Friday, February 10, 2012

To Give Them Beauty for Ashes

This piece was originally posted in 2007 on the Christian Writer's Forum Blog.

To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes. These words come from Isaiah in Chapter 61:3. He is proclaiming to the people of Israel that he comes at God’s command to promise these things. This verse has come to mind frequently over the last year. It is a promise I cling to.

Image: akeeris /
This morning I lay in bed with Mom while she rested and watched the trees blowing in the breeze outside the window. There is one tree at the back of the yard that has begun to change to brilliant shades of yellow and gold. As the wind blew the leaves would catch a ray of sunlight and send out a shimmering flash. The effect was that of twinkle lights on a Christmas tree. It was a beautiful sight. I was encouraged by the fact that the leaves are dying, as it is their time, but still there is beauty in that dying. As I lay there enjoying this display of God’s beauty, I was reminded of the verse in Isaiah.

My mother has a chronic illness and there is nothing beautiful about the disease process. My family mourns for her. The loss comes slowly and stealthily. It is very hard to watch her suffer. Despite this, I am able to find some beauty in this situation. This comes as a shock to some people. They don’t understand how I can say this. I won’t ever tell you that I am happy with what is happening to Mom. However, I take comfort in the fact that God is in control and I look for beauty as a reminder of His promise to give us beauty for ashes.

There is incredible beauty in my parent’s love story. Always evident, it is much more so these days. I see the love that has lasted for more than 47 years reflected in Mom and Dad’s eyes as they interact. I see how patiently and lovingly my Dad fulfills his wedding vows. He keeps going despite his own grief. There is beauty in Mom as she laughs at our silly jokes and crazy things the dog does. The changes the disease has brought cannot change the fact that Mom is a beautiful person inside and out.

I see the beauty of God’s plan for my life that has allowed me to minister to Mom and Dad in a very tangible way during this time. In January of 2007 a lay-off took my job. I met with the HR Director the day after I found out and he asked me, “How are you doing, Tamara?” I responded with the truth, “I am doing just fine.” He then asked me how I could say that considering my circumstances. The truth is I trusted that God was working in this and there was beauty in that trust.

It’s hard to lose a job through no fault of your own. Not only was I thinking about how I was going to go forward, but 22 of my coworkers were losing their jobs also. There is no beauty in having your only source of income cut off. Yet, it was this lay-off that opened the door for me to take nine months to give Mom and Dad what they needed most, time. The beauty of God’s design for my life is evident.

We all will have times of ugliness in our lives. We will have times of mourning and suffering. James tells us to expect trials in the very first chapter of his book. There is no hiding the fact that in this world there is suffering. I encourage you, though, to keep looking for the beauty in life. When you least expect it God just may give you twinkle lights on a fall tree to encourage you. He has promised He will exchange your ashes for beauty. Hold tight to that promise.


  1. A few years ago, my grandma passed away. We tended her by her side for several months before she finally slipped away. While it was very sad, it was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. I felt so comforted and so full of God's grace, that I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. It reminds me of the Foot Prints in the Sand poem. I know He was carrying me, as He carried you and is carrying you through these tough times.

  2. Excellent! Thank you for the reminder :)

  3. Lisa, as sad and traumatic as death can be, I think there is a lot of beauty in the process.

    Kathy, I was just thinking about you and hubby today! Hope you guys are doing okay. It's hard sometimes to remember the better times when you are walking through the fire.