Friday, December 31, 2010

The Perfect Woman

Since my last post was on the Perfect Man (for me), this one will need to be on the Perfect Woman, whom I will endeavor to become in order to attract the Perfect Man.  Or something like that.  This is actually more along the lines of my resolutions for 2011, but if I achieve all of them, then maybe Mr. Perfect will indeed notice me. 

First and foremost, I resolve to continue to grow in my walk with God.  Of the four dimensions (heart, soul, mind and strength), I need the most work on heart and strength. 

I need to learn to submit my emotions to God and allow Him to use them for His glory.  Since pity parties are not really all that fun anyhow, this year my goal is to learn how to deal with the loneliness of being unmarried in a constructive way.

As for loving God with all my strength, this year I will take better care of myself physically.  I have two plans to do this.  First, I will exercise more self-discipline when it comes to my food choices.  And second, I will join the YMCA and begin walking.  Oh, and I will make every attempt not to refer to the room that contains all the workout machines as "The Torture Chamber," just in case I get to the point where I am able to enter said room without being intimidated by all the Barbie dolls there and learn how to use some of the torture devices...uhm, I mean some of the fitness equipment.

As I am walking or otherwise exercising, I will pray.  But I also would like to begin a prayer journal, so I can be more systematic about praying.  Praying for my friends in alphabetical order works, but once I move beyond my inner circle, I tend to be too haphazard about my prayer life.

Praying for my children will also be more deliberate.  I plan to work my way through the little book Watchmen on the Walls, by Anne Arkins & Gary Harrell, in order to pray character into my children. 

And speaking of children, this year we as a family are going to embark on reading through the Old Testament in our personal devotions,  and I endeavor to make it a topic of daily discussion, so that we can spur one another on in our Christian faith.

Finally, my goal for 2011 is to make our home a hospitable place where our friends are always welcome.  This means I will need to do some serious decluttering, although that process is already underway, and keep up with the housework in a more disciplined fashion than I have in the past.  I may also need to learn to bake cookies.  :-)

So there you have it:  my aspirations for myself are at least as daunting as those for my Perfect Man.  Can I do this?  Well, not on my own.  But with Christ in me, all things are possible, so I will set my eyes on Him and move boldly foreward into 2011!

The Perfect Man

As promised, I am going to share what I would like in a potential future husband.  Lest anyone misunderstand, this is NOT a "Wanted" poster, nor a classified ad.  This is just a list of some of the traits I have come to admire in men I know.  Some of them are negotiable, some of them are not.  Some are just preferences, others are requirements.  Disclaimer complete.  Here goes my list of what the perfect man (for me) would be like.

The perfect man would above all, love the Lord our God with all his heart (emotionally), all his soul (spiritually), all his mind (intellectually) and all his strength (physically).   This is non-negotiable.  I realize that nobody is perfect, but if a man isn't striving for this level of devotion to and relationship with God, he may as well not waste his time on me.  We would be headed in two different directions.

This implies that he will know God well, both on a personal level and an intellectual level.  He would be a man who reads his Bible daily and spends time in prayer.

His family would be high on the list of his priorities.  Honestly, the men I am most attracted to are those who are involved dads.  I have a special soft spot for single dads who have 50% or more custody of their kids.

Along those same lines, if he is divorced, he will be someone who fought for his marriage.  His divorce would be on biblical grounds (adultery or abandonment by a non-believing spouse), but he won't be someone who gave up on his marriage without first trying to make it work in every way he knew how.  As a side note, if for some reason, he was divorced for non-biblical reasons, my understanding of scripture is that he is also free to remarry if his ex-wife has remarried.

The perfect man will be a man who takes his responsibilities seriously, one who works hard at whatever he does, and does it well. 

He will be a man who is able to communicate and be honest in his communication.

He will be a man who respects women and appreciates the differences between men and women.

The perfect man will not be afraid to be the head of his household, even if it means he must occasionally make an unpopular decision.  But he will also be willing to hear what those affected by his decisions have to say before making his decisions.

On a lighter note, one of my preferences is for a man who enjoys contemporary Christian music.  (I despise country music, so if God brings a man who likes that kind of music into my life, He will have to change me, LOL!)  My kids and I enjoy our annual vacation to a Christian music festival, so it would be helpful if I were to marry someone who also would enjoy that.  Oh, and since that festival is held at an amusement park, a love of roller coasters would be especially helpful, too.  :-)

I would also prefer a man who doesn't mind camping, who enjoys exploring different historical sites and museums, and who knows how to play and is patient enough to teach me the games and activities he enjoys if I don't already know them.

And on the totally frivolous list, I'd like a man who is comfortable with public speaking, has an easy voice to listen to, and has eyes that I can get lost in.  If he can give good backrubs, that is a definite plus!

Am I asking for too much?  Only time will tell.  :-)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why I Want to Remarry

Why do I want to remarry?  I've been asked this question by a wide variety of people, from my mom to married friends to happily single friends and relatives.  So here is my attempt at an answer.

Let me preface this by saying that if God doesn't want me to be married again, if He doesn't connect me with a man He has picked out for me, then I don't want to remarry.  I might have to fight discontentment more often if I remain single, but I will fight it, because above all else, I want to be in the place where God can best use me.

But if my desire to remarry is from Him, then in no certain order, these are some of the reasons why I want to remarry.

I want to be married because I believe that I can serve God more effectively if married.  I know that Paul says that those who aren't married can serve Him better, but Paul isn't referring to single parents.  A partner in parenting would free me up to serve.

The flip side of that is that I am a good mom.  If I were to marry a man who has children, I would be able to serve him and his children by easing some of the burden that a single father has, from cooking meals and taking care of household matters, to providing one more loving adult for his children to relate to .  If my remarriage is of God, we would also be able to model a healthy Christian marriage to our children, who may not have seen this in our previous marriages.

I also want to be married because I function well as a help-mate for a husband.  I am most fulfilled when I am serving the husband God has given me.

I want to be married because there are certain aspects of marriage that I really miss, including physical, mental, emotional and spiritual intimacy.

I want to remarry because I miss backrubs and kissing and holding hands and slow dancing and somebody to keep me warm at night.

I want to remarry because I miss having someone to discuss politics and religion and current events and the books we are reading and what we are learning.  I want someone who is willing to explore and learn alongside of me and my children.

I want to remarry because I miss hearing "I love you," and those private little sweet nothings that a couple whispers to one another.  I miss having someone lock eyes with me across a room and we both know what the other one is thinking.  I miss having someone melt my heart with his smile.

I want to remarry because I enjoy having a spiritual "head" in my household.  I like being under the protection of a godly man.  Nothing would thrill me more than to find a man who is willing to study the Bible and pray with me!

On a very selfish note, I want to remarry because being a single homeowner is hard work.  It's expensive and I am not very handy.  It would be nice to have someone to share that burden.

So what kind of man do I want to remarry?  I think I will save that for my next post, but rest assured, if God wants me to remarry, He will provide a man who is exactly what I need!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Gentle Art of Rejection

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I had signed up for an online dating site or two.  Well, after a couple months, I've decided that I am not cut out for online dating.  I'm not certain I am cut out for any dating.  I think I may be too nice to date.

Here's the problem:  I haven't learned to deal with rejection. 

I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.  Mine have been hurt enough that I don't want to inflict that kind of pain on anyone else.  Sometimes, the men who contact me are genuinely nice guys.  But I can't have a committed, loving, monogamous relationship with every nice guy who comes along just because he is a nice guy.  So I need to reject the ones whom I am fairly certain are not my type.

But how? 

