Part 3: Chapter 3 – Day 5: Here I Am, Send Me

Welcome to Day 5 of Part 3‘s Chapter 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering in a testimony the LORD gifted her through her weakness and need. It testifies to the blossoming staff of Christ’s holiness that leads and comforts us through the valley of the shadow of death, shedding the old for the new, as He calls us into His rest and peace.

Have you ever reflected on the end of Moses’ life? Of God taking him home, rather than allowing him to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land? Recently, I have been doing so. A prophetic Word of encouragement I listened to, caused me to pray for God to humble me and show me what part I have played in His decision to call me out of particular places and break friendships with particular people.

After each breaking, He led me to so much repentance and into more and more healing. But as I prayed this time, I invited Him to help me see the full picture and to help me shift my focus from His protection of me to His love for His church. As I did so, He brought to mind various instances, where rather than directly confronting people He asked me to, I chose to do it “my way”. I walked in fear and pride, rather than in faith and love. I skirted around the issue, rather than confronting it directly.

He also reminded me of how I had clung to my pain, blaming my brothers and sisters in Christ for it, rather than inviting Him to heal the wounds the enemy had inflicted upon me. He showed me how He purposely uncovered and exposed these wounds in me through each fresh attack, not to hurt me, but to heal me: to teach me to see with His eyes and to fight in the Spirit and not in my flesh.

He showed me that in taking me out of each place, just as He did with Moses, when he too became frustrated and angry at those God had sent him to shower His grace upon, He was not just protecting me, but He was also protecting my brothers and sisters in Christ from the unthankfulness and evil present in me. He continually led me out to take His grace deeper in my own heart and to invite me to bring Him my pain, piece by piece, that He might lift it from me, by the power of His Word to me.

As God brought the story of Moses to mind, He reminded me of the verses I had sat praying through at 2am for the day to come. In these verses, I discovered that the “unthankful” are those who have not experienced God’s grace and that the “evil” are those who are “pain-ridden”. As I prayed for those who have been openly hostile toward me (the meaning of enemies), I was convicted of my own open hostility toward others. God returned the Word I was praying over others to me, to draw me deeper into His grace and lift away my pain, in transforming my thoughts and my vision.

Only through the last breaking did I realize that the very thing that has frustrated and angered me most, has also been frustrating and angering my brothers and sisters in Christ. As I pointed the finger, God wanted me to see the log in my own eyes: my own unwillingness to acknowledge the grace He has repeatedly poured out upon me and to bring Him my pain that He might heal my festering wounds.

Interestingly, the day before I had wept in thankfulness for God’s grace for me, as joy filled me to overflowing. And what had I prayed through that morning? A verse that included the Word “joy” that I discovered in this instance, according to the Bible lexicon I consulted, literally meant acknowledging and recognizing God’s grace in our lives.

As I reflected on that once more, my heart was so convicted at my lack of thankfulness for God’s grace in each decision I made to become angry and frustrated at my brothers and sisters. Like Moses, I had fled as a young person. I had run into the desert, after taking matters into my own hands to “save” my brother, and failing miserably.

Moses had murdered a man to take revenge for the harm inflicted upon his brothers in the LORD. I had murdered too – for Christ tells us that anyone harboring hatred in his heart toward another is guilty of murder also. I had harbored hatred toward those spreading false teaching, who I saw as responsible for my parents’ decision to discipline in the flesh, rather than in the Spirit of God, a decision that caused considerable harm to my adopted brother.

And I now realize, by not confessing that hatred when He brought me home to Him, I allowed it to grow and fester, rather than allowing God to free me from it and fill me with His love, in remembering His grace to me. Ironically in my own hatred, frustration and anger, I have been lifting myself up above God and I have been striving in pride, rather than abiding in the Vine: exactly what I have accused others of in their decision to support and spread the false teaching.

