Dance Again - Beauty for Ashes
by Toni Keen
To all who mourn in Israel, HE will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for His glory (Isaiah 61:3).
Reading this scripture this morning opened my eyes once more to the grace of God. Church planting is full of unexpected trials. It can be difficult to see how these trials can be of value, but we serve a God that can take the ashes of a circumstance and turn them into a crown of beauty. This promise stood true when my third child, Carson, was born.
What was supposed to be a joyous occasion became an extremely trying time for our family. Carson was born at 35 weeks gestation and with that came challenges. When the OB placed my sweet precious child on my chest and exclaimed, “He's perfect!” I knew something wasn't right. The feeling was unexplainable. I could feel it in my spirit that he was in pain.
When I made the nurse take another look at my child, she confirmed what I felt.
Carson was hurting. He was born early, which hindered the development of surfactant in his lungs, causing them to stick together and eventually collapse. My child was struggling while I stood on the sidelines and had to watch. The doctors took my sweet baby to another room to perform a short, fifteen-minute procedure to place a tube that allowed the air around his lungs to escape while the machines breathed for him.
The procedure ended up taking hours. My husband and I were left in a hospital room wondering, praying, and mourning. The doctors finished their task and made a decision to transfer our son by emergency helicopter to a pediatric hospital. When we met our day-old son and his doctors at the hospital they informed us that we almost lost him and that he had sepsis at birth.
Over the next few days we made difficult decisions, all while praying for our son, ourselves, and our two other sweet children at home with family. The doctors explained that our son was not responding to the antibiotics, and the only solution was to use an extremely strong antibiotic to save his life. After signing many documents releasing the hospital of liability and stating we understood that the antibiotic could have detrimental effects on our sweet newborn, the doctors went to work trying to save his life.
The treatment worked, however, we did not realize that in saving our son's life the medicine would take away his hearing. Years have passed, and our journey is far from over. However, through it all we have learned that God takes our ashes of pain and confusion and trades it for joy, peace, and understanding.
While we may not always understand the "why" we can trust the "who" that is guiding our lives.
As my children grow and learn together, each special and important in their own unique way, I see the image of our creator and His perfect plan for our lives. The plans the Lord has for me, Carson, and our entire family are far greater that I could try to imagine.
God doesn't desire for us to mourn the circumstances in our lives. I am so grateful that He is a good, good Father and turns my ashes to beauty and my mourning to gladness.
Toni Keen is a pastor, mother, teacher, and wife. She has been in ministry with her husband as a youth pastor, associate pastor, and lead pastor for over seven years now and feels so grateful for the opportunities God has given her.
Toni and her husband, Ray, along with their four children have now planted a church in Lake City, Florida, and are excited to see what God has planned next.