Christ’s Sufficiency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faithful Father True

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Train Up A Child

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)

I grew up in faith. Child of Kiwi missionaries to Germany, whose hearts beat with the love of and for their Lord. They brought me, my two sisters and my three brothers up in Christ. We tangibly experienced the presence of God in and through them – precisely also through my parents literally leaving everything behind to follow their LORD. 

I knew with one hundred percent certainty that my God existed. But despite this certainty I turned my back on Him more and more in my teenage years, as I exchanged God’s understanding for my own. Did my parents then not “train me up in the way [I] should go? And what is exactly “the way [our children] should go”?

When I returned to faith, with a one year old and four year old daughter, I dug deeply into this Proverb of King Solomon’s. It is then I discovered that for the Jewish people this Proverb called them to celebrate their adolescent child’s God-given calling. 

I learnt that it had much more to do with releasing our children into God’s hands than trying to mould our children to fit our way of thinking and doing things. The “way [our children] should go” is thus the path our God has already planned and chosen for them. 

Just as with Peter, Jesus prayed for me so that my faith would not fail, also through my parents’ many tearful prayers, even before Satan had begun to sift me like wheat and I began to turn away. And just like Peter, I have been rooted more deeply in my Lord precisely through the humbling knowledge that it is (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV): “by grace [I,] have been saved through faith. And this is not [my] own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Unlike when I was little, I now know that Christ’s power is made perfect in my and others’ weakness. I now know that the fear of man and pride are no match for our sovereign God.

He was never ashamed of my need for Him and still isn’t. For, from the very moment He called me, He knew my every weakness and how He would break it open and harness it for good, for me and for others, through my testimony to His goodness and mercy.

Now, God has given me physical evidence for His Promise to us, that when we give our hearts to Christ, He remains faithful to us in our faithlessness because He cannot disown Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). For, when we give our hearts to Jesus, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13-14 (ESV) puts it this way:

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

So, how do we “train up a child in the way he should go”? I believe, by placing them in our God’s hands again, again and again. By living in communion with our Savior and allowing Him to shape our prayers, thoughts and actions through His living moment-by-moment Word to us. 

God invites us to listen for His plan and purpose for our own and our children’s lives. A plan and purpose that will most definitely call us to lay down our own expectations and understanding to arise in Christ’s. Again and again.

My parents kept praying for me all those years. On my 59 year-old mother’s deathbed, as she surrendered absolutely everything to her LORD, I came face-to-face with the One true God. Through the palpable, gentle and loving peace of the Holy Spirit that fell upon my mother and myself, my hardened heart was broken open. 

As my mother experienced the kindness of our God, that led her to so much repentance and freedom in her final months, so I too experienced that same kindness through the power of the Holy Spirit falling upon her, and upon me.

In those final months of my Mum’s life, God gave me palpable evidence that He is never absent to us in our suffering. He showed me how He works in and through it to bless us and draw us ever closer to Him. He began opening my eyes to His Presence. Now, I have come to see and celebrate His fingerprints all over my life and the lives of those I love.

I had forsaken His call to continue interceding through the pain of watching loved ones suffer. I had turned away to numb my pain in sin. And yet, Christ continued interceding for, in and through me: lovingly guiding and shaping me through all those years I wandered in my blindness.

So, you see, my parents did train their daughter up in the way – God’s Way – she should go, from the very moment I was conceived. And therefore I have not departed from it. 

For, my parents chose to put their trust, not in their own “perfect” understanding or their own “perfect” parenting, but in our truly perfect God and His truly perfect love. In our God whose power is made perfect in our every weakness. 

Thanks be to God to whom all glory and honor be, forever and ever, Amen.

Father, thank You for Your precious Promises to us. Thank You that You are the God who loves to awe us with Your sovereign display of power in and through our weakness.

Father, I ask You to send this Word out to parents who are discouraged today. Discouraged, believing that they have failed You and their children. Remind them that their and their children’s weakness is a gift. A gift given to display the wonder of Your perfect love for us and Your unending faithfulness to us.

