I grew up in the foster care system in Michigan. My mother had been sexually assaulted at the age of fourteen and conceived me. As a result, the sum of her childhood traumas led her to turn to drugs and prostitution. She had six children by the time she was twenty years old. My siblings and I were separated. We were all placed in different foster care homes when I was six years old. We faced mental, physical, and sexual abuse at the hands of those that the state had entrusted to care for us. I had lived in over twenty-two different placements by the time I aged out of foster care at the age of nineteen. To say that I was bitter and broken would really be putting it quite mildly. I questioned the rationale of a God who would allow such a devastating plight to befall me. What did I do to deserve this? Why didn’t I have love and stability like everyone else? How could God love me and allow these things to happen to me?
This anger and frustration found its outlet in all the wrong places. I was involved in abusive relationships because that is all that I believed that I deserved. I started using alcohol and eventually drugs to help me escape the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness in my life. The question that always came to mind was, “Lord, where are you? Don’t you care about me?”
When I was at one of my lowest points, I remember watching the 700 Club on television. The hope and the inspiration that was expressed in this Christian program drew me in. I wanted to have this peace and forgiveness that the host was talking about. I heard the testimony of a woman who had an experience similar to mines. She spoke about Isaiah 63:1, “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified”.
I cried out to God and wept for what seemed like forever. I asked Him to please come into my life and make me new. I wanted to exchange all my hurt and disappointment. I wanted to know His unfailing love. I wanted Him to heal me from my brokenness. I wanted to be made whole. God not only came into my life and healed me, but he also restored my relationship with my mother. We were reunited after over twenty-six years. She had also given her life to Christ.
We were able to share a beautiful journey together for five years. My mother passed away in the spring of 2013. My siblings and I decided to have her cremated. The agreement was that each of us would get a portion of her ashes. Somehow, the funeral home sealed the urn. I wanted to contact them to have them open it. After praying about it, I was moved to keep it sealed. God reminded me of all the beauty I had to remember my mother by. I had her journal (she also loved to write), her pictures cards, jewelry, and her favorite pillow. All these things reminded me of the beauty of her life. It also reminded me of the glory of God and how He had restored us.
God so often wants to do this in the lives of His children. He wants to take away the despair, mourning, and replace it with His hope, peace, and joy. The scripture says He wants to give us a garment of praise in exchange for the spirit of heaviness. And as glorious as this is, it is dependent upon us casting our cares upon Him and allowing Him to do it. In order to exchange, we must be willing to give something up in order to receive something else. So the real question becomes, “Are you willing to give God your ashes in exchange for all of His beauty?”
Trust me. It’s worth it.