On the Other Side of Divorce

“Please pray.

I think my husband is leaving me.

My heart is broken,

and I have no idea of how I will ever get through this.”

I read my friend Marla’s text message, and instantly the room began to slightly sway. My head spun, both physically and emotionally, as hundreds of questions raced through my brain. I involuntarily reached up to steady my head, and shivered from the iciness of my fingers against my skin.

In my mind, I recalled how a decade earlier my first husband said he no longer loved me,  how within a matter of weeks we went from planning a second honeymoon to hashing out the details of our divorce.

I share the rest of my story here with my friend Kristi Woods, explaining how my divorce was the best worst thing that ever happened to me and how God has used the pain of that experience to bring about future goodness I never imagined.

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Rainbows and Marriage

June 26, 2007 is a day I will never forget.

It marked the beginning of the end for my first marriage. I discovered in the wee hours of the morning, long before light ever touched the ground, that the man I had vowed to love for the rest of my days said that he no longer loved me.

As morning dawned, I covered my head with a pillow and tried to close my eyes to the gnawing pain in the pit of my stomach. I wasn’t successful. That ache stayed with me for many months, as the situation continued to deteriorate until finally in mid-October my husband asked me for a divorce.

In those months, as I battled the waves of nausea that were ever present, I wished I knew how to turn back the clock of time. All I wanted was to find a way to keep this from happening. But everything was out of my control.

All I could do was give it to God.

June 26, 2009 is a day I will never forget.

A large manila envelop was waiting in my mailbox, containing the final divorce papers. Two years to the day after my world turned upside down with that initial confession, my marriage was officially over.

But I didn’t feel relief or happiness, holding those papers in my hands. Instead, I realized the old familiar ache had returned, along with feelings of failure over the brokenness of my marriage.

“June 26th … how appropriate,” I thought. “Bookends on a chapter of my life. A chapter I wish I could delete.”  Of course, I couldn’t make it go away.

All I could do was give it to God.

June 26, 2015 is a day I’m sure I will never forget.

The Supreme Court of America redefined marriage for our nation.

Many are rejoicing. But I’ve got that same gnawing ache, a pain in the pit of my stomach that won’t go away. Our nation has the audacity to redefine something that they never originally defined in the first place, and the course of history has forever been changed.

Please don’t get me wrong. I do not hate homosexuals. I’ve never picketed; never will. Not once have I ever knowingly insulted or shunned anyone due to sexual orientation. I know and love friends who are gay, and as well as my many straight friends who are among those celebrating today’s ruling. And nothing that happened today will change that for me. I will love them just as I always have.

I’m not a theologian. I’m not a debater. I’m just a Jesus girl, who loves God with all of my heart. I don’t know much, but this one thing I stand on … God’s thoughts and ways are not like mine. His are infinitely holier and I must bow in submission to what I don’t understand.

Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”  ~Isaiah 55:7-9

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Eight years ago today, my marriage unraveled. Six years ago, I found myself single. I knew what God’s word said about marriage. His design was for a man and a woman to be joined together for a lifetime. There was no pride in my divorce. I wanted to hide from God, to turn my head in shame.

But God met me in those dark places and whispered, “Come to me.”

Perhaps that is why I have always loved the old hymn Just As I Am … the words are a pictures of that coming to Jesus. It’s as if I in those lyrics I can hear the Father saying, “Come with your sins and failings and shortcomings. Come with all the dirty rags you have to offer. And I will take you in my arms.

So I came to Him … on my knees, dragging behind me the baggage of my broken marriage, accepting my guilt in that situation. I handed over the filthy rags of my life … the hurt, angry feelings along with the sneaky, lying, gluttonous girl who was more selfish than not.

I brought myself to kneel before Him, not so He would exalt me in my sinful state. Not so He would condone my poor behaviors. Not so He would put His stamp of approval on my secret sins. But rather so that He would change me.

God beckons humans to Himself because we are created in His image and it is His desire to teach us how to be more like Him. I know full-well I will never reach perfection this side of heaven. My mistakes and shortcomings will haunt me all of my days on this earth. But oh, how during this mortal life I pray that I will become more Christ-like, in attitude and in behavior.

While God loves me just as I am, His purpose has never been to make me happy on earth. Rather, He wants to make me holy, just as He is holy. His heart is to complete a good work in me. A work that He began before there was time. A work that He will finish in Heaven, where I will stand perfected before Him as I worship face-to-face.

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Today, humans took something God created and attempted to redefine it.

Though many will disagree with me (some even vehemently), I cannot personally delight or rejoice today. To take pride in today’s ruling would be to exalt man’s sinful state above God’s holiness.

