Is there a situation you are currently struggling with where all you see is your insufficiency? What if this situation is God’s invitation into healing, to open your eyes to see Him present, where you couldn’t see Him before? What if Jesus is about to bend our knees in awe of His sufficiency in our insufficiency, through your beautiful surrender in obedience?
In man’s eyes, Moses was the least likely candidate for leading the Israelites out of slavery. He didn’t grow up as one of his people, he had no status amongst his people, he had murdered an Egyptian, he wasn’t eloquent in his speech. And yet God chose him.
We often make much of the miraculous rescue of God’s people, as Moses chose to walk in surrender and obedience to his God. But if we look closely, we see that God’s preparation for Moses’ surrender and obedience began so much earlier.
Put yourself in Moses’ shoes, knowing all we do today about the horrific impact of being separated from your birth mother at the young age he was. If we look closely at what happens in his adolescence, we see how Moses still has to grow in faith and trust and heal from the wounds of separation from his mother and family.
We see this when Moses takes things into his own hands by murdering an Egyptian for his cruel treatment of the Israelites. Here, we see how Moses’ heart has remained with his own people but that he still needs to learn to trust in God’s justice, rather than taking matters into His own hands.
Years later, when Moses is living in the desert, after having fled in fear and shame in the wake of his murderous actions, God seeks Moses out and calls him for His purposes. This time, Moses learns, through God’s incredible patience and encouragement, to surrender his own insufficiency into the hands of his all-sufficient God. From a place of weakness and lack God calls and builds Moses up to become a hero of faith.
So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord was concerned about the Israelites and that He had looked [with compassion] on their suffering, then they bowed their heads and worshiped [the Lord ]. EXODUS 4: 31 AMP
Do you see, as I now do, how God was, in fact, not only redeeming His people from slavery, but also redeeming Moses’ own story? Do you see how He was opening Moses’ eyes to see Him present, where Moses couldn’t see Him before? I believe God was rewriting Moses’ story of trauma and sin, into His story of steadfast love, mercy and redemption.
I believe that now, Moses could finally see that as his mother laid him in the basket she lovingly wove to protect him and keep him warm, that neither she nor their God were ever abandoning him. I believe he could finally see how God had in fact compelled his mother to yield him up to a love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. A love that never ends.
Jochebed trusted in her God’s sufficiency in her own insufficiency. Just as her precious son would one day learn to do also. Moses continued in his mother’s legacy to God’s goodness and mercy. A goodness and mercy that still follow each one of us – God’s precious children – all the days of our lives.
Father, today, we bring before You each situation in our lives, where all we can see is our insufficiency. We thank You for Your sufficiency in those situations and we invite You to open our eyes to see Your Presence with us in these places of Your divine will for us.
Thank You, that You are our great Redeemer. Thank You for awakening our hearts to rest in Your great and precious Promises through these trying circumstances. Open our eyes to the healing You are wanting to gift us through these situations. Bring past situations to remembrance, where we could not see You and reveal through these new situations just how present You have always been to us.
I invite You, this very day, to bend our knees in awe of Your sufficiency in our insufficiency. Open the eyes of our hearts to Your living and active Word and set our hands and feet to move at the sound of Your Voice, to walk into Your redemption. Thank You that even as I pen this prayer, You are rewriting our narratives of trauma into stories of joy, peace and hope in You. Father, wrap others in Your compassion and mercy in and through the redemption You are bringing in our lives. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.
Is there a situation you are currently struggling with where all you see is your insufficiency? What if this situation is God’s invitation into more healing, to open your eyes to see Him present, where you couldn’t see Him before? What if Jesus is about to bend our knees in awe of His sufficiency in our insufficiency, through your beautiful surrender in obedience?
I will not leave you orphaned You know what it is to lose To lose such precious life But I tell you, I have come To give you life Abundant life.
On those days your heart begins to ache On those days you feel forsaken All alone Lean into Me Tell Me all your pain, be not ashamed But share your yearning deep.
I will not leave you orphaned Cry those tears and share those fears Pour every doubt into My waiting bowl And I'll reflect My Truth there back to you I'll place My hand upon your shoulder Not turn away, but turn toward.
Your friend for life Not just for here, but into all eternity I'm in you now and I'll never leave Even when you tell Me You can't take that one more step.
You see, I know you can't And that's why I'm here To lead You here on Me to rest To lay your head between My shoulders To sleep secure, knowing I won't leave.
