Yoke of Love


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.

The Alpha and Omega

Jesus has very specific instructions on where to go and where not. So, each place we are led to, even if it ends in a breaking, we can be sure, was always purposed by Him.

Jesus knew many Jews’ hearts would be hardened and yet He went to His own first. For that was always His plan: to restore the House of Israel unto Himself and to keep the covenant He had made unto them.

And yet it is because they did not at first receive Him, that the grace of God could be extended to us Gentiles:

John 11:11-13 ESV
He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Likewise, when the Good News we share today is not received in the places God leads us to, we need not fret and be discouraged. For, when one door closes, another always opens.

And even then, that place we have obediently left behind, has been surrendered into the hands of our mighty Savior. It’s not the end of the story for those we have given into His hands. Nor is it for us.

Just look at this beautiful Promise given to the Jewish people. That shut door upon their hardening hearts was never God turning His back! They may have stumbled, but held safe in the Promise, they could never “fall”, for their weakness and stumbling was always known by God and purposed to open the door to us Gentiles. An open door that would make His own jealous and draw them back home also:

Romans 11:11 ESV
I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.

Yes, God’s love is steadfast and sure. Nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus. I know it to be true. I only stand here preserved in the breath of God because my God could not forsake the Promise – His Son – in me. Every time I have stumbled, He has caught me in His grace.

Now, as I look back on the seven years since He brought this lost sheep home upon His shoulders, I see all the places God led me into and back out of with new eyes. I now no longer see them as my failings or proof that I don’t belong to Jesus.

I see them as tangible evidence of God’s sovereign completion. I see God purposely opening and shutting each door to teach me so much about who He is. And I see Him redeeming my past.

When I was little, I chose to see the closing door to His Word speaking through me, as His closing door to me and to those I loved, who He had called me to intercede for. And that decision to clothe myself in the whispers of the enemy had me pack my bags and leave my God, believing He had left me.

But more than twenty years later the Word I had spoken in obedience as a little girl, reaped the fruit of repentance for which it was sent. Not because I remained faithful but because of God’s faithfulness to us all. And right when that Word was received, my eyes were opened, as my Good Shepherd picked me up out of my thorn bush to carry me home.

Now, I can see that every place I poured out my heart in – His heart in me – He was ALWAYS present. For, I now recognize Him in the faces He set before me, in my own face, in our interactions with each other and even in our breaking apart.

For, He was (and still is) the:

  – living bread and living water in our hunger and thirst
  – the peace in our storm
  – the faith in our faithlessness
  – the mercy in our rebellion
  – the compassion in our pain
  – the surrender in our clinging
  – the wholeness in our brokenness

Now, I know that I will see Jesus fully unveiled in each one of us, when He returns. “Let us hold resolutely to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23, The Berean Study Bible).

And because of all these closed doors, I now know that my God is about to take His Word places it would have otherwise never gone. For, I do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of my God (Matthew 4:4).

Five years ago, He woke me up to read the story of Him feeding the five thousand and that very morning my then little three year old said: “Mama, Jesus is hungry for the bread and the fish.” She affirmed what God had spoken to me.

There were 12 baskets left over on that day Jesus fed five thousand with the lunch the little boy gave Him. 12 baskets filled with bread and fish. Jesus told me: “Anna, don’t you see? I am already with the fish. My broken Body is already lying right next to the fish.” And those 12 baskets are the 12 tribes of Israel.

Did you know my father-in-law’s name means “exalted Father” and my husband’s name means “behold a Son” and my name means “grace”. Each of us carry names given to important Jewish men and women. Even in that I see God speaking of His Promise of restoration and redemption.

This is the tenth 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

Train Up A Child

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)

I grew up in faith. Child of Kiwi missionaries to Germany, whose hearts beat with the love of and for their Lord. They brought me, my two sisters and my three brothers up in Christ. We tangibly experienced the presence of God in and through them – precisely also through my parents literally leaving everything behind to follow their LORD. 

I knew with one hundred percent certainty that my God existed. But despite this certainty I turned my back on Him more and more in my teenage years, as I exchanged God’s understanding for my own. Did my parents then not “train me up in the way [I] should go? And what is exactly “the way [our children] should go”?

