Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Lord,   

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

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

In Jesus’ Mighty Name, 

Amen.

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

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

Christ’s Sufficiency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yoke of Love


I will not leave you orphaned
You know what it is to lose
To lose such precious life
But I tell you, I have come
To give you life
Abundant life.

On those days your heart begins to ache
On those days you feel forsaken
All alone
Lean into Me
Tell Me all your pain, be not ashamed
But share your yearning deep.

I will not leave you orphaned
Cry those tears and share those fears
Pour every doubt into My waiting bowl
And I'll reflect My Truth there back to you
I'll place My hand upon your shoulder
Not turn away, but turn toward.

Your friend for life
Not just for here, but into all eternity
I'm in you now and I'll never leave
Even when you tell Me
You can't take that one more step.

You see, I know you can't
And that's why I'm here
To lead You here on Me to rest
To lay your head between My shoulders
To sleep secure, knowing I won't leave.

I will not leave you orphaned
When your body, mind and soul here give away
I'll hold you tight
My water to your lips so parched I'll raise
My bread to famished body gift.

I've chosen you.
I've always wanted you.
This path I've set before you
Is the path I have entrusted you.
It's yours to walk, but not alone.

The God of glory, He'll secure your passage
My righteousness will pave your way.
When you pray, I'll answer you.
When you call for help, then I'll say
"Here I am." (Isaiah 58: 6 - 12 MSG)

I will not leave you orphaned
Even when all you see
Is no way through.
Don't grab the reigns or blame another,
But turn to Me.

And know that as you give
And as you share
Your empty, nothing
My full and plenty here becomes.
I'm all you'll ever need.

No, I will not leave you orphaned,
For I've adopted you for life
To live and move and have your being
In Me.
For My yoke of love is easy
And my burden, light.

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.

Anger’s Invitation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you join me in prayer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Known

Isaiah 40: 27 – 31 (The Message)
Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
    or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.


As the Lord began to unearth the fears that were crippling me, both in response to memories of my mother’s last hours and reflections on my childhood, the first anniversary of Mum’s departure for heaven crept ever closer. I was genuinely fearful of what this day would bring. My heart was heavy with grief and my mind still anxious from the memories of crippling flashbacks.

And yet, God chose this day of deep mourning to display the wonder of His Loving Presence, to bring deep joy into the depths of sorrow, not just for me, but also my Dad, who was staying with us at the time.

I recorded the day in my journal:

Yesterday, we commemorated one year without Mum and Grandma. I was fearful of what this day would bring, fearful of the tears, of the pain. Yet, as the day progressed more and more joy took hold of me, held me and embraced me.

Balloons bubbling into giggles of delight, joyful purple bubbles catching a powerful gust of air and being drawn up high, high above the cloak of mist that covered us below, delighted girls watching the sight and thinking of their Grandma, a warm embrace from a Dad whose heart felt as heavy as that cloak of mist, but whose tears found release. A café of remembrance bringing God’s gift in a basket speaking of a Grandma’s kindness, of a Grandma’s deep love flowing over, from beyond the grave…speaking of a God and Saviour sowing a garden, a Garden of Joy, Gladness, Peace and Thanksgiving, where a wife’s, a mother’s, a Grandma’s soul can find a rest eternal in the Sun and Son of Life. A Garden waiting to call all its children home to their Father of Compassion and Love Abounding.

As the afternoon dawned, so did the sun in all its warmth, as children played and laughed, sliding, jumping, swinging high and adults smiled, joy lifting heavy hearts. Children’s joy a balm to weary souls. A day ending in thankfulness for gifts overflowing from a Father of Grace.

Everything about the day reveals God’s deep abiding Presence to me:

  • the heavy mist that covered us as we arrived at the beach (my Mum’s favorite place) to release the purple (my mother’s favorite color) balloons, which mirrored the heaviness of our grief,
  • the delighted giggles and energetic limbs of our little girls, who lifted our heavy hearts,
    the strong gust of air that lifted the balloons up high and away, which spoke of the strong arms carrying our mother, grandmother and wife into His Presence,
  • the basket that met us in the café we went to, a café we had taken my parents to many years ago, that was filled with happy memories.

