Skip to content

Not Dead But Beautifully Alive

Some time ago, I shared on social media about a new job God had swung the doors wide open to. I was excited. He had so clearly opened my heart to acknowledge my dormant desires and passions. He had graciously provided for hours that allowed me to still be present daily for my girls, when they got home from school. And I even knew the employer from a former job.

What I didn’t share was what God was up to behind the scenes. Before I was accepted to the position, God challenged me to step out in faith with my podcasting. To seek funding for a soundcloud platform that wouldn’t be dependent upon my new income. God provided in a beautiful way, strengthening my trust in Him. But deep down, I was glad of the cushion my new job would provide, the independence it would give me financially.

So, when it became clear that I was not able to cope with my new job as the weeks progressed, I at first clung tightly to it. I tried to be strong. I wasn’t keen to lose my financial independence and nor was I keen to “lose face” with the other school moms I had proudly been telling about my new job, finally feeling like I belonged in their midst. But then, in the midst of deep humiliation as my weakness was used against me, I finally let go. But even in this surrender, I still tried to cling to my worldly worth, seeking to deny my weakness, blame and defend myself, when there was no need to.

In the midst of it all, God reminded me of the words He had spoken to me that first propelled me forward to seek, apply for and accept my new job. Two Scriptures:

Psalm 16:5 ESV

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
   you hold my lot.

Proverbs 16:33 ESV

The lot is cast into the lap,
   but its every decision is from the Lord

and words from a book, Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson (p.165, p.168):

“Part of the reason Nathan struggled to speak his desire in the first place was because it was risky. What if it didn’t happen? What if he failed? What if the pain of disappointment was more than he could bear?

But here again, humility offers rest. If we are submitted to God’s hand, even our unfulfilled desires can be fruitful because our unfulfilled desires can be the very things God uses to draw us to Himself.”

“If we limit ourselves to working only when the signs are promising, if we only plant when everything is perfect, we limit our ability to see God at His best. When we limit ourselves to working when the time is right, we reveal that we are still clinging to the notion that success is dependent on our choices and our ability to control outcomes. We are still relying on our ability to make all the right decisions. We are still counting on our calculations and plans to foresee all possible eventualities. But what if God can grow Mrs. Clovis Richards’ beans in a pile of unattended dirt? What if God can bring about good things without us? What if grace is true?”

It’s then I saw they were words for my now. I had wanted financial security. I had wanted independence. I had wanted to boast in my strength. I had wanted to be highly regarded in man’s eyes. I had wanted to fulfill my unfulfilled desires in the world. But God wanted me to surrender my “pile of unattended dirt.” He wanted to expose my need, my deeper unfulfilled desires and draw me closer to Himself there. To shine His grace within me: the free and unmerited gift from above.

Proverbs 19:21 ESV

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

But, at first, I didn’t want grace. I wanted strength and acclaim. I was angry at my humiliation. I was angry at the way I had been treated. But slowly, I realized my anger and unwillingness to receive mercy in my time of need went much deeper than the job I had just quit.

You see, my employer almost immediately responded to the wrong done to me by disciplining the person concerned, sending a signal that this was unacceptable behavior. And my colleagues had responded lovingly, even empathizing with me. I had opened my mouth, inviting others into my humiliation, and rather than agree with the harm done to me, they had encouraged me to speak up.

But when my weakness was used to humiliate me at my old church, I had kept my mouth shut.

Now, as God brought that old situation to mind, He challenged me to acknowledge it as wrong also and to stop justifying it and brushing it aside as my just deserves.

When I finally brought it into the light, writing about what had been done to me at my old church on my blog for the very first time, something strange began to happen. A heavy layer of shame lifted and I began to weep and weep and weep.

For the first time my heart deep down agreed with the truth. I acknowledged fully that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

I realized that it deeply hurts my Maker when I minimize the pain done to me and justify wrong done to me. He showed me how I was holding tight to the shame of my past, clinging to my unworthiness, by receiving man’s words as truth. So, He invited me to hear His response to my accuser:

Luke 15: 32 NLT

We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

I realized that me speaking the truth was beautiful to my Savior because it acknowledges the unfathomable sacrifice He made at the Cross to call me and the one who wounded me, His.