When I returned to faith, with a one year old and four year old daughter, I dug deeply into this Proverb of King Solomon’s. It is then I discovered that for the Jewish people this Proverb called them to celebrate their adolescent child’s God-given calling. 

I learnt that it had much more to do with releasing our children into God’s hands than trying to mould our children to fit our way of thinking and doing things. The “way [our children] should go” is thus the path our God has already planned and chosen for them. 

Just as with Peter, Jesus prayed for me so that my faith would not fail, also through my parents’ many tearful prayers, even before Satan had begun to sift me like wheat and I began to turn away. And just like Peter, I have been rooted more deeply in my Lord precisely through the humbling knowledge that it is (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV): “by grace [I,] have been saved through faith. And this is not [my] own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Unlike when I was little, I now know that Christ’s power is made perfect in my and others’ weakness. I now know that the fear of man and pride are no match for our sovereign God.

He was never ashamed of my need for Him and still isn’t. For, from the very moment He called me, He knew my every weakness and how He would break it open and harness it for good, for me and for others, through my testimony to His goodness and mercy.

Now, God has given me physical evidence for His Promise to us, that when we give our hearts to Christ, He remains faithful to us in our faithlessness because He cannot disown Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). For, when we give our hearts to Jesus, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13-14 (ESV) puts it this way:

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

So, how do we “train up a child in the way he should go”? I believe, by placing them in our God’s hands again, again and again. By living in communion with our Savior and allowing Him to shape our prayers, thoughts and actions through His living moment-by-moment Word to us. 

God invites us to listen for His plan and purpose for our own and our children’s lives. A plan and purpose that will most definitely call us to lay down our own expectations and understanding to arise in Christ’s. Again and again.

My parents kept praying for me all those years. On my 59 year-old mother’s deathbed, as she surrendered absolutely everything to her LORD, I came face-to-face with the One true God. Through the palpable, gentle and loving peace of the Holy Spirit that fell upon my mother and myself, my hardened heart was broken open. 

As my mother experienced the kindness of our God, that led her to so much repentance and freedom in her final months, so I too experienced that same kindness through the power of the Holy Spirit falling upon her, and upon me.

In those final months of my Mum’s life, God gave me palpable evidence that He is never absent to us in our suffering. He showed me how He works in and through it to bless us and draw us ever closer to Him. He began opening my eyes to His Presence. Now, I have come to see and celebrate His fingerprints all over my life and the lives of those I love.

I had forsaken His call to continue interceding through the pain of watching loved ones suffer. I had turned away to numb my pain in sin. And yet, Christ continued interceding for, in and through me: lovingly guiding and shaping me through all those years I wandered in my blindness.

So, you see, my parents did train their daughter up in the way – God’s Way – she should go, from the very moment I was conceived. And therefore I have not departed from it. 

For, my parents chose to put their trust, not in their own “perfect” understanding or their own “perfect” parenting, but in our truly perfect God and His truly perfect love. In our God whose power is made perfect in our every weakness. 

Thanks be to God to whom all glory and honor be, forever and ever, Amen.

Father, thank You for Your precious Promises to us. Thank You that You are the God who loves to awe us with Your sovereign display of power in and through our weakness.

Father, I ask You to send this Word out to parents who are discouraged today. Discouraged, believing that they have failed You and their children. Remind them that their and their children’s weakness is a gift. A gift given to display the wonder of Your perfect love for us and Your unending faithfulness to us.

And for all returning Prodigals, I ask You to open their eyes, just as You have and continue to do my own, to see the fingerprints of glory all over their lives. Show them how You were preparing them for the calling upon their lives. Show them how You were opening their eyes and hearts to receive You in places they never would have otherwise gone. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.

This is the ninth 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

I AM

Dreaming again
Pursuing through
Fear and doubt
Broken open to
Arms humbly lifting
A Body wholly
Healing
I AM.

Dreaming again
Seeing my past
Present, future
On the Cross
Every weakness
In power perfectly
Yielding
I AM.

Dreaming again
In celebration
My Promise lifting
Fanning the flame
A hope and a future
Our night sky
Blazing
I AM.

