Beauty from Ashes

The beauty in life can sometimes be hidden by the trials and tribulations we face. I’ve often said that one cannot know true joy until one has known true suffering or faced trials. God created us to know love and serve Him in this life so that we can be happy with Him in the next. That doesn’t mean He doesn’t want us to be happy in this life as we serve Him, far from it! He wants His best for us and He is always preparing a better place for us. That’s another one of my mantras that has gotten me through rough patches–God IS always preparing something better each of us!

When I woke up the next morning and found the bank accounts had been drained and realized I wasn’t getting my car back, I reminded myself that everything is temporary, that God is always working and preparing a better place for me. ALWAYS. God always expects us to do our part, of course. He does His part and we do ours! Any time that I look back at the tapestry of my life, I can see God’s hand in everything. He has used everything, the good, the bad and the ugly, for His glory and for my good. When my brother committed suicide, I began searching for God in earnest. David’s suicide was a pivotal moment in my faith journey.

I was 15 and had just gotten my driver’s license a few months earlier. My parents never went to church or brought us to church regularly. The only two times I ever remember them in church were at my First Holy Communion and my wedding. We didn’t go before or after I received Jesus in the Eucharist that first time. I had a little missal I received on the day of my first Holy Communion and that is all I knew about Jesus. I often hid in my closet from the family chaos (fights) and that is where Jesus found me. I would look at the pictures and read the pages of that little book. I learned the Lord’s prayer from that book! I would beg Jesus to give me a normal family. I know that it is God who protected me as a child and guided me through, even though we had no Bibles in our home and never went to church. That little missal is still in my nightstand today!

I began going to church with friends and their families after David’s death. I started driving myself to Mass, seeking meaning to this life on earth. Later, in college, I decided to get a second degree in Religious Studies which lead me back to the Catholic Church. God didn’t cause David’s death, but he used this horrible event to change my life forever. He found me in the closet and he found me again as a very confused teenager. I am so thankful that He never gave up trying to find me– just like the parable of the lost sheep! He truly leaves the 99 to search for the 1, and for that, I am thankful.

When my brother, Steve, was 33 years old, he died from a drug overdose. I was only slightly more formed in my faith than when David had died, but what a difference having a relationship with Christ made! I was 21 when I was confirmed in the Catholic faith, and my parents refused to attend my confirmation. I was 23 when Steve died, so still just a wee baby in Christ! I knew enough to know that God would use this terrible event for His glory and for the good of those of us left behind. Knowing that God is preparing a better place for us and using all the events in our lives for His glory, for our good and His, really makes a difference. Having faith that terrible moments won’t last forever, gave me strength.

I clung to my faith when my youngest two were diagnosed with Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome and Mitochondrial disease. I clung to my faith when my youngest almost went to transplant and we found out he has a rare allele with no matching donors in the donor registry of over 6.1 million people. I clung to my faith when I lost and buried Thomas, when I lost and buried my twins and through every one of my 19 pregnancy losses. We never know how God will use these events in our lives, we just know that He WILL use them for our good and His glory. We just have to have faith.

Jesus promised that He would be with us. He didn’t promise that it would be easy! While I would never wish to go through all of these trial, I had no control over them. They happened. I had moments where I wasn’t exactly full of faith. I battled satan at many a turn, but Jesus won. It’s okay to doubt, to question one’s faith. It’s how one grows in faith and builds a relationship with Christ. So, when I woke up the next morning to the realization that my marriage of 24 years was over, I knew that God had something better in store. It was hard. I had days where I cried out to God, screamed before falling asleep. There were days I thought satan would win, days I wasn’t sure I would make it, but here I am! I would beg for His mercy and forgiveness. I asked Him to help me despite all of my sins and failures as a wife and mother. I tried to humble myself before Him, knowing that I played a role in the dissolution of my marriage. There is no use in hiding. God already knows the Truth. I am a sinner.

I can say with all honesty that I am happier now than I have ever been in my 53 years upon this earth. I am truly living my best life. God has never abandoned me. The life that He has prepared for me always ends up being better than my wildest imagination. I know that I will face trials again and again in this life, but I find peace knowing that no matter what, forever and always, the Lord will use it ALL for His glory, for my good. He always turns ashes into beauty (Isaiah 63:1). The joy and happiness I feel today are magnified because I know the pain and suffering life can bring. I try to live each day God gives me to the fullest, because I know it can all change in a flash. God wants us to LIVE and to be happy– even in our trials– Christ has already won victory! Our trials are only temporary; eternal life is FOREVER. Cling to His promises, trust and believe– it’s going to be greater than you could ever imagine! Go out and live your best life, knowing God’s got it all under control.

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