The Alpha and Omega

Jesus has very specific instructions on where to go and where not. So, each place we are led to, even if it ends in a breaking, we can be sure, was always purposed by Him.

Jesus knew many Jews’ hearts would be hardened and yet He went to His own first. For that was always His plan: to restore the House of Israel unto Himself and to keep the covenant He had made unto them.

And yet it is because they did not at first receive Him, that the grace of God could be extended to us Gentiles:

John 11:11-13 ESV
He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Likewise, when the Good News we share today is not received in the places God leads us to, we need not fret and be discouraged. For, when one door closes, another always opens.

And even then, that place we have obediently left behind, has been surrendered into the hands of our mighty Savior. It’s not the end of the story for those we have given into His hands. Nor is it for us.

Just look at this beautiful Promise given to the Jewish people. That shut door upon their hardening hearts was never God turning His back! They may have stumbled, but held safe in the Promise, they could never “fall”, for their weakness and stumbling was always known by God and purposed to open the door to us Gentiles. An open door that would make His own jealous and draw them back home also:

Romans 11:11 ESV
I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.

Yes, God’s love is steadfast and sure. Nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus. I know it to be true. I only stand here preserved in the breath of God because my God could not forsake the Promise – His Son – in me. Every time I have stumbled, He has caught me in His grace.

Now, as I look back on the seven years since He brought this lost sheep home upon His shoulders, I see all the places God led me into and back out of with new eyes. I now no longer see them as my failings or proof that I don’t belong to Jesus.

I see them as tangible evidence of God’s sovereign completion. I see God purposely opening and shutting each door to teach me so much about who He is. And I see Him redeeming my past.

When I was little, I chose to see the closing door to His Word speaking through me, as His closing door to me and to those I loved, who He had called me to intercede for. And that decision to clothe myself in the whispers of the enemy had me pack my bags and leave my God, believing He had left me.

But more than twenty years later the Word I had spoken in obedience as a little girl, reaped the fruit of repentance for which it was sent. Not because I remained faithful but because of God’s faithfulness to us all. And right when that Word was received, my eyes were opened, as my Good Shepherd picked me up out of my thorn bush to carry me home.

Now, I can see that every place I poured out my heart in – His heart in me – He was ALWAYS present. For, I now recognize Him in the faces He set before me, in my own face, in our interactions with each other and even in our breaking apart.

For, He was (and still is) the:

  – living bread and living water in our hunger and thirst
  – the peace in our storm
  – the faith in our faithlessness
  – the mercy in our rebellion
  – the compassion in our pain
  – the surrender in our clinging
  – the wholeness in our brokenness

Now, I know that I will see Jesus fully unveiled in each one of us, when He returns. “Let us hold resolutely to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23, The Berean Study Bible).

And because of all these closed doors, I now know that my God is about to take His Word places it would have otherwise never gone. For, I do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of my God (Matthew 4:4).

Five years ago, He woke me up to read the story of Him feeding the five thousand and that very morning my then little three year old said: “Mama, Jesus is hungry for the bread and the fish.” She affirmed what God had spoken to me.

There were 12 baskets left over on that day Jesus fed five thousand with the lunch the little boy gave Him. 12 baskets filled with bread and fish. Jesus told me: “Anna, don’t you see? I am already with the fish. My broken Body is already lying right next to the fish.” And those 12 baskets are the 12 tribes of Israel.

Did you know my father-in-law’s name means “exalted Father” and my husband’s name means “behold a Son” and my name means “grace”. Each of us carry names given to important Jewish men and women. Even in that I see God speaking of His Promise of restoration and redemption.

This is the tenth installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends

Train Up A Child

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)

I grew up in faith. Child of Kiwi missionaries to Germany, whose hearts beat with the love of and for their Lord. They brought me, my two sisters and my three brothers up in Christ. We tangibly experienced the presence of God in and through them – precisely also through my parents literally leaving everything behind to follow their LORD. 

I knew with one hundred percent certainty that my God existed. But despite this certainty I turned my back on Him more and more in my teenage years, as I exchanged God’s understanding for my own. Did my parents then not “train me up in the way [I] should go? And what is exactly “the way [our children] should go”?

When I returned to faith, with a one year old and four year old daughter, I dug deeply into this Proverb of King Solomon’s. It is then I discovered that for the Jewish people this Proverb called them to celebrate their adolescent child’s God-given calling. 

I learnt that it had much more to do with releasing our children into God’s hands than trying to mould our children to fit our way of thinking and doing things. The “way [our children] should go” is thus the path our God has already planned and chosen for them. 

Just as with Peter, Jesus prayed for me so that my faith would not fail, also through my parents’ many tearful prayers, even before Satan had begun to sift me like wheat and I began to turn away. And just like Peter, I have been rooted more deeply in my Lord precisely through the humbling knowledge that it is (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV): “by grace [I,] have been saved through faith. And this is not [my] own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Unlike when I was little, I now know that Christ’s power is made perfect in my and others’ weakness. I now know that the fear of man and pride are no match for our sovereign God.

He was never ashamed of my need for Him and still isn’t. For, from the very moment He called me, He knew my every weakness and how He would break it open and harness it for good, for me and for others, through my testimony to His goodness and mercy.

Now, God has given me physical evidence for His Promise to us, that when we give our hearts to Christ, He remains faithful to us in our faithlessness because He cannot disown Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). For, when we give our hearts to Jesus, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13-14 (ESV) puts it this way:

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

So, how do we “train up a child in the way he should go”? I believe, by placing them in our God’s hands again, again and again. By living in communion with our Savior and allowing Him to shape our prayers, thoughts and actions through His living moment-by-moment Word to us. 

God invites us to listen for His plan and purpose for our own and our children’s lives. A plan and purpose that will most definitely call us to lay down our own expectations and understanding to arise in Christ’s. Again and again.

My parents kept praying for me all those years. On my 59 year-old mother’s deathbed, as she surrendered absolutely everything to her LORD, I came face-to-face with the One true God. Through the palpable, gentle and loving peace of the Holy Spirit that fell upon my mother and myself, my hardened heart was broken open. 

As my mother experienced the kindness of our God, that led her to so much repentance and freedom in her final months, so I too experienced that same kindness through the power of the Holy Spirit falling upon her, and upon me.

