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Our Hearts are Monuments of God’s Grace

This is a repost of an old blog I wrote in May 2016 when my marriage was falling apart and no body knew about it. My heart was breaking but God’s grace was abounding in those broken places. (You can read the original post here.)

What I’ve come to realise is that, like building muscle, there is a life cycle of breaking open that God does with our hearts. When we think its all over and the pain subsides, life throws us another weight of pain we have to bear. Its not that we failed our last test, its that we stagnated and God wanted us to grow to another level of strength.

Recently I launched my book online and its all about how we were created with an original “Garden Intent”. Who we are at our core being, and who we were created to be, are often covered over by the effects of the sinful, fallen world we reside in. Its like the visceral fat that likes to layer itself around our inner organs. As we exercise and break out muscle, the fat around our body and our organs shed. Muscle is what we need to function at our best so that we can carry out all that God wants us to do. Too often we let our bodies sabotage our destiny because we don’t take time and effort to discipline ourselves into keeping our bodies strong (but I’ll leave that lecture for another blog 🙂 ). But building muscle takes painful pushing against a resistance that is heavier than what we can normally bear. In that process a breaking down of the muscle happens, the muscle is built and the muscle speeds up our metabolism which then helps our body to burn the fat.

Truth is, that building muscle is like building our heart. Our heart is the most important organ that God wants us to exercise as I talk about in this blog. It is a vessel of His love as He pours it into our hearts: And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5 NIV)

If you feel like your heart has been broken too many times…I’m right there with you… but in the breaking, God is bursting forth the real you. He’s making you stronger- if you push through and receive the grace to get through the pain.

Photo by Jose Aragones on Pexels.com

Our hearts are fragile monuments of Gods grace. Monuments are reminders of events that have taken place.  Here in Ethiopia there are many monuments around that remind us of past battles that have been fought, victories that have been won, people who have impacted this nation.  In the same way our hearts stand as a reminder of what battles we have faced and fought, been redeemed from and restored out of, and the grace God has bestowed upon us in order for that to happen.  We are recipients of His grace.  We therefore carry His grace with us in the depths of our hearts. It is there waiting to be exposed and glorified. Freely we have received, freely we are to give it away. 


Monuments are either left uncared for and become callous and rough or they are tenderly maintained and shine through the history of a life that stood for something. Their fragility allows them to go either way pretty fast. f there is anything that reflects the events that have happened in our lives, it is our heart. It stands as a monument for SOMETHING  and that something should be God’s grace. But the choice is ours…

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it. Prov 4:23


When we become callous we block our view of the blessings God has given us . The people of Israel are the monuments we are directed to as a display of grace left uncared for. Gods grace is a gift that like every other gift, we have to steward. The people of Israel had taken their grace for granted and had built up walls around their hearts. 

As our hearts become callous they also become heavy. Heavy hearts are not ours to carry. Then our hearts show the world that we are still stuck in the pain of our past… I see too many people these days walking around with inner wounds, bearing the burdens of their broken hearts and not surrendering them to a loving God.

 “Our heart is made up of many pockets and God in his grace exposes what’s in those pockets one at a time so it’s not too overwhelming for us to bear.”  

Cherry Friedmeyer, director of Ellilta Women at Risk

As we come into different situations or conflicts of the heart God shows us areas of our heart that need cleansing, purging or just plain filling – sometimes he just shows us that we have empty pockets that we are trying to fill with the wrong things. But He wants to fill it with His love. 


David prayed this prayer as a result of his sin being exposed by his friend Nathan. God had showed him the state of his heart at that time and in response he laid out his heart. 


Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,And cleanse me from my sin…Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness,That the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins,And blot out all my iniquities.Create in me a clean heart, O God,And renew a steadfast spirit within me…For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.Sometimes we need to be bold like David and say “Take my heart God…Do as you may-break it, clean it, change it, restore it, purge it, empty it then fill it up again.”Psalm 51: parts of 2-17

Recently I started exercising again with our intern from SBU, Beth. As we began to reawaken muscles that had lay dormant for so long, I started to complain of pain I was feeling in my thighs. Her reply was that my muscles were being broken down so that they could be built up again and made stronger. This is what happens with our hearts. He breaks it down, He builds capacity in us for us the expand the Kingdom in our hearts so that we can bring it to this earth.


“How do you love when love is not returned? You discover what love really is and you give it anyway even if nothing comes back. It’s not easy and it’s painful and it will break your heart, but the interesting thing is that when God puts it back together, it’s always bigger. You end up with a bigger heart. I don’t know how God does that, I just know it’s true! “

Graham Cooke in his book “Uncommon Love”

God does this so we can pray like David “Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice!” And as we experience that joy our hearts are resurrected again in new life and the pain that we entered into when we surrendered our hearts to Him, fades. 


