Beauty From Ashes
Where should I even begin? How about with a greeting?
Hi. Hello. My name is Ashley. I am 30 years old. I am divorced. I have four children, 5 years old and younger. I was a teacher turned stay at home mom, turned baker, turned small business owner, turned stay at home mom. And in all that turning, my life turned out nothing like I thought it would.
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21
I had many plans. I was not the type that had 5 year plans, and 10 year plans, and knew every step I wanted to take. I made plans and changed plans and changed plans again. But I did have an idea of what I wanted out of life. I held on to things that I thought mattered and, without realizing it, made them the standards I would use to determine my success as a woman. Graduate college, get a job in my selected field, get married, have babies, stay home with my babies, be a good wife, be a good mom—> Success. I checked all of these things off of my subconscious list, but when all of my plans fell apart right in my hands as I held on so tight to them, I felt like a failure. The overall plan was simple really. How could I have failed? What went wrong? What would people think? Would they see me as a fraud?
Before I knew it, I was a single mom, and a working mom, and a scared mom. I didn’t know how I was supposed to be a good mom in this new reality. There were 4 of them and one of me, and that one me was over-worked, stretched thin, exhausted, and anxious. I was overly concerned with making sure I looked like I had it together, and still had faith and joy and hope, and was successful. My entire world had flipped upside down and I was still trying with all my might to form this mess of ashes from the enemy’s schemes into something beautiful with my own two hands.
At one point I was finally able to let go. I don’t think I could pinpoint one occurrence, one moment, in which everything just changed. It was more a gradual change as a result of encounters with God and the people He sent to speak truth into my life. I do remember a friend handing me a piece of paper one day as she said “look for your beauty from ashes.” On the piece of paper was a paragraph from a book written by Elizabeth Elliot. She stated that God never ends a story in ashes. Beauty always comes from the ashes. It may not always feel the way we think it should, or look the way we want it to, but it comes. I stopped looking behind me and trying to mold the ashes of my former life into some picture it once was. I faced the reality that the picture was just an illusion anyway. Instead I started looking ahead, with hope. I didn’t start making new plans of what this “redemption story” should look like, but I surrounded myself with truth and began to get excited about plans far greater than mine. I let go of the expectations I had made of what a good, successful woman, mom, wife, looks like, and prepared myself for the possibility that it would look completely different. I stopped treating myself like a failure, discarded and lacking, and started seeing myself the way my Father sees me-chosen, loved, wanted, accepted, and beautiful.
For a season, I lived a life that looked very different from the plans I had made so long before. I worked (more than) full time. I handled all the household things. I made decisions. I was single and okay with it. I took my small, out of my home business, and turned it into a storefront bakery with my best friend. I gained confidence, found my voice, and became a stronger woman than I was in the past. There were many moments when I thought I had found my “beauty from ashes,” but it was all the beauty. Surviving was the beauty. Thriving was the beauty. Who I became and what I learned was the beauty. Seeing God be faithful to us over and over was the beauty. Life was beautiful.
Life is once again changing. Once again it looks very different in a short amount of time. And it is Beautiful. I hope to share with you some of that beautiful: some of the fun, some of the hard, some of the crazy, some of lessons, some of the hilarious, and some of the hopeful.