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.
This is the second installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These monthly installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends.
One of the ways God helped me to see His fingerprints over my life, was when He drew my attention to the names given to His people in the Bible and the meaning of these names. He asked me to study the meanings of my friends’ names through the years I had walked through loss and trauma, when the seeds of doubt began to root in my heart and I began to believe my accuser’s lies: that God had deserted me and left me wandering in my pain alone.
As I share what God showed me, may you too be able to look back on your life with new eyes and see His presence with you, where you couldn’t see it before. May the testimony of His faithfulness to me, in my own unfaithfulness, wrap you also in the compassion and unending mercy of our God. May He give each one of us new eyes of faith to see our life through His eyes of love and truth. May He strip away the sin that is keeping us in chains of fear, shame and unbelief, to reveal His new life and eyes of faith in us and through us.
When my parents decided to return to New Zealand, after almost six years as missionaries and church planters in Germany, it meant saying goodbye to the only place I could remember as home. On the eve of our departure, my elementary teacher gave me a goodbye present. A heart-shaped book, composed of threaded pages full of poems, messages, photos and drawings. Each classmate had created one page, but the page that is now engraved upon my memory, is my teacher’s. On her page there was a sketch of huge hands, palms wide open, holding a little sparrow.
That first year in New Zealand, I felt so out of place, with my strange accent and different way of speaking and doing things. Seeing my parents struggling with so much too, I shared very little with them, trying hard not to become an added burden to them. But God saw my need and gave me a new friend, who loved the LORD with childlike fervor.
It’s only now I see how, just as with the disciple Thomas, God was inviting me to come to Him just as I was. He was inviting me to let Him cleave me unto Himself. To let Him engrave His Word upon my heart, as He beckoned me to enter into His suffering. Or as Peter puts it in 1 Peter 4:13 (ESV): “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s suffering, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”
Although she only stayed for a year, God invited me through this friend to touch His nail-pierced hands and wounded side, to remember that His power is perfected in our weakness. Now, looking back, I can do so. I can rejoice that Christ found me worthy to suffer dishonor for His Name as a little girl, as I spoke up for someone who could not speak up for himself, and was turned away. Repentance for the harm that was done in that turning away came more than twenty years later, affirming God’s call all those years ago to me to speak up and to pray. All these years later God is stripping the lies of abandonment, and affirming me as His.
As trauma began to infect my mind, I was bathed in feelings of shame and unworthiness in my sinful turning away. Right into all that God gave me a new friend. This friend openly shared her weaknesses with me and God’s nearness to her in it all, inviting me into a deeper walk with God.
I remember my hunger and thirst for God growing. I remember moments of worship, where the Spirit of God descended powerfully, overwhelming me in kindness, gentle conviction and stunning grace. I remember the joy of my baptism at 12 years old.
But I also remember never fully being able to shake the ever returning cloak of shame in my teenage years. Now I know what lay at the root: sin. You see, I failed to pluck up the courage to confess a secret sin I felt terribly embarrassed of, a sin that kept me in chains to pain and shame. This was one of several sins I engaged in to try and numb away the pain of watching someone I loved be repeatedly harmed in the name of God. It was the sin of masturbation.
Rather than continue to bring my pain to God, I believed the lies of the enemy that the God who led me to speak up, had now abandoned me and the one I spoke up for. I couldn’t see anything change with my physical eyes and so, as I thumbed the Psalms with tears streaming, I clung to my pain as proof of God’s absence, rather than His invitation into the compassion and mercy He had for me, for the one I loved and even for those doing the harm, that they believed to be God’s will.
Praise God, as I turned away in my pain, numbing away my fears and my pain with sin, my Mum and her best friend began to pray. Seeing my confidence waning, as I retreated from life to hide behind books, they began to pray for God to restore my confidence. God heard these prayers He birthed in them, when He gifted me that dear friend, who openly boasted in her weakness to sing God’s truth over me.
While I did not continue to take up this repeated invitation into truth at the time, now, when I look back, my confidence is being restored in the faithfulness of our God in our own unfaithfulness, through this very friend. She is now proof of God’s compassion and mercy to me. Her presence in my life, reminds me that God’s mercies are new every morning. Now I know that in my struggle to come to Him, I can cry out and ask for His power to draw me to Him: not just once, but again and again.
What did her name mean?
God is an oath.
