Beauty From Ashes

“And just as the Phoenix rose from the ashes, she too will rise.  Returning from the flames, clothed in nothing but her strength, more beautiful than ever before.”

How many times have I read or heard those words? Too many to even count. But it wasn’t until I took a hike last week in a fire damaged area of my beloved Smoky Mountains, that I truly realized what they meant.

As I began my hike, I could smell the damage long before I could see it. But before long my eyes finally saw it.

Image may contain: tree, plant, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: tree, plant, outdoor and nature

My heart became heavy with sadness as I saw the charred remains of one of the most beautiful and history filled walks in all of the Park. The power of these fires was wicked and unpredictable. Huge areas where burned where not far away, some where untouched. How could any thing recover from this? How could Renewal happen?

For several minutes I walked looking down at my feet, not wanting to look around at what I was seeing. It was almost a creepy, eerie feeling as I ventured where just a few weeks prior the forest was gorgeous and full of life. Now it was dark, dead, and bruised.

But as I hiked on, I clearly heard a voice tell me to “Look up!”

“I don’t want to.  It is too sad.”

“Look up! I promise you won’t be disappointed.”

Reluctantly, I lifted my head and what my eyes saw took my breath away….

Image may contain: tree, sky, outdoor and natureThe above picture does NO justice to the absolute beauty I saw.  The morning sun was pouring through the tall proud trees, and spilling it’s powerful and glorious light all throughout the forest and mountain.

“Don’t be sad, I will ALWAYS make beauty from ashes.” ~ Isaiah 61:3

In that moment I realized how my own life is full of charred ashes from time to time.

Numerous failures
Regrets
Defeats
Bitterness
Doubts
Worry
Fear

But somehow, through and each and every disaster in my life, beauty has sprung forth. Each and every time it seemed there was no way to rebound or recover…..I did….often stronger than I was before.

By Spring these mountains will show little signs of the fires that raged. New growth will happen, green will spring up from the charred underbelly, and once again, she will be glorious.

We have seen such tremendous sadness the past few weeks.  So much has been lost, but one thing that has not been lost here is the resilient spirit of the people.  While driving home from a hike just a couple days ago, I passed a home that had been completely lost in the fires, the destruction, while heartbreaking, is not what caught my eye. It was the American flag simply placed on a lone standing beam.

Image may contain: tree, outdoor, water and nature

There is hope. There is joy in pain. There is beauty in ashes. It may not come in the way we think or want but it comes. It comes in the stranger, who is now a friend, an unearthed treasure when you thought all was lost, and  a ray of light just when you thought the dark was going to stay forever.

As we begin a new year with new beginnings, don’t lose hope dear friend. Maybe you feel like you are living in a world full of ashes. Perhaps all around you are charred hopes and dreams. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope.

Just keep looking up.

Image may contain: outdoor and nature

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