Defender True

God is asking me to publish this early. So, a week earlier than planned, here is Defender True: may God’s will be done through these words He has asked me to share.

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

Titus 3:5

 

Do you hear those voices too?

The ones that tell you

You’re not enough

You’ll never change

All you do is make things worse?

 

Do you hear the voice that follows then

The one that tells you

Defend yourself

Hold on tight

To who you

Wish you were

Lest he rips it from your weary

Tight-clenched hands?

Or the one that pushes you

To lie there in that bed

A bed that covers you in blankets

Grief, despair and loathing cruel

Chaining you to who

You believe you truly are

Lost

Forevermore?

Now, stop

And still

Feel an angel’s hand

Upon your shoulder

Warm bread

And cool water

Set lovingly before you

Hear his call

To rise, to eat, to drink.

 

Follow him out that cave

Feel the ground shake fierce

See the fire blaze hot

Let glorious truth

Shake off the dust

Burn all the dross

To reveal

The gold in you.

Now be still

And listen for

The whisper

For glorious Truth

Kissing

The kind, sweet

Gentle Voice of

Grace.

 

Feel those

Rushing waters pure

Waterfalls of grace

Pouring from your Savior’s mouth

Washing away

All that’s died

Upon the Cross

To now reveal

The lavish gift

Of Christ

In you.

 

Hear His gentle

Tender Voice

Unveiling

The many gifts

Hidden in

His heart

In you.

 

Beloved

Chosen

Holy

Pure

Purposed

True

You are His

Masterpiece.

Created anew

In Christ Jesus

You shall perform

The good works

HE

Has long

Prepared for

You.

 

No accusing tongue

Has power here

For God Himself

Has cast these columns

This Temple

Not of human hands

But with His own

Establishing

And strengthening.

 

For, it’s no longer you

Who lives

But the great

I AM:

Our One and Only

Slayer of all sin

Stiller of all accusations

Defender True.

 

NO sin is too bad, too shameful, too ugly for Christ to forgive. Never let the enemy convince you otherwise. Christ isn’t ashamed of you in your sin. No! His heart breaks for you. His heart longs for you to know the depths of His compassion and mercy. 

Sin is a disease every single human suffers from: yes, even Christians. But that’s why Christ came. Not for the (pretending to be) healthy, but the sick. To heal us from our affliction, piece by piece on earth, until in heaven we are fully healed and whole.

When I came home to Jesus, my dear friend Emily sent me this song:

God connected us on the internet, five years earlier, when I was a Prodigal. Em didn’t know my story, but she unknowingly poured out the love and kindness of Jesus over me from afar, through her open witness to her weakness and Christ’s power to save and heal her heart. Later, she would love and pray me through a time I wanted to take my own life, as the accusations of the enemy, that had me flee Jesus as a child, came back with vengeance. Jesus turned these attacks into a blessing; for through them He was able to uproot the lies and teach me how to resist the enemy’s accusations.

My friend Emily constantly reminded me through her own boasting in her weakness that without Christ (love Himself), no one is enough, no one is going to change and everyone will only make things worse. But, that WITH Christ, our advocate and our atoning sacrifice, who hasn’t left us, we are always more than enough.

Not only do we stand justified by the blood He shed on the Cross, we are also being transformed from glory to glory, moment by moment, to look more and more like Jesus. Through Christ, we in fact only make things more and more beautiful, through the blood of the Lamb and His testimony at work in us.

Our loving Heavenly Father is not ashamed of us or angry at us. He is furious at our enemy holding us captive. Unlike man, He knows exactly what we have been through and are still going through (Hebrews 2: 18, Isaiah 53:4). He also knows just how much our hearts yearn to do His will. And unlike man, He will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). Instead, He will move to defend us.

He will shake off the old, burn away the dross and cover us in the waterfalls of His love, truth and grace (Psalm 42). He will lead us onward into greater and greater freedom from sin and shame. Let us be encouraged in the truth that “Those who look to Him are radiant, and their face shall never be ashamed (Psalm 34: 5 ESV).

For, Christ has already paid the price for the wages of our sin, cleansing us by His blood from our sin. Washing us in the refreshing truth of His Word, He reminds us that we are not defined by any of the impurity He shakes off us and burns away. For, we are already clean by the Word He has spoken to us (John 15:3). When the Father looks at us, He sees Jesus. No, nothing can separate us from His love for us (Romans 8:35-39).