Romans 8:33 (ESV)

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

It’s then I saw that keeping my mouth shut not only keeps me bound in shame but also prevents grace from fully flowing toward myself and toward the one who hurt me. To forgive fully is to feel the pain of the sinful actions toward me and to acknowledge them as wrong. To receive grace in my weakness is to fully acknowledge my need and my inability to be the person I wish I could be. It is to relinquish my wish for perfection and embrace the stunning gift of grace. The gift of my Savior’s scars that declare my own scars healed, whole and beautiful to Him.

So, I can stop trying to hide my weakness and instead allow my scars to tell the story of God’s grace in my life. Of Him pouring out His favor on me right in my humiliation. Of Him defending me, speaking truth over me and lifting me above the enemy’s every attack. Of me discovering just how precious I am to Him. So precious that He set me apart, sending me outside the camp, through my weakness birthed in trauma, to declare the wonderful Good News to those living in darkness. The Good News of a God who never ever turns His back upon His children.

And you know what? Those school Moms? They surprised me, responding in love and compassion when I shared my weakness with them openly.

Perfume Sweet

When I was a preteen and teen, I knew the power of lament. Of casting and pouring, and breathing in the Word. And yet, it’s then, much like Hannah at first was at the Temple, I was met with accusing tongues and stern disapproval. I was turned away in my pain and grief. I was told there was something wrong with me. And yet, I was worshipping God from the depths of my soul through the injustice I saw before me.

Rather than believe my God, I agreed with the lies and fled who God had made me to be. Then one day, He overwhelmed me in His palpable peace, when my Mum was given just 3 months to live. No words brought me home. Just the Spirit of God speaking through His presence. He had come to lift the weight of a burden that was never mine to carry.

Words of death can go much deeper than we think. It has been almost 5 years since I gave my heart back to God. But God is still patiently and lovingly breaking me free from the pain and shame of my past. He is lifting the weight of each and every single lie spoken over me.

As I ran in the forest, seeking His face, the tears streamed as I heard Him remind me yet again that it breaks His heart. That it hurts Him, when I turn away ashamed, believing the injustice done is my weight to carry, my punishment. When I believe my weakness is ugly to Him and wrong. When in fact my laments and my cries for truth to be unveiled, for restoration, healing and unity in His Body, are and have always been, beautiful to Him. For they are His perfume sweet.

It is there, in and through my lamenting, I am being conformed (sýnmorphḗ – https://biblehub.com/greek/4862.htm and https://biblehub.com/greek/3444.htm):

4862 sýn (a primitive preposition, having no known etymology) – properly, identified with, joined close-together in tight identification; with (= closely identified together).

3444 morphḗ – properly, form (outward expression) that embodies essential(inner) substance so that the form is in complete harmony with the inner essence.

to His image.

 

If you too are struggling beneath a weight you know that is not yours to carry, I pray that my poem and this song will bless you. I pray that as you pour out your own lament, you will deep down know He is joining you unto Himself. For He is the God who sees us, knows us and weeps for and with us. May He release His perfume sweet in and through each one of us:

Perfume Sweet, A Spoken Word

 

 

Reward

Blessed to be linking up to Five Minute Friday.

 

 

 

 

I remember the dark

The night engulfing

But oh how I remember

Your blazing fire

Setting my night alight.

 

Truth spoken deep

Clutching my soul

Setting feet firm

Upon You, my Rock

Tethering me

Speaking new life.

 

 

Your arms embracing

Reminding me

I AM

Spoken free

Seated in heavenly places

Adopted Yours.

 

I remember

You always

Open my eyes

That I may see

You’ve never left.

 

 

But even in stillness

Aching

My heart

You’re ever calling

Home.

 

Only my yearning

For deeper knowing

Intimate growing

Seeds sown dark

Breaking new life

Light ever unveiling.

 

My reward

Present

For You’re Living Water

Promise already mine

I am now living

My joy fulfilled.

 

Fruit on my lips

You are releasing

Ever rejoicing

I am now singing

My new song

In You.

