The Gift of Babba

Today, my dear friend Bettie has given me the honor and privilege of sharing an old, now freshly updated, post of hers about her precious Ukrainian friend. A woman who knew so much trauma and heartache, but through whom God revealed His healing joy, as He made His attentive heart of love and compassion visible and palpable in Bettie’s and Patricia’s midst. Now, Bettie finds her heart deeply grieving for her dear friend’s nation and their people, as the Spirit of God is moving her to continually lift them up in prayer. May this bless you all, as you seek to cover the Ukrainian people in love and prayer also.

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Her name was Patricia, and with the sweetest Ukranian accent, she answered my simple question about her cute little dog. The day was cold with a hint of the Christmas Season upon us, so I wished her a Merry Christmas then.

It was her honest and sad answer that stopped me in my tracks as I walked my new neighborhood 15 years ago.

“Oh, no, it won’t be a Merry Christmas for me this year. My husband just died a few months ago, and there will be no celebrating for me.”

My heart went out to this sweet woman, who openly shared her heart with me, and I knew that God was calling me to listen. I had no idea how that simple act of listening would bring such deep heart blessings to me. Patricia would become a Second-Mom to me, and a “Babba” (Ukranian Grandma) to all of my kids, and I would become a listening ear that she so desperately needed. But on that cold wintery day, neither one of us knew the path that God had chosen for us.

She lived through unimaginable horrors that I could never begin to comprehend. Her Mother had died when she was only 3 years old, and little Patricia almost died herself over the trauma that was inflicted at losing her Mother to an awful cancer. But God intervened, and Patricia got up and walked after a year in bed when a traveling “Priest” prayed over her.

The Russians invaded their homeland a few years later and brought the horrors of Communism to a village of farmers. Because her father could speak several languages, the family found favor, and her father became a trusted liaison between the village and the Russians.

A few years later, the Nazis invaded and marched the entire village from Ukraine into Germany. When Patricia’s father refused to remove a picture of Jesus from their home, he almost lost his life. But once again, God intervened and gave their family safety in a land of so many horrors.

When Patricia married, she didn’t realize that her husband had fought in the underground resistance and would suffer from outbursts of violent PTSD for the rest of his life, long before Counselors were able to offer the help that is so readily available today. Life was always hard for my dear friend. And yet, she loved to laugh and keep everyone happy with her pranks. She shared a love of nature’s beauty with me and with anyone who would pause to see.

It was only as God asked me to wait with her, and to listen to her stories, that she began to unburden her heart about the deep trials in her life. And in that waiting, God began to open my heart to the beauty of listening.

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We are a people who would rather rush to the meetings, read all the books, and find our self-help issues fixed by 10am tomorrow, please. But God made us for fellowship. For relationship. For healing.

Ever since we left that first Garden, we have been a people in need of healing.

Some days as I walk this Chronic Illness path, I complain about the need for healing that began 5 years ago with my first diagnosis.

But my need for healing began at birth.

And my God is the One who waits and listens in that healing process.

It was 10 years ago that my own Mother died, and Patricia began to call me her 2nd Momma, a phrase that I gladly accepted. As her diabetes intensified, I drove her to places when she had to stop driving. I didn’t realize that God was healing my own fear of driving, as I listened to Patricia’s heartaches and watched God heal her broken heart.

In the waiting, in the listening to hard stories of brokenness, God brought my dear Sweet 2nd Momma into the place of seeing that it had been Jesus who had carried her all along.

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

Her journey of brokenness ended on Sunday, as her Dear Jesus carried her into Heaven. My heart was broken with the grief that I felt at telling her good-bye. But as I wept, a vision flowed into my heart. The halls of Heaven were ringing with laughter. The God who had carried Patricia all through her life was laughing with the Angels over the sheer joy of a heart that He had created to laugh in the midst of heartache.

Only God could bring such beauty in the waiting.

As my own path is filled with what looks like endless waiting: all of the medications have been resisted by my body. The new Rheumatologist has said that I cannot take any of the standard treatments now while my body continues to manifest multiple side effects. The daily dose of Prednisone is not healthy for me either, and so I must begin the long process of decreasing that, all while hoping that my body will not fall into endless flares. The call to rest and to wait has been spoken into my life once again.

But that call has taken on a different hue now. How can I go back to the old way of complaining about waiting?

It has become a Gift.

The Gift to wait with someone I love.

Jesus is that someone. How can I refuse?

Lord, I wait for you;
    you will answer, Lord my God. Psalm 38:15 NIV

Thank you to Ruth Campos, over at Planted by Living Waters, for writing to me and pointing me in the direction of the beautiful teaching of Dallas Holm called God’s Rests and God’s Tests. You can find the DVD by clicking here. Dallas sang this precious song at the end of the teaching.

I would love to pray with you, my dear friends. Even though I have never met so many of you, I feel such a beautiful connection as we sit together and listen to Jesus, even over these digital airwaves.

Dear Lord Jesus,

Thank You for the gift of waiting and listening that You showered upon my dear 2nd Momma, Patricia, as she sat with You during these latter years of her life. Thank You that You allowed me to be an eye-witness of Your healing love pouring over those broken places in her life. Thank You for the beautiful love that she showered upon me and my family.  Jesus, will You carry us now, those of us who are looking upon our own seasons of waiting with confusion and brokenness. We are baffled with the pain that makes no sense to our limited vision. We want to learn to press into You and wait for Your beauty to shine forth. Help us to hold onto You, to let You press us deeper into Your healing love. You are the Lord we praise.

In Your sweet name, we pray,

Amen.