Dreaming again
Remembering
Each and every
Part of the story
Past, present and
Coming again is
Singing
I AM.

Love Conquers All

A phantom pain
Still pierces
Gnawing my resolve
Though dead to sin
My past still calls me 
Lie down in shame
To mocking tongues 
Telling me I'm captive
To what's no more.

I shift and fidget 
Nervously
I use my tongue
To defend myself
And those I love
Yes, I subdue 
The phantom's pain
But only now behold   
Not freedom's portion
But fear and shame
My lot becoming.

I've wrapped myself 
In changing
Worth of man
Mocking
Never-changing 
Perfect Love
In me.

But then
I see
The One
Who silent stood
So safe, secure 
In His Father's love
He walked toward
The Cross
For me.

The One who
For the joy
Set before Him
Bore my sin
On a Cross
Esteeming not
Its shame
But declaring
In His surrender
The weight of glory:
That love
Conquers all.

Stripped naked 
And there pierced  
He chose to die 
That I might not
Stay chained
To fear and shame
But tethered to
His love and mercy:
Go free.

So, I take up
My Cross
Dying to the old
To rise anew
To life everlasting
Joining Christ
In His death
And resurrection.

I look upon this King
All our sins
See covered pure
In grace's veil
He's borne our sin
And all our pain
Perfecting us
In weakness
That I might now 
Walk free.

Yes! I am free
To clothe myself
In the Good News
Of the Cross
To run, unashamed
And unafraid
To boast in the grace
That sets us free
To die to sin
And live unto Christ.

So, I yield to love
In silent witness strong 
The Word in me
Securing
My righteous path
Yielding me
To join Christ
In His death and
Resurrection
Set free.

To no longer walk
Away from this world
In seeking the living
Among the dead
But to follow Christ
Into the world
To be sanctified daily
In my Living Word
To recognize
Each one He's sent me
As not of this world
But His.

May I now become
Who Christ
Always created me
To be
His Anna, His grace
Sent from the womb
Into this aching world
To go
To immediately recognize
Him - our Messiah -
In the least of these.

May I now ever declare
In my weakness boasting
Christ's Perfect Love
Conquers

All.
The final birthday card my mother penned, less than two months before she went to be with Jesus.

“This kinship-of-calling was sufficiently strong that—as in the incident at the temple at age twelve—Jesus risked giving offense to his natural family by affirming the priority of his heavenly family. Nothing took primacy for Jesus over surrender to the loving will of the Father.”

“Our self-in-Christ is a self that fits perfectly because it is completely us. It is a self that allows us to be free of all anxiety regarding how we should be and who we are. And it allows us to be absolutely our self—unique not by virtue of our strivings for individuality but profoundly original simply because that is who and what we are.”

David G. Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery, p.91 and p. 95

“The Lord may very well keep you on the outside of a person or group as a way of guarding your own heart. As hard as it is to believe this in the moment, sometimes we must accept, as my friend Salena says, that rejection is God’s protection from what isn’t in our best interest. As we struggle to hang on to hope for finding where we belong, we can absolutely believe that God hasn’t saved his worst for us. We can be for ourselves by trusting him to place us with those who will feed, honor, love, and serve us best as we reciprocate those actions to those folks too. If you are on the outside somewhere, God is simultaneously calling you on the inside somewhere else. You are on the inside somewhere else. Remember, there’s always room at the table God picks out for you.”

Kirsten Strong, Back Roads to Belonging: Unexpected Paths to Finding Your Place and Your People, P.141

Sovereign

(drafted 2017, completed 2021)

Gather, You tell me
Gather, my broken dreams?
Gather, my heart broke in two?
Gather, all I've poured and emptied out?
Gather, here my broken self?

What do I gather?
When all I have is broken
Shattered?
Mara, she said to call her
Mara is the word I'd choose
A bitter hand dealt.

Gather, You tell me
Gather, Your tears here for me wept?
Gather, Your heart here broke for me?
Gather, all You've poured and emptied?
Gather, Word made flesh?

It's then I see You
There beside me strong
Hand in mine
Walking to the Cross

Your Body broken
Shame and mocking
On You laid
Pierced and bled in pain
In the tomb You lay.

