It’s both fortunate and unfortunate to me that in my circle of friends and acquaintances I’ve become the “go to” person for questions about divorce, because I’ve been there. People see me as proof that you CAN get through an unthinkably difficult time, and have a peaceful, productive life on the other side of this heart-wrenchingly painful mountain.
In the last week alone, I’ve had 3 different people come to me asking advice on the subject, or wanting to speak with me about mine. One was a sweet friend I’d not seen in a while. She and I used to go to church together, and I subbed for her a few times at Rogersville City School. This kind woman came to me in a sea of people during the Heritage Days festival, gently touched my arm, and quietly said, “I’ve always wanted to tell you how much I admire how you handled things after your divorce. You went to school, got your teaching degree, and just moved right on with life. Some people just shut down. You didn’t.” I felt I owed it to her and myself to be very honest in my response. I replied back, “I had children, and we had to eat. I had no choice, but to move on. There were days I wanted to quit, but I couldn’t. God was faithful to us.”
I want to always give a very truthful and realistic picture of what divorce looked like for me. It would be unfair of me to paint it prettier than it actually was. If a friend has gotten to the point that they have come to me for advice- whether it be the name of my attorney, or just encouraging words about moving ahead in life- I want to be sure that they understand this road is dark, and long, and Satan comes at you from all directions trying to break you down as much as he possibly can. That may look like many things to many different people; but in my case, I was entering a full out war that I had no idea was coming, and I want to help prepare my friend for the battle ahead.
My marriage lasted a total of 10 years. It’s not pertinent to list all of the why’s behind the dissolution of my marriage. It’s personal, and I have children to protect. Let’s just suffice it to say that my home became an unhealthy place for both my children and myself. He and I tried Christian counseling. We talked to pastors, cried at prayer rails, had deep into the night discussions, but one person alone can’t repair a broken marriage. The first thing I tell anyone who comes to me is that divorce was the absolute last resort for me. I tried for years, and behaviors weren’t getting better, if anything, they were getting worse. We had separated and reconciled. That was short lived. It all just became too much.
In January of 2011, my father died. Four months later, while standing at my front door, with a 6-year-old Elijah in my arms, I was served with divorce papers. In an instant I felt my entire world cave in around me. I was a stay-at-home mom at the time, and my first thought became, “How are we going to live?”
If I could freeze that very moment in time, I wish I could have time-traveled back, given that Amanda a big hug, and told her that I’d seen the future, and everything would be fine. Fortunately for me, I had an amazing circle of family and friends who did that for me. They lifted me up when I could barely crawl. Having a personal relationship with the Lord, and having believers to talk to and pray with are TRULY the only things that got me through.
I had a talk with my exhusband just yesterday. It was one of those hour-long talks that we have on occasion. He and I have come miraculously far during this journey over the last 5 years. What once was a world of restraining orders and unbridled hatred, has with time, evolved into a relationship where we can attend ball games together, and school functions. He will sometimes bring me medicine when I am sick. I’ve even been to dinner with my children, him, and his girlfriend. It was all very Bruce Willis/Demi Moore of us. 😊 He and I were having a very frank discussion about finances. Both of us feel the financial strains of this divorce.
I can tell you, first hand, what it feels like to live in fear of losing your home. I can tell you what it feels like to be in line at Wal-Mart with a cart full of groceries, and to have your card declined. I can tell you what it’s like to have to call your mother, and ask if you can borrow a few rolls of toilet paper because you are out, and have no money. I can tell you what it’s like to have to humble yourself to go to this same, generous mother and say to her that I’m 2 weeks out from a check, and I have nothing left for me and my children to live on.
I pray anyone reading this never has to go through this. Or, maybe you already have. It’s a very humbling experience. Not one that I’ve shared with many people, but it is the reality of divorce. I came from a marriage where sticking to a budget wasn’t really an issue. There was always plenty. He had a wonderful job. All of that changed in the blink of an eye.
So, I’m a 41-year-old, stay-at-home mom, and I’m going to have to formulate a plan “B” quickly. Who knew I’d ever even need a plan “B”? Certainly not me. My plan was this man, this marriage, these children, and this life. With the serving of one piece of paper that all came to a screeching halt. It was audible.
The next parts are the pieces to the story I want to be sure my friends understand. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t enjoyable. I certainly wasn’t the model of daily Christian strength that I’d like to proclaim I was. I wasn’t. I fell to pieces initially. I went a little crazy. I did things I wasn’t proud of. My dad was gone, my marriage was over, and my future seemed bleak. God has allowed me throughout my Christian walk with Him to sink down into these valleys of despair at times. There were MANY days that the thought of even getting out of bed was too much. My saving grace in all of this was my children. As much as my soul was beaten down, and I had lost so much of my internal fight, I knew I had to get up each day, and take care of these little ones. Their worlds were being flipped upside down, too. I couldn’t allow myself to forget that while I was busy drowning in self-pity.
The rest of the story is an exercise in faith and hope. God showed me, through continuous prayer, that He had a plan for me. I found a career path that would make me as available to my children as I could possibly be. Teaching. I researched, and found a 16-month program at Tusculum College which allowed me to take classes in the evenings and on weekends. I met some of the most wonderful people I’d ever known in this program, and I know God positioned them in the same program, at this exact time, so we could be in one another’s lives. My family helped me with childcare, so I could attend classes. My exhusband even helped out on weekends. I was able to graduate the Master’s program with honors. I now had my teaching certification. Fast-forward on a few month, and many interviews/applications later, and I was blessed to be given a job at Hawkins Elementary School teaching my own 5th grade class! The call came 9 days before the 2015-2016 school year began. I was crying so hard when I received the call from the principal of the school, that I wasn’t even sure he could hear me saying, “YES!” through all of the sobbing.
What I learned in my experience is that divorce is the ultimate act of selfishness. Whether it be one or both parties. At some point in the marriage, someone (or you both), decide that your own needs become greater and more important than the needs of your family. What this experience did to my own children was heartbreaking to watch. My job was to love and protect them during their time on this earth. Now, because their father and I couldn’t be responsible enough to work out our own issues, these innocent little ones are thrown into a life change that they never asked for. My children are products of a broken home. The guilt that comes with that is immeasurable, and impossible to adequately verbalized. It’s daily. The only comfort I take is that I know that while our HOME may have been broken, I know they saw a mother who ultimately was NOT, and who gives all the glory to God for her strength.
I encourage my friends to have a realistic view of what is about to happen if they choose this path. It’s not “divorce parties” and freedom like some women like to imagine. (Actually, that may not be 100% true. There are people who do have their big divorce parties, but I just think that’s further outward evidence of what selfish creatures we’ve allowed ourselves to become. The destruction of a family is NOTHING to be celebrated) It’s one of the biggest doses of reality you’ll ever have. It’s excruciating to watch your babies go through. It’s an admission of failure. Divorce, and the death of my father, are hands down the most difficult life moments I’ve had.
The moral to my story is that God was faithful. He was strong when I was weak. It’s not an easy road, and it’s certainly not something I eagerly encourage anyone to do. Divorce goes against my own spiritual beliefs. That’s another blog in itself. I’ll save it for a different day. While I don’t want to be an advocate for divorce, I do want to offer hope to those going through it. There is life on the other side. It takes work. It takes an admission that you can’t do it alone, and it takes a willingness to be quiet, and listen to that sometimes soft voice of God. He won’t fail you. When you’ve lost your faith in love, He is the one relationship you can count on to be everlasting.