Part 3: Chapter 2 – Day 3: The Greatest of these is Love

Welcome to Day 3 of Part 3‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing our third free will offering of goats’ hair (cursed sin offering) in a testimony to Christ’s mercy flowing in and through her Mum’s life and legacy of love. You can also listen to today’s post in the recording below.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (ESV)

When we buried my Mum, I glorified her as my idol of perfection and sacrificial living. But in the years since saying goodbye to her, more than anything, I’ve come to treasure her open confessions of sin and weakness in her final weeks on earth. It is the truth of Christ having become my cursed sin offering that I have most needed to deep down know, just as my Mum did in those final weeks especially.

When my Mum was dying, she shared of her failure to set and keep healthy boundaries, and how it damaged her emotional and physical well-being, inevitably also impacting her ability to parent us kids, as she would have liked to. She impressed upon my heart not to follow the “bad example I was to you girls”, to prioritize my own health and well-being as a mother, so I could parent my girls well. This piece of advice has so often encouraged me to listen to the Holy Spirit’s gentle and grace-filled promptings, to surrender my religious striving and to enter the rest of God.

My Mum also shared of having failed my little adopted brother. She spoke of her regrets in punishing him, when in hindsight, what he had needed most in that place of rebellion was someone who stilled to notice what lay beneath: the trauma and heartache of his past. But in her own pain and frustration, as this little boy she longed to bond with and love as her own continually rejected her moves toward him in love, her heart had hardened.

My heart still grieves for my little brother, as he continues to heal, but now, I also see the beauty God brought through the unfulfilled ache my Mum carried for so many years. For, my Mum reached out to love and care for numerous other little children that others couldn’t cope with, in the years thereafter. She was known as the preschool teacher to give the “difficult kids” to. And she was also known for coming alongside the parents of these “difficult” kids. Several of the parents of these kids were going through really hard things themselves, many of them being solo-Moms.

I have no doubt that the ache in her heart from her experiences with my little brother drove her to give love in places she never would have otherwise gone. I believe this ache compelled her to love children and parents the world had turned their back on and to study counseling in her final years on earth. Something that also encouraged me to seek help, when I first began to experience the symptoms of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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

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

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

That lifted social filter also helped my Mum to speak the truth to someone whose actions had placed our family in a very stressful situation, upon our return from the mission field. All those years the betrayal she had felt had deeply hurt her heart, just as many other things had done that she had chosen to sweep under the carpet to “do the right thing”. My Mum showed me the importance of God’s command to us through His Word, not to sweep things under the carpet to be “good Christians”, but to let the sword of truth bring true peace and not a worldly peace, built upon hiding behind masks.

As Ephesians 4:25 (ESV) puts it:

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.

Now, I am learning to put her example of true godly peace making into action. It has been an incredibly painful experience at times, even leading to a loss of some friendships. But I am also seeing how it is reaping the fruit of true peace in my heart and in my relationships.

I am seeing what a gift it is, not just to me, but to those who genuinely love me, when I choose to be real, rather than the “good girl”. It has also encouraged others to be honest with me, giving me the opportunity to grow up in the truth and grace of God.

And the friendships I have lost have truly been God’s gift also. They have opened my eyes to God’s protection of my heart, to His safe boundaries for me and my family and they have drawn me closer to God. Through each loss, God has encouraged me to bring my pain and every accusation of the enemy before Him, to allow Him to comfort me, cleanse me of all sin and to root me in the Promises of His Word.

It has been a slow process with this stubborn and slow learner. At times I have allowed the pain to compel me to turn back to “try and fix” things that God has commanded me to surrender fully into His hands. Thankfully, God gave me a husband whose strength is speaking the truth in love.

Slowly, I am learning to trust God’s living Word to me, above my own thinking, as He is transforming my mind to think like Him. The Holy Spirit is revealing the Word to me from moment to moment, helping me to set aside my religious thinking that would have me numb my pain, strive in pride and pretend to “be good”. The Holy Spirit is prompting me instead, through Scripture, to come boldly before the throne of grace in my time of need and to surrender myself and others into His hands.

God worked most powerfully in and through my Mum, when she was at her weakest. As she lay dying, unable to speak, eat or even wink, love poured out of her, through the palpable peace of God covering her. A peace that God used to open my own blinded Prodigal eyes to His love and mercy for me and my family.

As God went about healing my Mum’s heart in quiet and unseen ways, He was also busy healing others through her and He continues to do so today: through her very much living testimony to His love and grace. My Mum’s life shows me that when we give our lives to Jesus, it’s no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in and through us. Through us sinful and broken people who only see but in part on this earth. For, Christ’s life and love continually flows into and out of us, in ways I don’t think we will fully comprehend until heaven. But isn’t this foretaste already so glorious!