And for all returning Prodigals, I ask You to open their eyes, just as You have and continue to do my own, to see the fingerprints of glory all over their lives. Show them how You were preparing them for the calling upon their lives. Show them how You were opening their eyes and hearts to receive You in places they never would have otherwise gone. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.

This is the ninth installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends

Grace

Isaiah 30: 18 (AMP) And therefore the Lord earnestly waits [expecting, looking and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all those who wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him- for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship!


As my heart opened further to God’s outstretched arms welcoming me home, He began to show me how His heart yearned for my companionship. As the summer holidays beckoned, He slowed me to sit in His Presence, all around me.

First, He assured me of His love, by turning me to the final verse of Psalm 23 in the Message version. This verse both reminded me of His everlasting love for me and encouraged me to look at  the love he was bestowing on me daily in the beauty around me.

Then, He encouraged me to slow to receive His many gifts in thanksgiving through Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Ann’s words, etched in pain, but brimming over in deep abiding joy, further opened my eyes and heart to how exactly His beauty and love chases after me, every single day. I started recognizing how often my hands were tightly clenched, stress and anxiety stealing my joy, just as they had Ann’s in the past. I remember talking to my husband about it and being reminded by Ann’s words of how often my husband would come sit beside me and take hold of my hands to unclench them. And then I read Voskamp’s words:

“Joy is a flame that glimmers only in the palm of the open and humble hand. In an open and humble palm, released and surrendered to receive, light dances, flickers happy. The moment the hand is clenched tight, fingers all pointing toward self and rights and demands, joy is snuffed out.”

Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), p.177


Later, I would be drawn more deeply into this humbling to receive even more of the joy that awaited me, but for now, Ann’s words encouraged me to turn to thankfulness in the smallest of moments and find God present there with me.

As I read further, Ann revealed that (p.176): “The feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving.” or in (p.33): “Eucharisteo”, “Charis” meaning Grace and its root “Chara” meaning joy. Thus, the moment we open our hands to His gift of grace in thanksgiving, His joy will fill us to overflowing.

Through her own story of choosing to record the gifts God bestowed on her daily, Ann showed me how slowing down throughout my day, could enable me to both see and choose to receive the daily gifts of grace God so dearly yearned to give me.

Throughout the summer holiday, my eyes and heart began to open to these many gifts. As I returned to the busy schedule of part-time work and caring for my family, about five months after burying my Mum, I sat down to record the impact of this slowing in my journal:

His Beauty and Love Chase After Me

Psalm 23:6 (The Message) Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life


This is the verse God gave me to show me just how much He loves me. I was doubting this love and He showed me that it was ALL around me. Now, when I choose to slow down to behold his “beauty” around me, I also see His “love” for me.

When I look at the sparkling joy within my girls’ eyes and the warmth of their embrace; when I stop to notice the smile of my husband, when he looks at me, a smile that captures a true, deep love; when I stop to look out the window at work and see a beautiful magpie, reminding me of God’s presence among us; when I stoop to observe his tiniest creations, the caterpillars, who remind me of His promise of eternal life and that one day our family will be fully reunited; when I slow to notice the light pouring through the forest, reminding me that even though things seem dark, His light and warmth never leave us, that His Spirit and Word continue to guide us, as they have done for generations before us; when I see the outstretched trees, I see His outstretched arms for us, His children.


Trying to maintain this slowing down into wonderment and joy beyond the quiet of the summer holidays, I started recording a daily gratefulness list via Facebook. While this blessed both me and others around me, it did not bring the true rest my body and soul yearned for. God knew that for that to come in greater and greater measure, He would need to reveal how much more deeply His love and mercy ran. A revelation He chose to bring through allowing the enemy to sift me like wheat, just as He did when I was little.

He was about to show me that in Him, NOTHING is wasted. He was about to begin redeeming my Prodigal story of pain and trauma. He was about to open my eyes to see that my story is not a story of pain and trauma but a story of God’s goodness and mercy chasing after us all. A story of a sovereign and mighty God who took what the enemy meant to steal, kill and destroy and turned it into life and more life and more life . . . And who is continuing to do so. Daily.

