The Value of the Spouseless

Brenda Strohbehn - Petals from the BasketIt’s an old expression: “I can talk till I’m purple in the face, but it won’t change anything.” This is often how I’ve felt about there being no spouse in my house. I could whine, wish, hope, and dream for a spouse until I was purple in the face, but at the end of the day, I’d simply be standing there with no spouse in my house and be walking around with a purple face. And that’s just not attractive when the color is needlessly placed there by me! So it seems more than obvious that to avoid this unattractive facial-color issue, I need to put forth an effort to change the major element in the scenario above that I can control: my reaction to the fact that my relationship status remains singular. And the same holds true for you—or someone you care about.

You may be divorced, widowed, or someone who has never been married, but the principles in this post apply to anyone with no spouse in the house—for whatever reason. While I often share thoughts, ideas, and resources in these posts, I also use many verses from the Bible, because the Bible doesn’t change! Its principles remain true, even when my thoughts and ideas change with my mood or my season of life or due to the filter through which I’m viewing life at that particular moment. But when the thoughts that God recorded for us are what we use to form the foundation for our thought process, we can’t go wrong! The Bible is filled with timeless truths.

One such truth is the fact that God created us. Psalm 139 states that He formed us for a reason and with a purpose:

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:13–17, NIV

Now I don’t know about you, but those verses give me a sense of value. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I’ve done something to earn God’s care or his love. I’m saying that I am to value what is valuable to Him, and that includes His created beings, which includes each of us!

Here’s a glimpse at one way in which He placed value on something He created: God had such an amazing, unconditional, uncommon love for what He created that He provided a way that would bridge the gap between His absolute perfection and our imperfection. The only Son God had, Christ, paid the requirement that gave us access to the One Who created us! Everything you need in order to have value is already taken care of! Okay, I simply have to say that again: everything you need in order to have value is already taken care of!

Trust me, I often struggle with finding my worth rather than in recognizing my value. I rely on my “stuff,” my intelligence, my friends, my relationships, my finances, my expertise, my…whatever…to create a feeling of worthiness. Yet when I gather my sense of being from those sources, I never seem able to settle that worth once and for all. It’s an ever-changing standard of achievement.

Think about it: when I base my life (who I am) on stuff, I need more stuff, or the stuff that I have becomes outdated, insufficient, or inappropriate for the occasion or location. In other words, even the value of what I’m basing my worth on is in a constant state of change. No wonder we walk around restless and unsettled—and feeling undervalued as individuals.

Maybe you’re rolling your eyes right now, because you think the idea of establishing your value based on “things” is silly. You’re already aware that stuff is nothing more than…well…stuff. You recognize that it’s temporary at best. But let’s take a look at the area we as individuals with no spouse in our house might struggle with the most when it comes to our humanly formed measurement of worth—relationships.

Just because someone does not value you
does not mean that you have no value.
Your value was demonstrated when Christ,
the Son of God, died in your place,
and that makes it permanent!

My friend’s husband of seventeen years came to the dinner table two years ago and said, “It’s time for me to be honest with you. I’m just bored with being married. There is so much more to life than this. There are women who are so much more beautiful than you are, and I can have fun with them, be carefree, and move on to the next one—with no commitments. I’m moving out tonight, and my lawyer will contact you about the divorce arrangements.” This is a true story, and I have my friend’s permission to share it with you (with no names, as I promised her). It happened. And sadly it’s happened to some of you. I have not had this happen to me, so for me to say, “I understand” would be foolish. But I do know this: just because my friend’s (now former) husband did not find her worthy did not make her unworthy. It did not decrease her value even one iota from the value God placed on her when the very lifeblood of His Son was given for her—for us. That, my friends, is a value that cannot be given or taken away.

But what about my wonderful friends who had a spouse who is no longer living? Sadly, many women have erroneously linked their thoughts of personal worth to the position, career, or name of their husband. (And I’m sure that some men have done the same.) What I mean by this can be seen through another real-life situation I just learned of this past month. A woman’s husband was a well-respected community leader, and this dear woman had wrapped her own view of her worth as a person around her husband’s position and titles. Basically, she thought her only worth came from the fact that she was “Mr. So-and-So’s wife.” So naturally, when Mr. So-and-So suddenly passed away, she began to say, “I’m nothing without him.” She was wrong. Her value had not only not increased when she had married him; it also had not diminished now that he was deceased.

And to you who as of today have never married, I do understand—firsthand—your struggles with the concepts of worth and value. If you’re like me, you’ve said (usually internally), oh, maybe a gazillion times, “What’s wrong with me?” as you’ve wondered why you were not worthy of a loving marriage relationship. You (we) mistakenly equivocate marriage with value. Unfortunately, our current culture often feeds into that thought process by indoctrinating us with the belief that beauty, wealth, intelligence, etc. are what make us worthy of marriage.

