Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine

Life is hard, so very hard. Oh yes, we know the truths of God’s beautiful Word, don’t we? But there are days the darkness presses in. Days our hearts, our minds, our souls struggle to breathe, to believe.

Where do we go on those days? When waves of crashing grief pull us under? When triggers of our past rip open deep wounds and leave us gasping for air? When it feels as if someone has strapped us into a frightening rollercoaster and our screams cannot escape?

Is there a place for us, for us wounded and broken, for us who have been told if we’d “just trust God at His Word” our storms would subside? For us, who run to hide behind closed doors, ashamed, weeping and fearful?

These are questions Bettie Gilbert, Anna Smit and their friends have wrestled through, lashed by the winds and waves of physical, mental and emotional turmoil. In Arise and Shine: Beloved, You Are Mine, a series of poetry, prayers and devotionals, we share how God has been meeting us right there. Not just once, but again and again. How He has been revealing hidden treasures in our struggles to breathe and believe.

These are treasures shrouded in the materials God’s people brought forward for the building of a Holy Temple centuries ago. Treasures now ready for the unveiling.

There is a place for us. Right here, right now. For the wind and waves, they define us as HIS. As fiercely loved, eternally chosen children of God, divinely called to “Arise and Shine!” 

Song of Songs 2: 8 - 17, ESV
The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he comes,
leaping over the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Behold, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away,
for behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away.
O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
in the crannies of the cliff,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.
Catch the foxes for us,
the little foxes
that spoil the vineyards,
for our vineyards are in blossom.”
My beloved is mine, and I am his;
he grazes among the lilies.
Until the day breathes
and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle
or a young stag on cleft mountains.

As the Lord calls us to Arise and Shine, He has let us know that we, His people, have now become His own dwelling place: the Temple of the Lord.  

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ 2 Corinthians 6:16 (NIV)

Is there a parallel then, between the setting up and arranging of the early Tabernacle and the building up of our souls, God’s Holy Temple, in Jesus Christ, today? We have experienced and still are experiencing it to be so. 

Come, let’s invite Jesus, through His living Word and testimony in us, to uncover our Abba Father’s desires within us. Come, let’s listen for the free-will offerings of His grace that He is calling us to bring forward to Him today, so that we may obey Him and see the unveiling of His new Temple in our own physical bodies and in His unified Body, His Bride, as a whole.

We invite you, through the poems, prayers and devotionals of Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine to take ahold of Jesus’ hand and our own. Come, let’s together discover and rediscover the power of:

  1. The Bread of Life to feed and sustain us.
  2. The Blood of Christ to move us to repentance and freedom.
  3. The Living Water of God to wash us in the truth and grace of God.
  4. The Fire and Salt applied by the Holy Spirit to purify us.
  5. The Breath of God to fill and empower us in our weakness.
  6. The Oil of God to anoint us in the presence of our enemy to taste and see the goodness of God in the salving of our wounds.
  7. The Sword of God wielded in and through us to cut through the lies of the enemy and see the deliverance of the Body of Christ.

Dear Lord,   

Take these simple offerings that you ask of us, and transform them into a sweet-smelling aroma where Your Truth will be clearly heard.  We pray for each child of yours You have led to read these words. May each one hear the calling of Your Spirit to join in with the offering of herself. 

Thank You for shining Your light on the dark places that You want to transform and redeem in our hearts.  May Your Spirit bring a beauty to Your people, and join us together as Your own Temple. May we hear Your call to us, as You ask us to show You our hearts, and come when You call.

In Jesus’ Mighty Name, 

Amen.

May you arise and shine in the light of Christ, for Beloved, you are the Lord’s!

Bettie Gilbert and Anna Smit have been compiling Arise and Shine to publish in a book (since 2017). But we both sensed God’s call to instead release the book He has been writing through us and on our hearts, these past few years, here at ShalomAleh.com. We will publish the poems, prayers and devotionals, piece by piece, as He directs us. You will be able to find these posts under the category Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine.

Christ’s Sufficiency

Is there a situation you are currently struggling with where all you see is your insufficiency? What if this situation is God’s invitation into healing, to open your eyes to see Him present, where you couldn’t see Him before? What if Jesus is about to bend our knees in awe of His sufficiency in our insufficiency, through your beautiful surrender in obedience?