I'd rather not give a man a laundry list of what is "wrong" with him, because chances are that the very traits that I could not live with are the ones that another woman could not live without.  Yet most men want some reason why we are not compatible.  Sometimes, it isn't even a reason I can put into words.  It's more a case of what isn't there than of what is.

So how does this gentle art of rejection work?

Do I tell a man why we don't belong together, or do I just say, "I'm sorry, this isn't working for me?"  How long do I give it before I make that call?  Is it kinder to cut off all contact with a man I am "rejecting" as a potential suitor or do I say, "Let's just be friends?"  Do I let a relationship die of neglect, or do I kill it off in one fell swoop?

Any and all suggestions are welcome.  And if you have any suggestions for the flip side of that (how do I let a man know that I am interested?) I will gladly entertain those ideas as well.  :-)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas From the Garage

I'm back at the car dealership, and since they block Facebook in their internet cafe, I guess I will blog again.  :-)

Last night was the first of the family Christmas get-togethers.  It was great, but as I left my dad's house, my van ended up in a ditch. To make a long story short, after numerous attempts by my male relatives to get it out of the ditch, I ended up paying a nice guy named Jeff $63 to pull it out with his tow truck.  We made the hour and a half drive home safely, but the brakes were doing something funny (sorry, I can't be any more accurate than that - I'm female!), so here I am at the garage again.

I'm struggling.  I want so badly to maintain an attitude of gratitude and to be happy and upbeat for the sake of my kids.  And I do have so very much to be grateful for.  But the unexpected expense is making that difficult.

Additionally, Christmas Eve was one of my favorite times in my marriage.  We would attend a candlelight service as a family, then come home, do the final "Adornament," and send the kids to bed.  Then we would wait for the kids to fall asleep so we could play Santa.  Once the stockings were stuffed and the gifts set out under the tree, we'd turn down the lights, and by the light of the tree, we'd exchange gifts with each other.  It was probably the most romantic part of each year.  I miss those times.

This afternoon, I will be taking my two middle kids to a movie.  Then this evening, we will attend the Christmas Eve service.  I am hoping these two events will lift my spirits some, because I really, really want to be able to focus on the reason for the season.

May you all have a very blessed Christmas, and know that I am praying especially for those of you who are coping with changed family situations this year.  God is good, and He did, after all, send His son Jesus, also known as Emmanuel, God with us.  We are blessed indeed!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Maybe I can blame it on the rampant teenaged hormones in my house (my three oldest children are 16, 14, and 12....and no, it isn't nearly as bad as it sounds, usually), or maybe it's just me, but I miss kissing.  Actually, it may be genetic, considering the behavior of two of my older female relatives recently.

Yesterday my aunt, who is a never-married 69-year-old, and my mom, who is almost 72 and divorced, took my kids and me out to lunch at a local inn that has a buffet.  While in line, the two of them started chatting with a man in line behind them .  When they returned to the table, my mom said to my aunt, "He seems to be all alone.  You should've invited him to join us."  To which my aunt replied, "I should have. He is one nice-looking man!"  At this point, all four of my kids shrank in their seats, while I twisted in my seat to see if I could get a better look at the subject of the discussion.  For what it''s worth, since we didn't invite him to join us, he WAS nice-looking, he WASN'T wearing a wedding band, and he appeared to be about my age.

Near the end of the meal, my oldest son's 14-year-old hormones took over and he was ogling the waitress, who indicated that she was a college sophomore.  I don't think she was ogling back.  But you see, it seems to be a family problem, this attraction to the opposite sex.

At any rate, I miss kissing badly enough that I may have to skip the New Year's Eve get-together I was invited to.  It is being hosted by my friend who has a wonderfully mushy relationship with her husband, and I honestly don't think I can stand several hours of their stolen kisses and lovey dovey looks.  Not this year.

In the meantime, I am wondering if I could get away with one of those hats with the attached contraption that holds a piece of mistletoe out in front of the wearer...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Counting My Blessings; or How to Bless a Single Parent

God takes care of single parents and their children, and He often chooses to do it through the people in their lives.  But sometimes it is difficult to figure out what you can do to help someone, so today I will share a few stories of how I have seen God work.

1.  When I was in high school, money was tight in our single-parent family.  I needed a $5 workbook for my French class and there was not an extra $5 in the budget.  Somebody, and I suspect it was one of my teenaged friends, sent me an anonymous letter with $5 and a card that said "Philippians 4:19," which in the NIV reads

 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

2.  That same verse showed up just a couple years ago, when gas prices had soared and I was having a hard time making ends meet.  I received two gift cards for a local gas and grocery store with a card with the same verse as the signature.

3.  Back to high school.  A family with four kids, one of them a boy who loved to fix things and often got quite dirty, can be very hard on a washing machine.  Our washer died, and my mom started making the trek to the laundromat when needed.  But she didn't have to do it for long, because one day, a local appliance store called and asked when they should deliver her washer and dryer.  She told them she hadn't ordered one, that she couldn't afford one.  They replied that somebody who preferred to remain anonymous had come in and paid for the washer and dryer in question, and they just needed to know where to deliver it.  So we were blessed with a new washer and dryer.

4.  Blessings don't have to be expensive.  On more than one occasion in the past few years, I have been blessed by someone offering to take one or more of my kids so that I can either have one-on-one time with one of the others, or time alone. 

5.  I've mentioned before that transporting multiple kids to their multiple activities can be challenging for those of us who are cloning-challenged.  So anytime someone offers to give my kids a ride to an activity, I am very blessed!

6.  Do you ever wonder if those "adopt-a-family-for-Christmas" drives really benefit anyone?  When I was in high school, one year our family was the recipient of one of those drives.  A department in the local factory "adopted" us and were given our ages and sizes.  We heard later that the ladies in the department really enjoyed shopping for us, and I was thrilled to get a very stylish outfit, something my mom never could've afforded to buy for me.  They bought everything, right down to some cool shoes.  I still smile at the thought of that outfit and how much confidence I had when I wore it!

7.  One way my church blesses my family is by accepting donations of unsaleable merchandise from a local grocery store.  They then invite those of us who need a little extra help to "shop for free" whenever we need to.  This is a ministry that wouldn't have happened if someone in the church hadn't taken the initiative to contact the store and ask if they would be willing to donate this merchandise, and if someone in the church didn't take the time each week to go pick it up, and someone else in the church didn't take the time to unload it and place it on the shelves in an orderly fashion so we can see what is available at a glance.

8. A group of friends once helped me to clean my house from top to bottom.  What a blessing, since the chances of having it all clean at once when I do it on my own are slim to none! 

9.  There is a man in my church who is trained to work on cars.  When my minivan had a problem not long ago, he volunteered his time to check it out and see what was wrong.  The repair was one that needed to be dealt with at a dealership, but I went in knowing what was wrong with it, so I wasn't taken advantage of.  This same man checks with me each Sunday to make sure my van is running, and he reminds me to take care of routine maintenance.

10. A friend's husband once blessed me by taking my sons fishing when he took his own son.  That may sound like a little thing, but to boys who don't have an involved dad, this was a HUGE blessing.

So those are ten ways I have seen God work through His people to bless single parent families.  The next time you feel led to do something for a single parent, I hope this list will offer a spark to your creativity so that you can serve in this way with confidence!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Custody Quandry

Holidays for my children are governed by a custody agreement.  Christmas is handled differently than most other holidays, at least in my state.  Here,  the standard agreement is that one parent gets the children from noon on Christmas Eve until noon on Christmas day, and the other gets them from noon on Christmas day until noon the following day, and the arrangement alternates from year to year.  I happen to think that is the most ridiculous arrangement I have ever heard of, but that's the way it is.

