Rising from the Ruins

I knew there were ruins of an old sugar mill off the main road to the beach just an hour's drive from where I lived, but I’d never visited them.

I'm not sure why I've missed this little piece of history in my own backyard since I'm quite intrigued by broken bricks, dilapidated pillars and crumbling stones.

My sister, mother and I once took a girls' road trip through Mississippi and Louisiana, visiting historic homes and gardens.

As much as I liked touring the beautiful restored old houses, walking through overgrown fields with disintegrating stumps of chimneys and crumbling columns that hold up nothing but air was much more fascinating to me.

Maybe it's taken me so long to visit the old sugar mill near the beach because it's not easy find.

A barely noticeable sign partially obscured by trees points to a gravel road off a busy highway, but we miss it and have to turn around.

No one else is here.

It's not your typical Florida beach day since it's cloudy with spurts of sprinkling rain, but I wonder if the grounds are always this deserted.

I read the historical markers and learn the sugar mill operated for only a few years before it was wrecked and burned in 1835 during the Seminole Indian War, when Florida was still a territory and not yet a part of the United States.

The crumbling and fire-blackened walls that remain are made from coquina {a mixture of shells and sand} and the big iron cauldrons to process the sugar are still here too.

As I look at the warnings for visitors not to climb on the walls so they'll be preserved for future generations to see, I realize I’m not always eager to preserve what’s ruined in my life.

In fact, I’d much rather do the opposite.

I tend to want to purge all traces of whatever's been damaged or broken during my life's journey, along with any accompanying mementoes that might remind me of the wreckage. {I suppose I hope that by removing the remnants, it might seem as if they never happened.}

But I wonder if what's damaged or wrecked in our lives is more noteworthy than we think?

Could that be the foundation for something new or altogether different if we let the ruins remain?

Could the crumbling walls and bits of broken shells that survive be the strongest fragments to sustain what is being rebuilt?

Maybe it's those experiences that have the significance to allow something new to rise from the ruins.

Maybe the shattered plans, disintegrated opportunities, scarred friendships, broken relationships, even our fractured hope that God is a redeeming God who can bring joy and new things to life, are far more meaningful than we know.

The desert and the parched land will be glad; 
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. 
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; 
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. - Is. 35:1-2

Not far from the sugar mill ruins is another charred sugar mill plantation. {And another piece of nearby history I've missed visiting.}

But this one was converted into an amusement park in the 1940s and now has new life as a small botanical garden.

{Abandoned amusement parks have always seemed a little eerie and creepy to me, and the leftover concrete dinosaurs don't do much to change my mind about that.}

But walking through both of these almost-destroyed places makes me think about time and perspective and perseverance.

It takes all of those things {and more} to rebuild hope and faith and trust, doesn't it?

I think I'm convinced that our ruined expectations, burned experiences and scorched circumstances can be the foundation stones for God to begin building something new in us.

And maybe the act of making peace with our own personal ruins allows new, brilliant and abundant life to eventually rise from what remains.

Like the spectacularly brilliant full moon we watched rise over the Atlantic that night.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart


  1. Valerie! I was so happy to see your face this morning at Holley's party! I've missed you and, as a matter of fact, I popped over to your blog last night to see what you've been doing, only to realize it had been a long time since you'd posted. I'm so happy to see you back and to read this beautifully written post. I don't think I know another blogger who sees God in the everyday and writes so poignantly about it as you do. What a gift you have. I loved, loved, loved this post! Love you too girlfriend. Keep writing <3 Patti

    1. Patti,
      Your sweet words mean more than you know! Thank you so much for encouraging me! I love seeing your decorating photos on IG and following your activities. You are such a treasured friend on this blogging journey . . . .xo

  2. I agree, it can be tempting to want to destroy the ruins but they can be a foundation for God to build something new if we let him. And I find abandoned amusement parks creepy too!
    PS- I nominated you for a blogger award! Details are in my post if you want to take part, but absolutely no pressure- I just want you to know that I appreciate you and your writing!

    1. Lesley,
      Aren't those overgrown amusement parks the worst?! I am intrigued by your blogger award -- heading over to your place to check out the details! xo

  3. Oh wow, Valerie. This here -->'our ruined expectations, burned experiences and scorched circumstances can be the foundation stones for God to begin building something new in us.'

    I've seen that true in my own life ... in the depths of the pit I begged God to restore 'the years the locusts had eaten,' to somehow redeem all the sickness and sorrow and mess.

    The old foundation stones yielded new life after all was said and done. Like you, I'm eternally grateful.

    Meanwhile, I do love a good ruin. Castles in Scotland are my favorite. There's also an old military housing base about a half hour away that's been abandoned ... you can walk up and down the streets now littered with glass and debris, enter houses with doors long ago removed, see vines that have overtaken living rooms and kitchens. It's eerie, for sure ... but yet, somehow fascinating to imagine life as it was decades ago.

    {And wonder why it can't all be resurrected for housing for the homeless.}

    What a wonderful visit this has been with you today! I hope all is well ...

