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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Untangled by Carey Scott – A Book Review

I knew I wanted to review Untangled because I think the world of my friend, Carey Scott. I also knew that insecurity has been a constant struggle throughout my life. What I didn’t know was how much Carey’s words would resonate with my own experiences… and touch my heart! I’m so thankful for the transparency in this girl. Thankful that she allowed God to get into the innermost parts and open up a vulnerability that we ALL needed to see… and one that is so seldom shared.

Scott_Untangled_wSpine.inddAbout the Book: 

Untangled unpacks the struggle women have with feeling like who we are and what we do is good enough. We’re bombarded with daily reminders that we just don’t measure up. And unfortunately, we’re listening.

We might feel insignificant as a wife or ineffective as a mom. We might feel worthless because we don’t fit the world’s definition of beauty or battle feelings of rejection because of other women. We may gauge our value based on our income or how well we cook and clean.

Or honestly, it could be a million other things.

The truth is, there’s no shortage of not-good-enough messages tangling our lives every day. And unless we understand what they’re doing to us and ask God to unknot the insecurities that are choking our sense of worth, we will never have a healthy self-esteem.

This book is my story—my journey—to find the good in me, and to learn how to silence the voices that have called me I’m worthless. Chances are it’s your story too. Insecurity is a thread that knits us together as women.

But there is hope.

The God who created us on purpose is relentless in pursuit of our healing. And He is the only One who can heal our black and blue hearts from the tangles that have bruised it. When we ask Him to heal us, He will.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:17-18)

Do you want to be untangled from the insecurities that have knotted up your self-worth? Are you tired of feeling like you just don’t have what it takes? Do you want to find joy in life and contentment with yourself?

It’s time, friend.

Untangled is an honest discussion about the things that make us feel worthless. It’s not another self-help book. It doesn’t offer to fix you. And it isn’t full of empty promises. Instead it will challenge you to take a truthful look at your life, revealing the source of your own not-good-enough messages and making a case for why Jesus is the only One who can silence them.

Told with humor, vulnerability, and encouragement, this book will connect with the heart of every women.

18835864485_8786009508_mAbout the Author:

Carey Scott is an author, speaker, and certified Bible life coach who challenges women to be real – not perfect – even when real is messy. She speaks to women’s groups and writes an online devotional designed to help women be who God created them to be. She lives in Colorado with her husband and their two children.

Keep up with Carey at careyscotttalks.com, on Facebook (careyscotttalks) or by following her on Twitter (@careyscotttalks).

My Review:

From the time I started reading Untangled, it was like I was sitting across the table at Starbucks talking with a dear friend. Carey speaks my language for sure, and it seemed like we were kindred spirits in so many ways. She is REAL in this book… something I believe we all need a LOT more of. If we’re honest, we all are insecure about something… and Carey helps us to realize that we are definitely not alone.

Through chapters of talking about real-life struggles, and offering us what God says about those struggles, she helps us all learn how to break free of our personal tangles. If it’s something that happened in childhood, an insecurity about our physical bodies, our abilities, etc… Carey leads us on a journey to allow God to untangle our messy lives and our messy hearts.

I’m so thankful for Carey, for her heart, and for her vulnerable story on paper. This is a book for every woman to read. It’s not a typical self-help book… you’ll feel like you’re hearing from one of your closest friends!! Seriously, go buy it today and see how God uses it in your life!

Also, make sure you check out untangledwomen.com to find out your specific tangle(s) and to learn more about how to become untangled!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Untangled: Let God Loosen the Knots of Insecurity in Your Life from Revell in exchange for an honest review on my blog. This review expresses my own personal opinions.

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To the Mama Who Feels Overwhelmed

Lead me to the rockWhen you look at the floors and realize your house is never clean enough…

When you forgot the eggs were boiling on the stove because you got distracted by another “emergency”…

When you forgot to cook the fish in the fridge, so you have to throw it out… and you have to explain why you forgot…

When you’re interrupted 20 times during your time with God and you feel like your relationship with Him is never focused enough…

When it just got to be too much and you yelled at them with those big eyes looking up at you…

When the husband needs you, the kids need you, the dog needs you, the floors and the lightbulbs and the bathrooms need you…. and it just feels like there’s not enough of you to go around…

When your thoughts about what needs to be done spin out of control and in circles and you just sit down and cry…

When you try and try to get everyone out of the house on-time, but you’re still always late…

When your insecurity and feelings of inadequacy rages because you just. can’t. get. it. all. done…

When you forget to make the cupcakes or fill out the permission slip or remind your husband… and you feel like a failure…

When you don’t get time for yourself and you forget who YOU are and then you feel guilty for thinking about yourself…

When you’re struggling with something that no one knows but you and God…

When you feel like no one understands and that you are all alone…

You’re not.

