Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Beauty from Ashes

I still stand in amazement of all that has happened in the last three years.  As I look back over the last three years and see the work of God, I can't help taking time to reflect and praise God for all that He has done.  When you go through such a journey...such a transformation, it is hard not to take a moment and be still and remember that He is God around that life-changing event each year. 

And this year as I reflect,  it has been a little more emotional because of the fact that I joined our church.  As I slow down and am still before the Lord, I am reminded of Isaiah 61:3 (ESV):

"to grant those who mourn in Zion--
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified."  

When we started this chapter three years ago, I never imagined that I would have a beautiful headdress.  In my heart of hearts, I felt like I would be wearing ashes for the rest of my life.  I couldn't fathom ever replacing the spirit of mourning that I was in with gladness.  At the time my spirit was weak...it was faint, but today I stand here humbly wearing a garment of praise.  All of these things...the ashes to the beautiful headdress; the mourning to gladness; the faint spirit to praise...needed to happen so He may be glorified!!  

When we left our church almost three years, I wasn't sure if I ever wanted to be a part of a church again...let alone be a pastor's wife.  When you are broken...when you have felt pain in places that you didn't know existed, your natural response is to retreat...to protect yourself. I am thankful God gave me two godly women who LOVE Jesus so passionately walk with me through this season.  One lady was my discipler and the other was a friend of the family who has spent many years walking with women through life changing events...giving them godly counsel and sharing godly wisdom.  Oh, how I have been blessed by Him through these women!  These women counseled me, they prayed for and with me, they shared God's word with me and they lovingly challenged me when I was not handing issues over to God.  

During this chapter, the Lord gave me a new life verse.  I was meeting with a lady that I was discipling, and she was going through a hard season.  I naturally went to Jeremiah 29:11 to give her some words of encouragement.  But as I got to the end of verse 11, the Spirit told me to keep on reading, so I did.  By the time I got to the end of verse 14, I was overcome with emotion and tears filled my eyes.  This was the first time in over a year, that I missed the fellowship of a church family and I felt like I was ready to be a pastor's wife again.

 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  
 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.   
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.   
I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.
 I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” 
declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
 Jeremiah 29:11-14 

I had sat in the bottom of a pit for so long, and I was tired of being there.  I realized that for too many months, I was in protective mode.  I was trying to control all the pieces, so I wouldn't be hurt again.  I called out to Him that day and He listened to me!  I began to seek Him with all my heart, and I saw Him in a whole new way.  I had lived in captivity for so long, but that day He carried me back to the place from which He carried me into exile.  It was around this time that the Lord brought me to a place of where I could forgive those that had hurt me.  And through this process of forgiveness, I felt a freedom that I hadn't felt in months.  As I continued on the journey, I was able to love people in a whole new way...I was beginning to understand what it meant to live and love like Jesus. 

Almost three years to the day the Lord has closed this chapter through joining our church.  It is not a chapter that will never be read again, but a chapter that will continually be remembered and visited.  A chapter that can't be forgotten because it had such a life-changing impact on me.  A chapter that I will share with others when the opportunity arises, so that He can be glorified. 

So, as my time of being still comes to a close, I can't help but to praise Him for giving me beauty from ashes, gladness from mourning, praise from a faint spirit so that He may be glorified through it all!!


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