When You Have Nothing Else to Bring, Bring Glory.

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I don’t know how else to explain it but God.

Sometimes words just enter my head. Sometimes, I experience a feeling or even a particular message that gives me this unshakeable need to demonstrate in a novel or short story. I don’t mean that in an “I hear voices” kind of way. I’m also not confusing these occurrences with my own thoughts, though I do hear it in my own head voice. The other day, I was bathing my daughter and all of a sudden I heard song lyrics from a song that has yet to be written:

“You were made to bring glory to a glorious God; to be all that you are, and not what you’re not.”

I just smiled, because what an incredible message is that to comprehend and share with others? “You were made to be all that you are, not what you’re not.”

We are constantly obsessing over our deficiencies: Too much make-up; not enough make-up. Too much flab; too much bone. Not pretty enough. Not financially fortunate enough. Too much of a perfectionist; too lazy. Not a good enough parent; an overbearing parent. Too much to handle; not enough to fight for.

I could go on. You get the idea—fill in the rest with the damaging thoughts that cross your mind on a daily basis. But I finally comprehended what a beautiful revelation it is to just BE. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but BOTH of those things were woven into you for one purpose—to bring glory to God. We don’t have to be ashamed of what we aren’t, because God IS. He is enough to fill the holes of imperfections in who we are.

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We don’t embrace our flaws and sinful natures, accepting that that’s just the way things are; we embrace Jesus, and He embraces us back, blemishes and all. He causes the lame to leap. He causes the mom who feels like a failure to see the joy that comes simply from being loved in her child’s face. He causes the girl who feels ugly to see someone of value and worth in the mirror. He causes the woman who feels like she isn’t enough to realize that someone gave His life just to have her.

He tells us that we are MORE—that our weaknesses and frailties have been bestowed upon us not to dishonor us or bring us to shame, but to honor HIM. To BE for Him, in spite of all of those things.

No matter what you have to bring to the table, just bring it. Bring it to Jesus.

And in return, you WILL bring glory to God.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.” – Isaiah 55:1-13

“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5

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From Lonely Little Girl to Loved Happy Woman

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I have been dreaming of my future husband since I was a little girl. I don’t mean I let white pillow-cases cascade down the back of my head, pretending it was a veil. I didn’t even imagine I was in a wedding gown when I dressed in a flowing Belle costume for Halloween in second grade. I mean, I was literally dreaming of the man who would be mine from the moment I comprehended the concept of marriage.

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I often tell my friends that I was meant to be a wife. I have been devoted to my husband since before I even knew who he was. As with most of you, my teen years had been volatile and confusing. I grew up as an only child in a broken family which wreaked havoc on every aspect of my life. My parents love me, and even as a child, I knew they’d do just about anything for me (…except work things out). But because of the circumstances, because of the bad blood between my parents, I often found myself being pulled in opposite directions. Looking back, though most of my relatives meant well, I would hear things about both of my parents that would harm my perceptions of them both. As a child, it would cause me to take sides. Once I matured, I began to get fed up and frustrated, asking both sides of my family to keep my parents’ history to themselves. (Did they? Do they? Not always. Even now with me being a 26-year-old woman, it’s a work in progress).

But up until that point, I didn’t know how to handle it. I felt alone. I felt sad. As most of us do, I had daddy issues as well as “mom-is-going-to-drive-me-crazy” issues. To God’s credit alone, I found myself seeking solace in His arms and in His word, especially during these unstable years as a child, adolescent and teen. I couldn’t tell my mom things about my dad without risking fueling the hate—same with my dad. I had no siblings who could commiserate. I was put in the middle, trying to love two people I was also being told to resent.

I dreamed of easier days. I clung to the hope that someday, it wouldn’t be like that anymore. I dreamed about finding a love I could only seem to find in God—unconditional and without having to keep my guard up all the time.

Jesus has always been enough for me, but that didn’t stop me from hoping I could find a great man someday. Sometimes, I look back on my behavior as a teen and cringe because of how mentally and emotionally stunted I seemed to be. I had been granted a wisdom that had me looking 5-10 years ahead, but in the moment, I was immature. Sometimes, back then, Jesus was the only hope I had.