No matter what the Supreme Court said today, God says homosexuality is wrong. In light of that, my feelings on the subject don’t really matter.

Yet, there is nothing I can do to change today’s decision.

Nothing except give it to God … and pray for my nation, my state, my community, my friends and family, and especially myself.

May we all return to God.

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So tell the people: This is what the LORD of Hosts says: “Return to Me”–this is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts– “and I will return to you,” says the LORD of Hosts. ~Zechariah 1:3

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IMPORTANT NOTE:  My blog is not open for debate.

I will certainly respect your right to have an opinion that differs from my own, but I expect that same respect from you as well. Any comments that are disrespectful of me, my writing or the homosexual community in any way will be deleted. It is possible to disagree and still be kind. Thanks and God Bless!

eX: Thoughts on Broken Marriages and Dreams

Being someone’s ex-wife was never one of my goals in life. I don’t suppose it is ever anyone’s plan to get married and then divorced, but it definitely wasn’t even on my radar.

Marriage, I knew, was a holy sacrament. It was meant to be a life-long commitment between a loving husband and wife. This was God’s way and to enter into marriage with any other idea in mind was wrong. My parents and grandparents shared their hearts on this subject with me often and I listened to them, fully anticipating that whenever I married it would be for life.

And yet, fourteen years after I said “I do” for the first time, my marriage crumbled apart before my very eyes. Looking back, the reasons aren’t as important as the lessons I learned from the experience.

Today,  I would like to share a post I originally wrote almost five years ago, about a month before I became engaged to Jon and found myself preparing to once again to enter into a marriage relationship. I realized then, just as I do today, that God is never for divorce and yet He took my broken and failed attempt and turned it into something beautiful.

I am forever grateful.

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Seventeen Years Ago Tomorrow

~written Friday, September 3, 2010

Just a little over an hour ago, the date on the calendar beckoned to me and for the first time in a long, long while I remembered the significance of tomorrow. I scribbled numbers on paper and quickly worked out the math to figure out how many years had passed because I no longer remembered. Seventeen. I didn’t realize it had been that long ago now.

Seventeen years ago tomorrow, also on a Saturday, I was a bride.

It’s all packed away in a box now … the scrapbook filled with photos, some dried flowers from my bouquet, the white dress, a napkin embossed with two names and a date, cards and letters that span the fourteen years of life shared together now held together by a rubberband. I’m saving those things, not because I need that connection to my past, but because my children need it. Someday they will want to see it and touch it and remember that it wasn’t always broken. They will want to know of the beginning of the story, just as they know the ending.

Just last week, the oldest one asked, “Momma … do you miss Daddy?”

How can that question possibly be answered? There is a flood of history there that I cannot, I will not explain to my child … certainly not now. Too much for his small soul to bear. Too much for him to carry right now … maybe ever. Children are meant to love their parents, not to harbor uncertainties about actions that played out into events difficult for even mature adults to understand.

Besides, the memories of that life have become faded. It’s become harder to recall. And the fact remains that I do not miss their father anymore.

What I miss are snapshots of time, snippets of happiness and laughter that are emblazoned upon my mind.

What I miss is not having achieved what I wanted, for myself and for my children and for my children’s children. The legacy of togetherness. The celebration of something golden in the distant future with my children and my grandchildren all around.

What I miss are the possibilities, the hope of what it could have been.

No one plans to fail, but failing to plan often leads to failure. Life somehow happens and our best intentions are swept away. I never thought the ending would turn out as it did, and sometimes the regrets are so strong that I fear I cannot stand against the rushing tide.

I’ve learned in the past four years that when the waves of pain and regret hit hard, to simply pause and thank God for His mercy in my life, for forgiveness He so graciously spreads all over me, for second chances to try again. And the longer I stand in acceptance of Christ’s forgiveness and mercy, neither of which I deserve, the stronger I become, the easier it is to stand tall, the less overwhelming the pain becomes.

In the beginning of the end, someone I love very much told me that soon it wouldn’t consume my thoughts every hour of the day. She said that there would come a night when I would crawl into bed, realizing that the brokenness of my marriage had not been my main thought that day. She said that eventually I would realize that I hadn’t even thought of it at all for several days or weeks in a row. I could only nod my head in response, so deep in my grief that I could not begin to imagine that would ever be true for me.

I realized just over an hour ago that day has arrived, tiptoeing in without any fanfare, so quietly that I never even noticed. The end has been completed and the next chapter of my life is being written, with new hopes and new dreams for a very different future than one I had previously imagined.

And yet, even as I embrace my present life and anticipate my future, my past can never truly be erased. There are certainly many regrets, but I do not regret the life I’ve lived.