Having a broken heart and a broken spirit does not seem like the ideal way to please God or to live the Christian life.  But more than sacrifices or burnt offerings, THIS is what pleases God. That we bring our hearts before Him and say “Here is my heart Lord, it is broken..”

In exercise, the way your muscles are going to be built up is if you keep working and exercising, pushing through the pain so your strength can be built up and in turn experiencing new levels of pain and fatigue. But we must not be afraid or give up.

When we surrender our hearts to God we must remember that we are placing our hearts into the Hands of the Creator, a loving Father, who desires nothing but the best for us. We can confidently trust that Him in this whole process. He LOVES us. He is FOR YOU! Give Him your heart today.

 I’m surrendering mine too. 

To purchase my new book Into the Garden, click on this link

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The god of plan B: Risk, faith and the in between

This is a repost from a blog I wrote at the end of 2015 while we were taking a break from Ethiopia. It was a season of so many unknowns for me- financial, relational and ministry. I’m in a season now that’s very similar to the one I was in then so I went back to read this and was encouraged. On the other side of this blog was provision for our whole family to go to Ethiopia, the beginning of the end of my marriage (my relational questions being answered), and a new vision for the ministry God had for me then that’s building into the one He has for me now. I hope this encourages you.

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A quiet observation I have made since coming back to Australia and New Zealand is that having a “Plan B” is a big part of our culture. It’s often a part of how we plan as we take into consideration the potential failure of plan A (ie. The ideal scenario).  As we think about risk factors, we “risk manage” around our plan and we set ourselves up a safety net as such. We like to call it plan “B”. B for “better not get too confident in plan A because it might not happen.”  People around us compound our fear of failure and confidently elude to the fact that what we have set out to achieve is far beyond our reach and should therefore be prepared for “if all else fails”. Another common terminology in our lingo.


I’m not talking about the little Plan Bs… The wet weather plan or the “if so and so doesn’t show up we will go somewhere else” I’m talking about your plan Bs for the big things in life- the defining moments, or the major life decisions…the ones you know God has endorsed Himself by a spiritual journey He has taken you on to achieve.  So the “Plan B” I am referring to is more like “if God doesn’t show up, we will do something else!”  Plan B is what we save up for, store up for, buy up for. It’s the thing we have to fall back on “just in case” what we originally set out to do doesn’t fall into place. It’s what we think about when we’re not where we’re going and we’re not where we’ve been.


Lately I’ve learnt that this is a space called “Liminal Space”.
 “It [liminal space] is the intermediate, in-between transitional state where you can not go back to where you were because a threshold has been crossed and you have yet to arrive where you are going because it is not yet available to you. Essentially it is the hallway between the past and the future. I can tell you quite candidly, it’s hell in the hallway.” Bishop Mark Chironna in Leadership Pain by Samuel Chand

It’s actually in that liminal space that we forge our plan B’s.  When we can’t handle the heat of the unknown, we make plans to take the “Fire Exit” and we fall short of finding out what lies behind the doors ahead.  We see companies market their products and services based on this mentality. They develop their advertising to further corroborate this ideal that has become a cultural norm.  It’s what insurance is set up for, it’s why investment companies are able to function on the basis of fear, it’s the reason why we all saved up water and nonperishable foods in the year 1999 in case the world stopped functioning when the clock struck midnight on December 31st. 

In our own journey we have been challenged about our plan B. What happens if this doesn’t happen. If Ethiopia doesn’t happen? If the money doesn’t come through or the donors don’t give. There are definitely risk factors going into mission in Ethiopia. Most of the time we don’t know how we will fund our trips, our living, our various aspects associated with living far from the normal conveniences of Western life. We aren’t always certain visas will be approved, children will get into school, that we will cope through separations. We could build up safety nets. We could also let these calculated risks feed the fear and anxiety that’s wanting to grow to a point where it will stand in the way of us going with plan A-God’s plan.

The god of plan B is often that thing that draws us away from having an unwavering faith in the God who does fulfill what He has promised. The One who King Solomon wrote about when he said “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean NOT on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5  

Your own understanding lies behind your desire to set up a safety net, your fire escape, your plan B.
Your own understanding is the god that you could place above the One who has it all under control in the first place- who has a perspective on life that you don’t have and who promises to do what He said He will do.  

