When one trial comes our way after another, so often, we just need a simple glimpse, a simple, tangible reminder of God’s Promise never ever to leave or forsake us. It’s in that place I found myself, as I waited on news from my sister from her biopsy, not long after we had buried my Mum after her five month battle with an incurable brain cancer and on the heels of a breaking God had led me through. A breaking that had left my heart wounded and raw – in need of my Healer’s touch.
As I struggled to be present to my girls and husband, I found myself crying out to my Maker to meet me in this place of deep anguish, angst and tearing. The poem below is the fruit of my lament – God’s gift to me in my weakness and need, as I lifted my head to the sky to see clouds form an arch above me, wrapping me in a peace that passes all understanding.
If you are having one of those days of swirling emotions today, may our God pour out your heart like water to reveal the gift of faith He has placed deep inside of you for this very moment. May He cup your face in His hands and lift it up to see tangible reminders of His Presence with you too. May He make His glorious face shine upon you through the words of this poem, the Scriptures and the worship song in this place. May you drink deeply from His goodness and His peace, no matter what is unfolding before you.
Will you with me stay In my struggle to accept, Heart too heavy laid?
I so long to rest To lean on You blessed, But laden heavy can't.
Cannot seem to find The words beyond my tears, Beyond all broken held.
All I see is dark Hands so empty worn, And no single ray.
I long to hope again To dream, believe again But am captive held.
Captive to my seen Longing here for gift unseen Faith in dark to beam.
No prayer can speak, But You my longing breathe, And my tear drops catch.
To sky me turn, And arch above me fern, Promised hope returns.
All You ask is come With my heavy laden heart And You'll heaven breathe,
Here my weight release In gift of faith I'll feast, In open mouth receive.
Faith not my own, But Savior's faith long sown Grown now as own.
Even when I come so frayed And heavy weighted stayed Your faith in me breaks open Unfurling.
Come listen in with me today to this beautiful, beautiful praise and worship. Oh how deeply it touches my own heart today:
EPHESIANS 1:3-6 (MSG) How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.
Welcome to Day 3 of Part 3‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing our third free will offering of goats’ hair (cursed sin offering) in a testimony to Christ’s mercy flowing in and through her Mum’s life and legacyof love. You can also listen to today’s post in the recording below.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (ESV)
When we buried my Mum, I glorified her as my idol of perfection and sacrificial living. But in the years since saying goodbye to her, more than anything, I’ve come to treasure her open confessions of sin and weakness in her final weeks on earth. It is the truth of Christ having become my cursed sin offering that I have most needed to deep down know, just as my Mum did in those final weeks especially.
When my Mum was dying, she shared of her failure to set and keep healthy boundaries, and how it damaged her emotional and physical well-being, inevitably also impacting her ability to parent us kids, as she would have liked to. She impressed upon my heart not to follow the “bad example I was to you girls”, to prioritize my own health and well-being as a mother, so I could parent my girls well. This piece of advice has so often encouraged me to listen to the Holy Spirit’s gentle and grace-filled promptings, to surrender my religious striving and to enter the rest of God.
My Mum also shared of having failed my little adopted brother. She spoke of her regrets in punishing him, when in hindsight, what he had needed most in that place of rebellion was someone who stilled to notice what lay beneath: the trauma and heartache of his past. But in her own pain and frustration, as this little boy she longed to bond with and love as her own continually rejected her moves toward him in love, her heart had hardened.
My heart still grieves for my little brother, as he continues to heal, but now, I also see the beauty God brought through the unfulfilled ache my Mum carried for so many years. For, my Mum reached out to love and care for numerous other little children that others couldn’t cope with, in the years thereafter. 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. Several of the parents of these kids were going through really hard things themselves, many of them being solo-Moms.
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 and to study counseling in her final years on earth. Something that also encouraged me to seek help, when I first began to experience the symptoms of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Through that diploma programme, God also 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 in repentance, watching films of children who went through similar trauma to my little brother. My brother had spent his first fifteen months in an orphanage in Romania, being given up mere days after his birth.