Till Your heavens
Darkness rent
Curtain raised,
Now in two
I hear You rip.

Christ, You raise
My broken life
In the breaking
Of Your Body
Me from my tomb
In life unwrap
Your songs are releasing me
My human soul
You awakening
Breathing whole.

Embraced in love
Steeled in truth
Sent in Grace's
Own true Breath
Into Your world
Yearning for You:
I AM mercy's hands
And mercy's feet.

Broken,
You make whole again
Dark,
You shine our night to Light
Tears,
You cup and pour to Joy aflame
Fear,
You still in Perfect Peace
Our feet,
On righteous path
You tread
Sure and steadfast
Held.

Gather, You tell me.
YES I shall gather
The tears You wept for us.
The heart You broke for us.
All You've poured and emptied into us
Your Body
We shall now receive
For The Word is made flesh.

Garden of My Lord
Enclosed and sealed
For a time such as this
Your spring, You are breaking
Your fountains
Are crashing and pouring
For, Your Love You've gathered
Now to rush and pour
Sovereign
For Your own delight in us.

Thank You, Jesus!


“You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain” (Song of Songs 4:12).

Beautifully Resurrecting

Taken out of their midst
God asked him: "return"
And he full of fear cried:
"But what shall I tell them."

I AM WHO I AM

Drawn out of water
In a basket
Wonderfully and fearfully woven
God's people out of Egypt to lead.

Not his own merit
But the Voice
Of I AM WHO I AM
Slavery's heavy yoke would lift.

Not just his people's
But his very own heart
Breaking in mercy.

Into a desert
The Living Word led them
Rejected, spurned and maligned
The Spirit ever interceding.

The Promised land
Moses saw from afar
And trusted by faith
Would one day be his.

Through all the pain
Of the desert
Overshadowed in mercy
By day.

Through every failing
His heart aflame
In the jealous fire of God
By night.

And yet
In Moses' rebellion
His Promise was buried
On a mountain.

But to the mountain
Moses one day returned
With his I AM WHO I AM
Standing, before a Cross.

For, Christ walked
To the Cross
The joy set before Him
His children set free.

Sin and pain
In grace He exchanged
The Promise once buried
In Holy breath resurrected.

And now the seed of life
In all of God's children
Once buried
Shall yet rise to life.

For the Promise buried
Is not dead
But in Holy breath
Beautifully resurrecting.


Hebrews 11:23-29, 39-40 (ESV) By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned . . . And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Matthew 17: 1 – 3 (ESV) And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.

Deuteronomy 33:18 – 19 (ESV) And of Zebulun he said, “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out,
    and Issachar, in your tents.
 They shall call peoples to their mountain;
    there they offer right sacrifices;
for they draw from the abundance of the seas
    and the hidden treasures of the sand.”

Isaiah 9:1 (ESV) Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.

Trembling Awe

Oh my heart
So worn, so torn
Emptied of all
No more to give.

Kneeling here
At these Your feet
What do I have
To offer You, my Lord.

"My child" I hear
Your gentle Voice
"Here at My feet
You have given all.

"An offering
Of poverty
But more
Than ever before.

"Shed here your clothes
Of old
Let me clothe you
In all newness of Life

"A living Hope
An inheritance
Imperishable
I am your crown.

"Behold, the new has come
Shed here the old
Arise in Me
Truth kissing grace.

"Stand in the light
Of My morning sun
Shining ever brighter
Till the full light of day.

"I have not left you orphaned
My Living Word
A lamp unto your feet
And a light unto your path.

"Behold
Do you not perceive it?
My way in the wilderness?
My rivers in the desert?

"For, my righteousness
Within I have forged
My burning fire all dross
In jealous love consuming.

"Refining
To silver
Testing
Unto gold.

"In My streams of life
Your trembling heart
Shall now rest
In my love One.

"My vine
Not in one, but each
And every season
Harvests.

"The rivers from my throne
Now streaming freely in you
Shall wash all devouring
And destroying tongues away.

"Here in my presence abiding
Your delight shall grow
In My delight
Abounding.

"My Spirit now revealing
A flood of beauty
All desires buried deep
Now powerfully unveiling.