 

Unveiling a Culture of Shame: Shining Light into Darkness

Through my healing journey from trauma, my eyes have been opened to all the ways shame is unknowingly being perpetuated in Christian community. So many seeking to help their brothers and sisters in Christ through mental, physical and/or emotional anguish, are in fact adding to the weight of their burden, just as I myself did until God allowed me to walk through suffering myself.

My body physically responds to triggers of multiple traumatic events I walked through as a child and as an adult. These events altered the make-up of my brain to such an extent, that whenever I find myself in a situation that remotely mirrors the unsafe situations I found myself in then, my mind AND body will be overcome with a rush of emotions and adrenalin exponentially stronger than a person with a healthy brain produces. I also hear cruel lies spoken over me and have experienced terrifying flashbacks.

However, I know my Heavenly Father is present with me through these storms. And surprisingly these triggers of trauma have in fact been God’s gift to me, because each time they have led to so much healing and restoration. So much so that, coupled with the therapy I have walked through and the Living Word that is daily bringing healing to my heart, the intensity and frequency of these triggers have dramatically reduced. And even through each attack, my faith and trust in God has only grown deeper, as He has revealed His presence in a more profound way, reminding me of the truth of my freedom from fear, sin and shame.

Colossians 2 ESV

14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities[b] and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.[c]

Sadly, throughout my healing process, I have, however, not just experienced loving fellowship, but also condemnation and shaming in physical and online Christian community.

I have been encouraged to repent of my forefathers’ sins to be fully freed of my mental illness, instead of being reminded that all my and my forefathers’ sin and shame has been nailed to the Cross and that I am invited to come boldly to the throne of grace to receive mercy in my time of need.

I have been told I need to be “set free” or have “strongholds broken”, rather than being reminded that our freedom has been paid in full at the Cross and each one of us is being transformed daily from glory to glory, as GOD opens our eyes to see by faith. You see, each one of us already lives in freedom, yoked to our holy Savior, and each one of us is simultaneously being freed from our sin daily. Have we forgotten that God actually perfects His power in our weakness, as we draw near to Him?

I have been told that perhaps I need to have “evil spirits” expelled from me, rather than being assured that no demon can overpower the fullness of Christ present in me. Have we forgotten that the enemy may condemn us internally, as He does all God’s children, but that He who is within us is greater than he who is in the world?

When I confessed my struggles with mental torment, I was encouraged by my pastor to retreat from fellowship with my brothers and sisters. God broke my heart for him also, as I saw how deep spiritual abuse can go. You see, he told me that I should take the same advice once given him: I should go sit in seclusion, like wine in a barrel, so I could ripen and become tasty and of good quality. He was only repeating the terrible harm once done to him.

I was told I am unforgiving, when God called me to cut ties with the church where I continued to face unsafe situations that triggered trauma. Interestingly, cutting ties, after I had forgiven each person who had hurt me, actually brought deeper healing and enabled me to see, confess and turn away from sin in my own life. It is then I sought forgiveness for hurtful actions I had committed at my old church, in my friendships and in my own home. I saw how I had tried to defend myself, assert myself or protect myself through the waves of trauma, rather than boast in my weakness, lean into God’s strength and seek (professional) help, love and support.

I now know that God wept with and for me through each wave of shame and that He never ever advocates our condemnation and shaming.

I will no longer stay silent. I will no longer believe my many sins, my mental illness or my Prodigal past warrant the hurt and abuse I have experienced in Christian community. Instead I will choose to shine the light of God’s love and grace into our churches, so that Christ may unify us in who HE is. I am speaking up because I long for the shame that is weighing heavily upon many more inside our churches to finally be lifted. I long for us to breathe as One in Christ.

Hebrews 13:3 ESV tells us to: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Trauma is a type of prison and is definitely the direct result of being mistreated. Will we as the church choose to remember men and women who are suffering, as though we too are in that prison of trauma with them?

Will we affirm them in the truth of their freedom in Christ as we invite them to sit next to us in our pews? Will we hug them and pray with them, rather than slinking back as if they are possessed? Will we be loving enough to speak truth to them that may hurt them, but also open their eyes to the kindness of our God? Will we show them that our God never pushes us away in our sin, but always bends down to shower us in grace and embrace us in compassion, when we turn toward Him?

