I woke up early that morning.
In my closet there is a dresser, and on the dresser is a mirror. I shuffled my makeup bag and hair straightener across the dresser top, avoiding to look in the mirror at the mess that was bound to be my hair in the early morning.
I drew in a breath and opened my eyes. My hair looked fine; my eyes were bright. But it was my face that gave me a moment’s pause. It was ashy. A grayish powder dusted across my cheeks, as if I had crawled out of a building that had collapsed. As if I had gotten caught in the cindered smoke of a volcano, yet somehow avoided the lava.
As if I had been exposed to the remains of disasters, but somehow avoided the disaster itself. To have lost something, but not know how I lost it; to lose, or be without, hope. But in that silence, a deep strength inside of me welled up inside of my soul in a way I had longed for, for a long time.
I blinked and looked again.
A sweet, luminescent crown of flowers atop my head had cleaned my face and replaced where the ashes had been.
And I heard a sweet, sweet voice whisper inside my soul:
“to bestow a crown of beauty instead of ashes”
It was as if fountains that had been long dry welled up inside of me again, overflowing until my heart swelled, rushing new water through my veins where tired blood had once been.
I woke up.
I woke up to the light pouring through the window in my bedroom; I woke up to the touch of the pink comforter on my bed. And it was a joy, a true joy, that tangled me into a love unlike one I had ever felt before.
It was deeper, it was wider- it was so high, I couldn’t see the top of it. I didn’t even try to look that high, I knew I could never reach it. And I felt that same voice again say, “close your eyes,” and I shut them to see a green pasture unfold in front of me: one with springs of water flowing up, with blooming trees and mountains folded in clouds in a deep distance.
I shut my eyes to see everything.
And I was reminded that, while smoke is ruin, fire is light. I was reminded that embers are carbon-based matter that remain after, or sometimes precede, a fire. It’s a fire that’s been here, it’s a fire that’s coming.
In the midst of these changes: the 10-14 hour work days, the new apartment, the quick pace of the city and my love for coffee being replaced by tea, I can feel a protection around me that things will unfold the way they will.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
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 be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations…”
“I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations.”
– Isaiah 61:1-4; 10-11