In those final months of my Mum’s life, God gave me palpable evidence that He is never absent to us in our suffering. He showed me how He works in and through it to bless us and draw us ever closer to Him. He began opening my eyes to His Presence. Now, I have come to see and celebrate His fingerprints all over my life and the lives of those I love.

I had forsaken His call to continue interceding through the pain of watching loved ones suffer. I had turned away to numb my pain in sin. And yet, Christ continued interceding for, in and through me: lovingly guiding and shaping me through all those years I wandered in my blindness.

So, you see, my parents did train their daughter up in the way – God’s Way – she should go, from the very moment I was conceived. And therefore I have not departed from it. 

For, my parents chose to put their trust, not in their own “perfect” understanding or their own “perfect” parenting, but in our truly perfect God and His truly perfect love. In our God whose power is made perfect in our every weakness. 

Thanks be to God to whom all glory and honor be, forever and ever, Amen.

Father, thank You for Your precious Promises to us. Thank You that You are the God who loves to awe us with Your sovereign display of power in and through our weakness.

Father, I ask You to send this Word out to parents who are discouraged today. Discouraged, believing that they have failed You and their children. Remind them that their and their children’s weakness is a gift. A gift given to display the wonder of Your perfect love for us and Your unending faithfulness to us.

And for all returning Prodigals, I ask You to open their eyes, just as You have and continue to do my own, to see the fingerprints of glory all over their lives. Show them how You were preparing them for the calling upon their lives. Show them how You were opening their eyes and hearts to receive You in places they never would have otherwise gone. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.

This is the ninth installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends

Grace

Isaiah 30: 18 (AMP) And therefore the Lord earnestly waits [expecting, looking and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all those who wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him- for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship!


As my heart opened further to God’s outstretched arms welcoming me home, He began to show me how His heart yearned for my companionship. As the summer holidays beckoned, He slowed me to sit in His Presence, all around me.

First, He assured me of His love, by turning me to the final verse of Psalm 23 in the Message version. This verse both reminded me of His everlasting love for me and encouraged me to look at  the love he was bestowing on me daily in the beauty around me.

Then, He encouraged me to slow to receive His many gifts in thanksgiving through Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Ann’s words, etched in pain, but brimming over in deep abiding joy, further opened my eyes and heart to how exactly His beauty and love chases after me, every single day. I started recognizing how often my hands were tightly clenched, stress and anxiety stealing my joy, just as they had Ann’s in the past. I remember talking to my husband about it and being reminded by Ann’s words of how often my husband would come sit beside me and take hold of my hands to unclench them. And then I read Voskamp’s words:

“Joy is a flame that glimmers only in the palm of the open and humble hand. In an open and humble palm, released and surrendered to receive, light dances, flickers happy. The moment the hand is clenched tight, fingers all pointing toward self and rights and demands, joy is snuffed out.”

Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), p.177


Later, I would be drawn more deeply into this humbling to receive even more of the joy that awaited me, but for now, Ann’s words encouraged me to turn to thankfulness in the smallest of moments and find God present there with me.

As I read further, Ann revealed that (p.176): “The feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving.” or in (p.33): “Eucharisteo”, “Charis” meaning Grace and its root “Chara” meaning joy. Thus, the moment we open our hands to His gift of grace in thanksgiving, His joy will fill us to overflowing.

Through her own story of choosing to record the gifts God bestowed on her daily, Ann showed me how slowing down throughout my day, could enable me to both see and choose to receive the daily gifts of grace God so dearly yearned to give me.

Throughout the summer holiday, my eyes and heart began to open to these many gifts. As I returned to the busy schedule of part-time work and caring for my family, about five months after burying my Mum, I sat down to record the impact of this slowing in my journal:

His Beauty and Love Chase After Me

Psalm 23:6 (The Message) Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life


This is the verse God gave me to show me just how much He loves me. I was doubting this love and He showed me that it was ALL around me. Now, when I choose to slow down to behold his “beauty” around me, I also see His “love” for me.

When I look at the sparkling joy within my girls’ eyes and the warmth of their embrace; when I stop to notice the smile of my husband, when he looks at me, a smile that captures a true, deep love; when I stop to look out the window at work and see a beautiful magpie, reminding me of God’s presence among us; when I stoop to observe his tiniest creations, the caterpillars, who remind me of His promise of eternal life and that one day our family will be fully reunited; when I slow to notice the light pouring through the forest, reminding me that even though things seem dark, His light and warmth never leave us, that His Spirit and Word continue to guide us, as they have done for generations before us; when I see the outstretched trees, I see His outstretched arms for us, His children.


Trying to maintain this slowing down into wonderment and joy beyond the quiet of the summer holidays, I started recording a daily gratefulness list via Facebook. While this blessed both me and others around me, it did not bring the true rest my body and soul yearned for. God knew that for that to come in greater and greater measure, He would need to reveal how much more deeply His love and mercy ran. A revelation He chose to bring through allowing the enemy to sift me like wheat, just as He did when I was little.

He was about to show me that in Him, NOTHING is wasted. He was about to begin redeeming my Prodigal story of pain and trauma. He was about to open my eyes to see that my story is not a story of pain and trauma but a story of God’s goodness and mercy chasing after us all. A story of a sovereign and mighty God who took what the enemy meant to steal, kill and destroy and turned it into life and more life and more life . . . And who is continuing to do so. Daily.

At the beginning of 2015, I started walking through one Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder trigger after another to find my Jesus there with me. Weeping with me. Holding me. Speaking truth over me. Lifting every accusation and covering me in His cloak of truth and mercy.

Ever yielding me to His will, that I might join Him in His suffering, His death and resurrection, to see redemption begin to flow, not just for me, but so many more through His life and love and mercy at work in me. A redemption I am continuing to see unveil before me.

Thank You, Jesus, for the gifts You are extending to us daily. Open our hearts and eyes more and more to Your Presence with us. Thank You that You see our deep longing to know Your heart more and more.

Oh Father, help us to lay down every accusation of condemnation at Your feet and to arise and shine in the light of Your truth, love and mercy for us. When You call us into a time of sifting, help us to see Your desire, not to hurt us, but to free us more and more and to draw us into ever deeper communion and intimacy with You. Cause us to call upon Your Name that You may save us in our affliction. Turn our valley of ashes into a garden of redemption to the honor and glory of Your Name.

