Beauty for Ashes

And to 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.Isaiah 61:3

The Christmas ornament was beautiful. Each one of the dozens of indentations on its globed surface acted as a prism, displaying hundreds of tiny rainbows, but overall, it was deeply purple in color. The other ladies from the church and I "oohed and aaahed" as it was held up for the entire group to see. Several women inquired where the item was purchased, most likely so they could go find one to add to their Christmas trees this year. The item truly was one-of-a-kind. We were shocked to learn that such a beautiful item had once been ashes, spewed forth during Mt. Saint Helens' most recent eruption.

To turn something as unappealing as volcanic ash into a beautiful Christmas ornament takes a lot of work, and a lot of time. The right amount of ashen debris must be accumulated for the task. The ashes then undergo a great deal of pressure, and are subjected to extremely high temperatures. When the ashes have become a liquid mixture, they are molded into the desired shape. The beautiful colors were there naturally, very similar to the swirling rainbows that can be observed in a thin film of oil on the pavement.

God has the ability to turn the ashes in our lives into something beautiful. Every heartache, every painful loss, every discouraging or devastating situation is an opportunity to let God's work change us into something lovely. In my own life I have collected more than a few handfuls of ashes. My recurring health battles due to cystic fibrosis have a tendency to generate quite a few cinders, yet God is still working to turn them into something that will reflect His glory. Throughout this process, God is teaching me to rely on Him fully, and trust Him to work things out in my life so that others can look at me and see His splendor.

I am not yet an oak of righteousness; perhaps I'm only a sapling. As I root my life firmly in Christ, and stand on the promises of eternal hope that He has given me, I become stronger. God's work is far from complete in my life, but every day I'm learning that in order to reflect Him, I'm going to have to endure some pain--if only for awhile.

Like that beautiful ornament, we are all one-of-a-kind. God's plan is unique for each of us, and the circumstances of our lives are too. No matter what hardships or difficulties we face here on earth, God is continually creating beauty from our ashes, and clothing us with a garment of praise.

© Lauren Beyenhof

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© Original music composed by Gilberto Barreto and Elton Smith 1996