"Promises true and pure
You shall speak
No longer in fear of man
But in trembling awe of Me.

"My Word in you
Not empty
But accomplished
Returning."

"In fruit for food
And leaves for healing
In My love abiding
And My life abounding."

Jeremiah 31:3
The LORD appeared to me from ages past saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you.

Psalm 16:2
. . . every good thing I have comes from you.

2 Peter 1:3
By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.

Answered Prayers

Today, my thoughts have turned to answered prayers. As I reflected on Easter, I thought about Jesus being the answer to generation upon generation of prayers. And how that answer to all those prayers came in such an unexpected way that many missed the answer. They missed our Savior’s coming, misunderstood or even helped bring about His death and couldn’t believe in His resurrection.

But what a gift Jesus was and is to those of us who, through the touch of the Holy Spirit, have recognized His coming, His death for us and His resurrection to give us new life. As we walk toward Easter weekend and remember Christ’s death on the Cross and His resurrection, may He open our eyes, ears and hearts to recognize the many answers to prayers He has brought. May we also become His answer to the prayers of others as we obey His calling. And may our ears continue to hearken to His promptings to pray in the Spirit for the return of His children and the coming of His Kingdom.

May the beautiful answers He brings us, through His Presence with us, also become answers for others also. May we share the hope and comfort He has given us with those He places before us. 

Happy Easter! As you celebrate Jesus this week, may this poem and song encourage and uplift you:

HOPE

Beckoning Hope

Where it was once want

Leading to Light we now see.

Always so near

He never abandons

Ever so patient, remains.

Sending 

His palm branch 

Blessed of grace that we are.

Coming in splendor

Sun streaming glory

Bathing us here in His Light.

No longer weighted 

Our burden Lifter

Always He’s breathing to Life.

Promise in bruisèd

And smoldering wick

He will not break or snuff out.

Justice He brings 

In captives He frees

Hope’s strong Voice in us lifts.

Thankful we raise

Our anthem of praise

Casting abandoned our cares.

Raising His children 

Hand lifting faces

Shining, His radiance us glows.

Broken, victorious

Guilty, forgiven

No longer shame, here our name.

Called and He’s chosen

Redeemed and belovèd

Nothing His love can destroy.

All dark and hopeless

Purposed for Living 

Christ in us be raised.

Our eyes He gives us

“It’s finished” gifts us

Whole and His Perfect to see.

Cocooning safely

Releasing gently

Wings in His timing unfold.

His thoughts above ours

Master’s own brushstrokes

Poema loved, we are His.

Let us not draw back

Hide or strive fearful 

But come as children restored.

He will not shun us

Remove or shame us

But only break open to Life.

Give thanks for the bread broken 

His Body saved us

Living, His blood in us streams.

Every tear 

And every ache

Sin and our weakness, He’s borne.

Search here and know us, Lord

Let Your holiness draw us

Your will in grace, Christ fulfill.

Send us and teach us

Cross here to carry

Your Kingdom come to proclaim.

Comforted, comfort 

Loved first, we love

All You have given, we shall release.

Sharpened by iron

Hands clasped together 

One in Your Spirit: we each belong.

Let us not shirk 

Or fear filled withdraw now

But in Love’s own perfecting grow.

Our battle He’s won 

Our hearts now are His

Nothing shall stand in His way.

Heaven rejoices

Cheering us on

Hope beckoning us homeward.

https://youtu.be/F8iveLWYkZE

Seeing With Christ’s Eyes

This is the second 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.

One of the ways God helped me to see His fingerprints over my life, was when He drew my attention to the names given to His people in the Bible and the meaning of these names. He asked me to study the meanings of my friends’ names through the years I had walked through loss and trauma, when the seeds of doubt began to root in my heart and I began to believe my accuser’s lies: that God had deserted me and left me wandering in my pain alone.