Years later, we moved towns and my father decided to send me to a non-Christian high school. Arriving in the second year at a huge city school, after four years at a little country Christian school, then still accompanied by my five brothers and sisters, and now alone, had me feeling insecure and out of place.
But even there God continued to sing His truth over me. A classmate welcomed me into her little group of friends.
What was the meaning of her name?
Bold kin or family.
God was reminding me that He is our Abba Father who boldly welcomes outsiders into His outstretched arms.
Months before this major transition and move, God also gave me another friend who would become my very best friend, and still is one of my two best friends today. Amazingly, our new home ended up being only a 5 minute bike-ride away from hers. She became one of our family and I became one of hers.
When I look back, I see God’s faithfulness to me in her friendship so much. She (and later her husband and children) never stopped loving me, welcoming me into their life and praying for me (and my family) through my long Prodigal journey home. Oh don’t get me wrong, she grieved behind closed doors and her heart struggled to understand the path I was on, but she stood by me, being God’s faithfulness to me in my unfaithfulness.
What is the meaning of my best friend’s name?
And what was the meaning of my elementary teacher’s name all those years earlier?
This is a reference to goat’s hair, a material that was once upon a time woven into the curtains of the tabernacle furnishings. A durable fabric, designed to sustain the frequent moves of the tabernacle through the wilderness. And here again, God’s hand is so beautifully present through my teacher.
In Exodus 35:26 we hear that: “all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats’ hair.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the Holy Spirit had stirred my teacher’s heart up to draw those hands with the sparrow all those years before. For, it’s almost as if she was spinning goat’s hair to cover and protect me, a living temple of the Holy Spirit, on the eve of my departure into the wilderness.
She was unknowingly preparing the Way for what is now becoming my calling in Christ, the meaning of my first two names, given to me in the womb.
What was the name my parents gave me?
These names mean grace and famous warrior. How can we become famous grace warriors? By receiving grace upon grace ourselves. For we love, because He first loved us.
I now see how God never stops singing the truth over us in every little detail of our life. Through every heartache, loss and trial He reminds us that, just as His eye is upon the tiniest of sparrows, His eye remains on us too. He never leaves or forsakes us.
For, He is the hand of power in our weakness. He is the hand of compassion, when we turn away in our fear and shame. He is the hand of family, our bold kin who claims us as His no matter where we go. He is the hand of truth, a rock and anchor for our slipping feet, even when we cannot see Him. And He is the One who can give us the eyes of faith to see and behold who He truly is – the faithful One – through all the trauma, pain and loss we walk through on this earth.
Come, let’s celebrate The Promise, Come, let’s celebrate the life of Jesus at work in us.
Those huge hands, palms wide open, holding that tiny sparrow are His promise to each one of us.
That He sees us and knows us. That He hems us in, from behind and before. That He lays His hand upon us (Psalm 139:5). That wherever we go, His hand guides us and His right hand holds us fast (Psalm 139:9-10). That no one can ever snatch us out of His mighty hand (John 10:29, Isaiah 43:13), out of the hand of the One who declares (Isaiah 45:5-6):
“I am the Lord, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me,
so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.”
As we reflect on Christ’s all-enfolding hands, His eye upon even the tiniest of sparrows, let’s invite Him to speak to us afresh today. Let’s invite Him to show us what He has in fact been singing over us all this time. Let’s ask Him to give us Christ’s eyes of faith in our need for faith.
What gifts has He been bestowing to you through the meaning of place names or the names of people on your and your loved ones’ life journeys thus far?
Father, today, we invite you to reveal Your character to us in and through our lives and the lives of our loved ones. Remind us of significant people and places in their lives and ours. Show us that no detail is insignificant. Reveal Your fingerprints to us today.
Show us how You are unveiling Your eternal Promises from Your holy and trustworthy Word in our and our loved ones’ lives. Open our mouths and fill them to overflowing with praise for the God whose eyes are ever upon His beloved creation and who never ever leaves or forsakes His own. Give us Your eyes of faith, hope and love. Help us remember that YOU see all things and all people and that when our hearts break, it’s because YOUR heart is breaking inside of us. Help us to come to You, just as we are, trusting in Your mercy, Your love and Your faithfulness to us in our unfaithfulness. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.
Today, rather than sharing a friend’s testimony, I am sharing my Mum’s story that is woven together with my own. When we buried my Mum, I glorified her strength, perseverance and love. But in the years since saying goodbye to her, more than anything, I’ve come to realize that what I glorified her for, was Jesus at work in and through her. It was Jesus, who continually turned the hardest paths my Mum walked, into stories of beauty, through His love.
