My Word 2018 – Surrender

2017 was quite a year. As I look back over the past year, I see several milestones:

  • My marriage was beautifully and miraculously reconciled after 8 months of separation;
  • I bought and sold a house;
  • I started a new role at the school where I teach;
  • My oldest son and I got to experience “the shot” at the UNC vs Kentucky regional championship LIVE;
  • One of my dearest friends and I went on a bucket list trip to southern California;
  • My dad  had quadruple bypass surgery.

God is good.

In the transition from 2017 to 2018, I have been doing a lot of soul-searching. A little depression has even set in, blending with the overwhelmed feeling that I have had for the past few months. It has been hard for me to really put into words, but my husband was able to beautifully explain it in three little words: lack of surrender.

There was a lot of “I” in 2017. I did a lot of surrendering, just not to the God who created me. I surrendered to… my ways, my pride, my insecurity, my need to please people, my perfectionism, my selfish ambition, my laziness, my lack of follow-through, and the big one… my fears. You all probably didn’t see this qualities, but they are there. They love to sneak in at weak moments and remind me that “I’m not good enough.” These are the words in my mind that cause all of the unhealthy surrenders.

My word for 2018 – Surrender

The picture attached to this post is one I took on our trip to southern California in October. There is no way to explain the beauty we saw there. The beaches and coastline were like nothing I’ve ever seen.  This picture shows the very image of surrender. Staring at God’s creation and saying “here I am, Lord.” He controls it all anyway, so why do we keep fighting it?

This is the first year I’ve actually picked a word. The word that I want to stay in front of me at all times. And with it comes a song by All Sons & Daughters: the new meaning God has given me for “I surrender.”

I Surrender – All Sons and Daughters

The riches of this world will fade
The treasures of our God remain
Here I empty myself to owe this world
Nothing and find everything in You

I surrender, I surrender
I surrender all to You

Take my life, a sacrifice
In You alone I’m satisfied
Here I empty myself to owe this world
Nothing and find everything in You
Everything in You

I surrender, I surrender
I surrender all to You

I surrender, I surrender
I surrender all to You

Not my will, but Yours be done
Not my strength, but Yours alone
Nothing else, but You oh Lord
I find everything in You
I surrender, I surrender
I surrender all to You

I surrender, I surrender
I surrender all to You

Surrender.

My challenge to you is to choose a word for 2018. Pray about it… what is God calling you and/or your family to this year?

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Just Call Me Clarkette

This is a re-post (edited) from a couple of years ago. As we started decorating for Christmas this year, the lessons learned came to mind and it was time to revisit. Enjoy… and Merry Christmas!

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Just Call Me Clarkette

I am the light person in the family. It’s always Mommy’s job to “hurry up” and get the lights on the tree so the rest of the family can jump in and decorate it. Just call me Clarkette Griswold.

Well… one night a couple of years ago was not an easy, calm stringing of the lights… but instead a wrestling match between the bulbs and me! It was just one of those whatever-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong type situations. First, as I walked around the tree stringing up the lights, somehow the plug got caught under the stand and twisted. Okay, back up and un-string. Breathe. Let’s start again. Then it happened AGAIN! Seriously, I don’t think this has ever happened before. So after the screaming and falling on the floor trying to get the tangles undone, finally the lights were on the tree! Yay! Time to plug them in!

So here’s where it got really interesting. The star at the top lit up, but not one of the 400 or so bulbs on the tree came on. Wait. I KNOW I TESTED THESE THINGS! From there, you know what I had to do. I checked each bulb, twisted some in tighter, tested other outlets, and finally got to a point where HALF of each of the two strands were lit. This is still a mystery to me.

Screenshot 2017-12-04 at 12.28.46 AM

Now, if you were on Facebook that night, you may have seen my post about this craziness. But, as always, our lives on Facebook don’t tell the whole story. We paint ourselves to look pretty and perfect on social media. So you didn’t see the yelling I did, or the many times I threw the lights down and kicked them. You didn’t see how angry and frustrated I got with my precious kids who were just waiting patiently for me to finish the lights… the tears from my daughter who didn’t understand why I yelled.