She shared how her course exposed her to these videos, the very counseling course she had chosen to do to help others. However, when she received her diploma in her final months on earth, she shared in her graduation speech that 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.
That lifted social filter also helped my Mum to speak the truth to someone whose actions had placed our family in a very stressful situation, upon our return from the mission field. All those years the betrayal she had felt had deeply hurt her heart, just as many other things had done that she had chosen to sweep under the carpet to “do the right thing”. My Mum showed me the importance of God’s command to us through His Word, not to sweep things under the carpet to be “good Christians”, but to let the sword of truth bring true peace and not a worldly peace, built upon hiding behind masks.
As Ephesians 4:25 (ESV) puts it:
Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.
Now, I am learning to put her example of true godly peace making into action. It has been an incredibly painful experience at times, even leading to a loss of some friendships. But I am also seeing how it is reaping the fruit of true peace in my heart and in my relationships.
I am seeing what a gift it is, not just to me, but to those who genuinely love me, when I choose to be real, rather than the “good girl”. It has also encouraged others to be honest with me, giving me the opportunity to grow up in the truth and grace of God.
And the friendships I have lost have truly been God’s gift also. They have opened my eyes to God’s protection of my heart, to His safe boundaries for me and my family and they have drawn me closer to God. Through each loss, God has encouraged me to bring my pain and every accusation of the enemy before Him, to allow Him to comfort me, cleanse me of all sin and to root me in the Promises of His Word.
It has been a slow process with this stubborn and slow learner. At times I have allowed the pain to compel me to turn back to “try and fix” things that God has commanded me to surrender fully into His hands. Thankfully, God gave me a husband whose strength is speaking the truth in love.
Slowly, I am learning to trust God’s living Word to me, above my own thinking, as He is transforming my mind to think like Him. The Holy Spirit is revealing the Word to me from moment to moment, helping me to set aside my religious thinking that would have me numb my pain, strive in pride and pretend to “be good”. The Holy Spirit is prompting me instead, through Scripture, to come boldly before the throne of grace in my time of need and to surrender myself and others into His hands.
God worked most powerfully in and through my Mum, when she was at her weakest. As she lay dying, unable to speak, eat or even wink, love poured out of her, through the palpable peace of God covering her. A peace that God used to open my own blinded Prodigal eyes to His love and mercy for me and my family.
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. My Mum’s life 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. For, 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!
On Mum’s tomb stone, my Dad had the following quote inscribed from a dear friend of theirs: “When you were with Margaret, you knew you were loved.” And that love of God that poured out of my Mum, especially in her open confession of sin and weakness and her truth telling, is still wrapping around me as a warm blanket today.
It encourages me in my own weakness and sin, to draw near, to be honest and to choose to feel and process my emotions and experiences at the feet of Jesus. Yes, true love – Jesus and His Presence with us – never ends. Not even death can silence His Voice nor the steadfast assurance we have in Christ Jesus of seeing our loved ones again.
So, now, I do not make as much of my Mum’s sacrificial living as a missionary, pastor’s wife and as someone who poured herself out to help so many others in their need. I see her greatest legacy not being her sacrifice as a missionary or ministry worker, nor even her sacrifice as a Mom of six children (and that was no mean feat!), but rather, Christ’s atoning sacrifice for her and for our family in our weakness and need. For, Christ, our Potter, is still to this day making something beautiful of His jars of clay through His legacy of love in my Mum that shall never end.
2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV) But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
Today’s post first appeared on my dear friend, Wendy Simpson’s blog, Widow’s Manna , about five years ago. Wendy is not only a creative writer, but an artist, producing beautiful sketches, paintings, intricately woven blankets and prayer shawls, plush toys, digital art and cards. You can find her artwork on her WordPress Wendy’s Vignettes and her Facebook Wendy’s Vignettes.
Been thinking about perspective…..
