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Beauty for Ashes

This photo of Faustina is a “reverse” image of what’s on my mind—and forehead—this Wednesday morning. I thought I’d reprise something from the archives of the Christian Cowgirl Poetry (horse) blog that I posted back in 2017. We had just moved from the suburbs to our first little farm in NJ’s “horse country” so that I could eventually bring home my beloved Quarter Horse, Hook. Who knew it would lead to chickens and goats and Valais Blacknose Sheep (and more horses, of course! 🤠 ). As the first breaths of Spring blow through Middle Tennessee, may the Holy Spirit move you on this beautiful Ash Wednesday to enter into a blessed and fruitful season of Lent. ☩


I received ashes on my forehead today, the Church’s reminder that I am dust—and to dust I shall return someday. The season of Lent has just begun, but already my heart anticipates the spiritual renewal these forty days of prayer, sacrifice, and almsgiving can bring…the beauty for ashes that is mine if I am penitent, faithful, and open to God’s grace. This is also the season that will bring Hook home to my newly purchased little farm, the first time in the four years we’ve been together that he hasn’t been boarded under someone else’s care. In less than a week, he’ll arrive in pastures where I’ve vigorously raked, seeded, and labored to overcome decades of neglect: choking vines, endless tangles of brambles, fallen trees, and splintered, broken down fences surrounding a two-stall barn that had fallen into disrepair.

Lately, I’ve had a lot of “fixing” to do—not just to the land, but also to my troubled mind and soul. You see, after all Hook and I have been through—the getting-to-know-you stages, the clumsy “first dances,” the misunderstandings and miscues, those first falls, the clawing my way up the learning curve, the giddy successes and amazing rides, the bouts of lameness and the slow but steady comebacks—I was sure that nothing could derail us moving forward into this new year.

And then it happened. A near-wreck in the indoor ring with another horse that has essentially blown Hook’s mind. Now, he is unable to function in a ring with other horses moving toward him or coming up behind him at more than a walk. He panics, spins, and would bolt into next week had I not mastered the one-rein stop. I’m too old for this. I have to admit, I’m tired. I feel discouraged.

I’d always intended to bring Hook home, just not so soon. This sad event has accelerated my timeline in the hope that bringing him into a “kinder, gentler” environment will help to heal his troubled mind and soul as well. Perhaps at the end of forty days, a time of decompression per se, we’ll see what horse has emerged from the ruins of our “career” at a fast-paced lesson and show barn where performance is cultivated, judged, and prized. It will take time, love, prayer, work, sacrifice, and faith—a lot of faith—that Hook and I can overcome the brokenness we both feel.

Today I wear ashes. I stare at the black stain of them in the mirror and think of the dust that I am, that we are. But nibs of green grass are sprouting. Bluebirds flit across my once-fallow pastures and sing of spring. My barn doors are flung open in anticipation.

And my Redeemer has promised me beauty for ashes…

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.

~Isaiah 61:1-3


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