And if God calls them away from our churches to rest in His arms and surround them by members of His Body who are able to comfort them from the comfort they have received. If He calls them out to protect them and others from them, to heal them on a deeper level, will we choose to remember them in love? Will we choose not to condemn them in word and deed for their retreat?

Will we weep with them and with our God for the deep wounding they have experienced in this broken world? Will we choose not to perpetuate their shame, but be lifters of shame in their life by boasting in our own weakness and need of grace daily? Will we affirm each beautiful child of God as forgiven, spoken free, healed and whole in Jesus’ Name? I pray that we may.

Oh Yes, I’m Home

This is a vulnerable post I’ve been praying through, wondering what to share and what to withhold. But in praying and trusting here deeper, I’ve decided love is both grace and truth, is naming what wounded and broke me, because it is what God has used and is still using to transform my heart, to breathe new life in me. So, I speak of sins, my own and others, but only to His glory and His grace. To acknowledge that in Him, there is forgiveness and healing, peace and joy
For each one of us.

OH YES, I’M HOME

Thank you for my sins confessed
In sermons spoken
Thank you for the silence
Shunning truth You called me send
Thank you for the turning backs
When I reached out, just for one
Thank you for the stares and talk
Behind my back of mess and “evil” me
Thank You for the fixing prayers
Devoid of loving Father’s touch.

Thank you for the wind and waves
In trauma’s throes, my weakness
And my ugly sinful heart laid bare.
Thank You for uncovering
My pride and shame and stealth
Uncovering all my cruel of “fixing” man
And denying my own need for health
For healing hand and loving touch.

Thank you for now showing me
The ugly of my idol worship
Of claiming strength
That I might to the world belong
Not as myself but icy cold façade
Denying all my sin and need
Of turning those who truly love me
Cold away.

Thank You for returning me
To acknowledge You alone
To embrace the love
And grace and truth of those
Who daily acknowledge
You in me.

Thank You that there is now
No condemnation
For those who walk in You
Forgiven, free.

Thank you
For pressing me
Ever deeper
To know
And grow
And hear
Your heart in me.

To know
Your righteousness is
My only covering

To know
My darkness is
As light to You

To know
My weak
And cracked open all is

Chosen, treasured
Whole, perfumed sweet
In You.

To know You are
My great I AM.

So, thank you
For my Cross
For sharing in Your suffering
For privilege and honor
So undeserved
Your broken body
To my lips to take
Your cup to drink
In the presence
Of my enemies
At Your lavish table
As Your friend to feast.

My sins in light
You’re bathing
Oil of joy
Upon my head
I feel
For You’re restoring me
Rebuilding and now strengthening me.

All in fear and shame
I always turned away

I now turn to You
The God who’s breathing all now whole again.

You wrap my dark
In holy shining cloak
And call me Yours
You lay Your crown
Upon my head
As my knees bow low
And hands lift high.

Thank you for exposing all my thirst
For love, affection, affirmation,
For all I’m finding here in You.

Thank you for Your severing
For pruning branches of my ugly pride,
Fear and shame to burn
That I might here return
To rest in You alone

To abide and bear
Fruit in every season
Firmly planted
My roots are growing
In living water
Now to drink and bathe.

Thank you for Your loving like no other
For transforming me each day anew
In Your gold of worth to rest
For lifting me from mirey clay
Your countenance upon me shining
That I might know Your goodness
Your mercy ever chasing me

Oh yes, I’m back
I’m HOME
In Your House forever.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

Thank You, Jesus, for this Love – for YOU – at work in me.

Did you know Bettie Gilbert and I have just released our first ever podcast episode for #treasuresfromthesands:

Treasures from the Sands Episode 1 – Our Home

Welcome to the table to feast with us in prayer, worship and fellowship at our Father’s table, as He delights in us. As He pours out His oil of anointing upon us right here in our daily trials of chronic and/or mental illness. For, we are loved. We are seen. We are known. And we are forever in His Presence and at Home in HIM.

