I pull up to the drive-thru window for the third time this week (such is life sometimes with three kids). I hand my credit card to the cashier, fully anticipating her response . . .
“Awww, that’s so cute! Is that YOU?”
Thanks to my thoughtful husband and the friendly folks at Capital One, my card displays an eight-year-old wedding photo of − you guessed it, me and my husband! Why I would carry around a card with someone else’s wedding photo is beyond me, but alas, they ask me. Every. Single. Time.
“Is that YOU?”
“Yes, it is,” I usually respond with a forced smile.
But the real answer is much more complicated.
I mean, I get why they ask. Most days I look in the mirror and barely recognize myself.
Who is this lumpy, tired woman with grey hairs, and where did you put that skinny, blonde-haired beauty?
The truth is, the young bride on the card isn’t me. The girl who had time to exercise, style her hair into something other than a mom bun, and spontaneously go see a movie with her husband has disappeared.
Maybe you can relate. I’m sure I’m not the only woman who doesn’t recognize her own reflection.
The good news — for you and me both — is that the young bride didn’t just disappear. God transformed her into a new and different woman.
A woman whose curves and stretch marks represent the hard work of carrying, delivering, and loving tiny humans.
A woman whose grey hairs come from enduring the hard stuff of life — real pain and suffering and trials of various kinds (James 1:2).
A woman whose face is a road map of her soul — filled with lines of joy and worry and sorrow.
A woman who God has refined and covered with beautiful robes of righteousness, “as a bride adorns herself with jewels” (Isaiah 61:10).
Friends, when we are tempted to mourn the bride of our youth, we need to remember God’s promises. He says He will grant those who mourn “a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3).
God will use marriage, kids, hardship, and life to plant our roots down deeper so that He can grow us into mighty oaks of righteousness.
If you are in Christ, He is already doing a good work in you. Whether you have lots of rings in your trunk or just a few, trust that He will be faithful to grow you into a planting of the LORD for His glory.
The next time the cashier inevitably asks, “Is that YOU?”, I think I’ll smile and respond, “A younger me. God has grown me up a bit.” Then I’ll pause to remember that while I may not be the young bride on that card, my God rejoices over me just as my own groom rejoiced over me on our wedding day.
And He rejoices over you, too.Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I love your response….I hope and pray you will go with that next time. Oh how God grows us up a bit and even though it may include stretch marks, wrinkles, and gray hair, He is growing us into the image of His Son. He gives us a beauty that doesn’t fade. If we grow to look more and more like Jesus….how can we not be beautiful? Lovely post!
Amen, Bev. Make me look more and more like Jesus, Lord!
Michele Morin says
And maybe, if that young bride in the picture could see you now in your days of loving and self-giving, she would say with wonder, “Is that really me? I never imagined I could do or be all that!”
Blessings to you as you continue to be amazing!
Oh, she most definitely would, Michele. I think she’d be quite amazed at all that God has done and provided. Thanks for that sweet encouragement, friend.
Love that perspective, Michele. <3
Love love love the post…thank you for taking time to put it out there and connect and share so we (I) feel understood and remember I am loved just as I am. In my trackies, feeling old and ‘out of it’…but growing deep roots in faith and closer to God. Big hug to you sister!
Sending you a big virtual hug back, beautiful sister
Absolutely beautiful story! My daughter is getting married in November and I am going to share this with her.
Thanks, Adria. May God richly bless your daughter’s marriage. Congratulations!
Thank you – I needed this today as I’ve been adjusting to being an empty nester, grandmother, and woman with hormonal changes that make losing weight such a challenge. In recent years I’ve had to fight off those negative thoughts about my appearance and disappointment with myself. I need to remember this as I adjust to the quiet, love my sweet grandson, and fight this health and weight battle.
Angela L. says
Candy… I have the EXACT same issues!!! Praying for you, dear one….
I’m so glad God met you where you’re at today, Candy. I had my own health issues in recent months and have been dealing with the prescription side effect of rapid weight gain. I’m right there with you in that struggle, sister. Take every thought captive, right?! Your good God rejoices over you and is much more concerned with your inner beauty. It sounds to me like he would be pleased with your thoughtful, gentle, loving heart.
I feel exactly the same way and this entry made my day, made me cry, but in a really good way. Perspective is everything!
Angela L. says
I want to thank you for sharing this! You see, as my Birthday has approached each year since I turned 30 (um this year I turned 50) I have shed tears & let myself be deeply sadden by becoming older. It was really difficult for me this year with the “BIG 50” and i spent quite an amount of time rehashing past mistakes & wishing I could go back to being younger. I’ve never understood why my Mom didn’t sympathize with me but instead would lecture me about being thankful instead. Your sweet message brought tears to my eyes and helped me to see things in a complete different way……….. of course, I have to admit that I still have this deep nagging fear about the loss of my youth & the disappointed feelings that I harbor about how I should be more or have accomplished more by this time. What your post did make me realize most is just how many moments I have missed by dwelling on what can’t be redone. It also reminded me of just how truly blessed I am that God has allowed me to reach this milestone in life and my mourning about getting older is actually an insult to God. Instead of being so sad and/or ungrateful, I should be spending that time praising Him! Change and acceptance isn’t easy for me but I know that it’s something that I must do because of my true love for God…. and for my gratitude of what He has done for me….
