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

Breath of Heaven

Take a sacred offering for the Lord. Let those with generous hearts present the following gifts to the Lord: blue, purple, and scarlet thread;  Exodus 35:5-6

When God’s people set to work to build the Temple of Solomon, they brought forth several gifts. Included in their gifts was blue thread. This was to be woven, together with the scarlet (blood sacrifice) and purple (royalty) thread, into the curtain that would divide the Holy of Holies and the Presence of God from the common people. Later our Savior became this curtain for us by His sacrifice at the Cross. So now, He ushers us, His children, directly into His holy presence.

Even today, God still invites us to bring forward our blue thread, but now for the new Temple. 

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3: 16 (ESV )

Every time we come with our deep yearning and groanings, we give Him the thread of heaven that lies within us. For He has already placed eternity within our human hearts. He just beckons us to enter the Holy of Holies, to pour out our hearts before Him, so that He can unveil the Promise of heaven within our innermost being through His beautiful weaving.

And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Romans 8: 23 (NLT)

The first time I brought forward the blue thread within me was several months after losing my Mum to glioblastoma multiforme. I began to experience complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) for the first time. Interestingly it was writing a Biblical Lament that unearthed memories I’d chosen to repress. 

Moving pictures, sounds, and even smells of my mother’s suffering took hold of me, trapping me in the moment. It felt as if someone had strapped me into a frightening roller coaster and wouldn’t let me out, no matter how loudly I screamed. Yet within minutes, the attacks would subside, and my rational and logical brain would return to its senses. 

I was left feeling ashamed of and embarrassed about the desperation and suicidal thoughts that had just plagued me. I didn’t feel God’s love or presence through the terrifying flashbacks. As the waves of emotions coursed through my body daily all I could do was religiously declare their truth over myself once the gulfs subsided. 

Then, one dark night, I finally pitted the anger, I didn’t realize I had been repressing for months, directly at God. I dared Him to show me that life was worth living in a world where His most loyal servants suffered so incredibly, their bodies so terribly broken, before being taken for good. I finally brought forward my weakness that He might perfect His power in me.

It was then that I opened my Bible to a promise He makes to each and every one of us, His beloved children:

“Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me. This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.’” John 6:35–40 (MSG)

This one Scripture powerfully cut through my most terrifying fears and the lies attached to them. It showed me that God saw exactly where I was. But rather than turning me away in impatience at my unbelief, He drew me compassionately near. 

Jesus helped my heart open to His unbelievable promises that He was holding me tight and would not let me go and that both my Mum and I will stand before the Father, upright, whole, and complete. He showed me that cancer, a broken body, death, and despair have no hold on His beloved children, who in both life and death remain safe in His arms. 

A few days later, I visited my family doctor and was referred to a psychologist, who gave me the official diagnosis of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The attacks only intensified, but unlike before, rather than hide away ashamed, I began to challenge God to reveal Himself more fully.

In my journal, I presented Scriptural promises to Him as daring questions that would drastically change my life. I brought forward  blue thread for His weaving:

If You’re a Healer, then why did You not heal?

If You’re a Comforter, then why does my heart still ache so very much?

If You’re my ever-present help in trouble, why do I writhe in helpless anger and messiness on the floor?

If You’re a Redeemer, why aren’t You redeeming me in this mess?

If You promise You’re holding me, then why do I feel so very alone in this all?

If You have a Church, a Body, then where are they? Where are Your arms, where is Your physical presence, a hug, a listening ear, tears streaming for this loss so horrid no words can describe it, or ever make any sense of it?

As I cried out in Spirit and truth, He answered me. Powerfully. In visions of beautiful promise and truth. In the Body of Christ that has embraced me, not through a physical church building, but from near and far as they have reached out to me in Spirit and truth. And in the layers of childhood trauma He has since uncovered, trigger by trigger, to heal and redeem.

If you were to ask me to share about my experience of CPTSD now, I would tell you that it is one of the biggest gifts God has given me. For, through this illness I am learning to bring forward more and more of my thread. As I do so, my Lord and Savior is making His wisdom known to me in my innermost being, through the power of His Word and Holy Spirit.