So, in sharing some of my Mum’s stories and her impact on others, my prayer is that we will not see her as someone to glorify, but rather, as someone just like us, in whom and through whom we can see the wonders of God’s love and grace for us all. I pray that through her life, you too will recognize Jesus at work in your own life, reaping a harvest of love, when and where you least expect it.
When I was little, we lived in a small town in New Zealand. My Mum led a busy life, combining study at University with (at that point in her life) three young children under the age of 4. And yet even being so busy with her own life, God opened the eyes of her heart to see and serve others in their need.
She once read about more and more young mothers taking their own life in our town. These women died from the as yet little understood illness of Postpartum Depression. My Mum’s heart ached and my Dad shared how she stayed up the whole night pouring out her heart in prayer to the LORD. The very next morning she went from door to door, getting to know the young mothers in our neighborhood. My Dad said that after that night of Mum praying, the postpartum depression related suicides in our little town suddenly stopped.
I believe, it is no accident where God places us, nor is it an accident that those in need around us are so very often in a similar life situation to ourselves. My Mum didn’t know the ravages of postpartum depression, but she knew enough about the stresses of caring for young children and the impact of depression on loved ones, that her heart bled for those young mothers and their families. Love and compassion poured forth from her, from the very heart of Jesus in her, moving her to become His very hands and feet in her town.
When I was four, my parents moved from New Zealand to Germany, answering the call of God to share the Good News with those who did not know that a personal and living relationship with God was a possibility. For the first six months, this meant my parents and their at that point four young children under six, had to live in a campervan.
One day, my Mum invited an English family of four over for dinner, after church. I remember my Dad saying that they were so surprised to find that we lived at a camping ground. What I see so much in this is how God gave my Mum such boldness in reaching out from her position of weakness. Rather than hanging out in the shame of her own family’s poverty, she pressed into God’s riches, to give to others from her place of need. And God supplied in abundance, enabling His love to flow richly.
It reminds me that I too can trust God to supply more than I could ever think to ask for or imagine. I can reach out to others, when God prompts me to, not because I am so strong and able, but because I know my God will perfect His power precisely in my weakness and inadequacy. For, it’s not by power, nor by might, but by the Spirit of the LORD that Love Himself – God – is made known, in and through us.
When I was nine years old, my parents adopted my little brother from Romania. We had traveled to Romania several times before the adoption, my Dad having organized and helped carry out various aid trips after the fall of the dictator Ceaucescu. When we took my little brother home with us, it was two weeks before we moved back permanently to New Zealand.
My Mum was exhausted from the almost six years in missions and yet returned to a town far from her own family’s support. There, in this new town, she cared for us six children, the whole household and supported my Dad, in his new stressful and taxing position as the head of a Christian high school, while also filling in as a maths teacher for the school.
When she was dying, my Mum shared of her failings in parenting my little brother. She spoke of her regrets in punishing him physically, when in hindsight, what he had needed most in that place of rebellion was someone who saw the trauma and heartache beneath. She shared of her exhaustion, of her struggle to reach his little heart and the ache she had carried for so many years.
There have been many times, I have felt deeply grieved by the many years it took for restoration to come. But God is showing me that it is all just more proof of the persevering power of His love and grace. His Word tells us that He is not slow to save, as we deem Him to be, but that His desire is that not one of us should perish. Sometimes, a longer journey is necessary to weave His masterpiece, not just in us, but others through us.
As I have poured out my grief about the years it took, God has asked me to stop looking back in pain. He has, again and again, gently reminded me to look up at Him. He has asked me to see the beauty He has forged and still is forging in and through His love and grace to us.
Now, I see the beauty God brought through my Mum’s broken and contrite heart. And I even see the beauty He brought through the unfulfilled ache my Mum carried for so many years. My mother didn’t stay in a place of regret for the many years she was caught in blindness herself, but rather, by God’s great grace and His loving Word to her, she moved forward.
She sought and received my little brother’s forgiveness and God’s call to pray fervently for all the incomplete stories that made her heart ache. And I believe her hidden prayers, prompted by the heart of Jesus in her, are still being unveiled now, almost seven years later.
Looking back, I can now see that God’s timing in opening my Mum’s eyes to see what she couldn’t when I was little, was impeccable. I may share more about that another time. And all the years Mum’s heart ached in her blindness, God used for good. For, His love and grace continued to flow through my Mum, as it does through all of us in our seeing but in part and not in full.
