"From ashes to beauty" is my new blog series inspired by Isaiah 61:3
"to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified"
and Brett Younker's song "All Things New".
"You give beauty for our ashes
And a hope that's everlasting
The past has been redeemed
Now forever we will sing"
In this series we will take a deeper look at the lives of women who have gone through suffering, and the ways God worked to take their pain and use it for something beautiful.
These are going to be true stories, raw, and vulnerable, a bit painful at some points, but ultimately beautiful, hope filled stories. We are going to look beyond the pain to the bigger picture of each story. The hurts in our stories are not the end, but only the beginning.
- This series is for women by women, but men are welcome to read and be a part of our journey's.
- There will be no set schedule for these post, but I will continue to share them as long as God continues to provide them.
- Each story will be accompanied by a set of portrait images of the woman whose story is being represented in that post.
My hope in sharing these stories is that we may be more aware of God's presences in our times of sorrow, and see his hand working to heal, protect, encourage, and bring us closer to Him. I hope that the scripture and stories shared here, can be as much of a comfort to you as they have been to me, and that you might even be able to comfort someone else with them.
As you read, open your heart and listen to what God is trying to tell you about your own story. Ask Him to tune your heart to see His glory in all things.
May we look more to HIM, and trust Him with our lives (even when its hard). May we live less for this world and more for the creator of this world, so that we may have true hope, and peace.
Now, I know it would be hypocritical to ask other women to tell their stories and be vulnerable when I myself am not willing to be raw and share mine. So to kick off this series, I will share my own redemption story. I in no way claim to be a writer, and I am definitely not a bible expert. I am simply sharing with you some of the things God has done in my life, thus far.
By Emily Rios
Looking back on my childhood with adult eyes there is one thing that is clear to me. The devil was prowling around my home, seeking to devour. One of my earliest memories from my childhood is of being sexually abused. This early memory was just the beginning of my abuse. But even though my early years were filled with pain, in between the pain were little sparks of what freedom could feel like, little joys like running barefoot on spring grass and feeling its cold glades between my toes, or hopping our neighbor's rusted, barbed wire fence, to a field of daffodils and grazing cows, or even our neighbors Christmas light display that they hung every year without fail.
I learned in later years that these little joys were actually God's way of showing me that he was ever present when the devil was attacking. Which was something I wrestled with for quiet some time. "God, where were you when I was young and alone? Where were you when I was hurting? Where were you when I was afraid? Why did you let them harm me?". He gently whispered back to me "I was always there little one. You were never alone. Don't worry my daughter, the devil will pay for what he has done. I sent my only son to die on a cross to rescue you from what the devil has done to you.".
Unfortunately, my hurting did not stop at my childhood, or even my teenage years, it only worsened when one January morning, after having my wisdom teeth removed, I was given pain medication. The medication some how allowed me to access the painful secrets of my childhood. I had been stifling and denying these memories for years, but that night, for some reason they became too much to bare and there was no denying them any longer. I finally broke down, and voiced aloud how badly I was hurting on the inside. The devil loves secrecy though, and he saw God working to free me from his grasps and he was provoked. He would use everything in his power the next couple of months to prevent as much healing as he could, but by God's grace he would not succeed.
After I opened up about my past, denial was no longer an option for me. And so at 18 years old, I made a choice to stop running and confront my past head on. I had no idea the impact this choice would have on my life or what it would require of me, but I knew there was no where left to hide, and it was time to face my demons. And so my healing journey began.
I felt more alone than ever though, and I hadn't the slightest clue how to navigate the devastation around me, but I wasn't alone, my Heavenly Father was always with me. He was just waiting for me to finally turn to Him so that he could remove the blinders from my eyes and reveal himself to me.
One night after an intense battle with the enemy, I finally did turn to Him. I remember that night quite vividly. I sat on my bed, completely shattered from that day, afraid of what tomorrow had in store for me. I had run out of people to turn to. So with burning tears rolling down my cheeks, and an extraordinarily painful ache in my chest, I finally broke down, and I quite literally cried out to the Lord to rescue me, and HE DID.
In the midst of my brokenness there arose warriors who fought for me when I couldn't, who held me as I mourned, fed me, clothed me, and loved me at my worst. It was as if God was showing me his true character and how much He loves, through the incredible people He sent my way.
God was doing more than rescuing me though. He had more for me. He wanted me to be healed and free from the control my past had on me. So he began to work in my heart to remove all the bitter places. He softened my heart towards all of those who had abused me, and through forgiveness He was able to undo a lot of the damage sin had done. To be completely honest with you though, I have to acknowledge, that the process to forgiveness was not quick or easy. When I initially began to see God working in my heart, I resisted, swearing that I would never forgive, and holding on to my pain tighter than ever. I wrestled with forgiveness for many months. I told myself that the sins that were committed against me, were unforgivable, but each time I told myself this, God would gently point me back to the cross, and remind me of what he had done for me.
We have all fallen short, and as a result we all need Jesus' blood to cover our transgressions. When I was still dead in my trespasses Christ died for me. I didn't deserve Him to die for me, but He did it anyways! My offenders maybe didn't deserve my forgiveness, but that is exactly who forgiveness is for, the undeserving. God forgave someone completely undeserving, me, and because of the great love with which he loved me, I was able to in turn love/forgive those who had hurt me.
God worked a miracle in my heart, and by changing my heart, He freed me from the chains bitterness and anger had on my life. I am so very thankful God didn't avoid my darkness, but shone His light in it.
From the day I was born the devil sought to bring harm and suffering to my life. He tried to use my pain as a tool to enslave me to bitterness, shame, and fear. But though he may have won a few battles, he did not win the war, because the one who is in me is far greater than the one who is in the world.
When I cling to my bitterness, Christ points me to forgiveness, when I am engulfed in my shame, Christ shows me His love for me, and when I am afraid He teaches me to trust Him. My chains are now gone! Christ has set me free, and though I still battle my anxieties, and the other effects the abuse had on me, Christ has made me an over-comer through His redeeming blood, and everyday He makes me stronger, able to overcome more and more! For if the Son has set me free, I know that I am free indeed.
Even in my weaknesses, even on the hard days, God still uses it all for good. Satan tries to use our imperfections to bind us, but God uses them to refine us, keeping us humble and looking to him.
Sister, your Heavenly Father loves you dearly, and he is with you in your suffering. Through Christ we have redemption, freedom, and we are made conquerors!
As I write these things, I'm sitting in my little apartment, where I live with my incredible husband. Now I have more than just a taste of freedom, I have freedom through Christ, and God did not stop his blessings there. He has given me a beautiful home, a Godly husband, wonderful friends, an amazing additional family (or as some call them "in-laws"), and a joy in my heart that now takes the place of the sorrow I once held.
God has done what I thought impossible and taken my ugly ashes, and made them into something beautiful. He has quite literally turned my mourning into dancing, and though my life is far from perfect, and my story far from over, God continues to work, refining me, my husband, and our life together.
This does not mean that all my hardships are behind me or I won't suffer anymore. God didn't promise us easy lives here on earth, but He does promise us a peace that surpasses all understanding, and a life with Him that this present time is not worth comparing to! So even though many more trials may come our way, we can rejoice because our hope is not in this world, but in the one who created it!
(Encouragement for the woman going through suffering right now)
If I were to share one thing with you that really helped me on my journey to healing, It would be this, open your Bible. Let your Heavenly Father speak to you through His word. He has many comforting things to speak to you, but you have to open your Bible and your heart to hear it.
If you would like to discuss more or need some great bible reading resources, please feel free to send me a message via my contact page.