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Psalm 51:6 (NASB)

Now, I no longer see the horror of death and decay before me, I see my Mum, healthy, so very beautiful and intensely happy before me. My Savior swallowed up the sounds, smells and pictures of death in His Life before my very eyes. He gifted me with the most incredible visions I will never ever forget. Praise Him!

Oh yes, I still struggle through new winds and waves, but God always helps me to turn toward Him, to give voice to my yearning to know Him, not from my head, but from my heart. This is where He then moves in to heal and write His truth upon the tablet of my human heart. He compels me to surrender all into His hands in trust and to bring forward the Promises of His Word, just as I shared here in Draw Near.

One day, as I too walk through those pearly gates, I know that He will unveil Himself completely in me. In the meantime, I trust Him to keep opening my eyes more and more by the power of His holy weaving.

Father God, overwhelm us with Your love and grace today. Forgive us for the moments we have hid our deepest groanings. Forgive us for holding tight in distrust, rather than surrendering all into Your hands. Forgive us for not bringing you the very Promises that YOU have planted deep within us to speak to life. Promises You have given us, so that we might come to know You, from the depths of our hearts.

Draw us, each day anew, to surrender in faith all things and all people, including ourselves, into Your hands. As we do so, speak Your Promises to life in and through us, LORD. Empower us to bring You our deepest longing to know You and to make You known. Embolden us to draw near to You, that You may draw ever nearer to us.

We believe, but help our unbelief. Perfect Your power in our weakness, LORD. Thank You that You have promised (Jeremiah 31:34 ESV):

And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Thank You that we, and those You have given us to lift back up to You, shall know You.

Amen.

Is there a Promise from God’s Word you have hidden away as not being for you or those laid upon your heart, but God is now asking you to take back out and bring before Him afresh? What treasure is He holding out to you to bring before Him as a free will offering today, so that He may unveil His living Temple in our midst?

John 17:3

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

Wrapped in Royal Thread

“Take a sacred offering for the Lord. Let those with generous hearts present the following gifts to the Lord:
6 blue, purple, and scarlet thread; Exodus 35:5-6

The color purple, woven into the curtains of the Temple, represents royalty: the perfect kingdom that is promised for us in God’s Heavenly Kingdom.  But what if we could see the gift of royalty that our Jesus won for us, here and now, as we embrace Him as our Savior?

They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, King of the Jews. Mark 15:17-18 ESV

By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. Hebrews 10:20 NLT

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. 1 John 1:4-5 ESV

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. I Peter 2:9 ESV

So often in this life we find ourselves walking a broken path. We face wounding from those in the world, and even from those within the Church. Maybe your own loved ones have faced the effects of those woundings?

When Bettie’s family walked through painful hurts at the hands of those who were in Church leadership, her sons later suffered a deep brokenness as the pain increased their wanderings.  It felt like there was an attack being directed by those very ones who were supposed to be family within Christ’s Church. 

Similar pain also formed a part of Anna’s wanderings as a Prodigal. Even after her return to the LORD, Anna’s heart still heaved with the pain of the past, exacerbated by the loss of her mother, who had served the LORD with such devotion, to brain cancer. 

But then, one day, as she returned to the memories of her childhood, the LORD gave her a beautiful vision. In it she saw, felt and heard Jesus, as He picked her up and held her frail little body tight. He asked her to kick, scream and flail as a toddler and He promised to hold her tight through it all.

As she saw herself do so, she literally felt the tension that she hadn’t realized had held her body captive for so very long, depart her body, as she rested in her Savior’s safe and loving arms. And then, she heard Jesus speak such beautiful, beautiful Words of truth: “You can’t see it yet, Anna, but trust me, I am working all of this, all of it, together for good.” 

Even now, this Promise from God’s Word brings tears to Anna’s eyes as she waits for it to be fulfilled in so many of her loved ones’ lives. She is already witnessing the LORD work such good into her own life and heart through the pain she has walked through in both the past and more recently. If anything this hurt and pain has shown her that she cannot walk a life holy and pleasing unto the Lord without the empowering work of His grace. 

For:

“our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12 ESV

So, let us:

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; Ephesians 6: 16 ESV

Oh how much of this painful world doesn’t yet make sense, but we have a Savior who understands. A Savior who lived and walked a life of rejection and persecution on this earth at the hands of His own, and who is not aloof to our pain and our hurt. This loving Friend invites us into His arms that He may release us from our burdens and whisper the truth into our weary hearts. 