In her search to better understand my little brother, my Mum reached out to love and care for numerous other little children that others couldn’t cope with. She was known as the preschool teacher to give the “difficult kids” to. And she was also known for coming alongside the parents of these “difficult” kids. Often these parents, many single-Moms, were going through really hard things themselves.
My Mum went from being a student Mum, to a missionary and pastor’s wife, to a high school teacher, to studying to become a preschool teacher in her later life. As she told my Dad, she began to understand that the early development of children is so crucial to their later development. Not surprisingly, she then progressed to studying counseling, realizing that many of the children she saw struggling had parents who were struggling too. Perhaps, she also began to recognize the support she too had needed as a struggling Mum back in New Zealand that she hadn’t dared to reach out and ask for.
I have no doubt that the ache in her heart from her experiences with my little brother drove her to give love in places she never would have otherwise gone. I believe this ache drove her to love children and parents the world had turned their back on.
God opened my Mum’s eyes to see my little brother’s rebellion with new eyes in her final months on earth. She wept and wept watching films of children who went through similar trauma to my little brother, who spent his first fifteen months in an orphanage, being given up mere days after his birth.
She shared how her counseling course exposed her to these videos, the very counseling course she had chosen to do to help others. But when she received her diploma in her final months on earth, she shared how she hadn’t realized how much healing her own heart had needed. But I believe God always did.
Beautifully the brain cancer she suffered from in her final months, took away her social filter and in fact helped her to speak up boldly and seek restoration. My little brother’s heart opened wide to receive the grace he had so longed for. And he in turn extended it to my Mum also, in great thankfulness to God.
God worked most powerfully in and through my Mum, when she was at her weakest. Even as she lay dying, unable to speak, eat or even wink, love poured out of her, through the palpable peace of God covering her, as I shared in my testimony last week. And I was not the only one to feel it or be blessed by it.
As God went about healing my Mum’s heart in quiet and unseen ways, He was also busy healing others through her and He continues to do so today: through her very much living testimony to His love and grace.
It shows me that when we give our lives to Jesus, it’s no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in and through us. Through us sinful and broken people who only see but in part on this earth. Christ’s life and love continually flows into and out of us, in ways I don’t think we will fully comprehend until heaven. But isn’t this foretaste already so glorious!
There are so many other stories I could share from my Mum’s 59 years on this earth, but I will end with a quote from a friend of ours, a quote my Dad chose to have engraved on my Mum’s tombstone. This man said of my Mum: “When you were with Margaret, you knew you were loved.”
Surely, as God’s Word tells us: the greatest of these is love. And who is love, but God Himself. The God who never stops pouring Himself into and out of us.
In His love, He makes something beautiful of each of our lives:
I have decided to only publish this week’s blog in audio format. I sensed the importance of us (me also) needing to “hear” the testimony and the Word of our Lord to be transformed by it. This week I invite you to listen to the story of how Jesus came to rescue and carry me, His lost sheep, home, while contemplating His hand upon your own life too. At the end you are invited to listen to a reading of Scripture. Through the reading, I invite our Heavenly Father to soak us all in His Word and to slow our hearts to listen to and obey His fresh and very personal Word to us.
Here a few quotes to encourage you to listen for yourself:
I feel the nearness of a God I do not know. Here is a gentle, compassionate Father stooping down to wrap me in Himself. A God who sees my heaving heart beneath, all the waves of pain and fear and shame I cannot breathe. And He breathes for me: “I see you. I know you. I love you.” . . .
These monthly installments of my testimony are not just God’s answer to this deeper desire He gave me, but His answer to all of us. To all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives.
May your hearts be blessed!
My Mum and I in Salzburg, the year I gave my heart to the LORD and also the year my parents moved from New Zealand to Germany, with four little kids in tow, to share the love of Jesus with those the LORD called them to.
May these Scriptures and songs encourage your heart today, drawing you into the Presence of the God who is love, never-ending Love:
2 Samuel 7: 22 – 23 KJV
For thy word’s sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all these great things, to make thy servant know them.
Wherefore thou art great, O Lord God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.
Have you ever experienced the sting of rejection? If you are human, then most likely you will have. Perhaps like me, you too have received man’s rejection as God’s rejection. As a little girl, I internalized lies about myself in the sting of human rejection. These were lies that deeply wounded the core of my being. I stopped looking at Jesus. Instead I bowed to my idols and walked in the sin of pride and unbelief, giving birth to the accuser’s fruit of pain and shame.