Lift us up to praise You. Fill our mouths with laughter and our feet with dance. Show us that You are the God who (Isaiah 51:3 NIV): “will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins;” the God who “will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD.” YES! We declare that: “Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.In Your precious Name, Amen.

This is the eighth installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends

Triggers into Freedom

Months ago I read about Joni Eareckson Tada visiting the pools of Bethesda. Just after she was paralysed the story of Jesus healing the lame man of 38 years old at these pools, caused her to cry out to Jesus to not pass her by, but to heal her also.

But now, so many years later, she saw that even though she was still paralysed, God had in fact healed her, just as she had asked. She realized what she had seen as His withholding all those years ago was in fact His miraculous giving. He had given her Himself in her suffering – peace, joy, faith, hope – the One in whom all the Promises of God are yes and Amen.

Before God called me to shut down my blog and my social media once again in 2019 (a repeated call I have followed since coming home to Jesus in 2014), that same story was part of my own scheduled Bible reading. It’s then I too saw it with new eyes. I saw how I in fact deep down know that I and my loved ones are healed, whole and belong to Christ and yet I have been waiting for others to affirm what I know, by faith, to be true.

I realized that I’d sat still waiting on others to bring us to the water.
But all along, Jesus had been calling me to arise by faith: to get up, pick up my mat and walk out of my shame and disgrace into His calling upon my life.

A calling not dependent on my physical circumstances or the approval of man, but on Christ alone: on the God who has chosen and appointed me to, again and again, go and bear fruit that abides.

He beautifully gave me an answer to my prayer about what to do after hearing about the widespread spiritual abuse in this country and many others, that I too have experienced, repeatedly. To get up, pick up my mat and go, surrendering all else into His hands. And so I followed Him into the quiet and hidden once again, until He once again asked me to return, but this time, without any social media platforms.

Each surrender has meant trusting in God’s powerful breath to bring what He has promised, as I act on the faith He continues to birth in me, step by step. It has meant continually laying down my old life – my desire to be seen and loved by fellow believers, my desire to fight in the flesh and my desire to lie down in the accusations being spoken over me – to find my true life and freedom in Christ alone.

Now, as I share of all God is doing in my life, I no longer feel tethered to that same push or pull to be seen, to fight for my place at the table, or to lie down in the accusations. Seven years after He brought me back home to Him, lifting me up out of the thorn bush I was caught in, I can tell you that my God has taught me how to rest in Him. And I know He is only taking me deeper into that rest, now day by day, as I seek His face.

God has given me the same gift He gave Joni. For, I have come to recognize that what I once saw as God’s withholding of healing (from Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), has in fact been His miraculous healing of my heart, trigger by trigger.

For, God has been using each trigger of trauma to call me into a repeated death and resurrection, to give me more and more of Himself. More and more peace, joy, faith and hope. Through each trigger, He has been teaching me how to surrender myself and others into His hands, to awaken me to new life in Him alone. He has been freeing me to celebrate and sing aloud each Promise of His precious Word that is yes and Amen in Him. Praise Him!

Oh precious Father. Thank You! Thank You for each one who has gathered here. Thank You that we are all SO precious in Your sight. Thank You that You are the God who withholds no good thing from us, as we choose to follow You.

Father, I ask You to encourage each one of us through Your holy Word and breath, as the triggers shake us awake. Open our hearts and eyes to Your Presence with us there and help us to surrender all into Your hands that we may walk into the new You have for us. Fill us with a hunger and thirst for You, that nothing else will be able to push or pull us away from the beauty that You have set before us: more and more of You.

Thank You for each trigger of trauma. Thank You for not allowing us to stay asleep, but for waking us up to Your glory. Open our mouths and fill them with Your Word that we may daily sing of Your goodness to us. That we may daily declare Your Promises over ourselves and others by faith and see them come to fulfillment in You. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.

This is the seventh installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends

The Womb of Compassion

In what ways have you experienced a breaking? How has this breaking opened your eyes to more of who Jesus truly is? What story do your scars now tell?

My breath prayer this week has been a breathing in of “Remember” and breathing out of “Me”. 

Luke 22:14 ESV ‘And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”’

As I went running in the forest, my heart was heavy with shame, shame from an anger I couldn’t shake. So, I cried out, asking God to unravel my heart. To search and know me. The wisdom He gave me came in two steps. First, penning a letter of apology to myself, on behalf of the church. Then, writing a letter of thanks to Him for every point in my apology. 

As I wrote the apology, I was forced to name all the accusations of condemnation I had swallowed as truth, because I trusted men and women in positions of authority, above my holy God. Accusations that had made me feel unseen, unworthy, rejected, damaged goods and unwelcome in the Presence of God. 

As I wept profusely, feeling the pain of each wounding, the shame and pent up anger dissolved. I could now feel Jesus holding me in each and every situation I had once believed He had forsaken me. 

Then, as I sat to write the letter of thanks to God, I remembered what I had read that very morning. Moses refusing to continue the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness without the Presence of God going before him. It’s then I saw how Jesus was setting Himself before me with each thank You I penned. 

I saw how every step I had taken toward a breaking of His Body, became a breaking of my idols. Every time He commanded me to break friendships with fellow believers I idolized or physically leave their midst, God unveiled more of Himself to me.

Each breaking became an opportunity for God to write who He truly is on my heart. He was taking the Living Word I had ingested since I was a little girl and now returning it to me in a beautifully permanent inscription on my heart.

As I came to the end of my letter of thanks, I heard the Words: “Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto Me”. It’s then the tears flowed relentlessly down my cheeks. I knew exactly what He was saying. Every lie spoken over me and my loved ones in His Name, every Scripture wielded to wound me and the children I had immediately recognized as His, had broken His heart too. Because it was done unto Him also.

All those years I had wandered in my wilderness believing God had rejected me and those I loved, that all He wanted to do was hurt and kill me, He was walking before me, preparing the Way for my heart’s deepest desires to be fulfilled: to know who He truly is in the breaking of the bread. To have my eyes opened, just like the disciples on the way to Emmaus. To recognize that His fire had never ever stopped burning in me. That He had never ever stopped holding me, and those I recognized as His, in the palm of His nail-scarred hands.

May you be blessed by this beautiful worship song today that illustrates the power of Christ’s nail-pierced hands and feet. Christ carried the holes in His feet and hands, even after the resurrection, forever reminding us of His mercy poured out at the Cross.