That god of our own understanding is what caused even Abraham, the “father of faith” to convince himself that sleeping with his maidservant would be a good plan JUST IN CASE God didn’t come through. Previously he had been full of faith but in the waiting his, and the faith of his wife, began to dwindle. We read about it in Genesis 16:


Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

We read these verses and we think “What was he thinking?!” Abraham (or Abram as he was still called here) was trying to fulfill God’s promise to him, BY HIMSELF! The god of the plan B really is ourselves. It’s our own flesh that gets in the way of what God is already planning to do. 

The god of plan B is ME..

It’s YOU..

It’s US.

The thing is, that He will do it in His time and in His way and we just have to wait. Albeit Abraham was already old when he received the promise and ten years had already passed. Not many of us would have even lasted that long- not many of us CAN last that long.  I know I have struggled in the waiting. I haven’t waited well but I am learning to stand in faith and trust God to come through when He is ready. I believe He can and He WILL in His time.

We don’t need to always have a plan B. God’s plan will always be bigger than what we can achieve, that’s what makes it all the more worth waiting for, believing for and dreaming for. If God has said it will be done, it will be done. We don’t always see how it will be done, but He does. Trust Him. Have Hope. It’s coming!

For still the vision awaits its appointed time;    it hastens to the end—it will not lie.If it seems slow, wait for it;    it will surely come; it will not delay. Habbakuk 2:3

from Michelle’s blog http://www.aheartforethiopia.blogspot.com

Originally written in November 2015

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Into the Garden – Book Pre-Release

“Its not just me.”

That was the response of Selam, one of the women who had come out of the commercial sex industry into our rehabilitation home, as I shared my testimony in a group meeting one morning in Ethiopia. Even though my story was far removed from their stories of brokenness, it was still a story of brokenness. Something that is broken has no measure of HOW broken it is. If its broken, its broken.

We are all broken. And if my story of brokenness, shared on the pages of this book, resonates with someone, it was worth it.

If my being vulnerable and open allows someone to share their story so that they can find healing too, my reward is received.

If an illustration I used speaks into the life of one individual so that they see that there is hope beyond the struggle, then my goal is achieved.

Its time.

April 2019 is the time to let you all Into the Garden…

I’m opening it up and hoping that you will join me on the journey of restoration that God so beautifully displays in the Garden.

We were created for The Garden. The Garden of Eden was the perfect plan God had for humanity but we were displaced from there because someone ate some fruit! *insert face plant emoji* Yet somewhere in the depths of our being, our heart longs to return.

Actually, that fruit had power that God knew we couldn’t handle. He knew it would kill us because our minds and heart would start bearing the burden of things we were never meant to carry. We end up boxing ourselves into confined spaces that keep us from flourishing and being all that He wanted us to be.

This book invites you into the journey of discovering that journey of the Garden. I share my life story so that people can connect their stories and know that there is hope that goes beyond their current circumstances. I write it to encourage people who may feel like they’re not growing, not flourishing and not being all that they were created to be. My prayer is that what God shared with me as I wrote this book, will break you out of your current situation and launch you into your destiny.

In her first published book, New Zealand author, Michelle Zombos, compels the reader to live outside the comfort zones of their existence. In that place (portrayed in this book as the Garden), restoration is able to take place. As the undoing of the “known” makes way for the unveiling of your best self, a new identity is formed. If you have been through situations where abuse, addiction, poverty mindsets or cultural expectations have tried to keep you bound, this book will help to set you free. Through her story of healing and freedom, Michelle hopes to inspire each one of you to live out your best life and break the chains of whatever has held you back!

If you purchase before March 20th, you’ll get the first chapter emailed to you! Subscribe to my blog so we can keep you updated on the actual launch date!

Lots of Love, Michelle
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It’s a matter of faith a faith a faith ahhh…


Repost from my blog written in my last life from Ethiopia on Sep 23 2013.

Things that matter to us, here living in this tangible world of materialism and consumerism are totally different to the things that matter to God.  


What matters to God is people.  

MY daughters and I with Kathleen, an amazing Kiwi missionary who spent years around the world. Photo taken on her visit to our town in 2013


He is not consumed by appearances.  
He is not consumed by possessions.  
He is consumed by heart. 
And at the depths of HIS heart is inconceivable LOVE.
His Love for us, draws us to Him and the test of our LOVE for him is our ability to trust His word and trust His Way.  


It’s a matter of Faith. 
And the Bible says that WITHOUT this simple ingredient, it is impossible to please God.  


Now FAITH IS the SUBSTANCE of things HOPED FOR, the EVIDENCE of things NOT SEEN. Hebrews 11:1

When I think about our journey here, the major aspect of what God had to do within me was increase my faith.  We cry, help our unbelief Lord!  He does.  This is why we do what we do because we have faith in a God who has created people equally and HE wants them to know His HEART for THEM.  THOSE CREATED IN HIS IMAGE.


