I got married when I was twenty-four years old. We chose a quaint little church in downtown Clairmont, California for the occasion. It had beautiful stained-glass windows and rustic wood pews neatly situated below magnificent cathedral ceilings. I was wearing the perfect gown, my hair and make-up were professionally done, and I had the most exquisite nosegay of brightly colored roses and wildflowers I had ever seen. As I approached the church doors in the back of the building, my dad came alongside me and offered his arm. The doors were opened and the two of us proceeded slowly down the aisle to the tune of the traditional Wedding March by Wagner’s Lohengrin while hundreds of our closest friends and family stood for the processional. At the end of the long wedding runner was the man I was about to marry. For a brief moment in time, I was a queen. The wedding was everything I had dreamed it would be.

Unfortunately, the marriage was no match for the incredible affair that preceded it. Heartache, betrayal and violence left me painfully disillusioned and within six short months, I left my husband and got my own apartment. I was so broken. All I ever wanted was to be adored. Instead, I married a man who because of his upbringing and choices as an adult, was incapable of loving me.

We were married for a total of six years, and only lived under the same roof off and on for two of them. One month after our second son was born, we were declared officially divorced by the state of California. I was filled with fear and felt completely abandoned by my husband and by God. I was a single mom with a newborn and a sixteen-month old and I had no idea how I was going to take care of them let alone take care of myself.

Over the course of the next six years, I spent a lot of time figuring out what went wrong in my marriage, how I fell for a man that didn’t love me and how I fooled myself into believing that my fairytale wedding would mark the beginning of a fairytale marriage. I tried desperately to repair my relationship with God and earn His love back after what I assumed had deeply disappointed Him. My marriage was my greatest failure and the bible reiterated that God hated divorce. If I truly believed the word of God (which I did), there was no way out for me. I decided that remaining single for the rest of my life was the only way I could ever be in right standing with Him. It took years of counseling and restoration for me to finally understand that God didn’t hate me or hold my mistakes in His back pocket waiting for me to mess up again. When I finally let go of the idea of falling in love and gave God access to my whole heart, He began to do the repairs on my soul no one else could.

I learned a lot of valuable things about the nature of God during that very lonely period of my life. I learned that I was deeply loved by a God that was so crazy about me, He sacrificed His life to save mine. I had never really let that truth sink in. I learned that I was the apple of God’s eye. In fact, I was His favorite. I learned that no matter how many mistakes I made, His affection for me never wavered. I learned He wanted to bless me with far more than I could ever deserve and I began to graciously receive His favor. Those six years as a single mom were some of the most precious times I spent with Him and although I would never want to go back to that place again, I sometimes long for the constant closeness we shared.

When I was thirty-six years old, I married the love of my life. This time I didn’t have the perfect wedding dress or the perfect flowers. My friends did my hair and make-up and there were less than forty people in attendance as we said our vows in a little gazebo overlooking the ocean at sunset. It was a humble and beautiful ceremony and it marked the beginning of a wonderful new chapter for me and my two little boys. This time it wasn’t a fairytale, it was the real thing and although no marriage is perfect, the last sixteen years have redefined who I am in Christ and what it means to be a woman of God. Because He knew I needed love wrapped in flesh to convince me I was worth loving, God sent Ken to remind me that no matter how I look, what I do, or how well I perform, I am always and without a doubt, unconditionally accepted.

In case you don’t already know it, I want to remind you of an important truth. You are God’s favorite! It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or how many mistakes you’ve made, He is absolutely crazy about you. You are His beloved and you are accepted…exactly the way you are.

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her! Luke 1:45

~Ali