I will not leave you orphaned When your body, mind and soul here give away I'll hold you tight My water to your lips so parched I'll raise My bread to famished body gift.
I've chosen you. I've always wanted you. This path I've set before you Is the path I have entrusted you. It's yours to walk, but not alone.
The God of glory, He'll secure your passage My righteousness will pave your way. When you pray, I'll answer you. When you call for help, then I'll say "Here I am." (Isaiah 58: 6 - 12 MSG)
I will not leave you orphaned Even when all you see Is no way through. Don't grab the reigns or blame another, But turn to Me.
And know that as you give And as you share Your empty, nothing My full and plenty here becomes. I'm all you'll ever need.
No, I will not leave you orphaned, For I've adopted you for life To live and move and have your being In Me. For My yoke of love is easy And my burden, light.
In honor of Mother’s Day and God’s gift of life, Anna asked her friend, Debbie, to (re)share her story of adoption, the earthly loss of her precious son and of finding life in death. This interview, for Wendy Simpson’s and Anna Smit’s joint blogging series Breaking Light, took place five years ago, but has been updated by Debbie recently. It ends with a prayer, written by the steward of this blog, Anna Smit.
In these five years, Debbie and her husband, Bruce, have since moved from suburban Maryland to West Virginia. They see their three remaining children and ten grandchildren as often as they can. A sequel to her first book, But the Greatest of These Is Love, has begun in serial form with installments added each week. Follow her at her blog at Consider It All Joy for updates.
1. Of all the characters in the Bible, who do you most relate to and why?
I think Moses’ protest sounds familiar. “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13) I’ve said that too.
But lately I feel like Paul. Before his ministry, he thought he knew God. As a Pharisee, Paul arrogantly thought he was doing the work of God, getting rid of those pesky Christians. Then, in a sudden revelation, he KNEW Jesus. My journey into deeper faith felt that sudden. That could only have been achieved by the work of the Holy Spirit. I didn’t go looking for it. My “Damascus Road” experience changed forever my intimacy with God. It was like the scales fell off my eyes.
And for all the efforts Paul made for the Kingdom, writing letters to encourage the new Church, trying to make God known to others, his confessions sound a lot like mine.
“[…] I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out, I don’t do the good I want, but the evil I hate is what I keep on doing. Romans 7:18-19
Paul mourns of a “thorn” in his flesh that he cannot be free of. God’s response? His Grace is sufficient. There will always be thorns, and God keeps reminding Paul, and me, how very much we need a Savior.
2. What is one of your favorite Scriptures and why does it mean so much to you?
Matthew 16:24-25 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their lifewill lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.'” NIV (bold and italics, mine.)
This is language we do not like to use.
Sixteen years ago, I half-heartedly participated in a small group study, Experiencing God. One morning while doing my homework, that verse jumped off the page at me. And it terrified me, because I instinctively knew God was going to demand something hard of me, something akin to “death” of my altar of Self.
God loves us too much to leave us where we are. The world tells us to celebrate ourselves, and to love who we are, that we deserve the best. Jesus’ words, however, demand radical change. God doesn’t want to compete with anything; He wants ALL of us, especially the parts we cling to. For me, it was (and often still is) my god of Comfort. My easy life was put on the scales with my relationship with God.
This theme of surrender is Jesus most repeated theme in the Gospels. To name a few more with this mandate of dying to Self: Matthew 10:39, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, Luke 17:33, John 12:24. There are others. It must be very important.
One of my favorite writers is C.S. Lewis. I love how he shares his journey from intellectual disbelief to finally knowing the Truth of Christ. In Mere Christianity, Lewis has captured this concept of surrender, this “dying to Self” beautifully, from Jesus’ point of view.
3. What events, circumstances or struggles in your life have been and/or continue to be your deepest valleys? 4. In what ways have you experienced God’s nearness in these valleys? I’ve combined these two questions, because of continuity of my telling the story.
My journey to deeper faith began in 2000, with a sudden, surprising invitation, a whisper from God which shattered my comfortable life. As I write this, I recognize this was a “death” so I could be born again. How could I say no to God and stay connected to Him? That lonely valley of trying to say no to God lasted a year and a half.
During that valley God revealed Himself to me in shocking and unmistakable ways. He came with that theme of dying to self I had recently read in Matthew. When presented with God’s plan, I was not so sure I wanted to be a disciple at all! God came making an seemingly impossible demand of me and I wanted Him to chose someone else. I endured a hard season of offering God suggestions of what I was willing to sacrifice in place of what He was asking me. But God would have none of my puny offers. He wanted all of me. He wanted my complete surrender. His command was that I must deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him. But where He wanted to lead, I did not want to follow.
