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:
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.