Q. What inspired you to start the When God Makes Lemonade project?
I started When God Makes Lemonade because I know from personal experience just how tough life can be. A lot of people are struggling with lost jobs, lost homes, broken relationships, illnesses and fading dreams. They need encouragement. We all do. I’ve learned that, along with all the bad stuff that happens in life, lemonade happens, too. And over the years as I shared my own lemons-to-lemonade story with others, I discovered two amazing things. One was that, through sharing my own personal story, I was able to encourage and inspire others. Secondly, the sharing of my own story often provoked listeners to share their personal lemonade stories with me and I, too, was encouraged and inspired. I began to wonder if we could possibly find a way to share these hope-filled stories with others around the world, and from that thought the idea for When God Makes Lemonade was born. It is a community effort, authored by the growing number of people who, against all odds, have found joy in the midst of their pain.
Q. How do you find the stories you include in the God Makes Lemonade books?
A. My wife, Brenda, and I developed the website GodMakesLemonade.com so that others would have a place to share their own lemon-to-lemonade stories. As the stories are submitted, our GML team decides whether or not it is a fit. We want all the When God Makes Lemonade books to be compilations of true stories which encourage people in sour circumstances to realize that God is at work making lemonade in their lives. That means our readers need to be able to see the divine direction in Lemonade stories, and the best ones focus on compelling and dramatic events that make up the three parts of the lemonade outline: sour circumstance, surprise and sweet outcome—showing God at work in the process. We encourage those with Lemonade stories to visit GodMakesLemonade.com and consider sharing their stories with us. We have endeavored to answer any and all questions they might have regarding submission, but if they do have questions we haven’t yet addressed, they can easily contact the GML team through the website and we will respond as quickly as possible.
Q. How did you come up with the title When God Makes Lemonade?
A. We’ve all heard the old saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” but there’s a problem. The statement puts a lot of pressure on those going through the experience of dealing with all those lemons. Not only do we have to deal with the heartache, disappointment, tragedy or disruption, we are also led to believe we have to make something good out of it. This, of course, only leads to feelings of shame, guilt and stress, an addition to the equation that no one needs.
But when you feel the responsibility of turning something sour into something sweet is not yours, but God’s, then the pressure is removed. Instead, you are given hope that what is happening is leading to something better and are encouraged that life will, indeed, improve as God takes the lemons given by life and uses them to guide you down a surprising new pathway that leads to a refreshing new life. That’s where the stories come in. They are not about you having to make things better on your own. They are about hope and encouragement and genuine inspiration. They are about discovering delightful sweet surprises hidden deep in the sourest circumstance. And the primary thing is that these stories aren’t fairy tales. They are true stories of real-life experiences and they have the power to change lives.
Q. What do you think it is that makes the When God Makes Lemonade project unique?
A. When God Makes Lemonade is a collection of stories that offer a tall, refreshing glass of hope to those who have been drained dry or parched by life’s more sour circumstances. Each lemonade story is about how someone’s life was surprisingly sweetened by something that would never have happened without the sour circumstance. When God Makes Lemonade gives readers a chance to change their perspective by suggesting that instead of asking, “Why did this happen to me?” they ask, “I wonder what kind of good will come of this?” It also encourages them to be patient and willing to give God the necessary time to turn lemons into lemonade, and, of course, offers the perfect sweetness necessary for lemonade in the form of hope. It is, perhaps more than anything else, that life-sweetening power of hope that gives When God Makes Lemonade its uniqueness.
Q. Through the When God Makes Lemonade project, you’ve become an epicenter of encouragement. Isn’t making a name for yourself as the “Encouragement Guy” a little daunting?
A. I think encouraging others is something I have always done. In every career path I've pursued through the years, offering encouragement to those
around me felt natural and right and it’s a way of approaching others that I normally gravitate to. As a publisher, the stories I liked publishing best were those that compelled readers to see the “rest of the story” in their own lives.
I guess you could say I am a born optimist. I like pointing out the ways life is good and showing ways to discover the joy hidden in the depths of sorrow. I love encouraging people to keep on keeping on because what’s ahead may be better than you think and you can do the unimaginable if you just don’t give up. So, in answer to your question, I don’t find being the “Encouragement Guy” daunting, but I do rely on the kind of stories I am privy to in the When God Makes Lemonade project to inspire me and keep me supplied with the hope I need to pass along to those I meet along the way.