Because of seventeen years ago tomorrow, I have three children.

Because of seventeen years ago tomorrow, I have friends all over the United States.

Because of seventeen years ago tomorrow, I have fourteen years worth of life experiences to my credit.

Because of seventeen years ago tomorrow, I am who I am today, a better woman in the end for having walked that road.

And I am grateful for seventeen years ago tomorrow and what that has meant to me.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. ~Proverbs 31:25

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BaptistGirlConfession
This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

Unanswered: A Prayer

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

~Garth Brooks

I wouldn’t say Garth Brooks is exactly a theologian, but I agree with him on this one point. Unanswered prayers are quite often blessings in disguise.

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For as long as I can remember, my son Joel has been my daily weatherman. Even as a five year old, he would look at the morning newspaper to find out the weather prediction. During his younger childhood days, he would watch the Weather Channel the way some grown men would watch ESPN.

During the winter of 2008-2009, all Joel wanted was for it to snow. At that point in his life, Joel had never really seen snow. Louisiana didn’t really offer many opportunities to get a snowfall either.  Still, Joel diligently prayed for snow every night starting around Halloween.

And then, the unexpected happened. Snow came to Louisiana. Close to five inches! But, it was two hours to our SOUTH. His cousins who lived two and a half hours to our south were building snowmen in the rare Louisiana snowfall, while all we saw that day was lots of typical Louisiana rain.

You can’t begin to imagine poor Joel’s disappointment. He was absolutely distraught. “Mom, I don’t understand why God won’t answer my prayer. What’s wrong with a little bit of snow? God can make it snow anywhere, so why won’t He make it snow here?

All I could do was give my son a hug and say, “I don’t know, Joel … but I know God heard your prayer and for some reason He didn’t answer it the way you hoped that He would.”

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Around the same time Joel was praying for snow, I was in the midst of a divorce. My husband had walked out on our 14 year marriage, leaving me and our three children for reasons I didn’t understand. I don’t know how many nights I cried into my pillow, praying for God to restore my marriage. While I never doubted God heard my prayer and was with me in the middle of the storm, I couldn’t understand at all why He wouldn’t answer my prayers of desperation.

A few nights after the unanswered prayer for snow, I tucked my younger son Nathan into bed. I sat on his bed, stroking his head and said, “So, Nathan … what should we pray about tonight.”

“Pray that Daddy won’t divorce you.”

Of course, my heart nearly broke all over again. The pain of that particular prayer request reminded me of how deeply my children hurt over the situation, and it was a pain I couldn’t spare them. It seemed like every day, at least one of my three kids was asking me to pray to God and ask Him to stop the divorce … and while this prayer echoed my own private prayers, deep down I knew the answer was not going to be what we were praying for.  Eventually my pleas to God turned to asking Him to protect my children’s hearts so that they would not grow bitter or turn away from God because He didn’t answer their prayers.

That night, I prayed with my boy, hoping God would answer us and somehow knowing the answer was not going to be what we wanted to hear. As we finished praying together, the most amazing thing happened.

Nathan said, “Mama, you know that God doesn’t always answer our prayers with a yes. Sometimes He says no. And when He says no, it’s okay … sometimes their is a reason for no.

I was kind of stunned to hear such wise words from my little guy. After all, he was only six years old. I patted his head, and said, “Nathan, that’s a very wise thing. Many adults don’t understand this, even though it is true.”

Nathan said, “Well, I learned it from a story I read. There was this girl named Amy Carmichael,  who was born a long time ago. She lived in Ireland. Everybody else in her family had blue eyes, but Amy had brown eyes. She prayed that God would change her eyes to blue because she wanted to look like everyone else in her family, but God said no and her eyes stayed brown. When Amy grew up, she became a missionary in India  … and you know what? She needed brown eyes to help the people there. She couldn’t have helped them if her eyes were blue because the people in India weren’t used to people with blue eyes. So when God told her no when she was a little girl, it was for an important reason.

As I kissed his sweet blond head and turned out the light, I wondered at God teaching me through my own little boy to trust Him even when it seemed like the only answer I was getting from my prayers was just unanswered prayers.

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There’s a lot of prayers in my life that haven’t been answered. The snow didn’t fall that winter. The divorce I didn’t want still happened. My passport remains unused.

So why does God say no? Why do some prayers go unanswered? Here are some basic reasons I think sometimes our prayers don’t get the answer we hope for:

1. A “yes” would bring us a harm we can’t foresee.

2. God has something far greater for us than what we are asking for.

3. God’s no is not a rejection of our request but rather a redirection.

4. God’s no may not be a punishment but perhaps a preparation for something different.

5. God’s no is an opportunity for us to have an adventure with God.

6.  Sin.  It’s true. Sometimes God doesn’t hear or answer our prayers because of our unconfessed sin and unrepentant hearts. (Psalm 66:18 is one verse that confirms this truth.)