So many times, we let our emotions control our reactions. Instead of putting on the armor of God and trusting Him to give us strength and patience, we allow our flesh to rule. That was me that night (and many nights since). Then I got into the book of Ephesians. As we start this week, let’s put on the full armor of God and let His weapons destroy the fleshly emotions that so often take over our hearts and minds…

Ephesians 6:10-18

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. – Ephesians 6:10-18

And when we truly let these truths sink in and take control of our lives, we find God’s peace.

Have a great, Christ-centered week!

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With Your Mercy I Collide

Sometimes I realize that I just need to start writing. This is one of those times. Neglect, lack of focus, laziness… whatever you want to call it… has kept me from sitting still and typing out words from my heart. Everyday I use the keys on the keyboard for work, but it’s when I sit down to process life that I come alive. So here I am again. It’s been a while.

With Your mercy I collide.

Have you ever felt alone? Maybe you have close friends, plus a circle of semi-close friends, plus maybe you are surrounded by people who love you… yet you feel completely 100% alone. I get there more often than I care to admit. When I really analyze what I’m feeling, I see that most of my loneliness comes from a wrong perspective. It comes from trying to fill the lonely void with people, with things, with work. The lonely void can only be filled up with God. Knowing this and living it are two different things.

With Your mercy I collide.

Last week, I was blessed to be a part of the Leading and Loving It Re:Treat conference. If you have followed this blog over the years, you know that I have a lyrical soul and you probably have learned how music speaks to me like nothing else. While we were at the conference, one specific song stood out to me; and tonight, as I feel alone because of again trying to “please the masses,” I’m reminded of who I am. Listen to the song through this youtube video as you read the lyrics below…

Welcome Home – Central Live

Lost and weary soul, down a road of emptiness,
I wandered on my own.
On this hope I cling, that I would find my safe retreat
In the shadow of Your wings.
I hear Your quiet voice rise above the noise,
Telling me I’m not alone.
You’ve been waiting all along, standing here with open arms
Saying welcome home.

I once was lost, now found.
It was your amazing grace that turned everything around.
My world was black and white,
Then You came rushing in, coloring my life.
I hear Your quiet voice rise above the noise,
Telling me I’m not alone.
You’ve been waiting all along, standing here with open arms
Saying welcome home.
I hear Your quiet voice rise above the noise,
Telling me I’m not alone.
You’ve been waiting all along, standing here with open arms
Saying welcome home.

You are standing at the door, with Your arms open wide,
As I fall into Your hands, with Your mercy I collide.
You wrap me in Your love, and remind me who I am,
Giving me another chance, over and over again. (repeat a few times)

I hear Your quiet voice rise above the noise,
Telling me I’m not alone.
You’ve been waiting all along, standing here with open arms
Saying welcome home.

With Your mercy I collide. 

And again, He reminds me who I am and the loneliness subsides during this momentary reprieve from human selfishness. I’m thankful for the part that says “giving me another chance, over and over again.”

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Anchored Hope… A New Day

I’ve always wanted a tattoo, even back in my college days when I wanted two tennis racquets crossed over my ankle. Then there was a time when I wanted a guitar with a cross… same place – over my ankle. For that one, I went so far as to have a tattoo artist draft a design. But throughout the 20+ years since college, in all of those instances, something kept me from following through. This was going to be a permanent ink spot, after all.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago when I finally took the plunge. My heart had still been wrestling back and forth over several options, all within the same theme. What I chose to have inked permanently above my right ankle has proven to be a reminder that I cling to every single day.

Anchored. Hope.

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil.” – Hebrews 6:19

The hope we have in Jesus is the only hope that will never let us down.

When I sat down to write this post, I realized that it’s been almost a year since I’ve written anything here. Quite honestly, I haven’t been writing at all. For those of you who have followed Grow Where You’re Planted for the past several years, you may remember this post when I wrote about my top 3 that keep me grounded: Time with God, Writing, and Running. And you may also remember that I later added a 4th – Music. So much can change in a year. Life has changed in a big way; and my commitment level to all four of the things that make me… well… me… has been shaken.

The cool thing is that God is ALWAYS in control and He is anchoring me down into HIM instead of looking to other people and things in this earthly life. I’m hopeful and excited about life and the future… and VERY excited to share it with all of you! Be on the lookout for more fun stuff coming from the NEW blog, Anchored Hope. We will be talking about the Christian walk, earthly relationships, fitness, and all kinds of other fun things.