Like Moses, I too experienced the depths of God’s grace as He met me in my weakness and sin. As He chose to descend in power into my midst to lead me back home and into His purposes for my life. But also like Moses, I became unthankful and evil, as I chose to do things my way and not God’s.

Like Moses, I never wanted to be God’s mouthpiece. Perhaps, Moses, like me, assumed that his people would struggle to receive someone they saw as being undeserving of God’s favor, someone who had been lifted out of captivity and showered in the riches of God’s grace. And perhaps Moses, like me, was resting too much in his own lack of status amongst his people and his inability to persuade them, when he asked another to speak for him, rather than trusting God to speak through him and perfect His power in Moses’ weakness.

Crazily it is precisely the extravagance of God’s grace poured out upon us in our sin that best equips us to become His missionaries. For, as God’s Word reminds us: “he who is forgiven little, loves little.” But we who know the extravagance of God’s love and mercy – woe to us, when we forget our first love and do not recognise how far we have fallen from God’s grace.

Yes, like Moses, despite God extending me such incredible grace, I chose to have others speak for me and to get frustrated and angry at my brothers and sisters, rather than doing exactly what my God had commanded me to do. It broke my heart reflecting upon that today. But my fresh experience of God’s grace in my discouragement yesterday and remembering the mercy God showed to Moses after he was buried, fills me with hope that God can still make something beautiful of the mess I have made.

Do you recognize yourself in any of my fresh convictions? If so, I invite you to join me in prayer.

Father, thank You that You are slow to anger and rich in mercy toward us. Forgive me for not doing exactly what You asked me to do in the past. Forgive me for leaning into fear and pride, rather than into the arms of Your Son and the faith and love He was waiting to fill me with by the power of His Word to me.

Forgive me for pointing the finger, and choosing not to address the log in my own eyes. Forgive me for not confessing my own sins and pain and not trusting You to speak through me and to perfect Your power in my weakness. Thank You for setting me apart to make me holy as You are holy. Thank You for continuing to pursue me and call me into Your purposes for my life. Thank You for perservering in love and mercy toward me.

Father, Your Word tells us:

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 KJV)

Father, I confess my unbelief. I confess that I have not believed that You will reward me for diligently seeking You and Your will. Forgive me for fearing my own lack of status, inability and weakness above Your holy Name. Forgive me for resting in myself, rather than in Jesus and His love for me and the Church. Forgive me for becoming weary of doing good.

Father, here I am, just as I am. Weak, needy and without any standing before my brothers and sisters, but ready for You to use me, mould me and shape me, as I do what You ask of me. I invite You to send me out afresh. But as You do so, help me to stay like a little child before You.

Keep me humble, rooted in Your love and affections. Whenever I turn to the left or to the right, thank You that I will hear a Voice from behind saying: “This is the Way, walk in it.” Embolden me to walk in it.

Cause me to be more in awe of Your power and might than in my own lack of status, weakness and inability that I might do exactly what You ask of me, without waivering in unbelief and pride. Do not allow me to get angry or frustrated at my brothers and sisters, nor to condemn myself and spiral into shame, but continually lead me to repentance that I might abide in You and Your love for me and Your Church.

Continually remind me of Your overwhelming grace toward me that I might turn toward You in my need and receive the grace that You long to pour back out of me onto my brothers and sisters in Christ. Help me to be slow to anger and quick to listen to You and Your Word to me.

Cause me to not just listen but do every Word You speak to me. Cause me to release every accusation of the enemy that I might dwell secure and be at ease, without dread of disaster. That I might love others freely and without expectation because You first loved me and will always love me in that way.

In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

Isaiah 6:4-8 (ESV)

Part 2: Chapter 3 – Day 4: The Hands that Were Pierced

Welcome to Day 4 of Part 2s Chapter 3 from Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering of gold: a poem and Scriptures of thanksgiving for God’s perfection wrought at the Cross for us. She also invites you to sing two songs of praise and worship with her, declaring the truth of God’s mighty power to save.

No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.