As I share what God showed me, may you too be able to look back on your life with new eyes and see His presence with you, where you couldn’t see it before. May the testimony of His faithfulness to me, in my own unfaithfulness, wrap you also in the compassion and unending mercy of our God. May He give each one of us new eyes of faith to see our life through His eyes of love and truth. May He strip away the sin that is keeping us in chains of fear, shame and unbelief, to reveal His new life and eyes of faith in us and through us.
When my parents decided to return to New Zealand, after almost six years as missionaries and church planters in Germany, it meant saying goodbye to the only place I could remember as home. On the eve of our departure, my elementary teacher gave me a goodbye present. A heart-shaped book, composed of threaded pages full of poems, messages, photos and drawings. Each classmate had created one page, but the page that is now engraved upon my memory, is my teacher’s. On her page there was a sketch of huge hands, palms wide open, holding a little sparrow.
That first year in New Zealand, I felt so out of place, with my strange accent and different way of speaking and doing things. Seeing my parents struggling with so much too, I shared very little with them, trying hard not to become an added burden to them. But God saw my need and gave me a new friend, who loved the LORD with childlike fervor.
What did her name mean?

Being a derivative of Thomas, it meant twin and “appears to be related to the Greek noun τομη (tome), meaning a cutting or cleaving, which in turn comes from the verb τεμνω (temno), meaning to cut or cleave.” (Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Thomas.html#.X7x7Hjm0s0M).
It’s only now I see how, just as with the disciple Thomas, God was inviting me to come to Him just as I was. He was inviting me to let Him cleave me unto Himself. To let Him engrave His Word upon my heart, as He beckoned me to enter into His suffering. Or as Peter puts it in 1 Peter 4:13 (ESV): “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s suffering, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”
Although she only stayed for a year, God invited me through this friend to touch His nail-pierced hands and wounded side, to remember that His power is perfected in our weakness. Now, looking back, I can do so. I can rejoice that Christ found me worthy to suffer dishonor for His Name as a little girl, as I spoke up for someone who could not speak up for himself, and was turned away. Repentance for the harm that was done in that turning away came more than twenty years later, affirming God’s call all those years ago to me to speak up and to pray. All these years later God is stripping the lies of abandonment, and affirming me as His.

Visiting the birth family of the little boy that I later spoke up for. I was nine years old, when this photo was taken.

As trauma began to infect my mind, I was bathed in feelings of shame and unworthiness in my sinful turning away. Right into all that God gave me a new friend. This friend openly shared her weaknesses with me and God’s nearness to her in it all, inviting me into a deeper walk with God.
I remember my hunger and thirst for God growing. I remember moments of worship, where the Spirit of God descended powerfully, overwhelming me in kindness, gentle conviction and stunning grace. I remember the joy of my baptism at 12 years old.
But I also remember never fully being able to shake the ever returning cloak of shame in my teenage years. Now I know what lay at the root: sin. You see, I failed to pluck up the courage to confess a secret sin I felt terribly embarrassed of, a sin that kept me in chains to pain and shame. This was one of several sins I engaged in to try and numb away the pain of watching someone I loved be repeatedly harmed in the name of God. It was the sin of masturbation.
Rather than continue to bring my pain to God, I believed the lies of the enemy that the God who led me to speak up, had now abandoned me and the one I spoke up for. I couldn’t see anything change with my physical eyes and so, as I thumbed the Psalms with tears streaming, I clung to my pain as proof of God’s absence, rather than His invitation into the compassion and mercy He had for me, for the one I loved and even for those doing the harm, that they believed to be God’s will.
Praise God, as I turned away in my pain, numbing away my fears and my pain with sin, my Mum and her best friend began to pray. Seeing my confidence waning, as I retreated from life to hide behind books, they began to pray for God to restore my confidence. God heard these prayers He birthed in them, when He gifted me that dear friend, who openly boasted in her weakness to sing God’s truth over me.
While I did not continue to take up this repeated invitation into truth at the time, now, when I look back, my confidence is being restored in the faithfulness of our God in our own unfaithfulness, through this very friend. She is now proof of God’s compassion and mercy to me. Her presence in my life, reminds me that God’s mercies are new every morning. Now I know that in my struggle to come to Him, I can cry out and ask for His power to draw me to Him: not just once, but again and again.
What did her name mean?