At the beginning of 2015, I started walking through one Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder trigger after another to find my Jesus there with me. Weeping with me. Holding me. Speaking truth over me. Lifting every accusation and covering me in His cloak of truth and mercy.

Ever yielding me to His will, that I might join Him in His suffering, His death and resurrection, to see redemption begin to flow, not just for me, but so many more through His life and love and mercy at work in me. A redemption I am continuing to see unveil before me.

Thank You, Jesus, for the gifts You are extending to us daily. Open our hearts and eyes more and more to Your Presence with us. Thank You that You see our deep longing to know Your heart more and more.

Oh Father, help us to lay down every accusation of condemnation at Your feet and to arise and shine in the light of Your truth, love and mercy for us. When You call us into a time of sifting, help us to see Your desire, not to hurt us, but to free us more and more and to draw us into ever deeper communion and intimacy with You. Cause us to call upon Your Name that You may save us in our affliction. Turn our valley of ashes into a garden of redemption to the honor and glory of Your Name.

Lift us up to praise You. Fill our mouths with laughter and our feet with dance. Show us that You are the God who (Isaiah 51:3 NIV): “will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins;” the God who “will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD.” YES! We declare that: “Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.In Your precious Name, Amen.

This is the eighth installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends

The Womb of Compassion

In what ways have you experienced a breaking? How has this breaking opened your eyes to more of who Jesus truly is? What story do your scars now tell?

My breath prayer this week has been a breathing in of “Remember” and breathing out of “Me”. 

Luke 22:14 ESV ‘And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”’

As I went running in the forest, my heart was heavy with shame, shame from an anger I couldn’t shake. So, I cried out, asking God to unravel my heart. To search and know me. The wisdom He gave me came in two steps. First, penning a letter of apology to myself, on behalf of the church. Then, writing a letter of thanks to Him for every point in my apology. 

As I wrote the apology, I was forced to name all the accusations of condemnation I had swallowed as truth, because I trusted men and women in positions of authority, above my holy God. Accusations that had made me feel unseen, unworthy, rejected, damaged goods and unwelcome in the Presence of God. 

As I wept profusely, feeling the pain of each wounding, the shame and pent up anger dissolved. I could now feel Jesus holding me in each and every situation I had once believed He had forsaken me. 

Then, as I sat to write the letter of thanks to God, I remembered what I had read that very morning. Moses refusing to continue the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness without the Presence of God going before him. It’s then I saw how Jesus was setting Himself before me with each thank You I penned. 

I saw how every step I had taken toward a breaking of His Body, became a breaking of my idols. Every time He commanded me to break friendships with fellow believers I idolized or physically leave their midst, God unveiled more of Himself to me.

Each breaking became an opportunity for God to write who He truly is on my heart. He was taking the Living Word I had ingested since I was a little girl and now returning it to me in a beautifully permanent inscription on my heart.

As I came to the end of my letter of thanks, I heard the Words: “Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto Me”. It’s then the tears flowed relentlessly down my cheeks. I knew exactly what He was saying. Every lie spoken over me and my loved ones in His Name, every Scripture wielded to wound me and the children I had immediately recognized as His, had broken His heart too. Because it was done unto Him also.

All those years I had wandered in my wilderness believing God had rejected me and those I loved, that all He wanted to do was hurt and kill me, He was walking before me, preparing the Way for my heart’s deepest desires to be fulfilled: to know who He truly is in the breaking of the bread. To have my eyes opened, just like the disciples on the way to Emmaus. To recognize that His fire had never ever stopped burning in me. That He had never ever stopped holding me, and those I recognized as His, in the palm of His nail-scarred hands.

May you be blessed by this beautiful worship song today that illustrates the power of Christ’s nail-pierced hands and feet. Christ carried the holes in His feet and hands, even after the resurrection, forever reminding us of His mercy poured out at the Cross.

I believe as Jesus exchanges our idols for Himself, through the breaking of His Body, He bows our knees at the Cross. As we enter into His suffering there, we taste and pour out His mercy. Then, the wounds that we once hid in shame, in the light of Jesus, become healed scars of mercy. They become a testimony to His blood shed at the Cross for us.

For, in our surrender, we receive the Body – with Christ at its Head, as One. Fully healed, whole and complete, according to the faith our God has given us. For, He opens our eyes to see what He sees.

It’s then our stories powerfully declare His compassion to a yearning world, through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. Beautifully the word for mercy and compassion in Hebrew comes from the word “womb” and so when we speak of God’s compassion we literally speak of the love a mother has for her unborn child in the womb. Isn’t that beautiful?!

In what ways have you experienced a breaking? How has this breaking opened your eyes to more of who Jesus truly is? What story do your scars now tell?

Isaiah 12 (ESV) You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
    for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
    that you might comfort me. “Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord,
    call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
    proclaim that his name is exalted. “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
    let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
    for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

With thanks to Reverend Summer at The Presence Project, who invited me to contribute as a Table Host a couple of years ago, and for whose Facebook group I originally wrote this post that now appears in its newly edited form.

This is the sixth installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends

In Weakness Perfected

When we walk through the aftermath of loss and trauma, we often feel the weight of our broken humanity so much more. Rather than listen to God’s still, sweet voice, it can feel safer to hold onto the accusations we hear inside of us.

When the LORD began to call me to share the Words and visions I saw with a family I had been praying for, I struggled. What if these were just figments of my imagination? What if they gave them false hope or upset them? I could hear the enemy breathing down my neck: “God would never call someone like you to intercede for others in prayer. He would never give someone like you these kind of Words and visions.”

Then, a leader I deeply respected, most likely trying to protect me in my fears, affirmed the very accusations I was already hearing, when I asked for advice. And so a tug of war ensued. Until finally, I cried out in frustrated anger.

I told God enough was enough. Either I was going to zip my lips, or God had better show me that it was indeed He, who had called me to speak His Word into this family’s situation.

Moments later, three separate affirmations arrived. But the most amazing affirmation of all was what unfolded with a stranger, mere minutes after my prayer. I was standing at a train station minding my own business, when a man approached me. He asked to borrow my phone to call his brother to let him know he’d be late. I was frightened by his dishevelled exterior, but didn’t want to be rude, so I offered to call his brother for him and tell him.

After doing so, the man thanked me profusely and suddenly began to share parts of his life story. He started by sharing his full (Hebrew) name and his Christian upbringing. And went on to share of the incredible suffering his parents walked through and their inability to love him as he needed to be loved. He then shared about his struggle to believe and to be freed from his addictions.

I listened intently, praying for God to fill me with the wisdom I lacked. I longed to help this man see how much God still loved him and yearned to comfort and bring healing. It’s then, as we sat together on the train, that the Holy Spirit prompted me to openly share about the trauma I had walked through as a little girl and how God was leading me to a place of healing and forgiveness.

The Holy Spirit also provided a question to ask the man. It is this question that visibly moved the man. He kept repeating it and working through its implications. Suddenly, I saw compassion enter the man’s eyes as he spoke of his parents, rather than the hurt and bitterness that had been there moments earlier. The Lord was so clearly working in his heart.

I sat there beside him on the train, amazed. If it was not for the Lord’s promptings I would never have gone near this man. He stunk of alcohol and his dishevelled appearance both frightened and revolted me. But God was not put off by my fears or judgement. He pressed until I responded in grace and love as He wanted me to.

After this experience I knew. I knew that even in my broken, newly returned Prodigal state, God was calling me to intercede and speak encouragement into others’ lives. It’s then I knew the Scriptures and visions of Bible stories I was receiving in prayer were gifts from God, not given to hoard, but share.