I believe as Jesus exchanges our idols for Himself, through the breaking of His Body, He bows our knees at the Cross. As we enter into His suffering there, we taste and pour out His mercy. Then, the wounds that we once hid in shame, in the light of Jesus, become healed scars of mercy. They become a testimony to His blood shed at the Cross for us.

For, in our surrender, we receive the Body – with Christ at its Head, as One. Fully healed, whole and complete, according to the faith our God has given us. For, He opens our eyes to see what He sees.

It’s then our stories powerfully declare His compassion to a yearning world, through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. Beautifully the word for mercy and compassion in Hebrew comes from the word “womb” and so when we speak of God’s compassion we literally speak of the love a mother has for her unborn child in the womb. Isn’t that beautiful?!

In what ways have you experienced a breaking? How has this breaking opened your eyes to more of who Jesus truly is? What story do your scars now tell?

Isaiah 12 (ESV) You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
    for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
    that you might comfort me. “Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord,
    call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
    proclaim that his name is exalted. “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
    let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
    for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

With thanks to Reverend Summer at The Presence Project, who invited me to contribute as a Table Host a couple of years ago, and for whose Facebook group I originally wrote this post that now appears in its newly edited form.

This is the sixth installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends

Known

Isaiah 40: 27 – 31 (The Message)
Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
    or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.


As the Lord began to unearth the fears that were crippling me, both in response to memories of my mother’s last hours and reflections on my childhood, the first anniversary of Mum’s departure for heaven crept ever closer. I was genuinely fearful of what this day would bring. My heart was heavy with grief and my mind still anxious from the memories of crippling flashbacks.

And yet, God chose this day of deep mourning to display the wonder of His Loving Presence, to bring deep joy into the depths of sorrow, not just for me, but also my Dad, who was staying with us at the time.

I recorded the day in my journal:

Yesterday, we commemorated one year without Mum and Grandma. I was fearful of what this day would bring, fearful of the tears, of the pain. Yet, as the day progressed more and more joy took hold of me, held me and embraced me.

Balloons bubbling into giggles of delight, joyful purple bubbles catching a powerful gust of air and being drawn up high, high above the cloak of mist that covered us below, delighted girls watching the sight and thinking of their Grandma, a warm embrace from a Dad whose heart felt as heavy as that cloak of mist, but whose tears found release. A café of remembrance bringing God’s gift in a basket speaking of a Grandma’s kindness, of a Grandma’s deep love flowing over, from beyond the grave…speaking of a God and Saviour sowing a garden, a Garden of Joy, Gladness, Peace and Thanksgiving, where a wife’s, a mother’s, a Grandma’s soul can find a rest eternal in the Sun and Son of Life. A Garden waiting to call all its children home to their Father of Compassion and Love Abounding.

As the afternoon dawned, so did the sun in all its warmth, as children played and laughed, sliding, jumping, swinging high and adults smiled, joy lifting heavy hearts. Children’s joy a balm to weary souls. A day ending in thankfulness for gifts overflowing from a Father of Grace.

Everything about the day reveals God’s deep abiding Presence to me:

  • the heavy mist that covered us as we arrived at the beach (my Mum’s favorite place) to release the purple (my mother’s favorite color) balloons, which mirrored the heaviness of our grief,
  • the delighted giggles and energetic limbs of our little girls, who lifted our heavy hearts,
    the strong gust of air that lifted the balloons up high and away, which spoke of the strong arms carrying our mother, grandmother and wife into His Presence,
  • the basket that met us in the café we went to, a café we had taken my parents to many years ago, that was filled with happy memories.

    What is so astounding about this basket, is:
  • the words inscribed on the signs were in English, not Dutch,
  • that it was about a Grandma, what my Mum was to her six grandchildren, a role that gave her such incredible joy, especially in her final days on earth, when the biggest smiles would spread across her face at the sound of her grandchildren crying, giggling or playing, or as they would come sit at her bedside to clasp her hand in theirs or playfully run around her bed,
  • that there was no particular reason for the café to choose these words on this particular day (it was not Mother’s Day), and that at the bottom of the basket there is a pine cone, something my parents would often go out to collect at the back of their beach property with their grandchildren.

We ended the day with the joyful playing of our girls at the outdoor playground of the pancake restaurant we visited,  delighting in their exuberance and reflecting on the wonder of the day.

God truly is the God who “knows me inside out” (John 4: 29), “the God who sees me” (Genesis 16: 13), the God who comforts me “as a mother comforts her child” (Isaiah 66: 12 – 13) and the God who, full of compassion, pours out joy, gladness, thanksgiving and the sound of singing into the depths of my grief:

Isaiah 51: 3 (NIV)
The Lord will surely comfort Zion
    and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
    her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
    thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

This is the fifth installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends

In Weakness Perfected

When we walk through the aftermath of loss and trauma, we often feel the weight of our broken humanity so much more. Rather than listen to God’s still, sweet voice, it can feel safer to hold onto the accusations we hear inside of us.

When the LORD began to call me to share the Words and visions I saw with a family I had been praying for, I struggled. What if these were just figments of my imagination? What if they gave them false hope or upset them? I could hear the enemy breathing down my neck: “God would never call someone like you to intercede for others in prayer. He would never give someone like you these kind of Words and visions.”

Then, a leader I deeply respected, most likely trying to protect me in my fears, affirmed the very accusations I was already hearing, when I asked for advice. And so a tug of war ensued. Until finally, I cried out in frustrated anger.

I told God enough was enough. Either I was going to zip my lips, or God had better show me that it was indeed He, who had called me to speak His Word into this family’s situation.

Moments later, three separate affirmations arrived. But the most amazing affirmation of all was what unfolded with a stranger, mere minutes after my prayer. I was standing at a train station minding my own business, when a man approached me. He asked to borrow my phone to call his brother to let him know he’d be late. I was frightened by his dishevelled exterior, but didn’t want to be rude, so I offered to call his brother for him and tell him.

After doing so, the man thanked me profusely and suddenly began to share parts of his life story. He started by sharing his full (Hebrew) name and his Christian upbringing. And went on to share of the incredible suffering his parents walked through and their inability to love him as he needed to be loved. He then shared about his struggle to believe and to be freed from his addictions.

I listened intently, praying for God to fill me with the wisdom I lacked. I longed to help this man see how much God still loved him and yearned to comfort and bring healing. It’s then, as we sat together on the train, that the Holy Spirit prompted me to openly share about the trauma I had walked through as a little girl and how God was leading me to a place of healing and forgiveness.