Isaiah 60:18 (ESV)
Your Hands 

Your hands hold
Me close
Your hands wrap
Around my coming

And going out again
Your hands know me
Each day of my life
Written in Your book.

Your hands let me go
But tethering me in grace
To the path You walked
Before me and behind me stay.

Your hands wrap around
My heart that is aching
To break
In Your mercy.

Laboring in kindness
Your hands teach me to trust
Again and again to let go
Into Your hands every part yielding.

Led by Your hands
You walk me into Your death and
Resurrection, again and again
To awaken Your heart of flesh.

You make room for the new
Lifting every accusation
At the power of Your Word
You carry me into the light.

That I may bear fruit that abides
That I may die to the old of my knowing
To rest in Your knowing
Written on the holes in Your hands.

That I may see Your blessed perfection
Reflected in Your Word's consecration
For Your Word to me
Is truth.

My life and breath
Let them now speak evermore
Of Your hands that were pierced
To hold us all together in mercy.

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them

    after those days, declares the Lord:

I will put my laws on their hearts,

    and write them on their minds,”

then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Hebrews 10:14-18 (ESV)

Part 2: Chapter 2 – Day 7: Sovereign

Welcome to Day 7 of Part 2‘s Chapter 2 from Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a story + poem as a final free will offering of bronze, showing us how the LORD invited her to let Him exchange her judgment with His own, in and through her weakness.

Several years ago, I found my heart turned to bitterness, much like Naomi did, after her husband and sons died and she decided to return to her homeland. But as I layed my bitterness before the LORD in a poem, as I sat with the name Naomi had given herself, God exchanged my bitterness for joy, just as He did for Naomi.

Sovereign

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

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

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



But not till much later, did I see that this place of desolation I found myself in, came about because of God’s jealous love for me and my family. For, He refused to allow my heart to remain divided in its affections, just as He refused to allow Naomi’s heart to remain divided also.

Perhaps, like me, you didn’t realize that Naomi had moved to Moab with her family during a drought. Rather than trust God to provide for them, they had chosen to seek refuge outside of the safe boundaries God had given them to dwell inside of. When things got tough, rather than wait upon the LORD, they took matters into their own hands. And yet, even there, God remained faithful to His covenant of love.

All those years later, as tragedy struck and Naomi was left bereaved, she decided to return to the land of her faith, and Ruth decided to accompany her. What Naomi saw as God dealing her a bitter hand, was in fact God’s plan of redemption at work.

He was leading her to return to her first Love, where this time, in her place of great need, she would listen for the LORD’s Voice and not the enemy’s. There, God directed her to send her daughter-in-law into the hands of Boaz: her kinsman redeemer. A man of God who would provide bountifully for Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi.

Boaz foreshadows our own kinsman Redeemer, Jesus Christ. For, Jesus Christ has redeemed our family line, through His own blood. He has purchased us back from the enemy, freeing us from our bondage to sin and death.

In my place of desolation, I came face to face with my Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus, who showed me that my loss was in fact my gain. In that place of great loss my true sinful heart was exposed for all to see, so that my God could reveal His true heart of love and mercy toward us all.

I deserved judgment, not mercy. My idolatrous affections and numbing my pain in sin deserved God’s wrath. But just as in the case of Naomi, God honored the deeper desires of my heart, He had planted there. Desires to love Him from my whole heart.

And so, He took away my idols, one by one, leaving me bereft. But in that place, as I bemoaned His bitter hand, He arose to declare me His and to redeem my Prodigal journey.

Just like Naomi, I had once fled my God’s safe boundaries, choosing to fend for myself, after deciding in a time of drought – when God appeared not to be answering my cries – that my God had abandoned me and those I loved. I descended upon my Prodigal journey that would take me to the other side of the world.

After opening my eyes to a newborn faith (incidentally exactly when my childhood cries to God in prayer were answered, more than twenty years later), God took me back into similar situations of rejection that I had found myself in as a child, as I obeyed my God’s calling to speak up and to confess my weakness and sins openly.