Last year, my ex was "taking a break" from the children.  He claimed they were disrespectful and that he wouldn't be able to see them, so he stopped by a few days before Christmas for about five minutes and dropped off a bag of gifts rather than spending 24 hours with them.

This year, my children haven't seen their father since a week after he moved to Canada in early April.  They haven't heard from him via phone or email or any other way since Labor Day weekend.  So I emailed him a week ago and asked what his plans were for Christmas, whether he would be following the custody agreement, or if he needed to make adjustments, since he lives so far away.  I offered to allow him some extra time, since I thought he might wish to take them to his parents' house.

I have received no reply whatsoever. 

So what do we do?  Do we sit at home all afternoon on Christmas Day, skipping the traditional open house at my aunt's house, just in case he decides to exercise his custody rights?  Or do we go about our celebrating, and hope that he doesn't take us to court for violating the custody order?

These are the types of quandries that happen in broken families over the holidays.  Please pray that I, and others who are dealing with Christmas custody issues, will have wisdom and peace this season.  Thanks!

Top Ten Reasons Why It's Good Not to Have a Husband

Just in case anyone thought I was whining or complaining about my marital status in my last post, today I am going to give equal time to the up side of my state of being.  Without further ado, here are my top ten reasons why being unmarried is a good thing.

1. Nobody steals my blankets on cold nights.

2. Nobody keeps me awake with their snoring.  Well, at least not in my room.  Several of my children snore on occasion, sometimes loudly enough to wake me.

3. Nobody hogs my bed by taking his half out of the middle, leaving me to dangle precariously on the edge.

4. Nobody's alarm wakes me hours before I actually need to get up, except for my teenaged daughter, who sets hers early so she can beat me into the shower.  Don't tell her, but I actually prefer to let her go first, so I can sleep in AND have a warmed-up bathroom when I go in.

5. I don't have to have dinner on the table at an exact time each evening.  In fact, calling it "Catch What You Can Night" and letting each person find whatever leftovers they'd like whenever they are hungry is okay sometimes.  (Don't ask me how many times this week.  It was a busy week....)

6. I don't have to rush home from activities we are all enjoying so we will be there when someone gets home from work. 

7. We can all fit in a normal family-sized car in a pinch, although it's tight stuffing two adult-sized kids in a backseat with my only remaining child-sized child.  Still, when there were six of us, only minivans or SUV's were practical.

8. Along those same lines, there is room to bring along a friend or two in the van.

9. We can enjoy activities that my ex-husband didn't care for, like tent-camping.

10. I get to make all the parenting decisions.  In fact, I get to make all the decisions for my household.  Because my view on a wife's role is based on the Biblical standard of "Wives, submit to your husbands," this is something I would not be able to do if I were still married.  Also, it forces me to rely on God for the wisdom on how to parent my kids, since I don't have a husband to guide our family.  And really, who better to rely on?

So being without a husband isn't all bad.  There are good things to be found even in my unmarried state, which is why I can say with the apostle Paul, "I have learned to be content in whatever state I am in!"   I may occasionally feel as if I am missing out, but truly, I am blessed no matter what my marital status may be!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Top Ten Reasons Why I Miss Having a Husband

I'm sitting in the "Internet Cafe" at an automobile dealership, waiting for repairs on my minivan to be completed.  This is just one of the many reasons why I miss having a husband.  So I think today I'll make a list of those reasons.

1.  I miss having a husband to deal with vehicle repairs.  It would be great to have one who could do those repairs himself, but even just one who would be willing to deal with the service people would be great!

2.  I miss having a husband when I am cold.  A warm body to cuddle up against would be nice, and somewhere warm to put my cold feet when I go to bed at night would be wonderful!

3. I miss having a husband when two or more of my kids need to be in two or more different places at the same time.  I still haven't learned the art of cloning myself.  :-)

4.  I miss having a husband when something exciting happens and I want to share it with someone who cares.  Yes, I can tell my girlfriends, but I would love to have someone whose life is so interwoven with mine that my joys are his joys.

5.  I miss having a husband when I am stressed.  Husbands are great for stress-relief.  I especially miss backrubs.

6. Along those same lines, I miss having a husband now, when my back is itchy from the dry weather.  If only I had someone to apply lotion to my back, or even just to scratch my itches for me!

7.  I miss being married at church and concerts and plays and even at restaurants.  It's very difficult to look around and see so many happy couples.  Sitting behind a lucky woman whose husband has his arm around her at an event is sometimes almost physically painful for me.

8. I miss having a husband when my friends are not getting along with their husbands.  I want to tell them, "Hey, at least you HAVE a husband, even if he is behaving like a jerk at the moment!"  Okay, sometimes I DO tell them that, LOL!

9. I miss having a husband when my teen-aged son, who is bigger than I am, allows his testosterone to get the best of him and speaks to me disrespectfully.  I sometimes imagine what it would be like to have a husband to tell him, "That is my wife and you will NOT speak to her like that!"

10.  I miss having a husband at the holidays.  Yes, it is stressful to figure out what to give the love of my life as a gift, but you know what?  I would give almost anything for that type of stress right now!

I don't want to end on a downer, so I will leave you with this thought.  If you have a husband, stop and thank the Lord for him.  Then go give him a hug and let him know how grateful you are for him.  As for me, I think when my van is finished, I will go treat myself to an ice cream cone, since I don't have a husband to tell me that it's crazy to eat ice cream in this weather!  :-)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Scarred Hearts; Hard Hearts

First, I apologize for not writing much in November.  It was a difficult month for me, since four years ago in November I found out about my husband's affair; two years ago in November we were hammering out our divorce agreement; and this November my ex-husband got remarried.  I didn't expect his remarriage to bother me, and I thought I had put all those other things to rest, but I was wrong.

On the plus side, at least it lets me know that I am still soft-hearted enough to feel something. 

Which brings me to my topic for this post. 

I have talked to several divorced friends recently and I have seen an interesting phenomenon.  When the first dating relationship after the divorce ends, it is almost more devastating than the divorce itself.  It feels like someone has torn open the divorce-wounded heart and roughly rubbed salt in that bleeding wound. Eventually, the pain lessens, but the divorced person is left with yet another scar on his or her heart. 

How many scars can a heart have before it becomes hard and unfeeling?

This is exactly why I don't want my teens to play the dating game!  Each break-up a person goes through will leave its mark on their heart, and we all know that scar tissue is tough and knotty and ugly.  I don't want my children's hearts to be like this.  I want them to be able to give a soft, vulnerable, loving heart to their spouse on their wedding day.

To tell the truth, I'd like to do the same, but it may be too late for me.  And even if it isn't, people in my generation only know the dating game.  We have no experience in the lost art of courtship, so we continue to risk our hearts by dating.

In my perfect scenario, I would meet a man, we'd become friends, our families would play together, work together, and worship together.  As time went on, we'd gradually realize that our feelings for one another were growing into something beyond friendship.  We'd see that our families fit together, that we played and worked and worshipped well together, and we'd make the decision to become one family.

Can that happen?  I don't know, but I do know that the dating game comes with the risk of a hardened heart.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Covenant Marriage

I've been doing some reading about Covenant Marriages.

