"He has sent me... to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve — 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 rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations…"
September 2004, I was in New York City shortly after terrorists had taken down the two Trade Towers, and thousands of people’s families & friends were now lost... I felt so overwhelmed standing in the midst of the devastation. There were still rescue workers, covered from head to toe in ash, with determination in their eyes like I’d never seen, courageously searching for people in the rubble, and the massive task of filling what seemed like endless convoys of trucks with debris.
Surrounding us were half melted buildings with their insides exposed, a carpet of office papers & ash filled the streets - it was so hard to breathe. The attacks claimed almost 3,000 lives and at least $10 billion in property and infrastructure damage. The message was clear, the damage real and the price was high in people’s lives.
One year ago our little girl Olivia was born, but a few days in it looked as though the amazing gift that God had given us was going to be taken away from us. Doctors were completely confused at her symptoms and performed all sorts of tests, procedures and hooked her up to a bunch of machines to keep her alive.
I spent hours researching the entire internet looking into any bits of information available about her situation (who knew you needed ganglion cells? Well you do... You're welcome). I prayed like never before - in tongues, in English, in Portuguese (not really, but holla to our Brazilian friends), I recruited a prayer army, created a worship playlist, stood on the promises of God's Word, and rebuked the enemy with force in Jesus’ name. During this time I felt God revealing to me a picture of Jesus standing with a sword beside Olivia’s bed, ensuring us that He was personally protecting her, and that He had a great future and hope prepared for her. I believe the enemy was planning to take her out, and God was reminding me that we were in a spiritual war - fighting for her life.
When writing Beauty For Ashes, I was remembering back to those defining moments in time, trying to comprehend the attack and devastation of September 11, or the pain through our daughter's slow battle to health, and it reminded me that for many of us in life, we find ourselves in uncertain, unfair, and insecure circumstances, and how quickly we can become flooded by some very raw questions.
If my world feels like it’s crumbling before my eyes, what am I supposed to do?
Where is God in all of this? How do I possibly move forward?
John 10:10 says it's 'the thief' (the enemy, the devil) who comes only to steal, kill and destroy. That is his plan for our lives. He is a trespasser and a murderer and tries to invite himself into our lives where he's not wanted.
Jesus said, ‘In life trouble will come, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33)
Although the trouble of today can seem so overwhelming, God has made a way that we would have life to the full. He loves us completely and wants to be our Helper, to comfort, to heal and to restore us from the works of the enemy in our midst.
When you feel like your world is crashing down around you - don’t lose hope. Lean into God, have courage, fight for your breakthrough, declare the promises in the Word over your situation & don’t give up or shrink back. Continue to believe that God is good, He loves you & He's right there with you despite what you currently see around you. He has overcome the world, and with His Spirit living inside you and working through you, so can you.
‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.’ (Psalm 46:1)
When you don’t know what to do, or where to turn, Jesus is the road to follow, and He promises us that the destination is good.
While writing this song, there has been such a powerful picture in my mind of the resilient people of New York finding restoration & strength in the midst of such desolation.
In another way, on our personal journey with Olivia and seeing her endure through so many challenges, together we have beaten the odds and seen breakthrough after breakthrough, and as a family we are healthy, happy and stronger than ever. We’ve walked through the most amazing season with God seeing our 'ashes' turned into something beautiful - like only He can.
I know God can do the same for you, and that is my heart behind writing ‘Beauty For Ashes’. Let's celebrate God's goodness together! I hope it will bless you and help reveal some more of God’s heart for you to restore and rebuild the 'ruined cities' in your life.
We'd love to hear your story of God's restoration in your life. Feel free to share in the comments below!
Love & appreciate you all,