The Holy Spirit also provided a question to ask the man. It is this question that visibly moved the man. He kept repeating it and working through its implications. Suddenly, I saw compassion enter the man’s eyes as he spoke of his parents, rather than the hurt and bitterness that had been there moments earlier. The Lord was so clearly working in his heart.

I sat there beside him on the train, amazed. If it was not for the Lord’s promptings I would never have gone near this man. He stunk of alcohol and his dishevelled appearance both frightened and revolted me. But God was not put off by my fears or judgement. He pressed until I responded in grace and love as He wanted me to.

After this experience I knew. I knew that even in my broken, newly returned Prodigal state, God was calling me to intercede and speak encouragement into others’ lives. It’s then I knew the Scriptures and visions of Bible stories I was receiving in prayer were gifts from God, not given to hoard, but share.

Oh there have still been moments since then, that I have turned to hide and dim my light. But my God has been so faithful to return me to Himself and to remind me that His power is perfected in weakness. He has lifted me back out of the mire to set my feet upon the Rock and to shine the light He’s given me, brightly, in the places He has set me apart to make His glory known.

Thank You, Jesus, that You call the foolish of this world to shame the wise. Thank You that You call the weak of this world to confound the strong. Thank You that You call us, Your broken open vessels, to shine Your love brightly into the lives of those around us.

Father God, fill us with Your courage today to shine the light of Your love, where You call us to. Help us to turn away from the lies we hear that condemn us or those You are calling us to love. Help us instead to see Your reflection as we look into the mirror and as we look into the faces of those You have set before us.

Melt away our insecurities and fears in the truth of Your holy love for both us and for those you call us to bless. A love You expressed by pouring out the judgement each one of us deserved upon Your very own Son, so that we could be freed from our sin and shame, to run with joy into Your abundant life. Thank You, Father, for Your incredible sacrificial love, a love like no other.

Forgive us for the moments we have rested in the safe of our insecurities and fears. Help us not to be ashamed of our weakness or fearful in our inadequacies, but to lean into Your power in our weakness instead. Fill us with the faith to believe You at Your Word. To believe that You will perfect Your power in us, precisely in and through our weakness.

As our knees shake and our hearts tremble press us forward to do Your holy will. Awaken us in the light of Your loving countenance. Clothe us in Your holy love, wisdom, strength and grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

This is the fourth installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends

Resurrection Life in the Dying

Happy Resurrection Sunday! He is risen! He is risen indeed!!!

This is the fourth installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These monthly installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends

As I was running through the red-golden forest, a few years ago, I reflected on the grief that had been building within me. It was coming up to the month, in which my world turned upside down and my heart was torn between two continents, as I traveled to the other side of the world with my one-year-old daughter to be with my mother before she entered a life-threatening operation. 

I had to leave my three-year-old daughter, who had only ever spent two nights apart from me, and my husband, behind. My already tearing heart was yanked further apart, as we heard the diagnosis a few short days later: a terminal brain cancer with no hope of survival, with a life-expectancy of two to three months.

And yet, in journeying back to that time in my heart, I am reminded of God’s deep abiding presence and the many gifts He showered upon me during one of the hardest times of my life. There are three places and moments in particular His peace descended so powerfully upon me, that it shattered my understanding of who He was, is and is to come:

1. In the mountains

I surveyed the spectacular wonder of the mountains and lake, the way the sky broke open and I felt a love envelop me. In that moment I was completely and utterly broken. I felt torn between my own immediate family and my Mum. A heaviness rested upon me as the death sentence of two to three months Mum was given weighed upon me. 

I was hushing my little girl into sleep, a wee girl who often refused to sleep and kept getting sick. But in that one moment, my hardened heart broke and tears flowed. A God who I had for years envisioned shaking His finger at me, covering me in guilt and shame, was holding me. And I couldn’t stop crying. Me the sinner, the one who kept failing, kept losing the control she fought so hard to hold onto.

2. In the dunes

When I ran alongside my husband, coming to a clearing where all I could see was dunes upon dunes, and a startlingly, beautiful sky. This was in the five weeks, when I found myself on one continent, but my heart was on the other, with my dying Mum. 

My heart was torn in two, a grief I will never be able to fully explain in words. But in that moment God’s beauty poured out over me like a balm and all the tension and fear and ripping came to a halt and poured out into tears that kept flowing.

Psalm 23:6 (The Message)
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.


3. With my dying Mum. 

Our last Christmas together, a little more than four months before Mum entered heaven’s gates

The more she surrendered the greater the peace that settled upon her. I was anything but peaceful during that time, as I kept myself frantically busy doing everything I could for Mum and her home. So, the contrast was startling. The less she did, the more she surrendered to her Lord and Saviour, the more peace settled upon her. The more I did, the greater the fear, tension, unsettled feeling grew.

Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message)
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.


And so, when I returned home, I vowed to seek after this peace that passes all understanding. And it brought me to the table of grace, to His broken body and flowing blood that covered all my guilt, all my shame, all that I’d sought to run and hide from, in my utter brokenness.

John 3: 16 (NIV)
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.


Now, when I look back, my Mum’s greatest gift to me is not the years of beautiful service to me as her child. Not the hugs, the kisses, the way she looked at my girls, the giving of her heart till no more could be given. No, her absolute greatest gift to me is her testimony to the abiding life and peace of Jesus in her.

My Mum was not the same woman I grew up with. I saw the grace of Jesus change her, more and more, especially at the end. It’s not that she wasn’t a warm, loving and kind Mum, when I was little. Because she was. 

But, Jesus kept plunging her deeper into His grace, stripping more and more sin and extending more and more of His love through her. I saw Christ’s patience, kindness, selflessness, a listening ear, forgiveness, such gentleness, but also blunt, much-needed truth-telling, grow in my Mum.

You see, Mum didn’t hide her light. She went to heaven declaring God’s peace to this world. At the end especially, she spoke freely of her own need for His grace and of His kindness and gentleness toward the least of these. 

