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Three Words That Changed My Morning (One of them is ashes.)


The morning was rough.

With my youngest home another day from school, just sick enough to stay home, and we haven’t had a full week of school for both kids since 2013.

We sit with our Bibles, and the oldest decides she’s not happy with my mothering skills and uses her critical thinking to make me question my every move.

It doesn’t go well.

I have to journal my way through the anger while she sits reading in the chair across the room. And still, I am hurt. I’m the needy mom who wishes she could at least convince her 12-year-old she knows what she’s doing.

But I don’t.

I wave to her as the bus drives away and can’t see through the storm door’s solid frost from winter’s return yesterday.

The wood pile on the porch is covered in snow, so when I grab it my fingers freeze and my sweatshirt gets wet, and when is spring coming, anyway?!?

I go to start a fire and the bottom of the fireplace is thick with ash and coal from yesterday’s burn. So I grab the little shovel and the pail on the hearth and I remember three words I’ve heard sung and recited. Straight from God’s heart through the pen of His servant Isaiah.


I can’t remember it exactly, but I know three words, and I know it’s a promise.

. . . beauty for ashes . . .

I shovel out the soot and try to remember the words to the song. The words God gave Isaiah. I remember a Beth Moore Bible study and the talk she gave about the promise of new and beautiful. I remember the truth that to God I am beautiful already. And this ashy, sooty, sometimes hard-morning place will someday be crowned in beauty when He’s done with His deal.

I crinkle up the paper and throw it in the stove before stacking the snowy wood inside. My heart is singing the words it remembers.

. . . beauty for ashes . . .

And the rest of the words get lost in my brain, which is actually okay because I never really liked the tune. But I hum it anyway because it’s what my brain does, and I can’t wait to grab my Bible once this fire gets going.

I look for beauty and find the reference. Isaiah 61. That’s when I read the first few verses, the ones surrounding the phrase my heart suddenly can’t let go of . . .

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair.

And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the LORD to glorify Him.

Isaiah 61:1-3

God uses the thick ash on the bottom of my fireplace to remind me of His perfect plan. And three words of promise change my dark morning into a song for my heart.

Because I realize the ashes from my anger and the sometimes strained interactions with the 12-year-old love of my life are God’s fabric for some kind of glorious beautiful.

I start to see the frustration of another out-of-routine week, another sick day for the youngest as beauty’s fuel for the artwork God is painting with my life.

5 Thoughts on “Three Words That Changed My Morning (One of them is ashes.)

  1. Thank you for the beautiful reminder of what our God can do with ashes. I know you know that you are in another season of raising children, but just remember you will survive, they will survive and you will become friends some day. You will be meeting for coffee and breakfast and lunch and laugh about the days she questioned your mothering skills, because most likely she will have someone questioning theirs!
    You are going to right source for your strength, so just stay there my sweet daughter! And keep writing and singing!!
    I Love You!!

  2. I am so glad you shared this. What a sensitive way to frame a rough morning into something beautiful. You say He is working? I say through these words beauty for ashes has already happened

  3. beckydaye on March 20, 2014 at 2:40 pm said:

    I love that when we are faithful at hiding His word in our hearts, He is faithful to bring it to our remembrance when we need it the most. Not to compare the 12 year old to the stepmom and stepsisters, but Cinderella’s beauty was not apparent when she was digging through the ashes, BUT IT WAS STILL THERE. Your beauty is evident in this post, because it is obvious that you desire for Christ to shine through you. Thankful for you!!

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