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I prayed every night, often in tears for God to be preparing me, just as He was preparing my future husband, for the day our paths were to cross. I took the heartbreak of boyfriends who were not meant to be in stride, asking God to let it hurt if it only meant that someday, I’d find someone who would endeavor to see and understand my heart. On the really bad days, I would ponder on the possibility that I wasn’t meant to be with anyone. Maybe I was supposed to be single for the rest of my life. I felt like that whale they discovered who sings in a much higher frequency than the rest of her species. She is forced to swim alone, unnoticed and unheard by her kind, never crossing their migration path because she cannot hear them and they cannot hear her. http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/worlds-loneliest-whale-sings-at-the-wrong-frequency.html

But even as a teen, I accepted it, knowing that being alone might have been something God called me to be. Things were hard then, but I knew I must have been learning something; someday, I’d be able to be treated as an adult by my parents instead of their Stretch-Armstrong child. Someday, I’d have the strength to voice my opinions to my parents and others without being made to feel guilty. Someday, it wouldn’t hurt anymore.

Someday, I’d find my soulmate.

I caught glimpses of him sometimes. Sometimes, I’d feel him in my dreams. One time, the vision of a smile entered my mind, and I knew it was his. Whenever my heart was broken, I’d shed my tears while thinking of my future husband: “These are for you, because you’re going to be worth it.”

College wasn’t much easier for me. I had basically started a new life, though my problems with my parents still hung over me like a dark storm cloud. It was a time of growth for me—spiritually, mentally, emotionally, relationally. My faith was allowed to flourish and one day while walking across the college campus I paused, the knowledge striking me that I was going to meet my future husband there.

“Really, God? Is he really that close?” I thought. “Well, where is he? Point him out to me!”

Days passed. Weeks passed. Months passed. I thought maybe I’d imagined it; that I wanted to find him so badly that I’d let myself believe I was near him. I went ice skating just before Christmas with a huge group from college, all of whom I did not know. It was such an idyllic setting; I felt like the heroine in a romance novel, and I remember looking up at the sky, thinking, “I wish he was here, holding my hand. Oh well. At least we’re looking up at the same sky somewhere.”

There were a few things I’d asked God to give me in my future husband, knowing I could get all of them, some of them or none of them at all, but I asked anyway. I wanted him to love God. I wanted him to come out of nowhere. I thought about my future husband so much that I feared I’d see him coming, then over-analyze it, believing I was only telling myself something I wanted to hear. I wanted to share music with him; at the time, it was my passion, my outlet for all the pain and confusion of growing up. I wanted him to be able to know my heart; to seek to understand who I was, what my passions were and empathize with my sorrows.

I wanted him to be my new start; to be someone who would stand by me and offer either a crying shoulder or a strong defense in battles I felt I’d been fighting all alone.

The first time I saw Adam was in my Old Testament class. For some reason, the moment sticks out in my mind even now, though it would be a long time before I knew who he was to me. He came into class in a sky-blue colored shirt, carrying his books at his side. I watched him walk up the aisle, noting his blue eyes and blond hair, thinking, “He’s kind of cute…” before turning back to the conversation I was in, forgetting the moment before class had even ended.

A few weeks, maybe months later, I was hitting a ball against a wall in a racquetball court (definitely not playing racquetball, as I am sports-handicapped—I liked the way the rooms were small and echoed so I usually went there to sing). A guy (Adam) who had been playing volleyball with his friends had walked over while my back was turned, opening the door. What he said next is up for debate, because I don’t remember exactly, but we have established that it was either regarding my singing or because he wanted to show me how to play racquetball since I was doing it all wrong. When I asked Adam about this and what he remembered, he said, “I don’t remember what I said, but I know I came up with one of those two things. I just wanted a reason to talk to you.”

I was writing songs a lot during that period of my life, but lamented the fact that, though I could sing, I couldn’t play any instruments. My life with Adam started when he volunteered his piano skills to accompany my songs. We got together on a daily basis to play and sing together, which transformed our friendship into something more.