So first I had to know His heart for ME!
It makes sense for me that my lifelong struggle with fear would not just be a struggle with but the struggle against something.  The one who doesn’t want you to win on the hockey field wouldn’t attack you in a water polo match.  He would attack you on the field of which he knows your in the game.


He not only doesn’t want you to win, HE DOESN’T WANT TO LOSE…
He knows the victory is already won, that he’s already LOST but he knows that we don’t often see the Scoreboard.  We’re too busy focused on the game.  He’s got our heads distracted on the ball and we’re too busy trying to WIN!


So my FEAR of DEATH as a child, my FEAR of REJECTION as a teenager, my FEAR of being FAR AWAY from home, my FEAR of the DARK, of being HARMED, of being PUNISHED, of being ALONE…these all crippled my ability to have FAITH. 


For fear is not just the opposite of faith; FEAR IS THE ENEMY OF OUR FAITH.  Worry, insecurity, anxiety, terror, dread are allies and friends of fear. 


But PERFECT LOVE is the weapon that defeats fear and casts it all out.  
So perfect Love came in to my life and rescued me from fear and gave me the capacity to have faith.  Fear was evicted and faith moved in.  The anxiety attacks that took a choke hold on my throat at night, the torment that filled my heart with regret and the deep underlying fear that threatened my ability to progress all dissipated in a single night.  


So what happens when we let fear win?
Moses had a crowd of followers begging him for water and moaning about the very fact that he took them out of Egypt to die in the dessert and God heard their cry and supplied a rock for them to draw water from.  God says, speak to the rock and the water will flow out from it.  


But instead Moses beats the rock.  He does what we often do.  He took the miracle into his own hands and DID instead of trusted.  He feared that God’s way wouldn’t work and that people wouldn’t respect his abilities and he broke life instead of spoke life.


In a world of materialism and consumerism, where the pressure to work, to buy, to loan and to accrue interest is embraced and nurtured, we want to WORK instead of TRUST, HAVE FAITH.  


We feel that if we don’t, then we fail at being the provider.  Essentially it appeases our pride.  Our ego fails as we want to look like the strong one who beats the rock till the water comes out but then we hear a voice say “you did not believe me or hallow me in the eyes of the children of Israel therefore you shall not bring these children into the land which I have given them.” Numbers 20:12
God is not impressed with our strength and abilities as much as He is with our faith and trust in Him. 


We want to DO but He just asks us to BE.  Be there.  Be obedient.  Be faithful.
Full of faith that He will provide. 
Full of belief that He will fulfil his promise…
Even if we don’t see it like Abraham.
Even if we don’t deserve it like Rahab.
Even if we had given up on it like the Shunammite woman.
Even if we reject it like Jonah.
When we sold our house at a loss, our faith was tested to the point that it hurt!  Was this the right thing to do?  Were we being SELFISH and not allowing our children to receive the INHERITANCE they deserved.  Did we make a MISTAKE by not keeping a place to go back to?  These were doubts that were reinforced by many concerned friends and family but quashed by a loving God who wanted more for a house for us.  He wanted a life of FAITH.  


Every time we give, we test our faith.  We trust God that He will press down, shake together and run over the blessings from the well in which we gave. He says to DO IT!
Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. Malachi 3:10


Every time we press on past the obstacles we test our faith.  That these obstacles are not the end of a thing, but they are there as resistance measures to increase our strength.  The strength that is made perfect in our weakness.


Every time we fail and fall we test our faith.  Our faith that the payment for our sin was finished on the cross and that we can trust God to have taken care of it so much so that we don’t need to suffer for it or let it decapitate us.


Every time we have to be still and delay our movement, we test our faith.  Faith that we are a part of SOMETHING BIGGER than ourselves.  Something bigger than the MOMENT.  Something bigger than what WE ARE ABLE to DO.  Faith that we just need to BE.  And sometimes just BEING PRESENT is all people need to know the Love of the Father.


Because when we BE still, wait, let me make this as personal as it’s meant to be- when I BE still I am reminded that He is God.  That He is able to draw the water from the rock, not ME.  That when we silence our praise to Him, He can even use the rocks to praise Him.  From a rock He can draw water and Praise.  I can’t and therefore I CAN TRUST HIM.  Have FAITH in Him.  


