October of this year was an interesting one, with four home football games and a bye week it was the first October in our entire marriage that we slept in our own beds every weekend. We also hosted guests almost every weekend. Part of hosting new people in our town is bringing them up to East River Outlook. When weather allows you can several rows of mountains for miles and miles. We live in a gorgeous part of the country. Each season the tree topped mountains astound me with their vibrant colors and ever changing features. Autumn is by far the most amazing. The trees turn from green to gold, orange, and bright red plus ever shade in between.
The peak weekend seemed to be the second weekend in October. I was absolutely thrilled to see such awesome trees. It seemed that each day leading up to the weekend a few more trees had leaves that changed and then overnight POP! Colors everywhere. We had a great time taking pictures, driving around and celebrating God’s creativity. The colors seemed short lived though and by the next weekend things were looking brown. I was a bit disappointed. I had remembered the previous autumn’s colors lasting longer.
The busyness of the days continued and my daily trips from home to campus were distracted and rushed at times. As Saturday arrived the boys and I drove to campus for the homecoming festivities I was shocked to see that what had looked brown and dead just a day earlier was now a vibrant red.
I gleefully exclaimed to my sons to look at the beauty all around. I muttered to myself how surprised I was that the red was there and that the mountains looked even more beautiful than the prior weeks. As I sat amazed I heard God whisper. “Yes the most beautiful things always come after the ugly things.”
I couldn’t help but smile. I had recently seen this play out in several ways for our family. The ugliness that had created stress and fear had been replaced with abundantly answered prayers in the months prior. God’s glory had fallen on us mightily. The visual reminder of the beauty that can grow from what looks dead was delightful. Scripture reminds us that God makes things beautiful where there was only ashes.
Isaiah 61:1-4 (New International Version)
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,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 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.
As 2016 begins I’m eagerly anticipating seeing God reveal Himself by continuing to create beauty in ashes. My One Word focus this year is “growth”. This is a word that is filled with hope for me, it is the reminder God gave me a few years ago as I walked through a dark season. His words to me were very clear in my times of healing. God revealed to me over and over in scripture how He uses our wilderness seasons to grow something new. I’m looking forward to sharing with you as I spend time studying wilderness as scripture presents it!
photos courtesy of East River Outlook Facebook Page