Two weeks after we started dating, I was rummaging through my desk for a pen when I heard God say, “This is it for you, Steph.”

I don’t want you to get the impression that Adam and I got married, grasped hands and skipped off into the sunset. (In fact, when I look back on the week of our wedding, it’s like looking back on a bloody battle scene from 300. I desperately wanted the white dress and to involve family and friends while we made a covenant with God, but sometimes, I wonder why we didn’t just elope…) We have our ups and downs; external and internal factors may put a strain on our relationship at times, and sometimes we make decisions that make life harder on us than it has to be. I naively expected life to be an easy, smooth road upon finding my Prince Charming, but it’s not always been. God gave me reinforced strength in my husband, but He has broken both of us many times over the years, in different ways and for different reasons.

We have had to accept that we are not soulmates; there’s no such thing. We were both created as individuals to bring glory to God; we just happened to get married, too. We have both had to accept that we cannot save each other, but that we can be one another’s confidante and best friend. We have had to accept that in my weak moments, he has to be strong, and vice versa. We have had to ask for forgiveness for hurts rendered on the heart of the person we promised utmost devotion to, as well as have the strength to forgive when asked.

Waiting for a man who is committed to me and believes in me has changed my life. Knowing there’s someone in my corner who will support and defend me has made me less afraid of being myself. I have had a lot of hurt and bitterness to work through from my past, and I’m so grateful and to have a loving, patient husband who has been present in my struggles and held my hand as we overcame them together. I have come to understand that dedicated, constant love is not defined by how perfectly smooth life seems to be going. It’s saying, “I love you” when your heart hurts. It’s hearing “I will never give up on you” in the dark, turbulent days of marriage. No matter how hopeful and optimistic you are on your wedding day, I will tell you right now that those ugly days will happen.

I have no example of a good, Christian marriage in my life—in my parents or anyone else. (EDIT: I have no example of a Christian marriage that has stood the test of time). I’m not saying that out of hard feelings. I get it. Life happens; people are unforgiving, whatever their reasons are, and people make bad life choices that seem unforgivable. None of that changes how I feel about the family that I love.

If I lived by statistics, the future wouldn’t look bright for us. But God has been faithful to me since my prayers for this man I am now bound to began as a child. He kept my heart resilient. He kept me from making mistakes with boys I would most likely regret today. He gave me all the things I asked for in my future husband and then some.

He was writing our story long before we even knew it had started. Years later, Adam was reading a journal I’d begun for my future husband. In one entry, I talked about that night at the skating rink, gazing up at the sky and wishing he was there.

“Wait,” Adam had said. “Is this for real?”

“Yeah,” I answered, blasé.

He stared at me a moment. “I was there. I was there the same night you were at the same rink. You went with your friends, I went with mine.”

No matter what the future holds, no matter what obstacles we are certain to face, I know that God was smiling at us both that night and that He continues to smile at us today. If our marriage ever fails, it will not be because God’s hand wasn’t in it. It will be because we let ourselves get in the way; it will be because we began to care more about our selves than one another. It will be because we have become unforgiving. It will be because God is no longer the love of both of our lives.

If you are single, I would highly recommend starting a journal and writing down every little thing. Who knows? You might someday find out like I did that it wasn’t such a “little” thing after all. Pray for your future husband NOW. Pray for your future marriage. Pray for your future children, even. Pray that God keeps your heart focused on Him. Pray that He will someday give you a companion, a lover, and a best friend all in one, all to serve the purpose of glorifying Him. Don’t be afraid to pray for all the things you want in your future husband, but keep your heart open to the fact that there are things you may want or need that you don’t even realize yet.

I have plenty of friends who have already endured the pain of divorce. I am someone who has experienced the effects of someone else’s divorce, and have watched friends and relatives endure the same. No matter the reason, no matter what’s already been done, we serve a forgiving God; a God of hope and new beginnings. Jesus gives us all a clean slate, whether it’s to transform a broken or even dissolved marriage, or to find a new beginning with someone else. Only you and God understand your circumstances, but I would encourage you not to give up hope either way.

Our God is faithful. Trust Him with this area of your life and you won’t be disappointed.