In fact, allow me to insert here that maybe this is also why so many marriages are ending before the “till death do us part” promises with which they began are fulfilled—because the standards used to determine who was “worthy” of love were constantly changing. Looking for someone better/prettier/smarter/wealthier became a way to increase one’s own sense of worth. So it is no surprise—though it is horribly sad and horrifically wrong—when spouses begin seeking for worth from whomever or wherever they can find it.

But back to you, my never-been-married friend. Your current marital status does not determine your value—ever! Today, in this moment, you have no spouse in your house. If tomorrow you were to marry the man of your dreams, would your value as an individual have increased? No! Of course not! So why are you wasting precious energy and irretrievable hours pining over your assumed lack of value because you’re not married? By determining that marriage does not give you value, it is conversely true that lack of marriage does not mitigate your value!

Since it’s clear that whining, pining, wishing, and dreaming “till you’re purple in the face” won’t change your value (or your marital status) even a smidgen in this present moment, here’s another reminder from God’s Word to help you remember that you are greatly valued by the incredible God of the universe:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

Jeremiah 31:3, NIV

We (Yes, We) Have Exciting News to Share

Joe and BrendaMy posts have been a little scarce lately. It’s time to confess that I’ve been a little preoccupied!

Early in December of this past year, 2015, God began to do a real work in my heart. I unclenched my hands from MY will and asked Him to fill them with HIS! When it came to my word for the year for 2016, abundance, God began to fill my hands with the blessings of His choosing and with His ability to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV).

It is with sincere joy and deep gratitude that it is time to introduce you to Captain Joe Henderson, a godly, caring, and compassionate man God introduced me to forty-five years ago and reintroduced to me in a new role this year. Joe is a widower whose wife passed away in 2015. Their love for each other and for God were qualities I long admired. Little did I know or imagine….

We have no major announcements to make at this time—nothing other than gratitude for this day and its opportunities for a greater knowledge of God and each other. But you are among my favorite people, and I wanted you meet him!

So for now, that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it. Amazing man. Amazing grace (which we have both seen in full force throughout these initial months). Amazing God. To Him be the glory!

“This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23, KJV)!

Truly Amazing

I use the word amazing entirely too often. But it’s a great word, isn’t it? Your hair looks amazing! She’s an amazing musician! He is an amazing teacher! She is an amazing friend! We had an amazing time! It just…works!

But words work much in the same way as the principle of supply and demand: overuse them (increase the supply on hand) and you decrease their value (there is no longer a demand for the word to be used).

We have dumbed-down the depth of meaning in the power of amazing. It’s why we don’t weep in gratitude when we sing, “Amazing Love.” It’s why we no longer “Stand Amazed” in His presence. It’s why we don’t get goosebumps when we sing, “Amazing Grace.” But we should.

Amazing grace. Grace that causes me to stand in wonder at its magnitude. Grace that, in its very scope, tells me it is undeserved. Grace that keeps me safe and that leads me home. Now that…that is amazing!

Easter’s Answers

Each year when Easter rolls around, I am awestruck at the wonder of Who my God is. And each year, I find myself faced with the same questions and, thankfully, the same answers:

Why? Why would a holy God love such an unholy me?

Love. Unconditional love.

But why? Why would a God of love shower that gift down upon such an ungrateful me?

Mercy. Incomparable mercy.

So why? Why would a God of mercy offer a full pardon for my unholiness and ingratitude?

Grace. Amazing grace.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—
not by works, so that no one can boast
” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV).

Accomplishment and Rest

There is no extra credit for arriving in heaven exhausted. Do the work God has asked you to do, not what you perceive that others think you should do. When your choices are based on His purpose for your life, you’ll find that you will also have the time (and desire) to fulfill His commands, which include taking time to simply “be still” (Psalm 46:10) and to “fear not; stand still; and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13). His plan doesn’t create an either/or. It is the greatest possible combination of accomplishment and rest.

Walking through the Valley

After one of my deepest disappointments, a friend from California said these simple words: “Brenda, where I live, the mountains are beautiful. But the fruit grows in the valleys.” Friend, you may be in the valley, wondering if you’ll ever even reach the base of the mountain to start climbing upward again. But look around you. Ask God to show you the fruit of the Spirit that He is producing in you and through you, right there in your valley. Use that growth to propel you forward in your walk with Him. He hasn’t forgotten you. He’s beside you. With you. Loving you. Caring about your valley moments. And He’s leading you to the place He has chosen for you.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

An Army of Prayer Soldiers

Praying for friends and family is something I count as a privilege and a responsibility. But I’ll be honest with you (um…for the record, I’m always honest with you) and tell you that it’s really hard for me to ask for prayer. In fact, when I do, it’s maybe to one or two people I think I can count on to actually pray about the request with me and for me, and I rarely give all the details. So yes, I do it. But it’s rare.

However, I’m not trying to sound mystical or pious or eerie, but last night I found myself heavily burdened in the early part of the evening. I couldn’t pinpoint why. Nothing had happened. I hadn’t seen anything that would upset me. I hadn’t heard any news that would rock my world. I was just literally so whooped by this odd combination of fear over the uncertainties of the future and a sorrow that seemed to accompany it that I just I couldn’t shake it. It wasn’t depression or anything that I felt needed outside professional assistance; it was just that I knew I couldn’t do it alone—that I needed the support that only prayer could provide. It was an impending sense of need.

