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Fertilizer Happens


Recently I was blessed with an 
unexpected, unwanted, undesirable present.  




It came in the form of a bird 
plopping a gift in my yard.  
The poop gift carried a seed.  
A seed that grew into several 
poison sumac plants. 





Life has a way of dropping 
unexpected gifts on you.
Fertilizer type gifts.  
And the funny thing is, these gifts can do 
one of two things.  
It can sit on the top of the soil 
and stink, and attract flies, 
OR, 
it can be allowed to age, 
then dug into the soil 
and make beautiful things grow. 
Even truly nasty, foul smelling,
 painful things, 
when aged, lose their pungent odor,
 and something good 
can come of the experience. 


As I worked among my tomatoes, squash, 
peppers and flowers, these plants gifted me 
with a poison resin called urushiol.  
It got ugly, and it got ugly fast.  
(If you are really brave, you can see images of 
what poison sumac damage looks like here.)  
My face swelled up three times its normal size, 
and my eye swelled shut.  
One of my ears turned purple from the 
broken blood vessels. 

The burning blisters transformed me into a 
monster of untold ugliness.  
My four year old kept asking me, 
from across the room, 
"Is that really you Mommie?".  
I have photos, which my friends have seen, 
but they are so incredibly disfiguring 
my pride will not allow me to post them here. 

Have you ever been there? Doing a good thing?  
Then BAM, out of nowhere you 
harvest something you DID NOT plant? 
Something that halted you dead in your tracks, 
knocked you off balance and sent you reeling?
Something that even kept you from continuing 
to do the "good" thing you had been doing?  
IF, that is a big IF, you did not plant this thing, 
then don’t take it as a punishment.  
Somethings are not “the devil", 
some things are just part of living in a world 
where others choices affect us.  
On the other hand, 
some of us refuse to acknowledge 
we did indeed plant this, 
and are reaping the harvest of our own choices.  

This gift came the week I was scheduled to 
attend a ministry conference, 
The Big Mama–Jama Conference. 
It is the one time of year I get to see 
my old college friends, missionary friends 
and fellow pastors wife friends.  
Most importantly, 
I get to be with Honey Pie in services.  
Sit with him, experience the service with him, 
we get to pray together.  
It is a rare, and priceless experience.  
Now, thanks to the poopy bird gift, 
I’m going to miss it, or at best, 
sit in the hotel room alone while 
everyone else enjoys the Big Mama-Jama Conf. 

I threw a major pity party, 
complete with decorations (blisters),  
party food (Prednisone), 
and special party music 
(weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth) 
and I danced with my old friends Pain and Pride.  
Pain was delighted to join me, 
and never left my side.  
Pride gleefully chatted nonstop with 
delightful diddies about HOW much fun 
we were going to have looking EXTRA special 
with the blistered arms and 
steroid facial swelling.  
Thankfully, the steroid worked some 
chemical magic, and by Tuesday, 
I looked human again. 
Thankfully the worst of the damage 
was covered by my sleeves.  
Yes, there is nothing like a little poison rash 
on your face 
to humble you right up.  


If you are really brave, you can see images of what poison sumac damage looks like here.

The poison sumac was my enemy.  
It hurt.
The Prednisone was my friend.  
But it hurt too.  

I won’t bore you with all the details of the fun 
my new friend Prednisone and I had, 
let’s just say I was as hyped up as 
any meth junkie you’ve ever met.  
3 hrs sleep max each night, 
shaking inside my skin, 
heartbeat throbbing all the way to my fingertips. 

My friend Ginger and I were scheduled 
to do a skit, 
but I couldn't be sure I would remember my lines, 
so she ended up having to do both of our lines, 
with me add libbing as we went along.  
Let's just say it was NOT my finest hour.  
By Thursday I was trembling so badly, 
that while standing outside the hotel 
talking to Dr. J. Bland, 
I jittered RIGHT out of my shoes 
and fell FLAT on the sidewalk. 
The cure, was as painful as the disease. 

Ever been there, 
desperately miserable, longing for relief?  
But the cure looks painful too?  
The relationship that just drains you, 
there is a cure, but it may cost you a friendship.  
That job you hate, 
maybe the cure is to get more training, 
and it’s going to cost you time, effort & money, 
OR, 
you may need to take a pay cut 
in trade for peace of mind. 

The pain of financial pressure, 
the cure is the painful work of addressing your 
out-of-budget-lifestyle choices.  

Physical pain? 
You may need to give up 
salt, sugar, gluten or processed food.  

Sure, it will cost you, but when you are in pain, 
the price of setting a healthy boundary  
or a healthy budget, or healthy lifestyle 
is FAR less than the continued pain of unwise choices. 
Don't suffer long term 
because you are afraid 
of the short term pain.  
One ends, the other never does. 


While I am not happy that the bird plopped the seed, 
nor that it grew, nor that I came in contact with it, 
I am glad that I am wiser now.  
I now know that my husband loves me 
even at my ugliest. 
Most women wonder if their spouse 
would love them if they were disfigured.  
They wonder.  I know.  
And it is a priceless gift. 
  
I also know that it could have been worse.  
We burn limbs and dry grass in our outdoor fire pit, 
and had those poison sumac branches been burned, 
I would have inhaled the smoke carried urshiol, 
which blisters the lining of the lungs, and can be fatal.  
Experience sometimes comes at a high price.  
But that high price can save you down the road.  
I'm wiser than I was.  
But I paid dearly for that wisdom.

Every broken relationship saves someone 
from a harder broken one down the road.  
The tears we shed over some things, 
can be God's hand keeping us from something worse.  

Not all things are spiritually driven, 
but all things have a spiritual application.  
The bird passing over my yard was not out to hurt me.  
The devil did not make it fly over my yard.  
It’s just life. 
Matt 5:45 tells us that the 
sun shines and the rain falls 
on both those who live justly, 
and those who do not.  

Life happens to us all.  
Fertilizer happens to us all. 

So the next time you are gifted 
with an unexpected plop on the soil of your life, 
instead of asking 
"Why me?" 
why not ask 
"What can I learn here?".  
Remember that YOU have a choice. 

Are you going to stink?  
Or are you going to grow?


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