In man’s eyes, Moses was the least likely candidate for leading the Israelites out of slavery. He didn’t grow up as one of his people, he had no status amongst his people, he had murdered an Egyptian, he wasn’t eloquent in his speech. And yet God chose him.

We often make much of the miraculous rescue of God’s people, as Moses chose to walk in surrender and obedience to his God. But if we look closely, we see that God’s preparation for Moses’ surrender and obedience began so much earlier. 

Put yourself in Moses’ shoes, knowing all we do today about the horrific impact of being separated from your birth mother at the young age he was. If we look closely at what happens in his adolescence, we see how Moses still has to grow in faith and trust and heal from the wounds of separation from his mother and family. 

We see this when Moses takes things into his own hands by murdering an Egyptian for his cruel treatment of the Israelites. Here, we see how Moses’ heart has remained with his own people but that he still needs to learn to trust in God’s justice, rather than taking matters into His own hands.

Years later, when Moses is living in the desert, after having fled in fear and shame in the wake of his murderous actions, God seeks Moses out and calls him for His purposes. This time, Moses learns, through God’s incredible patience and encouragement, to surrender his own insufficiency into the hands of his all-sufficient God. From a place of weakness and lack God calls and builds Moses up to become a hero of faith.

So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord was concerned about the Israelites and that He had looked [with compassion] on their suffering, then they bowed their heads and worshiped [the Lord ].
EXODUS 4: 31 AMP

Do you see, as I now do, how God was, in fact, not only redeeming His people from slavery, but also redeeming Moses’ own story? Do you see how He was opening Moses’ eyes to see Him present, where Moses couldn’t see Him before? I believe God was rewriting Moses’ story of trauma and sin, into His story of steadfast love, mercy and redemption. 

I believe that now, Moses could finally see that as his mother laid him in the basket she lovingly wove to protect him and keep him warm, that neither she nor their God were ever abandoning him. I believe he could finally see how God had in fact compelled his mother to yield him up to a love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. A love that never ends. 

Jochebed trusted in her God’s sufficiency in her own insufficiency. Just as her precious son would one day learn to do also. Moses continued in his mother’s legacy to God’s goodness and mercy. A goodness and mercy that still follow each one of us – God’s precious children – all the days of our lives.

Father, today, we bring before You each situation in our lives, where all we can see is our insufficiency. We thank You for Your sufficiency in those situations and we invite You to open our eyes to see Your Presence with us in these places of Your divine will for us.

Thank You, that You are our great Redeemer. Thank You for awakening our hearts to rest in Your great and precious Promises through these trying circumstances. Open our eyes to the healing You are wanting to gift us through these situations. Bring past situations to remembrance, where we could not see You and reveal through these new situations just how present You have always been to us.

I invite You, this very day, to bend our knees in awe of Your sufficiency in our insufficiency. Open the eyes of our hearts to Your living and active Word and set our hands and feet to move at the sound of Your Voice, to walk into Your redemption. Thank You that even as I pen this prayer, You are rewriting our narratives of trauma into stories of joy, peace and hope in You. Father, wrap others in Your compassion and mercy in and through the redemption You are bringing in our lives. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.

Is there a situation you are currently struggling with where all you see is your insufficiency? What if this situation is God’s invitation into more healing, to open your eyes to see Him present, where you couldn’t see Him before? What if Jesus is about to bend our knees in awe of His sufficiency in our insufficiency, through your beautiful surrender in obedience?

Faithful Father True

We the faithless turn away
But our Father,
He the Faithful, does remain
For He can never, ever
Disown Himself.
When heart He opens
To confess Him Christ as Lord
There He does bind us to Himself,
Promise spoken:
Work of faith He will complete.

No weapon forged against
Can ever prosper
He holds us fast
Even when we turn.
Lies may lash and whip
Hearts begin to doubt,
Hardening where once soft and true
And yet He holds us fast.

Each cell and fibre
Woven there in mother's womb He knows,
His Word made flesh did bleed
Not just for sin, but for each shard of lying lips
Sown in accusing shame and fear.

His compassion faileth not 
His mercies they still fall
Each morning dew anew
For blood did flow to silence
Our accuser's many schemes.
And so our Faithful Father, He does wait
Love so kind, love so patient
He faileth not.