What invitation did God whisper to my unreceptive heart? Adoption.
It was a horrifying idea to me, as a happy wife and proud mother of three with a comfortable life. My life was perfect, too perfect to disrupt.
As the shocking theme of “adoption” morphed into an even more terrifying theme of “adoption of an older Russian boy,” I wrestled with God over His unlikely and unwelcomed proposal. This valley became a season of preparation, when God revealed Himself to me in ways that strengthened my faith, and set me on a path toward Him, one tiny, hesitant step at a time.
In 2002, armed with a mustard-seed of faith, God led us to Russia to bring home beautiful, lively, seven-year-old Roma. It soon became apparent that this little boy, this gift I tried to reject, was an extravagant reward for my meager obedience. We congratulated ourselves for saving this precious little boy. We couldn’t know how God would transform our faith using Roma.
In the next season of my life, my joy was complete. My family and friends had embraced little Roma from the beginning and watched him grow into a confident, charming young man. My faith was deep. And all was well in my world.
In 2013, I sensed God dramatically moving in my life again. This time God’s movement came with a premonition of suffering. Dread and a hyper awareness of God was my paradoxical response. I knew whatever was in my future, I must cling to God. I thanked Him that this time I trusted Him without reservation.
In 2014, my sweet, lovable Roma headed down a dark road of alcohol and marijuana abuse. But even in that valley, God was always close, and I experienced God’s grace in hair raising ways. And right before the challenges went into high gear, I was told in a dream to “write it all down.” (Read theHound of Heaven Winks to begin that miraculous series of posts.)
Every challenge we faced, I thanked God for the premonitions He had given me, because I was not caught off guard by surprise. Each time I was thankful, because the consequences of Roma’s rebellion weren’t too terrible. I kept telling myself, “This could be so much worse.” I thanked God for protecting Roma and revealing Himself to many of us, including Roma, who were watching the God Stories unfold.
But the foreboding continued. Roma wandered away from our family again in the middle months of 2015. I was powerless to change him. I had to turn him over to God. My friends worried that I wasn’t worried. But if I truly believed what I claimed to believe, I wasn’t supposed to worry. I had put Roma in the loving and capable Hands of our Father God. “God loves Roma more than I do,” I would remind myself and others. But oh how I loved that boy! My peace was real, and those who doubted began to trust too.
Then, finally, in October of 2015, the Prodigal Son returned. He was repentant, he sought God and mercy. We spent time talking honestly about God. Roma had a hunger for Him that was brand new. He was a joy to be around again.
After seven joy filled weeks with our transformed son, on December 7, Roma died from a work accident, a fall from a ladder while working on a roof. When the heartbreaking news came, I was hardly surprised. God had so lovingly and thoroughly warned me to be prepared. If God had warned me, He had known ahead of time. I had to believe Roma’s death was part of God’s Divine timing.
5. In what ways have you seen God minister to others through your deep valleys?
In that protective fog of the first days, I was showered with Divine Love. And miracles. The veil has been thin between Heaven and earth at times. As devastated as I was, and still am, I trust God. Heartsick friends and neighbors witnessed the peace we had. And the miracles. In the middle of our collective pain, we were in awe of God’s great love.
Although I think social media is Satan’s tool, God can use it for good. On my sites, I tried to continue pointing people to God in our circumstances, because He was so real to me in that dark valley. Soon friends were listening intently or reading with eagerness, the stories I share of God’s Nearness in the midst of our pain.
When our concerned friends rallied around us after Roma died, they saw that God had given us strength and sincere faith. I had faced the hard question, “Did I believe that God is really who He said He is? And did I believe Heaven was a real place?” If so, I would miss Roma earthly presence, but not despair over his absence. I would also have to celebrate that Roma was indeed free and with God in Heaven. I learned those first few days that God can be trusted. And, at least some were comforted, as I could confidently point to God with gratitude.
6. How have you seen God build community through your deepest valleys? Oh yes! Our loss was everyone’s loss. God sent Roma to not only my family but to the whole community, and beyond. God knew this honor of raising Roma was way too big for the Michael family alone. We would need helpers. LOTS of helpers! To aid in the recruitment of many helpers, God had armed young Roma with a BIG hearted personality, a sweet deposition, disarming smile, and fabled charisma. And oh, those sparkly green eyes.
