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You would never know it today, but there was a time when Stephanie felt like an outcast and desperately wanted to be accepted by others. She was raised in Garland, Texas with her parents and one brother where they attended a local Catholic church. Stephanie says that she only ever had “minimal knowledge of God.” It was a sheltered atmosphere that certainly contributed to these feelings but there was more. She felt isolated.
It’s been said that every human has a “God-shaped” void in their life that only He can fill. Stephanie found out what that meant to her during her third year of college. “I had good grades, a good group of people that I was hanging out with, and even met a good guy at the time. I thought I had control over it all.” What she did not see coming was a sequence of events that would begin an emotional downward turn that eventually landed her in a place of despair. “As a young girl I always wanted to be like everyone else; I wanted to belong and feel connected. Because of this, I tried very hard to please the people around me, never truly realizing who I really was. The stress associated with working for the acceptance of others, along with several additional factors brought anxiety into my life.”
A series of disappointments started the spiral. The realization that she was diagnosed with social anxiety; her grandmother passed away; the loss of her boyfriend; and a falling out with her roommates left her feeling very alone. “I had finally hit rock bottom. I felt as if I had nothing. I was empty inside and to make matters worse, my relationship with my parents was strained. I was losing control, but I was still trying to fix everything on my own.”
“It was December of 2002, I was driving home and I passed the street of my childhood church. I remembered that they would leave the main sanctuary open 24/7. At that moment, I felt compelled to go in. When I did, I got down on my knees, looked up at the cross and all I could do was cry. I just kept saying ‘I am sorry!’ I felt like Christ was literally sitting right beside me and holding my hand. It was then that I realized that through all of this heartache, not once did I think to turn to God. Yet, God was telling me, ‘Come to me. I can make this easier. You don't have to do it alone.’ Instead of listening, I just kept fighting and challenging God because I had my own agenda to accomplish. That is, until that agenda landed me flat on my face. Completely broken, finally, I saw what he wanted me to see. HIM!”
This amazing time of relief, mixed with regret and love, was life changing. When Stephanie went back to college after the Christmas break, everything began to change. She started attending church with a friend. As she describes it, “all of a sudden a light went on in my heart! I became hungry for God and wanted to learn as much as I could. Soon, even the worship songs began to make sense. God’s Word was leading me to discover who I am in Christ. I learned that faith meant that God knows where I am going, so all I need to do is follow Him and trust Him.”
Feeling now that she had found purpose in life and a connection to Christ, Stephanie asked her college Pastor to baptize her. This was the time when she told all her college peers of her dedication to the Lord. Knowing that her life would never be the same, she graduated with confidence. She moved to Houston at God’s leading and got a great job teaching. “My life has never been the same. God leads me every step of the way. He led me to my job, the dance ministry here at Sugar Creek Baptist in 2009, to my church family, and to all the friends He has connected me with. I trust Him with my life and I live to serve Him. I have no reason to doubt Him. He is always proven true. Just like the song “At the Foot of the Cross” says, ‘I lay every burden down and trade the ashes in for beauty.’” Stephanie has lived this message and knows the reality of God having won her heart!
Encouragement is found in this scripture prayer from Philippians 4:7. It says “may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Stephanie tells her story with the hope that only Christ can give. “Trust God, give Him your life and He will lead you, too.” She says that her faith journey is on-going but trusting God without exception brings her the peace she has always longed for.