Apparently, three states have a covenant marriage option for couples in their state.  Other states have tried and failed to pass legislation that would allow for covenant marriage licenses to be issued in their state.  The gist of a covenant marriage is that the parties agree to premarital counseling and to limit the grounds on which they may divorce, usually to adultery, abuse, or a felony crime being committed by one partner.  The agreement also specifies that the couple will undergo marriage counseling and a longer-than-normally-required period of separation before a divorce is granted.  Additionally, in these states, "normal" marriages can be upgraded to a covenant marriage at any point after the wedding.

I was surprised to learn that although such marriages are purely voluntary, there is some strong opposition to it.  The reasons it is opposed are mostly based on anecdotal accounts of one partner being pressured into it, or on judges not wanting to grant a divorce to a couple with a covenant marriage even when conditions have been met if one party doesn't want the divorce, thus endangering the other party.

This raises some questions in my mind.  First, if one partner is committed enough to the marriage to desire covenant marriage, but the other is not, shouldn't that raise some red flags for both of them?   Perhaps the premarital counseling required for a covenant marriage would be a good idea, since they obviously have differing ideas about what a marriage commitment really means.

Second, this whole idea has a religious foundation.  The idea of unbreakable covenants as opposed to contracts which can be broken is found in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, as well as in the Q'ran, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the idea exists in other religions as well.  So why would those who might enter into this religious commitment be offended at the idea that they must wait a long time and receive counsel before they can break the covenant? Shouldn't they want to give their marriages every chance to succeed, since these same religions usually condemn divorce as well?

After giving it some thought, I think that any two Christians should be able to enter a covenant marriage and  make it work.  If they can't, they are not relying on the God who blesses that covenant, and it should be a wake-up call for them to go back to the beginning and examine their foundation.  Chances are good that one or both partners have drifted from their relationship with God, and that in turn, has led to a drifting away from their relationship to one another.

That said, I hereby declare that if/when I remarry, I want a covenant marriage!  My state doesn't offer that as a legal option, but I want the man I marry to have the degree of commitment to the marriage that would allow him to make a covenant with me, in the presence of God and our families and friends.  Just a contract isn't good enough for me.  Allowing divorce as an out in case the feelings fade or one of us meets someone else or we grow apart isn't something I want to be party to. 

For my readers who are married, is your marriage a covenant between you and your spouse, or is it a contract?  Could you and your spouse convert your marriage to a covenant marriage if you lived in a state that offers that option?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Throwing Stones

Last night a friend who is separated from her husband thanked me for not shunning her.  That stopped me in my tracks.  Why would someone who is part of the Body of Christ need to feel gratitude for not being shunned by another member of the Body?

Unfortunately, I know why. In fact, I used to be one who might have shunned my friend.  I've only recently learned the art of loving the sinner while hating the sin, and I still haven't perfected it.  But this is one of the most important lessons I have learned through my separation and divorce.

When my parents divorced, shunning the sinner was the norm.  In fact, even though my father left my mother for another woman, so she had biblical grounds for the divorce, and even though my father actually divorced her, my mother felt the repercussions of the divorce at church.  She was asked to stop teaching Sunday School to peschoolers because some of the parents were uncomfortable having their children taught by a divorced woman.

I encountered something similar many years ago.  I have to mention here that I have been married and divorced twice.  My first divorce was not on biblical grounds.  It was a case of two young people who didn't fulfill their God-given roles in their marriage and made a horrible mess of their marriage.  I could offer some excuses here, and I could also turn this into a discussion about the lack of support for young couples in the Church, but I think instead I will just leave it at that for now.

Two years after my first divorce, I remarried.  A year or so after that, I began leading a ladies' Bible study about women of the Bible.  Several weeks into the study, we were approaching the study of  David and Abigail, and the lesson touched on the issues of submissiveness and divorce.  I knew that with my background of a marriage that failed partly because of my lack of submissiveness, I shouldn't be the one to teach this lesson.  So I approached my pastor's wife and asked if she would be willing to teach this lesson.  I am not certain how things went behind the scenes, but the next thing I knew, I was called into a meeting with the pastor and two of the elders and told that I could no longer lead the Bible study, and that I would have to undergo 12 weeks of "disciplinary counseling" for my divorce and remarriage.

Wow.  Three and a half years after my divorce, two years after my remarriage, I was being disciplined. Somehow, it felt more like I was being shunned.

What a lesson this was for me!  God used this humiliating experience to begin softening my attitude toward other sinners.  He reminded me that we all have sinned and fallen short, and none of us has the right to cast stones at others.  No, we shouldn't condone their sins, but at the same time, we need to love them enough to come alongside and shoulder their burden so that we may gently restore them.

Those who have spoken gently into my life and who have shared my burden by praying for me, asking how I am, and offering to help are the ones who I will choose to listen to.  However, those who throw stones at me or shun me will no longer have my ear. 

For this reason, I am part of a very small minority in my friend's life right now, and we are being outshouted by those who would urge her to follow the world's ways instead of God's.  If her marriage ends, I believe that those who could have spoken gently but instead chose to shun her may bear some of the responsibility.  I don't want that responsibility, so I will continue to speak gently and share her burden in any way that I can.

Which approach will you take when a friend sins?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dating - Or Not

I did something crazy this week.  I signed up at an online dating site. 

Within 12 hours I had received an email that some gentleman was asking for a photo of me. Once I got past my shock that my being a homeschooling mom of four didn't scare him off, I clicked on the link to see what kind of man this was.  To my surprise, this information was going to cost me.  The smallest amount of money I could pay right now to join and find out more about this gentleman was close to $50.

Uh, no.  I am not that desperate nor that curious.  And suddenly, I think maybe I don't want to do this online dating thing after all.

This whole experience was quite eye-opening.  There are apparently people out there who will spend large amounts of money (anywhere from $50 for one month to close to $300 for a 12-month membership) to find someone to spend time with and possibly marry.  I actually know three men who have used the same site that I signed up with.  Interestingly enough, not one of them is married as a result.

While I would like to think that online dating  is just another phenomenon brought about by our high-tech society,  I don't think this is the case.  For many years, people have paid matchmakers to find them a match.  This is just a new take on that old system.

Is this the best way to find someone to spend one's life with?  And will these matches made by a computer be more immune to divorce than other marriages?

I don't think so.  I think divorce is a direct outcome of our society's dating practices.

How so? 

Dating tends to lead to serial monogomy.  You date one person for a while, and when that person annoys you or the thrill has worn off, you move on.  Unfortunately, the attitude that "there are plenty more fish in the sea, and I have the right to find one that makes me happier" can carry over into marriage.  It may be deeply buried, but when this has become a person's way of thinking, it doesn't change the moment the wedding vows are exchanged.

Since I have teenagers, I need to figure out what the alternatives are to dating.  Right now, my 16-year-old is doing what we call "Family Dating."  She has a boyfriend, but the two of them only spend time together under the watchful eyes of their parents and siblings or at well-chaperoned church youth activities. 

We considered courtship, but without an involved father, the traditional models of courtship will not work well. 

I have joked with my kids for years that we would be doing arranged marriages, but I don't think they are going to go for that.

So what other alternatives are there, both for my kids and for me?  Is dating okay for a divorcee? 

What do you think?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Little Things

It's the little things that matter. 

Yesterday, a dear friend went to Lowe's with me and bought the supplies to do some much-needed repairs around my home.  Unfortunately, he had to go home before the repairs were made.

So this morning, I decided to tackle the toilet repair.  It has been leaking for the past month or more, at first just a little bit, but lately there has been a steady trickle of water in the tank.

It took me much longer than it would've taken my friend, but I did it!  I replaced the flapper valve all by myself.  Well, almost by myself.  My son watched and encouraged and handed me things.  There is still a minor glitch (I think I need to figure out how to shorten the chain), but no more leak!