Just as when I was little, I wanted to bow before man to be loved and accepted. Or I wanted to try to “persuade” those before me to “see the truth”, turning to fleshly means of fighting. I see-sawed between the two. But each time, after a period of asking me to stay and persevere in His truth and grace, as He continually cleansed me of all unrighteousness, God commanded me to depart under a new authority: His.

What I didn’t see until after several of these breakings and losses, is that my losses were in fact my gains. For, through each loss I went through, God was restoring more of my heart to Him. He was restoring my first Love for Him and redeeming the years the locusts had eaten.

Now I know that the droughts we walk through, when it appears our prayers are falling on deaf ears, are God’s gift to us. God’s gift sent to uncover our own sinful and divided hearts to cleanse and restore them unto Him. He was never ashamed of me in that place of the enemy’s attack. For, He allowed these attacks to expose my idolatrous and divided heart, so He could invite me to enter into His wholeness: to exchange my faith in my idols of self and man for a faith in Him alone.

Now, I know why He gave me a very specific Scripture-based prayer to pray repeatedly over myself, right after I came home to Him: a prayer I still pray today: “Father, teach me to walk in the light of Your truth. Give me an undivided heart that I might fear Your Name above all else.”

Like Paul, I too have now discovered, and am still discovering daily, that all else is rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ as my LORD and being found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. Now, I too can sing: “It is God for me.”:

Each time Jesus purposely led me into a death and resurrection. He led me to face the sinful nature of my own heart and my inability to save myself and others. And then, in each death, as He asked me to leave and He closed the doors behind me, He gave me His heart of love and mercy. He wrote His Word deeper and deeper upon my heart.

I have become as dead to the people and communities He commanded me to leave, but alive to Him and His Word of love and mercy toward me and toward them. God is turning my bitter into sweet in and through my weakness.

He is answering His tearful intercession for me through my mother, all those years ago. Those answers are coming through my weakness and God’s grace to me: not through anything I have done to deserve it. They are coming through Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as the trauma triggers shaking my body in each place of idolatry have alerted me to the division occurring in my heart. These triggers have led me into stilling to hear and obey the Voice of God, to take steps to heal and guard my heart.

What the enemy sent to steal, kill and destroy me and my family, God is turning into good, to bring deliverance, healing and abundant life in Him. Praise Him!

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

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

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

Christ, You raise
My broken life
In the breaking
Of Your Body
From the tomb
New life unwrap.

Your songs releasing
Now my human soul
Awakening
Your Living Word
Declaring me
Whole.

Embraced in love
Steeled in truth
Sent in Grace's
Own true Breath
Into Your world
That's yearning
For You:

I AM mercy's hands
And mercy's feet.


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

Gather, You tell me.
YES I shall gather
The tears You wept for me
The heart You broke for me
All You've poured
And emptied into me
I shall now receive:

The Word
Made flesh.

Garden of My Lord
Enclosed and sealed
For a time such as this
Your spring has broken
Your fountains I hear
Crashing, pouring.

For, Your love and mercy
You've gathered
Now to rush and pour
Sovereign
For Your own delight
In me.

For, wondrous
Are Your works
My soul knows it
Very well.

Praise You, Jesus!


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


May we all rest in the love and mercy of our Creator today. May we come to know and taste, more and more, that our smallness and weakness is not our shame to carry, but ordained of God to draw us ever deeper into knowing Him and being known by Him, that we might declare the wonders of His works:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)

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.

A Winnowing

See not your failing 
See my wind blowing
Each point of collision
A lifting
Divinely appointed
To winnow the seed
In husks beautifully
Hidden, bursting forth
Through the breach
Long opened in my
Body broken to heal
Your every division.

A Winnowing was written in response to the d’Verse quadrille prompt with its roots resting in these Words.

A quadrille is a poem of 44 words (excluding the title), and it can take any form. This week’s challenge was to use the word ‘seed’ in a quadrille.