I defined myself as a failure and as one unworthy of God’s love. I believed myself to be rejected by the very One who died to give me life. And then, as my pain and shame just grew and grew, rather than speak up and cry out to God, I kept silent. I found refuge in hidden sin, numbing the ever-growing pain and shame whose presence I fervently denied. I tried to keep up the appearance of righteousness, parading my self-righteousness, until I finally couldn’t take my double life anymore. I fled the hypocrisy I so loathed. I became a Prodigal, no longer just in my heart, but also in my public actions. I ran because I believed myself too far gone for the grace of God.
Since God brought me home to Him, He has taken me back into similar situations of rejection all over again, not to harm me, but to bless me. Each time, He has gently showed me that I have a choice to arise in Him to new life, freed of the lies in my open confession and repentance, or to slink back and hide in the dark. Sometimes I have trusted Him, at other times, I have not: choosing to tell lies and deny the truth of the living Word to be approved of and remain acceptable to those around me. But through it all He has continued to lovingly and patiently lead me forward, as I have fallen and gotten back up again, in His strength.
Part of God’s training in righteousness, has involved following His uncomfortable prompting to open my mouth. He has compelled me to speak openly of the wounding being inflicted and the truth and grace being denied me and others, rather than staying in the dark to be the “good girl”. In my doing so, He has also invited me to allow Him to unravel my heart and search and know me, seeing if there be any wickedness in me: not to condemn me, but to free me from its hold.
His gentle, yet firm training has also required me to depart from religious communities and friendships that defined me according to my past or according to the sins and weakness I was openly confessing before them. For, God has wanted me to deep down know that He has created me to flourish in godly community, where I and others are seen and loved in the light of His love, compassion and grace for us.
CHRIST is doing in me what I could never do in and of myself. He is shifting my focus from man’s approval to His approval.He’s uprooting more and more things I have chosen to put my trust in, to reroot my trust in His love and grace for me and His love and grace for others. The very love that abides in me – Jesus Himself- is teaching me to abide in love myself.
Jesus has lovingly shown me how my fleshly focus is so much on the here and now. For example, if He tells me to do something and it doesn’t produce the result I expect or in my timing, my flesh causes me to think: “See, Anna, God doesn’t love you.” But it’s in that sting of rejection in response to the accuser’s lies, Jesus is teaching me to step back, get real silent before Him and listen for HIS Word to me.
Oh yes, I still struggle with the accusations of the enemy. I hear his lies that tell me God could never love or work through someone like me, who keeps messing up and falling back into fleshly thinking. This always happens just after I have openly confessed my sins and have turned toward the light of Jesus. The enemy then hisses at me to hide myself and retreat in the shame of who I am, but it’s then God reminds me to arise and shine in the light and truth of who HE is inside of me.
Patiently, with me falling and getting back up again, my loving heavenly Father is teaching me to declare myself covered by the blood of Jesus, to resist the accusations of the enemy, so that he will flee from me. My Abba Father keeps reminding me that the open confession of my sin and weakness is in fact proof that I am His child, His child who hides herself in nothing but His beautiful righteousness.
It is then I place my trust in my Savior, the man of sorrows, who walked toward us, His children – the joy set before Him – to shed His very own blood for me and for you. And though I may look foolish to this world, and to my ego, in God’s strength and prompting, I am learning to take up my Cross, lay down my fleshly life and ego, to arise in Jesus: my Alpha and Omega, the One who was and is and is to come.
Christ longs for me and for you too, to walk forward into His irrevocable purposes. Purposes that compel us to arise from the tomb of our sin into Christ’s resurrection life. Purposes that call us to share what the Good News truly means with those who, just like us, are facing the cruel accusations of the enemy. For it is not that we are strong and mighty, it is that the Word in us is unwrapping strength and might in us:
I pray that as you read (listen to) this poem God inspired me to write after I sat with the story of Lazarus, that you too will feel the light of Jesus rising upon your face and see His resurrection life being unwrapped, moment by moment, in and through you.
UNWRAP HER HERE
Death you know
All you ever thought you were
All you ever dreamed
All you ever loved.
But, My child
To flesh alone.
Has he but laid you there.
You, my Lazarus
Wrapped in sacred linen there.
That he has purposed
To steal, kill, destroy
I have purposed
Here is where I call
Arise and come
Unwrap her here and
Let her loose.
