March 21, 2017 Scott, Mandy, Lizzie and Judah Kelly were ushered into the presence of God, the result of a horrible house fire. To say that the last year has been hard is an understatement of unbelievable proportions.
Standing there in front of the burned-out shell of a house that night I was in shock, I had no idea what to do, how to do it, what to say, what to think or how to feel. I was in no way prepared for this, no one could be.
We have lived through a year of tears, of missing them, of not hearing their voices, not seeing their faces, not hearing their laughter, not feeling their hugs. There have been four empty seats for birthdays, holidays and Saturday dinners. There have been no random lunch dates, no shopping trips and no lazy days of just being together. There have been moments when you reach for the phone and then suddenly realize that there was no reason to reach for it.
Grief is a funny thing, you can be moving right along with your day and then suddenly it hits you. It can be triggered by a song, a commercial, a toy in the store or a voice in a crowd. It can be the back of someone’s head, or a child’s giggle. Those moments when your heart stops for a second because you think you hear their voice and then you realize it can’t be. I have come to understand that there is no right way to do this and there is no wrong way to do it either. You must navigate it. Much like navigating a ship there will be times when the storms rage and the water will toss you about and you find yourself holding on for dear life, just trying to make it through and then there will be times when the water is still and beautiful and you can take that deep cleansing breath and let it out slowly.
The pain will never go away, I believe it just becomes a part of who you are.
I have been so thankful over the past year for my faith and for a God that loves me. Thankful for our physical family and our church family. How people get through things like this without God is beyond me. So many times, people reference death as “losing” someone and I don’t see it that way at all. If they were lost we would not know where they are, but we do know where they are, so they aren’t truly lost, they have been promoted, promoted to heaven.
And that my friends leads me to trading beauty for ashes….
Isaiah 61:3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
We all have ashes in our lives. It might be the death of loved ones, a divorce, an estranged child, heartbreak, loneliness, depression or any number of things. Ashes in our lives are those times and situations that leave us hurting or with scars.
How do we trade the ashes in our lives for beauty? First, we must give the ashes to God, He in turn will give you beauty. Now that doesn’t mean it all becomes good once you give the ashes to Him, you must look for that beauty. It could be as simple as the sunset or the laughter of children, but He will give you beauty.
A few weeks after the fire we went to Scott and Mandy’s house and I walked through the rubble that once was there house. Even though doing this brought great pain it was something that I felt I needed to do. It was a reality check of sorts, but it was more, oh so much more. I think it was then that the healing began. As I walked through the house memories flooded my mind, pieces of their lives were scattered around, most things not worth even picking up, and then came the beauty. Right there, in the middle of all those ashes there were small things that we were able to salvage. A small Willow Tree trinket box that Mandy’s best friend Tiffany had given her. It was charred badly, but I was able to clean it up the best I could and send it to her. There was another Willow figurine that I had given Mandy for Christmas that she already had, and we hadn’t returned yet, there it was, in the box untouched by the fire. It sits on my shelf now. Mandy’s locket was there, Scotts watch, Lizzie’s My Little Ponies and Judah’s blanket and Hungry Caterpillar hat. There were other things too, Mandy’s wedding rings were perfect, and the girls now have them. All of that is beauty, beauty we found in the physical ashes of a burned house. There has been other beauty that we have found as well. We have seen so many people come back to the Lord in the past year, relationships healed, answered prayers and more. Through the pain we have been able to find beauty and we traded the ashes for the beauty.
You can do the same thing no matter what your situation or circumstance might be. You can trade your ashes for beauty and I promise you if you give the ashes to God He will give you beauty. Just ask Him to show you.
When you feel that heaviness, put on your garment of praise, praise really does lift heaviness. There have been so many times when I have felt overwhelmed and I have been comforted and calmed by music. I have found beauty in song.
Please don’t think that my days are all rainbows and happiness because they are not. There have been many days when I just didn’t want to function at all. There have been some really sad days, and some days finding any beauty at all has been hard, but God always comes through. He has been faithful to show me time and time again that He is still in control and to remind me that He is with me always.
While my heart is still broken, and that void is still real, it is well with my soul. Scott and Mandy lived a life that was dedicated to God and I have no doubt where they are today along with Lizzie and Judah. I want to thank each and every one who has loved on us, prayed for us and just simply been there over the past year. You will never know how much that means.
In closing I want to encourage each of you to look at the ashes in your life and give them to God and then look for the beauty. If you find yourself having a hard time finding the beauty as God to show you, I promise He will.
If you have a Beauty for Ashes story you would like to share, let me know. I would love to hear it and share it here.
I love you all.