We live in a world full of pain and bitterness. The daily headlines show a tide of distrust, discord, and disharmony sweeping across the globe. People of faith can be effective in such an environment, but only if they recognize that pain and perplexities abound wherever real people encounter the real struggles of everyday existence. In Beauty for Ashes: Portraits of Faith, you will meet some remarkable women with incredible stories of faith and redemption. They are not celebrities. Their names and faces do not grace the covers of the magazines in the grocery checkout line. They are everyday women who have faced a variety of trials not unlike those everyone faces. In their darkest hours, they turned to God and discovered that he was the only hope that remained. They surrendered their lives to his love, mercy, compassion, and goodness—and God did not fail them. God has helped them to become extraordinary women of faith, courage, and strength—able to reach out in love and compassion to others who are struggling and offer them the same hope that they have found. By working through ordinary people who are facing the sometimes overwhelming issues of daily life, God lets the world know that there is hope beyond the struggles and heartaches that can leave us feeling hopeless. Come and walk with these women and let their faith and stories touch your heart. You will discover renewed hope and strength for your own journey—and perhaps even more.
“Another school year had begun. I had 19 students, 13 of them boys. I knew it was going to be a long 175 days. The first two weeks went pretty much the same as in other years. Assigning desks, making sure the desk fit the child, giving out books, setting up classroom rules that the students feel are important to live by, setting up classroom rules that the teacher feels are important to live by (!), conducting several safety drills that take us to the outer reaches of the school building, sending home a gazillion state and federal forms for parents to fill out, and “getting to know you, getting to know all about you.” Yes, the beginning of new things. Little did I know what a beginning it would be. “Wednesday, September 22nd : “As I was getting into the shower, I noticed a black spot at the bottom of my eye. I didn't think it was anything serious. Probably a floatie, since I had had these coming and going across my field of vision off and on over the years. I figured it would go away quickly. I proceeded to get ready for school. But at the end of the next day, I became more concerned, for the black spot was still there. I called my eye doctor’s office, and they told me to come in immediately. After an exam, the doctor told me that I had a detached retina. I gasped! She told me that they were making an appointment for me to see an eye specialist the next morning and that I was to go straight home and lie down for the rest of the evening. “Friday, September 23rd : “8:00 A.M. and I'm in the eye specialist's office going through a very thorough eye exam on both eyes. It was unlike any I'd had before. After the exam, she proceeded to draw in detail with regular and colored pencils my eyes and what she'd seen. Afterwards, she told me that the retina had detached so much that I would need surgery. However, she would not be able to do the operation because she was a presenter at a conference that day. Her staff was making arrangements for me to see an eye specialist in Portland at Maine Eye Center. With her drawings in hand, I went out to the car with my dad and broke down. I was in shock and couldn't believe what was happening. “10:30 A.M. “It's pouring rain, and my lovely 84, soon to be 85, year old dad and I head to Portland. I'm lying down in the passenger's seat, and my dad is driving. Now, it's bad enough that I know in a few hours I'll be heading into surgery, but to add to the stress, my dad's driving. My family's traveling legend is that we never went on any trip, no matter how near or far, without getting utterly and totally lost. I felt doom closing in on me. Well, my right eye was in bad shape, but my left eye was working overtime! I made sure Dad took all the right exits; but, of course, when we got to Portland, we didn't take the right turn to Maine Eye Center. We ended up on Congress Street, and then Dad had to go to the bathroom. We stop at a fire station for a break and directions. Dad comes back, relieved, but with no directions. "I didn't see anybody in there. They must be taking naps", he says. So, I sit up and remember that there were two sets of directions to this place. Lo and behold, I get us there. “1:30 P.M. “The eye specialist walks in. Much to my surprise and delight, he's young, short and cute, with dark hair and beautiful, “dark brown eyes. I might have been blind, but I wasn't dead! It didn't take long to also realize that he was brilliant and had something that is rare among doctors today, a wonderful bedside manner and genuine care for his patient. He gave me the same thorough exam that my own eye doctor had earlier, drew his own pictures of both eyes and went on to explain the whole problem and the surgical procedure to me. All I remember saying is, "okay", "okay", "okay". I was in trauma, and I think my dad was in worse shape than I. “2:30 P.M. “We head downstairs and see a