For I have spoken
Might know my Father
Sent me here.
Anyone who walks
Does not stumble
Plenty of light from the sun
No glory here to see.
But you, My child
You walk the night,
And here’s where eyes will open
Not just your own,
But many more.
The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in a dark land,
The light has shone upon them.
Death you know
All you ever thought you were
All you ever dreamed
All you ever loved.
But Life has now entered My death
Gone here the old
The new has come
Ugly to beautiful
Broken to whole
Poor unto rich:
Unwrap her here and
Let her loose
Christ has risen
He has risen indeed!
John 11:14-15 ESV
Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
John 11:44 ESV
And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”
When the Body of our LORD was laid upon that Cross, He didn’t stay there. Wrapped in linen and laid in a tomb, just like Lazarus, Christ’s Body would be raised unto glory three days later. Death could not hold the Body of Christ. And today also, death cannot hold us – the Body of Christ – either.
Oh yes, we may be led into what seems like a tomb and it really is a tomb too. But in that tomb Jesus will open our eyes to see the newness arising, to see His lordship over us and others, to see HIM at the head of HIS chosen, beloved and resurrected Body.
Can you now see, with me, what Jesus means with 2 Corinthians 4:11 ESV: “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” It’s in fact when the accuser comes calling that Jesus is inviting us to die to ourselves and to live unto Him. He longs to reveal the power of His abiding love – His living Word in us.
It’s then we discover that our worth is not in the applause of man, but in the worthiness we find at the foot of the Cross, in the surrender of our all for Christ’s all:
John 8:12 ESV
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Will you join me as I come before our Father in prayer, today?
Thank You, Abba Father, that the love and life of Your Son abides in us. Thank You that even though we did not choose You, You chose and appointed us to go and bear fruit that abides (John 15:6). Thank You that even now, Your Spirit is touching our spirit to affirm who we truly are: Your beloved children.
Thank You that it pleases You, through the folly of what we preach, to save those who believe. Thank You that You have made foolish the wisdom of the world to glorify Your Son in us and through us (1 Corinthians 1: 20-21).
For, You have chosen to shed Your love abroad in our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), a love that abides and remains in us, even in our own unfaithfulness (2 Timothy 2:13). Thank You that because You have given us Your Son – the Word made flesh – and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we shall come to know You, our Abba Father, more and more. Thank You that we shall see the reward of Your Son’s suffering on the Cross.
We shall watch in awe as You turn our hearts to love, where we first hated. To extend mercy, where we first held tight to pain, unforgiveness, bitterness and shame. We shall watch in awe as Your compassion flows from our hearts and hands and feet, because we have come to know Your compassion for us, at the foot of the Cross.
Thank You that we are Your chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, Your special possession, that we may declare the praises of You who called us out of darkness into Your wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). Thank You that we are always being given over to death for Your sake, so that Your life also may be manifested in our mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:11).
Forgive me, Father, for every moment I have denied the abiding love of Your Son in me. Forgive me for agreeing with the accusations of the enemy and birthing the fruit of unrighteousness. Forgive me for clinging to the tomb of my sin and not seeing and taking a hold of Your outstretched hand of kindness and grace.
Forgive me for counting my weakness and missing of the mark as proof of my eternal damnation and as a reason for others to see me as less-than, rather than as an invitation to grow in Your truth and grace. Forgive me for not stilling to hear and obey Your Word in me and to me. Forgive me for bowing to my pride and to my accuser. Forgive me for not believing in, declaring and living out the truth of Your abiding love in me.
When the enemy tries to silence us and speak of the stench of our grave clothes, help us, oh Father, to arise in the truth of Your mercy and grace, not only for us, but also for those the enemy is accusing us through. Help us not to turn away in shame, or to turn toward others in anger, as the accusations come, but embolden us to let You unwrap our grave clothes, right there, as we confess our sins and our weakness, before You and before others, openly and freely. Unwrap Your Son in us, Shalom Adonai! Our rock, our shield and the lifter of our head.
Thank You that we, the people who walk in darkness have indeed seen a great light; thank You that we who live in a dark land, have seen Your light shine upon us (Matthew 4:16). When You lead us to the Cross, help us to bow our knees in prayer and to clasp Your hand – the hand of Your healed and whole Body. Help us to arise and put on our new clothes of love, faith and hope. Thank You that You say blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). Therefore, we shall suffer according to Your will and entrust our souls to a faithful Creator while doing good (1 Peter 4:19). In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
When my wounds ache and I tell God I can’t bear it, Christ’s love bears all things for me.
