Beauty from the Ashes

beautyfromtheashesAll week long I have been watching the news out of San Diego about the wildfires that have been popping up all over the county. It definitely hit home for me because my family is one day going to relocate out of state and one of the many areas on our radar is San Diego.

It also hit home because we were very lucky three years ago. It was Christmas Eve. A small fire started in the grassy area behind our shed by someone who had been hanging out in the field behind and had tossed a cigarette. The fire literally stopped 12 inches from the back of our shed. Not only would we have lost our son’s new bicycle that was hidden in the shed, but with yard equipment in there, had the fire reached it, it would have exploded and probably burned our house and the houses of our neighbors. The kids and I were out doing last minute shopping with my sister and my husband had just come back from a quick trip to the store. We were so thankful to have a neighbor on each side of us, jump into action and help before the fire trucks arrived. I can truly empathize with all of the people out in San Diego who had the same fear of losing everything, but on a much larger scale, and my heart truly goes out to those who did lose their homes and belongings.

By the grace of God, we only suffered a few burned trees and a melted turtle sandbox. It could have been much worse. That day did teach me one thing and that is that most people are still inherently good. In a world full of evil, sometimes it’s hard to see that there are angels in our midst.

Now a story comes out of Carlsbad, California, one of my favorite towns just north of San Diego. It’s a beautiful little town known for it’s gorgeous beaches and great restaurants. Now it has made the news, not because of the fires, but because of what one person did for one family. They were given hope.

About a week ago, Bob Payne and his wife helped their daughter celebrate her wedding by holding the reception at their house. You can just picture how beautiful it must have been and how happy all the family and friends were. I am sure it was an amazing day. But one week later, the very same house was gone. A victim of the out of control fires that raged in Carlsbad this week. Now the family had to try and pick up the pieces and attempt to salvage what they could from their burnt out home. I know what that is like because when I was younger, my sister’s house was lost to a fire. To this day, I still remember what it was like to walk up to it, to walk through what should have been doors, to smell the smoke and wet wood, to find my young niece’s Fisher-Price play phone, charred and ruined. There is no other feeling.

But when the Payne family went back to their home, what they found was something they didn’t expect. A note. From a stranger. From an angel who simply signed it with ‘GB’. Now whether that is someone’s initials or whether it stands for God Bless, no one knows. All the Payne family knows is that someone visited their home and taped a 189 word note onto a shovel and left it for the family. It eloquently said,

We cannot escape the tragedies that arise in our lives. We can search for a reason and ask – why? Maybe we could hold others at fault or imagine what life would be had this not happened, but perhaps what defines our character is not our struggles but how well we meet them and rise up after getting knocked down.

Faith will overcome fears, doubt and insecurities. Sometimes in life we don’t recognize how strong we actually are until we are faced with a great tragedy in our life. This calamity we face today will help develop the strength and fortitude we need for tomorrow.

Losing everything we own is sad, but the things we own do not diminish who we are inside. Sometimes the worst situation brings out the best in us and others.

When you put together a jigsaw puzzle made of hundreds of pieces, you put it together one piece at a time. No one can go back and change what has happened, but we can all start today and make a new tomorrow, one shovel at a time, one day at a time.


Bob Payne said it best, “This is all stuff, even though it was a lot of stuff, but it’s just stuff. We’ll get it back”. He and his family are devastated by the loss of their home, the place where they had shared so many memories, but they are also thankful that everyone was evacuated and are safe. And now, because of one person’s kind and generous spirit, they have one thing that money can’t buy and a house could never give them.

They have hope.

One person gave that to them. One person stepped out of his or her own life for just a moment for people who felt like the world just crumbled beneath them.

Beauty arose from the ashes.

  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.

Isaiah 61:3

A special thanks to NBC7 in San Diego for initially sharing this story.

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