where time stands still and beauty overwhelms.
This past week, I found myself in a faraway place memorized of its beauty and peaceful bliss. It’s as if time stopped the single moment I entered nature’s presence at The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park. This was officially my first camping trip and I was truly blessed to go with the staff of Beauty From Ashes Ministries on their first retreat. I found myself closer to God over the four day weekend, and whoever would have thought God would speak to me through nature.
I remember the second day I spoke with founder, Julie Shematz, and I asked her how I could hear God’s voice more clearly. She explained that God is always speaking to us, the question is, whether or not we are paying attention and listening. She told me that He even communicates to us through nature. As we spoke more on this subject, it penetrated my heart. I began to have a different experience about the retreat. I was able to clear my head from the world’s distractions and focus on God and the beauty He created around me.
I recall the afternoon I spent on the Suwannee River beach, I took my bible and journal with me and God began to speak to me. I heard nothing but the wind and the deep brown water of the river. I sat in the sand and felt the smoothness of it against my skin and I became at peace. My mind was clear and God spoke to me through nature. The water represented Psalms 23:2 “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,”. God led me to quiet waters and through the quiet waters He showed me that He was in control of my life because He is peace maker. He is my maker, so automatically I’m entitled to peace.
Not only was that the only thing I learned, but He gave me beauty for ashes. When I sat around the evening camp fire with Julie, Christa Hicks (BFA Program Manager), Marisa (Christa's daughter), and Karen Zeigler (Life Coach, Author, & Inspirational Speaker . . . also the horses and camper owner), God showed me how I represented the ashes being burnt and how through the ashes came this beautiful fire that was burning bright. That’s what God has done for me personally. He gave me beauty for the ashes my life once was.
I learned over the weekend, from being with the beautiful strong women of God I was surrounded by, that it’s not about outward beauty, but it’s a heart that loves God. Not one of us wore make up or jewelry, we were all comfortable in our own skin naturally and I saw the beauty in authenticity. I could see the beauty in our hearts, which showed what beauty really is.
The bible says in Proverbs 31:30 “Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised.” I understood right then and there that “Beauty From Ashes” isn’t just a title but it’s the Word and its truth. These beautiful women of God aren’t seen because of their outward appearance, but because of the fear of the Lord, the love of the Lord. That is to be praised, that is beauty and that is why God gave them all beauty for ashes.
God gave me the same thing. He showed me why He called me to this organization at this point in my life. He is building me into a strong, bold, woman of God. He has placed this organization and the women of God from Beauty From Ashes to train me and help mold me. I became more grateful and learned how much God really loves me and how He is forming me into a stronger woman of God. He gave me three examples over the weekend and I was truly encouraged and blessed from the whole experience.
Michelle Morton is a senior at Florida Gulf Coast University and an intern with Beauty From Ashes. Her major is Communication with two minors in Journalism and Intro Disciplinary Studies. She was born in Tampa, Florida and now resides in Fort Myers, Florida. In her spare time she performs spoken work and writes for the campus newspaper, Eagle News.