Yes, the helpers came over the years. Neighbors, teachers, coaches, teammates, friends, mothers and fathers of friends. All assisted us in the joyful task of raising Roma. They loved this boy sent from God. Now they hearts were broken too. Roma had touched more lives in his brief twenty-one years than most people encounter in a lifetime!
Since Roma took up residence in Heaven, I have experienced true miracles. And I tell everyone who will listen or read. At first, I feared people would think I was crazy. But to not shine the Light that God had given me through Roma and his stories, would be failing to give Glory to God. God is not silent or still.
I have wondered lately, is God becoming bolder in His actions, or am I suddenly hyper aware of Him? Whatever the case, I am thankful that something so redeeming has transpired after the excruciating loss of Roma. People are hungry for God Stories. I have had a huge jump in my readership. Even people who never knew my dear boy tell me they feel like they know him and have cried for our loss. And I guess that was the purpose of the book. Now he is a friend to all, and they are eager to read about him. God has not wasted my pain. He has redeemed it all.
7 and 8. What obstacles have stood in the way of the ministry God has called you to through the hard? And how have you responded to these obstacles?
Lies of the enemy. At the beginning I was reluctant to continue to write my blog. “Who cares about Roma and your little stories now?” was a concern I had. But I had more stories to tell, I still do. God has been giving me many stories to tell, and I will keep writing them down. More than a few readers have said that there will be a second book. We’ll see. As long as God keeps giving me nudges and stories to tell, I will continue to write them down.
I remind myself that God is still good. He sees the BIG picture. I do not. In the past six months since I said a temporary, earthly goodbye to Roma, I have never felt God closer.
9. What one piece of advice or kernel of wisdom would you like to leave with our readers from your journey through your hard thus far?
Seek and you will find is another often repeated instruction in Scripture. I like to meditate on Jeremiah 29:12-14.
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listento you.You will seekme and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”
God is trying to transform us into marvelous creatures like His son. He cannot accomplish this until we surrender ourselves to Him. We will not know Him better until we diligently seek after Him. Pray with expectation that He will be found.
Father, oh how we thank You for the gift of life. Oh how we thank You that You are a God of compassion, mercy and justice. Thank You for Roma and my own little adopted brother, for all the children the world over who You see in their great need and who You love to set in families and shower in love and affection.
Thank You for Roma’s and his birth and adoptive families’ story that is continuing to be written in You. LORD I ask You to unleash the words You long to be shared through Debbie and to draw those the world over whose hearts and souls You cannot wait to awaken to Your love, truth, compassion and mercy through her.Surprise and awe us with what you have in store for Debbie and those You are weaving and have woven into her life. Continue to sustain and encourage her as she seeks to honor and obey You.
Thank You for remaining so faithful to all birth families, to all adoptive families and to all adopted children . Thank You for bringing more and more healing to Your whole Body through the gift of adoption that teaches us so much about Your faithful love andmercy toward us all.
Father, today I pray for the many birth parents and birth brothers and sisters the world over whose hearts are aching today. I ask You to send them proof of Your unending love for them and the children and brothers/sisters they have surrendered. Unveil Your redemption and Your restoration in ways that surprise and awe them.
Father, I also ask You to strengthen, comfort and pour out Your compassion upon adopted children and their families the world over. When trauma triggers shake these adopted children, fill their new families with Your moment-by-moment discernment to love these precious children of Yours as You love them.
Surround these adopted children and their families with men and women who uplift them and bless them in Your Word and who step in with practical help. Give adoptive parents the courage to forsake the opinion of those around them, where You are calling them to a different path. And where hurt has been caused in a lack of understanding, Father move in Your kindness to restore, heal and redeem. Take what the enemy meant for evil and turn it into good – more and more life in death.
LORD, I ask You to comfort all parents who have had to say goodbye to their child. Who have had to surrender them fully into Your eternal hands. Bring them a special Word of comfort and encouragement today. Surround them with Your Body and Your miracles that remind them that You are with them and have not forsaken them. Surprise them. Awe them. Shower them in blessings.
And lastly, I ask You to make Yourself known in and through every story of adoption, loss and trauma. Reveal Your life in every death and surrender we, Your children, walk through. We love You. We praise You. We honor You. In Your precious Name, Amen.