It’s true. Sometimes God doesn’t answer the prayers of my heart. But oh, how many, many more prayers has God answered… simple prayers, deep prayers, unspoken prayers. His yes is always best.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. ~1 John 5:14

How has God answered prayers in your life? Which unanswered prayer has been the best no you ever received?

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

G is for …

eletterG

G is for Germany.

In a little less than two months, three of my children are headed there. Joel, Nathan and Julia are going over to visit their father, who has been stationed in Germany since last September. They will be spending approximately six weeks of the summer with him … from Memorial Day all the way through Independence Day.

Can I just be honest and admit I miss them already? I do. I think about it so many times each day, already dreading the very moment they will step onto the plane and fly away from me.

Encouragers in my life try to remind me of the fantastic opportunity being handed to my children. “They will learn so much in Europe! Think of all the amazing things they will see and do. What a blessing for them!”

I usually nod my head in agreement because I understand, so completely. And yet … honestly … I just wish they didn’t have to go. I’d rather them stay home with me.

Even so, I’ve been helping them prepare for the trip. I bought a book for learning German phrases. Ever so slowly,  we are working our way through the lessons, with me learning along next to my children. My dear friend Esther is German. She moved to the States 20 years ago or so, after she married an American soldier.  One day soon, Esther is coming over to give all of us some cultural lessons about German life. “Perhaps,” she said, “I will even prepare a German food.”   I’m looking forward to that. I might even try out a German phrase or two on her, just to see if I am anywhere near the correct pronunciation. Mostly though, I’ve just been surprised to discover that, despite my desire to keep my kids home, I feel incredibly grateful to be involved in this part of the trip, even if it is just the preparation before leaving.

Lately I’ve wondered if my emotional reaction to my children’s upcoming trip to Germany might be something of a delayed grief. Seven years ago, another trip to Germany was in the works. It was my trip, one which I planned to take to visit their father on his 2 weeks of R&R during a deployment to Iraq.  I read all the German travel books I could find, wrote long lists of places I hoped to see and visit, spent hours scouring the internet for places to stay, tucked away every penny I could spare to cover the costs of our European vacation.

Unfortunately, the expectation of that trip never came to pass. Instead, the unexpected happened. My marriage fell apart. He walked out on fourteen years. I have never really understood why.

Grief is an odd experience, so different for each person to process. Yet, counselors tell us every person in mourning goes through through the same stages before they reach a place of acceptance: denial, isolation, bargaining, depression, and even anger.

I am not an angry sort of person. Truthfully, I’m an emotional stuffer. It takes me a long, long time to get good and angry. Unfortunately, when I do, it takes me a long time to get over that anger.

I can clearly remember the day not too long after my ex-husband left when I woke up mad, more offended than I’d ever felt in my life. Strangely, at least initially, my impassioned outrage was focused mostly on the loss of my trip to Germany. My entire life I had wanted to travel overseas, particularly to Europe. Years of dreaming. Months of planning. Now, after plans had been made, it wasn’t going to happen. I had gotten that passport for nothing. It was a bitter pill, stuck in my throat. Nothing I seemed to do could make it go down.

Over the course of the past seven years, I’ve worked through most of the indignation resulting from my divorce. Well … at least everything except the trip to Germany. Until recently, it didn’t come up all that often. Perhaps from time to time, as I opened the firesafe box looking for a birth certificate or some other important piece of paperwork, I would notice my passport tucked away safely inside, never used. Irritation would surface, but soon enough it would subside again.  For the most part, this was a non-issue, or at least that’s what I thought.

But now, with my children’s trip to Germany clearly marked on the calendar, I realize I’m still dealing with one last emotional wound,  dating back seven years. The memory of that unused passport still haunts me.  As I help my children get ready to travel to a place I’ve never been but longed to see, I have felt God wanting to resolve the ache of that loss.  A loss I’d rather not think about or face.

Seven years ago, in the midst of the deepest sorrow of my life, I discovered the truth in the words of the psalmist:

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted.   ~Psalm 34:18

God was certainly near to me in those days. Over time, in His care, my ashes became something beautiful. And that gives me hope.  Though I may still ache a bit over the loss of my own trip to Germany, I am choosing to see it as a gain for my kids, who certainly would not have this opportunity if I not lost mine. I expect my heart will be sad while my children are away. Even so, I can trust God will be near to me in those moments, and continue to bring good out of the losses in my life.

Learning the truth of that promise has definitely been worth the cost of an unused passport.