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

The Greatest of these is Love

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:

Love Never Ends

 

I have decided to only publish this week’s blog in audio format. I sensed the importance of us (me also) needing to “hear” the testimony and the Word of our Lord to be transformed by it. This week I invite you to listen to the story of how Jesus came to rescue and carry me, His lost sheep, home, while contemplating His hand upon your own life too. At the end you are invited to listen to a reading of Scripture. Through the reading, I invite our Heavenly Father to soak us all in His Word and to slow our hearts to listen to and obey His fresh and very personal Word to us.

Here a few quotes to encourage you to listen for yourself:

I feel the nearness of a God I do not know. Here is a gentle, compassionate Father stooping down to wrap me in Himself. A God who sees my heaving heart beneath, all the waves of pain and fear and shame I cannot breathe. And He breathes for me: “I see you. I know you. I love you.” . . .

These monthly installments of my testimony are not just God’s answer to this deeper desire He gave me, but His answer to all of us. 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.

 

May your hearts be blessed!

 

 

My Mum and I in Salzburg, the year I gave my heart to the LORD and also the year my parents moved from New Zealand to Germany, with four little kids in tow, to share the love of Jesus with those the LORD called them to.

 

May these Scriptures and songs encourage your heart today, drawing you into the Presence of the God who is love, never-ending Love:

 

 

2 Samuel 7: 22 – 23 KJV

For thy word’s sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all these great things, to make thy servant know them.

Wherefore thou art great, O Lord God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

 

 

 

About the Steward

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.