So anyway, for those of you who were with me through the Grow Where You’re Planted years… I’m still here, just with a renewed hope and a fresh start. You can still look through the archives and find old posts and studies.

We have hope today. Not because of who we are or anything that we have done. The hope is because HE is in us and WITH us. He is our STRENGTH. We will stay ANCHORED in Him.

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When It Hurts To Breathe

I don’t get knocked down by sickness very easily; but when the doctor calls and says the X-ray showed Pneumonia, it’s time to stop trying to be so strong. I’m now on the 7th day of antibiotic, and I’ve done pretty well with working on stuff for a while, resting for a while. It has hurt to breathe. Each breath, each cough, seemingly bruising my fluid-swollen lung… more.

The parallel is amazing. Life has sucked the breath out of me lately. It’s been hard to breathe figuratively, and then it became hard to breathe literally. Some days I so want to quit. Stop trying. Just cry. Then I feel like a failure. And cry some more. Just worn down.

Life is hard. Harder than I ever imagined it would be.

So this morning as I was driving, God took my mind to the crucifixion. Asphyxiation. The fact that Jesus endured the most awful hard-to-breath experience. With each breath, He must have felt that He was dying… even though it wasn’t time to let go. He went through the unimaginable for me… for you. He died, but then He came back to life! Who am I to be beaten down by a little pneumonia? Who am I to be beaten down by the cares in MY life?

So here it is. I have hope today. Not because of me or anything that I have done. I can get through this because HE is in me. He is WITH me. He is my STRENGTH.

Does it hurt for you to breathe? Is life so overwhelming that you want to quit? Don’t. Just go to the Savior. He loves you and wants to be your strength! Let Him breathe for you.

Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, “Look, He is calling for Elijah!” Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered itto Him to drink, saying, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.”

And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.

Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said,

“Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.

He is risen! He is not here.

See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

Mark 15:33-39 & 16:1-6

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 

Psalm 18:2

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The Rock That Is Higher Than I {Re-Post}

This is the fourth time I’ve shared this post in four years. Sometimes scriptures ring so true in our lives. So true that God uses those very scriptures to get us through all kids of difficulties. Psalm 61:1-3 is one of those for me. Today, precious friends of ours are starting cancer treatment. They have been on my mind a lot this morning. Other friends of ours are feeling overwhelmed because of just the trials in life. We… ourselves… our little family, are also walking through an overwhelming time… perhaps a more quiet one.

But God. Two of my favorite words in scripture. But God.

So here’s this post again… meaning something different this time, yet still the same. May it speak to your heart today, no matter what you’re going through.

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Life gets overwhelming. If you’re like me, days just seem to stack on top of each other… then one day suddenly you realize another year has passed. Sometimes, though life is busy, everything seems to flow together in perfect harmony. But other times, the overwhelmed feeling hits like a 95mph wild pitch against a batting helmet.

Maybe you are there right now. The pitch has hit you. You’re feeling overwhelmed… as am I. The harmonies aren’t quite coming together as they should. Sickness… Work… Relationships… Ministry stuff… Perhaps at this moment, you’re looking at the conglomeration that is your life and saying, “I just don’t know how to work through all of this.” Or maybe life is good, but you are facing a task that is overwhelming you. Maybe the complicated nature of your project is paralyzing you, keeping you from seeing how to more forward. If this is the case… maybe you’re standing on the wrong rock.

As I was thinking through my own crazy personal matrix and trying to make sense of it all (in my own strength of course), God brought me to Psalm 61:1-3 (NKJV):

Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For You have been a shelter for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.