1 John 3:1 (ESV)
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Have you ever stood looking up at a tall tree and seen a circle etched into the trunk or a kind of circular bump, where a branch was once cut off. That is a tree wound.
A photo I took in our local forest
Yes, even trees carry wounds. Next time you are near one, place your hands on the callus: the wound that has healed, but can still be seen and felt.
WHAT DOES A WOUND LOOK LIKE?
As children and as adults, we go through much wounding, just like these trees do. When we have already walked through traumatic (shocking or abusive) experiences in the past, this new wounding can be extra painful.
Have you ever been told you can’t do something because someone only sees your weakness and your struggles and not your abilities or calling in Christ? Have you ever been rejected, called names, treated meanly?
Have you ever not been chosen for a sports team or for a part you wanted to play or a task you wanted to do? Have you ever had the one you love and trust most, not show up for you, or not be fully there for you, when you have needed them the most? That is a kind of pruning – a deep wounding – too.
GROWING IN GOD’S LOVE WHEN WE ARE HURTING
But how can we grow in God’s strength and love when we are hurting? That’s where Jesus comes in. Jesus carried our sin and the wounding of our hearts (our invisible disease) to the Cross, so that we would never have to carry that heavy weight ourselves.
So, every time something hurts us, Jesus is right there beside us. He wants us to come right to Him instead of holding in our pain and anger. He wants us to stop trying so hard not to think, do or say mean things. He wants us to be honest and tell Him everything, even things we feel bad about.
He is not ashamed of us. He hurts with us and invites us to call on Him. Jesus knows we can’t be good by trying harder ourselves, but only by coming to Him. When we do, He comforts us and helps us to love and forgive those who hurt us. And He helps us to confess our sins. Then Hispure goodness pours out of us, without us even trying.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THE STRUGGLE
But can I tell you a secret? I sometimes forget that God wants to help me too. I start trying to be good all by myself. Then, I wonder why I am feeling so grumpy.
But do you know what God has started doing when I forget? He reminds me of a song I used to sing in Sunday school: https://youtu.be/Hx3n53d3aH8
When I start singing that song, I remember that God is right there with me. I tell Him all about my pain, the things I am worried about. I begin to confess my sins one by one, asking Him to lift their weight from me. I stop trying so hard and let Him wash me clean and be good and strong for me.
Have a listen to that song today too and let Jesus remind you that He wants to be good and strong for you too.
JESUS IS OUR GOOD GARDENER
Strangely, wounding a tree, by cutting its branches, helps to keep it healthy and strong. A good Gardener will cut away weaker and dying branches, so they don’t snap in a storm and fall on our heads. But He also prunes (cuts away) healthy branches, so the tree becomes stronger, not having to carry so much weight.
Did you know that Jesus also talks of pruning in the Bible? He tells us that He is our good Gardener. So, like the good Gardener, He also cuts away weak, dying, and even healthy branches to make our hearts stronger in Him.
Sometimes this cutting away can feel like a punishment, but actually it is a sign that Jesus cares deeply for us. It may look like He is only cutting good things out of our life. But can you now see how He is actually making room for evenmoregood things to grow in our hearts and our lives.
He is making room for Jesus to grow and flourish in us: the God who is love. A love that is patient and kind; does not envy or boast; is not arrogant or rude; does not insist on its own way; is not irritable or resentful; does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. A love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
JESUS IS ALWAYS SPEAKING, EVEN IN THE SILENCE
But what if we have called out to God, but He seems real silent? When my wounds hurt real bad as a little girl, I remember thinking: “God mustn’t love me, like He does others. He hasn’t answered my deepest cries, nor seen my many tears.” Maybe you know that feeling of abandonment – of feeling all alone in your pain- also. As a little girl, I thought God was ignoring me, in my crying out. I thought God stayed silent to my many pleas. But now I know, He never ever stopped loving me or speaking to or singing over me: even the twenty plus years I turned my back on Him, as I hardened my heart in sin.
You see, He was speaking to me through the songs I sung, through the stories my Mum read me aloud at night, through the stars in the sky, the sunshine on my face, the butterfly that planted itself on my head, the leaves changing color in the fall, even through the meaning of my name and the meaning of my friends’ names each place we moved to.