Tears, friend! Thank you for sharing your story. I am so very glad God used this little post to encourage your heart. How about instead of the “BIG 50,” we call it the “Faithful 50” and recount all the ways he ha been faithful over the course of these fifty years?! I am praying for you right now, sweet sister. May the truth of the gospel lift up your soul today. “Those who look to him are radiant and shall never be ashamed.” -Psalm 34:5
Angela L. says
You have truly touched my heart, Chelsea…. THANK YOU!!!!
I really appreciate your words today, Chelsea. Life has been HARD and painful, physically and emotionally. Without God in my life I know I would not be here. Physical pain in my spine and legs has been tearing away at me again, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Excruciating pain, continuous pain is wearing on a person and after 30+ years, it has taken it has taken its toll. The encouragement I receive from your writing today, is the reminder from Isaiah 61:3, of God’s promise that He will grant those who mourn “a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified”. How uplifting this scripture is, having the reminder that the suffering, hardships, pain, have not been in vain. God will receive the Glory! I especially like that He will grant us a garment of praise instead of a faint spirit. That sounds so good to me right now. Your words have touched my heart today, Chelsea. I pray He grant to you a mighty blessing, too!
I’m so sorry, Dawn. I can’t even begin to imagine! I am praying Isaiah 61:3 over you right now, sister.
Also, if you haven’t read it already, “Hope When It Hurts” is a great new book about finding hope in Christ through pain and suffering. The authors both deal with chronic pain, and God has used their words to encourage so many others–me included!
Thank you for praying 61:3 over me today. I was pleasantly surprised with a much better day today, pain wise.
I will check into finding the book you mentioned called, “Hope When It Hurts”. The title sounds inviting already and reality is, I get ministry more from someone who has journeyed through the same things as I, b/c they can totally relate by experience. Thanks for your response and for letting me know about the book.
Rebecca L Jones says
You might also try taking Communion and reading Isaiah 53. It helps tremendously.
Beautiful reflection. I remember once when I was mourning my young self, much the same, and I was looking at the veins on the back of my hands and thinking how ugly they were. About a week later I was hiking along one of my favorite trails, watching my feet as I navigated the tree roots that anchored mighty trees to the slope that led to the river. God whispered that my veins were evidence of the might and strength I had built in Him, weathering hardships together. He is faithful in His love and comfort to us!
Nancy VanBruggen says
Ingrid, thank you for that perfect word picture. I will never look at the bulging veins in my hands the same again. Beautiful.
Chelsea, your words reach deeply into the hearts of many of us. Thank you for being the vehicle God is using to build us up and teach us our true value lies in Him alone.
Nancy, that is the highest compliment I could possibly receive. Thank you. I’m so glad that God has seen fit to use my feeble words to encourage my sisters in Christ with his truth. What a privilege!
He is, indeed. Thank you for sharing that beautiful illustration, Ingrid. I’m sure it will encourage many hearts today!
God’s truth is beautiful, isn’t it? Amen, sister.
The younger me lived in a world of fantasy and didn’t know all the things that would shape her into the woman she is today….how grateful I am that God knew and came along side to walk with me so I would persevere…..My earthly husband has passed away but my Jesus is ever so faithful and continues to surround me with loving kindness…
Oh, dear Ruthie. God has such a special place in his heart for women who have lost their husbands. May he continue to strengthen and comfort you, and may his loving kindness towards you abound!
Sweet testimony of God’s faithfulness, Chelsea. And, He continues to grow us up year after year after year. In a couple of months I celebrate my 25th anniversary of being a bride. So thankful for a husband and a God who still rejoices over me. We are blessed. <3
Praise God, Brenda! My parents divorced at 24 years, so any time I hear of another couple celebrating 25 years, I rejoice in God’s goodness and faithfulness. May he continue to bless you and your husband.
Elsa Seidel says
My “Tuesday morning group” (which I never miss!) is a group of beautiful over-70 ladies. We are all ready for heaven, but sometimes don’t like the “process.” But while life might be hard, God is good – and we praise Him for that! Thanks for the encouragement.
Elsa, you over-70 ladies are some of the most beautiful ones I know! Your comment made me smile as the Lord brought to mind so many dear older faces God has used to encourage and love me. You are an important part of the body, and we are so grateful for you as you press on to finish this race well!
