From Ashes of Pity into Beauty of Purpose by Debra Gray Elliott
Forty years ago, at the age of sixteen my life changed and I found myself in the ashes of pity. My life took a dark turn when my father passed away several months before I turned sixteen. My mother decided she did not want to live in our home state any longer and moved me across the country. This is where my life took a wrong turn.
Except from the book:
The year was 1977, the month and date: November 4th, I was sixteen; technically a teenager, but still a child. I was taken for my abortion. I have tried to block out the memories, but I cannot forget the cold metal table where I had lain or the baby being sucked from my womb through a vacuum tube. My eyes fixated on the fluid and blood sucked into the glass canister. All I could see were the demons that had taken over my life instead of the love I deserved. The painful, horrific memories are forever seared in my mind, thoughts, and soul.
It was in my pain and grief through post-abortion recovery, I started writing about my journeys and how God led me through the ashes into beauty. The end result of my grief was hope and healing. It is hope and healing that I want to give to other women who are experiencing pain and grief.
From Ashes of Pity into Beauty of Purpose brings emotionally charred women out of the pits of fire, through the ashes into the beauty of purpose. With the direction of God, hurting women weather through the painful journeys, become women of spiritual beauty, find God’s purpose, and learn to live again.
You are altogether beautiful, my darling there is no flaw in you. Song of Solomon 4:7 NIV
Christian author and speaker Debra Gray Elliott began writing at the age of fifteen after the death of her father. She began writing poetry as a way to cope with her grief. At the age of sixteen, Debra once again experienced grief when she was forced to have an abortion. It was in this grief that she found herself in the ashes of pity. Forty years later, Debra found her beauty of purpose.
From Ashes of Pity into Beauty of Purpose is Debra’s first non-fiction Christian self-help, inspirational book to help women through the ashes of pity into the beauty of purpose after having an abortion.
Debra is currently working on a devotional for grieving parents. The loss of her daughter four years ago, has led Debra to want to help other grieving parents through their grief into hope.
She resides in Alabama with her husband and family.
Justine Johnston Hemmestad
In 1990 my car was broadsided by a speeding city bus as I turned out of
a parking lot – I was in a coma and had sustained a severe brain injury.
I was paralyzed when I woke up from my coma, though I worked hard to
walk again within a few months, and to relearn how to perform the basic
functions of life.
I began to write when I was carrying my first child Megan, less than two
years after my accident, as tool or a way to cope with feeling so alone
in my disability and misunderstood. Writing, throughout the darkest part
of my recovery—when everyone looked down on me and I had no one to talk
to or relate with me—helped me to get my thoughts in focus, to learn new
things, and to remember what was important to me. I felt bullied, my
thoughts and perception were skewed, and I felt emotionally alone,
isolated by my personal lacking (my speech was slurred; my reactions
were slow, etc.).
But writing was my Savior. When I was so afraid and so filled with guilt
for being disabled, writing offered me a safe and comforting place to
go, where I could cry and feel loved. Writing was my confidante and gave
me hope when the world was crushing me. Writing even helped me find out
who I was, since everything about “me” seemed to have melted away with
my TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). Writing helped me find my words to
speak again. Writing was my purpose, and writing was my healing.
My novella, Truth be Told, is essentially the story of my
recovery wrapped up in fictional characters in a different time and
place. Everything is symbolic in my novella because symbolism itself
taught me how to travel deep inside my thoughts and search until I found
the answers. Symbolism aided my memory by the weight of its meaning.
The old man in my novella is symbolic of God, prayer, love of my
children, and the inner truth I found when I dug deep, the challenges
that stretched my mind and that I knew I had to face when I wanted to
give up on life completely.
The Lady is the aspect of my recovery in which I felt lost, even to
myself—I didn’t know who I was—but in prayer and meditation I learned to
focus my mind, calm my thoughts (which were drowning in the guilt I felt
for being disabled) and listen to God’s answer…what defines me?
The knight is the aspect of my recovery that was assaulted by PTSD. Not
only was I recovering, but I was recovering amidst a torrent of fear,
pain, and false persecution. He represents the survivor’s guilt I had
for living as brain-injured, and the part of myself that felt I deserved
the lies that people told about me simply because it was easy to lie
about me. I illuminated my purpose— the purpose that any recovering
person needs to be able to climb out of the darkness—symbolically as
Jesus. When people lied about me, writing defended me and made the truth
immortal. My purpose, as writing, was the well within me; writing saved
me and gave me direction in life (even when I no longer had any sense of
direction due to my TBI). There were people who tried to point me in the
wrong direction, but my prayer, and written prayer, was always brimming
My purpose in writing raised me out of the darkness and set me on a new
path. As my characters in Truth be Told founded one of the first
Universities in Europe, my purpose led me to enter into college, to
study tirelessly, and to set goals and reach them. For a person with a
TBI, these things stretched my mind to the breaking point. And yet my
savior, writing, was always there, so much that my purpose and my goals
became intertwined. Every class I’ve had brought me new challenges;
every professor’s pushing has helped me more than they were ever aware.
My husband and I now have seven children and I’m still writing, for both
have truly been essential to my recovery. I’ve also earned a BLS through
The University of Iowa and am now working toward a Master’s Degree in
Literature through Northern Arizona University. I’m grateful to have
written a book that I felt so strongly, all along, could be of help to
survivors, for them to recognize themselves in the characters and to
know that they’re not alone. I would have recognized myself in this
story and it would have given me hope. My mission now is to give other