Abraham birthed a people of faith because of his faith in obeying God’s instruction to leave his country and GO!  
So we left our country on the same accord.  Not really knowing all the details of what we would do or how we would do it OR WHAT STRUGGLES WE WOULD FACE ON THE WAY but just knowing that we needed to GO. 
In my early Christian days, I memorized this verse Numbers 32:23 A  verse that says “Your sins will find you out.” A great verse when taken out of context to make one feel condemned for yet the sins he is talking about is the sin of disobedience to God’s command to inhabit the land.  This is what we are called to do- to inhabit the land.  The land of Ethiopia. (And now, in 2019, Sydney Australia!)


This journey of faith continues to stretch me and grow me as I am continually reminded that God is working where I do not see. 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For by grace are ye saved through FAITH; and that not of yourselves: it is the GIFT of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

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Silencing the Bully In Your Head

“Mum” said the boy in the shower cubicle next to me at the beach, “this new boy at school said that he’s the best dancer in the whole wide world..” “Oh really” responds his mum. “Yeah and he said that I can’t even dance.” The mum continues to shower her son and they get out as I continue to eavesdrop on their conversation.

“Did that boy say that you can’t dance?” this mother continues in her British accent. Her young son responding positively. “Well then you need to tell him ‘thats what you think, it doesn’t mean that its true.”

There’s always going to be that bully at school, in the workplace, on social media… those people who get a kick out of making you feel less than you are. I was bullied a lot as a kid- for my colour, for my size, my looks and even my bottom lip #smh.

Too often we let the insides of our head get messed up when we would never allow it to happen on the outside. Let’s clean up the inside first!

But as an adult, I’ve found that the greatest bully I need to silence is the bully inside my head.

That voice that reiterates the insecurities that potentially were brought about because of those childhood incidences.

That message that tells me that I’m not worthy.

That negative thought that pops up when I am told something positive about myself.

That fear that rears its ugly head when faith is calling me to step out of the box.

Well, I’m about to start my own little Anti-Bullying campaign and I’m inviting you to join me!!!

Bullying is unacceptable in most schools, so why do we let it happen in our school of thought. We wouldn’t ever let our friends get bullied so why do we accept it for ourselves?? Its time we take back power from the bully in our mind and give ourselves a second chance at living our best life. So here are three things you can do to silence the bully..

  1. LET IT GO. “Let it go” was my personal challenge for 2019 way before the year began. See I have a tendency to hold onto things that I don’t need to hold onto. Grudges and points I need to make are a couple of things I find it hard to release. I can harp on at my kids about a mess they left in the kitchen for MUCH longer than I should.. and I hate it. Holding on to a thought that a bully put in your head is the same thing. Its like playing a game of tug of war and allowing that rope to connect you to your opposing team. We think that if we hold on, then we might have a chance of winning! But in letting go of the rope, we allow the other side to fall right down- Our arms are relieved and our team are still in tact. Letting go of the negative thoughts about ourselves will release us to be our real self. We will be able to see us for who we really are and not be tied to the thing that is trying to pull us across the line of insanity. Its just a game after all- the real battle is played when we are at our best and living our authentic self.
  2. LET IT GROW. Let the bully inside your head grow to the point in which it benefits you. How can it benefit you when its negative and demeaning? Well it works like a compass, pointing you back to a time in your life where you were hurt. When you get to the point where this problem is so big that you can’t deny the issue that it causes in your life, then you have the opportunity to use it for your betterment. In my book “Into the Garden”, I talk about how weeds are often an indicator of something that is deficient in the soil. We can allow weeds to grow in our heart when our hearts are deficient of certain nutrients. Nutrients like love and healthy attachments, boundaries and courage. When fear starts to bully you then maybe you need to increase your levels of courage. Go and surround yourself with people who encourage you! Place yourself in atmospheres where courage is given out! The church should be a good place to find the nutrients your heart needs.
  3. LET IT SHOW. Our weaknesses are an opportunity for Gods strength to become our own. David in the Old Testament had a real life bully- Saul! Saul was out to kill David and set up an army to watch over his house. In the middle of that David wrote a Psalm and began and ended that Poem by saying this:

You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭59:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We can rely on God to become our strength when we admit that we need His help. It’s about being vulnerable and humble and saying “I need you Jesus! I’m desperate for you.” And you know what He does- He dispels the lies that have been beating you up in your head. He comes in ever so kindly and reminds you of who you are, and of WHOSE you are.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

When the bully in your head tries to keep you locked up in a dark room in your mind, remind it that God called you out of there. You are HIS special possession. He’s so in love with you and calls you His own. Meditate on the word of God, on His truth about you and surround yourself with people who remind you of those truths.

Soon you won’t even recognise the bully in your head when it comes knocking at the door again. Like the mum at the start said, you can say to the bully “that’s what you think, it doesn’t mean its true.”