Oh there have still been moments since then, that I have turned to hide and dim my light. But my God has been so faithful to return me to Himself and to remind me that His power is perfected in weakness. He has lifted me back out of the mire to set my feet upon the Rock and to shine the light He’s given me, brightly, in the places He has set me apart to make His glory known.

Thank You, Jesus, that You call the foolish of this world to shame the wise. Thank You that You call the weak of this world to confound the strong. Thank You that You call us, Your broken open vessels, to shine Your love brightly into the lives of those around us.

Father God, fill us with Your courage today to shine the light of Your love, where You call us to. Help us to turn away from the lies we hear that condemn us or those You are calling us to love. Help us instead to see Your reflection as we look into the mirror and as we look into the faces of those You have set before us.

Melt away our insecurities and fears in the truth of Your holy love for both us and for those you call us to bless. A love You expressed by pouring out the judgement each one of us deserved upon Your very own Son, so that we could be freed from our sin and shame, to run with joy into Your abundant life. Thank You, Father, for Your incredible sacrificial love, a love like no other.

Forgive us for the moments we have rested in the safe of our insecurities and fears. Help us not to be ashamed of our weakness or fearful in our inadequacies, but to lean into Your power in our weakness instead. Fill us with the faith to believe You at Your Word. To believe that You will perfect Your power in us, precisely in and through our weakness.

As our knees shake and our hearts tremble press us forward to do Your holy will. Awaken us in the light of Your loving countenance. Clothe us in Your holy love, wisdom, strength and grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

This is the fourth installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends

One

Prodigals, Elder Sons
We never knew
It was You
Who stood beside us.

In our running
And our striving
Your hands even then
Held us One.

You: our Savior
Ever beckoning
For darkness 
Is as light to You.

Every moment seen
Felt and known 
Our every tear
Fear and care.

Knowing how
We'd turn away
Hiding in our pain 
Striving in fear.

Yet in every Prodigal
And Elder Brother
Eternal rest
Is sown.

For, pierced by Your own 
You carried our weakness
And sin to the Cross
For this.

Seeing what the Elder Son can't
You move toward the Prodigal
In his weakness yielded, not away
You hold out Your hand
And welcome him: Home.

Seeing what the Prodigal can't
You move to lift the Elder Son's
Heavy yoke long borne alone
You hold out Your hand
And welcome him: Home.

Rejected in our weakness
And striving to hide it
You turn us toward You
Truth kissing grace.

Calling us
In the breaking of the bread
To see Your heart reflected
In each others' tears.

For coated in mercy 
These broken vessels
Are now in Spirit breath
Receiving their new heart.

In the Father
Son and Holy Spirit
Beating
One.


John 17:20-21 (ESV) “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

In thankfulness to a God who united my Mum’s and my heart in His heart in her final weeks on earth. Bringing her home to His eternal rest, through His Holy breath, He awakened me to new life. Oh may He reveal the heart of the Father in each one of us and make us – His children – in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – One.

Beautifully Resurrecting

Taken out of their midst
God asked him: "return"
And he full of fear cried:
"But what shall I tell them."

I AM WHO I AM

Drawn out of water
In a basket
Wonderfully and fearfully woven
God's people out of Egypt to lead.

Not his own merit
But the Voice
Of I AM WHO I AM
Slavery's heavy yoke would lift.

Not just his people's
But his very own heart
Breaking in mercy.

Into a desert
The Living Word led them
Rejected, spurned and maligned
The Spirit ever interceding.

The Promised land
Moses saw from afar
And trusted by faith
Would one day be his.

Through all the pain
Of the desert
Overshadowed in mercy
By day.

Through every failing
His heart aflame
In the jealous fire of God
By night.

And yet
In Moses' rebellion
His Promise was buried
On a mountain.

But to the mountain
Moses one day returned
With his I AM WHO I AM
Standing, before a Cross.

For, Christ walked
To the Cross
The joy set before Him
His children set free.

Sin and pain
In grace He exchanged
The Promise once buried
In Holy breath resurrected.