Steps of Love

Something broke inside of me and I slipped into a deep depression. I wrote:

Some months ago one judgmental remark from someone put me into a tailspin and brought me face to face with painful memories of past abuse. At first I disassociated from my feelings. I didn’t want to feel at all, because it hurt too much. I continued on in life like a robot. But I became more and more depressed until one day something inside me broke. I sobbed and cried, “I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m so sick of being strong for everyone around me…”

It was like I was sinking deeper and deeper into a sea of turmoil, gulping up water. In my mind Jesus was standing above the surface looking down at me and shaking his head. “Hopeless case, that one…” I felt so forsaken of God. His promises seemed bogus, and I could not grasp a single one.

The weight of depression stomped me down, down, down…

Roaring In

Shame-slapping Scowls

Stormy Emotions

Stomping Down

Sinking Me

I couldn’t have made it that dark day without the grace of God. By the end of the day my heart was still heavy, but the care and compassion loved ones gave me lifted me up to see a pinpoint of hope. And the next day, God had a pleasant surprise for  me.

“I will give thanks and praise the Lord, with all my heart;

I will tell aloud all Your wonders and marvelous deeds.”

Psalm 9:1

My husband suggested I take my writing pad and go to the Falls. He knew nature often relaxes and comforts me. It helps me to remember God still has all things in His control. I sat on a rock and watched the water rush over the red rock formations. I let the sound of it sooth my weary soul. I imagined the wind as the breath of God kissing my face and telling me I will make it through this.

When I walked along the paths and around the Art Barn, I stopped in awe. There in front of me written in chalk down the front of the steps was a message that still impacts me today. “I will love you every step of the way. ♥” I knew it was God speaking directly to my despairing heart.

Then I remembered a song – “Steady My Heart” by Kari Jobe.

“Wish it could be easy

Why is life so messy?

Why is pain a part of us?

There are days I feel like

Nothing ever goes right

Sometimes it just hurts so much

But You’re here

You’re real

I know I can trust You

Even when it hurts

Even when it’s hard

Even when it all just falls apart

I will run to You

‘Cause I know that You are

Lover of my soul

Healer of my scars

You steady my heart.”

Sometimes God sends the greatest comforts out of the deepest valleys, doesn’t He? My heart still felt wounded, but I knew I could run to Jesus and He would pull me up again out of the pit and set my feet upon the Rock.

“He reached down and drew me from the deep,

dark hole where I was stranded,

mired in the muck and clay.

With a gentle hand, He pulled me out

To set me down safely on a warm rock;

He held me until I was steady enough

to continue the journey again.”

Psalm 40:2 Voice

That toxic shame still often pierces the core of who I am and screams, “You’re worthless. How can someone like you ever make a positive difference? You don’t deserve comfort. You don’t deserve to be accepted. ”

Panic still creeps in and shouts, “Watch out! You’re going to be hurt again. Reinforce that wall.”

Healing is a process though, right? I have learned that many struggle with inadequacy, shame, and fear of trusting. And I know there are others who also do but remain silent onlookers. And that’s ok. 

All of us have a story to tell, and there is not one story that is less important than another. There is not one hurt that is less painful than anyone else’s. Every story counts. Every. Single. One. So don’t let that bug bite you and tell you, “Your burdens are not as bad as someone else’s.” I know by experience that can stifle the grieving process. Every hurt needs grieving in order to start healing.

Remember! You are so special to God! You have been created uniquely for a special purpose only you can fill. Jesus loves you so much that He sacrificed His life for you. His arms are wide open with welcome, longing for you to run into them. Yes, life can be messy. Yes, it can hurt so much and be so hard. But He cares about broken hearts and delights to heal them.

