Out of the Ashes

August 9, 2018 by  
Filed under For Her

By LaWanda Bailey  

As I stood ankle-deep in the ashes of the old homeplace, echoes of the creaking porch swing hung in my memory.  I recalled lazy childhood summers there on my grandparents' farm. My sister and I, barefoot and dusty, had swung in that swing as we shelled peas and listened to tales spun by family and friends. Much to our delight, an occasional farmer would stop by the porch and hand our grandfather a quarter. We watched as Granddad pulled out his barber equipment, and we giggled as he buzzed away. By the time the victim got his two bits' worth, he looked like a Chinese crested dog, a tuft of hair floating high above his ears.

Wind blew the ashes, and I reached to pick up a ceramic rooster.   

For decades following our grandparents’ deaths, my cousin maintained the weathered farm house. We were always able to go back home. We could sit by the fireplace where we had celebrated Christmas; we could stand in bedrooms where we had dressed under the covers, a precaution against cold weather and relatives passing through on the way to breakfast; we could share a meal in the kitchen where my grandmother had baked caramel pies. It was easy to remember when the house was there.

But one night, the homeplace burned to the ground. It went up fast, we heard, flames gulping wood that had been there eighty years.  

Some weeks later, I drove to the site, walked through ashes, and found some meaningful items: the ceramic rooster, an iron bedstead, and remarkably, a book that was scorched but not consumed.  

As I approached the side of the house where mounds of hydrangeas had always bloomed, the area lay charred. Then I saw it, a vibrant flash of green. A small stem of hydrangea leaves had pushed through the burned earth. A sign of life lay there in the middle of the rubble, and my spirit lifted. The fire hadn't taken everything.

I thought of times I had circled the ashes of ruin in my own life. I longed for the way things used to be. As I walked ankle-deep in the wreckage of financial despair or divorce or other losses, I picked up relics and pressed them against my heart. Time and again, grief paralyzed me, keeping me from opportunities that lay ahead.  

The tiny hydrangea stem reminded me that setbacks and tragedy never take everything. Call on God. He will show up in the ruins. He may show up mightily with a breath-taking answer. Or He may provide small leaves of hope that will blossom later. Now I recognize these small signs of hope in a call from a friend, a sermon or Bible verse, a bird's song, or an unexpected refund in the mail. A monarch butterfly once rested on my shoulder, and I felt uplifted. Hope reminds me that I am in God’s protective hands.

My cousin built a brick home over the spot where the homeplace stood. On the north side of the house, mounds of hydrangeas bloom again.

"If you keep a green bough within your heart, the singing bird will come."
Old Chinese Proverb

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