Each cocoon
Bound and silenced
Waiting there in dark of night
Yet to reveal Christ's final Masterpiece.
Truth and light sent forth
Before each child of His so dear
Holy Word falls afresh
Now dew on tilled and yearning hearts.

And just when all hope seems so far,
Precisely there life begins to birth,
Small green shoot
He buds, growing ever stronger.
That once so tiny mustard seed
Sown so long ago
Broken open wide, multiplied to life,
Strongly rooted, firmly planted.

Now when same winds and storms
Do lash and whip
Faith no longer waivers
Heart no longer hardens shut.
Instead each lash and whip
Do now reveal
Fresh green leaves and fruit anew
Breaking open, death to life.

These new leaves
They will wither not,
Nor will their many fruits ever fail.
For now fresh waters flow
From Sanctuary High.
Fruit of heart's delight
Promise spoken powerfully birthed.
Leaves now balm to heal
Wounds so deep, tended gently whole.

For our Father
He has promised
To seek the lost
Bring back the scattered
Bind up the broken
And strengthen there the sick.
Filled with compassion
He runs toward,
Kindness to repentance leading.
Arms wide open to embrace
Long lost son and daughter
Home.

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

The Great I AM

Turn not back in pain
But in who I AM
Watching over every step
Before, above, around
My everlasting arms beneath.

Turn not back in despair
But in who I AM
Restory-ing every little piece
Broken to whole in Me
Shining hope before you.

Turn not back in fear
But in who I AM
Entering every single accusation
With the truth of my loving Light
My sheltering wings above you.

Turn not back in shame
But in who I AM
Righting every single wrong
Thought, deed and word
My purifying robe wrapping around you.

For I am He who
Came, not to condemn but save
A well of living water
Springing up to eternal life
Come drink from Me -

The Great I AM.

Finding Life in Death

In honor of Mother’s Day and God’s gift of life, Anna asked her friend, Debbie, to (re)share her story of adoption, the earthly loss of her precious son and of finding life in death. This interview, for Wendy Simpson’s and Anna Smit’s joint blogging series Breaking Light, took place five years ago, but has been updated by Debbie recently. It ends with a prayer, written by the steward of this blog, Anna Smit.

Roma and Debbie

In these five years, Debbie and her husband, Bruce, have since moved from suburban Maryland to West Virginia. They see their three remaining children and ten grandchildren as often as they can. A sequel to her first book, But the Greatest of These Is Love, has begun in serial form with installments added each week. Follow her at her blog at Consider It All Joy for updates. 

1. Of all the characters in the Bible, who do you most relate to and why?  

I think Moses’ protest sounds familiar. “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13) I’ve said that too.

But lately I feel like Paul. Before his ministry, he thought he knew God. As a Pharisee, Paul arrogantly thought he was doing the work of God, getting rid of those pesky Christians. Then, in a sudden revelation, he KNEW Jesus. My journey into deeper faith felt that sudden. That could only have been achieved by the work of the Holy Spirit. I didn’t go looking for it. My “Damascus Road” experience changed forever my intimacy with God. It was like the scales fell off my eyes. 

And for all the efforts Paul made for the Kingdom, writing letters to encourage the new Church, trying to make God known to others, his confessions sound a lot like mine. 

“[…] I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out, I don’t do the good I want, but the evil I hate is what I keep on doing. Romans 7:18-19

Paul mourns of a “thorn” in his flesh that he cannot be free of.  God’s response? His Grace is sufficient. There will always be thorns, and God keeps reminding Paul, and me, how very much we need a Savior. 

2. What is one of your favorite Scriptures and why does it mean so much to you?

Matthew 16:24-25  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life  will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.'” NIV (bold and italics, mine.)

This is language we do not like to use.

Sixteen years ago, I half-heartedly participated in a small group study, Experiencing God. One morning while doing my homework, that verse jumped off the page at me. And it terrified me, because I instinctively knew God was going to demand something hard of me, something akin to “death” of my altar of Self.

God loves us too much to leave us where we are. The world tells us to celebrate ourselves, and to love who we are, that we deserve the best. Jesus’ words, however, demand radical change. God doesn’t want to compete with anything; He wants ALL of us, especially the parts we cling to.  For me, it was (and often still is) my god of Comfort. My easy life was put on the scales with my relationship with God. 