I hear you. I get it. I’m right there with you. And God gets it too.

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. – Psalm 61:2

Psalm 61:2 is one of my favorite verses because it always reminds us to take our thoughts to the Rock. When the troubles in our lives weigh us down, God sees things from a higher perspective. He sees our hearts and feels our struggles, but He also sees things differently than we can.

When we put our focus on the Rock and remember that we were made in His image, we can breathe easier. God’s got this, Mama. Put your trust completely in Him and just lay back and rest in His arms. Feeling overwhelmed is the perfect opportunity for God to do something amazing in your heart and life.

Above all else in this life, you were called to be a daughter of Christ, then a wife and mama. God knows it’s hard, but He made you to fill this specific role. Hang in there! The life you live is very important in God’s eyes and in the lives of those precious people you are loving and serving! 🙂

You’re not alone. 

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Science Project Hog

IMG_3027As I worked on the banner for Jeffrey’s baseball team, my introverted heart was somewhat glad that I’d been given the chance to do the project myself. Jeff looked over my shoulder and said, “That’s good, Sweetie. I would have loved being on your science project team.”

I kind of laughed to myself because I’ve always kind of prided myself in being a hard worker. But the laughter turned into analytical mode, as I realized that my introversion and desire to get everything right has made me isolate myself at times. I’ve not always been the best delegator. This can be a not-so-good quality.

We weren’t created to be islands. God created each one of us with different gifts that we can use TOGETHER to do His work. When we only use our own gifts, we miss out on beauty that may have been intended. I wonder how much better the banner could have been if a few of us had worked together. Not only would there have been more creativity, but new friendships could have also been created.

Someone I admire once told me that when leading a project, I should do only the things that ONLY I can do. Everything else should be delegated… and if someone could do something 80% as well as I could, I should let them do it. Although it’s hard, it’s true. How else can we help others learn and grow if we hog all of the tasks for ourselves?

Challenge for you… If you struggle with this, make a point to give away a task that you usually are possessive over… Let someone else learn and grow. Who knows? Maybe you’ll make a new friend.

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50 Shades of Pain

As some of you have probably noticed, I don’t normally speak out about controversial issues. However, this time I can’t be silent. The movie that the world has been buzzing about opens in theaters tomorrow. This is a rare moment when the self-inflicted pain that has shadowed me (and those close to me) for 20 years needs to shared.

Be warned… what you are about to read is raw and ugly. My heart has pounded every time I’ve thought about writing this. I almost chickened out. There are pieces of my story that only a very, very few people know. My mother does not know some of the things I’m going to share with you today. But out of pure love for all of you… teen girls, single women, wives, mothers… this is why 50 Shades of Grey is so. very. dangerous.

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I was 17 when I was first introduced to the traditional form of pornography, video-style. It seemed harmless at the time. We were teenagers just being teenagers, right? Not so ironically, the person who first exposed me to it was also my first sexual partner of many. Thus started Paula’s 10-year tornado-like path through life.

Something felt empty. College was a period of internal torment, although you wouldn’t have known it by looking at me. I was finally free, after all, which was great for this rebellious heart, right? Those years were filled with sickening insecurity and depression covered up by heavy alcohol use that seemed to cover the pain for a while. My deep insecurity led me to one-night-stand after one-night-stand, and also to several longer sexual relationships that again… left me empty. I could never stay faithful to anyone. Guess what? This made me even more insecure. I filled that void with more fun, alcohol, partying… and boys.

I had mistaken sex for love. And I needed love.

After leaving a destructive mess at ECU, I seemed to come clean, moved back home and met Jeff a couple of years later. He saw the “good girl” image that I had portrayed so well in high school. We got married and had a great first year. The only problem was that my brain apparently was still in singles mode… By the end of our 2nd year of marriage, I had been unfaithful to the one man who was absolutely made for me. How did I do this? I thought the sickening pattern was gone?