And she uncovered the truth. Thanks in part to the brain cancer taking away her social filter, she preferred to be genuine at the end, rather than hide behind a mask of self-righteousness to remain religiously palatable. Beautifully Jesus perfected His power right there in her weakness, using the cancer to bless her and others.

https://youtu.be/TxuhmnNUsUI

In bringing things into the open, God helped my Mum surrender her innate desire for earthly harmony and understanding. And through that painful, but freeing surrender, she was able to fully embrace the eternal wholeness and completion Christ set before her. Ultimately the jealous all-consuming love of our Jesus won.

Song of Songs 8:6 (NIV)

Place me like a seal over your heart,

    like a seal on your arm;

for love is as strong as death,

    its jealousy unyielding as the grave.

It burns like blazing fire,

    like a mighty flame.


And so now, slowly, very slowly, I am learning to follow my Mum’s lead. I am learning to obey Christ’s call to come as I am to receive His grace. I am learning to release guilt, fear and shame in exchange for His arms.

I am learning to confess my sins and weakness openly, to shine the light of Christ’s love and grace into the world. And like my Mum, I am learning to be genuine, by bringing things into the open. I am learning to let go of my innate desire for earthly harmony and understanding to embrace instead the eternal wholeness and completion set before me.

And most importantly I am learning that what matters most, above all else, is not this world’s love and approval, but that my LORD and Savior is with me and will never leave or forsake me.

https://youtu.be/hzKjR66rMPA

For, even when all else fades away, as it did for my Mum, I know without a shadow of a doubt that that’s when my Jesus, my Savior, will be unveiled fully in me. And what a day that will be!

Isaiah 40: 8 (ESV)

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

https://youtu.be/wfIWlDRHcd4

Will you join me today, as I sit afresh in Hebrews 12 today?

Hebrews 12: 1- 4 (The Message)
Do you see what this means – all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running – and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls.


Father God, thank You that You know just what I need. Thank You that You set me apart to draw me near. Thank You that when all else fades away, You remain. Thank You that You have promised to never leave or forsake me.

Forgive me for clinging to fear and shame, for believing that You have abandoned me in this time of waiting. Help me to resist the devil, to stop listening to the accuser’s claims and to lean ever deeper into Your open arms of grace.

Father God, thank You for giving me a front row seat to the transformation You worked in my Mum. Help me too to trust You now with this path You have set before me, that just like my Mum experienced, is not what I expected or what I thought I needed or wanted. 

Help me to see what You see. Uncover the true desires of my heart and make me a blessing to all those You put before me. Shine Your light of love and grace brightly in and through me.

Thank You for the Cross. Thank You that it is finished. Thank You, Jesus, for dying to make us, Your Body whole and complete, with YOU at our Head. Thank You that You have the final say. Thank You that we will all yet see Your full recompense: Your eternal wholeness and completion come.

Help me to keep stripping the sin that hinders me from being who You have made me to be. Empower and embolden me to run the race You have set before me with expectant joy, to complete it and to make You proud in doing so. Amen.

https://youtu.be/Z8OPuaFbWTs

Living Whole

This is the third installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends


And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. (Hosea 2:15 ESV)

Memories are funny things. Sweet memories linger. Scents of summer’s breath, Grandma’s perfume, Granddad’s soapy bristle as he leans in to give you a tender “peck” on the cheek. But then there are the memories seared into the brain. Locked away, too painful to linger. Hidden deep.

And yet Jesus came to give [us] hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that [we] may know that [He is] the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons [us] by name (Isaiah 45:3 NIV). For me, this gift came in the return of a piercing silence, in the lingering pain He began to draw to the surface, that I had known so well as a little girl.

Silence 

More than anything 

It cuts and maims

And holds me bound.

To then be met 

By slicing silence 

Is too much for 

This one heart to bare.

Teach me Your wisdom 

LORD, to keep on giving

Even then

Even with heart torn and bled.

Even when lying tongues

Speak shame and press me far away

Where I begin to question

Who I am.

Help me even then to return

And rest in who You are

Inside of me

Strong, where I am weak.

Hold me, each and every broken piece 

Safe, in Your whole hands

And place me where You 

Would have me be.

Be my strength, when I have none

My courage, where lies speak loud

My thoughts, my words and deeds

That I may once again:

Turn toward You, my Rock

My fortress and deliverer

That Your heart may gush

As living water from this:

Your holy Temple

And dwelling place

A living stone among many

Being built upon the Rock.

Upon the cornerstone

Rejected by man

But chosen by God

And precious to Him.

As that little girl, God first called me to partake in His suffering. He set me apart from those I loved most, calling me to stand with Him to intercede for the healing of His Body. But, as that child, I allowed the enemy to convince me that this setting apart, that caused such deep pain in my heart was proof of my evil and my disobedience, rather than proof of God honoring my heart’s desire to know the depths of His grace.

Yet, even in that unbelieving and distrusting child, His grace gushed forth, breaking open my hardened by sin heart that I was too afraid and too ashamed to bring into the open. Sadly, though, as I saw the responses of those around me to the Holy Spirit’s touch upon me and my open confession of my weakness and sin, I reeled in shame.

Yet, rather than condemn me as I bowed before my idols, God led me out and away from the environment, where the enemy prowled and bound me in perpetual fear and shame. Then, many years later, His Holy Spirit once again poured out upon me. This time, I was surrounded only by mountains, walking my baby girl to sleep, as I grieved my mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis.

Through my life story, God is showing me that His call upon our lives is irrevocable. When we keep silent in the breaking, as His longing for us individually, and for His Bride corporately, pierces our fearful and prideful hearts, we let our bones waste away through our groaning all day long (Psalm 32:3). And yet, amazingly, even then, in our silence to our Father’s call, our Savior continues speaking tenderly to us through the desert. Piece by piece, He breaks open the wilderness of our hearts to gush forth His grace, proclaiming through the breaking that our hard service has been completed, that our sin has been paid for, that we have received from the Lord’s hand double for all our sins (Isaiah 40:2). 

Now, unlike when I was little, I can see that as our hearts harden to the seed of His sowing in our pain and unbelief, God’s power takes over. For, it is precisely in our weakness that Christ shines forth His power to save and redeem. 

We needn’t be embarrassed by His power that openly displays the changing of our minds and lives. We needn’t be ashamed of the pure, white dress of repentance He is clothing us in to prove His love for us and His Body. We needn’t be ashamed of the growing fruit of His love for us and others being revealed in and through our open confession of sin and weakness. And we needn’t be ashamed of the healing leaves of His grace covering us. For, precisely these healing leaves are what God uses to silence the accuser of our brethren also, as He strips the condemnation and shame covering those around us, as we boast in our weakness to His glory.