This theme of surrender is Jesus most repeated theme in the Gospels. To name a few more with this mandate of dying to Self: Matthew 10:39, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, Luke 17:33, John 12:24. There are others. It must be very important.

One of my favorite writers is C.S. Lewis. I love how he shares his journey from intellectual disbelief to finally knowing the Truth of Christ. In Mere Christianity, Lewis has captured this concept of surrender, this “dying to Self” beautifully, from Jesus’ point of view. 

“Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it.  No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”


3. What events, circumstances or struggles in your life have been and/or continue to be your deepest valleys? 4. In what ways have you experienced God’s nearness in these valleys? I’ve combined these two questions, because of continuity of my telling the story.

My journey to deeper faith began in 2000, with a sudden, surprising invitation, a whisper from God which shattered my comfortable life. As I write this, I recognize this was a “death” so I could be born again. How could I say no to God and stay connected to Him? That lonely valley of trying to say no to God lasted a year and a half.  

During that valley God revealed Himself to me in shocking and unmistakable ways.  He came with that theme of dying to self I had recently read in Matthew.  When presented with God’s plan, I was not so sure I wanted to be a disciple at all! God came making an seemingly impossible demand of me and I wanted Him to chose someone else. I endured a hard season of offering God suggestions of what I was willing to sacrifice in place of what He was asking me. But God would have none of my puny offers. He wanted all of me. He wanted my complete surrender. His command was that I must deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him.  But where He wanted to lead, I did not want to follow. 

What invitation did God whisper to my unreceptive heart? Adoption. 

It was a horrifying idea to me, as a happy wife and proud mother of three with a comfortable life. My life was perfect, too perfect to disrupt.

As the shocking theme of “adoption” morphed into an even more terrifying theme of  “adoption of an older Russian boy,” I wrestled with God over His unlikely and unwelcomed proposal. This valley became a season of preparation, when God revealed Himself to me in ways that strengthened my faith, and set me on a path toward Him, one tiny, hesitant step at a time.  

In 2002, armed with a mustard-seed of faith, God led us to  Russia to bring home beautiful, lively, seven-year-old Roma.  It soon became apparent that this little boy, this gift I tried to reject, was an extravagant reward for my meager obedience. We congratulated ourselves for saving this precious little boy. We couldn’t know how God would transform our faith using Roma. 

Roma

In the next season of  my life, my joy was complete. My family and friends had embraced little Roma from the beginning and watched him grow into a confident, charming young man. My faith was deep. And all was well in my world. 

In 2013, I sensed God dramatically moving in my life again. This time God’s movement came with a premonition of suffering. Dread and a hyper awareness of God was my paradoxical response. I knew whatever was in my future, I must cling to God. I thanked Him that this time I trusted Him without reservation.

In 2014,  my sweet, lovable Roma headed down a dark road of alcohol and marijuana abuse. But even in that valley, God was always close, and I experienced God’s grace in hair raising ways. And right before the challenges went into high gear,  I was told in a dream to “write it all down.” (Read the Hound of Heaven Winks to begin that miraculous series of posts.)

Every challenge we faced, I thanked God for the premonitions He had given me, because I was not caught off guard by surprise. Each time I was thankful, because the consequences of Roma’s rebellion weren’t too terrible. I kept telling myself, “This could be so much worse.” I thanked God for protecting Roma and revealing Himself to many of us, including Roma, who were watching the God Stories unfold.

But the foreboding continued. Roma wandered away from our family again in the middle months of 2015. I was powerless to change him. I had to turn him over to God. My friends worried that I wasn’t worried.  But if I truly believed what I claimed to believe, I wasn’t supposed to worry. I had put Roma in the loving and capable Hands of our Father God. “God loves Roma more than I do,” I would remind myself and others. But oh how I loved that boy! My peace was real, and those who doubted began to trust too. 

Then, finally, in October of 2015, the Prodigal Son returned. He was repentant, he sought God and mercy. We spent time talking honestly about God. Roma had a hunger for Him that was brand new. He was a joy to be around again. 

