My family was one of many evacuated during the Malibu fires at the end of last year. Weeks later, when we were finally able to drive back into our neighborhoods, our community was shocked and saddened to see the blackened scorched earth of the canyons. As we saw the destruction first hand we began to really understand the scale of the fire.
What has helped me on this journey is being consistent in my own spiritual practice.
We already knew that countless homes had been lost as we’d all seen the horrific raging inferno footage play repeatedly on the news. But we did not expect to see evidence of whole neighborhoods destroyed—piles of debris that were recognizable as former homes only because of the occasional chimney left standing. Cars, left where they had been parked, now found totally burnt out in driveways. The haunting charred remains of palm trees and bushes looked horrific. Our community was scorched and broken, burned and blackened.
It all felt like an image from a futuristic horror movie imagining what a post-apocalyptic landscape would look like. It was heartbreaking to see and filled us all with fear and despair and extreme sadness for the lives lost and for the property and homes destroyed.
The holidays have come and gone and we have since welcomed the spring rains in Malibu. Of course, it brought with it new fears of mudslides, but the rain was much needed for our dry earth and ash-ridden sky. The rain cleared out our air, removing the smoke and dust that remained in our neighborhoods.
Rain and New Birth
But because of the rain, we are beginning to see earth’s greatest gift. Her ability to renew and regenerate and her beauty through the ashes takes my breath away. There in the hillsides and lining the canyons on the burned landscapes green shoots are pushing up everywhere. They come with a reminder of hope and healing as this land that was destroyed just a few short months ago is already turning green, thrusting forth in new life. The canyons are alive and the blacked earth is giving way to new growth as the earth regenerates—embracing God’s most perfect redemptive, healing design.
This got me thinking about my own heart and the healing that is happening. While I did not experience the personal loss of my home in the recent fires like many in my community, I did come through a year of immense heartache and loss in my own life.
I was still mourning the death of my mentor, Della Reese, when I lost my brother, Lawrence, in September. And then, more recently, one of beloved dogs passed from respiratory failure, apparently connected to smoke inhalation from the fires. I have struggled with a broken heart over these losses and the holidays were painful this year. Yet as I reflect on the new grass that is blooming and healing the earth on the canyons I am aware of the growth and healing I feel in my own heart as well.
I have been so grateful for the love and support of family and friends and I have been learning to trust in God’s plan even when I don’t always fully understand it.
What has helped me on this journey is being consistent in my own spiritual practice, and being kind and gentle with myself as I process. I love taking time each morning to pray, to spend time with scripture and enjoy my favorite morning devotional Jesus Calling. I have found great strength and comfort in particular in the book of Psalms. I am always inspired by time spent in nature and I am forever moved to see the sunrise and the sunset. In this season, this great comfort has not weaned, but increased in it’s stabilizing embrace—to see God in the expanse of the ocean, to see the beauty in His creation, to remember to look for Him in everyone and everything, to be grateful for all the beauty and love in my life.
I know when I take the time to count my blessings rather than focus on my losses I feel the fullness of all my blessings. Yes, of course, I still miss my loved ones but my faith gives me comfort and not only raises my spirit but reminds me that they have merely gone on ahead. We will be together again. With this reassurance, I feel my broken heart beginning to heal.
In the places where my heart had felt scorched and blackened by the pain of loss, I am now experiencing new growth. Much like the new green shoots that are growing on the canyons, I feel a mending of the hurt that was in my own heart and I feel grateful for the feelings of hope that are blossoming there anew.
Isn’t our planet amazing that it regenerates? Aren’t our hearts amazing that we continue to love?
Isn’t our God amazing that His grace is forever bountiful?
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” —Psalm 147:3
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff comfort me.” —Psalm 23:4
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” —Psalm 34:18