And when all I could see was nothing changing in my circumstances in response to my many tear-filled prayers, He was working still. In my heart and in my loved ones’ hearts, until He then began to unveil His beautiful and much bigger answer to us all, twenty years later. An answer filled with a full measure of love, compassion and mercy that only God could give us.
JESUS INVITES US TO COME, JUST AS WE ARE
Will you join me this week in taking time to cry out to God, to tell Him all about your pain, your sins and all that scares or worries you? And will you join me in also taking the time to listen for His answer?
Get out your paintbrush, or pencils. Grab your soccer ball or your journal. Or put on your favorite song. Go for a walk. Or sit in your garden or look out the window at the sky. Or sit with a friend to chat about life. And listen. What could Jesus be wanting you to see, to know, to feel, to share, to do?
Record His answer to you. You can do that in any way you want. Journal it. Paint it. Draw it. Tell your favorite person about it. Dance it. Sing it. Oh how He loves to see you praise Him!
A PRAYER FOR TODAY
Can I pray for us all today?
Father, when we are hurting from all the cutting away, will You please remind us that You are for us and not against us? Will You remind us that You – love Himself – are here to hold us and heal us. Help us to come to You with our pain.Thank You that when we call on You, You always answer us. For, You are the God who is with us and never forsakes us.
Thank You that You are the Lord who comforts Zion and all who belong to her, through Christ Jesus. Thank You that You are He, who comforts all our waste places and our wilderness like Eden, our desert like the garden of the Lord; thank You that joy and gladness will yet be found in each one of us, thanksgiving and the sound of singing (Isaiah 51:3, Galatians 3:29).
Oh Father, thank You that You are not ashamed of us in our weakness or in our sin. We are so tired of all the ways we have tried so hard to be good for You. Will You help us to come to You just as we are?
We invite You to uncover the wounds we have hidden from You and to comfort us in our pain. We invite You to convict us of our sins and wash them away. We invite You to help us love and forgive others freely and without expecting anything in return. Show us the goodness You are growing in us through every wound.
When we forget You are with us and for us, will You bring songs to our mind and heart that remind us of the truth?
Thank You precious Jesus for who You are: always true, always good and always faithful to us. In Your Name we pray this now, Amen.
POSTSCRIPT: apologies for the delay in posting the final recording of this post. I was convicted to edit a portion of the text to rightly divide the Word of God. I have now rightly placed the focus back on honoring Jesus and His work of salvation in us, and not on honoring us for our crying out. Please forgive me for this error in my first version.
Welcome to Shalom Aleh (Healing Leaves), a weekly blog to encourage you and your family, as you heal from trauma, in the living Word and testimony of Jesus. May you be blessed in this place and go back out into this yearning world, to be a blessing to others.
Each month, we will rest in a particular character trait of Jesus: in who He is in us, for us, through us and to us. Each weekly publication, on a Tuesday, will be centered on this monthly theme.
Sometimes the order of the weekly posts below may differ, in response to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.
Every first week of the month, you will find a new devotional. These have been created with families in mind. They are child-friendly and can be read or listened to together with your children. Each devotional begins with an application of the Bible to our everyday life, including one or more mini-testimonies. This is followed by one or more practical ways we can seek our God throughout our week. We end with a Scripture-filled prayer.
Every second week of the month, you will find a new chapter of my own personal testimony. Each installment will invite you to see the fingerprints of Jesus on your own story. We will end with a time of prayer and reflection. I will invite you to join me in praying the Word of God over your life.
Every third week of the month, you will find a poem/poetry reading, ending with an invitation into prayer. These poems are rooted in and inspired by Scripture. They also reflect God’s healing hand upon us, His children.
Every fourth week of the month, you will find testimonies from other believers: from friends of mine who share of the healing God has been gifting them.
May you and your family feel the warmth of Jesus wrap around you like a shawl here as you visit. As you seek His face, may His Word flow like fresh water toward you, growing leaves of healing, not just in your heart and in your family’s but in many more through you. May the Spirit of the living God write His Word on each of our hearts, as we gather here.
May you and your family always leave here refreshed, with an ever deeper desire to know and be known by Jesus. May His living and breathing Word become ever more precious to you and your loved ones, so much so that you cannot help but share Him with others.
May you and your family deep down know that even though you did not choose God, He CHOSE and appointed you – yes, even sinful and traumatized us – to GO and bear fruit that abides. May you shake off the dust of the old and enter the new He has for you. May you shine brightly in the light of His love and grace, so that this yearning world around you may see Him and know Him through you.