We separated for two months, but thankfully God brought us back together. I’m still amazed that he stayed with me. The next several years were extremely hard in our marriage. Just because he forgave did not mean things were peachy. Trust was shattered. But that man has loved me through all the hard times and the Lord has blessed us with 3 beautiful children.

Happy ending… yes. Easy path… no. In fact, a big piece of my healing just happened within the last year… After 20+ years of struggles.

Now, let me go back and explain how all of this relates with the 50 Shades of Grey books & movies.

It started with schoolgirl crushes that I let run amiss in my head. As a young teen, the Coreys & River Phoenix were all I could think about. This was my fantasy world. Boys didn’t seem to like me in real life (I was quite the nerdy tomboy) so I made up my own happy place. You know… the perfect mental images from the perfect pictures that Hollywood blasts in front of us to make us think we DESERVE for our lives to be just like the movies. For so many years, reality never lived up to my imagination.

Then a boy liked me. Then we broke up and another boy liked me. And that boy led me to “real” pornography. Images that I will NEVER be able to erase… images that flooded my head and mixed with the so-called innocent romantic scenarios I played in my head about boys I liked. It just snowballed from there…

That turned into real sex with the wrong people at the wrong time, destroying my purity and wrecking the next several years of my life (and probably the lives of those caught in the wake). Then it became erotic novels (but only secretly of course). Yep, I would stand in a bookstore reading a book and look around from time to time, making sure no one I knew was around. I was too much of a “good girl” to get caught… or to actually BUY these books.

We don’t call the books porn because it’s just a bunch of words on a page, not pictures on a screen.

We don’t call 50 Shades porn because it’s socially accepted… PRAISED… even though the entire story is demented and sick, promoting abusive relationships. (Quick disclaimer: I have not and will not read/watch, but I’ve learned enough about it to see how dark and messed up it is.)

We don’t call anything porn that we look at, read, or watch because…. well, that’s something only MEN struggle with.

NO! Women struggle too. Our mental struggles just look a little different.

It’s much darker now too. With these sexual fantasy type movies attracting so many female viewers, we are in a dangerous time! Our society is becoming so desensitized and it’s time we take a stand for our minds, our hearts, our marriages… and for Jesus, the One who died to save us from all of this mess!!!

We must protect our purity at all costs.

We must recognize that when we close our eyes and romantic scenes flash through our minds… it WILL affect how we view our husbands. It WILL affect our desires for our husbands. It WILL affect the amount of intimacy we share with our husbands. It WILL affect how we relate to other men. It WILL lead eventually to destruction. There is nothing that Satan likes more than for us to view a deadly sin as a little harmless fun. Please hear me… there is no such thing as harmless fun when it comes to sin.

It is pain. 50 shades of pain. Some shades with unknown color codes left in unknown locations. This stuff is death. It will suck you in slowly and destroy your life, along with the lives of others you care about.

I love my husband so much. For YEARS he dealt with the repercussions of my sexual sins, and not just the physical ones. My fantasy world was destructive! It still tries to rear its ugly head now, but with Jesus it is so much more under control. My life-long fantasy vs reality sickness still affects how I relate to men. It’s just ugly. Girls, I can’t stress this enough… it may seem harmless now, but it is truly a slow fade that stays painfully shaded for a long time.

If you’ve read the 50 Shades books and now want to see the movie, please reconsider. Please choose to stop it here. I am not judging you, friend. My stand is not legalistic, but coming from a heart of care and compassion for you. I’ve been there. If anyone can relate and share with you what it’s like to go down that path, it’s me. The words in the books, maybe you can let go of. But once you see the movie, those images will stay in your memory!

There is no delete button!

To my married friends, how much is your marriage worth to you? How strong do you want the intimacy to be with your husband? Give all of your love to him… mentally, emotionally, physically. He deserves to have ALL of you, including your mind.

To my single friends, how much is your purity worth to you? How important is it to share that purity with the man God gives you? Save it. Not just physically, save it mentally and emotionally as well.

This stuff is trash. It is ugly. It is sin. Let’s not sugarcoat it.

It is porn for women. 