I am so blessed to be linking this post up to Mary Geisen’s #tellhisstory:

 

Our Home in Christ

He sees and knows what we truly need. Not the cruelty of the cold law, nor our sweeping under the carpet to "belong" in a "strong" world, nor the turning away of those who find our tears or fears uncomfortable, nor our own or others' fixing, but instead the gentle Spirit of truth and grace. The God who is always leaning toward us, never away. Who is always drawing near to us to lift the weight of all we just can't ever lift alone. Who is forever calling us to Himself in gentleness, patience and compassion to show us mercy in our time of need.

Read more

Place – Five Minute Friday

I am so excited to join in with the Five Minute Friday community again. It’s been a long long time since I’ve taken part!!

Kate said: “place”. So, here we go. A poem on the word “place” … that took me a little longer than 5 minutes 😅.

 

Psalm 34:4 ESV

Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
   and let us exalt his name together!

 

PLACE

That little girl who knew her place at the table.

 

“Magnify Me, Anna

Fan the flame

I’ve set ablaze

In you.”

 

My eyes are closed

Mesmerized

Soaking

In this worship, known.

 

Pouring out my heart

In journalled prayers

In tears upon

Your lettered Words.

 

My hands I’m raising high

Surrounded by so many

But oblivious

To the world around.

 

Old letters reading

My father penned

Speaking of this child

I’ve long forgotten.

 

Of songs she wrote

Her childlike own

To magnify her LORD

In tongue now foreign.

 

Of dancing lost in Spirit-joy

Of singing solo

Trembling

Into confidence.

 

Of loving books

Of “marvellous” stories

Penning

In such confidence.

 

Oh, yes, LORD

I’ll fan the flame

Magnify

Your breath in me.

 

I promise I will sing again

In full abandon dance

And weep again

In confidence pen the many stories

In faithfulness

You’re birthing.

 

I will share

Of Your uncovering

And covering

No longer my dross 

In shame return to cling

But Your flaming gold

Now live

Declare.

 

Believing You

Have more for me

More than

Crumbs I sought

More than hiding shunned

Believing myself, mistake

You’d penned.

 

For now I know  

You call me come

My purposed place

In confidence to take

The many waiting hands

In Spirit clothed

Already known

To clasp and hold.

 

Yes,

I will pursue again

Trusting

In this sacred

Place You’ve set

For me.

 

Yes,

I will pursue again

Your glorious awakening

In feet upon these stormy waters

Tread.

 

Yes,

I will pursue again

Embracing little girl in me

Her face so radiant, awash

In oil of joy You’re ever pouring.

 

Yes, I promise

I will pursue

And magnify

MY LORD AND KING

In me.

 

Welcome

Do you know the roaring waves of trauma? Do they take your breath away too? Do you struggle to give voice to the emotions surging and crashing within you? Do you love your LORD and Savior, but often feel so ashamed of your struggle? Then, you are in the right place. Welcome. All of you.

I don’t have a cure for you. I cannot make your wind and waves go away, but what I do have I long to share with you. God has been speaking into my wind and waves, into my heartache, pain, fear and shame. He is revealing Himself as the Living Word at work in me, who sees me, knows me and loves me. Right where I am.

And those relentless waves? They’re actually bringing me closer to Him. He is using what the enemy sent to destroy me to wash away all that does not define me. He is showing me that “everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ” (Colossians 3: (9-11) MSG).

Frank McKenna, unsplash.com

He is showing me the truth of His promise: the abundance of the roaring sea shall be turned toward us. Through the surge of relentless emotions and our struggles to breathe, He is in fact flaming His precious Word alive in us. We “shall see and be radiant”, our hearts “shall thrill and exult” (Isaiah 60:5 ESV). For as Isaiah 42: 2 – 3 (NIV) puts it:

a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice, he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”

I long to share this flaming abundance God is revealing to me with you here. So, each week, I will be publishing a selection of my poetry, worship music that has blessed me, Scripture-filled prayers and stories of God’s faithfulness. Soon, my dear friend Bettie, a chronic illness warrior and passionate follower of Christ, and I will also be offering a regular podcast: a restful time of prayer, fellowship and worship for you no matter where you are in the world.

I will leave you with a poem that expresses the heart of Flaming Abundance. May God bless you and keep you. May He make His face shine upon you and may you know the hope and joy and peace of His Presence each and every day.

PERFECTED STRONG, A poem by Anna Louise Smit