The next project I tackeld was the bathroom door.  This door has been the bane of my existence for the past few years.  It keeps falling off its hinges.  I've made several attempts at repairing it.  Some of them have held for a month or two, but none have totally fixed it.  The last repair attempt ended in a burst of creativity:

"Hey kids, it doesn't matter if the door won't shut tightly!  Just push the magazine basket up against it to hold it shut while you are in there."

So for months, the magazine basket has acted as a doorstop when the door is shut.  Today I tackled the door again.  I haven't finished the repair, because my arms got tired trying to screw in screws over my head, and my patience with the child who was helping to hold the door while I made the repair was wearing thin, so I took a break.  But I think this time it may work.  At least the door will shut tightly now.

Little repairs like these are probably no big deal to some people, but to a single woman who doesn't really know anything about tools or how to use them, this is a major triumph.   It makes me want to sing "I am woman, hear me roar," or something like that.  At the very least, it convinces me that I can do this job of single mom for a little while longer.

It's the little things that matter!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Another Ending

I started dating someone a few months ago.  It was a long distance relationship, so much of our "dating" was done by phone. 

Tonight that relationship ended.

So now I am back in recovery mode. Sigh.  Sometimes it seems like I will always be in recovery from one relationship or another.  Sometimes it seems like all my relationships with the opposite sex are doomed to end, especially since I don't seem to know how to do relationships with men anymore.

Maybe I just need more time.  Or maybe I need lessons on dating. 

Honestly, I have come to realize lately that I enjoy my own company and the company of my children just fine.  I don't really need a man in my life.  Sometimes, though, I am lonely for male companionship.  The perspective men offer on life can be interesting and eye-opening, so I hate to shut off that possibility entirely.

I guess I really haven't.  One of my best friends is a guy who lives 4 or 5 hours away.  He is great to talk to, but he is too far away to hang out with.  I think I need a local friend like that, one who understands what I've been through, what it's like to be a single parent, and who is only interested in friendship, who can hang out with me occasionally.  I wonder if such a man exists?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Dream

If you are divorced, I have a quick exercise for you.  Without stopping to think deeply about it, list three things you miss most now that you aren't married anymore.

Now look at your list and ponder this:  Did you really have those things in your marriage?  If you are like me, the things on your list may have never been present in your marriage, or they may have gone missing long before you separated from your spouse.

Why is this?

My guess is that each of us harbors a Dream of what marriage is like when it works.  No matter how many years we are married, and no matter how unrealistic that Dream, we still want to believe that it exists.

Where does this Dream come from? 

I'm sure that the media has something to do with it.  Possibly our families of origin also contributed to it.  Did your parents read you fairy tales when you were young, where the prince and princess get married and live happily ever after?  Maybe you read the grown-up version of those fairy tales (occasionally known as romance novels) even now.  Did your parents shelter you from the anxious moments and friction in their marriage?

No matter where the Dream comes from, it is painful when it runs headlong into reality.  I think that maybe this is where some marriages survive and even thrive while others die.  The ones where reality is accepted and dealt with make it, but the ones where one or both partners reject reality and continue to demand that the Dream come true will fail.

Is this part of growing up, to learn to accept and even embrace reality when it doesn't line up with the Dream? 

I think it is.  What do you think?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Top Ten Times When It's Not Fun to Be a Single Parent

Being a single parent isn't easy.  But sometimes it's more difficult than others.  So today I think I will list the times when I don't enjoy being a single mom.

1.  When a child pukes.  I have never been able to handle barf.  My ex was in charge of that.  Fortunately, as the kids get older, they do much better at throwing up only where they are supposed to.

2.  When my oldest son needed to learn to shave.  I have plenty of experience with shaving legs, but that wasn't good enough for my son, and he banished me from the bathroom.  Somehow, though, his sister's less extensive leg-shaving experience impressed him, and he let her come in and advise him...well, for a while.  Then he kicked her out and figured it out on his own.

3.  When two or more of my kids have different activities in different places at the exact same time.  My ex got the cloning machine in the divorce, apparently, because I haven't beeen able to find it since he left.  Oh wait.  I couldn't find it when he was here, either.

4.  When my daughter wants to learn to drive.  I haven't tackled this one yet, but since she turned 16 this summer, it is coming.  I wonder how much longer I will be able to stay too busy to take her to get her permit? 

5.  When I have an opportunity to do something out of town without my kids.  Until recently, those opportunities have been a nightmare of trying to find babysitting, but lately, I have been blessed by ex-in-laws who are willing to have my four kids come stay with them for a few days or even a week at a time.

6.  When my teenaged son acts like, well, a teenaged boy.  It would be great not to have to remind my son that I am the alpha dog in the house.  For that matter, it would be nice not to be the alpha dog.

7.  When we attend family-style events.  This is especially true of homeschooling or church events, where most of the families attending are traditional two-parent families.  Even if dads aren't actually present, their presence is felt.  Moms tell their kids, "No, your dad wouldn't like you to do that," or "We have to hurry home to get dinner on the table before Dad arrives home."  I remember when I said those kinds of things.

8.  When we are at an event and it is time to leave.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to round up four very sociable kids on your own?  It's like herding cats!  I find three, realize one is missing, so the others go off to look for him, and then the missing child shows up with one of his siblings, but the other two are missing, and I don't want to send the two I have back out to hunt for those two....  Much easier with two parents!

9. When we go camping, although not so much on this one anymore.  But I have to admit, it's good to have friends camping nearby to help with minor glitches, like an awning that collapses in the night or the need to batten down the hatches for a storm.

10.  When it is late at night and all my kids are in bed and I am all alone.  It would be so nice to have an adult here to unwind with!

Honestly, though, I have been blessed with an amazing support group that makes being a single parent much easier than it could be.  God is good, and despite the minor inconveniences, He has made our family of five a joy!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Real Men; Real Dads

I need to applaud a very special group of people today:  Single dads.

When I was 10, my parents divorced.  Within a few years my dad rarely took advantage of his visitation rights.  Unfortunately, that pattern seems to be repeating itself with my kids and my ex-husband, although he at least has the excuse that he lives six hours away.

However, in the past few years, I have become aware of some pretty amazing dads.  They are the dads who, although no longer married to their children's mothers, are still very involved with their kids. 

One of my friends has 50/50 custody with his wife.  This limits where he can live, as he has to stay in his children's school district, and that in turn might place some limits on relationship or career choices for him.  But he does this cheerfully because his children matter more to him than anything else.

Another accquaintance has custody of his daughters.  I can't imagine that it is easy for a man to parent teenaged daughters on his own, but he is doing it, and doing a good job of it, from what I can see. 

My own brother is a divorced dad, and although for many years he was an "every-other-weekend" dad, he never missed an opportunity to be with his son.  He took my nephew on every one of his vacations, and often extended his weekends when they ended with a holiday.  When my nephew turned 16, he moved in with my brother, and I am impressed with the positive effect my brother has had in his son's life.

In my Divorce Care group last week I was thrilled to hear several of the dads, some of them with very young children, brainstorming ways that they can stay involved with their children now that they aren't living with them any longer.  These men are determined not to lose the precious relationships they have with their offspring, and they will go to great lengths to maintain those ties.

Being a single mom isn't easy, but people are quick to offer help.  I have to wonder, though, if single dads get this same type of support?  I hope they do.

These men are real men, real dads, and they have my admiration.  Hats off to you, involved single dads!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Speaking the Truth

My counselor pinpointed one of my character traits one day in one of those blinding epiphanies that happen ever so rarely in a person's lifetime. 