staff member who gives us directions to the Brighton Avenue campus of Maine Medical Center. Everything's being set up for surgery, and they are expecting us. As my dad and I are about to leave, the young lady tells me not to worry, that I am in good hands. The eye specialist is the best in his field. She has no idea what a comfort those words are to me. “3:00 P.M. “I'm registered at Maine Medical and am being prepped for surgery. “5:00 P.M. “I'm wheeled into the OR, and two and a half hours later I awake in recovery. “8:00 P.M. “Dad and I make it to Howard Johnson's Hotel near the Maine Mall. (Yes, we missed the turn and had to swing back.) We had to stay overnight because the eye specialist needed to see me in the morning before we headed back to Bangor. “Saturday, September 24th: “Dad and I make it back to Maine Eye Center at 9:00 A.M. to have the patch and bandages removed and to have my right eye examined. (I can sit up now, so no more mystery rides!) The surgery went well. I was seeing double for a little bit, which was expected, but, thankfully, that soon disappeared. I'm scheduled to come back on Tuesday for a follow-up. With that, Dad and I gladly head back to Bangor and home. “Tuesday, September 27th: “My cousin rescues my dad from another trip to Portland and drives me to the appointment. Fortunately, my cousin has an excellent sense of direction, and you wouldn't believe how very close Maine Eye Center is to the exit! “3:15 P.M. “The eye specialist walks in and, after the exam, lowers the boom. Though the operation went well, the retina didn't completely reattach. (I knew something was wrong, because there was still a patch of black at the bottom of my eye.) This happens to only 1% of patients who have this type of surgery. Oh, that was a group I wanted to be a part of! The solution: I would need to have a needle filled with gas injected into my eye. The gas would form into little bubbles that I could see. These gas bubbles apply pressure to the retina causing it to reattach. I am in trauma once again. “The good doctor asks me if I'm ready to do this. I say "okay". I'll spare you the details. But tiny bubbles were to be an important part of my life until they completely dissipated around Thanksgiving. “The next three weeks I recuperated at home. I was blessed to have the same substitute teacher for the entire three weeks. My class was difficult, but she was handling them very well.
Sharon J. Weston has more than twenty years of experience in women’s ministry; she founded Garments of Praise Ministries, a women’s retreat ministry, in 2005. She holds a degree in education and works as the assistant to the senior director of residential services at Goodwill Industries of Northern New England. Sharon has one son, David, and lives in Augusta, Maine.
I was greatly blessed by this book. The stories were uplifting in the way that they showed how God will work in our lives to turn our ashes into His Beauty. Great courage and faith were shown by the women who shared their souls with me through these pages. I can see how God is always present in the lives of His children (us) and am greatly encouraged by the couragous women. Thank you to all of them for sharing their stories and their faith with us the reader.
Beauty for Ashes: Portraits of Faith is such an uplifting book. Even though there are tragedies and heartbreak, the book was so great that I didn't want to put it down. Then I didn't want to pick it up because I didn't want to finish it. I wanted it to go on forever! These women and the book are truly an inspiration for all. They give you hope, knowing that you can climb out of a hole and face the world with a smile and purpose. Faith is what everyone needs. No matter what part of your life you are in, this book is such an inspiration. Is the author going to write a sequel? - Shirley
It is obvious that Beauty for Ashes: Portraits of Faith was written through God's leading. It provides testimonies by ordinary women who, through their faith walk, have surrendered their lives and circumstances to God. Following life's composer, a symphony of triumph can now echo within each heart. This book is filled with stories of faith, courage, and celebration. These women may be ordinary, every day women, but their faith and willingness to share their life journeys make them extraordinary. I believe that everyone who reads, "Beauty for Ashes: Portraits of Faith", will find a little of themselves between the covers. God is awesome, and it is only through serving Him that one can become truly free.
This is a wonderful and inspiring book. I was blessed by it. I think that God's love and caring are shown to be very evident. I was uplifted and at the same time brought to humble understanding. I hope that many people will read this book. You will find in these stories great courage and faith. God is present in all our circumstances and this book will allow you to see just how present He is and how he turns any and everything in life into Beauty from the ashes.
"BEAUTY FOR ASHES" ARRIVED IN MY MAIL THIS MORNING AND I HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO PUT IT DOWN SINCE I TOOK IT OUT OF THE ENVELOPE!!!!! EVERYTHING ABOUT IT HAS INSPIRED AND DELIGHTED ME!!THIS IS JUST TO LET YOU KNOW MY COPY WILL BE LOVED AND READ AND READ AND READ!!