Beauty for Ashes…

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Editor’s Note: Having been raised in a part of the country that doesn’t experience forest fires like the one which erupted in South Walton just before press time last week, I was at a complete loss to write anything meaningful other than the basic facts which we all know by now. And then, I read an FB post from a woman that just experienced the most incredible loss. Her words will have much more meaning than mine.

“God answered my prayers….I know that might seem odd to some people, but let me explain: When our Wednesday afternoon, suddenly & without notice, went from prepping for a family movie night to a Sheriff deputy telling us we had to evacuate our home immediately because a fire was out of control & already coming into our neighborhood, my immediate prayer was not for my house or our things, but for my family & my neighbors….the people, not the things! When we were driving through the smoke & flames, I prayed for my babies, all 4 of them by name, for my husband, & I asked God to keep us all safe & deliver us out of this fire that came out of nowhere….and He did! All 6 of us are fine…not a single singe on any of us! When we ran out to get in the car, the smoke was so thick & wind was blowing embers everywhere…they looked almost like leaves, but not a single one touched us, not one! That, my friends, is God answering my prayers! Beauty for Ashes.

Fire is destructive & consumes all it comes in contact with…trust me, it is way more powerful when you see it up close & personal! Yes, the fire consumed our belongings….it stole my most beloved treasures….the gown I brought my babies home from the hospital in, my wedding dress & veil I was saving for my daughters, little love notes Grayton used to leave under my pillow when he was little, Riley Kate’s books she herself has spent hours writing & illustrating with her precious little hands, Brantley’s Mother’s Day Card he made me when he was 3 that said I was the best Mom because I liked football, & Sophia’s precious artwork from this past school year her teachers just brought to us a couple of days ago….these are the things I treasured most, but not more than the people who were the reason those items were so precious to me! Yes the fire totally consumed them all, but God didn’t let it so much as singe a single spot on any one of us! Beauty for Ashes.

Our Beautiful South Walton

Yesterday when we went to see the house or what was left of it, I frantically tried to salvage something…just one thing, anything, to take with us, something symbolic at least, but I found nothing! I was covered in ashes from head to toe…the ashes that were leftover from our home & belongings burning…empty handed, sobbing, & feeling defeated! I just wanted something for my kids, something tangible that would trigger that normalcy, that comfort of your own home feeling for them, but I couldn’t find anything…I felt like a failure! As I was slowly walking down the street, away from the place we had called home feeling emptiness in both my hands & my heart, I saw something out of the corner of my eye! I thought I saw a picture of my babies! I looked down & it was a picture of my babies, laying on the edge of the retention pond covered in ashes, but still, it was them! I immediately dropped to my knees, grabbed it, & began wiping off the glass! There they were…it took me a minute to process it, but it really was them…pictures of them…pictures of us…our pictures!

I want you all to know that those pictures were purposely & lovingly removed, all from different rooms in our house by firefighters…some were from the hallway, the den, the guest bathroom, & the wall by our bedroom door…they ran into our burning home into different rooms to grab what they knew meant the most…family pictures! Take a minute to let that sink in….I don’t know their names but I am on a mission to find them because in my moment of despair, they gave me HOPE! I must hug their neck & thank them for what they did! I cannot even mention these pictures without sobbing uncontrollably, & I can never put into words what seeing those pictures did for my soul! Please understand that when the fires started on our street the firemen were not even near our house yet as they were battling the blaze trying to stop it at so many different points, and  about 5 minutes after we evacuated, our house caught fire! Some amazingly brave, kind-hearted firefighters ran into our burning home, knowing it would not survive the fire to save something…something they knew was precious….pictures! Beauty for Ashes….those firefighters are our beauty!

So many of you have said fire destroys, but what comes after the fire & the ashes?…the beauty! We have already seen so much beauty for our ashes! Thank you for being that beauty for us!

Beauty for Ashes….Isaiah 61:3
“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.”

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