“I bear my witness that the worst days I have ever had have turned out to be my best days. And when God has seemed most cruel to me he has then been most kind. If there is anything in this world for which I would bless him more than for anything else it is for pain and affliction. I am sure that in these things the richest tenderest love has been manifested to me. Our Father’s wagons rumble most heavily when they are bringing us the richest freight of the bullion of his grace. Love letters from heaven are often sent in black-edged envelopes. The cloud that is black with horror is big with mercy. Fear not the storm. It brings healing in its wings and when Jesus is with you in the vessel the tempest only hastens the ship to its desired haven.” ~Charles Spurgeon

As I stood at what felt like the edge of the earth, I felt His grace wash over me.  With no one else in sight besides my husband and children, I sat in the stillness of His beauty and soaked in deep the sounds of the sea, allowing the vastness of what my eyes beheld to inspire me and wash me in God-given refreshment. Each wave of turquoise that washed over the sand, creating a smooth and fresh surface, seemed to remind me of His mercy and grace that wash over my heart. I watched rough turn into smooth; I watched used turned into new; I felt the joy of my salvation and gratitude of the purity He creates in me.

I praise Him for grace upon grace.

It’s been a long and trying month but God’s character has proven faithful. I have wrestled but He has guided me into joyful obedience.  I have doubted, but He has guided me into life-sustaining faith.  I have felt like despairing, but He has given me glimpses of His Light in the dark, and therefore I hope.

I hope.

Hope is everything, for without Hope I am nothing and I have nothing to live for.  With Hope, I have everything to live for and the strength to fight the good fight – a fight that I will keep fighting as long as I have breath.

I will finish my race.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” ~2 Timothy 4:7

As my family spent the day exploring small coastal towns outside of the large city that we live in, we decided to let the kids play at a park for a little bit.  Our children, being the only foreign children at the park, were instantly surrounded by covered girls about my age.  They pinched their cheeks and squealed with delight as they doted on their fair skin and light colored hair. My daughter befriended a little boy her age and together they ran and played and flew a kite.  I noticed his mother standing near and approached her to say hello.  As we chatted in the national language, she quickly realized that I speak English, and so she switched over.  I asked her what her son’s name was.  She told me and then without even asking what my daughter’s name was, she asked…

“What does your daughter’s name mean?”

I had a split-second to think before speaking…

“I could just tell her the shortened version of her name that we call her as a nickname…or I could tell her what her actual name means,” I thought.

As I looked into her eyes and felt the weight of my calling, I felt a surge of courage run through my veins. I felt peace and I knew God was with me.  I thought to myself  “Ok God, here I go. Help me.”

“Her name means ‘Good News’.  The New Testament in the Bible tells us that Jesus is Good News and that He is the way that we can know God and love God and so that is why we named her that,” I said

She smiled and didn’t seem the be scared off by what I said, so our conversations continued..

“What does your son’s name mean?,” I asked her

“It actually means storm,” she said

“How did you choose his name?,” I asked

“He was a very hard baby.  The first several years of his life were very bad.  He cried and screamed and hit all the time. I cried everyday. It was like a storm,” She confided in me.

“I actually lost my second child last year,” she continued.

“I was pregnant with a girl and the doctor told me that it was best to end the pregnancy, and so we did. My daughter would have had a lot of operations due to a heart defect and so it was just best to end it,” she said very stoically.

“no, no, no….why did she do that?” I thought.

And that’s when the Spirit so clearly showed me – she ended life because she does not know Life; she did it because she does not know Jesus.  She does not know Hope. She does not know the Giver of Life and the Healer of hearts, both physically and emotionally. Through Jesus, compassion trumps judgement, and my heart softened to her needs.

In a moment of choice – whether I would re-open the pain of my past that shines with the redemptive power of Jesus or whether I would choose to not say anything – God gave me the strength to speak and the keen insight that this was in fact a moment where I could speak Hope to her…a Hope that can silence the horror of any storm.

“…The cloud that is black with horror is big with mercy. Fear not the storm. It brings healing in its wings…” ~Charles Spurgeon

“I actually love the meaning of your son’s name,” I told her.

“Life has lots of storms….I have had a lot of storms in my life….my mom and dad have both died and after their deaths, I was so sad and didn’t have any hope. But my friend taught me about Jesus and she taught me what the Bible says…” I told her.

I continued on to tell her about how when life is hard that it can feel like a storm, but that Jesus can be our hope.  I explained how hope in Jesus is like an anchor that holds us firm and secure in Him when life is throwing us around in it’s storms.  She smiled and sighed and placed her hand over her heart as she thanked me for telling her.  I took the anchor bracelet off of my own wrist and placed it on her’s as a way to remember that Jesus is our only hope in life.  She then told me that she is a Muslim and prays to God.  I went on to tell her that God doesn’t have to be far off and distant, but that through Jesus, we can have a relationship with Him.  I explained that God cares when we hurt and that He is right with us when people that we love die.

Although she did not accept Christ on the spot, I know it is not a coincidence that God brought a woman in my path who lives a life of being tossed by the storms and never knowing the steadiness that comes from holding onto the Anchor.  I know He was the One who gave me the words to speak and I know He is the only One who can draw her heart to His.  She actually lives near our home and was also just visiting the small town that we met in. We have exchanged information and hope to get together soon. Please pray for her salvation!

As we finished our day by laying by the sea, having a picnic, and collecting seashells, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the way my greatest tests in life have become my testimony to His love.  It was just the night before that I had confided in my friend from back home that my story is hard and sometimes I dread telling it. I am so thankful that the Lord orchestrated a divine appointment to remind me of the joy found in telling of His faithfulness through the storm.  When we tell others of how God has saved us, we are also reminded of the miraculous rescue that has been made.  When we open ourselves up and trust our hearts to Him as we dig deep into the pain to tell our stories of redemption, our perspectives are aligned with Heaven, and our hope burns with fresh fire as we run our race towards Home.

Trust Him as He guides you in transparency. The story He has given you is not by mistake.  Abide in His Word so that as you tell your story, His Truth flows and others trust their lives to the Anchor of souls.

“The way in which most men get their faith increased is by great trouble. We do not grow strong in faith in sunshiny days. It is in stormy weather that faith grows stronger. Faith is not an  attainment that drops like the gentle dew from heaven; it generally comes in the whirlwind and the storm. Look at the old oaks; how is it that they have become so deeply rooted in the earth? Ask the March winds, and they will tell you. It was not the April shower that did it, or the sweet May sunshine, but the rough wind shaking the tree to and fro, causing its roots to strike deeper and to take a firmer hold. And so must it be with us. We cannot make great soldiers in the barracks at home; they must be made amidst flying shot and thundering cannon. We cannot expect to make good sailors on the Serpentine; they must be trained far away on the deep sea, where the wild winds howl, and the thunders roll like drums in the march of the God of armies. Storms and tempests are the things that make men tough and hardy mariners. They see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep. It is thus with Christians. Great faith must have great trials. Mr. Great-heart would never have been Mr. Great-heart if he had not once been Mr. Great-trouble. Valiant-for-truth would never have put to flight those foes and have been so valiant, if the foes had not first attacked him. We must expect great troubles before we shall attain to much faith.”

— C.H. Spurgeon, from Gleanings Among the Sheaves