Every single day, every single moment, we can walk afresh into the new awaiting us because of His blood shed at the Cross for us.

Will you join me in prayer?

Thank You, LORD, that in our imperfection, You offer us Your own perfection. Thank You for Your never-ending loving kindness to us in our weakness and need. LORD, when we get discouraged by the truth of our sinfulness and our frailty, help us to remember the truth of the Cross. Help us to cast our burdens at Your feet. Help us to pour out our heart, allowing You to uncover any wickedness in us, to purify and cleanse us of our sin and to restore us unto Yourself.

When we are afraid and chained to shame, send out Your kindness and perfect love to cast out all fear of punishment in us. Help us to draw near to You with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our heart sprinkled to cleanse us of a guilty conscience and having our body washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22).

Help us to remember that: ‘The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day’ (Proverbs 4:18). Help us to remain ‘confident of this, that he who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 1: 6 NIV).

Forgive us for those moments we have turned away from You to hide our sins or have tried to defend ourself, allowing the enemy to make us believe it is our perfection that will save us, rather than Yours. LORD, we turn to You now, confessing our sins to receive your waterfall of grace, believing and trusting that Your grace is sufficient for us, that Your power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Thank You, LORD, that You are our Defender True and will always shepherd us in love, kindness, truth and grace. Father, I ask You to surround each reader of this post with brothers and sisters in Christ who openly boast in their weakness, confess their sins freely and give glory to Your saving power. And I ask You to pour back into Emily’s lap a pressed together and overflowing abundance of love and kindness – the same love and kindness You poured out upon me through her. Amen.

Be blessed in the knowledge today that His mercy is more. More than all our sins: past, present and future. More than enough to cover us in our nakedness of want and need. More than enough to hold us tight through any suffering that comes our way.

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.

Seeing and Perceiving

Come join us today for a poem, Bible story and prayer by my dear friend, Joy Lenton. Further below, you can find out more about Joy and the beautiful book this piece is excerpted from. My best friend and I will be working through this book during Lent. Maybe you would like to join us?

Seeing and perceiving

blind from birth
Bartimaeus still saw more
than the sighted ones
he was able to perceive
Jesus’ full identity

no hesitation
as he dropped his robe and ran
blindly through the crowd
following the voice of Christ
with his faith-filled heart alive

his seeing soul
rewarded with so much more
than he might know
as a full healing takes place
with vision restored again

the crowd are amazed
to witness the miracle
but will they notice
who this teacher really is
and all he is here to do?

more than that
do we see Jesus clearly
or is he blurred
mixed in our finite minds
in those spots which are blind?
© joylenton

Reading

Mark 10:46-52 ESV

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.”  And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”  And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”  And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

Reflection

I wonder how many of us would be bold enough to call out to Jesus like this. Perhaps we would hold back because of a lingering belief that we were unworthy to bother God with our needs, although Jesus has made us worthy by his grace. Or maybe we would shrug our shoulders and say, “You know what? I haven’t been healed yet and probably never will. This isn’t my day for a miracle.”

It is God’s will to make us healed and whole. The timing is up to him and our participation is required. If our vision of Jesus is flawed, or if we do not see ourselves as made worthy by God’s love, then we are likely to hang back and absent ourselves. May we believe that we, too, are promised recipients of God’s goodness and grace.

Prayer

Holy Spirit,

The story of Blind Bartimaeus suggests how our own spiritual sight becomes enlivened by your work in us, so that we are able to see Jesus for who he really is. Would you help us to take off any blinkers we might be wearing, and remove lenses dulled by false assumptions, as you also open our eyes to the wonder of knowing Christ for ourselves?

May we marvel at the miracle of seeing Jesus as he truly is: our faithful Friend, anointed Saviour-King and living Lord. And as you know him to be—an integral part of the triune Godhead. May we experience the joy of being invited into a relationship with the Father because of his sacrificial life on earth, and glorious resurrection after suffering death on the cross.

Amen



This post is excerpted from Joy Lenton’s newly released book, Experiencing Lent: Sensing the Sacred in Our Midst. She is a contemplative Christian writer, poet and blogger who has M.E and multiple chronic illness. Joy is also the author of Soul Shots, Embracing Hope, and Seeking Solace. She writes with a heart to encourage others, and to help reveal the life changing hope we have in Jesus. You can find Joy sharing her words of encouragement, hope and faith on her Words of Joy and Poetry Joy blogs.

The Greatest of these is Love

 

Today, rather than sharing a friend’s testimony, I am sharing my Mum’s story that is woven together with my own. When we buried my Mum, I glorified her strength, perseverance and love. But in the years since saying goodbye to her, more than anything, I’ve come to realize that what I glorified her for, was Jesus at work in and through her. It was Jesus, who continually turned the hardest paths my Mum walked, into stories of beauty, through His love.

So, in sharing some of my Mum’s stories and her impact on others, my prayer is that we will not see her as someone to glorify, but rather, as someone just like us, in whom and through whom we can see the wonders of God’s love and grace for us all. I pray that through her life, you too will recognize Jesus at work in your own life, reaping a harvest of love, when and where you least expect it.

When I was little, we lived in a small town in New Zealand. My Mum led a busy life, combining study at University with (at that point in her life) three young children under the age of 4. And yet even being so busy with her own life, God opened the eyes of her heart to see and serve others in their need.

She once read about more and more young mothers taking their own life in our town. These women died from the as yet little understood illness of Postpartum Depression. My Mum’s heart ached and my Dad shared how she stayed up the whole night pouring out her heart in prayer to the LORD. The very next morning she went from door to door, getting to know the young mothers in our neighborhood. My Dad said that after that night of Mum praying, the postpartum depression related suicides in our little town suddenly stopped.

I believe, it is no accident where God places us, nor is it an accident that those in need around us are so very often in a similar life situation to ourselves. My Mum didn’t know the ravages of postpartum depression, but she knew enough about the stresses of caring for young children and the impact of depression on loved ones, that her heart bled for those young mothers and their families. Love and compassion poured forth from her, from the very heart of Jesus in her, moving her to become His very hands and feet in her town.

When I was four, my parents moved from New Zealand to Germany, answering the call of God to share the Good News with those who did not know that a personal and living relationship with God was a possibility. For the first six months, this meant my parents and their at that point four young children under six, had to live in a campervan.

One day, my Mum invited an English family of four over for dinner, after church. I remember my Dad saying that they were so surprised to find that we lived at a camping ground. What I see so much in this is how God gave my Mum such boldness in reaching out from her position of weakness. Rather than hanging out in the shame of her own family’s poverty, she pressed into God’s riches, to give to others from her place of need. And God supplied in abundance, enabling His love to flow richly.

It reminds me that I too can trust God to supply more than I could ever think to ask for or imagine. I can reach out to others, when God prompts me to, not because I am so strong and able, but because I know my God will perfect His power precisely in my weakness and inadequacy. For, it’s not by power, nor by might, but by the Spirit of the LORD that Love Himself – God – is made known, in and through us.

When I was nine years old, my parents adopted my little brother from Romania. We had traveled to Romania several times before the adoption, my Dad having organized and helped carry out various aid trips after the fall of the dictator Ceaucescu. When we took my little brother home with us, it was two weeks before we moved back permanently to New Zealand.

My Mum was exhausted from the almost six years in missions and yet returned to a town far from her own family’s support. There, in this new town, she cared for us six children, the whole household and supported my Dad, in his new stressful and taxing position as the head of a Christian high school, while also filling in as a maths teacher for the school.

When she was dying, my Mum shared of her failings in parenting my little brother. She spoke of her regrets in punishing him physically, when in hindsight, what he had needed most in that place of rebellion was someone who saw the trauma and heartache beneath. She shared of her exhaustion, of her struggle to reach his little heart and the ache she had carried for so many years.

There have been many times, I have felt deeply grieved by the many years it took for restoration to come. But God is showing me that it is all just more proof of the persevering power of His love and grace. His Word tells us that He is not slow to save, as we deem Him to be, but that His desire is that not one of us should perish. Sometimes, a longer journey is necessary to weave His masterpiece, not just in us, but others through us.

As I have poured out my grief about the years it took, God has asked me to stop looking back in pain. He has, again and again, gently reminded me to look up at Him. He has asked me to see the beauty He has forged and still is forging in and through His love and grace to us.