On Mum’s tomb stone, my Dad had the following quote inscribed from a dear friend of theirs: “When you were with Margaret, you knew you were loved.” And that love of God that poured out of my Mum, especially in her open confession of sin and weakness and her truth telling, is still wrapping around me as a warm blanket today.

It encourages me in my own weakness and sin, to draw near, to be honest and to choose to feel and process my emotions and experiences at the feet of Jesus. Yes, true love – Jesus and His Presence with us – never ends. Not even death can silence His Voice nor the steadfast assurance we have in Christ Jesus of seeing our loved ones again.

So, now, I do not make as much of my Mum’s sacrificial living as a missionary, pastor’s wife and as someone who poured herself out to help so many others in their need. I see her greatest legacy not being her sacrifice as a missionary or ministry worker, nor even her sacrifice as a Mom of six children (and that was no mean feat!), but rather, Christ’s atoning sacrifice for her and for our family in our weakness and need. For, Christ, our Potter, is still to this day making something beautiful of His jars of clay through His legacy of love in my Mum that shall never end.

2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV) But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Part 2: Chapter 3 – Day 5: Not by Might, Not by Power

Welcome to Day 5 of Part 2‘s Chapter 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering of gold in the form of poetry and a testimony to God’s perfecting power.

Draw Near


Grief waits upon
No one
It swells
And breaks
My placid perfect
Life awake.

Now spit
And foam
The Promises
Long hid
Come rushing
Crashing
Back to Life.

The longing
From my heart
His Promises
To know
Long hid away
In drawers
Fastened
Shut.

But as the waves
Swell
And break
The drawers
Loose
His Promises
To life.

My body, mind
And soul
In Spirit breath
Awake.

From deep within
The Living Word
Each Promise
Brings
In Holy Spirit breath
To sing.

For in grief's
Wake
My heart
Draws near
Christ's heart
To hear.

This childlike heart
In steadfast love is
Rootèd secure:

That I might
Taste and see
The width
And breadth
And depth
Of Christ.

At the end of 2014, the loss of my Mum weighed so heavily on my heart. Those last few weeks with her were precious beyond measure, as God revealed Himself to me in my and my mother’s weakness, bringing me home to Him through the touch of His Holy Spirit. But helping to bathe, feed and care for her in her last days left its toll on me.

I couldn’t shake the exhaustion felling my body daily, and when a friend sent me an email about God calling her to surrender to His rest, it affirmed what had been on my own heart to do: to hand in my resignation to my employer. In the coming weeks and months, that surrender made room for me to feel, what I had suppressed.

As grief rose up within me, so did the memories of the cancer’s ravaging effects on the body of my mother. Overpowering waves rose up and crashed over me: fear and unbelief shouted loudly at me. But as the enemy waged war for my soul, the Spirit of God arose to defend me. He did so through the Word of God.

I had been reading through the whole New Testament, with a small group from my little Anglican church, leading up to the Lent of 2015. As I read the pure pages of God’s Word, with no interruptions from commentaries or others’ interpretations, the Spirit of God spoke to me personally. He invited me to bring Him my grief and the Promises I couldn’t see Him fulfilling in my own life.

As I did so, He answered my deepest cries. Lifting every accusation against me by the power of His Word, He led my heart to repentance. He showed me that He had never abandoned me, or my Mum. He gave me beautiful visions that affirmed the truth of eternal wholeness and healing, and of His Promise to hold each one of us in His hands, that He might complete what He started in us, to set us before the Father, healed and whole.

Recently, as He brought all of this to remembrance again, I noticed that He was taking me through a similar process all over again. There are many things He has had me lay down in surrender recently, for similar reasons. As I have done so, the true desires of my heart have surfaced, as have deep waves of grief, as God has convicted me in my sin.

I have been waiting on God for something for seven years. But God has been waiting on me to draw ever nearer to Him in this, that He might reveal Himself to me there fully and wholly. Don’t get me wrong, I have taken steps in faith toward this Promise and have seen God honor these steps with beautiful glimpses of His coming fulfillment. But God rightly convicted my heart again recently, as He showed me that I have gradually become satisfied with the status quo.

In my horrid unbelief, I have settled for less, just as I have done in the past. I have placed before God lesser desires to fill the hole in my heart. And God has given me what I asked Him for, only to each time show me that it is not what my heart truly desires. In inviting me to lay each lesser desire back down again, He has been calling to me to bring Him my deepest and truest desires.

As He uncovered this all, He reminded me of those final weeks with my Mum and what moved His heart in compassion. It was not our strength, but our weakness: our realization that we could do absolutely nothing to save each other: me – my Mum from dying physically, my Mum – me and others from dying spiritually and being cut off from God forever.