I am linking with:

#TellHisStory

Bettie Gilbert tells us of her blogging journey at bettiegsraseasons.com:

as I have obeyed His urging in my heart to begin this blog, I have seen His hand upholding me in ways I could not have imagined.  These days through Chronic Illness: first with Rheumatoid Arthritis, then Fibromyalgia, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Occipital Neuralgia, and Osteoporosis, have been a struggle, to say the least.  But the kindness of fellow bloggers, and the community of believers that I’ve found here has been such an encouragement to my heart. 

Do you know what I’ve discovered about the words that God has given me here? Well, they’ve been for my own understanding and help just as much as for the sharing. But isn’t that just like Jesus? He uses the comfort that He brings our way to overflow and comfort those around us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV 

Fire and Salt [Republished]

As I re-read this today, I saw the Ukraine before me and the countless children and adults walking through such horror, just as Romanians did under Ceaucescu’s brutal reign of horror. And so I longed to share this with you again. May God reveal His light to those shrouded in the darkness covering the Ukraine today, bringing palpable experiences of His nearness, love and compassion – and may He also reveal that same nearness, love and compassion to those being oppressed and persecuted in Russia for standing in the light and sowing seeds of justice into their nation. Thank You Jesus that the darkness cannot overcome Your light of love, hope, truth and mercy.

Welcome to Part 4 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is introducing us to the free will offering of fire and salt.

When we read of the old system of sacrifices in Leviticus, we find the beauty of Christ’s sacrifice already reflected in the commands given to the Israelites in relation to salt and fire:

You (A)shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the (B)salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; (C)with all your offerings you shall offer salt.

Leviticus 2:13 (ESV)

Do you know how that old covenant was guaranteed? Not by man upholding his side, but by God putting Abraham to sleep, so that the covenant might be ratified within the trinity, so that our God might carry the weight of our sin and pain upon His own shoulders, inviting us into a light yoke, freed from the slavery of fear and condemnation.

Do you, like me recognize Jesus in this? For, as John 1:1 (ESV) tells us: In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Jesus died for us, so that all men might come unto Him to be saved of their sin and the penalty of sin – death. Even though every single one of us has fallen short of the glory of God, our loving Father declares to us:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:27-31

And that’s why, He will not allow us to ever boast in anything other than Him. So, when we try to do that, when we try to hide the light of His love and grace, in our fear, He sends out His wind. He blows upon the fire of His Word in us, until we cannot help but release the salt of His covenant of love, truth and grace into the world:

For everyone will be salted with fire.[a]Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Mark 9:49-50 (ESV) [a]Some manuscripts add and every sacrifice will be salted with salt

As I sat with all of this, God brought an old piece I had written to mind, asking me to lift it up to Him afresh, but this time with the salt of His Word. So, here you go, Jesus: this is for You and Your beloved Body. I will no longer hide my light but release the fire burning within me.

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 eight 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 – their acknowledgement of God’s grace in their lives – 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 and by releasing the fire and salt of His Word from my lips, unafraid and unashamed of His grace for every single one of us – His beloved children.

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

For, as Jeremiah 20:9 says: “If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” And neither can I hoarde what God has given unto me, even when man tells me God’s love and grace cannot save a Prodigal from their own sin.

For, I know my God to be sovereign over all and NO ONE can snatch God’s children out of His hands. NO ONE can undo what He has done at the Cross for us. And that God is worthy of all our praise, as we declare the Promises of His Word in great expectation! Open ye gates and let the King of Glory come in:

From my own life story and the story of Joseph in the Bible, I know that every attack waged against us is only positioning us, where our God wants us to be. So that as our eyes open in the light of His love and grace for us, we will shine His love and grace into places His church would never have otherwise gone: to those who are so yearning to know the love and grace of Jesus.

Not one page of our life story is outside of God’s sovereign plan for us. Every last page is written in His book of life. For, He is perfecting His power in our weakness, so that all will one day know from the rising of the sun to its setting that the Name of the LORD is to be praised!

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 in and through our weakness. 

The One who is now bringing redemption to Romania and her countless, abandoned by man and yet chosen of God children, like my little adopted brother. These children, now adults healing from trauma, are scattered around the world for God’s appointed purposes: that they might declare the glory of the One who has called them out of darkness into His glorious light.

As our God heals them of their trauma and sin and draws them into His love and grace, they are becoming His light of love and grace in this world. They are drawing others to Christ, as He draws them to Himself. What the enemy meant for evil, our God always meant for good. Look for it. He is arising through the least of these.

Yes, our God is flaming His Word alive in us – His Body. From every nation, our lips shall give Him praise! Nothing. Not one broken piece is separated from His perfect love in Christ Jesus, in whom every broken piece of our hearts finds its whole.

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, blinded by their sin and pain.

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 our sin, fear and shame into the light. May we forgive, just as God has forgiven us.

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. Our confession of weakness and sin does not put our God to shame. It glorifies the work of His Son in us, who is taking us from glory to glory, until He reveals Himself fully in and through us.

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

Will you join me as I sing with my brothers and sisters in Timisoara? Timisoara is one of the towns in Romania I visited with my parents and siblings as an 8 and 9 year old to deliver aid:

And will you also join me, as I end in prayer (Ephesians 3: 14 – 21, ESV)?

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom wevery family3 in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to xthe riches of his glory yhe may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit zin your inner being, 17 aso that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being brooted and cgrounded in love, 18 may have strength to dcomprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and eheight and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ fthat surpasses knowledge, that gyou may be filled with all hthe fullness of God.

20 iNow to jhim who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, kaccording to the power at work within us, 21 lto him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Chapter 1: Acacia Wood – Incorruptible Humanity

Chapter 2: Scarlet Thread – The Cleansing Blood of Christ

Chapter 3: Blue Thread: The Promise of Heaven