When our FOCUSED ATTENTION stays on our problems or on the paralyzing feeling from the larger-than-life tasks in front of us, we are standing on the wrong rock. We are looking at things from our own ground level, the place where OUR thoughts and OUR ways appear higher. This is the place where we are only thinking about what we can do in our own strength. We are forgetting that God is the One who…

  • Breathed the world into existence
  • Filled the ditches
  • Stopped the sun
  • Parted the red sea
  • Turned the water to wine
  • Raised the dead
  • Provided the sacrifice for Abraham
  • Sent His Son to die for us
  • Provided unlimited food to the multitudes
  • Cast out demons
  • Transformed the persecutor into the devoted disciple
  • Gave us the Holy Spirit

Shall we keep going? We could add so many other miracles to this list. Here’s the point: God is God. He can do ALL things. He is the Rock we need to be standing on. He is the Rock from which we need to be looking at the world… at our problems… at our giant tasks. Our hearts must be so focused on Him that we view life through His eyes… His ways.

When we truly push away from our ground-level perches and stand on the Rock that is higher than I, everything comes into focus. The details come together. The harmonies fit perfectly. The plan becomes clear. The tasks get done. And God is glorified.

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RE:FOCUS – Just Be Held

>RE:FOCUS - Clear the Mechanism
For two months straight, the song seemed to be playing EVERYWHERE. In the car, at home, in places that play Jesus music. One line specifically kept calling to me… “Your world’s not falling apart; it’s falling into place.” It was literally like God was trying to get my attention. At the time, I had no idea why.

Then came an unexpected opportunity for my life to fall apart. But God.

When the trial hit, I immediately knew why God had placed this amazing song in my path over the past weeks. He was getting me to rely on HIM alone. Only He could fix the broken parts. And I know He is fixing them and will continue to fix them until His plan is fulfilled.

I’ve never been so happy for a year to finish. 2015 is a year I would like to forget, although there are many lessons I’ll take with me. At midnight on December 31st, I welcomed 2016 with much hope and joy.

But I have friends who are not so hopeful about 2016. One precious family in our lives is beginning the year facing cancer. Two other families are facing the reality of divorce… with young children. I know there are many of you who are not so expectant about 2016, but I just want to share what I learned about just being held.

Life is hard and it hurts sometimes. Let’s face it, bad things happen to good people. We are all pieces in God’s perfect plan for humanity, and we are fallen. And sometimes when life hurts, you find out who your true friends are. Those who have surrounded you in good times seem to disappear.

But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

So I come to this song, the one that helped me to realize that I needed to let go and just be held. Maybe you’ve heard it before, but you’ve never really let the words sink in. Watch this video and pay close attention to the lyrics.

So much truth. We try to hold on and keep control, don’t we? But God has something better. If we just let go and be held, He promises to not let us go.

Babies know all about trust. I love this picture of me holding my oldest son as a baby. He was at complete peace, just letting me hold him.

10277550_10203797922457318_4693793142466294428_nThis is what God wants from us. We don’t need to try to control, even though it hurts. We don’t need to try to get people to encourage us that everything will be fine. In the end, all we really need is to just be held. To trust that our lives really are falling into place… because God is in complete control.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, please help me to just be held. Please give me Your strength to let go and let You hold me. I’m so thankful for Your arms that just wait for me to run to them. Take away my need for control, my need for people to approve. You are God alone and I trust You.

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RE:FOCUS – Deep Breaths of Jesus

>RE:FOCUS - Clear the Mechanism

It’s Monday morning again. The Monday before Christmas. Life is crazy busy for all of us. No matter what is happening in our lives, we need to slow down and remember why we celebrate. We need to take some deep breaths and focus on Jesus…

We need to take a deep breath of patience… when that energetic 4-year-old has worn us down to the point that our bodies feel numb.

We need to take a deep breath of forgiveness… when our hearts go to the bitter places in our memories.

We need to take a deep breath of worship… when we just need to be reminded that no matter what situation we are in, it is still well with our souls.

We need to take a deep breath of peace… when our kids won’t stop fighting.

We need to take a deep breath of kindness… when we feel overwhelmed by taking care of everyone.

We need to take a deep breath of trust… when we can’t control or understand what’s going on in our lives.

We need to take a deep breath of grace… when we are so angry and hurt that we can’t seem to find a way out of the darkness.

We need to take a deep breath of love… when the day is hard and we have just forgotten how blessed we are… beyond measure.

We need to take deep breaths of Jesus. Just let go and trust.

During this Christmas week and in the coming weeks, may we take deep breaths of Jesus. May we remember why He was sent to us. May we remember how much we love Him.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Merry Christmas, friends!