I still remember the excitement, the tears, the shouts for joy. A wall falling. A people reunited. A dictator executed. A people freed. I was nine years old and sitting in a West German classroom, the daughter of New Zealand missionaries in a time God’s miraculous power swept across the world and into my presence.
Weeks later I’d be accompanying my family into Romania and meeting believers who welcomed us with such warmth and love. The joy of the LORD was palpable in our midst, as we sung in that enormous church, men one side, women with their heads covered on another. In incredible heartache and persecution the Romanian church had exploded in number, as a suffering and dying people were drawn like a magnet to the Living Hope that is Christ Jesus.
As I prayed through Isaiah 53:3-12, my eyes rested on verse 3:
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
and I wept. Because I saw how we, God’s children, have been walking in our Savior’s footsteps. But also because I was convicted that unlike my Savior and my Romanian brothers and sisters, I had chosen to clothe myself in lies, believing myself:
“stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”
I had carried my mental illness born in the wake of trauma, as a punishment, as something that defines my standing before God. But as I rested on:
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows”
I remembered the visions God gifted me in therapy. Visions of His presence in my most traumatic memories. Visions of His loving face, of His Words of truth piercing my hardened heart that had been locked tight in shame, unable to process, to grieve what was taken from me.
Of Him encouraging me to kick, scream, flail and cry for all that I had walked through. Of Him telling me He too is angry. And I then saw how walking to His Cross, He carried what was done to me. He carried my loss, my grief and my sorrow. And He also carried my sinful turning away, those moments I chose to clothe myself in lies.
He never ever left me, not even for a moment. Not even as I turned my back on Him for more than twenty long years. Yes:
“Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”
At His Cross He wept and cried: “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” He forgave me.
“yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”
And by His grace, He is now empowering me also, just as He did my brothers and sisters in Romania, to arise and shine in the truth. To esteem Him, by wrapping myself in the truth and grace of the Cross.
“by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous,”
No, mental and physical affliction do not define us. The Cross alone defines us. In the power of the Cross at work in us, we are dead to sin and alive to Christ. For “the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand”, in the hand of the One who lives and breathes in us. The One who has wrought justice at the Cross. The One who is now restoring all that the enemy thought he had stolen, killed and destroyed.
The One who is now bringing redemption to Romania and her countless, abandoned by man and yet chosen of God children, like my little brother, who are now scattered around the world.
He is flaming His Word alive in us – His Body. From every nation, our lips shall give Him praise!
We, the esteemed and chosen men, women and children of God, filled with joy, ones toward whom God has turned His face are invited to let our incense – the prayers of our Savior in us – arise. For our Father longs to draw many more children unto glory through the power of His Son’s blood and His living testimony at work in us.
May we, who have known the horror of abuse, just like our Savior, stand with tears in our eyes. Not for our own pain, which our Messiah has redeemed at the Cross. But like Jesus, for the very ones who have wounded and afflicted us.
May we rise in the strength of our Savior’s heart and blood in us, to cry: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And may we walk forgiven and free of all fear and shame into the light.
Oh what an indescribable gift flows from the Cross. A place of deep suffering for our loving Savior. For us. For every single fibre of our bodies, minds, hearts and souls.
Oh may He make us those who do not hide the light of His love and grace toward us, but shine it brightly for all to see. For, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1 John 1:5, ESV). Praise Him!
Today, rather than sharing a friend’s testimony, I am sharing my Mum’s story that is woven together with my own. When we buried my Mum, I glorified her strength, perseverance and love. But in the years since saying goodbye to her, more than anything, I’ve come to realize that what I glorified her for, was Jesus at work in and through her. It was Jesus, who continually turned the hardest paths my Mum walked, into stories of beauty, through His love.
So, in sharing some of my Mum’s stories and her impact on others, my prayer is that we will not see her as someone to glorify, but rather, as someone just like us, in whom and through whom we can see the wonders of God’s love and grace for us all. I pray that through her life, you too will recognize Jesus at work in your own life, reaping a harvest of love, when and where you least expect it.
When I was little, we lived in a small town in New Zealand. My Mum led a busy life, combining study at University with (at that point in her life) three young children under the age of 4. And yet even being so busy with her own life, God opened the eyes of her heart to see and serve others in their need.
She once read about more and more young mothers taking their own life in our town. These women died from the as yet little understood illness of Postpartum Depression. My Mum’s heart ached and my Dad shared how she stayed up the whole night pouring out her heart in prayer to the LORD. The very next morning she went from door to door, getting to know the young mothers in our neighborhood. My Dad said that after that night of Mum praying, the postpartum depression related suicides in our little town suddenly stopped.