Yes, through our every breaking and setting apart, God causes us to die to the law that has been arousing “sinful passions” in us (Romans 7:5) and to arise anew in the strength of His Spirit at work in us (Romans 8:9). He transforms our thinking so that instead of dwelling inside our lack, we begin to dwell inside the fullness and the perfect wholeness already dwelling inside of us: Jesus. It’s the heart and mind of Christ at work in us that stops us fighting to defend ourselves and stops us fleeing to protect ourselves. It’s Jesus that compels us to come into His Presence unguarded to be covered by His healing wings of grace. 

As He draws us ever nearer, He uncovers our pain and unbelief. It’s then we come, as little children, whose Savior has split the veil of separation in two. We come with our anger, with our tears, with our fears and our agonizing doubts, pouring our hearts out freely at His feet.

It’s there Christ teaches us to glory in our weakness. His power unveils a new heart of faith, hope and love, beating so strongly in us: His very own heart of flesh that has already replaced our heart of stone. It is not we who must muster up the faith to believe Him at His Word. NO! He gives us this faith as a free gift. The faith to truly believe Him when He reminds us that it is no longer we and our sinful hearts that live, but Christ and His heart of flesh that lives in us, When He reminds us that the life we now live in the earthly tent that is fading by the day, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20), knowing that as our outward selves are decaying, our inward selves are being renewed by the day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

He stills the accuser’s voice, that we might hear His heart of flesh declare in and through us: “My beloved is mine and I am his.” (Song of Songs 2:16). He reminds us that we have never and will never ever be alone. Yes, our God is with us in each and every breaking. He is with us in each and every silence. And clothed in that knowledge and experience of His precious Presence with us, joy, peace and glorious hope begin to flow out of us with great force. Living water – the life of Jesus – begins to gush out of the rock – Jesus – living inside of us to bless and heal others also.

Now, I know that when all I could hear and feel was that piercing silence as a little girl, the Holy Spirit was in fact speaking with and in me (cf John 14:17). Precisely by setting me apart through my own and my loved ones’ weakness, He was preparing the Way to shed abroad His love, not just in my own heart and my loved ones, but many more.

Now, I know that all along, He was preparing me to live out His irrevocable calling on my life: to be a broken open vessel to His glory. Now, thanks to His perseverance, I can testify, with great joy and thankfulness, of His life at work in me. I can speak of His unbelievable mercy toward me in my sin and His deep compassion toward me, through every trigger of trauma. Triggers that He is using for good: to transform my mind and to reveal His heart of flesh in and through me.

Now, I know that nothing can stop me from speaking of Christ’s love and grace for me. Not what man may say to me. Nor any breaking Christ walks me toward. Because now, I know that the bread (the Body of Christ) is lifted up to our Father in heaven in thanks, so that He may be broken and multiplied to feed a waiting and hungry people. And I know that as we take eat of the bread of life, in our breaking apart, and drink of Christ´s cup of suffering, we declare the finished work of the Cross and His imminent coming. We declare His Body healed, whole and made complete in Christ Jesus, our LORD and Savior.

Yes, every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain (Isaiah 40:4). For, all Promises are Yes and Amen in Jesus. The mouth of the Lord has spoken it. So, it shall not return to Him empty, but it shall accomplish that which He has purposed, and shall succeed in the thing for which He sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11, ESV).

Come let us taste and see that our God is so, so good to us:

Awake, my soul!
    Awake, harp and lyre!
    I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth.
Psalm 57:8-11, NIV


YES! Jesus came to give [us] hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that [we] may know that [He is] the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons [us] by name (Isaiah 45:3 NIV). For His calling upon our lives is irrevocable! Praise HIM!!!

Seeing With Christ’s Eyes

This is the second installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends.

One of the ways God helped me to see His fingerprints over my life, was when He drew my attention to the names given to His people in the Bible and the meaning of these names. He asked me to study the meanings of my friends’ names through the years I had walked through loss and trauma, when the seeds of doubt began to root in my heart and I began to believe my accuser’s lies: that God had deserted me and left me wandering in my pain alone.

As I share what God showed me, may you too be able to look back on your life with new eyes and see His presence with you, where you couldn’t see it before. May the testimony of His faithfulness to me, in my own unfaithfulness, wrap you also in the compassion and unending mercy of our God. May He give each one of us new eyes of faith to see our life through His eyes of love and truth. May He strip away the sin that is keeping us in chains of fear, shame and unbelief, to reveal His new life and eyes of faith in us and through us.
When my parents decided to return to New Zealand, after almost six years as missionaries and church planters in Germany, it meant saying goodbye to the only place I could remember as home. On the eve of our departure, my elementary teacher gave me a goodbye present. A heart-shaped book, composed of threaded pages full of poems, messages, photos and drawings. Each classmate had created one page, but the page that is now engraved upon my memory, is my teacher’s. On her page there was a sketch of huge hands, palms wide open, holding a little sparrow.
That first year in New Zealand, I felt so out of place, with my strange accent and different way of speaking and doing things. Seeing my parents struggling with so much too, I shared very little with them, trying hard not to become an added burden to them. But God saw my need and gave me a new friend, who loved the LORD with childlike fervor.
What did her name mean?

Being a derivative of Thomas, it meant twin and “appears to be related to the Greek noun τομη (tome), meaning a cutting or cleaving, which in turn comes from the verb τεμνω (temno), meaning to cut or cleave.” (Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Thomas.html#.X7x7Hjm0s0M).
It’s only now I see how, just as with the disciple Thomas, God was inviting me to come to Him just as I was. He was inviting me to let Him cleave me unto Himself. To let Him engrave His Word upon my heart, as He beckoned me to enter into His suffering. Or as Peter puts it in 1 Peter 4:13 (ESV): “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s suffering, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”
Although she only stayed for a year, God invited me through this friend to touch His nail-pierced hands and wounded side, to remember that His power is perfected in our weakness. Now, looking back, I can do so. I can rejoice that Christ found me worthy to suffer dishonor for His Name as a little girl, as I spoke up for someone who could not speak up for himself, and was turned away. Repentance for the harm that was done in that turning away came more than twenty years later, affirming God’s call all those years ago to me to speak up and to pray. All these years later God is stripping the lies of abandonment, and affirming me as His.

