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?