not a one-sided relationship—He loves hearing from me. He walks with me and talks with me and tells me I am His own. Immanuel. God with us.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Technology and Christmas Merge—What Fun!

I just have to share North Point's iBand Christmas Music presentation, showing off the modern technology of iPads and iPhones. No real instruments. I'm not saying "let's throw out the instruments we know and love." But I am saying "this is fun!"

Click on the photo above, sit back and enjoy 3 songs for your listening and viewing pleasure!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Top 10 Skills for PWs During the Holidays (wink-wink)

Top 10 Skills of a PW During the Holidays

by Kathy Carlton Willis

Said pastor’s wife must:

1. Recreate the First Nativity, in life-size scale, for a silent witness in the parsonage front yard.

2. Incorporate the Twelve Days of Christmas into her baking and gift-giving schedule, taking special care with the partridge in a pear tree.

3. Live green with the motto of recycle, repurpose, reuse. Start by repurposing the silver tinsel as kitty dental floss.

4. Create a Christmas card list to include every church member, visitor, “used to be” members, and “meant to be” visitors. Being clairvoyant is an added skill set for this requirement.

5. Create a cookie recipe for each day of the advent calendar, ready for parsonage pop-in guests at any time of day or night. It’s highly offensive to serve day-old cookies to the president of the lap quilt guild.

6. Have a gift-wrapped present at the ready for any impromptu exchange, so that gift-bearers do not leave empty-handed.

7. Stock up on gifts that look impressive but cost less than a cup of coffee. (Regular, not Starbucks!)

8. Keep in mind every dietary restriction of every church attendee. Recipes should be gluten free, diabetic-friendly, lactose-free, low fat, low carb, yet high in taste. On a pastor’s salary.

9. Have a different party outfit appropriate for every holiday invitation between Thanksgiving and New Years. Can’t duplicate what anyone else is wearing. On a pastor’s budget.

10. Be willing to drop everything to be available for every beck and call from lonely members, fighting couples and stress-filled moms who need a listening ear during the blues-humbug of the season.

Come read the rest of this post over at the original spot. The Pastor's Wife Speaks. It includes real tips to help you enjoy the holidays without pulling your hair out.

Monday, December 06, 2010



For some reason, holiday gratitudes pack a more potent punch than everyday appreciations—not sure why, other than my heart is already warmed up and excited.

Here’s my list:
  1. I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak and sing for a Christmas Banquet last week. I had so much fun with that program, and it was a huge blessing to me to have ladies waiting to talk with me afterward, so we could love on each other in a more personal way. Encouragement, counsel, motivation, inspiration, laughter, building up, sisterhood. All good!
  2. I’m grateful for facebook, to get to know new people quicker than possible in person. There’s only so much I can learn about a person when we go out for a beverage for an hour. But interacting on facebook several times a week reinforces what I’ve started in person, and takes us to a closer friendship, quicker.
  3. I’m grateful for a comfortable bed. When nothing else is right, when everything that doesn’t hurt, doesn’t work, my mattress set and sheets envelopes me in warm fuzzy comfort.
  4. I’m grateful for words of affirmation. Gary Chapman would say it’s my “love language.” All I know is, when I get feedback, I feel more secure in my plugged-in position of life purpose. I’ve had feedback this week that I’ll save in my mental affirmations file for future reference whenever I begin to doubt myself.
  5. I’m grateful for music. Sometimes when words can’t penetrate the fog of my heart or mind, music breaks through and speaks to me. Puts me on the right path. And it doesn’t take long—instant transformation!

Friday, December 03, 2010


God showed up big-time at tonight's Christmas Banquet! But let me back up just a bit. A few weeks ago I was invited to speak and sing for the Ladies Ministry banquet. I've enjoyed the preparation process.

Then of course, this week drained me with unrelated disappointments and challenges. Fatigue set in. I was spent before it ever started!

At lunch I rehearsed the song for tonight (Point Of Grace's "All Is Well"). It reduced me to a puddle, yet at the same time—spoke to my heart. So this afternoon I spent time praying and resting, asking God to continue to empty "me" out and use me however He deemed best.

God has never expected me to be on my own when I speak or sing. He's not only "with" me, but when I'm yielded to Him, He's flowing through me. His reflection. And that's what happened tonight.

He blessed me with the ability to recall the points of my message when the words were sort of swimming on the page, so I could speak from my heart with just a few brief peeks at my notes. Not only that, but He gave me a couple of new examples/illustrations as we went along that surprised even me. One will stick with me and probably develop into a complete program sometime.

But God didn’t finish with the AMEN. Oh no! He also breathed me through the song to close the program. I was concerned the song was too simple to be effective, but obeyed His direction to use it. The song was perfectly fitting. Father knows best! The impact of the entire evening was staggering.

Then God continued the blessings by bringing ladies up to talk with me. One after one they shared from their hearts. It was a combination of all the things that make me happy:
  • fellowship
  • ministry
  • encouragement
  • counseling
  • connecting
  • building friendships
  • edifying

And did I mention, “NEW FRIENDS!”

And new ministry opportunities.

I'm reminded again why I love being called to speak and sing. I witnessed light bulbs going on above heads all over the room as the words spoke to hearts. It was then that God whispered to me, “Kathy, why aren’t you doing this more? Be open to new opportunities for 2011.” That’s exciting.

I am blessed. So blessed. And basking in the afterglow.