Come Back, Daughter

This guest testimony is written by a blogging friend of mine, Lisa Anne Tindal who reminds me to look for God’s presence in the tiniest details of my day. She is a writer and painter inspired by stories of redemption. Her artwork can be viewed on her Etsy page or Instagram. She blogs at https://quietconfidence-artandword.blog. Lisa Anne is the author of a soon to be available children’s book, “Look at the Birds”.

 

With a burst of energy and a desire to clear the clutter, I gathered all of my collected feathers, and along with other found items, I stuffed them into the trash. I saw no need for what had become a little embarrassing, various corners, vases, books, and other spaces became the tucked away place for a feather and what I told myself was a God message. Quite often on my walks, I found a feather, gathered it up, and held it up towards heaven. I’d snap a photo and share it on social media. In my mind, I was sharing hope, I was urging others to be sure of the nearness of God. 

 

Nevertheless, in times of pandemic and cultural upheaval, confusion over my faith, I began to surrender my feathers. I continued to notice them; but, told myself I’ll leave it there for someone else to see,  maybe they need it more. Or could it be my thinking had become, “Maybe they will believe it more than I?” 

 

In a sense, I decided to give it a go on my own. Many plans were coming together. Art in galleries and a children’s book written and illustrated, of all things entitled “Look at The Birds”.  I suppose I believed it was my time to soar. I ran towards opportunities and I looked for more to come. I became less quiet about the talents God had given me and I struck out on my own greedy for more. 

 

My life passage is found in the book of Isaiah. If I’m honest, I chose this passage because of two words that felt comfortable,  so very well described the woman I felt I should aspire towards. I wanted to be quietly confident and although the confidence should have been in God, it had become myself and others on my path. A slippery slope when it comes to dependence, neither dependence on self nor others will keep us aligned with God. Quiet confidence led to sullen despondence. Quiet confidence led to a lack of motivation and bitterness over ideas and hopes not coming together.  Isaiah gives a stern warning against striking out on our own. Innocently enough, going it alone doesn’t always feel like rebellion. I am learning that any steps I take alone are not the steps God has for me. Perhaps in my exhilarant ability to soar, God would clip my wings, cause a difficult landing to humble me.  Naturally, I’d struggle with shame and remorse; but, this time, this daughter of God didn’t linger there nearly as long. 

 

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning[c] and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

 

But you were unwilling, 16 and you said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”;
    therefore you shall flee away;
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”;
    therefore your pursuers shall be swift.
17 A thousand shall flee at the threat of one;
    at the threat of five, you shall flee,
till you are left
    like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
    like a signal on a hill.

The Lord Will Be Gracious

18 Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
    and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.

 

 

“Come back, daughter” is front and center on my bulletin board. A conversation with a trusted friend, my counselor who knows all of my childhood and adult trauma. A wise and strong woman, consistently she lives out her convictions and without mincing words. I sat with her, my Bible in my lap and I told her, “I don’t think I understand Isaiah 30:15 in the way I should.” I asked her what she felt God wanted me to embrace. She answered, “Come back, daughter.”  Her eyes were kind, her reply was confident. Isaiah is warning against me running ahead of God’s plans and he beckons my return, calls me his daughter. The message for us all in this passage is God waits for us even when we act independently of His will. I imagine Him saying, I’m glad you returned, now rest and stay in step with me and let me show you my plans for you that you’ve yet to see. 

 

Victims of trauma have significant learned behaviors. We do not like to ask for help for fear that help will be denied. Often, we don’t acknowledge our need to be helped. Being helped looks like rescue and for many of us rescue came with a price, a fee we were required to pay with our tender physical selves. Women who have been abused by men do not respond well to demands, we fear manipulation or grooming in the guise of promises that won’t ever come true. 

 

But our heavenly Father is good, and He is none of these things. He loves to see us joyously soaring in fearless ways to accomplish glorious things. But he loves us too much to let us fly on our own. He knows we need the strength of His sure navigation and we need most of all the love and mercy we find tucked safely under the shelter of His wings. 

 

Have you tried flying on your own? Are you soaring too dangerously lofty?

 

Come back, daughter. Your father doesn’t want you to go too far alone.

 

Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of words, the understanding of your word, and the pleasant chances to express the unique voices we all own. Bless the reader of my story of wings and feathers. Open our hearts and minds to one another. May we learn and love as we soar. May we never fly alone. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Seeing With Christ’s Eyes

This is the second 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

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.