Visiting the birth family of the little boy that I later spoke up for. I was nine years old, when this photo was taken.

As trauma began to infect my mind, I was bathed in feelings of shame and unworthiness in my sinful turning away. Right into all that God gave me a new friend. This friend openly shared her weaknesses with me and God’s nearness to her in it all, inviting me into a deeper walk with God.
I remember my hunger and thirst for God growing. I remember moments of worship, where the Spirit of God descended powerfully, overwhelming me in kindness, gentle conviction and stunning grace. I remember the joy of my baptism at 12 years old.
But I also remember never fully being able to shake the ever returning cloak of shame in my teenage years. Now I know what lay at the root: sin. You see, I failed to pluck up the courage to confess a secret sin I felt terribly embarrassed of, a sin that kept me in chains to pain and shame. This was one of several sins I engaged in to try and numb away the pain of watching someone I loved be repeatedly harmed in the name of God. It was the sin of masturbation.
Rather than continue to bring my pain to God, I believed the lies of the enemy that the God who led me to speak up, had now abandoned me and the one I spoke up for. I couldn’t see anything change with my physical eyes and so, as I thumbed the Psalms with tears streaming, I clung to my pain as proof of God’s absence, rather than His invitation into the compassion and mercy He had for me, for the one I loved and even for those doing the harm, that they believed to be God’s will.
Praise God, as I turned away in my pain, numbing away my fears and my pain with sin, my Mum and her best friend began to pray. Seeing my confidence waning, as I retreated from life to hide behind books, they began to pray for God to restore my confidence. God heard these prayers He birthed in them, when He gifted me that dear friend, who openly boasted in her weakness to sing God’s truth over me.
While I did not continue to take up this repeated invitation into truth at the time, now, when I look back, my confidence is being restored in the faithfulness of our God in our own unfaithfulness, through this very friend. She is now proof of God’s compassion and mercy to me. Her presence in my life, reminds me that God’s mercies are new every morning. Now I know that in my struggle to come to Him, I can cry out and ask for His power to draw me to Him: not just once, but again and again.
What did her name mean?

God is an oath.
Years later, we moved towns and my father decided to send me to a non-Christian high school. Arriving in the second year at a huge city school, after four years at a little country Christian school, then still accompanied by my five brothers and sisters, and now alone, had me feeling insecure and out of place.
But even there God continued to sing His truth over me. A classmate welcomed me into her little group of friends.
What was the meaning of her name?

Bold kin or family.
God was reminding me that He is our Abba Father who boldly welcomes outsiders into His outstretched arms.
Months before this major transition and move, God also gave me another friend who would become my very best friend, and still is one of my two best friends today. Amazingly, our new home ended up being only a 5 minute bike-ride away from hers. She became one of our family and I became one of hers.
When I look back, I see God’s faithfulness to me in her friendship so much. She (and later her husband and children) never stopped loving me, welcoming me into their life and praying for me (and my family) through my long Prodigal journey home. Oh don’t get me wrong, she grieved behind closed doors and her heart struggled to understand the path I was on, but she stood by me, being God’s faithfulness to me in my unfaithfulness.
What is the meaning of my best friend’s name?

Little rock.
And what was the meaning of my elementary teacher’s name all those years earlier?

Downey one.
This is a reference to goat’s hair, a material that was once upon a time woven into the curtains of the tabernacle furnishings. A durable fabric, designed to sustain the frequent moves of the tabernacle through the wilderness. And here again, God’s hand is so beautifully present through my teacher.
In Exodus 35:26 we hear that: “all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats’ hair.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the Holy Spirit had stirred my teacher’s heart up to draw those hands with the sparrow all those years before. For, it’s almost as if she was spinning goat’s hair to cover and protect me, a living temple of the Holy Spirit, on the eve of my departure into the wilderness.
She was unknowingly preparing the Way for what is now becoming my calling in Christ, the meaning of my first two names, given to me in the womb.
What was the name my parents gave me?

Anna Louise.
These names mean grace and famous warrior. How can we become famous grace warriors? By receiving grace upon grace ourselves. For we love, because He first loved us.
I now see how God never stops singing the truth over us in every little detail of our life. Through every heartache, loss and trial He reminds us that, just as His eye is upon the tiniest of sparrows, His eye remains on us too. He never leaves or forsakes us.
For, He is the hand of power in our weakness. He is the hand of compassion, when we turn away in our fear and shame. He is the hand of family, our bold kin who claims us as His no matter where we go. He is the hand of truth, a rock and anchor for our slipping feet, even when we cannot see Him. And He is the One who can give us the eyes of faith to see and behold who He truly is – the faithful One – through all the trauma, pain and loss we walk through on this earth.

Come, let’s celebrate The Promise, Come, let’s celebrate the life of Jesus at work in us.
Those huge hands, palms wide open, holding that tiny sparrow are His promise to each one of us.
That He sees us and knows us. That He hems us in, from behind and before. That He lays His hand upon us (Psalm 139:5). That wherever we go, His hand guides us and His right hand holds us fast (Psalm 139:9-10). That no one can ever snatch us out of His mighty hand (John 10:29, Isaiah 43:13), out of the hand of the One who declares (Isaiah 45:5-6):
“I am the Lord, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me,
so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.”
As we reflect on Christ’s all-enfolding hands, His eye upon even the tiniest of sparrows, let’s invite Him to speak to us afresh today. Let’s invite Him to show us what He has in fact been singing over us all this time. Let’s ask Him to give us Christ’s eyes of faith in our need for faith.
What gifts has He been bestowing to you through the meaning of place names or the names of people on your and your loved ones’ life journeys thus far?
Father, today, we invite you to reveal Your character to us in and through our lives and the lives of our loved ones. Remind us of significant people and places in their lives and ours. Show us that no detail is insignificant. Reveal Your fingerprints to us today.
Show us how You are unveiling Your eternal Promises from Your holy and trustworthy Word in our and our loved ones’ lives. Open our mouths and fill them to overflowing with praise for the God whose eyes are ever upon His beloved creation and who never ever leaves or forsakes His own. Give us Your eyes of faith, hope and love. Help us remember that YOU see all things and all people and that when our hearts break, it’s because YOUR heart is breaking inside of us. Help us to come to You, just as we are, trusting in Your mercy, Your love and Your faithfulness to us in our unfaithfulness. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.