Tossing and turning in the twin bed, I couldn't relax. The bed was comfortable but I am accustomed to sleeping with my husband, Rick, who was already snoozing in the twin bed next to me. We had left Daytona Beach that afternoon to drive to Sanibel Island. The small quaint beach cottage we rented near the shore was delightful with a pleasant screened porch and everything needed for our brief stay: Perfect except for the twin beds. Having been the only vacant cottage, we took it.
Our plan was to walk the beach before anyone else on the island was awake to find the best shells. I tossed and turned while my mind spun with the upcoming prison services and our long trip the next day to the women's prison at Brooksville. To arrive at the prison on time we would have to leave the next day by 1:00 PM and we wanted to take in as much of the island as possible during our brief visit.
Finally, my thoughts settled gently on the beach and I pictured glistening white sand, the pattern of broken shells along the shore, sandpipers, gulls and little stork-type birds that are so much fun to watch. Confident I could find many shells to gather in the morning, I drifted to sleep.
Rick and I had flown to central Florida for a two week mission outreach to prisoners and were staying one week in a Daytona Beach condo, a generous gift from a friend in Hawaii. We had nine prison services scheduled and the Lord granted this pocket of time between them for rest. I had heard wonderful reports about Sanibel Island and was excited to finally visit this lovely place with its magnificent white beaches. This was a sweet surprise from the Lord.
My eyes popped open before the alarm rang at 5:30 AM. In short order, we were ready to go to the beach. Still dark we left the cottage and picked our way along the shore wishing for flashlights. I thought that being the first seekers on the beach was most important and never thought about not being able to actually see the shells in the dark. As it turned out, several other shell seekers were on the beach, some carried flashlights. Someone said, "If you want to find sea shells in the dark . . . just take off your shoes!"
Shells crunched under our feet as we strained to see, walking gingerly along the sand. The horizon slowly lit and we picked up various beautiful shells but most were broken. The few unbroken shells were like tiny treasures and I carried them carefully in my pocket instead of in the bag with the rest.
The sunrise was gorgeous and I praised the Lord for prompting us to be out early. We walked the beach for several hours gathering shell after shell. I picked up a beautiful clam-type shell with extraordinary coloring. "It's beautiful." I cradled it in my hand, admiring the unique coloring. Then I saw the broken place on the edge. "Oh, it's broken." I sighed disappointedly and threw it down.
The Lord spoke clearly to my heart. "Jan, you will speak to women tonight who have been terribly broken: Broken hearts, broken lives, broken homes and broken relationships. I never throw them down. I pick them up, cradle them in my arms and heal their brokenness. Tell them! Tell them no matter what they have done or been through, I will never throw them down and I am always here for them."
I quickly picked up the shell and pondered what I had just heard. I considered my own years of brokenness and how He healed me in so many areas of my life. I would not be the person I am today had I not experienced the brokenness of my past. What an incredible gift to share with the women at Brooksville that evening.
Rick and I left Sanibel Island on schedule and, I may be crazy, but if Jesus took us there for no other reason than to give me the message about the shell for the ladies it was so worth it. That evening the message was clearly expressed in the eyes of precious women. The Father touched deep hurting places in their hearts and healed some brokenness on the spot. They came one after the other in lines for specific prayer for healing.
The next evening, I shared the same story in a men's prison and one of the men said, "Jan, I just want to tell you, I am so glad God didn't throw me away when he saw how broken I was and the things I've done. I am so glad He held on to me. I would have never made it if He hadn't."
The women at Brooksville are growing into beautiful women of God and He is using the broken areas in their lives to mature them. Just as the women of WCCC in the Oahu women's facility and other prisons around the globe, they recognize the gift of brokenness. For some their lives were saved and many were rescued from the pit of hell. They find joy in their brokenness and praise the Lord for picking them up and for the promises in His Word.
He has promised them a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness and beauty for ashes. These precious women are brushing away ashes to behold incredible beauty as new creations in Christ Jesus. He is setting them free on the inside. I have the awesome privilege to share a moment in their lives and to see our Lord fulfilling His prophecy from Isaiah. He is making them oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor, an amazing thing to see. Rejoice with me in their freedom from bondage.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
Taken from Jan's book, "Rescuing Treasures of Darkness." For more information about this book or to purchase your own copy, click here.