They used to tell us in church that going through a trial was a good thing. They called it the Refiner’s Fire and told us that being held to the flame would shape us, strengthen us like iron. Refine us.
I revered the fire and the songs we sang about it. “Light a fire in my weary soul,” and I meant it. I wanted refinement. I wanted strength to replace my frailty.
What they never emphasized in youth group was the science of flames.
In the metaphorical they burn bright, all aflare and alluring.
In the physical they just burn.
They burn and it sears deep and they swallow you up in torment and leave behind ashes.
And maybe I’m refined, sharpened and stronger, but I’m also covered in soot. I’m head-to-toe dust-to-dust and reeling from the pain.
Literature loves the imagery of the phoenix, rising out of the ashes whole and new and fierce.
But me, I’ve lived the ink of Isaiah.
With God we don’t have to lift ourselves up out of the ash. We don’t have to summon the strength to lift our wings when we can barely lift our head. Because He sees our ashes and then He comes to where we lay and He trades us for them.
He sweeps them off and takes them and in their place He gives us beauty.
Sometimes it’s one piece of ash at a time, slowly picking away at the pile until we see the glimmering beauty of hope where it once was all grey.
Sometimes it’s a long dip in the river to rinse away the residue, strong strokes from side to side until we remerge freshened to lie on the banks.
He trades us for them.
And I will sing a hallelujah every day for a God who will make that trade, who will take the burned-down dust from my hand and give me beauty in it’s place. That will make a girl want to lift her head. Because who else? Who else says, “Give me your burnt down and take this beautiful in its place?”
Who else would make that trade?
Again and again, from Old Testament to New, from a garden to a cross, and right now in my living room.
I am living this redemption, this modern day echo of ancient promises.
Because it is constant, it is always, and it is this that is our Hope, the kind that can anchor a soul.
Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected is my first book, the one that story centers on my journey to motherhood, in which I found myself joyfully pregnant after years of infertility only to then give birth unexpectedly at just 25 weeks.
We named her Scarlette Vonne and she weighed one pound, eight ounces. She was thirty days old before I was allowed to hold her and it was most decidedly not what I expected when I was expecting.
I didn’t expect the 156-day NICU stay or that I would learn how to put down a feeding tube or that I would suddenly find myself adrift, questioning everything I had known about the faith that had been such an integral part of my life before the trauma hit. I didn’t expect that everything I knew, myself, my marriage, my faith, would suddenly feel as fragile as my newborn daughter.
I felt completely alone.
And that is why I wrote Anchored. It is story about finding hope in the unexpected places, in the circumstances that seem overwhelming, in the moments you question everything you ever knew about God. It is a story for anyone who has wondered “Where is God in this?”
Anchored is an invitation to uncover a hope that holds always, secure in the good times and in the devastatingly bad times.
(It’s also a book about laughter so please enjoy the stories about my baby name dilemma while watching Full House, that one time I awkwardly met Hugh Grant and also the recounting of the most embarrassing moment of my entire life. I can’t believe I’m even telling you about it except that maybe putting it in this book is sort of redeeming. I mean, He uses all things for His good, right?)
As a gift for giving a home to my words, if you order a copy of Anchored (which is on sale nearly half off on Amazon right now!) you can go here to redeem the free 8×10 printable painted by Ruth of GraceLaced art shown above!
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