She said, "You are a Truth-teller."

It was as if a bolt of lightning had hit me.  I knew that what she said was right, and that it defined the very core of who I am.  There is nothing that will make me more uncomfortable than a lie.

Being a truth-teller is a good thing.  Look at Ephesians 4:25

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body...

However, earlier in Ephesians 4, there is another verse about truth.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  Ephesians 4:15

This chapter is centered on the unity of the Body of Christ.  This verse refers to speaking the truth in love.

Uh oh.

I've always been great at speaking the truth, but doing it in love?  Well, not so much.  I can recall some pretty horrible things that I've said to my ex-husband in the past few years that, while true, were not said in a very loving way. 

To be very honest, I am just now learning how to love him enough to pray for him.  Well, that isn't entirely true.  I have been praying for him all along.  It's just that now my prayers aren't always based on those Psalms that call down tragedy on the heads of the enemy.  Now I am learning to pray that he will someday repent and draw close to God again.

And I am praying that I will continue to learn to speak the truth in love, even to my ex-husband. Maybe you could pray for me as I learn this hard lesson.

May God's grace and mercy always inform the truth that comes from my mouth!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Flipside

About a week ago, in my post called Forgiveness, I wrote about the danger of hating, or at least not trusting, everyone of the opposite sex as a result of a divorce.  Now I'll tell you about the flipside of that.

I have a friend who was divorced about the same time as I was, under circumstances that were similar to mine.  This friend is a wonderful Christian man, except for one thing. 

He keeps jumping into relationships with women.

To the casual observer, there would seem to be nothing wrong with his behavior.  After all, he is divorced on biblical grounds and has every right to move on with his life.

But to those who care about my friend, there is something wrong.  He hasn't given himself time to heal from his divorce, so he is vulnerable.  When he meets a woman and they seem to be attracted to one another, he allows his heart to get too involved too quickly.  Then when the relationship fizzles, my friend is hurt badly.

I know someone else who made this same mistake, only she ended up hurting more than herself.  That person is me.

At the time of my divorce, I was lonely and feeling pretty down about myself.  I had two single male friends from college days whom I had been spending time with, either online or in person.  One of these friends, it seemed, was everything my ex-husband was not, and without realizing it, I lost my heart to him.  Unfortunately for me, his understanding of what the Bible says about divorce and remarriage would not allow him to get involved with me. Fortunately, he was able to explain this to me very gently, and we are still friends.

The other friend, with whom I occasionally enjoyed dinner and a movie, was the unknowing victim of my double rebound from my divorce and the one-sided relationship with the man I had lost my heart to.  We started down the road to romance, but I figured out within a couple months that this relationship wasn't meant to be anything more than a friendship.  In the process, I hurt my friend.

I think the cure for this mistake is to guard one's heart during and after a divorce. 

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23.

The best way to guard one's heart is also found in scripture:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

I think that the mistake we often make when we've been divorced is to let our anxiety about whether we will ever be loved again overwhelm our hearts.  Instead of resting in the peace of God, we decide to pursue what we think we need to be happy.  But if we are quiet and wait on Him, He will give us peace and the reassurance we need.

Friday, October 1, 2010

More Waiting

I sent off my query and proposal to the literary agent.  Why do I feel queasy?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How I Happened to Write a Book, and Why I Had to Get Divorced to Do So

One of the good things to come out of my divorce was the opportunity to do something I have always wanted to do, but never got around to doing. 

I wrote a book.

It hasn't been published yet, or even submitted to an agent or publisher, even though I finished writing it several months ago.  I'm working on that, but fear is getting in the way. 

What is there to be afraid of when submitting a manuscript?  Rejection with a capital R.  You might pray about that, because if I never submit it, I will never know if it will be rejected.

In the meantime, let me tell you the story of how this book came to be written and you will see why I had to get divorced to write it. 

About a year ago, I called my attorney for advice on a situation.  She started our phone call with some words that were music to my ear:  "Before we go on the clock..."  Oooh, goody, a conversation with this amazingly intelligent person that I don't have to pay for!  She then told me that she might be leaving her practice of law to write a book.  Not so good, in my mind.

However, she continued, lately when she thought about the book, a devotional book for Christians who were going through a divorce, my name kept coming up.  First, she somehow dreamed about me in connection with the book.  Then shortly after that, while telling a friend about it, the friend brought up the fact that she had just discovered that I was one of my attorney's clients who had been in that situation.   Finally, when she walked into the office that day, she had discovered that I was on her calendar for a phone appointment, even though she hadn't heard from me in months.

She wasn't sure why she was supposed to tell me about the book, and speculated that maybe I was supposed to be part of her prayer support or even offer her some ideas about what it's like to go through a divorce.  However, she knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that she was supposed to tell me.

I instantly knew that this was a God-thing.  To be sure, I asked her if she knew my academic background.  She didn't. 

I happen to have an MA in English.  My emphasis was on teaching English as a second or foreign language, but while earning that degree, I taught freshman comp.  I also had been teaching various writing classes at our homeschool enrichment group.  And I had written for a website that no longer exists.  I love to write.  I also don't mind editing, so my first suggestion was that maybe I was supposed to help edit the book.

We agreed to pray about it, and then we went on the clock and discussed the issue I had called her about.

When I got off the phone, the book started writing itself in my head.  Oh, how I longed to be the one to write that book, but this was my attorney's project, so I began to pray that God would show me my boundaries and enable me to stay within them.  I have a tendency to take over on group efforts, so I knew I needed prayer.

A few weeks later, I talked to my attorney again.  Much to my surprise, she informed me that she had been praying about the book, and she now knew that I was to write the book.  Her job was merely to be the messenger to tell me to write it.

So I wrote the book.

Now to gather my courage and submit the book.  Please pray for me!

Monday, September 27, 2010

My Royal Temper Tantrum

Have you ever noticed that temper tantrums come in many different styles? 

Each of my four kids has his or her own style of tantrum. One of my children's tantrums involve a great deal of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  One was a head-banger as a toddler, but has morphed into a yeller.  Yelling combined with stomping and slamming doors is more the style of one of my children now, but it used to be biting and hitting.  And one of my kids is destined to be a protester someday, having mastered the art of the sit-in, including going limp if force is used to move said child.

Have you ever noticed that even adults throw temper tantrums occasionally?  One of my friends throws things when she is having a tantrum.  Another becomes very cold and bitingly sarcastic. I usually yell.

However, when throwing a Royal Temper Tantrum, I am apparently capable of violence. 

Several months after my ex-husband left, he had some minor surgery. I wanted to do something kind for him after his surgery. I had a difficult time imagining how chicken noodle soup could provide any healing benefit after a vasectomy, so I thought that a surprise visit from his kids would be the perfect way to cheer him up during his recovery.  Our oldest child was not at all thrilled about this plan, so I decided we'd make our visit on Sunday night, after dropping her off at youth group.

When we arrived at his apartment, I could hear the tv on, which meant that he was there.  I knocked on his door and he opened it a crack, as he had the chain lock on.  That crack was just enough for me to see a scantily clad woman sitting on his sofa.  He closed the door to remove the lock, and I heard quiet voices and scrambling feet.  Then he opened the door to us, quite reluctantly.

When we walked in, there was nobody else in the room.  However, an overflowing suitcase that didn't belong to him was sitting in the corner.  The bedroom door was shut, so I was certain that the Other Woman was hiding in there. Needless to say, I wasn't happy about this state of affairs, and that is when I threw my Royal Temper Tantrum.