Now, I see the beauty God brought through my Mum’s broken and contrite heart. And I even see the beauty He brought through the unfulfilled ache my Mum carried for so many years. My mother didn’t stay in a place of regret for the many years she was caught in blindness herself, but rather, by God’s great grace and His loving Word to her, she moved forward.

She sought and received my little brother’s forgiveness and God’s call to pray fervently for all the incomplete stories that made her heart ache. And I believe her hidden prayers, prompted by the heart of Jesus in her, are still being unveiled now, almost seven years later.

Looking back, I can now see that God’s timing in opening my Mum’s eyes to see what she couldn’t when I was little, was impeccable. I may share more about that another time. And all the years Mum’s heart ached in her blindness, God used for good. For, His love and grace continued to flow through my Mum, as it does through all of us in our seeing but in part and not in full.

In her search to better understand my little brother, my Mum reached out to love and care for numerous other little children that others couldn’t cope with. She was known as the preschool teacher to give the “difficult kids” to. And she was also known for coming alongside the parents of these “difficult” kids. Often these parents, many single-Moms, were going through really hard things themselves.

My Mum went from being a student Mum, to a missionary and pastor’s wife, to a high school teacher, to studying to become a preschool teacher in her later life. As she told my Dad, she began to understand that the early development of children is so crucial to their later development. Not surprisingly, she then progressed to studying counseling, realizing that many of the children she saw struggling had parents who were struggling too. Perhaps, she also began to recognize the support she too had needed as a struggling Mum back in New Zealand that she hadn’t dared to reach out and ask for.

I have no doubt that the ache in her heart from her experiences with my little brother drove her to give love in places she never would have otherwise gone. I believe this ache drove her to love children and parents the world had turned their back on.

God opened my Mum’s eyes to see my little brother’s rebellion with new eyes in her final months on earth. She wept and wept watching films of children who went through similar trauma to my little brother, who spent his first fifteen months in an orphanage, being given up mere days after his birth.

She shared how her counseling course exposed her to these videos, the very counseling course she had chosen to do to help others. But when she received her diploma in her final months on earth, she shared how she hadn’t realized how much healing her own heart had needed. But I believe God always did.

Beautifully the brain cancer she suffered from in her final months, took away her social filter and in fact helped her to speak up boldly and seek restoration. My little brother’s heart opened wide to receive the grace he had so longed for. And he in turn extended it to my Mum also, in great thankfulness to God.

God worked most powerfully in and through my Mum, when she was at her weakest. Even as she lay dying, unable to speak, eat or even wink, love poured out of her, through the palpable peace of God covering her, as I shared in my testimony last week. And I was not the only one to feel it or be blessed by it.

As God went about healing my Mum’s heart in quiet and unseen ways, He was also busy healing others through her and He continues to do so today: through her very much living testimony to His love and grace.

It shows me that when we give our lives to Jesus, it’s no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in and through us. Through us sinful and broken people who only see but in part on this earth. Christ’s life and love continually flows into and out of us, in ways I don’t think we will fully comprehend until heaven. But isn’t this foretaste already so glorious!

There are so many other stories I could share from my Mum’s 59 years on this earth, but I will end with a quote from a friend of ours, a quote my Dad chose to have engraved on my Mum’s tombstone. This man said of my Mum: “When you were with Margaret, you knew you were loved.”

 

Surely, as God’s Word tells us: the greatest of these is love. And who is love, but God Himself. The God who never stops pouring Himself into and out of us.

In His love, He makes something beautiful of each of our lives:

Love Never Ends

 

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

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

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

These monthly installments of my testimony are not just God’s answer to this deeper desire He gave me, but His answer to all of us. To all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives.

 

May your hearts be blessed!

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

2 Samuel 7: 22 – 23 KJV

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

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

 

 

 

Love Bears All Things

 

When my wounds ache and I tell God I can’t bear it, Christ’s love bears all things for me.

1 John 3:1 (ESV)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Have you ever stood looking up at a tall tree and seen a circle etched into the trunk or a kind of circular bump, where a branch was once cut off. That is a tree wound.