A Friend who does not withhold His mercy from us, but wields it powerfully through us to bring abundant life. 

5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Genesis 45: 5 – 8 ESV

So, what if we began to see that color of royalty woven into the hearts of those in our fellowship? And what if we could see that those hurtful attacks have not come from our brothers and sisters, but from the forces of evil that the enemy of our souls wields over this world? Forces of evil that have been overcome by the blood of the Lamb. 

Where would our forgiveness lie if we would embrace each other as daughters and sons of the Most High God and see the truth of our incredible inheritance? What would happen if we lifted up our hurting hearts to our Savior and invited Him to wrap the Promise of HEAVEN (blue thread) and ROYAL PRIESTHOOD (purple thread) around us all?

The Lord has given Anna a beautiful poem to share with you. We pray that the Lord will speak to you of the beautiful inheritance that you and your loved ones have been promised:

NO POWER HERE WILL STAND

You sit upon the throne
All in Your hands You hold
All things to You they bow
No power too great for You to fell.

And in this cloak
Your Mighty Spirit
We, your children stand
We’ll stand and not be shaken.


All diseases
All afflictions
To You they bow
For Your compassion faileth not.

No child
Unwelcome here
Us in Your loving hands You hold
No hate too great for You to break.

You sit upon the throne
All in Your hands You hold
All things to You they bow
No power too great for You to fell.

LORD send Your many laborers,
Send out Your Love
So bright, so great, so deep
Into this, Your harvest ready, ripe.

All diseases
All afflictions
To You they’ll bow
For Your compassion faileth not.

No child
Unwelcome here
Us in Your loving hands You hold
No hate too great for You to break.

For You, You sit upon the throne
Our Father, us in Your hands You hold
All darkness to You, it bows
No power here will stand, but Yours.

Is there a wound, inflicted by someone within the Church, which has been festering in your soul? Can you let the Lord of Heaven uncover it today? Will you let Him show you the beauty and royalty that dwells within His Body of Believers, and then bring to you His own sweet gift of forgiveness?

Perhaps the wound has been carried over into the lives of your loved ones who are running from the LORD.  Can you pray for God’s Grace to begin a sweet work of uncovering and healing in their lives also?

As we bow our knees in prayer right now, let’s sit a moment with a Promise from our God’s Word that He spoke through Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel. Speak, O LORD, through this, Your precious Word, for Your servants are listening:

    He lifts the poor from the dust
    and the needy from the garbage dump.
He sets them among princes,
    placing them in seats of honor.
For all the earth is the Lord’s,
    and he has set the world in order.

“He will protect his faithful ones,
    but the wicked will disappear in darkness.
No one will succeed by strength alone. 

Those who fight against the Lord will be shattered.
He thunders against them from heaven;
    the Lord judges throughout the earth.
He gives power to his king;
    he increases the strength of his anointed one.”

1 Samuel 2: 8 – 10 NLT

May we pray for you today?

Dear Lord Jesus, We come to You today and confess that we are a broken people. We have been wounded, and we ourselves have inflicted wounds. And, yet You still call us precious, royal members of Your own household of faith.  Will you please forgive us where we have brought pain into the lives of our brothers and sisters? And will you bring to our own hearts a willingness to face forgiveness for those who have wounded us?  

Strengthen and invigorate us, LORD, with all power, according to Your glorious might, to attain every kind of endurance and patience with joy; that we may give thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the Light (Colossians 1: 11-12)

Thank you for washing us clean, and inviting us into Your family. We stand in awe of Your great gift, and worship You, our true King.  In Your precious name we pray, Amen.

This post was first published as a newsletter, sent to subscribers of the now closed down belovedprodigal.com. It was co-written by Bettie Gilbert and the steward of shalomaleh.com, Anna Smit.

Bettie, blogs at BettieGsRASeasons, writes Scriptural based prayer prompts and shepherds the Prayer Pond at the Chronic Joy ministry. The Prayer Pond is a safe harbor, where the chronically ill and their friends and family are encouraged to share prayer requests, updates and shouts of praise. 

Thanks to James Coleman @jhc for making the profile photo for this post available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/6n44KH_lEoE

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

Perspective in Brush Strokes

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.

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.