I am sorry to admit this, but I turned into a wildcat.  I attacked him, verbally at first, but at some point, I slapped him across his face and knocked his glasses to the floor, and then I did the unthinkable.  I kicked him at the site of his surgery. 

Apparently the Other Woman heard the commotion and decided to rescue him, as she came out of the bedroom, this time wearing a t-shirt over the lingerie she had had on earlier.  At that moment, I could have cheerfully ripped her face off, so once I got through telling her to get out of MY husband's apartment and stop messing around in MY marriage, I lunged at her.  My husband intervened, so a true cat fight was averted, and the Other Woman grabbed the phone book.

A phone book as a weapon? 

Sort of.  She asked my husband what the name of the town they were in was, so she could look up the number to call the police.  (Apparently they don't have 911 where she came from.)  At any rate, the thought of the police coming and arresting me in front of my three kids broke through my rage, and the Royal Temper Tantrum was over.

I marched the kids to the car with all the dignity I could manage after my shameful performance, and when we got there, I apologized to them for my behavior.  My oldest son, then ten, responded with, "Don't apologize, Mom!  You were great in there!  You sure showed that Other Woman that you aren't going to give up without a fight!"  His younger siblings chimed in with cheers for Mom's display of strength.  That was not exactly the reaction I had in mind when I apologized.  To this day, I am mortified at my behavior that night. 

And that, my friends, is the story of My Royal Temper Tantrum. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I have a friend who was divorced shortly before I was, under circumstances that were similar to mine.  This friend is a wonderful Christian woman, except for one thing.

She doesn't like men.

She doesn't actively go out of her way to express this feeling.  In fact, she is very good at hiding her attitude when circumstances force her to be around men.  However, if you step back and observe her life over a period of time, you would notice that she chooses activities that will not involve men more often than not.  In conversations about men, her attitude is decidedly negative.

I worry about my friend.  I don't want her to become bitter and angry and lonely.  But I fear that is where she will end up if she allows this attitude to persist.

I have seen this before, in my own family.  My parents were divorced after about 15 years of marriage. My mom never remarried or even dated.  I recently asked her why, and her response was  that she would never trust another man enough to date one.

Wow.  Because one man cheated on her and eventually divorced her, she will never trust ANY man? This unhappy event that happened 35 years ago is still controlling her life?  That is scary.

I suspect that the cure for this situation is forgiveness.  In fact, my friend and I have talked about this, and she is quick to admit that forgiving her ex is not something she has managed to do yet.  I wish I knew how to help her forgive him, since a lack of forgiveness hurts the one holding onto the hurt far more than it does the one who committed the sin. 

The thing is, forgiveness isn't accomplished in four easy steps.  There is no Forgiveness for Dummies book, at least as far as I know.  (Hey, maybe that could be my next book!)  You can't hire someone to do it for you.  There may be classes on forgiveness, but passing the class doesn't guarantee that you will be able to forgive.

I have forgiven my ex for the adultery he committed and for the divorce.  I have to admit that I am struggling to forgive him for the way he treats his own children, and occasionally for leaving me with the entire burden of raising our four kids the rest of the way.  I also have to work hard at forgiving him when the support check is late or other money he owes me isn't paid.  But I feel sure that in time, I will learn to forgive these offenses, too.  In fact, I see progress.

I have been asked how I have forgiven the ultimate betrayal of our marriage vows.

I won't say that it was simple.  It wasn't.  I also won't say that it was instantaneous.  It wasn't.  And I certainly won't say that once I did it, it was done.  It wasn't.

Here is what I will say:  It started with a prayer.

"Father in Heaven, I know that You love me, and I know that You want me to forgive my ex.  I know that You have forgiven me of so much, that it would be wrong for me not to forgive him.  But honestly, I don't WANT to let go of this anger.  I WANT to hurt him like he hurt me.  But I know that isn't my job.  It's Yours.  So please help me to turn that over to You and to forgive."

That opened the door for God to begin working in me.  Over time, I stopped dwelling on revenge.  And finally, one day I realized that I really didn't wish him harm.  I only wanted God to deal with him, to convict him and either draw him back to Himself, or, dare I say it, to handle whatever discipline might need to be visited on him.

Do I always wish my ex well now?  Nope.  Like I said, it wasn't a one-time thing.  When he has committed other offenses against me, it is very easy to try to drag up the offenses I have already let go.  But as time goes on, and I continue to turn them over to God again and again, I drag them up less and less often.

Maybe someday my friend will be able to turn her anger and hurt over to God.  For that matter, maybe someday my mom will be able to do the same.

In the meantime, I will continue to forgive my ex day after day, until someday, that work is finished!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

History: Waiting

After my ex left, my first instinct was to divorce him immediately.  After all, it would be a biblical divorce, since he had commited adultery, right?

Well, yes, it would.  However, as I understand Jesus' words about divorce, that should be a last resort, only for those cases where the wronged spouse is not able to forgive.  And when I really searched my soul, I decided that I could forgive this, if my husband would end the affair.  I was even willing to allow him some time to end it.  So I waited. 

In fact, I waited until October 2008.

At first,  I was waiting for my husband to come to his senses and for our marriage to be restored.  I had full confidence that that would be the outcome of this, and I enlisted every prayer warrior I knew to pray to that end.  And I waited for the grand reconciliation that I expected.

At some point, my waiting became more  "waiting on God" than "waiting for my husband to repent."  I can't really put my finger on an exact moment when it changed, but I can share the exact verse that became my anchor during this waiting time.

I am still confident of this:  I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.  Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.   Psalm 27:13-14, NIV

I'm not a patient person, and one of my faults over the years has been a tendency to give up when something isn't working out well, so this waiting attitude surprised everyone who knew me.  It even surprised me!

As I waited, I was able to work through the grieving process that is necessary when a marriage dies.  I saw a counselor who helped me deal with my situation and the emotions surrounding it.  I also had a best friend who was willing to tell me the truth, even when it hurt, and a small group of women online who were willing to hold me accountable for my actions and attitudes. 

Lest you think my friends were harsh, I need to tell you, they were also my devoted cheerleaders.  When I chose a more noble path than my instincts would normally have led me down, they were the first to applaud my choice.  And when I needed to vent my frustration between visits to the counselor, these ladies were more than willing to listen or read my complaints and offer whatever comfort they could.

A funny story about my partners-in-waiting:  Sometime after my royal temper tantrum (which is a post for another day), I realized that my friends were as angry at my husband as I was.  In fact, their expressions of anger toward him were often enough that I no longer needed to feel my own "righteous" anger at him.  On one occasion, though, when he told me that he was going on vacation with his girlfriend, these women came up with a most creative way to pray for him.  They prayed that he would be impotent the entire time he was with her!

I have no idea if that prayer was answered, but just knowing that my friends loved me enough to pray something so outrageous soothed my soul and brought a smile to my face.

During the waiting, we had two attempts at reconciliation.  One lasted until the marriage counselor we went to see suggested that he videotape an interaction about a "hot topic," and my husband declared him a kook and refused to go back.  The other lasted long enough to get through his brother's wedding.

Finally, as we approached the two-year mark in our separation (the point at which I would no longer be able to put off a divorce in our state), I realized that the waiting was over.  I needed to do what I could to protect my children and myself in the future, so I asked my husband if we could sit down and hammer out an agreement to govern our divorce. He agreed, and the papers were filed in December 2008.

My final waiting period ended approximately 90 days later, when our divorce was finalized in March 2009.

Monday, September 20, 2010

History: D-Day

I think I should share a little bit of the story of my divorce with you, so you will know where I am coming from.  This is the story of D-Day, the discovery of my ex-husband's affair.