Chelsea, your post was exactly what I needed this morning! It never ceases to amaze me how just when I’m feeling the worst about myself and the depression I often feel over losing my youth , God will speak directly to me through one of my precious Christian sisters in this forum to remind me that I am valuable to Him no matter my age or what I look like! Just last night I was mourning over growing old, way past child bearing years and feeling somewhat useless and well…ugly! At 63, I’ve become acutely aware of the different seasons we women face, from being that beautiful bride to raising kids with no time to take care of ourselves, to empty nests and wondering what happened?!? What now?! I look in the mirror each day and ask, “Is that really ME?” I want my life to matter more than what I see in that mirror!! As I read God’s word, I know I DO matter to Him in every season of my life! Young, old and in between, He adores me! I am so very THANKFUL for this forum and how God has used it again and again to show me I am not alone in how I feel! I read responses to these posts that could have been written by ME! What I’m most thankful for is that there is so much wisdom and love being poured out through the amazing women in this forum who share their hearts and lives. God is using them to remind us all how much we are loved and valued! Thank you, Chelsea! God definitely used YOU today to touch ME (and many other women!)!! Blessings to you!!
I have been thinking the same thing all morning, Cindy–what a sweet community of sisters this is! I feel like you all warmly welcomed me into your great big living room, let me share my heart, poured out your OWN hearts, and heaped on the love. All praise be to God for giving us gospel community!
Aunt Marilyn says
You could be talking to any of us ladies, whatever our ages. Sans the kiddos reference, I am that scraggy face and grey-haired child of God! I never see you looking or acting self-conscious, Chelsea.
I sure don’t see wrinkles or grey hair, or any other imperfection you may be internalizing. I see a (nearly) self-actualized servant of God, intended by our Creator to share your stories with the Christian sisterhood. A blessing in my life. A beautiful role model to women of all ages. Thank you, Dear One
What?! Who’s this scraggy-faced aunt you speak of? I only know my radiant Aunt Marilyn 🙂 Love you!
Beth Williams says
I can so relate to this article. Try being married 13 years. I don’t remember the young, skinny, relaxed person with a full-time job & few worries. Fast forward 13 years & you will see “muffin top, semi-relaxed woman with a part-time job”. Sure I mourn the way I was, but I realize that life is hard. No children here, but did care for any aging dad for almost 4 years. The stress of that combined with trying to work took a toll on me. I quit my full-time job. I know this is where God wants me now. During my off I got closer & deeper into His word. Started praying more fervently. Praise God he is doing a great work in and through me. I do hope you say “A younger me. God has grown me up a bit.” It may take many by surprise.
Caring for aging parents can be so emotionally and physically draining. I’m sure God is so pleased in how you honored your dad, Beth. May he continue to do his good work in you!
Amy George says
Thank you so much for your encouraging words. I needed them. Sometimes I look in the mirror and lament the loss of my youthful body. One day not long ago my 9-year-old son found a copy of a wedding picture of me and his dad. “Mom! Look at this really old picture I found from a long, long time ago!” I had to laugh. “Really Isaac? A long, long time ago?” So much has happened in those 20 years! Four pregnancies and a bout with breast cancer have certainly left me with a very different body. But those things have changed my soul, too. Thanks for the reminder, that I am growing more beautiful to my heavenly bridegroom…even if this body looks a little the worse for the wear! (PS, my earthly bridegroom still thinks I am beautiful, too. 🙂
Our kids keep us humble, don’t they? As a child, I once asked my mom why she had cracks on her forehead in front of all her friends! Thank you for sharing some of your story with us. There’s a song that goes, “Heal the wound but leave the scar–a reminder of his merciful you are.” That’s my prayer for you today, Amy–that your scars would remind you of God’s goodness and mercy.
Charlene Lovett says
I just turned 69 last month, and have been married 52 years. When I married my Jim, I was 16 and weighed 115 lbs. 52 years have left their toll and I no longer weigh 115 :). I have those grey hairs (I quit coloring several years ago) and my body is no longer youthful. I am still my hubby’s “Bathsheba” as he sometimes calls me, and he is my Rhett Butler, although he is now 72. It is sometimes hard to deal with the ailments that come with old age, but love sees us through any hardships we encounter. We live the part of the poem that said, “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be…”. So girls, do not shy away from what advancing age will do to your bodies, but rather be secure in the love you have with your life-long mate, and grow old together.
Good words, Charlene. My husband and I are high school sweethearts–we started dating the day after I turned 15! I pray that God blesses us as he has blessed you and your husband. Praise God–what a testimony to God’s faithfulness!
Rebecca L Jones says
Looking at your picture, you have nothing to be worried about. but I love the verse and post. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. Isaiah 62:3
Thank you, Rebecca. You’re very sweet. Love that verse–thanks for sharing!