Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Beauty from Brokenness

In 1984, a landslide roared down Thunder Mountain just outside of Juneau, Alaska. The tremendous force uprooted everything in its path and wiped out a beautiful stream. Many acres of the mountainside had been stripped bare except for branchless trees like giant toothpicks sticking out of mud and rocks. An ugly scar marred the former beauty.

Ten years later, Steve and Cindy Bowhay purchased the land to reclaim the once-beautiful stream. They planned ponds with flowers, waterfalls cascading from pool to pool down the mountainside, and a nature trail that would be easy to negotiate by foot or by motorized carts for an interactive view of a pristine Alaskan rain forest. The trail would end with a scenic vista of Gastineau Channel and Lynn Canal from the 580-foot level. They named it Glacier Gardens.

To begin the project, Steve rented an excavator for 30 days. On the last day, after no mishaps, he found a beautiful 6-foot-wide flat rock weighing 4,000 pounds that would be perfect for the waterfall. In the process of getting it, the excavator backed into an uprooted tree, spinning the machine sideways. A log jammed through the engine cowling and caused several thousand dollars worth of damage.

Frustrated and angry at himself, Steve calmly placed the rock where he wanted it then picked up the tall tree stump, raised it as high as the excavator arm would go, and rammed the stump into the ground upside down. His anger appropriately vented, he glanced at the upside down tree and had a sudden inspiration. Why not make a hanging garden in the sprawling root system now high above his head? He could nestle flowerbeds in the roots and plant a myriad of colorful petunias and other flowers that would cascade down. He selected 30 more of the numerous uprooted trees, plunged them into the earth in the same way, and created a forest of the most unique flower towers you'll ever see.

When I visited Glaciers Gardens in 2002, I was quite taken with them. This story brought tears to my eyes. Having recently come through a devastating experience that I thought had permanently scarred my life, I was reminded of how God takes our mistakes, our suffering, the ashes of our lives, and creates something stunningly beautiful when we turn everything over to Him. I began to hum the Gaither song, "All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife,/ But He made something beautiful of my life."

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