Precious Lord Jesus, sometimes life can hurt so much and be so hard, but You have promised You care about our broken hearts and You delight to heal us. When shame poisons our perspective, please help us to see that in You, we are beautiful and valuable. When we feel like we’re drowning in the storms of life, please help us to reach up and grasp Your hand ever reaching out to us. Your hand of unfailing love and compassion. Please break all the chains that still bind us and keep us from dancing in Your victory for us. Heal us ever more deeply! Thank You for Your unconditional love and powerful grace!

This post is excerpted from Trudy Den Hoed’s blog post: https://freedtofly.me/2016/05/03/depression-and-deliverance/

which was first published in 2016.

Trudy’s passion is to encourage others there is hope in Jesus and His love in the midst of loss, heartache, and trauma. Jesus has become the needed oxygen for her soul as she continues on a lifelong journey of healing from past abuse. She lives in the midwestern United States and is grateful to be blessed with a loving husband and precious children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Someone Listens

A Poem by Lisa Enqvist
 
Moving
Parting
Something new
Waits beyond the mountains
I refuse to hear
I refuse to see
Another world
Cannot replace
all that I am
losing
Someone listens, nods and smiles
Understands my pain
Torn up roots and broken branches
heal
and grow again
 
 
 
This poem was written by Lisa Enqvist in 1962, describing the power of Christ’s listening ear, in her aunt Göta Wallenius (born 13.3.1913 and died 12.2.2003). Lisa said her aunt helped her survive, just by listening.
 
Göta Wallenius
 
Father, thank You that You always hear our hearts. Thank You for sending Göta Wallenius to sit next to Lisa and listen to her aching heart. Thank You for binding up and healing Lisa’s broken branches and for replanting her torn up roots into Your heart and affections for her. Thank You for letting her poem fall on my own freshly pruned branches and dangling roots. Thank You for reminding me of how you once sent a Finnish woman my way also to clasp my hands, invite me to share my story and weep with me.
 
Father, let this Word fall on other freshly pruned hearts and dangling roots also. Replant our dangling roots into the good soil of Your heart and loving affections for us. Show us how each uprooting and pruning is growing our delight in You and uncovering Your true heart and affections in us. Grow bountiful leaves of healing and abiding fruit from the branches you have cut back. In Jesus’ mighty Name, Amen.
 
 
 
 
Join us tomorrow for a beautiful short story by Lisa about tree roots.
 
Author Bio

As a teenager, Lisa Enqvist decided she would never be a missionary, never return to her father’s Gospel ship “Ebeneser,” never marry a missionary, never have kids who might feel as rootless as she was. And, she prayed, “Please, God, don’t ever send me to India.” But God knew Lisa better than she knew herself and gave her what her heart truly desired: all the things she asked Him not to give her, healing her heart more and more through the process.

Lisa is a co-founder of a Children’s Home in Thailand. She grew up in China and Sri Lanka as a missionary kid. She now lives with her husband in a small town on the West Coast of Finland. She and her husband adopted four Amerasian children in Thailand. They have given Lisa and her husband Håkan eleven grandkids. 

Today, Lisa writes personal and family stories based on saved letters, documents, and personal memories. Since receiving her mother’s old letters in 1983, she has written four memoir books in Swedish and one in English: MISSIONARY MOTHER – Around the World with Five Kids. Rheumatoid Arthritis has challenged her since writing her first book. 

Lisa is a registered pediatric nurse. Her earlier writing experience consisted of newsletters to sponsors of children at the Bethany Children’s Home and regular letters to family and friends scattered around the world. She has saved numerous family letters.

She attended several Swedish writer’s seminars in Finland. After reverting to English in 2011, she completed a course in writing for children and youth at the Institute for Children’s Literature and a Memoir Writing Course at Creative Writing Now. She also wrote articles for FaithWriters Challenge. 

She is a member of Everything Memoir Private Group and West Coast Christian Writers. She has attended two Online conferences with the WCCW.

Her book MISSIONARY MOTHER – Around the World with Five Kids, is available from: 

https://booklocker.com/books/8211.html

https://www.amazon.com/MISSIONARY-MOTHER-Around-World

and other online bookstores.