As our lips were silenced, mine in overwhelming grief that no words could ever describe and my Mum’s, as the cancer took away her ability to communicate, the Holy Spirit spoke in power. For, God poured out His salving balm of peace and His heart healing power in our midst. He brought me, His Prodigal daughter, home and He lifted so many burdens from my Mum, bringing her home to heaven, healed and whole.

I now see how Jesus has been waiting for me to cry out to Him in my weakness, just as my Mum did, that He might bring me into alignment with His Word to me. He has not been ashamed of me in my unbelief, but just as the man whose daughter was dead did in the Bible, He wants me to cry out in Spirit and truth – “LORD I believe, but help my unbelief.”

All along, God has been inviting me to come, just as I am, without one plea, to the foot of the Cross. He has been inviting me to be made holy as He is holy – not in my striving, but by allowing His Holy Spirit to pour out upon me in compassion to do in and through me what I could never ever do in and of myself.

Now, thanks to His persevering mercy, I am bowing my knees afresh before Him in my need, crying out for His mercy to flow. It is this deep, deep gutteral cry for His holiness – the desire that breaks our heart the most, as we recognize our absolute inability to fulfill it – that breaks His heart the most when we fail to lay it before Him, asking Him to fulfill it.

For, Jesus is longing for us to become like little children before Him. He longs for us to believe that when we ask Him for bread, He will not give us stones, but He will give us Himself- our bread of life – the free gift of faith to meet us in our unbelief.

If you recognize yourself in my struggles with unbelief, will you join me in kneeling before our Maker today, that in our weakness, His power might be perfected?

Father, thank You for Your Word that promises us the pure of heart shall see You. Thank You that Your Word to us reminds us that the pure of heart are those whose hearts have been washed in the blood of Your Son, Jesus, to uncover His holiness.

Father, forgive us, where we have clung to the enemy’s accusations above Your holy Word. Forgive us for not bringing you the deepest desires of our heart to be holy as you are holy. Forgive us for not acknowledging our unbelief before you. Forgive us for not believing that You are a good Father who will not give us stones when we cry out for bread.

Thank You that Your Word and our experience of your goodness and mercy in our lives, remind us that it is not by might, not by power, but by Your Spirit that Your Word to us comes to pass.

Father, we do not want our lamps to go out. We long to be prepared for the arrival of the Bridegroom – our LORD and Savior, Jesus. But we acknowledge now that we have allowed our oil to dissipate because we have failed to come to You in our weakness, we have failed to ask You to pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us. Forgive us. Today, we seek Your face afresh and beseech You to fill our lamps with the fresh oil of Your Holy Spirit and we ask You to keep turning us toward You that You may continue to fill us, again and again.

Thank You that we shall see the deepest desires of our hearts manifest before us in the unveiling of Jesus in our midst. Thank You that in our weakness, as our knees bow before You to acknowledge our imperfection and our deep desire for Your holy perfection, we shall see Your power pour out upon us.

Thank You that not one Word of Yours shall return void. Thank You that our hearts shall yet rise again, no longer chained to unbelief, but set free in Christ Jesus to arise with fresh faith to see Him- our Promise – come to life before our very eyes.

Thank You for Your tender mercies toward us. Father, today we stretch out our emptied hands and hearts, thanking You for Your pruning hands and inviting You to fill our hands and hearts anew with the fresh, warm manna of Your Word. We believe, Father, but help our unbelief!

In Jesus’ Name, we cry: Amen.

Living water rushes
Strong, crashing
My heart to search
And know
In waves of mercy
The blood of Christ
Still flows.

Before, behind
Beneath, above
My Savior sings
And calls to me:
"Draw near
And I'll draw near
To you."

Each day anew
My burdened heart
Christ draws near
In Word and Spirit
He beckons to me
Come.

It's now I know
In all my waiting
All along it's been
My God
Who's been waiting
On me.

To humble myself
To lay down
Every distraction
To bring Him
Not just a part
But my whole heart
To trust Him
When He says:

I will fight for you
You have only
To be silent
To be still
And know that
I alone am God!
I will be exalted
Among the nations
I will be exalted
In the earth.

About the Steward

In 2015 I was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a year after burying my Mum in the wake of her five month battle with glioblastoma multiforme. Then, this year a chronic heart condition was added into the mix.

But beautifully God is revealing these afflictions as His gifts in disguise. Through each surrender He is working in my heart, I am coming to taste His goodness in the land of the living, as He opens my eyes to that which is unfading and eternal: His love for us all.

May God bless you, as you gather with us and Him here. May we all see His face reflected in each other, in our pasts and present and our future. May He make firm the path beneath our feet. May He lift away every accusation of the enemy in the light of His love and grace for us and all His children. And may the word of our testimony to His love and grace in our lives and His blood shed for us all at the Cross overcome the accuser of our brethren, just as He has promised us in His Word.