In September 2006, my then-husband turned 40.  My 12-year-old daughter and I planned a surprise party for him, and it seemed to be a success, but he didn't seem at all happy about it.  That was probably my first inkling that something was wrong.  He was never one to talk much about anything, and he had told me recently that he had a lot going on at work, so his silence wasn't too alarming, but his reaction to the party was beyond silent, almost brooding.  I chalked it up to mid-life crisis and moved on.

October rolled around, and he went on a business trip to New Orleans.  Business trips weren't unusual, but this one was odd, as he was going over a weekend.  Additionally, when I suggested that the kids and I join him, since I had an uncle in New Orleans we'd like to visit, he was adamant about how we could NOT come with him on this one.  That was oddity number two, since as homeschoolers, we have a flexible schedule and had often joined him on business trips in the past, turning them into family camping trips or mini-vacations.

Oddity number three was his behavior while on the business trip.  Normally when he was away, we talked by phone several times a day.  He would call and talk to the kids and me before bed, at the very least.  But this time, when I tried to call him, he never answered his cell phone, and although I left messages, he returned my call only once, and at a time when he knew we would all be out of the house.  He left a message saying that his phone wasn't working, but caller ID showed that he had called from the non-working phone.  In retrospect, I believe he made that call only because I had called his boss and asked him if my husband was checking in at work.  He seemed surprised, but replied with a noncommital,  "Not that I'm aware of."  I requested that if he did happen to check in, would they please pass along a message that he needed to call home.

Late one Saturday night in November 2006, I did something I had never done before.  I went online and checked my credit card statement.  My husband was the one who usually looked over the statements and arranged for payments, so this was highly unusual.  I think now that it was a God-prompting.

My credit card had charges for three different hotels, one of them in Florida, as well as a rental car, on the weekend when he was supposedly on his business trip to New Orleans.  Red flags went up.  First, why had he charged expenses from a business trip to my personal credit card?  And second, why did he stay in three different hotels, one of them five hours away from the city where he was supposedly attending business meetings?

So I asked him.  He made up several stories, none of which held up to my additional questions, and I finally asked him the big question:  "Are you having an affair?"

We had been married for over 13 years, and he was not a good liar at that point.  I knew that each of his answers to my questions about the information on the credit card were lies, and he knew that I knew.  So he answered with the truth.

"Yes.  I wasn't going to tell you until after the holidays, but yes, I have met someone else and I was with her that weekend."

I can't really tell you what happened at that point, because I was swept up in a whirlwind of emotions.  I know that it involved a lot of screaming and crying on my part, and a stubborn silence on his.  I know that my reaction woke the kids, one of whom had been awake and heard the whole thing, and who informed his siblings of what he had heard when they all came downstairs to see what was going on.  I know that I told my husband that he had a choice:  he could immediately get on the computer and send her an email ending the affair, and on Monday morning, call for an appointment with a marriage counselor, or he could leave.  I know that he informed me that she was his soul-mate and that breaking it off with her would kill him, so he would leave in the morning.

Eventually, I went to bed alone in our king-sized bed.  He slept on the couch, or maybe he stayed awake and called his mistress, who lived out of state, or connected with her online.  At any rate, the next day, he took the laundry to the laundromat (our washing machine was broken), then came home and packed a small suitcase with his work clothes.  We didn't go to church that Sunday.  During the course of that day, my then-8-year-old daughter asked me if daddy was having his affair with S***** B****, because she had seen him chatting with a woman by that name on his computer and he typed "I love you" to her.  I relayed the question to him, and his reaction when I mentioned her name confirmed that yes, that was his girlfriend.  Another storm of emotions hit me as I realized that he had carried on his affair right there in front of our young daughter.

He left that evening. 

I need to explain something here.  My reason for telling him he had to leave was that I was trying to practice "tough love," to put him in a position where he had to face up to the reality of living apart from his wife and children, to get a taste of  the expense of supporting two households by being forced to pay for a hotel and to eat all his meals out and not have readily available access to the internet where he could connect to his girlfriend.  I honestly believe that the dose of reality that would have provided might have been enough to cause him to rethink his situation.  Unfortunately, a couple that we knew took him in, allowing him to spend the next two weeks on their sofa and including him in their family meals and allowing him to use their internet access, so he never got that initial dose of reality while he was still at an emotional place where that might have made an impact.

Story to be continued in a future post....

Friday, September 17, 2010


I remember when my kids were 6 and under and I would take all four of them out.  People would ask me, "Are they all yours?"  It was all I could do to smile and politely say yes, when what I really wanted to do was respond in a most sarcastic tone of voice, "No, I go around collecting random children because I think it's fun to chase toddlers and preschoolers around the clothing racks in stores while wearing an infant in a sling and having one very timid 6-year-old attached to my shirt tail with a death grip."  Those few brave souls who dared to hold  me up for more than that one question often followed up with this bit of wisdom:

"Wow, you really have your hands full.  Just wait until they're teens!"

It didn't take me long to figure out that there will be a 6-month period when I will have four teens, so comments like that made me shudder, just a little bit.

Fast forward a decade and here I am with two of my four kids now teenagers, and one a preteen.  The last one is still in single digits, at least for a little while longer, but he learns a lot from his older siblings. 

So is it as bad as those strangers warned me it would be when they were little? 

Nope.  In fact, having teenagers is fun!  I think I am enjoying this more than any other stage in their lives so far.  I love the humor, I love their friends, and I love that we can have real conversations about real topics.

But there is something that worries me.  My children are growing up without a male role model.  They are also growing up in a single parent home.  How will they know what a healthy marriage looks like?  What issues will the divorce and changed family situation produce in their lives? 

I also grew up in a broken home, and I know that my two biggest issues were anger and an unhealthy view of males in authority.  Will my children have these same issues, or will they battle promiscuity, substance abuse, or other issues common to children of divorce?  Will they have healthy marriages someday, or will they end up divorced, too?

I don't have any way to look into the future and find the answer to these concerns.  But I do know this:  my children are in the hands of a loving God who knows their futures, and I can trust Him to take care of them.  In the meantime, my job is to do the best I can with the resources He has given me, and to cover them in prayer.  I don't need to worry.  My children, my teens, are safe with my Father in heaven!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Starting Over

I am starting over!

Almost four years ago, I discovered that my husband was having an online affair, and that he had taken this affair into real life.  I was devastated.  We had been married for 13 1/2 years, and had four kids, ranging in age from 5 -12. 

I spent the next two years begging him and God to restore our marriage.  But that didn't happen, and in March 2009, we were divorced.

The 2 1/2 years between D-Day, when the affair was disclosed and the day the final divorce papers arrived in the mail were a time of grieving, but also a time of growth for me.  I rode the roller coaster of emotions that anyone who has been through the death of a marriage is familiar with, but I didn't ride alone. 

God rode with me, all the way.  He surrounded me with His love, and with friends who could show me His love and support me when times were rough.  He put me in a body of believers where I could worship and be cared for, but where I could not minister during that time.  And even though He didn't restore my marriage, He restored my soul on an almost daily basis.

Now I am moving on.  My kids and I have found a new "normal" for our family.  I have been counseled and attended support groups.  And I am ready to start over. 

I cannot leave my past behind entirely, and I am willing to share it with you, especially  if you find yourself on that roller coaster of divorce.  But I also hope to share some of the day-to-day challenges and triumphs that are part of my new normal.  I hope that we can help one another, no matter where we are on this journey through divorce and into a new beginning. 

Won't you join me on this journey?