I believe, it is no accident where God places us, nor is it an accident that those in need around us are so very often in a similar life situation to ourselves. My Mum didn’t know the ravages of postpartum depression, but she knew enough about the stresses of caring for young children and the impact of depression on loved ones, that her heart bled for those young mothers and their families. Love and compassion poured forth from her, from the very heart of Jesus in her, moving her to become His very hands and feet in her town.
When I was four, my parents moved from New Zealand to Germany, answering the call of God to share the Good News with those who did not know that a personal and living relationship with God was a possibility. For the first six months, this meant my parents and their at that point four young children under six, had to live in a campervan.
One day, my Mum invited an English family of four over for dinner, after church. I remember my Dad saying that they were so surprised to find that we lived at a camping ground. What I see so much in this is how God gave my Mum such boldness in reaching out from her position of weakness. Rather than hanging out in the shame of her own family’s poverty, she pressed into God’s riches, to give to others from her place of need. And God supplied in abundance, enabling His love to flow richly.
It reminds me that I too can trust God to supply more than I could ever think to ask for or imagine. I can reach out to others, when God prompts me to, not because I am so strong and able, but because I know my God will perfect His power precisely in my weakness and inadequacy. For, it’s not by power, nor by might, but by the Spirit of the LORD that Love Himself – God – is made known, in and through us.
When I was nine years old, my parents adopted my little brother from Romania. We had traveled to Romania several times before the adoption, my Dad having organized and helped carry out various aid trips after the fall of the dictator Ceaucescu. When we took my little brother home with us, it was two weeks before we moved back permanently to New Zealand.
My Mum was exhausted from the almost six years in missions and yet returned to a town far from her own family’s support. There, in this new town, she cared for us six children, the whole household and supported my Dad, in his new stressful and taxing position as the head of a Christian high school, while also filling in as a maths teacher for the school.
When she was dying, my Mum shared of her failings in parenting my little brother. She spoke of her regrets in punishing him physically, when in hindsight, what he had needed most in that place of rebellion was someone who saw the trauma and heartache beneath. She shared of her exhaustion, of her struggle to reach his little heart and the ache she had carried for so many years.
There have been many times, I have felt deeply grieved by the many years it took for restoration to come. But God is showing me that it is all just more proof of the persevering power of His love and grace. His Word tells us that He is not slow to save, as we deem Him to be, but that His desire is that not one of us should perish. Sometimes, a longer journey is necessary to weave His masterpiece, not just in us, but others through us.
As I have poured out my grief about the years it took, God has asked me to stop looking back in pain. He has, again and again, gently reminded me to look up at Him. He has asked me to see the beauty He has forged and still is forging in and through His love and grace to us.
Now, I see the beauty God brought through my Mum’s broken and contrite heart. And I even see the beauty He brought through the unfulfilled ache my Mum carried for so many years. My mother didn’t stay in a place of regret for the many years she was caught in blindness herself, but rather, by God’s great grace and His loving Word to her, she moved forward.
She sought and received my little brother’s forgiveness and God’s call to pray fervently for all the incomplete stories that made her heart ache. And I believe her hidden prayers, prompted by the heart of Jesus in her, are still being unveiled now, almost seven years later.
Looking back, I can now see that God’s timing in opening my Mum’s eyes to see what she couldn’t when I was little, was impeccable. I may share more about that another time. And all the years Mum’s heart ached in her blindness, God used for good. For, His love and grace continued to flow through my Mum, as it does through all of us in our seeing but in part and not in full.
In her search to better understand my little brother, my Mum reached out to love and care for numerous other little children that others couldn’t cope with. She was known as the preschool teacher to give the “difficult kids” to. And she was also known for coming alongside the parents of these “difficult” kids. Often these parents, many single-Moms, were going through really hard things themselves.
My Mum went from being a student Mum, to a missionary and pastor’s wife, to a high school teacher, to studying to become a preschool teacher in her later life. As she told my Dad, she began to understand that the early development of children is so crucial to their later development. Not surprisingly, she then progressed to studying counseling, realizing that many of the children she saw struggling had parents who were struggling too. Perhaps, she also began to recognize the support she too had needed as a struggling Mum back in New Zealand.
