Exchanging Ashes for Beauty

God used a stranger to speak to me.

I’m almost afraid to tell this story, because some may not believe it or may not get it. But I treasure this so much, I’m going ahead with it. Some of you will absolutely believe it, and it will make you love God’s face off.

So one night I was approached by a stranger. First, you need to know that about six months prior, by God's beautiful grace, He revealed a powerful truth to me. I had come to understand that I had been sexually abused as a little girl. And that it wasn't my fault. This was a huge realization for me. It released me from blaming myself.

Once God helped me recognize this fact, I started to process emotions. Mostly grief. Something precious had been taken from me as a child. I experienced deep sadness over the loss of my innocence.

I journalled.

Here’s an entry from January 2017:

My counselor recommended Chapter 14 “Is It Possible to get Beyond the Pain of Sexual Abuse?”

The chapter is addressing Satan’s lies regarding abuse. Here are lies I’ve been believing:

1. It was my fault. I let him do it. Why didn’t I say no? I knew it was wrong. I did something bad.

God’s truth: You were only a child. You liked to “please” and keep peace. You had no adult to defend you against the enemy’s schemes in those moments. You are not to blame. You are cleansed from all your past.

2. I should never tell anyone. It’s embarrassing. It’ll break my mom’s heart…

God’s truth: “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

…My counselor brought up Joseph, and how when he revealed himself to his brothers, they were in fear for their lives. But Joseph said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Genesis 50:20

That is what compelled me most about what I learned from one counseling visit. What Satan intended for evil, God meant for good. So what good can come from this?...

Possibly blogging/writing about this to help others. To free them from guilt and shame…

I was waiting on the Lord for direction, for healing, for wisdom about how to use the pain in my past for good. Then in February, I eagerly attended IF: Gathering, a women’s conference. During the first evening, the worship was lovely, intense, captivating, and I drew very near to God as we sang. And then as soon as we dismissed from worship for a break, a woman I had never met approached me. I remember her as tall, with strawberry blond hair and freckles. She looked kind. She gently asked me, “Is it OK if I share with you something I think God wants you to hear?”

I gasped and said, “Yes!”

I think my quick agreement surprised her.

She smiled and said, “God wants you to know…that He is a good, good Father. He wants to exchange ashes for beauty for something in your life.”

Inward gasp! “Beauty from the ashes” always touches me because of the name of my blog site…but then in an instant I knew. I knew what God was referring to! The pain and grief of my past and what had happened to me as a little girl. He was promising to heal me and bring good out of it.

I said, “Oh my gosh, thank you! I know what that means.” I hugged her and thanked her again. When she walked away I was stunned. I just kept thinking, “God just spoke to me. God just spoke to me!” I couldn’t even sing the next song. I was in awe.

I often feel God speak to me in my own heart, or through reading Scripture, but it felt like SUCH A BIG DEAL that God put it on someone else’s heart to go tell a stranger a message from Him. Wow. I love reliving this story. It just makes my eyes get wide and my heart bubble up with joy all over again. God is just so much better than we even know. His love is vast beyond all measure.

Later, during a second break, she returned and had written down what she had spoken to me. I told her that God was talking about something that had happened to me as a child. And I told her it meant the world to me that she came and shared that with me.

And I don’t remember her name. I think she told it to me both times we spoke, but my whole dang self was distracted by God wanting to tell me something!

The next day at the conference, my emotions were tender and close to the surface. I still felt such grief over my past. Tears sprang to my eyes every time I thought about what took place when I was a child.  I prayed, “One day I would like to be able to look back on what happened to me and not feel such sadness.”

That day the conference was amazing. And some kind of miracle happened in my heart. I cannot fully explain it, but as the music and the powerful Bible messages continued, somehow, God was healing me. I wish I could help you truly know what I experienced, but I can’t quite. It was just that as the day went on, His Spirit ministered to me. A weight of grief was lifted. The tears stopped appearing. Calm, peaceful acceptance took their place.

What a tremendous gift. God gave me freedom from dwelling on past injury, betrayal, and loss of innocence. It was time to move forward, able to look back without the grief attached.

So I did. I haven’t felt that deep, abiding sadness since then. That was 4 ½ months ago.

But I did have another cool "God moment!" About a month after the IF: Gathering conference, I went to look in my prayer journal for something, and found my last entry before I had attended the conference. It was dated January 23, just over a week before the conference on February 3. I couldn’t believe what I had written.

Dear Jesus,

Please make Beauty from the Ashes in my past. I place this in your capable hands.

Please tell me you see what I’m getting at! God used the same words in speaking to me that I prayed to Him! He was answering my prayer!

I stopped and texted a friend whom I knew would take delight in seeing God at work.

I'm sure God knew that I would eventually discover that He answered my prayer just the way I prayed it. I bet He was just waiting to see my delight. He is a good, good Father!

So that's my story. One of them, anyway. God used a stranger to speak to me. And I will never, ever forget it.

And without a doubt, God is exchanging ashes for beauty in my life. He is already using my story to encourage others. More than I even know, because He can take a testimony and give it wings to fly farther than I ever could, in order to heal others. I can’t do that. That’s all Him.

Here is my prayer for you, dear friends: May you know Him in a way that you get to experience Him speaking to you. May you know Him in a way that you get to witness His promises being fulfilled.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,

because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim 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 joy 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 61:1-3


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