God is an oath.
Years later, we moved towns and my father decided to send me to a non-Christian high school. Arriving in the second year at a huge city school, after four years at a little country Christian school, then still accompanied by my five brothers and sisters, and now alone, had me feeling insecure and out of place.
But even there God continued to sing His truth over me. A classmate welcomed me into her little group of friends.
What was the meaning of her name?

Bold kin or family.
God was reminding me that He is our Abba Father who boldly welcomes outsiders into His outstretched arms.
Months before this major transition and move, God also gave me another friend who would become my very best friend, and still is one of my two best friends today. Amazingly, our new home ended up being only a 5 minute bike-ride away from hers. She became one of our family and I became one of hers.
When I look back, I see God’s faithfulness to me in her friendship so much. She (and later her husband and children) never stopped loving me, welcoming me into their life and praying for me (and my family) through my long Prodigal journey home. Oh don’t get me wrong, she grieved behind closed doors and her heart struggled to understand the path I was on, but she stood by me, being God’s faithfulness to me in my unfaithfulness.
What is the meaning of my best friend’s name?

Little rock.
And what was the meaning of my elementary teacher’s name all those years earlier?

Downey one.
This is a reference to goat’s hair, a material that was once upon a time woven into the curtains of the tabernacle furnishings. A durable fabric, designed to sustain the frequent moves of the tabernacle through the wilderness. And here again, God’s hand is so beautifully present through my teacher.
In Exodus 35:26 we hear that: “all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats’ hair.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the Holy Spirit had stirred my teacher’s heart up to draw those hands with the sparrow all those years before. For, it’s almost as if she was spinning goat’s hair to cover and protect me, a living temple of the Holy Spirit, on the eve of my departure into the wilderness.
She was unknowingly preparing the Way for what is now becoming my calling in Christ, the meaning of my first two names, given to me in the womb.
What was the name my parents gave me?

Anna Louise.
These names mean grace and famous warrior. How can we become famous grace warriors? By receiving grace upon grace ourselves. For we love, because He first loved us.
I now see how God never stops singing the truth over us in every little detail of our life. Through every heartache, loss and trial He reminds us that, just as His eye is upon the tiniest of sparrows, His eye remains on us too. He never leaves or forsakes us.
For, He is the hand of power in our weakness. He is the hand of compassion, when we turn away in our fear and shame. He is the hand of family, our bold kin who claims us as His no matter where we go. He is the hand of truth, a rock and anchor for our slipping feet, even when we cannot see Him. And He is the One who can give us the eyes of faith to see and behold who He truly is – the faithful One – through all the trauma, pain and loss we walk through on this earth.

Come, let’s celebrate The Promise, Come, let’s celebrate the life of Jesus at work in us.
Those huge hands, palms wide open, holding that tiny sparrow are His promise to each one of us.
That He sees us and knows us. That He hems us in, from behind and before. That He lays His hand upon us (Psalm 139:5). That wherever we go, His hand guides us and His right hand holds us fast (Psalm 139:9-10). That no one can ever snatch us out of His mighty hand (John 10:29, Isaiah 43:13), out of the hand of the One who declares (Isaiah 45:5-6):
“I am the Lord, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me,
so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.”
As we reflect on Christ’s all-enfolding hands, His eye upon even the tiniest of sparrows, let’s invite Him to speak to us afresh today. Let’s invite Him to show us what He has in fact been singing over us all this time. Let’s ask Him to give us Christ’s eyes of faith in our need for faith.
What gifts has He been bestowing to you through the meaning of place names or the names of people on your and your loved ones’ life journeys thus far?
Father, today, we invite you to reveal Your character to us in and through our lives and the lives of our loved ones. Remind us of significant people and places in their lives and ours. Show us that no detail is insignificant. Reveal Your fingerprints to us today.
Show us how You are unveiling Your eternal Promises from Your holy and trustworthy Word in our and our loved ones’ lives. Open our mouths and fill them to overflowing with praise for the God whose eyes are ever upon His beloved creation and who never ever leaves or forsakes His own. Give us Your eyes of faith, hope and love. Help us remember that YOU see all things and all people and that when our hearts break, it’s because YOUR heart is breaking inside of us. Help us to come to You, just as we are, trusting in Your mercy, Your love and Your faithfulness to us in our unfaithfulness. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.