After seven joy filled weeks with our transformed son, on December 7, Roma died from a work accident, a fall from a ladder while working on a roof.  When the heartbreaking news came, I was hardly surprised. God had so lovingly and thoroughly warned me to be prepared. If God had warned me, He had known ahead of time. I had to believe Roma’s death was part of God’s Divine timing. 

5. In what ways have you seen God minister to others through your deep valleys?

In that protective fog of the first days, I was showered with Divine Love. And miracles. The veil has been thin between Heaven and earth at times. As devastated as I was, and still am, I trust God. Heartsick friends and neighbors witnessed the peace we had. And the miracles. In the middle of our collective pain, we were in awe of God’s great love.

Although I think social media is Satan’s tool, God can use it for good. On my sites, I tried to continue pointing people to God in our circumstances, because He was so real to me in that dark valley. Soon friends were listening intently or reading with eagerness, the stories I share of God’s Nearness in the midst of our pain. 

When our concerned friends rallied around us after Roma died, they saw that God had given us strength and sincere faith. I had faced the hard question, “Did I believe that God is really who He said He is? And did I believe Heaven was a real place?” If so, I would miss Roma earthly presence, but not despair over his absence. I would also have to celebrate that Roma was indeed free and with God in Heaven. I learned those first few days that God can be trusted. And, at least some were comforted, as I could confidently point to God with gratitude.

6. How have you seen God build community through your deepest valleys?
Oh yes! Our loss was everyone’s loss. God sent Roma to not only my family but to the whole community, and beyond. God knew this honor of raising Roma was way too big for the Michael family alone. We would need helpers. LOTS of helpers! To aid in the recruitment of many helpers, God had armed young Roma with a BIG hearted personality, a sweet deposition, disarming smile, and fabled charisma. And oh, those sparkly green eyes. 

Yes, the helpers came over the years.  Neighbors, teachers, coaches, teammates, friends, mothers and fathers of friends. All assisted us in the joyful task of raising Roma. They loved this boy sent from God. Now they hearts were broken too. Roma had touched more lives in his brief twenty-one years than most people encounter in a lifetime!

Since Roma took up residence in Heaven, I have experienced true miracles. And I tell everyone who will listen or read. At first, I feared people would think I was crazy. But to not shine the Light that God had given me through Roma and his stories, would be failing to give Glory to God. God is not silent or still.

I have wondered lately, is God becoming bolder in His actions, or am I suddenly hyper aware of Him? Whatever the case, I am thankful that something so redeeming has transpired after the  excruciating loss of Roma. People are hungry for God Stories. I have had a huge jump in my readership. Even people who never knew my dear boy tell me they feel like they know him and have cried for our loss. And I guess that was the purpose of the book. Now he is a friend to all, and they are eager to read about him. God has not wasted my pain. He has redeemed it all. 

7 and 8. What obstacles have stood in the way of the ministry God has called you to through the hard? And how have you responded to these obstacles?

Lies of the enemy. At the beginning I was reluctant to continue to write my blog. “Who cares about Roma and your little stories now?” was a concern I had. But I had more stories to tell, I still do. God has been giving me many stories to tell, and I will keep writing them down. More than a few readers have said that there will be a second book. We’ll see. As long as God keeps giving me nudges and stories to tell, I will continue to write them down.

I remind myself that God is still good. He sees the BIG picture. I do not. In the past six months since I said a temporary, earthly goodbye to Roma, I have never felt God closer. 

9. What one piece of advice or kernel of wisdom would you like to leave with our readers from your journey through your hard thus far?

Seek and you will find is another often repeated instruction in Scripture.  I like to meditate on Jeremiah 29:12-14. 

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”  

God is trying to transform us into marvelous creatures like His son. He cannot accomplish this until we surrender ourselves to Him. We will not know Him better until we diligently seek after Him. Pray with expectation that He will be found. 

Father, oh how we thank You for the gift of life. Oh how we thank You that You are a God of compassion, mercy and justice. Thank You for Roma and my own little adopted brother, for all the children the world over who You see in their great need and who You love to set in families and shower in love and affection.

Thank You for Roma’s and his birth and adoptive families’ story that is continuing to be written in You. LORD I ask You to unleash the words You long to be shared through Debbie and to draw those the world over whose hearts and souls You cannot wait to awaken to Your love, truth, compassion and mercy through her. Surprise and awe us with what you have in store for Debbie and those You are weaving and have woven into her life. Continue to sustain and encourage her as she seeks to honor and obey You.