I have no doubt that the ache in her heart from her experiences with my little brother drove her to give love in places she never would have otherwise gone. I believe this ache compelled her to love children and parents the world had turned their back on.
God opened my Mum’s eyes to see my little brother’s rebellion with new eyes in her final months on earth. She wept and wept watching films of children who went through similar trauma to my little brother, who spent his first fifteen months in an orphanage, being given up mere days after his birth.
She shared how her counseling course exposed her to these videos, the very counseling course she had chosen to do to help others. But when she received her diploma in her final months on earth, she shared how she hadn’t realized how much healing her own heart had needed. But I believe God always did.
Beautifully the brain cancer she suffered from in her final months, took away her social filter and in fact helped her to speak up boldly and seek restoration. My little brother’s heart opened wide to receive the grace he had so longed for. And he in turn extended it to my Mum also, in great thankfulness to God.
God worked most powerfully in and through my Mum, when she was at her weakest. Even as she lay dying, unable to speak, eat or even wink, love poured out of her, through the palpable peace of God covering her, as I shared in my testimony last week. And I was not the only one to feel it or be blessed by it.
As God went about healing my Mum’s heart in quiet and unseen ways, He was also busy healing others through her and He continues to do so today: through her very much living testimony to His love and grace.
It shows me that when we give our lives to Jesus, it’s no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in and through us. Through us sinful and broken people who only see but in part on this earth. Christ’s life and love continually flows into and out of us, in ways I don’t think we will fully comprehend until heaven. But isn’t this foretaste already so glorious!
There are so many other stories I could share from my Mum’s 59 years on this earth, but I will end with a quote from a friend of ours, a quote my Dad chose to have engraved on my Mum’s tombstone. This man said of my Mum: “When you were with Margaret, you knew you were loved.”
Surely, as God’s Word tells us: the greatest of these is love. And who is love, but God Himself. The God who never stops pouring Himself into and out of us.
In His love, He makes something beautiful of each of our lives:
My name is Anna Smit. I am a dual New Zealand – Dutch citizen, who was born and partly raised in Aotearoa / New Zealand, but has been living in the Netherlands since 2003. I left the Land of the Long White Cloud in 2000 to become an au pair in Germany, but never came “home”. Falling in love, I followed my Dutchie to make a new home for myself in the land of the clogs, where we still live, with our two dual citizen girls.
I remember my early days in Germany, as the eldest daughter of New Zealand missionaries, filled with love: with the life and presence of Jesus. Tragically, as a preteen and teen, walking through trauma back in New Zealand, I began to believe the many lies spoken over me and turned to sin to numb my pain.
From then on, I went through life believing that my God had abandoned me as someone who was inherently mismade. In my early years as a Prodigal, I was even afraid that one day God would strike me with lightning and kill me.
Yet, now, I can look back and see the hand of God lovingly guiding me, protecting me and keeping me all those years I believed He had abandoned me and was out to hurt me. Every place I moved to, He remained with me, surrounding me with people in whom I now recognize His face.
When my Mum was diagnosed with an incurable brain cancer in 2013, God’s peace descended in power upon me. At the time, I was a mother of two young children (1 and 3 years old), living in the Netherlands with my Dutch husband and visiting my very ill mother in New Zealand. I wasn’t looking for God, but He came running for me. Like the little lost lamb caught in the thorn bush, He came to rescue me and bring me home.
I felt that same palpable peace again upon my Mum, in her final weeks. I was absolutely astounded at the beauty and kindness of this God, that I now recall from my younger years, before I let pride, the yoke of religion and the worship of man begin to choke me. God’s kindness toward me and the peace He covered me and my Mum in, compelled me to begin to seek Him and His Word afresh, like never before.
My Savior has given me a hunger and thirst for His Word, so that now I wake up hearing Him call to me. He is teaching me to slow, recognize and savor His Presence with me.
God is patiently leading me, piece by piece, to shed my pride, religion and the worship of man for an intimate relationship with Him, I am slowly (re)awakening to the childlike awe and wonder I see (and have seen) on the faces of so many beautiful souls God has given me on my life journey thus far.
May God bless us here, as we gather to read and share the stories, poems and heart stirrings He awakens in us. May we see His face in each other, in our past and present and future that He may make firm the paths beneath our feet, as He lifts away every accusation of the enemy in the light of His love and grace. And may the word of our testimony to His love and grace in our lives and His blood shed for us all at the Cross overcome the accuser of our brethren, just as He has promised us in His Word.