A photo I took in our local forest

Yes, even trees carry wounds. Next time you are near one, place your hands on the callus: the wound that has healed, but can still be seen and felt.

WHAT DOES A WOUND LOOK LIKE?

As children and as adults, we go through much wounding, just like these trees do. When we have already walked through traumatic (shocking or abusive) experiences in the past, this new wounding can be extra painful.

Have you ever been told you can’t do something because someone only sees your weakness and your struggles and not your abilities or calling in Christ? Have you ever been rejected, called names, treated meanly?

Have you ever not been chosen for a sports team or for a part you wanted to play or a task you wanted to do? Have you ever had the one you love and trust most, not show up for you, or not be fully there for you, when you have needed them the most?
That is a kind of pruning – a deep wounding – too.

GROWING IN GOD’S LOVE WHEN WE ARE HURTING

But how can we grow in God’s strength and love when we are hurting? That’s where Jesus comes in. Jesus carried our sin and the wounding of our hearts (our invisible disease) to the Cross, so that we would never have to carry that heavy weight ourselves.

So, every time something hurts us, Jesus is right there beside us. He wants us to come right to Him instead of holding in our pain and anger. He wants us to stop trying so hard not to think, do or say mean things. He wants us to be honest and tell Him everything, even things we feel bad about.

He is not ashamed of us. He hurts with us and invites us to call on Him. Jesus knows we can’t be good by trying harder ourselves, but only by coming to Him. When we do, He comforts us and helps us to love and forgive those who hurt us. And He helps us to confess our sins. Then His pure goodness pours out of us, without us even trying.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THE STRUGGLE

But can I tell you a secret? I sometimes forget that God wants to help me too. I start trying to be good all by myself. Then, I wonder why I am feeling so grumpy.

But do you know what God has started doing when I forget? He reminds me of a song I used to sing in Sunday school:
https://youtu.be/Hx3n53d3aH8

When I start singing that song, I remember that God is right there with me. I tell Him all about my pain, the things I am worried about. I begin to confess my sins one by one, asking Him to lift their weight from me. I stop trying so hard and let Him wash me clean and be good and strong for me.

Have a listen to that song today too and let Jesus remind you that He wants to be good and strong for you too.

JESUS IS OUR GOOD GARDENER

Strangely, wounding a tree, by cutting its branches, helps to keep it healthy and strong. A good Gardener will cut away weaker and dying branches, so they don’t snap in a storm and fall on our heads. But He also prunes (cuts away) healthy branches, so the tree becomes stronger, not having to carry so much weight.

Did you know that Jesus also talks of pruning in the Bible? He tells us that He is our good Gardener. So, like the good Gardener, He also cuts away weak, dying, and even healthy branches to make our hearts stronger in Him.

Sometimes this cutting away can feel like a punishment, but actually it is a sign that Jesus cares deeply for us. It may look like He is only cutting good things out of our life. But can you now see how He is actually making room for even more good things to grow in our hearts and our lives.

He is making room for Jesus to grow and flourish in us: the God who is love. A love that is patient and kind; does not envy or boast; is not arrogant or rude; does not insist on its own way; is not irritable or resentful; does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. A love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

JESUS IS ALWAYS SPEAKING, EVEN IN THE SILENCE

But what if we have called out to God, but He seems real silent? When my wounds hurt real bad as a little girl, I remember thinking: “God mustn’t love me, like He does others. He hasn’t answered my deepest cries, nor seen my many tears.” Maybe you know that feeling of abandonment – of feeling all alone in your pain- also.
As a little girl, I thought God was ignoring me, in my crying out. I thought God stayed silent to my many pleas. But now I know, He never ever stopped loving me or speaking to or singing over me: even the twenty plus years I turned my back on Him, as I hardened my heart in sin.

You see, He was speaking to me through the songs I sung, through the stories my Mum read me aloud at night, through the stars in the sky, the sunshine on my face, the butterfly that planted itself on my head, the leaves changing color in the fall, even through the meaning of my name and the meaning of my friends’ names each place we moved to.

And when all I could see was nothing changing in my circumstances in response to my many tear-filled prayers, He was working still. In my heart and in my loved ones’ hearts, until He then began to unveil His beautiful and much bigger answer to us all, twenty years later. An answer filled with a full measure of love, compassion and mercy that only God could give us.