Lisa blogs at: https://lisaenqvistroots.com/

Perspective in Brush Strokes

Today’s post first appeared on my dear friend, Wendy Simpson’s blog, Widow’s Manna , about five years ago. Wendy is not only a creative writer, but an artist, producing beautiful sketches, paintings, intricately woven blankets and prayer shawls, plush toys, digital art and cards. You can find her artwork on her WordPress Wendy’s Vignettes and her Facebook Wendy’s Vignettes

 

Been thinking about perspective…..

 

Take a little time to look up an impressionist’s painting. I love Monet. With that fresh in your mind, think about perspective.  When you walk up close to this painting, you will observe thousands of small brush strokes in an array of colors. Close up there is some beauty but in many ways it looks like a lot of chaos truly makes no sense.  It is pretty hard to get an idea of what the artist it trying to express.  Now take several steps back from this painting.  Something amazing happens. Thousands of tiny brush strokes make way for shapes and structure. The colors blend together to create new colors and something you could not see before, takes shape.  The chaos become beautiful and the artist intended expression makes more sense. 

 

It is like that in life. When we are face to face with trials of life, there is not much room for perspective. We see the chaos of each brush stroke and a mess of color that seem strangely placed. There is no picture and beautiful is the last way we would describe our life.  But God sends people into our lives, who have been standing back observing this “painting” process in our life.  Their perspective is something we couldn’t see, being in the middle  of it all.  They see colors blending together and pictures that have taken shape.  They see that the artist intentions were beauty not chaos.  They see reasons for color choices, that we would never have chosen. So, all this to say, we are thankful for those who have spoken perspective into our lives. And those who have pointed out the order in our chaos.  

 

Both perspectives are necessary to walk through a process like this.  You can stand back and see the picture being painted before you and have, in turn shared what you observe, color blending and something taking shape.  I can share the details I don’t see colors blended, I see instead, what was used to make that color. I see the tears and agony and joys and victories it took to paint one of the thousand brush strokes.  To me every stroke has a meaning. You see it as part of the big picture’s beauty.  But when I cannot understand why a stroke was placed, I need only to remember there is a big picture and the artist, he knows why.  Every stroke is part of the masterpiece.

 

I am thankful for those of you who share perspective. We are just living it, and in living it, we do not see outside the everyday survival at times.  Thank you for your encouragement and love and grace as we walk this journey one day one “brush stroke” at a time.

 

Five months before Chris passed, on the heels of life altering surgery, I was desperate and looking for hope and perspective.  (Above is an excerpt of that.) I’d put aside passions and parts of me that I felt would hinder complete and utter devotion to caring for Chris.  I stored away and stuffed the ache and the sadness, for as long as I could.  Allowing myself moments, trying (not too successfully) to make them brief.  Aw… control… it served me well, ha, or so I thought.  Amidst the journey’s steps I have (on so many occasions) broke down, and completely lost my resolve, to be strong (on my own strength).  Having very little grace in my grief, I’ve fallen into chaotic and messy emotional places, and always get so upset with myself. After a fairly long battle, and after tears have subsided, then …. I’d finally seek God’s face and the wise counsel that came from those candles God had placed along the dark cave walls of this journey.  All I had to do is reach out… and there it was… His divine provision.

 

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son…. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”  -Colossians 1:13, 17 (ESV)

 

“That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3 (ESV)

 

 Now, my perspective has been narrowed some and I am looking, specifically, at the dark brushstrokes.  Deconstructing them, if you will, for perspective and to find His goodness.  These brushstrokes, left unattended, could make my whole canvas… go dark.  These brushstrokes I speak of, have screamed out for my attention for awhile now, and up to now… I have ignored them and refused to give them audience. In a sea, of over twenty years of living and life with my husband, I now choose not to continue to suppress the pain of His passing and the disappointments, so that I can just mourn….

….My death …the death of a caregiver

 

….Watching death…. stolen years.