Thank You for remaining so faithful to all birth families, to all adoptive families and to all adopted children . Thank You for bringing more and more healing to Your whole Body through the gift of adoption that teaches us so much about Your faithful love and mercy toward us all.

Father, today I pray for the many birth parents and birth brothers and sisters the world over whose hearts are aching today. I ask You to send them proof of Your unending love for them and the children and brothers/sisters they have surrendered. Unveil Your redemption and Your restoration in ways that surprise and awe them.

Father, I also ask You to strengthen, comfort and pour out Your compassion upon adopted children and their families the world over. When trauma triggers shake these adopted children, fill their new families with Your moment-by-moment discernment to love these precious children of Yours as You love them.

Surround these adopted children and their families with men and women who uplift them and bless them in Your Word and who step in with practical help. Give adoptive parents the courage to forsake the opinion of those around them, where You are calling them to a different path. And where hurt has been caused in a lack of understanding, Father move in Your kindness to restore, heal and redeem. Take what the enemy meant for evil and turn it into good – more and more life in death.

LORD, I ask You to comfort all parents who have had to say goodbye to their child. Who have had to surrender them fully into Your eternal hands. Bring them a special Word of comfort and encouragement today. Surround them with Your Body and Your miracles that remind them that You are with them and have not forsaken them. Surprise them. Awe them. Shower them in blessings.

And lastly, I ask You to make Yourself known in and through every story of adoption, loss and trauma. Reveal Your life in every death and surrender we, Your children, walk through. We love You. We praise You. We honor You. In Your precious Name, Amen.

Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine

This is 
My Word
Flowing
Through you
In truth
Kissing grace
I'm declaring
My children
Mine.

Each word
You pen
My song
Is singing
In Spirit
And truth
My children
A hope
And a future
In every Promise
I AM
Declaring.

Sealed
In My blood
And raised
From the tomb
Feast now
In broken bread
And new wine
Flowing into
New wineskins:
Mine.

For, My goodness
And My mercy
Has been
Chasing you
Beautifully opening you
More and more
To love
From the hands
And feet of
Your servant King
Who loved you
First.

For, I've
Anointed you
Not to boast
In your pride
But in your
Weakness
That My
Perfecting work
May now rise
To sing.

For, in
Christ alone
Your offering
A free-will
Offering
Has Become
For I build
My Temple
In truth
And grace.

Sing of how:

My Body's tears
I gather
Into joy
Transforming.

My Body's fears
I uncover
Into awe
Exchanging.

My Body's doubts
I lay bare
Into faith
Transforming.

My Body's pride
I uncover
For My pride in them
Exchanging.

My Body's hurt
I release
Into My oil of mercy
Transforming.

Don't you see?
I've anointed you
Refined you
In fires pure
Washed you
In living water
You are
My gift of Hope
To the world.

Now go!
Awake
Don't hide the lamp
I've given you
Under a bushel
But shine your light
Brightly
On My hill.

Let Me lift the veil
To reveal
My Beloved Bride
Unto the world
That I may
Come unto her.

For, I am 
Pouring out 
My jealous love 
Upon the altar
Of My Broken Body.

I am laying her 
Before Me open
Freely and wholly
In My living sacrifice 
Holy and pleasing
I AM
Lifting her up
Unto Me
Alone.

See and smell
My sweet incense
Raising Christ
Awaking
My living stones
Building
A spiritual house
Acceptable
In Christ alone.

Arise and shine
Beloved
You are Mine!
Come, hold my dear friend, Bettie’s hand, as she invites Jesus to pray through us, today. Bettie Gilbert kindly accepted my request to pen a prayer to accompany this poem. You can find her prayer in written form below.

Dear Lord Jesus,


Thank You for making us your very own dear children, and calling us by Your name. We are humbled and speechless because we have felt our nameless-ness. We see our weaknesses that rise to the surface here. And in this place you wash us with Your blood freely poured for us. Our foreheads are sealed with the name given by Your Holy Spirit now. We scarce can take it in: we are Your Beloved.