So from the quietness of my home office, I went on Facebook, posted on my personal page that I was taking a “Facebook fast for most of Tuesday,” and then went to the Petals from the Basket Facebook Page (which I’d love for you to follow, if you don’t already!) and posted the following note:

So, friends, you know I’m pretty open with you. And thank you for that, by the way! I couldn’t have any better people to call “my people!” That’s very cool of you! But tonight and tomorrow I could just use a little prayer squad please. God’s aware of the details, desires, and dilemmas, and He’s got a plan, so I won’t discuss anything further about it. I’m just currently unaware of that plan and a little overwhelmed by…well…let’s just say that I prefer knowing the end of the story before having to live through all the chapters! You know this is rare for me to ask, but I’d sincerely appreciate your prayers. (Seriously…so thankful for you!)

Well, my people not only began sending me notes and e-mails and comments and private messages, but they began to transform themselves into this amazing army of prayer soldiers, encircling me in a display of protection, encouragement, and strength as they called out to the Lord on my behalf. Right then. Right there. And they not only continued to pray all through the day today, but the number of soldiers in the army also grew as, unbeknownst to any of us, the time of need began to approach.

I didn’t know why I needed that prayer support. It wasn’t about me. It was about a need without a name. And here’s what happened:

I received a simple little text midafternoon that would have blown me out of the water three months ago. It would have floored me, upset my spirit, and caused me to foolishly cling to what I thought I desired. It would have rocked my world. But here’s the thing. It didn’t phase me for more than a little bump of a moment. I read the note again, talked to my friend over the phone about some more details regarding the news she had sent, and after I hung up, I thought, “Wow, God. You were smack dab in the middle of that. You knew. You protected me from my own small ambitions. You valued me enough to walk me through it those many months ago, and now You’re still walking with me…right on past it!”

At that moment, not literally but figuratively, it was as if I heard the army shout a victory cry! And unstoppable tears literally began to flow as I realized that my people…my wonderful family and friends…this wonderful army of prayer soldiers…had rallied God’s power against the enemy, even before I had known how the enemy would attempt to strike.

I don’t flatter myself that you need Petals from the Basket. But I will tell you honestly that more than ever I have realized that the writer of Petals from the Basket needs you! Thank you for being all kinds of wonderful.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NIV).

“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere” (Ephesians 6:18, NLT).

“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen” (Jude 24–25).

Nothing!

“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17, NIV).

Think about the magnitude of that word: nothing! NOTHING! Nothing is too hard for our amazing God! Not the struggles that are facing us as we begin a new week. Not the uncertainty of the test results we’re waiting to hear. Not the provision for the need that we feel is humanly impossible to meet. Not the loneliness. Not the question marks that encircle our thoughts like a picket fence of punctuation. NOTHING! He is able. And He is able to do “immeasurably more” than we could even ask for or expect Him to do!

So as you start the new week, just remember: If He could make the heavens and the earth by His power and an outstretched arm, He can most certainly take care of you! He’s got this!

He Will Always Come First

Brenda Strohbehn - February 2016Every day of every week of every month of every year I choose gratitude. Gratitude for grace. Gratitude for fresh mercies each morning. Gratitude for my unchanging God who recorded the truths of His unconditional love for me in His Word (which is the same Bible my married friends read, by the way). Wow. Just wow! His love is not based on my actions, my worth, or even my marital status. So I trust Him. I trust that He chose singleness for me today. If He changes that status, it’s His choice. But it won’t change my trust, my love for Him, or my service to Him. He will always come first!

When I graduated from college, the next step in my mapped-out life plan was marriage. But God’s map had a different plan. It included a broken engagement, job changes, relationships based on my wishes rather than God’s leading, and many (and by many, I mean ginormous amounts of!) life lessons that have prepared me for what I am today: a single woman who sincerely loves God above all else. But it didn’t just happen with a one-time choice. Just as with my married friends, it’s an ongoing choice to commit to loving Him and to following Christ…who is more than enough!

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.’”

—Lamentations 3:22–24, NIV

 

On What Would Have Been My Father’s 91st Birthday

Things I saw often:My daddy as a young boy!

Holding hands with and kissing my mom…often. My whole life.
Forgiveness.
Humility.
Consistency.
Love. The willing-to-sacrifice-his-own-rights kind.

Things I heard often:

Let’s see what the Bible has to say about that.
What is that to thee?
Let God take care of it.
His grace is enough.
I love you.

Things I felt often:

Respected.
Appreciated.
Cherished.
Honored.
Loved.

He’s worshiping his Lord face to face now, but if he were here on this day, Friday, February 5, 2016, the day that would have been his 91st birthday, I would not only wish him a heartfelt “Happy Birthday, Daddy,” but I would tell him what I told him nearly every day (either by phone or in person) for as long as I can remember: “I love you.”

“The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me” (Psalm 16:6, NASB).