 

….Lost and changing relationships.

 

….Not fitting in.

 

….The missing arms and lost affection.

In the coming days and weeks I resolve to explore these dark strokes on my canvas and begin the process of acknowledging their pain to finding their worth.  I believe that God can take all that is, the fallen part of man… and create in us… something good.  The goodness being… Christ in us the hope of glory.

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.

About the Steward

My name is Anna Smit. I am a dual New Zealand – Dutch citizen, who was born and partly raised in Aotearoa / New Zealand, but has been living in the Netherlands since 2003. I left the Land of the Long White Cloud in 2000 to become an au pair in Germany, but never came “home”. Falling in love, I followed my Dutchie to make a new home for myself in the land of the clogs, where we still live, with our two dual citizen girls.

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. 

My Mum and I, just after we moved to Germany, when I was four years old and gave my heart to Jesus

Tragically, as a preteen and teen, I began to believe the enemy’s accusations that God had abandoned me and someone I loved, as I saw no physical evidence that He had heard my repeated cries, as I thumbed the pages of His Word with tears streaming. I began to turn away from Him, piece by piece. I stopped reading His Word and turned to sinful distractions to numb my pain, rather than persevering in the truth.

Even so, God’s Spirit poured out upon me at various times, leading me to repentance. I remember crying and crying, confessing one sin after another before God and others. But then, one day, I committed the sin of masturbation that I was too ashamed to confess to anyone. Blinded by pride, I didn’t see that every other time it was the Holy Spirit and not me who had made it possible for me to confess my sins so openly, as I had sought God’s face. All God wanted was for me to finally realize that I could never clean myself up, but He could.

From then on, I went through life believing that I was too far gone for God to save. In my early years as a Prodigal, I was even afraid that one day God would strike me with lightning and kill me. I was biding my time until He would get rid of me completely.

And yet, strangely, deep down there was also always this deep, deep yearning for someone to just reach out to me – to uncover my secret sin and bring me home. I even plucked up the courage to visit churches overseas, but each time walked away believing I didn’t matter enough to God for someone to reach out to me. Then, one day, someone plucked up the courage to give me a book about Jesus. But at that point, all those years later, when I had given up on Christians, rather than it exciting me, it angered me. It made me feel unseen and like I was their little project.

What I now know looking back is that God wanted me to realize that the only One who truly sees me, loves me, knows me and has the power to save me is – HIM. Now, I can look back and see that God never ever left me. His hands lovingly guided me, protected me and kept 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 in whom I now recognize His love for me: including the young woman who gave me that book.

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, because I inherently believed He didn’t want me, but He came running for me.  Like the little lost lamb caught in the thorn bush, He came to rescue me and bring me home.

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, that I now recall from my younger years, before I let sin chain me to unbelief. God’s 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.

I will never forget those last few weeks with my Mum and watching God humble her and lead her to repentance and such rest and peace in Him. And I don’t think it is a coincidence that during that time God answered the tear-filled prayers I had lifted up to Him as a little girl, more than twenty years later. I didn’t see that at the time, but I now know He wanted me to take notice and to deep down know that no prayer we lift up in Him goes unanswered.

My Savior is now giving me a hunger and thirst to know Him, as I seek His face. I wake up hearing Him call to me and He continually interrupts my plans to lead me into His. He is teaching me to slow, recognize and savor His Presence with me.

He is patiently leading me, piece by piece, to shed my pride, my striving and my worship of man for an intimate relationship with Him. Much repentance is flowing, as my heart aches to walk in His holy Way. I am slowly (re)awakening to the childlike awe and wonder of Him I had growing up as a little girl, before I let sin blind me to God’s love for me and others.

May God bless us here, as we gather to read and share the stories, poems and heart stirrings He awakens in us. May we see His face in each other, in our past and present and future that He may make firm the paths beneath our feet, as He lifts away every accusation of the enemy in the light of His love and grace. 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.