JESUS INVITES US TO COME, JUST AS WE ARE

Will you join me this week in taking time to cry out to God, to tell Him all about your pain, your sins and all that scares or worries you? And will you join me in also taking the time to listen for His answer?

Get out your paintbrush, or pencils. Grab your soccer ball or your journal. Or put on your favorite song. Go for a walk. Or sit in your garden or look out the window at the sky. Or sit with a friend to chat about life. And listen. What could Jesus be wanting you to see, to know, to feel, to share, to do?

Record His answer to you. You can do that in any way you want. Journal it. Paint it. Draw it. Tell your favorite person about it. Dance it. Sing it. Oh how He loves to see you praise Him!

A PRAYER FOR TODAY

Can I pray for us all today?

Father, when we are hurting from all the cutting away, will You please remind us that You are for us and not against us? Will You remind us that You – love Himself – are here to hold us and heal us. Help us to come to You with our pain. Thank You that when we call on You, You always answer us. For, You are the God who is with us and never forsakes us.

Thank You that You are the Lord who comforts Zion and all who belong to her, through Christ Jesus. Thank You that You are He, who comforts all our waste places and our wilderness like Eden, our desert like the garden of the Lord; thank You that joy and gladness will yet be found in each one of us, thanksgiving and the sound of singing (Isaiah 51:3, Galatians 3:29).

Oh Father, thank You that You are not ashamed of us in our weakness or in our sin. We are so tired of all the ways we have tried so hard to be good for You. Will You help us to come to You just as we are?

We invite You to uncover the wounds we have hidden from You and to comfort us in our pain. We invite You to convict us of our sins and wash them away. We invite You to help us love and forgive others freely and without expecting anything in return. Show us the goodness You are growing in us through every wound.

When we forget You are with us and for us, will You bring songs to our mind and heart that remind us of the truth?

Thank You precious Jesus for who You are: always true, always good and always faithful to us. In Your Name we pray this now, Amen.

POSTSCRIPT: apologies for the delay in posting the final recording of this post. I was convicted to edit a portion of the text to rightly divide the Word of God. I have now rightly placed the focus back on honoring Jesus and His work of salvation in us, and not on honoring us for our crying out. Please forgive me for this error in my first version.

About the Steward

This blog is my way of giving back just some of the precious kindness, love, compassion, comfort and mercy my God has shown me. I am only its steward. Its content and direction are ultimately in God’s hands. Below you can find a snippet of my testimony, but a new chapter of my life testimony will also be published every second week of the month on this blog.

My name is Anna Smit. I first gave my life to Jesus as a four-year-old. My Dad recorded the moment in his diary, of how I wept in repentance at my sins and asked Jesus to come into my heart with no prompting from them as parents. 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 hardened my heart in sin. I believed the many lies spoken over me by my accuser. From then on, I went through life believing that 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 who loved me, as He loves me: in truth and grace.

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.  

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, I obviously didn’t know. His 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.

Since that moment, He has been opening my eyes to see myself and others through His eyes. He has been moving to slay each lie of the enemy through the power of His Word to me. He has been healing me from the trauma I walked through as a little girl.

He has been doing all this, not by sheltering me from trials and heartache, but taking me through them. He has repeatedly exposed me to triggers of past trauma, not to hurt me, but to uncover the enemy’s schemes against me and to heal me from the inside out. 

But He only began this process after almost a year of sheltering me in His love. He built me up on the solid foundation of Jesus, equipping me to resist the devil, so he would flee from me. He fed me His pure Word, began to root my faith in His character and presence in my midst, and (re)connected me with His Body of believers from around the world, who prayed me and loved me through the many trials to come. 

After building me up on the foundation of Jesus, He repeatedly led me into places of darkness to shine His light on the darkness in my own heart, to separate me from it and define me as His. In each of those places, I watched Him draw others into the light also, through the open repentance and boasting in my weakness He birthed in me. 

Now, through the many breakings, He has opened my eyes to see that I was not created to agree with the enemy’s lies and to lie down in a bed of shame. I now know He has created me, and you too, to arise. To depart under a new authority, yoked to Him alone. 

May you be blessed in this place. May you feel the warmth of His love, the light of His truth and the cloak of His grace wrap around you and rest upon you in this place.