    What is so astounding about this basket, is:
  • the words inscribed on the signs were in English, not Dutch,
  • that it was about a Grandma, what my Mum was to her six grandchildren, a role that gave her such incredible joy, especially in her final days on earth, when the biggest smiles would spread across her face at the sound of her grandchildren crying, giggling or playing, or as they would come sit at her bedside to clasp her hand in theirs or playfully run around her bed,
  • that there was no particular reason for the café to choose these words on this particular day (it was not Mother’s Day), and that at the bottom of the basket there is a pine cone, something my parents would often go out to collect at the back of their beach property with their grandchildren.

We ended the day with the joyful playing of our girls at the outdoor playground of the pancake restaurant we visited,  delighting in their exuberance and reflecting on the wonder of the day.

God truly is the God who “knows me inside out” (John 4: 29), “the God who sees me” (Genesis 16: 13), the God who comforts me “as a mother comforts her child” (Isaiah 66: 12 – 13) and the God who, full of compassion, pours out joy, gladness, thanksgiving and the sound of singing into the depths of my grief:

Isaiah 51: 3 (NIV)
The Lord will surely comfort Zion
    and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
    her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
    thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

This is the fifth 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

Rest

I listen
In the stillness
Gleaning
Cadence of the hooves
Songs of morning birds
Gleaning love
Abandoned in the rush.

I settle in Your seat
Remembering
The waves
The rush and crash
And seeing
How You
Wept.

Tears
For every moment
I withheld my trust
Believing
Holding tight
Is faith.

Oh precious
In Your sight
Are those
Who die to self
Who know they are

Welcome here.

Welcome
As the waves return
Lapping, crashing
Thunderous
There they come.

Welcome
To lean
Upon the Rock
And not succumb
But in Your arms
Become.

For in the stillness
In the listening
So far
From striving's tongue
You're teaching me
Who You
Truly are.

A Father
So tender
A Love
Full of mercy
Who holds me
In His arms
As our tears
Release.

For faith
Is not my own
But Your laboring
In me.

It's believing
Not in my
Own strength
But in the One
Whose love in me
Speaks
Steadfast, sure.

A sun-drenched warmth
Beneath my feet
The sun here shimmering
In morning's light
A testament
To Your mercies
New every morning
That carry me
In wave after wave
Into love everlasting.

And so I remain here
Seeking the quiet
And let the waves return
My heart now cleaving
To Your heart
Washing my face
With the tears of our longing
Awakening life.

I listen
In the stillness
Gleaning
Cadence of the hooves
Songs of morning birds
Gleaning Your heatbeat
Never abandoned
My God is always with me.


Isaiah 51:11 (WEB)
The ransomed of Yahweh shall return, and come with singing to Zion; and everlasting joy shall be on their heads. They shall obtain gladness and joy. Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Photo: from my own personal collection, taken in a local forest here in the Noord Holland province of the Netherlands.

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

A Sea of Mercy

I look behind me 
And see the train
Of Your robe
Billowing white

Every surface covering
A flowing
Sea of mercy
Mine.

And I weep
Broken
In Your mercy.

Broken
By a King
Who bore the Cross
For me.

Broken
By the Son of Man
Who would call
A woman weak and frail
His own.

Who am I
But dust?
Who am I
But caged
To fear
And shame?

And yet
I hear Your Voice
Resound before me
Calling
Come!

It's then I find
I AM stepping
Where even angels
Fear to tread.

It's then
In my weakness
I watch You
In power rise.

I watch You
Snap my fear
And shame
In two.

The accusations
Of condemnation
No more claim
Can lay.

For, clothed
In mercy
I see my Savior's face
Reflected in my own.

For, it's no longer
I who live
But Christ who lives
In me.

I bow
Before my
King of Kings.

And with my heart
And tongue
Confess Him now
As Lord of all.

Holy, holy, holy
Is the LORD God
Almighty!

Before, behind
Above, below
All around
His Temple

I see the train
Of my Savior's robe
Billowing white

Every surface covering
A flowing
Sea of mercy

Christ alone.


In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Isaiah 6:1 ESV

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Revelation 7:9‭-‬10 ESV

For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure. Philippians 2: 13 (AMP)

Thanks to Ryan Loughlin @rylomedia for making the profile photo for this post available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/vLZ3ko4cSr0