Oh, how our hearts long to sit at Your feet, to wash Your feet with our tears. Those tears that were born in the pain of the refining and the purifying, they are caught here, each one saved in Your bottle of remembrance. For we have joined in Your suffering, eaten of Your bread, and fellowshipped with You, our sweet Savior.


And now we receive, in this place of brokenness, the merciful oil of Your intercession for us. Our prayers become mingled with Yours, and the incense of Your presence wafts over us here. Oh, that others could know the joy that we have tasted with You! Let Your name be known among our loved ones, those ones who have always been Yours first, before You brought them to us. Our prayers rise for them now.

We will rise and run in the path of Your commands–Your Words spoken over us and created within us–as Your Spirit carries us. We praise You, our Holy and Righteous Lover of our Soul.

In Your name, Jesus, we pray, Amen.

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

Anger’s Invitation

Did you know that the anger rising within us, is not our shame to hide, but Jesus’ invitation to come to Him just as we are. To let Him pick us up and hold us in His strong, safe arms. For, He longs to unravel our hearts in His mercy, to comfort and restore us in His love.

He won’t let us go in our anger. He promises to hold us tight and to speak HIS Word of truth and grace over us. Just as He has done for me, over and over again.

Once, in a vision during EMDR therapy, I saw Him pick me up to hold me close to His heart. I heard Him invite me to kick, scream and flail. He promised to hold me tight and not let me go. As He freed me to cast out what lurked within me, I felt the tension holding my body captive dissolve into tears, as He uncovered the wounds He had so longed to nurse.

You see, trauma cages us. Frozen in shock and fear, we are unable to feel and process what we have walked through. But even trauma is no match for our King of Kings and Lord of Lords. For, Jesus, like no other, knows what it is to walk through grave injustice. And so, rather than condemn us and our frozen hearts, He moves toward us in our need. He breathes His warmth over and into us to melt our hearts in His love for us.

He moves toward us to set our hearts free to run in the path of His commands. For, He longs to fill us with peace and to release rivers of mercy from us. Just like the rivers of mercy that flowed in His tears for us, as He walked toward the Cross to do the will of His Father for the joy set before Him.

Psalm 7:11 says “God is a righteous judge, a God who displays His wrath every day.” We love to talk of the God of love, but that same God of love also loves through His wrath and through His justice. He hates sin because it cripples, shames and enslaves us.

So, when we walk through injustice and suffering, God is angry and He weeps. He is not aloof or lacking in compassion. Rather, even now, His hand of justice is working to bring full restoration and healing. 

Part of this restoration and healing comes in the release of our hearts from anger. Anger is a natural human response to situations, where we feel helpless. Our bodies seek to restore the control taken from us, by asserting control. But this anger hides the very real wounds inside us that are crying out to be nursed.

God knows that anger, if not released, will only further destroy our souls and infect all our relationships. It enables the thief and accuser of our souls to steal, kill and destroy. This is why God calls us to cast our burdens upon Him and to pour out our hearts to Him. 

Casting is a strong word. It doesn’t mean settling ourselves down first to then speak in polite niceties to our Savior. It means Christ is inviting us to get real before Him. To turn our anger toward Him that HE may lift its heavy weight off of us. And where we are frozen in trauma, He is more than able to free us to express our anger and to release our tears.

In expressing our anger freely, we follow in the footsteps of King David and many prophets in the Bible, who didn’t hide their anger, but spoke it aloud before their Maker in deep laments, as they walked through grave injustice in doing the will of their God.

Jesus is not ashamed of us in our anger. The anger is only His invitation to come to Him, just as we are. To allow Him to unravel our hearts, comfort us in our pain, and transform our anger into rivers of mercy.

Will you join me in prayer?

Thank You, LORD, that You see me, You see all the injustice I and my loved ones have walked through.  Thank You that You are angry too, that You are a holy God of wrath and justice, who has not turned a blind eye to our suffering (Hebrews 10:30). 

Thank You that Your heart weeps at the destruction wreaked by the enemy of our souls (Luke 19:41, John 11:35). Thank You that I can come before Your throne in complete confidence that you accept me, as I am (Hebrews 4:16). Thank You that I don’t need to clean myself up first, but that I can come just as I am, knowing You will not turn me away (Psalm 55: 22). 

