Gratitude Day 7: Isaiah

"Upward"
Looking up into a canopy of brilliantly colored Sourwood and Sugar Maple trees.
Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
© 2014 Kristina Plaas, All Rights Reserved
Some days are just hard. There's no way around it, hard things stare me down and I have to face them. I don't think I'm alone in saying I don't like dealing with hard things I didn't choose. Challenges I choose are fine, those I didn't choose are, well, not fine. But life is about hard things and I am trying to gracefully accept that. I'm pretty sure my grace fell a bit short today.

This afternoon I resumed the task of sorting through mother's things in order to give them new homes. Many of my friends from church are involved in a rummage and bake sale to help raise funds for a Young Single Adult Branch member who was diagnosed with cancer, is undergoing expensive and debilitating treatments which leave her unable to go to school, work, or pay the mounting medical bills. As soon as I heard about the rummage sale I knew it was the perfect opportunity to donate some of mother's things so they could bless the life of someone else. It's what my Mom would have done. And so I went to work, emptying closets and drawers of the things I knew needed to go to the sale. I packed my car with trash bags full of clothes and drove to the locations of tomorrow's event -- crying the whole way. I handed the bags over to dear friends, Lisa and Dee, and cried some more. Letting go is hard for me. I'm such a tender-hearted soul that letting go is very painful. Grieving is hard work.

My mother was a very gracious and elegant lady. She was also very strong -- tough as nails when she needed to be. It seemed to me that she was the master of grace and courage. I struggle to have courage and to act with grace when things are hard, when disappointing things happen, when I'm sad, when I'm tired, or when I'm angry. As I thought about my feelings tonight the phrase "beauty for ashes" popped into my mind. It's the Lord's promise to us, his children, as found in Isaiah 61:

 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; 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 love Isaiah! The phrase "trees of righteousness" stands out to me. The gnarly branches of maples trees I photographed last week came to mind. The trees in my photograph do not have nice, straight trunks and branches. No, these trees had to compete for sunlight with other trees, they had to hold up to wind, and rain, and ice. These trees have had a hard life! Now these trees, with their red, orange, and yellow leaves, are beautiful!  And so it is with each of us, we become beautiful by the challenges we've faced, the obstacles we've overcome, and the extent to which we are willing to allow Christ's atonement to act in our lives. the atonement of Jesus Christ is there for you and me. It is my oil of joy for mourning, my beauty for ashes. Elder Bruce C. Hafen put it this way:
Each of us will taste the bitter ashes of life, from sin and neglect to sorrow and disappointment. But the atonement of Christ can lift us up in beauty from our ashes on the wings of a sure promise of immortality and eternal life. He will thus lift us up, not only at the end of life, but in each day of our lives.          From: Hafen, B. C. Beauty for ashes: the atonement of Jesus Christ. Ensign, April 1990.

So tonight I'm grateful for crooked trees, beautiful leaves, donating mother's clothes to a worthy cause, to grace and courage, and for the wise counsel found in the book if Isaiah. I'm grateful Christ lifts me up daily.

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