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Tangled in the Thistle

Today, I am so delighted to share this blog from our sister and friend Rachel Willoughby!

I don't think there is anywhere more beautiful than the beach. The sights, sounds, and smell of salt water,  The beauty of God's creation. Seriously...He had to high five an angel after creating this one!

For years we’ve had so much fun watching our kids explore the beach.  From toddling through the sand in nothing more than a wide brimmed toddler hat and bare butt, to curious five year olds excited to identify everything they stumbled upon, gasping each time a dolphin would jump and rising early each morning to assure they would be the first ones on the beach to find the best shells of the day!  Through the years, I’ve stored up so many memories of my girls dancing in circles, soaking up every ray of sun on the beach. Turning their skin even more beautiful than it was the day before and their hair a shade lighter.

But even in paradise there is still the reality of the fallen world. How you ask? Russian Thistle. Here we are in 2020 focused on COVID-19 and seeds from China when the real enemy is none other than Russian thistle. It grows all along the beautiful Georgia coast and unfortunately, through the years, more than one Willoughby has experienced its powerful punch.

I remember one specific trip, the kids were quite young so John and I, like all parents of multiple children trying to enjoy a day in the sand, had our arms loaded with floats, towels, coolers and beach toys.  As we walked through the sand this particular morning, I was almost brought to my knees with a sudden pain in my toe. When I finally got my arms unloaded and able to find a place I could sit down, I found a little thistle, smaller than a marble, hanging on to my big toe. My first reaction was to pull it off...mistake...from there it stuck into my thumb which moved on to multiple other fingers until I somehow got it off with my swimsuit cover-up.  That same night Makensie felt the bite as we explored a local pier. As any good mother would, my motherly lioness instincts kicked in and I again went straight for the thistle...OUCH...but my child was free! Until she tried to save me right back and had it sticking all over her again. A third time we ran into the thistle on that specific trip.  This time the victim was know the drill...a three person circus of torture this time.

So it got me thinking...we do the same thing with our "stuff", don't we?  Think we can handle it...pridefully think we can take care of ourselves without praying or reaching out to our sisters in Christ. But all we really do is stay tangled in the thistle. We move the pain, the hurt or the sin from one area of our life to another...never really taking care of it. Then worse, someone we love is hurting and we try to fix them, just moving their issues over onto us. Trying to set them free when in all actuality, many times we are just causing more pain and standing in the way of God bringing true healing.

"I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip, he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you, the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore." Psalm 121

I'm so thankful I have a God that loves me. Who protects me. Who offers second chances and is a lavish giver of grace!  One who keeps His promises and is always there to take on my burdens and move the thistle from my path as I walk in surrender with Him.  Make no mistake, He will bring healing and restoration in His time.  

Does this mean I am not responsible for my own sin? No...absolutely I am. Does this mean we shouldn't care for others, leading them to Him who is able to do all things? God requires it of us...we just need to let Jesus be Jesus and stop getting caught up in their thistle!

Thank you so much for sharing this, Rachel! God is our ultimate help, but He also gave us sisters to help us get untangled. Have you found yourself tangled in thistle with no one to come alongside and point you to The Helper, the Holy Spirit? What happened when you tried to go it alone?

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Jena Forehand
Jena Forehand
Aug 11, 2020

Both of you Paula and Vivian are my heroes! Learning to surrender to the Lord, and lean on the friends He has placed around you (even perhaps for that very season) is beautiful. God is so so good!


Sadly I have too many examples of trying to do it myself. Trying to fix my broken marriage. Carrying the burden of infertility myself. Thinking I could just cover it and my emotions up. But oh the feeling of surrender to let it all go and let God lead and comfort. Don't get me wrong, I have to remind myself daily that I dont have to do this thing called life alone. Im grateful for community and my restored marriage. I have several people I trust to lean on. And that came in handy when our 17 yr (my bonus son) told us his girlfriend was pregnant. It was a feeling of relief to know i could go to God…


As a mom, I believe our tendency is to want to fix everything especially if your personality leans toward nurturing and serving. I struggle with that. I have learned with my boys that I can not be their Holy Spirit and I can't fix it for them or they miss out on learning what God is trying to teach them. It took many years but I finally got it. Still a struggle sometimes but like the Jeremy Camp song says "keep me in the moment because I don't want to miss what God is doing", I don't want them to miss out either.

For myself, I struggled for years in my failing marriage trying to fix it myself and pick…

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