Thank You that my righteousness has been bought at the Cross to set me free from all unholy anger, bitterness and rage that consumes me, that You may uncover and nurse the wounds hidden within me.

LORD, thank You that You are my refuge and strength. As I come to You now, breathe Your warmth over and into me. Melt me in Your love and mercy.

For, LORD, I turn to You now as I am. Unravel me in Your living and breathing Word of truth, love and grace. Melt my heart in the arms of Jesus to pour out all that lurks within me. Release Your mercy richly in and through me.

Set me free that my lips may speak of Your mercy for us all. I am opening my hands wide to receive Your ‘wildly extravagant life gift, this grand setting-everything-right’ (Romans 5: 17 MSG). Hear my cry for mercy! In Your precious Name, Amen.

A Dwelling Place in Praise

Colossians 3:15 KJV 
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.


Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)

6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.




Thank You, LORD
For grace
That covers me
For innocence
You've paid
In scourge
And pain so cruel
I'll never know.

Thank You, LORD
For giving me
What's undeserved
Of cruel and harsh
This heart here turned
To selfish tides
And prideful dams
To anger's chains
And holding reigns.

Thank You, LORD
For love so great
It reaches deeper still
Than cruel and harsh
Than selfish pride
And anger's reigns
To all accuser's claims
Would rather hide
From sight unseen
In shame to chain.

Thank You, LORD
For fencing tight
In holy linen white
For Spirit drawing in
And holding tight
The dust of desert's strife
From hardened heart
To strip and me
Righteous wrap
In dazzling white
Of undeserved bright.

Thank You, LORD
That washing
Dazzling white
You speak
Each hidden sight
The pain, the fears and doubts
I know not bleed
Beneath
My heart
You cast and pour
My cup
Not just outward
Cleanse
But inward
Search to know
In Spirit raise
From death to Life.

Thank You, LORD
For grace
That covers me
For innocence
You've paid
In scourge
And pain so cruel
I'll never know.



Dear Holy Father,

We are amazed that You would choose to come to us, to make Your dwelling here in our heart. We have nothing to offer you except these shards and pieces that are the bones and bodies holding our vulnerable hearts. But we thank You that Your Word declares these very bodies Your holy Temples.

We thank You that where we, and others who look at us, see nothing but brokenness, You see Your chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for Your own possession, that we may proclaim the excellencies of You who called us out of darkness into Your marvelous light.

We believe You, Father, but help our unbelief. Give us an undivided heart that we might fear Your Name above all else. Help us to shed the lies of the world and to clothe ourselves in the light of Your love and grace. Help us to keep boasting in our weakness, that You may perfect Your power in us here, as we proclaim the finished work of the Cross.

We thank You that even as our bodies, minds and hearts fail us, Your Son, in whom all Promises are yes and Amen, remains so strong in us. Thank You that You have placed the seal of Your Holy Spirit upon us, securing our eternal inheritance in You, and that nothing can separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus.

Help us to lift our frail selves up to You in His Name, again and again. Help us to trust You when You tell us that the light momentary affliction we are walking through here on earth is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. Help us look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For we know that the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Help us not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but to lay up for ourself treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Set our hearts on You, as we walk through the fire and are met by storms, that we may find hidden treasure in the darkness.

Thank You that You dwell here within us, in this secret place, created to be Your home: Your heart in us. Thank You that You have hidden us in the clefts of the rock to protect us from every scheme of the enemy. Thank You for the love of Jesus that has been shed abroad in our broken hearts to make us whole. Root us deeper in that love that we might live and move and have our being in You alone.

Thank You for Your great and wonderful promises. Help us to cleanse ourselves in the light of these Promises from everything that contaminates body and spirit. Help us to live our lives set apart for Your purpose in holy awe of You alone. Fulfill the prayer of Your Son in us and make us One in You.

As we come to Jesus, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by You and precious to You— build us like living stones into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to You through Jesus Christ, just as You have promised us in Your Word.

In the name of Your Son, Jesus, we pray,
Amen.



This is a poem written by Anna Smit and a prayer co-written by Bettie Gilbert and Anna Smit a long time ago, but a Scripture-infused poem and prayer that still express the praises and prayers rising up in our hearts today. For:

"We've no less days 
To sing God's grace
Than when we first
Began"