Don’t just avoid seeing the movie, girls. RUN away from this and anything else that causes your mind to be distracted from the man God has given you (or has for you in the future).

PLEASE, I’m BEGGING… completely out of love for all of you! RUN!

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. – Proverbs 4:23

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If you’re struggling with this or you need someone to talk to about anything in this post, PLEASE feel free to contact me! I’m here!

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The 180 & The Anchor

Have you ever done a complete 180 in your life? You thought you were on the right track, but somehow your wheels got just enough off of the railings that you had to jump completely off and start over going the opposite direction? I guess that’s a good way to describe this year for me.

2014 has been one of the craziest, most painful, most growing seasons of my span of 41. There have been so many changes in my life, internally and externally, that it’s going to be difficult to fit it all into a blog post. At least one that is short enough so as not to lose your attention. 😉

In January, I was tired. Not a good tired. Apparently I had been pouring diesel fuel into an unleaded tank. My heart was exhausted and mad, but it wasn’t clear why. From all the picturesque viewpoints, my life looked great. Great husband, beautiful kids, beautiful new home. Not to mention the fact that I was finally in my dream job, in ministry, working with an amazing collaborative team of friends. Yet I was not satisfied, and the lack of contentment and deep unresolved issues were starting to spew out at people around me who I care about. Well, more people. My husband had dealt with it for years.

Now, that’s just what was going on inside my heart. There was a mess happening in our family as well. See I have this little problem where I pour all of myself into whatever I do. Unfortunately, the job & ministry that I loved was where my heart was. My heart was not planted at home. It was not completely given to my family. Within the first couple of months of this year, I was unsure that our marriage of 15 years was going to survive the year. It had been a slow fade. And by the way, a slow fade doesn’t always look like sin. It can actually be something good, but something that becomes an idol. That was church and work for me, and quite honestly it had been for years.

My husband wanted a change, understandably. As a family, we left the church where I grew up and I eventually left the dream job. Leaving our church family was one of the most painful things I’ve ever had to do, but it was also the thing that I needed most. My hubs knows me well, and I’m thankful that he loves me enough to stand up to this stubborn soul. He is a blessing. He led me to a new place, and for once I followed.

The next few months brought a time of change and reflection. We were worshiping as a family, visiting different churches, and becoming stronger together. There were so many times when I felt lost or sad, yet thankful that our family was on this adventure together. The Lord revealed so much about my heart, about where my focus had been, about bitterness that had taken root and grown incredibly deep. He even pulled out some pride in my heart that scared me.

In August, we became a homeschooling family. I believe God called me to it two years ago but I pushed it aside. So far, this year has drawn our family so much closer together. Call it making up for lost time. I feel like I know my husband and all of the kids so much better than I ever have. For that, I am so, so thankful! God has been working on me and has brought me to a place of contentment. I finally understand more than ever what an incredible gift He has given me… right here in front of me… my precious family.

Okay, back to the church visiting for a minute. As we visited other places over the months, there were definite God-moments. You know those days when you know you are in the exact right place at exactly the right time? Yep had a few of those. We tried to settle in a couple of different churches, but every time we tried to connect, something just didn’t feel right. In the end, it was Jeff who decided it was time to come home. After a growing, changing season in our lives, we’ve been back at our church home for a few weeks now. So thankful. So blessed. So grateful for a husband who leads. So grateful to a God who pushed me to stop being stubborn and follow the man He gave me.

So now as we approach 2015 (YAY!), I can’t wait to see what the Lord has planned! But my friends, as we start the new year, I can’t stress this to you enough… my problem was foundational. The struggles I faced, the struggles my family faced, were all because of an issue of where my heart was positioned. It wasn’t about the job and it wasn’t about serving in ministry, which I’ll get back involved in when the time is right. The problem was where my anchor was dropped. A precious friend helped me see this a few weeks ago: I had been trying to be the anchor in a place that I wasn’t supposed to. I had been giving so much of myself outside of our home that there was nothing left for my family… except discontentment and bitterness. Now that the fog has cleared, I really understand that the anchor goes here, in our home, with Jesus and with my family. As long as that heavy piece of metal stays buried in its rightful place, God can then use me in the way HE sees fit.

I want my anchor buried deep… and I want it to weigh about a million pounds. 😉

What about you?

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