    1. Hi Linda,
      Castles in Scotland?! Sounds amazing! And that military base sounds incredibly interesting too! Maybe you will head over there and take some photos for a future blog post? :)

      I'm grateful you can relate to restoring years that we feel are a mess or lost or broken. God somehow makes all things new, doesn't he? xoxo

  4. I like when you post...Patti Krank expressed my feelings too in her comment. I must go see these places next time in FL, which will be this winter. I may ask for more location details. Your post encourages me as we prepare to spend Thanksgiving sitting around a table with my husband and was-band...a broken place in my life. Praying to be an instrument of grace! xo

    1. Susan,
      I know you will enjoy your trip here this winter (I hope to see you!) and I'm hoping Thanksgiving turns out to be peaceful for you. But you are so full of grace, despite challenging circumstances! Thanks for always reading my posts, friend! xo

  5. I had never heard of these places! I will definitely be making a trip out there soon though! I love ruins. Imagining them as they used to be is more interesting to me then to see things in full form. Thank you for such an enlightening post! I adore the spirituality you get from all the places you visit, it makes me want to consider everything I do a little more thoughtfully!

    1. Brittany,
      It's so fun to discover secret places close to home -- maybe I should start a blog travel series?! :)

  6. This is so interesting and encouraging, Valerie. Your photos, your reflections, and your insight. I find it intriguing that the bricks were made of sand and shells. I always like to imagine what stories those broken building have to tell. I LOVE what you wrote - "that our ruined expectations, burned experiences and scorched circumstances can be the foundation stones for God to begin building something new in us." May heart cries, "Amen!" Such beautiful, hope-filled insight! Thank you. Love and hugs to you!

    1. Hi Trudy,
      Me too! I love to think what stories buildings could tell us of those who lived in them in the past! History is so fascinating to me and I love to read old letters and journals of those who lived before us. No matter what happens to us, we have to have hope, don't we? And we do! xoxo

  7. Valerie, I love the idea that God uses the shattered, broken parts of our lives as building blocks for future blessings. The other thought I had as I read this was that if we gloss over or squash our memories of the hard things, we can miss golden, God-ordained opportunities to comfort and minister to other people who are now where we once were. "God never wastes a hurt," as Rick Warren says. Your pictures are great ... especially those big black cauldrons. As for me, my camera is drawn to abandoned old churches on dusty country roads. Hugs, friend.

    1. Hi Lois,
      I'm with you on finding abandoned churches to take pictures of -- so beautiful, aren't they? And I love what you're saying here that we can use our experiences to encourage others. Sharing our stories is God's plan for us - -all of us -- and it's so true that God uses everything we go through! xoxo

  8. Abandoned amusement parks would be eerie to me too, I believe. I think the cause may be all the Stephen King novels I have read! I'd like to walk away from all my ruins, yet you have given me pause to think. The ruins have their own beauty and the landscape where they sit would be barren and a lot less interesting if they did not occupy those spaces. And navigating the jagged rocks along the uneven ground may take a lot of focus to not stumble, yet keeps us present with every step. Ah Val...you've given lots to ponder here and a refreshing perspective on our 'ruined expectations' that can be a hope inspired place! Thanks!

    1. Hi Lynn,
      You're right that too many books and movies have used the settings of abandoned amusement parks, which just increases their creepy-factor! I didn't think why I like ruins, until you pointed out the interesting angles and jagged edges that just given them more interest and their own unique beauty. I do love that! xoxo

  9. Very thought-provoking, Valerie, and lovely at the same time. I''m thinking of the song by Gungor that says God makes beautiful things out of dirt. Sometimes, he has to refashion them when we've burnt them down by our own actions. But He is the creator and redeemer. Thankful he's in the restoration business!

    1. Hi Debby,
      I just love that Gungor song too!

  10. Dear Valerie,
    I'm with all those who have commented that it is so good to see you back here! Along with them, I've been missing your beautiful and encouraging posts. You will never know the lift that your words and photos bring to my day--pointing me always to see God all around me. This touched me so deeply: "I think I'm convinced that our ruined expectations, burned experiences and scorched circumstances can be the foundation stones for God to begin building something new in us." He is continually asking me to be willing to share the stories of His Grace in those very areas of my life. Thank you for offering your heart to all of us here! Love and Hugs to you! xo

    1. Hi Bettie,
      Thanks so much for your sweet words about my posts and photos -- I just felt as if I needed a little respite from the weekly blogging schedule and I've appreciated this new rhythm but I'm touched by your sweet words! Sometimes I feel reluctant to share my stories with others so I can relate about your thoughts about being willing -- that is sometimes what God asks of us and sometimes even when it flops, we don't know the impact our words have! Always praying for you -- xoxoxo

  11. I tell you, it is always such an uplift to my spirits to come here and visit with you and read the profound wisdom the dear Lord lays upon your heart! I miss you when you aren't able to blog, and it is always such a bright spot to see an email from you or a blog post. I love the thoughts in this post...I, too, would just prefer to bury the brokenness of my past, the things I feel are total ruins and pretend those things never happened. But, I love the thought that maybe God wants to take those ruins and use them as a base for better things! Such a wonderful thought of redemption and how He turns our messes into something that will bless someone else! You are an incredible blessing to my life, sweet friend, and I thank the Lord for you!!! Praying for you and expecting many blessings to come your way!!!!

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      You are such an encourager! I'm with you on burying the ruins of our lives, but maybe God asks something different of us and it's worth contemplating, isn't it? It gives quite a different perspective and maybe what we're seeing here is only part of the story. Keeping you in my prayers too and I appreciate you! xoxo


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