And now the seed of life
In all of God's children
Once buried
Shall yet rise to life.

For the Promise buried
Is not dead
But in Holy breath
Beautifully resurrecting.


Hebrews 11:23-29, 39-40 (ESV) By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned . . . And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Matthew 17: 1 – 3 (ESV) And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.

Deuteronomy 33:18 – 19 (ESV) And of Zebulun he said, “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out,
    and Issachar, in your tents.
 They shall call peoples to their mountain;
    there they offer right sacrifices;
for they draw from the abundance of the seas
    and the hidden treasures of the sand.”

Isaiah 9:1 (ESV) Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.

Into the Light

I still remember the excitement, the tears, the shouts for joy. A wall falling. A people reunited. A dictator executed. A people freed. I was nine years old and sitting in a West German classroom, the daughter of New Zealand missionaries in a time God’s miraculous power swept across the world and into my presence. 

Weeks later I’d be accompanying my family into Romania and meeting believers who welcomed us with such warmth and love. The joy of the LORD was palpable in our midst, as we sung in that enormous church, men one side, women with their heads covered on another. In incredible heartache and persecution the Romanian church had exploded in number, as a suffering and dying people were drawn like a magnet to the Living Hope that is Christ Jesus.

As I prayed through Isaiah 53:3-12, my eyes rested on verse 3:


“He was despised and rejected by men,
    a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

and I wept. Because I saw how we, God’s children, have been walking in our Savior’s footsteps. But also because I was convicted that unlike my Savior and my Romanian brothers and sisters, I had chosen to clothe myself in lies, believing myself:

“stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.”

I had carried my mental illness born in the wake of trauma, as a punishment, as something that defines my standing before God. But as I rested on:

“Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows”

I remembered the visions God gifted me in therapy. Visions of His presence in my most traumatic memories. Visions of His loving face, of His Words of truth piercing my hardened heart that had been locked tight in shame, unable to process, to grieve what was taken from me.

Of Him encouraging me to kick, scream, flail and cry for all that I had walked through. Of Him telling me He too is angry. And I then saw how walking to His Cross, He carried what was done to me. He carried my loss, my grief and my sorrow. And He also carried my sinful turning away, those moments I chose to clothe myself in lies.

He never ever left me, not even for a moment. Not even as I turned my back on Him for more than twenty long years. Yes:

“Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.”

At His Cross He wept and cried: “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” He forgave me.

“yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

And by His grace, He is now empowering me also, just as He did my brothers and sisters in Romania, to arise and shine in the truth. To esteem Him, by wrapping myself in the truth and grace of the Cross.

“by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,”

No, mental and physical affliction do not define us. The Cross alone defines us. In the power of the Cross at work in us, we are dead to sin and alive to Christ. For “the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand”, in the hand of the One who lives and breathes in us. The One who has wrought justice at the Cross. The One who is now restoring all that the enemy thought he had stolen, killed and destroyed. 

The One who is now bringing redemption to Romania and her countless, abandoned by man and yet chosen of God children, like my little brother, who are now scattered around the world.

He is flaming His Word alive in us – His Body. From every nation, our lips shall give Him praise!

We, the esteemed and chosen men, women and children of God, filled with joy, ones toward whom God has turned His face are invited to let our incense – the prayers of our Savior in us – arise. For our Father longs to draw many more children unto glory through the power of His Son’s blood and His living testimony at work in us.

May we, who have known the horror of abuse, just like our Savior, stand with tears in our eyes. Not for our own pain, which our Messiah has redeemed at the Cross. But like Jesus, for the very ones who have wounded and afflicted us.

May we rise in the strength of our Savior’s heart and blood in us, to cry: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And may we walk forgiven and free of all fear and shame into the light.

Oh what an indescribable gift flows from the Cross. A place of deep suffering for our loving Savior. For us. For every single fibre of our bodies, minds, hearts and souls.

Oh may He make us those who do not hide the light of His love and grace toward us, but shine it brightly for all to see. For, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1 John 1:5, ESV). Praise Him!