First Posted March 2nd, 2012:

One morning, I was doing my quiet time/hang out with God in Daniel’s Park after the Hayman Fire and looking down on The Sanctuary Golf Course and the ashes of the fire. The Sanctuary’s course was lush and green and the forest just to the west of it was destroyed by the fire. It really impacted me, because I was studying Hebrews (or Deuteronomy) at the time and it was about God being a Consuming Fire: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29 I realized that I wanted to live a life that is marked by God. When you see ash, you never wonder if it’s been created by fire, you know it’s been touched by fire. Ash became a symbol for me, reminding me to pray that when others would see me, they would see God’s affect and touch on my life. Ash. I hung a note to myself in my office that same day that said: “ASH” and “He must increase, but I [must] decrease.” John 3:30 One of my sweet high school students, ASHley, came to see me that day and asked a little concerned, “Why do you have my name written in that paper?” 🙂 I explained it to her and she was moved. She and I have both been through some difficult things in our lives. Part of the result of those difficult things was not veiwing ourselves as beautiful. A verse that stuck out to both of us at the time was one Jesus quoted in Luke 4:18-19 from Isaiah 61:1-3: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and 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.” Over the years, we have both grown so much. She is gorgeous, brilliant and a gifted youth minister. I have accepted that God made me His beauty, as well, and enjoy the way He’s made me now :). He has truly bestowed on us beauty instead of ashes, though I know what His ashes symbolize – not mourning, but healing and His powerful presence. At Ashley’s wedding a couple weeks ago, she was breathtaking. Tears kept rolling down my cheeks remembering all our heart to heart talks and all the pain we walked through together. As she and her groom were wed, her sisters, brother, and a friend sang “Beautiful Things” by Gungor. As I listened and watched, my heart bowed before the God of all beauty who alone can truly give us a crown of beauty instead of ashes and make beautiful things out of dust, out of us. Today, as my precious five-year-old daughter was playing in her room, she was singing that song and dancing around. She had heard the song before, but has been singing it regularly since the wedding. Today, I realized anew how important it is to realize the importance of living out and influencing God’s beauty. Someday, I will share the ash story with my daughter, but today, I am treasuring all these things in my heart and being grateful for my Ash and all I’ve gotten to see God do in her life. Mrs. Ash, you are beautiful. I love you. Always have. Always will.