Take a little time to look up an impressionist’s painting. I love Monet. With that fresh in your mind, think about perspective. When you walk up close to this painting, you will observe thousands of small brush strokes in an array of colors. Close up there is some beauty but in many ways it looks like a lot of chaos truly makes no sense. It is pretty hard to get an idea of what the artist it trying to express. Now take several steps back from this painting. Something amazing happens. Thousands of tiny brush strokes make way for shapes and structure. The colors blend together to create new colors and something you could not see before, takes shape. The chaos become beautiful and the artist intended expression makes more sense.
It is like that in life. When we are face to face with trials of life, there is not much room for perspective. We see the chaos of each brush stroke and a mess of color that seem strangely placed. There is no picture and beautiful is the last way we would describe our life. But God sends people into our lives, who have been standing back observing this “painting” process in our life. Their perspective is something we couldn’t see, being in the middle of it all. They see colors blending together and pictures that have taken shape. They see that the artist intentions were beauty not chaos. They see reasons for color choices, that we would never have chosen. So, all this to say, we are thankful for those who have spoken perspective into our lives. And those who have pointed out the order in our chaos.
Both perspectives are necessary to walk through a process like this. You can stand back and see the picture being painted before you and have, in turn shared what you observe, color blending and something taking shape. I can share the details I don’t see colors blended, I see instead, what was used to make that color. I see the tears and agony and joys and victories it took to paint one of the thousand brush strokes. To me every stroke has a meaning. You see it as part of the big picture’s beauty. But when I cannot understand why a stroke was placed, I need only to remember there is a big picture and the artist, he knows why. Every stroke is part of the masterpiece.
I am thankful for those of you who share perspective. We are just living it, and in living it, we do not see outside the everyday survival at times. Thank you for your encouragement and love and grace as we walk this journey one day one “brush stroke” at a time.
Five months before Chris passed, on the heels of life altering surgery, I was desperate and looking for hope and perspective. (Above is an excerpt of that.) I’d put aside passions and parts of me that I felt would hinder complete and utter devotion to caring for Chris. I stored away and stuffed the ache and the sadness, for as long as I could. Allowing myself moments, trying (not too successfully) to make them brief. Aw… control… it served me well, ha, or so I thought. Amidst the journey’s steps I have (on so many occasions) broke down, and completely lost my resolve, to be strong (on my own strength). Having very little grace in my grief, I’ve fallen into chaotic and messy emotional places, and always get so upset with myself. After a fairly long battle, and after tears have subsided, then …. I’d finally seek God’s face and the wise counsel that came from those candles God had placed along the dark cave walls of this journey. All I had to do is reach out… and there it was… His divine provision.
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son…. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” -Colossians 1:13, 17 (ESV)
“That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3 (ESV)
Now, my perspective has been narrowed some and I am looking, specifically, at the dark brushstrokes. Deconstructing them, if you will, for perspective and to find His goodness. These brushstrokes, left unattended, could make my whole canvas… go dark. These brushstrokes I speak of, have screamed out for my attention for awhile now, and up to now… I have ignored them and refused to give them audience. In a sea, of over twenty years of living and life with my husband, I now choose not to continue to suppress the pain of His passing and the disappointments, so that I can just mourn….
….My death …the death of a caregiver
….Watching death…. stolen years.
….Lost and changing relationships.
….Not fitting in.
….The missing arms and lost affection.
In the coming days and weeks I resolve to explore these dark strokes on my canvas and begin the process of acknowledging their pain to finding their worth. I believe that God can take all that is, the fallen part of man… and create in us… something good. The goodness being… Christ in us the hope of glory.
In 2015 I was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a year after burying my Mum in the wake of her five month battle with glioblastoma multiforme. Then, this year a chronic heart condition was added into the mix.
But beautifully God is revealing these afflictions as His gifts in disguise. Through each surrender He is working in my heart, I am coming to taste His goodness in the land of the living, as He opens my eyes to that which is unfading and eternal: His love for us all.
May God bless you, as you gather with us and Him here. May we all see His face reflected in each other, in our pasts and present and our future. May He make firm the path beneath our feet. May He lift away every accusation of the enemy in the light of His love and grace for us and all His children. 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.