Over the last few months I have had the privilege of meeting amazing, encouraging people. Oh the precious stories they have written upon my heart. The encouragement they have given me to grow and draw closer to the Lord, is life giving. God has used them to prepare me for His plans. And though I do not know just what those plans are, I do know I am not alone. He walks close to me and He has sent dear ones to inspire and to help me take difficult steps.
So that being said, it is my pleasure to interview one of these dear precious people in my life… I met Anna Smit, when I commented on a blog she was writing. Her journey and mine had both seen losses due to cancer, her dear mum and my husband. This was a God ordained friendship, he placed Anna and I together many times to discuss the pains and the victories of this difficult journey, and oh the joy it has been.
Anna hails from The Netherlands, but she grew up in New Zealand. So that makes us a bit too far away to have tea or visit face to face. Our relationship has been via written correspondence, and in that I have learned to write my heart in new ways, and her words have become precious treasures I can look back on.
Anna, now an author, has just released her first book. “Love Embraced: A Journey in and Through Suffering.” And I wanted to share an interview I had with her this week, a little beauty and grace behind the book I had the privilege of watching take shape and reading myself.
I asked Anna: “What was it that inspired you to write a book?”
She answered, “I first started writing to express the inexplicable before God. It was and still is my way of leaning into God. As I started writing, I shared some of what I wrote with close family and friends, to give them a window into my struggles. But it gave many of them more than that. Several of my friends encouraged me to write a book of my journey, explaining that they felt God speak to their hearts through what I shared and felt the words God gave me could bless many more.
I prayed to God about it, expressing my doubts, fears and desire to honour and protect my family, as what I share also touches on their stories. But God led me through each doubt, fear and desire to honour and protect, slowly but surely reminding me to look to Him above all else. And this is what has taken me to publishing my story.
He led me gently. First with a fairly anonymous blog, as He opened the doors for me to do the Write 31 Days challenge in October, 2015. From the beginning His purpose was clear: He beckoned me to pour out His Love, to share of His yearning to embrace hurting, grieving and despairing souls, by telling my own story of His powerful Presence in my own hard.
Gradually, I felt led to share more openly, to place a photo of myself on my blog and to share my blog with a wider community of friends and family via Facebook. Each of these steps meant trusting God as fear and anxiety hit. And the journey hasn’t ended yet.”
As I pondered the changes that must be taking place in her life I asked her… “What are some transformations you have seen as you have been writing?”
Oh my it is so beautiful to be a part of her journey. This was her answer, “The biggest transformation has been an opening of my heart before God. Being able to be truthful before Him. To express anger, hurt and fear. And to see Him take it from me: to release me from its hold and bring comfort, hope, healing and peace. This is an ongoing transformation, as He leads me daily from hiding to revealing my desperate self before Him.
And through this transformation have come and continue to come many others. I’m seeing the crippling hold of fear being removed, the chains of idolizing human love and approval be loosened, a hardened heart of unforgiveness be led to the powerful release of forgiveness, despairing grief be transformed to joyful hope, and a numbed and hiding soul be opened to a vulnerable sharing to the Glory of God.”
Surely the transformations and the many growing pains have led to much hard, so I asked Anna, “When the valley was darkest, what was it that became that candle flame?”
She answered with such confidence, “God’s Word. John 6: 35 – 40 (The Message) anchored my despairing and suicidal self to the Truths of God’s neverending embrace, His promises of completeness, wholeness and restoration of what has been and will continue to be broken in this sinful, weary and heartbreaking world. As I sat in the dark one night, as crippling flashbacks of my mother’s last hours came back to haunt me, I cried out to God to show me life was truly worth living. It is then I opened my Bible and my eyes rested on John 6: 35 – 40 (The Message).”
I believe Anna’s history and past, so filled with amazing stories and experiences must have influenced her and been some of the building blocks that led her to the Lord, so I asked, “How did your childhood shape your passion for the hurting?”
“As a little girl, I was privileged to witness my parents minister to many, many hurting and weary souls, through their missionary work in Germany. When we returned to New Zealand, it was my little brother who tugged at my heart strings. We adopted him as a 15-month old from a Romanian orphanage. I was privileged to visit him before we adopted him, seeing firsthand the impact of extreme poverty and devastation upon this country’s youngest citizens. I will never forget these little babies rocking to and fro in their beds, where many spent the majority of their day. And so, when we took him into our family and hearts, I yearned to love him through the pain I felt reside in his little heart.
Life was not easy for either of my parents, who struggled to love my little brother through the many rebellions, as he sought to test if they too would abandon him. Both my parents and my little brother were at that stage unaware and uneducated about the devastating impact of his first fifteen months. Seeing them struggle through this, resorting to tough love in an attempt to protect him from greater harm, broke my heart. But instead of praying that God would minister to both my brother and my parents, I turned inwards, blaming God for abandoning us. Idolizing my parents’ love and approval, I saw their actions as a reflection of God’s desire to hurt and abandon those He loves.
The journey back to God’s loving embrace, also through my deep grief at losing my Mum to cancer, has been what has fueled my passion for the hurting. I yearn for them to know and experience God’s Love, as I have, precisely in the deepest of valleys in their life.”
Anna has an amazing story, of how the hardest of trials began to shape her into a beautiful instrument of the Lord. I just wanted those of you reading here to taste it, so I asked, “How has having had and working through PTSD strengthened your relationship with God?”
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has shown me the power of God. If it was not for the deepest valleys of PTSD, I would not know just how wide and deep and all embracing God’s Love is. He showed me that even in the deepest valley, His Love is deeper still. And in going through therapy for PTSD I was privileged to see, feel and hear God enter many of my most crippling memories to bring freedom, healing, hope and lasting peace. Thereafter, counseling, coupled with the truth of God’s Word, helped uncover the chains that had been holding me captive…chains God has since been gently and lovingly releasing me from.”
I asked, “How can those who might be reading here, who have not met Jesus, know the assurances you so beautifully write about in your book?”
By asking Jesus into their hearts. By praying a simple prayer like: “Jesus, here I am. I need you. I am sorry for all the wrong I have done in my life. Please come into my heart and fill me with your Love and Grace.”
I would like them to know that God loves them just as they are, with all their imperfections and struggles, with all the deep pain and anger that resides within them, that He desires to embrace them in His Love, to bring release, hope, healing and peace. All He desires in return is that they confess their need, their need of His grace to wash away all their sins, so that He may begin to restore the brokenness within them.”
And now I hope you have met my dear, beautiful-hearted friend enough to want to know more about how loved and embraced you are by Jesus, so I asked her, “Would you share about your book here in your words and add a link too?”
Love Embraced: A Journey in and through Suffering is a collection of 55 short chapters, which take the reader through my journey of suffering into the loving embrace of God. The book shares openly of my struggles with fear, PTSD, grief and perfectionism, but also of God entering each struggle to bring His comfort, peace, hope, healing and freedom. Although it is my own personal journey, it is written to encourage others facing similar struggles, with prayers, Scriptures and reflective moments giving opportunity for the reader to turn their own hearts to God, with whatever burdens they are carrying from their present or past. From the moment I started putting it together, I’ve been praying over it, that God may use it mightily to bring comfort, hope, healing and freedom to many to the Glory of His Kingdom.
It is available for sale on Amazon as a paperback and Kindle: