RELATIONSHIPS THAT ROCK YOUR WORLD

DIVORCE RECOVERY FOR WOMEN

By:

Kathleen Rigdon Highley

Thank you, Dee, my precious husband, for loving God even more than you love me.

And

Thank you, Mother, for the prayers that I know have sustained me.

INDEX

PRELUDE CHAPTER 1 – “D is for Death CHAPTER 2 – “I” is for Intent CHAPTER 3 – “V” is for Victory CHAPTER 4 – “O” is for Opportunity CHAPTER 5 – “R” is for Restoration CHAPTER 6 – “C” is for Conviction CHAPTER 7 – “E” is for Everyone CHAPTER 8- The Love Chapter CHAPTER 9 – Spiritual Gifts

PRELUDE

Are you a recovering divorcée? Sounds like a question for some sort of an addict, doesn’t it?

Well, my friend, I had to look myself in the mirror once and ask myself that very question. I was acting like a relationship addict—a lifestyle that can be just as devastating, and just as destructive, as any other addiction. However, deliverance is just as powerful as any other deliverance, as well. The journey toward that end can be extremely empowering. Any anxiety that may surface from your own individual self-discovery is well worth the end result. Be open to deliverance. Follow me to your own valley of freedom, where the grass is lush and the vegetation ripe and nourishing. Feed upon God’s abundance—and be well.

I put off my journey for a long, excruciating time. All the years in between where I came from and where I am now, I rarely (if ever) examined myself, or my intentions. Life seemed to be all about me (ask any of my ex-husbands, I’m sure they would agree). Branded “cute” in high school, I used that superficial asset to conceal the pain that governed my actions over the next 20 years. My story isn’t a pretty one, and I’m not writing it down for the world to see so I’ll feel better about myself (although the exercise has been a continuation of the healing process). I’m writing it down to help you feel better about yourself, to point you toward the One who loves you without asking for anything in return, except that you let Him love on you.

Although there are varying degrees of pain and suffering, I imagine the old observation: “Any surgery that is your surgery would not be minor surgery” would work in the “buried pain scenario” as well. Comparing wounds, however, can sometimes serve as a soothing salve, while burying the pain in a hole, then crawling in after it, might not be the best solution.

Therefore, with the aid and prayers of a host of family and friends, I am baring my soul to you in an effort to help you realize that there is life after the “D” word, and that divorce is not the unpardonable sin.

“So don’t worry, because I am with you. Don’t be afraid, because I am your God. I will make you strong and will help you out; I will support you with my right hand that saves you.” Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

RELATIONSHIPS THAT ROCK YOUR WORLD— Divorce Recovery for Women

CHAPTER 1 “D” IS FOR DEATH

Maryann sat on the sofa one Saturday morning, alone in the house. John had come to pick up the kids and take them to the park. The silence was deafening. Her body trembled as she looked up and saw the beautiful rosebush, covered in deep, rich, silky Elizabeth Taylor pink blooms, and the tears started to flow. Reality had begun to set in. Her family had been torn asunder—and now she would be losing her home as well. As she stared at the rose bushes through the large plate glass window, hope crumbled. Next spring, she would not be sitting on this sofa, in this living room, admiring her beautiful roses. Next spring, she and her two children would be living in an apartment 350 miles away. Staying in the same town, bumping into “them” at the grocery store, the movies, facing people at church every Sunday, was more than she could bear.

But still, losing her home, her house, her beautiful roses, cut deep. Such an amazing symbol, the rosebush, standing tall and broad, displaying dozens of rich, satiny blooms, could not possibly know that another family would soon come, another hand would snip its dead petals, feed it and water it. Or could it, possibly? Perhaps the next owner wouldn’t care so much about roses, but would prefer “native landscaping”; and just like her family, the rosebushes would be dug up by the roots, and for a season, cactus would grow in its place. Life was changing, and it would never be quite the same again.

The end of an era. The end of who Maryann had come to know herself to be. She had been a wife and mother for ten years. Her identity, her own self-worth, hidden behind the mask of bravado that had carried her through the past three excruciating years. She had no idea what to expect. She had begun a journey void of directional signs and traffic signals—void of GPS or even a road map. She took in a shuddering breath, like a last labored attempt before the death angel would come to take her away.

Death. Divorce is like that, don’t you think?

However, the death of a relationship must necessarily be dealt with in a totally different manner than walking away from a graveside service.

There are so many mitigating circumstances:
A.

You might run into your ex at Wal-Mart following a divorce (that is, if you didn’t pack up everything you had left and move across the country)—which is a fear we don’t have to deal with after a funeral.

B.

A deceased loved one won’t be crashing the next family reunion or wedding or graduation—if you had children with your ex, however, it is a very real possibility. And maybe “crashing” is too strong a word. But the uneasiness that comes with such moments is definitely real.

C.

If you cry out about your the loved one who passed away, even your church-going friends sympathize with you. But do those same friends shush you because it isn’t right to say anything negative about your spouse in front of the children—or in front of anyone, for that matter. Just deal with it and move on was some of the best advice I ever got (I am being facetious). So where could I go but to the Lord?

D.

Then there’s the guilt factor. Unless you committed out-and-out murder, no one in their right mind would blame you for your spouse’s death, right?

But in a divorce—
1. There are always two sides to every story.

2. If he/she had just met my needs this wouldn’t have happened. 3. What should I have done that I did not do?
4. I couldn’t make him go to counseling. 5. Sometimes staying together “for the kids” simply is not enough.

6. And what about being submissive in an abusive situation? And what is the definition of abuse anyway?

Abuse – mistreatment, maltreatment, ill-treatment, injury, harm, assault, cruelty, torment, brutality, molestation, exploitation, terrorizing… Ridicule and degradation made the list as well, along with several others. I personally do not believe that God would expect a woman and/or her children to stay in an abusive situation. So, how do we decide whether it is “wrong” to obtain a divorce or “wrong” to submit to being a battered woman and subjecting our children to the same treatment? And then there’s the question of how many professed Christian homes this sort of thing happens in. And what is the answer? God help us; for He is the only answer. If your husband (or wife, for that matter) is abusive, get to safety. Do not confront him. Do not tell him your plan. Pick your time and your destination, and get to safety. What happens next will be entirely up to you. If you are a born-again believer with a church family, call your pastor, or a deacon, or an elder. If not, start asking questions of someone else’s local pastor. Get counseling from a God-fearing, Bible believing, compassionate counselor. Seek wisdom. Seek mercy. Seek grace. Seek the heart of Christ to guide you. He’s the only One who knows the way.

I am not a trained counselor with a PhD. I am simply a restored rebel who has learned about agape love the hard way. I have taken many wrong paths, traversed down many dark alleyways,

and dragged loved ones along behind me. I will never know all the cuts, bruises and scars I caused them.

I filed three out of four of the divorces myself. I may as well have painted a big red target on my back. Satan had no trouble tracking me down. He knew exactly what sin to dangle in front of me. He did his best to destroy me. But God knew what Satan was up to. He watched it all from His throne room in heaven. I walked through dangerous territory without paying the slightest attention to the warning signs around me. When I look back on those years now, I wonder how, really, I could have been so blind, so careless, so self-absorbed. It breaks my heart. I’m pretty sure my Savior shed many a tear over my careless existence. It amazes me that He didn’t just zap me and take me home to Glory to keep me from hurting any more of His precious created beings. There seems to be only one explanation for it: He knew that all of my years of stupidity would lead to that one precious, alarming moment—the space in time when I would “come to myself”—much like the prodigal son, and run into His arms. A time when He would ask me to pass on some hard-learned lessons to other hurting women who may have walked down some of the same roads I have darkened. Because He knew, long before I did, that I would respond when the Holy Spirit called my name. That I would be repentant and turn from my wayward life and try to make amends.

See? He saved me—for you. For all of us, because we are all connected. It’s a staggering thought, if you think about it.

And speaking of staggering—check out the following statistics: The divorce rate in America for first marriage, vs. second or third marriage: 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, according to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri. Those rates can be very discouraging—especially if you have already been divorced once or twice. I’m glad I didn’t know what they were at the time, or I may have entered marriage with an even lower regard for such a sacred union. But “sacred” had been far removed from me. “Self” filled my entire being. Blame pointed fingers at those who had “hurt” me. I lived in total disregard of the balance of the universe that God so lovingly put together.

I have heard tell of one snide remark directed at a friend of mine: “After the first time, it just gets easier, doesn’t it?” Or something to that effect. Strange, isn’t it? Why divorce is so often used as a weapon against our wounded and bleeding fellow human beings. When you’ve already been stabbed through the heart—you don’t need a well meaning Christian to twist the knife and enlarge the wound. Whether you instigate divorce proceedings, or whether you were served on your back porch steps—divorce is a painful experience. Divorce causes heartache and creates a wall between family members. Divorce cuts deep. We can put up our

guard, even proclaim that the wound has completely healed. But if you’ve been there, you know. Divorce hurts. Rejection hurts. And healing takes time, attention and effort.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating divorce, willy nilly. I don’t advocate divorce at all. But I do know that sometimes it is unavoidable. Sometimes it isn’t our choice. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense. No, divorce is not what God planned for us. He only granted permission to Moses to set it into law because He knew human beings would be hard hearted and pig headed. However, He also doesn’t peg divorce as the unpardonable sin. Not even close. In fact, the only unpardonable sin would be the rejection of God’s free gift of grace. He says there is only one Way to the Father, and that is through His Son, Jesus Christ. He died on a cruel cross to save us from our sin—all our sin. Once. For all. We can accept it. We can reject it. He gave us free will.

The list of unpardonable sins is short. There is only one; and divorce ain’t it.

So, if you don’t know Him as Savior and Lord of your life, listen for the Holy Spirit’s call—then run, don’t walk—to the nearest Bible believing preacher/pastor you can find, and set it straight. Getting that done is the only way anything else will ever make sense, will ever work, will ever be restored. And if you ran for your life from a man who does not know the Lord either, pray for him. And keep praying until God takes you home, or until your ex gets saved, too. Even if you never set eyes on him again this side of heaven—pray.

If you’ve been divorced, are a Christian, and are contemplating a second (or whatever number) marriage, examine your heart. Do not settle. Wait a minimum of two years, if at all possible, pray with all your heart, trust the Lord to guide you, and do not marry outside your faith. Don’t marry thinking you will “change him” (this may be one big reason why the divorce rate is so high, in general), because you won’t. In my own personal experience, a person’s habits become more pronounced, more noticed, once the vows have been spoken and cohabitation begins. A nonbeliever manages to encourage his new bride to “stay home this Sunday. We could sleep in and play golf after a pleasant and romantic brunch.” I’ve been there. I have friends who have been there, too. You give in and give in, until neither one of you manages to make it to a worship service for months on end. As a teen, my pastor once stated from the pulpit that when we join ourselves with a non-believer, we usually find ourselves brought down to the spiritual level of the one we have allowed to influence us away from the church, rather than the other way around. I think I understand why, for me anyway. We, as human beings, are sinful by nature, with a tendency to take the road most traveled. Also, in the interest of self-preservation and peace, we may tend to avoid confrontation. I do—until pushed to my limit. Drifting away is easy. Battling a spouse or boyfriend is extremely difficult—especially when you’re operating on low self-esteem, fear of separation or out-and-out rejection. I fell victim to just such a cycle. I know how devastating it can be to tear apart a relationship based on the differences in religious preference, or debating the need to attend worship services at all.

Face it, ladies. We can’t just let anyone pick us out of a crowd, be flattered that we were noticed, and disregard the values many of us were raised with. We put ourselves in a hazardous predicament that will prove difficult to wrangle our way out of. I shudder to think how much heartache I could have prevented—avoided even—had I taken the time to examine my choices, consider the probable consequences. Had I but paused long enough to call upon the name of the Lord; longer still to hear His answer, how different my life, my testimony, might have been. Ask the Lord to guide your steps. Go to premarital counseling under the guidance of a Christian pastor or church leader. Pay attention. If God is not in it, make the hard call. Let “him” go and wait for the man God would have you marry. Wait, wait, wait—upon the Lord. And don’t give up hope. Perhaps it’s too late for that. Maybe you have already tasted the bitterness of divorce and find yourself wondering if hope is even available to you at this point. Bask in the warmth of these encouraging quotes from my pastor, Derrick Looney:

Will God honor the second marriage? Yes—when God is at the center. Marriage mirrors the covenant God wants for us. He forgets the before—start anew. Love covers a multitude of sins. Fiery trials bring forth gold. “Fiery trials” could definitely be spelled d-i-v-o-r-c-e. Our Father offers to “lead us beside quiet waters”, to “refresh our souls”.

Park your heart in the verses of Psalm 23. Allow Him to walk with you “through the darkest valley”.

Psalm 23 The Divine Shepherd A Psalm of David

1

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3

he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4

Even though I walk

through the darkest valley, (King James—valley of the shadow of death) I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

forever. (NLT)

Verse four is my favorite. “I will fear no evil.” “You are with me.” “comfort me”.

In the aftermath of divorce, while the stench of death still lingers in the air, we couldn’t ask for a better promise, a better hope, a better sense of “heaven came down”.

*** It’s 2:00 in the morning. The house is quiet, except for the occasional sniffle from behind the closet door in the master bedroom. Jennifer huddled on the other side of that door, trembling as she struggled to hold the flashlight still enough to read the Book that lay across her lap. A closer look and we can read the heading at the top of the page:

PSALMS Author: David and others Theme: Praise Date of Writing: 10th Cent B.C. and later

One half hour and ten chapters later, Jennifer had underlined a few key verses: Psalm 3: 2&3.

Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. Psalm 4:8. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 5:11. But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Psalm 6:9. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. Psalm 9:10. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

David cried out throughout the Psalms, over and over, for deliverance from his enemies. From those who would mock him and accuse him.

Jennifer could identify with David. Her world was crumbling around her. People on every side, quick to accuse, quick to judge. Alone with the Lord, she echoed the prayers of David—until, at last, much like David, she gave in to sleep. In Psalm 4:8, David declared, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for thou, Lord, only makest me to dwell in safety.” (NKJ)

Peace came at last. The peace that passes understanding. The peace that is evidenced by the hand of God, as He held Jennifer in the palm of His hand, even as the storm whirled around her.

The following Scriptures offer us peace and give us hope: Luke 1:79. to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. Luke 7:50. Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 8:48. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” John 16:33. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

“In this world you will have trouble”. Such a simple statement—yet it encompasses the not-sopleasant expectations of a lifetime. True. But in the same breath, He offers hope. “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Notice the verb tense—have overcome. Not maybe, not one day, or someday, but the deed has already been done. I love that. I cherish it. I count on it. You can, too. As His children, it is our privilege to claim these promises. To know, that even when the world is against us, our faith brings us into the very presence of God, into the fold of our Shepherd. Romans 5:1, 2 & 6.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 14:33. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. Philippians 4: 7&9. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Jennifer had curled into a ball with her Bible tucked at her side, and slept a peaceful, satisfying, restful sleep. However, near 7:00 a.m. the following morning, the closet light jarred her awake. She looked up into the frowning face of her husband. Jennifer wanted to panic. She swallowed hard and squeezed her eyes shut, sending up a prayer in desperation. The Scriptures she had prayed through the night massaged her heart. The reality of the world she now lived in rushed in around her; but she would not walk another day in fear. The end of her marriage appeared to be inevitable; (her husband had said as much in a session with their Christian counselor); yet she did not know how or when it would come. She determined in her heart to walk in harmony with Christ—no matter what. She would cling to His promises—no matter what. And she did. Even so, without remedy, the whole ugly ordeal came to an agonizing end—on paper anyway.

The nightmare in her soul would rage on for years to come.

Divorce recovery often follows the grieving steps that come after a physical death:

Here is a grief model of "The 7 Stages of Grief" (acquired online): (the italicized letters are my additions). I suggest you consider its similarities to divorce recovery.

1. SHOCK & DENIALYou will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. (This happened for me when I was served with divorce papers.) You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.

2. PAIN & GUILTAs the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs. You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn't do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase. (Again, I experienced all of these emotions.)

3. ANGER & BARGAINING-

Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for (the divorce) on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion. You may rail against fate, questioning "Why me?" You may also try to bargain in vain (with God) for a way out of your despair (Example: "I will never drink again if you just bring him back").

4. "DEPRESSION", REFLECTION, LONELINESSJust when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be "talked out of it" by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving. (Actually, this may be a very healthy time for healing from divorce, rather than jumping into a relationship with the first man who comes along, as I did over and over and over and over again.) During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with (your mate), and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair. (See what I mean? The similarities are uncanny.)

5. THE UPWARD TURNAs you start to adjust to life without (your spouse,) your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your "depression" begins to lift slightly.

6. RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGHAs you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without (your spouse). You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.

7. ACCEPTANCE & HOPEDuring this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward. You will start to look forward and actually plan things for the future. Eventually, you will be able to think about (your ex) without such wrenching pain. You will once again anticipate some good times to come, and yes, even find joy again in the experience of living and, perhaps, loving again. (Based on information from recover-from-grief.com.)

Can you see from this grief model why you would need at least two years to figure out who you are, by yourself, before you become emotionally dependent on another man? Why you need time to realize that real joy cannot be found in another human being at all—but must come from a loving and growing relationship with Jesus Christ? A loving and growing relationship that endures forever:

Psalm 118
1

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures

2

forever.” Let those who fear the LORD say: “His love endures forever.” 5 When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD; he brought me into a spacious place. 6 The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? 7 The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies. 8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans. 9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. 10 All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the LORD I cut them down. 11 They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the LORD I cut them down. 12 They swarmed around me like bees, but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them down. 13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me. 14 The LORD is my strength and my defense, he has become my salvation. 15 Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: “The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things! 16 The LORD’s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!” 17 I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done. 18 The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.
19

Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. 21 I will give you thanks,

20

for you answered me; you have become my salvation. 22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 23 the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. 25 LORD, save us! LORD, grant us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. 27 The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine on us. With boughs in

hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. 28 You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you. 29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. (emphasis added)

The following excerpt from Psalm 118 in the New Living Translation, expresses how I felt when I believed I had been wronged:

“You pushed me violently that I might fall, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” (Psalm 118:14)

Here’s a thought for any among us who may feel that righteous indignation is warranted, should you find a divorcee in your midst. Consider the following Scripture:

3

”If another believer sins, rebuke that person (which you probably have already done,

especially if you feel strongly about the topic of divorce); then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you (or gets divorced) seven times a day (or seven divorces, in God’s eyes, for one sin is no different than another), and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive. (Matthew 18:20-22) (The words spoken by Jesus are in bold italics; the italicized words are mine) Jesus taught his disciples with straightforward talk. Candid speech that demands we forgive, just as He commanded the disciples, thousands of years ago. Stands to reason—considering that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

May God help us to take heed, listen, and obey! Forgiveness is huge, folks. Huge. In fact, the Lord keeps reminding me, it is one of the few things we cannot get unless we give it first! Please, please hear me on this. Whether you need to forgive the sinner (whom you have judged to be so) or whether you have been judged a sinner and need to forgive the one who judges you, please seek God’s face and find a way to forgive. If you’re the judger, tomorrow you may find yourself in need of forgiveness. If you are the perceived sinner, tomorrow you may be called upon to forgive the very one who judges you. It isn’t easy. Impossible even—without the love and power of Jesus Christ, that is. We have to make a choice. Forgive, and live. Deny—and die—a slow painful death of the soul. Swallowed up in the dark ugly mass of unforgiveness, a heavy millstone around our necks, that sinks us down into an abyss that can only be escaped by aid of the mighty hand of God as He reaches down to pull the sinner and the judge, the judge and the sinner, to safety. We cannot manage either feat under our own power. Don’t you see? We are all the same.

“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 (NKJ) “Our righteousness is as filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6 (NKJ)

He knows we are dust. Of course He knows. He was there.

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7 (NKJ)

Without that moment, there would have been no human life on this planet. How intimate must have been the hour that God stopped speaking things into existence and “formed man of the dust of the ground” and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”. God loves us, not with words alone, but by every deed He has ever done. Love formed Adam and Eve. Love wriggled in the manger and cooed at Mary and Joseph. Love healed the sick and raised the dead. Love “suffereth long and is kind; |love| envieth not; love vaunteth not itself (and the Lamb was silent); is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things; 8Love never faileth.” 1 Cor. 13: 4-8(a) (NKJ)

My heart cries out to you because I know how you feel. I understand the temptation to judge another (it shifts the focus from our own sin). I understand that you have been crushed in the name of Jesus; I’ve been there, too.

I understand. I get it.

I witnessed a release from the past at a conference once that made Satan so angry, he sent what must have been a legion of demons to push down on my sweet sister with such force that it took six or eight of us to help her take one step forward—toward freedom, toward the Savior. But she did. She stepped out of the darkness and into God’s glorious light—with the love, and prayers, and physical assistance of a host of saintly sinners who had experienced the power of Love, the power of deliverance, the power of freedom. Claim your own form of freedom—in Jesus’ name. Search your heart. Stare down the demon, the stronghold that so easily besets you. Rebuke Satan. Command that he get behind thee—in Jesus’ name. Call on your friends, your pastor, your sisters in Christ, and call him down. Claim your life back. Stand tall. Believe. Receive. Remember the words used during a baptismal ceremony? “Raised to walk in newness of life”. That’s how deliverance feels. Exactly like that. “Old things are passed away; all things are made new.”

My friends, “D” does not only stand for Divorce and for Death—but can also stand for Deliverance!

CHAPTER 2

“I” IS FOR INTENT

Melissa decided it was time to step up to the plate. She gathered her long, auburn hair into a pony tail. She applied a light layer of mineral powder to her sun-tanned face and smeared a shimmering lip gloss over naturally-pink lips. A touch of mascara completed the look. This, out of sheer determination and the grace of God, would be the first day of the rest of her life. She held her chin up, looked herself square in the eye in the bathroom mirror, and whispered a prayer of thanksgiving. She walked out of the front door of her apartment for the first time in two weeks. The counselor’s voice echoed in her head. “What do you intend to do with the rest of your life?”

It had taken two weeks of introspection, prayer and meditation—but she figured it out—at least a starting point. Step one would be to go for a fast walk three mornings a week, followed by a half hour spent in prayer and Bible study. Prayer and Bible study had served to lead her to this point; she believed God would show her the next step in precisely the same manner. One step at a time. One day at a time. One goal at a time.

Once we figure out how much God loves us for who we are, just like we are, we are well on our way to obeying Jesus’ command (not a suggestion) that we love one another, as He loved us. One person at a time. One day at a time. One goal at a time.

I was reading P31 Woman magazine today, and an excerpt from Lorie Newman’s “A Cup of Water In His Name: 60 Ways to Care for the Needy”, grabbed my attention.

But, God, does one really matter in a broken world where there are 145 million orphans? Where a child dies every five seconds of hunger-related causes and 925 million people are chronically undernourished? Where 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, and 1.1 billion do not have access to potable water? Where 80,000 women and children are

sold into human trafficking each year? Where famine, disease and hunger seem to engulf masses of humanity? Does helping just one person really matter, God?” (May, 2012 edition)

Ms. Newman obviously has a servant’s heart, a heart of compassion, and a concern for the hurting masses. The word of the Lord, in Matthew 25:40, showed her the answer to her agony:

“And the King will tell them, ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”(NLT)

…Jesus rarely calls one person to minister to masses of suffering people…He teaches us in Matthew 25:40 the importance of helping one needy person. Our Savior put so much emphasis on helping just one person, He tells us when we help a needy person, we have helped Him. (continued from P31 Woman article)

Inspiring, don’t you agree? And I love how the Lord spoke to her, directly, so she would hear, and understand, what He had for her at that time, and in accordance with her current circumstance.

I love that. And He spoke to me, too, through the revelations she embraced that day.

In my heart, the list of those in need expands to include you and I, and others like us. God has raised us up to stand together, to love on each other, and build each other up. We are among those who are considered “different”. That mentality puzzles me. True. We are forced to make adjustments, find a way to fit in with a mass majority of “couples” and “traditional” families.

That doesn’t make us reprehensible. Being pushed aside by those who consider themselves less reprehensible—is reprehensible.

Did God divorce Himself from His people? If not specifically or technically, He definitely put distance between Himself and His people. But we also know that God reconciles Himself with His people. They need only ask. Repent. Turn from your wicked ways. Seek My face. He calls to us in our darkest hour. He waits for us to answer, to acknowledge our need of Him. He waits, and waits, and waits. Reconciliation is but a prayer away. Restoration, the prize. Freedom from guilt and fear. We must face the fact that divorce is a sin; and that we must ask forgiveness in order to move forward in freedom. Let’s take a few minutes to explore the Bible for some insight into such a journey. What does the Bible say about divorce?

In Matthew 19:3:
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Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to

divorce his wife for just any reason?”

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Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning God

made them male and female.” 5And he said, “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. 6Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
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Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce

and send her away?” they asked.
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Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was

not what God had originally intended. 9And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife had been unfaithful.”

Sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it? I thought so. There is always more than one side to every story. No one in a failed relationship would be able to “cast the first stone”, for we are all guilty of “falling short of the glory of God”. Guilty in one way or another, of one thing or another. Have you considered that every “tiny sin”, built one upon the other, expanded until reconciliation grew to be improbable, if not impossible? But wait—here’s the big question: Have you considered that divorce itself falls under the same category as any other sin? When it comes to sin, God doesn’t grade on a scale. Sin is sin. Divorce falls under that same umbrella. Anything that goes against God’s character must necessarily be labeled “sin”. No matter which sins we commit, we all fall short of the glory of God. His fault. Her fault. Nobody’s fault. It doesn’t really matter. Sin begat sin; and sin, more than likely, pointed the finger at the other party.

Am I rambling? The point is that sin is inevitable.

But sin can be forgiven. It happens every day in God’s Kingdom. Following Jesus’ example can be helpful; but as human beings we cannot avoid sin altogether. We must reflect on a decision long enough to determine if we are headed in the right direction. Would my next act result in kindness or harm? When I speak, do I speak life or death, blessings or cursings? Unsure? Ask Him. Wait for His answer. Be intentional in what you say, think, do, post or text. Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Love others, and forgive them, just as the Lord commands. “The Lord’s Prayer”, should we pray it with sincerity, nails us. Every time. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Whoa! As. A tiny two-letter word as powerful as the word “if”. Is receiving forgiveness contingent upon giving forgiveness? Really? I can hear some of you now: But you don’t understand how bad it was. You don’t know what he or she said or did. It’s not fair. I don’t deserve this. Echoes of my own voice. All of them. Never mind the choices I made that put me in compromising situations. Never mind my own guilt. Never mind my past, that practically forced me (of course) to make poor choices…It’s a

rationalization we tend to make, in order to justify our failures, and the uncomfortable consequences. It can quickly become a whirling dervish. We get caught up in the nightmare and can’t see through the debris that swirls around us. Is there hope for anyone who finds themselves in such a hornet’s nest? I didn’t think so at the time. I was wrong. I needed to forgive others in order to see my way clear, to know which step to take —out of the darkness and into His glorious Light.

Forgiveness, whether we receive it or give it, is mighty powerful.

Ephesians 1: 6-7. 6So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. (NLT)

Psalm 85:2. You forgave the guilt of your people—yes, you covered all their sin. (NLT, emphasis added)

Psalm 103: 8-13.8The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. 9He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. 10He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. 11For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. 12He has

removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. (NLT)

In verse 12, above, the inspired Word of God does not list specific sins for which he felt compelled to unburden us. “He has removed our sins” sounds rather all-encompassing—which thrills me, who was and is the chief of sinners, as Paul confessed in 1 Timothy 1:15-17:

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Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to

save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (NLT)

For I truly believe that anyone within the sound of my voice, or in the reading of this message, who has struggled through multiple divorces, you need a kind word, an empathetic ear, a friend who will not—nay, could not—stand in judgment against you. I, my friend, am that woman. Woman at the well ministries is not a catchy marketing phrase; it is representative of the agony that makes up the reality. The Bible says that the woman at the well had had five husbands. I cannot deny that I have, too. Take heart. There is a redeeming quality in the woman at the well. For what did she do once she realized that she stood in the presence of Jesus the Messiah?

John 4: 4-29. 4Now he had to go through Samaria. 5So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar; near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.

Stop. Now, we know that God knows everything, before, during or after Jesus’ earthly reign. And we know that Jesus was all man, and all God—therefore we must conclude that Jesus knew beforehand that He must go through Samaria, about what time they would come upon Jacob’s well near Sychar, that He would encounter the Samaritan woman, and what the result of that encounter would be. Do you see? The Samaritan woman wasn’t anything special. In fact, decent people who knew of her reputation, more than likely avoided her. But not Jesus. He came to her on purpose, longing to meet with her. Amazingly, He did the same for me. And for you, I dare say. Jesus went out of His way in order to be at that place, at that time, for the Samaritan woman. If you think that move was self-sacrificing, consider the sacrifice Christ made on the cross for you and me. He knew what torture He would endure at our hands—and He did it anyway. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel very special.

Ok. Back to the story.

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When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “You

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are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
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Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you

would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
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”Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get

this living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”
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Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whosoever

drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
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The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep

coming here to draw water.”

Sounds like any of us when we hear bits and pieces of the Gospel before we have a heart knowledge of Jesus’ saving grace, doesn’t it? We see and hear in terms of the flesh, our own personal tastes and desires, without a clue of the everlasting life which Christ’s sacrifice on the cross makes available to all who will believe. My husband and I were discussing desires on the way home from church today. He shared with me that he is praying for his desires to be God’s desires. For, once we delight ourselves in the Lord, then “He will give you the desires of your heart”, as David shares in Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Back to the well:

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He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” ”I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18The fact is you have

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had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
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Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this

mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
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Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father

neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
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The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will

explain everything to us.”
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Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” (The words in bold italics are the words of

Jesus Christ.)

Check it out. Jesus not only went out of His way to be at the right place at the right time in order to meet the Samaritan woman “where she lived”—He also took the time (and energy—“tired as he was from the journey”) to share His heart and give her “a foretaste of glory divine”, as the old hymn reads. A woman, beneath Him in every way, and a blatant sinner, represented to Jesus a

lost and dying world—the very essence of His earthly ministry—not a waste of time, or some insignificant nobody. No, a woman whom He knew would open her heart to His words. If you’ll notice, the focus of this conversation is not on the woman’s merits or on her sins. The focus was Christ offering eternal life to one of God’s children. For you see, Christ is not only colorblind, He is sinblind, stationblind, and genderblind. Praise God! Who we consider ourselves to be, who others might perceive us to be, or even how heavily the sin-scale is balanced against us, matters not one jot or tittle to Jesus, Yeshua Ben David, God Almighty, Prince of Peace, Counselor and Savior. It simply does not matter.

The story continues:

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Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no

one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
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Then leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29”Come,

see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 20They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

In the words of my husband, “The woman at the well might have been the first participant in the WMU.” If you’re from the old school, you probably know that WMU once stood for Women’s Missionary Union. We should all follow her example and lead “the town” to the Savior, the Christ, the Messiah.

Yes, the woman at the well felt very special that day, perhaps for the first time in her life. I know it took more than one act of God for me to feel special. And Satan loves to throw my past in my face. He mocks me and tries to make me believe that God could never use a cracked and leaky vessel, marred from the black stains of sin, for any heavenly mission. That guy, that liar, that demon, has a lot to learn about my Savior and Lord:

1 Cor. 1: 26-31.

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Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you

were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things— and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him.
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It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—

that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Amen and amen. Feeling foolish or weak or lowly? Then rejoice! God has chosen you and has become your righteousness, holiness and redemption. Bask in His glory. Just as Moses’ face shown after he had been alone with God, let His light shine through you for all the world to see.

Listening to the voice of God is not meant to be magical or mystical. Hearing God’s voice in the midst of busy lives, emotional pain, or even temptation comes with practice

and takes discernment. But if you are regularly reading the Bible, it won’t be long before you begin to know the Shepherd’s voice. (John 10:4).” “My Partner Prayer Notebook” By Becky Tirabassi

I’m beginning to think I could put nothing in this book but Scripture and it would say all I am trying to convey, but with so much more power and eloquence. I believe that God intends for us to love one another. He told us so in (at the very least) the following Scriptures (content of each of these Scriptures may be found in the reference section at the back of this book):

Matthew 19:19, Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; John 13:34 & 35; John 15:12 & 17; John 17: 26; Romans 13: 8,9&10; Galatians 5: 13& 14; Ephesians 4:2; Ephesians 5:2; Colossians 1:4; 1 Timothy 3:12; 1 Timothy 4:9; Hebrews 13:1; James 2:8; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 2: 17; 1 Peter 3:8; 1 John 2:15; 1 John 3: 11 & 23; 1 John 4:7, 11,12& 21; 1 John 5:2; and 2 John 5

I count 32 Scripture references above that declare that we should love one another, and love your neighbor as yourself. You think maybe God was trying to make a point?

Matthew 19:19 – “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Matthew 22:39 – “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Mark 12:31 – “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

John 13:34 – “ye also love one another.” John 13:35 – “have love one to another.” John 15:12 – “love one another as I have loved you.”

(The bold italicized lettering indicates that Jesus our Lord is speaking.) And in 2 Corinthians 1:3&4, the inspired Word of God reminds us: All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. (NLT)

I could go on and on, verse after verse. But do you see what I see in John 15:12?

I’m going to repeat it for emphasis:

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This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.”

“…as I have loved you.”

Can we even stand to think about what that would mean to us? How it would affect our lives? Could we even hope to attain such a degree of selfless love? For in all 32 of the above-listed Scripture references, I found a common denominator. Zero. Zero qualifications. Zero conditions. Zero questions. Just love. Pure love. Unconditional love.

I love that, because unconditional love spells H-O-P-E. H for Happiness (joy); O for Opportunity; P for Purpose; and E for Endurance. Hope for the downtrodden. Hope for the misunderstood and misplaced. Hope for you; and hope for me, the chief of all sinners.

Sometimes life hurts to the core. It just does. There’s no way around it.

Some people sit in the driver’s seat and pound on the steering wheel, or run around the school track in the middle of the night, crying out to God, in an effort to get through the pain. To gain ground. To get understanding, and wisdom. Desperate measures for desperate times. Not pretty, but sometimes necessary to get past the initial shock, the initial realization that life will never be the same again. Even that love will never be the same again. The one chance we had at innocence and purity, long gone. Fear of the unknown can be crippling. Paralyzing. We turn to anything and anyone that might ease the pain. We bury our hearts in the sand. We wonder what other people will say when they find out. When our hearts are shattered, and our homes get put on the market; when the nights are long and the days are dreary, what recourse do we have? We have only one viable recourse—Jesus, as Lord of our lives. Because with Jesus comes the Holy Spirit, the fuel that empowers our feet to take the next step. The whisper of direction so we know which step to take. And we have each other.

Because life comes at us hard and fast. If our feet are not anchored in the foundation of Jesus Christ, we will be swept out into the sea of despair. Hang on to Him for dear life.

You would probably like to miss the deep, overwhelming sorrow that comes with standing up to your grief. I get that. But there is so much more of life still left to live that you don’t want to miss. Every smile or hug you might share with your child. The dawn that greets a new day. The laughter you will share with a loved one. Your birthday. The celebration of Christ’s birth, and His resurrection. The love of a godly man—or the bliss of embracing your singleness. It’s all possible. Philippians 4:13 says so: “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”

All things.

You know as well as I do, that experiencing divorce begins after the court hearing. It’s ugly. No doubt. I’ve been there. And it’s a long journey home. But a long journey begins with a first step, then a second, and a third. At first, it feels like we’re walking in the dark. But trust in God, and hang on, for joy comes in the morning. Make your steps intentional. Along the way, love someone who is hurting. Help someone who feels lost. Listen to someone who needs an empathetic ear. Trust God. Believe that Romans 8:28 is meant for you: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (NLT)

CHAPTER 3

“V” IS FOR VICTORY

The pattern had grown almost predictable. I was carrying my fourth last name since the date of my birth and standing in front of my third family court judge. This time, I had filed the papers myself, without the aid of an attorney. Just another routine hearing, really. No property settlement. No children. No contest. In the legal field it’s called a no-fault divorce. No big deal, right? I had been “wronged” three times, and after every disappointment, I made sure I set it “right”. It made sense to me at the time.

Young and confident and living without regard for the lives of others and without respect for my raisin’. I never said that. I just lived it (out loud). Like divorce wouldn’t one day impact my own life, scar my own heart? Pretty pitiful—even for a lost soul.

But God did get hold of me—more than once. Have I mentioned that getting a divorce as a Christian parent cost me many a sleepless night? That the words I heard repeated back to me during my dreams, caused those dreams to turn to nightmares? They were my words. My harsh voice, retaliating, shouting, crying out against the unfairness of it all. “Lost as a goose in a snow storm,” as my Grandpa used to say. Regret and guilt and anguish flooded my soul every waking hour.

I’m sorry, but divorce or no divorce, a person cannot live abundantly under that kind of agony and self-hatred. One can merely exist, and manage to put one foot in front of the other. Maybe. That is not what God wants for us. He loves us, even though He knows all of our dirty little secrets. And trust me on this, divorce—even multiple divorces—is not the only dirty little secret out there. Jesus did not single us out to live in abject misery for our entire span of life on this earth. We are not cursed to wander in the wilderness until we die off. How do I know this? Because I walk in victory every day of my life. Because Jesus still whispers my name (as Max Lucado says) and keeps His promises.

Because He still hears and answers my prayers (I’m sure of this because “Wait” is still His favorite answer).

But let me share an experience with you that confirmed, without a doubt, that He still speaks to me (no matter where I’ve been or what I’ve done):

It’s Thursday morning and I’m getting ready for work. I’s a blue, blue Thursday, because on that Tuesday morning my husband and I had put every drop of savings from three separate accounts in a certified mail envelope and sent it to the IRS. Two weeks of zero income loomed ahead of me, and I was feeling put-upon and injured, and just plain mad. My husband left for work before I did (at that time, he had to drive an hour, one way). I usually drag myself out of bed when he is on his way out the door. This particular Thursday, my spirits were down and my attitude, poor. My routine consists of a stop in the latrine, then I shuffle over to the radio and turn on the nearest Christian station to help motivate me to face the day. But on this dark day, the Lord knew what I needed to hear even more than an uplifting song. I needed to hear His voice. Three steps away from the radio dial, I heard Him, in my heart of hearts, whisper, “Do you trust Me?” It still shakes me up to think about it. Like a knife, His words pierced my soul. I collapsed on the side of the bed, in tears. “Yes, Lord, You know I trust You. Please help me trust You more.”

We spent a good ten minutes on the side of my unmade bed. I wept. My Savior held me and let me cry it out.

No matter your opinion of me in light of my past, I know that my Savior loves me, notices the aggravations of this world that affect me on a daily basis, and cares about the quality of life for me, His kid, His princess, His heir, if you will. Yes, Jesus loves me, this I know, and not just because the Bible tells me so. I know because He is real in my life.

In my daily Bible reading today, He reminded me in Psalm 91:14-16:

“14The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name.
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When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor

them. 16I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”

My heart broke at the question that the Lord had asked me that morning, because the asking made it apparent that my attitude and worrying translated into a major lack of trust. A lack of faith. The feeling gave me some insight into how Peter may have felt that morning on the beach when Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?” Not once, but three times.

Jesus had a purpose in that encounter with Peter, and He had a purpose in meeting me right where I was.

He cooked and served breakfast to a disciple who had denied Him three times. He did not condemn Peter to an eternity in hell. Rather, He loved him, and invited Peter to carry on the work of the Lord. Carry on. And we all know Peter could not do that without a relationship with Jesus. God forgives. We ask. He delivers. Every time, for anything we ask Him to forgive.

My husband for 20 years now is my hero. My spiritual mentor. No one knows me better (other than my Savior)—and just like Jesus, my husband loves me anyway. I would even go so far as to say he likes me. I never had that before; and that is no exaggeration. Never. I still pinch myself when I think about it. At the time of this writing, I am pushing 60, I’m on the plump side, and I am still trying to learn how to be a good steward of money whom God could be proud of. And you know how my husband feels about all that? My age doesn’t scare him (he’s a year older), and says he would rather have me than two girls half my age who can’t remember the “oldies” records or appreciate the attributes of a ‘60s muscle car. He would be glad for me to lose weight if my health would be enhanced (which of course it would), but he only gives me accolades about how “cute” I still am (we dated in high school, when I really was). And as for the money thing—we both struggle to be all God wants us to be. We take one day at a time and try to listen for the Lord’s guidance in that area. We pay our

tithe (because it is a command from the Lord—the only one He requests we “test” Him on—see Malachi 3:10) and the Lord continues to bless us, beyond measure. The point is, Christ matters at our house. My husband and I are on the same spiritual page and respect each other for who we are. Our relationship has grown comfortable, even closer than before, more precious with each passing year. To God be the glory!

The struggle for a happy marriage has been overcome. However, the emotional struggle with self-acceptance, the battle with guilt, self-consciousness, self-worth and learning to love myself still raises its ugly head on occasion. I do now, what I did in the beginning. I turn to the Bible for comfort. I pray in the Spirit when words fail me. I spend time alone in meditation. As time goes by, I can feel another layer of fear and doubt peel away. The onion isn’t quite so stinky as it used to be.

I know what some of you are thinking. It’s not that easy in a step family. You’re right. Step parenting requires finesse and balance. Learning to be part-mother, part-friend. It takes honesty and unconditional love, and forgiveness, and acceptance.

My mother is a realtor. One of my stepdaughters needed to sell a house after they had been called to a new church many miles away. Her family gave the listing to my mother. Things didn’t go perfectly. Inspection problems, unexpected water leaks. You know the drill. And it hurt my heart. I wanted, so much, for all to go well for the family selling the house, the family buying the house, and of course, for my mother. I had to make a difficult call to tell Carol about

one of these problems, and I became overwhelmed with grief. She asked me why I was crying. I told her what I just told you. A few days later, I received a card from her. Elvis was on the cover. The inside read: Thank you. Thank you very much. But the words she penned by hand are the words she has given me permission to share with you:

I know that a card is not a lot (even a really funny card), but I hope that you guys know how much we appreciate all of your help! Kathy, when you were crying on the phone the other day—my eyes were opened to how much you really care about me and my family. I don’t want to say that I doubted that before, but I always sort of felt like a burden and I guess I just ignorantly thought you felt that I was as well. So, I’m sorry for ever thinking that way. I just wanted to let you know how much it means to me that you guys care so much. We love you and can’t thank you enough! Carol

I’m pretty sure I was never a role model for the position of stepmother. But a card like this makes the effort worthwhile and the insurmountable fear, conquerable. This card still sits on the shelf in my kitchen, proudly displayed. So I say, if you have to eat humble pie, eat it. If you have to say you’re sorry, say it. But whatever you do, have the uneasy discussions with your spouse in private; keep a united front. Pray together, go to church as a family, and work it out. Please try, especially before you walk out. Please learn from my mistakes. Please. Every experience we have (whether it feels good or bad) is designed by our Maker to be a learning, molding, growing experience. Be grateful. Be kind. Have fun. Be serious. Be real. Be

sincere. Even in the midst of all my mistakes, I loved every one of my stepchildren, past and present. Still do.

In His own words, the Lord gives us difficult instructions in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:
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Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and

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glorify your Father in heaven. Try the following verses from Matthew 5 (again, in the words of our Savior, Jesus Christ) on for size, especially in a step family:
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“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone

who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

The “rules” apply to all of us—no matter our station, our status, or whether we are married or single. Do the right thing. Love your neighbor as yourself.

And we can’t talk about marriage and relationships without a reminder of God’s guidance in Ephesians 5 (NIV):

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Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as

Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
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But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity,

or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.
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For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for

the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every

opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make

music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Instructions for Christian Households:
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Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is

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the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
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Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to

make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
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However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must

respect her husband. If you skipped all that because it looked like a bunch of Scripture, stop—go back, and read every word. Listen with your heart. Allow the Holy Spirit to interpret the message, in the way He wants you to hear it, just for you, for the time and space you find yourself in today.

These verses contain some heavy stuff that pricks our hearts and consciences. It points fingers at us while stroking our egos at the same time. It makes us think, and cringe. Combine Ephesians 5 and John 3:16-17, and you have a recipe for life while we are here on earth, as well as the key to life everlasting. John 3:16-17 (NIV)
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For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him

shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Needless to say, and painfully obvious, I did not, in any way, shape or form, “deserve” for the Lord to send such a special guy for me. I didn’t deserve to have two wonderful children and three very special stepchildren (twice). However, as a child of the King, I will never get what I deserve, because I deserve to burn and be tortured for an eternity in the pits of hell. I deserve for God to wash His hands of me. So, why didn’t He do that? Just take me out the first time I messed up—the first, second, third, or fourth time I got divorced? Well, I’ll tell you. Because God is longsuffering. God is merciful. God is love.

God is love—and He offers that love to everyone. Anyone and everyone who will accept it. Did you hear that? Anyone and everyone—no matter where you’ve been; no matter what you’ve done (or how many times you’ve done it). He makes it simple. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? What could be simple about a miracle, right? Well, my friend, simple is the miracle.

It couldn’t have been simple for the Son of God to turn His back on heaven, come to earth in the form of a babe, to be raised up for execution. It couldn’t have been simple for God to ask it of Him. It couldn’t have been simple to be rejected and ridiculed, mocked and beaten, and hanged on a tree to bear the sin of the world, every sin, for every generation that had ever been, that would ever be. To die, be buried, and spend three days waiting for His own resurrection (I would have loved to witness Him taking the keys of death and hell away from old Satan!). All of that for a world of people who hated Him, and hate Him still. I’m thinking simple has no part in that equation. However, in spite of us, He did it all so we could live with Him for eternity, where there will be no more sin, no more tears, no more sickness, no more sorrow, no more death.

1 Corinthians 15:3 (NIV)
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For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins

according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

Let me repeat. Believe and receive God’s free gift of grace. The complexity of His sacrifice paved the way to simplicity for our redemption.

Here I go repeating again. But it is important for the benefit of anyone who, up to this point, did not feel worthy of love. Not from any other human being, much less God. Think about it. The beautiful thing is that God doesn’t require any of us to be worthy. Good thing. Listen to the words of John 3:16 again: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NKJ)

My husband accepted the Lord as Savior and Lord of his life in 1979. I had been divorced three times and married again for three years before the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the fact that I had not. Then, at a revival meeting in Mesquite, Texas on February 23, 1983, I broke down and saw the ugly selfishness of the life I had led. No more blaming the men whom I had accused of hurting me. No more wishing my childhood experiences with my dad and my uncle had been different. No more. It was time to face the fact that I was a sinner bound for hell just like any other person who did not accept the free gift of salvation. All I had to do was acknowledge that fact, ask God to forgive me of my sin, and ask Jesus into my heart to be my Savior and Lord. I can still feel the relief as an immense weight lifted off of me. Eternity in heaven with Jesus has a beautiful ring to it. I can feel by the way some of you are looking at me—you think, “I already know Jesus as my Savior. It’s not eternity I’m worried about. It’s the here and now that is giving me so much trouble.” I hear you. I am living proof that we don’t all wake up the morning after our salvation experience feeling spotless and whole and sin-free—even though that is exactly how our Savior sees us.

I have spent the past 25 years dealing with the past, or ignoring the past, or being plagued by the past. A dear friend of mine put it this way: “I knew Jesus died on the cross to save us all from sin. He was God. He said He would do it, and He did. But it took me years and years and years to realize that He did it because He loves me. Jesus loves ME.” That, I am sure you will agree, is a comforting revelation. Do you believe Jesus loves you, just as much as He loves the put-together-classy-lady seated on the opposite of the sanctuary from you? You know the one. She’s at least cute, maybe even beautiful, looks like she never swallowed even one bite of apple pie or indulged in a vanilla cream Dr. Pepper, or had a burger and fries for lunch. Her family appears to be blessed beyond any measure of blessing you will ever know, and everyone adores her. Yeah. No wonder Jesus died for her. But don’t kid yourself (and I am saying this with a huge measure of empathy), her family struggles, too. She struggles, too. In one area or another, there are issues she needs to deal with. Issues she might even be mortified for anyone else to know about. If you could get inside her head—no—if you could get inside her heart, you would witness the same private weeping and fear and unrest that we all must deal with at some point in our lives. Don’t ask her. She won’t tell you. But she may be telling God all about it during her early morning run, or in the shower, or in the midst of a praise and worship song on Sunday morning. The best thing we can do is love her, pray for God to bless her socks off—and then go about quietly dealing with our own issues, our own hang-ups, our own insecurities. Call a sister in Christ if you need to. Email me. Call me. Call your pastor. Call anyone you feel led to call. He tells us in Proverbs 15:21-23 (NIV):

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Folly brings joy to one who has no sense, but whoever has understanding keeps a straight

course. 22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.
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A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!

And in Psalm 1:1-3 (NIV):
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Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners

take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. 3That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

But please, do not neglect to call on God. He is the only friend you have who understands everything about you. He’s the only one who knows the origin of your pain, and the remedy that will work best for you. Invite Him into your heart, into a quiet place where you can visit without interruption, and let Him love on you. Let Him be the dad you never had, the husband who left or passed away, the friend you can spill your guts to, knowing that your deepest hurts or insecurities will not end up on the gossip circuit.

Claim Psalm 91 (NIV) over your life, your household, your family: Psalm 91
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Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.

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He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness

will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
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You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his

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angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
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“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he

acknowledges my name.
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He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and

honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Rest in that, my friend. Believe, receive, and rest in the Lord, for He keeps His promises.

CHAPTER 4

“O” IS FOR OPPORTUNITY

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and he saves those whose spirits have been crushed. Psalm 34:18

Sarah sat frozen to the spot, a hand clenched on either side of her Bible, her knuckles white from the effort. She could hardly believe what the Sunday school teacher had said to her, out loud, in front of the entire class—a room full of friends whom she had been attending church with for more than ten years. She pressed her lips together to keep from saying what she felt. Even such cruelty could not justify the harsh retaliation that bounced around in her head. Being a Christian woman—she couldn’t say it. Wouldn’t let herself. She closed her eyes in an effort to block the flow of tears. It didn’t work. Long after she had been left alone in the room to ponder the scathing she had received, she sat there—perplexed, scorned,

any confidence or hope she may have grown to rely upon since the divorce (now more than 15 years past)—shattered.

The organ music sounded from inside the sanctuary as Sarah walked along the sidewalk toward her car. She remembered now that she had arrived earlier than expected (even before the coffee drinkers) in anticipation of the joyous time of worship she always looked forward to on Sunday mornings. She brushed another tear from her cheek, overcome with the realization that this morning had slammed shut that door. She would never cross the threshold of that church building again. The fact that her very best friend in all the world remained a member would not dissuade her. She was done. Finished.

For many years, Sarah had battled the guilt of being a divorced Christian—even though (according to Scripture) there had been Biblical grounds. And now she found herself back at square one. Had the Sunday school teacher been right to call her a harlot? Had divorce stripped her of any worthiness, all decency, all privilege as a child of God?

Of course not.

Quadriplegics, AIDS victims, or the terminally ill. Single parents. Alcoholics. Divorcees. The blind. All, to one degree or another, shunned by the “normal world”. Society doesn’t

know what to do with them. And, sadly, even the church doesn’t know. They often would find a warmer reception at the corner bar than in a Sunday school class. But Jesus would find a place for them. God Came Near – p. 29 Max Lucado

“Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom?” James 2:5 (NIV)

"The art of a smile and nod when all you wanted was to punch them in the face. Love." (from a post my daughter put on Facebook)

We have an opportunity to step out of the dark recesses of our past, connect with each other, encourage one another, and share God’s love in a real way. I experienced a taste of this incredible level of agape love on a Walk to Emmaus (an amazing three-day spiritual journey without cell phones or watches). I sat and listened for 30 minutes as a godly woman poured out her personal story—in public—so similar to my own that my heart stirred as it had not been stirred since the hour of my conversion. I had spent years and years working hard for no one to know the me I used to be. I was a “good Christian woman” married to a godly man. We attended church three times a week and were diligent about keeping our children in church as well, teaching them by example.

My jaw dropped. This lovely lady, whom I knew only as “a good Christian woman married to a godly man”, stood before a crowd of virtual strangers, and bared her soul. Relief flooded my own soul, and I knew in that moment that I would have to do the same. And you know what? Not long after that day, God granted me the opportunity to share my story from the other side of that podium on another Walk to Emmaus. I knew in my heart that I must be willing to share my story, on the outside chance it might help someone else find freedom in the release of their own story—if not publicly, then privately— between herself and God, or herself and a trusted friend. Or both. I never dreamed then that God would call me to write this book. To put my sordid past down on paper and expose myself to the world. I wouldn’t have picked this assignment for myself. There’s a lot at stake. My own exposure, which isn’t quite so scary as it once was—but, the greatest stake is the possibility that a life, struggling with her past, might be set free. If I didn’t heed God’s call, I know, without a doubt, that God would get His work done through someone else. He doesn’t need me; but He has asked me, and I don’t want to miss the fellowship and the blessing that will come when I get to know you and hear how God has redeemed you unto Himself. Nor do I want to miss the fellowship and blessing I will receive sitting alone with the Creator of the universe, listening. Feeling His great arms around me, experiencing the squeeze of emotion that warms my heart. I want that. I need it. He speaks to my heart at such times. I can feel the warmth of His smile as we sit together. I can’t see Him; but I can sense His presence. Like I said before, “Jesus loves me. This I know.” I’m asking that you “pay it forward”. Carry the torch that burns within your soul, and light up the path to show another hurting soul the way. His way.

“Great advice,” you might say. “And how do you presume we do that?” Well, let me think about it. You might try the following (it worked for me, and a few of my close friends, as well):

1. Be alert. How well do you know the people you attend church with? Pay attention to their

prayer requests—then follow-up by actually praying an intercessory prayer; but also by inquiring about the way God may have answered that prayer request. “Yes” isn’t always the evidence of answered prayer, you know (I learned this the hard way). In my own experience, answers come more like “No”, “Wait”, and then, finally, “Yes” (maybe, in God’s time). Our faith must not waiver in the face of a “No”, especially since God always knows what He is doing. He is never lost, never wrong, and never late. We must trust Him, for He only wants what is best for us. We are, after all, His children.

2. Be honest. When the Lord speaks to your heart in a way that would bring glory to His

name, and offer hope to another, share your story. Share your truth. Share your victory. You may never know, unless you obey, how it feels to be part of that victory for another struggling soul. Someone much like you, who may have lived in fear of exposure, like I did. Oftentimes, God uses the obedience of His children to help someone else find their way into the light. Someone only you can reach. Someone who trusts you and would be willing to open up to. Someone I may never know, even in passing. The Lord will impress upon you when it is time to offer an ear, an hour, or simply a hug. If you ask, and pay attention.

Show up. Share. Shun the darkness.

Do the hard thing—give of yourself for the good of another.

3. Be transparent. Let it show, so people who walk where you have walked will see what

miracle God has worked in you, and be willing to trust Him for a miracle of their own.

4. Be victorious. Walk in it. Love in it. Remember where you’ve been so that you never,

ever forget why you have a story to share. We, you and I, are living, breathing, vibrant, victorious children of God. The rough roads we have traveled have led us to this place; and what a blessed place to be!

Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation garden of your life. (Paraphrase by Eugene Peterson of James 1:19-21) In the New Living Translation, James 1:19-21 reads as follows:
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My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20Your

anger can never make things right in God’s sight.
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So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the message God has planted

in your hearts, for it is strong enough to save your souls.

Whatever circumstance you find yourself in—live, breathe, and find your being in Christ. His love understands divorce. His grace makes a way to enjoy a new life. His mercy provides a way for us to not get what we deserve—the very definition of God’s love, mercy and grace. We have choices. Choices before we get a divorce. Choices in the midst of divorce, and choices following divorce. Believe me, if you open your heart, love waits for you, in one form or another. In His great wisdom, He knew I would need a strong spiritual leader, and brought my path and my husband’s path together in marital bliss. Who knows what God has in store for you? A single life can be just as enriched and fulfilling as anyone’s life that is Lord-led. In 1 Corinthians 7:32-40 (NIV), Paul expresses this idea in words inspired by God Himself.

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I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s

affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
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If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to,

and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. 37 But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind

not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. 38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.
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A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to

marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. 40 In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

There you go. Marry. Don’t marry—whichever serves the Lord best in your particular situation.

From “No Wonder They Call Him the Savior” by Max Lucado – page 35:

“If there was anything that Jesus wanted everyone to understand it was this: A person is worth something simply because he is a person. That is why he treated people the way he did. Think about it. The girl caught making undercover thunder with someone she shouldn’t—he forgave her. The untouchable leper who asked for cleansing—he touched him.”

God has called us to be like Jesus. Not sorta like Jesus; but a mirror image. Perfect. Accepting. Loving. Giving. Just like Jesus.

One more word. Remember the classy lady I mentioned in the previous chapter? Well, in church last Sunday morning, the Lord humbled me and set me free—all in one great sweep of His mighty hand. He opened my eyes and helped me see myself.

I once held unforgiveness toward this very classy, very lovely lady who sits on the other side of the congregation from me, for years—not days, weeks, or even months—but years. I recognized this fact awhile back. But not until recently did I ask the ladies in my Emmaus reunion group to help pray it out of me. I did feel released from unforgiveness; yet last Sunday morning the Lord showed me that I still carried another stinky layer that placed a wedge between myself and this classy lady, whom God has blessed in so many ways that I believed God had not blessed me. She is the only wife of one husband (this blessing I took from myself voluntarily). God has also been generous with her on a financial level. He reminded me today that I am a child of the King, and I have never been forsaken, nor have I ever begged for bread. And this very special friend is also petite and thin (this blessing I took from myself as well by a simple lack of discipline). Suddenly (or not…so…suddenly) I realized the next stinky layer had a name. Envy. I envied her for all the blessings God had bestowed on her, without any consideration for what trials of her own she may have endured along the way. Without the slightest inkling of how hard she had to work to achieve her station in life. God blessed her, yes. But not necessarily because she was “her” and not “me”. Had I been more careful with my own choices, my own discipline, my own direction, perhaps I would be the classy lady on the other side of the auditorium causing someone else to envy me. But hear my heart. Had I made all the right choices, had practiced discipline all along, and had kept my nose to the grindstone…had I “understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2b).

You see? I did not love her; I held a grudge. I did not love her; I envied her. Therefore, I was nothing; and God, being true to His character, could not (rather than would not) bless me. To forgive is to be forgiven.

That door swings both ways, my friend. I responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit just minutes before communion at church this morning (go to your brother and make things right before you lay your gift at the altar, as it advises in Matthew 5:23-24). Not so miraculously, this lady I begrudged and envied asked me to forgive her for any time she may have hurt my spirit. She said she loved me and thought I was beautiful! I was speechless. On a normal day, I would not necessarily consider myself either blessed or beautiful. I was wrong. I am blessed and beautiful. I am blessed, for God has chosen me. I am beautiful, because God the Father has washed me white as snow. I am loved beyond measure. I am accepted without condition. Indeed, there is freedom in the bondage of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

I faced my fear that morning—so that I could face tomorrow—without any.

CHAPTER 5

“R” IS FOR RESTORATION

RESTORATION, according to Wesbster—restoring to an unimpaired or improved condition.

After four divorces and two small children to care for, I slowed down enough to realize I was in bad need of restoration. I did not wish to be merely unimpaired; I needed to wake up in an improved condition.

I had to pick my husband’s brain for this illustration, but I think you will be glad I did. Guess what a restorer does, first thing, when he begins the restoration process on a car. He takes it apart—every last piece of it—down to the smallest grommet (a rubber washer that comes in various shapes and sizes). I know what that feels like, being taken apart, piece by piece. One relationship at a time, one limb at a time, until I had been stripped down to a bare-bones frame. It was going to take a lot of work to put me back together.

But guess what—hope lives in the second interesting fact about auto restorers: They know every single thing about the car they wish to restore. The really dedicated restorer can tell you where the parts were manufactured, right down to that smallest grommet.

There is a Scripture like unto such a knowing.

Psalm 139 For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. (NIV)
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You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you

perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.
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You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too

wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
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Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the

heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
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My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven

together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

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How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count

them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.

Have you been hurt by divorce? “You have no idea,” you might say.

But in some cases, the aftermath can hurt even more. I know the pain of divorce—from experience. Some might even consider me the Queen of Divorce. I am agonizingly familiar with the devastation, humiliation and guilt. But I’m talking, here, about a sharper pain even than divorce. I’m talking the Jesus-Judas kind of pain. The Caesar-Brutus kind of pain. I’m talking the pain of a knife between the shoulder blades —that is wielded by the hand of a friend. I believe we could get past the pain of divorce and live in peace, if we could find a safe harbor in which to heal. Maybe we can find one together.

I have written this book for two reasons—no wait—make that three: 1. I felt such a strong calling on my life from the Lord that I couldn’t run fast enough to keep it from catching up with me;
2. I am convinced, and am living proof, that there is life after the “D” word and that divorce

is not the unpardonable sin; and
3. I want—more than anything—more than I want to stay anchored in the harbor, safe from

any more storms, more than I want strangers to know my story and make myself a target of ridicule, more than I want to sit at home every night in the comfort and security of my

husband’s love and acceptance. More than anything, I want you, my friend, to know the peace that surpasses all understanding, the sweet awareness that Jesus loves you, and the joy that comes only from the Lord.

I want you to experience unconditional love—this side of heaven. I want to offer you a safe harbor. I want you to run and not grow weary, to walk and not faint. I want you to experience abundant life, and I want the euphoria to be real. Only one man can give you that kind of life. That kind of love. Maybe you already know Him. Maybe you don’t. His name is Jesus. Come with me. Come see this man who told me everything I have ever done. Come experience the gentleness of the Christ who wrote in the sand, waiting patiently as each of your accusers walks away without casting even one stone in your direction. It’s time to shed the sackcloth and wash off the ashes. To walk in the joy of your salvation. It’s time to experience the Master who made you a princess and longs to lavish His love on you. Come see this Man.

CHAPTER 6

“C” IS FOR CONVICTION

“C” IS FOR CONVICTION—not condemnation. The Holy Spirit says (as paraphrased by Derrick Looney), “Yeah. You messed up.” Condemnation is Satan saying that God will never forgive you because of what you’ve done.

My poor mother. I would not have wanted to be her during my reckless years. Thank you, Mother, for the prayers that I know have sustained me. Being a mother of grown children myself, I can now identify with some of her pain. Right out of high school, I got married. We were 18 and 19. Four years later, we divorced. I married the first man I dated after that. Two years later, we divorced. I married the man who helped me get out of town, running from another failed marriage. One year later, we divorced. I married my barber, the first man I dated after my third divorce. Three years into the marriage I got saved (accepted God’s free gift of grace). Not until that moment in time did I even consider

the havoc I had created. The ripples of consequences that would crash into me in the future. Not until then did I realize how much difference my actions could make to someone else’s life. My fourth husband had three children before we married. I got pregnant the first month after we married, then had another child four and one-half years later. Ten years after we married, we divorced. Although all of us from that painful season have experienced a measure of forgiveness, it still breaks my heart to think about what ripples I helped stir up to create more havoc in the lives of five children who had been plunged into a situation without any say, who now carry some painful memories of their own. That divorce rocked my world. The last thing I ever wanted to be was a divorced parent. A divorced Christian parent tripled that agony. No question about it. I lived under conviction. The confusion between conviction and condemnation grew heavy, until I fell under the weight of it. For three miserable years, it seemed I carried the burden alone.

Why is it so important to know when we are under conviction from the Holy Spirit rather than condemnation from Satan?

In the words of our Savior, Jesus Christ: John 16:8-11.
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“When he [the Counselor] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to

sin and righteousness and judgment; 9in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer;
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and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” (NKJ)

The Holy Spirit convicts of sin so that we might repent and turn away from sin. Romans 3: 23 & 24 remind us: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (NKJ)

So, you see, it’s not that we can even hope to stop sinning (become sinless) as a consequence of salvation, but that, as the years pass and we grow closer to our Savior through communication with Him through His Word and the comfort and counsel of the Holy Spirit, we will, with great awe and wonder, sin less and less as our day of redemption draws nigh, when we will live forever in heaven with our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Rejoice in your conviction, which led to repentance and salvation, for you are not condemned.

Isaiah 50:9. It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me. Who is he that will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.

But be aware, and remember:

Mark 16: 15-16. [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Rejoice in your salvation and share the Gospel. Jesus also said in John 3: 16-18.
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”For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only

Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send

his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (NKJ)

Are you asking yourself what all this has to do with divorce recovery? That’s fine. It’s a valid question. And the best way I know how to answer, is this. There are a myriad of emotions involved when one experiences divorce: i.e., anger, depression, discouragement, doubting God, to forgive or not to forgive, grief, loneliness, rejection, weakness, fear, etc., etc. Each one of those, individually, can be devastating. Bundle them all together, and the load can be downright debilitating. So much so, that it can be a chore to put one foot in front of the other. And if you have children, you are not only dealing with your own emotions, you are forced to take care of your children’s daily needs first. You are left to explain why their mother or father is no longer under the same roof. Why there is an empty chair at the table. You try, earnestly, to convince them that the break-up was not their fault, that both parents still love them. Breakfast has to be prepared. Lunches packed. You have to go to work (even if you have never worked outside the home). You have to make arrangements for some sort of daycare for the children, even if it’s just for after school. The list goes on and on.

From “My Partner Prayer Notebook” by Becky Tirabassi www.changeyourlifedaily.com

“Sometimes, as we grow in our relationship with God, our tendency is to avoid confessing sin on a daily basis. Perhaps we are too busy and forget, or we may put it off until we have time to really work it out. Quite often, we just don’t want to recognize or admit that we are separating ourselves from God and others by holding grudges, repeatedly blowing up with uncontrolled anger, or hanging on to bad attitudes and habits. “The continual struggle in understanding the broad scope of sin is that our society encourages us to walk in opposite ways from what the Bible teaches. But being in a right relationship with God and others includes owning up to our mistakes and shortcomings. To confess our faults and disappointments to God each day makes it hard for those comfortable sins (like jealousy, gossip and anger) to take hold and become habits in our lives. Avoiding the truth, or covering up our sins to spare ourselves from embarrassment, can lead to worse problems, and even more distance to our relationships, or even cause physical problems.”

My primary goal is to offer a pathway to deliverance for those of us who find ourselves struggling with re-entering the world and living a “normal” life following the agony of divorce. Becky Tirabassi’s work is an excellent resource to use in restoring our relationship with our Savior (or begin one, if that fits your situation). Becky Tirabassi developed a partner for quiet time, “My Partner Prayer Notebook” as an aid. I highly recommend it. In fact, read everything you can get your hands on that will help you find your way back.

Rejoice in the Lord always! And again, I say, “Rejoice!”

The next time that obnoxious neighbor Doubt walks in, escort him out. Out to the hill. Out to Calvary. Out to the cross where, with holy blood, the hand that carried the flame wrote the promise, “God would give up his son before he’d give up on you.” Six Hours One Friday – p. 190 Max Lucado

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1,2 (NKJ)

Chapter 7

“E” IS FOR EVERYONE

Everyone can know freedom, true love, acceptance, forgiveness. Every one of us can walk in peace. I am living proof. If it could happen for me, it can happen for anyone.

My children and I saved coins for a special treat at the Laundromat. We learned to pull together as a unit. We loved each other and cried when we had to be separated. We struggled and prayed and laughed and cried. Those were the toughest and most rewarding years of our relationship. In the midst of our sorrow, God brought peace. In the midst of loneliness, God brought companionship. In the midst of want, God sent provision. “Mercy and grace, He gave us at the cross”, as the popular song says. That’s right. In all my self-absorbed, pitiful blubbering, God reminded me that no matter how deserted I felt, He had not left me alone in the wilderness. I

took my babies to Sunday school and church. I sang in the choir. And I fought my own battle with doubt and self-esteem, and fear and rejection. Failed relationships continued to plague me. I dated, and acted like a fool. I lost my focus. I clung to my children until I must have felt like an anchor around their necks. I really don’t know. I ached for acceptance, for true love. I didn’t look closely at the evidence, at the probable consequence of dating this man or that. I felt ugly, and wanted to feel cute again. I felt lonely, and wanted companionship. Please be careful. There are worse fates than loneliness. There are greater rewards than admiration. I ran in the wrong direction, seeking some measure of loveliness, some degree of worth. I had become engaged to a man who did not make church attendance a priority. Had we married, beer would have found its way into my refrigerator. (I can scarcely believe I came so close to allowing such a thing, considering all of the heartache and destruction I had witnessed as alcoholism raged through the lives of my stepchildren. The agony I had shared with them because of its influence). That is a personal call, and no reflection on any choice you or your family might make. But for me and my children, it would have been a way wrong decision. The Lord carried me in my careless ways and my total self-absorption. For in His mercy, He led this man to break off our engagement. I am so very grateful. Had he not, I would have been destined for yet another failed marriage.

Do you know what it feels like to ramble around inside a big, dark, empty house—for years— only to realize you’ve been carrying a flashlight in your hand—complete with batteries? I do.

I have never been too fond of mirror time—you know, when the Lord uses people, circumstances, places and things to show us our true selves. When pointing fingers has to stop and you realize you are responsible for your own actions. It hurts; and it breaks your heart. I didn’t know where to begin. Guilt overwhelmed me. I worried about how my poor choices might adversely affect my children. I agonized over how to fix the mess I had made of my life. I had been attending church services, but felt far removed from my Lord. Distant and selfabsorbed, I had wandered into a desert of my own making.

Romans 12:19-21:

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Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is

written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Ephesians 4:31-32. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Depression

Psalm 34:17. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.

Isaiah 43: 2,3. 2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
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For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Isaiah 40:31. But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. 2 Corinthians 1:3&4. Praise be to the Goad and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1: 3&4 is what I am trying to do with the time I have left. When I take the time to ponder my story, “it’s a wonder I can think at all”, to quote Simon & Garfunkel. To realize that I survived four divorces, cared for and loved a total of eight children, and have enjoyed and loved 10 grandchildren (to date), and have been blessed with the love of a godly man for more than 20 years, is mind boggling. The road I have traveled has been hazardous, at worst—miraculous, at best. I DO NOT recommend this model for learning in order to become humble and moldable. As I look back, I am very grateful for what the Emmaus community refers to as “prevenient grace”—protection over our lives while the Lord prepares our hearts to receive His free gift of grace. It is my turn to help others realize that no matter what road your personal travels have taken you down in regard to divorce, there isn’t much I can’t identify with, not much I haven’t agonized over, and not much I have not been forgiven of. The Lord has rescued me from myself, and from my past. He has turned my sorrow to joy and resurrected beauty from ashes—and He can, of course, do the same for you.

Overcoming Discouragement

1 Peter 1:6-9. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Philippians 4:6-8. 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 minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Psalm 138:7. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me.

John 14:27. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I suddenly realized that I didn’t want to waste any more years going to Sunday school by myself, and I definitely did not want to marry a man who had no interest in attending Sunday school and church. The Lord got hold of me and made me look myself in the eye, and in the heart. What do you suppose happened after that?

O, Victory in Jesus! I remember being ecstatic, fearful, hopeful, giddy, and a complete wreck. My current, and final, husband and I had voiced the possibility of our union in marriage the day before. I was alone in the house, my children gone to visit their father. I sat up in the middle of the bed, my Bible open before me, my heart tender, my eyes red-rimmed from crying. I loved this man of God as I had never loved anyone in the past. He had three children (as had my previous husband). He loved the Lord (he told me so). He wanted to do God’s will. He wanted the best for his children (and for mine). And I didn’t want to mess that up. Who better than me, who already had a miserable track record? Who better than me, who had been selfish more often than not? As I prayed and pondered, a most improbable idea came to mind. “Give him up.” Had I heard right? The “perfect” guy had finally come along—and the Lord was asking me to give him up? Yep. Give him up to the Lord. I prayed with a sincerity and agony that shook the foundation of my soul. I prayed that if this marriage would do harm to our children, or would not bring honor to the Lord, that He would take this man out of my life—now—before I messed up again. Now,

before our children would be forced to be hurt by separation and divorce again. Now, before I put myself first, and did not consider the needs of my children, of his children. No matter how badly I wanted him, I did not want to bring harm to him or to his family. That hour seemed very long and agonizing; yet I believe that the Lord gave me the strength to ask Him to take over. I believe He has blessed our union because we both felt the same way about putting Christ first. It works. Try it. Be brave and give Him your life. Ask Him to guide you in His ways. Then wait. Don’t take that next step until He lights it up for you—and you are absolutely certain of that fact. Please. Even if you’re a control freak; and it’s the first time you’ve given in to someone else’s advice. Even if you don’t believe yet. Try it. And watch a miracle unfold before your very eyes. Then live, and live abundantly! Walk in joy. Smile. It’s contagious. Pray. It’s miraculous. Trust. It’s tremendous. Love. It’s marvelous. Rock your world with laughter (a good medicine).

Jesus is the answer. He speaks to us in our spirit and through His word. We turn to Him in order to deal with the roller-coaster emotions that become evident in trying transition periods. Memorizing and believing that Scripture helps, can make a difference. Two of my favorites follow:

Proverbs 15:1. A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Matthew 6:14. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

I’m sitting in the comfort of my living room, with the music of “The Phantom of the Opera” (the movie) in the background. Otherwise, I’m alone with you, the Holy Spirit, and my Bible. I have opened my heart and my life to you—the good, the bad, the ungodly. I have prayed for you, for the Lord to illuminate the message inside the covers of this book that will change your life. Change your attitude about yourself. I have struggled with the concept of “loving myself”. If I looked only at the evidence that is my life, how could I love myself? You know what? “I” can’t. It occurs to me that I never could. I spent years and years drifting on a sea of self. I wasn’t asking for God’s help or His guidance. Following salvation, I became even more aware of the selfish, self-centered, self-serving, greedy, egotistical lifestyle I had expected others to blindly accept. I was sweet, cuter, had a good sense of humor. But in reality, I was ugly, offensive and careless. The only way “I” could walk the straight and narrow would be if I quit trying so hard to be accepted and envied, to let go of the past and let the Lord take control. Money isn’t the answer. (I had it once) Beauty isn’t the answer. I believed I was attractive. Maybe I was. But I used it the wrong way. Remember. God doesn’t look on the outside, He looks at our hearts. Mine was black.

Only the Lord could outshine the darkness I had created. Only the Lord could offer me the strength to turn my life around. Only the Holy Spirit could whisper, and be heard, above the cacophony of the world. No, “I” couldn’t accomplish anything. For many years, I remained incapable of love. I had to throw my hands up in surrender, hand the torch over to the Lord, pass the baton and let Him take the lead. I had to choose to follow Him into the light. I had to choose joy, embrace opportunity, accept that I have a purpose, and endure to the end. Fight the good fight. Trust in the Lord with all your, heart, mind and spirit. John 5:24 (NLT):
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”I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life.

They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed form death into life.”

The peace of tomorrow rests in the decisions we make today. Even so—know that whatever turmoil you create in your own life—or the turmoil that may have been caused by another, is not insurmountable with a small measure of faith. Step out in that faith. “Offer the fragrance of your brokenness as a sweet offering to the Lord”.

CHAPTER 8 The Love Chapter—Because God is Love and we need Him—so Desperately 1 Corinthians 13 (NIV):
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If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong

or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
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Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not

dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
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Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they

will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

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And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I included the entire chapter here because we need to experience all of it. To know love, to be love, to give love. To believe that His love endures forever. (i.e. 1 Chron. 16:34; 2 Chron. 5:13, 7:3, 6; 20:21; Ezra 3:11; Psalm 106:1; 107:1, 118:2 3,4,29, 138:8—see context of Scriptures at the back of this book)

The love of God cannot be compared with the love of man—any man—even the best man. God’s love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Always, always, always, always. I may not know you personally, but as for myself, I do not always practice any of those. I can’t always protect. My husband works out of town; and we have five children scattered in every direction. And forget always being able to protect grandchildren. It’s not even my place (although all of our children know that we would be there in a New York second if any one of them needed us). The power of protection for my grown and independent family comes only through prayer. By the way—prayer is mighty powerful! I don’t always trust either. If you’ve been through a divorce, or almost got divorced once, or even entertained the idea for a minute, you have probably experienced some trust issues. If you’re female, I recommend the following exercise which I learned from a godly Christian counselor: Think back to your earliest memory of your father (or a father figure). Move forward in time until you bump into the first time he disappointed you. As an example, I’ll share what came to my mind the first time I tried this exercise.

When I was a kid, my dad worked on a rig in the oilfield on the outskirts of Odessa, Texas. Sometime during his shift, a large pipe careened out of control and slammed into my dad’s stomach. I was little, but the painful memory is seared into my brain. Mother carried me and my older brother (by 11 months) to the neighbor’s house. She left us there, said she had to get to the hospital to see about Daddy. “Everything is going to be fine,” she reassured us through tears. My brother must not have believed her, because I remember him screaming at her, long after she would have been able to hear him: “I’m going, too!” he shouted, as he kicked the screen door. “He’s my daddy. You have to take me with you. He’s my daddy. You have to take me! You have to!” His little voice, strong, defiant, afraid, still echoes in my head. We didn’t see Mother again until the next day. She took us to the lobby of the hospital (we were too young to go upstairs). They brought my dad down in the elevator. I’ll never forget that sight. He had tubes coming out of him everywhere—even his stomach. They had to roll something alongside the hospital bed because it was connected to my dad’s arm by another, smaller tube.

Not a sweet memory of an Easter Sunday in the park in a new dress, with big smiles on everyone’s faces. Not a foam ball and plastic bat, with pillows for bases in the back yard where we played an easy game of baseball designed for toddlers. No, sir. My earliest memory of my dad was far removed from such pleasantries.

I was three—and convinced my dad would never come home from the hospital.

As my wise counselor pointed out—when my daddy seemed to be leaving me behind, Satan stuck his foot in the door. He wedged a barrier between me and the innocent trust that had been mine for three years. The thought of losing my dad tore a hole in my heart.

From there the counselor urged me forward in time, seeking, agonizing, remembering every alleged hurt and disappointment from any male figure who played a part in my life. Each new hurt, fear, or disappointment seared yet another hole through my heart. So, there I sat, whipped and broken from dredging up all the memories. What do you suppose the counselor suggested I do next? “Consider Jesus for a moment,” he said in his mild, comforting voice. “You trust Him and love Him, do you not?” “Yes, sir. Yes, I do.” “Now remind yourself that Jesus, too, is a man.” My eyes popped open in surprise. “Jesus is a man,” said my counselor. “A man you can trust. So visualize Jesus, as a man, and let Him fill all the holes in your heart. Let Him mend each one and stitch your heart back together.”

Cool, right? I’ve had to perform the above described exercise more than once; but each time there were fewer holes.

I’ll answer the obvious question before you have to call or email me to ask. Even after all that good counseling and much-needed healing, my fourth husband and I got divorced anyway. I guess we had already pushed each other too far. Neither one of us had been strong enough to let down our guard and trust. I wasn’t about to forgive him so easily. He had hurt me. And the hurt ran deep. He wasn’t ready to open his arms to me either, by the way. Choices were made. Hurtful things were said. And the end eventually came—painful and unyielding. The road to recovery that stretched before me seemed long and dark and daunting. But with joy unspeakable, my heart soars. The difficulties of life don’t go away, but the face of them changes. When you trust in the Lord, give Him the wheel, your own endurance level increases. Peace becomes more readily accessible. And you come to know—deep down in your knower—that God has your back. Spiritual maturity is a journey we will never finish until we step through the gates of heaven and claim our inheritance through Jesus Christ. The armor of God and the prayers of the righteous (which availeth much) are our weapons and defense for warfare while we walk this planet, which (Hallelujah!) is not our home. During the span of our lifetimes, we are guaranteed trouble. We are guaranteed heartache and pain and loss. Our loved ones will die, our children will go through fiery trials of their own which we will be powerless to quench. We will experience financial ups and downs, and know both feast and famine. But in the midst of all the yuck, we can know joy, walk in peace, and rally ourselves enough to help someone else who may need a dose of the wisdom we have acquired along the way.

Take a chance. Risk baring your soul to help save the soul of another. We’re all in the same boat. Really, somebody has to exhibit the faith of Peter, and step out onto the water. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and you won’t sink. Encourage someone else to join you on the water. What’s a little miracle to God? Or even a big one? He spoke the whole universe into existence—I’m pretty sure He can handle the lives of those He created. Hear my heart. Trust Him. Give Him control of your life, your mind, your body—give Him your heart, and trust Him with the little things. We can be strange creatures, don’t you agree? We take one giant step forward to insure ourselves eternal life in glory; but when it comes to tithing a tenth we panic ‘cause if we give “that much” to the church, we’ll never make it to the next payday. O, we of little faith.

My dear departed Granny, on the other hand, trusted God with everything—from providing an up-close parking space, to the pronouncement that cancer had taken root in her throat and she knew (outside of God’s miraculous healing) it would not release its hold on her until it took her last breath. My Granny was a champion who loved the Lord with every fiber of her being. If she had to spend time in the hospital it meant someone in that hospital needed a word from the Lord, a witness or testimony that He had placed her there to share.

She sang out in church even though, to hear her say it, she “couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket with a lid on it”. She was my favorite. I loved her. I admired her; and I try, every chance I get, to honor her. I’m convinced that there are so many jewels in her crown, she will just have to stand behind it in the face of Jesus, because she would never be able to lift it to offer it back to Him. My Granny was a champion—who had been forced to divorce a man who molested their children. Who married again and had another child. Her new husband leaned into the car window to chat when they ran for cover under a tree in a rainstorm. She watched in horror as she held their infant son, and her husband was struck by a wild bolt of lightning. He fell across her lap, and died. A woman who rallied yet again, married again, and prayed for her husband’s salvation every day of their married life, until he accepted Jesus as his Savior the year before he died, at the age of 75.

I come from a long line of strong women who loved the Lord, and yet every generation has been plagued with multiple marriages. My prayer is that the curse will be broken with my daughter. That she will know both the joy of the Lord and the bliss of one man, one woman, till death do them part. God is stronger than any curse. Braver than any frightened woman who is faced with tough choices. And more compassionate than we can ever hope to be or even understand. Understand it, maybe not. But we can experience that compassionate, gentle man who knows everything about us, and loves us anyway. We can experience the Savior who died or us so that we may have eternal life, and live forever in His glorious presence.

Speaking of eternal life—

I attended a funeral today—the mother of my husband’s sister-in-law. A sweet lady of 84 who was known best for her capacity to love. Never met a stranger. A Babbling Brook (as Gary Chapman referred to in The 5 Love Languages) who loved to talk. I loved her, because she first loved me. Sound familiar? That’s how Jesus loved us—first. I learned something as I listened to her son-in-law (my bother-in-law) speak loving words over her amazing life. He spoke of how much she loved her family (and everyone they brought home with them); how she took care of her husband, every day, in sickness and in health; every day, no matter what. She kept her promise. Such a sweet herald felt like a hot knife plunged into my heart.

Divorce hurts. So much. Divorce hurts so much because we, as Christian women, surely realize, that we have not simply broken a vow to a man, but to God—before God, and “all these witnesses”. I did that four times. And as a Christian, it breaks my heart just to remember it. Still, more than 20 years later, I would change the past if I could. I would have preferred not to hurt and/or disappoint so many people. I would have preferred the proverbial one-marriage-for-life-twochildren-house-with-a-white-picket-fence scenario you read about in stories with happy endings.

I didn’t take that path. The road I followed ran down back alleys, was plagued with potholes and burdened with barriers. I picked this road, hard as it is to imagine. My own sin blinded me to the reality. Shame did not even become a part of the picture until after I experienced salvation. I know my lifestyle must have broken my grandmother’s heart; but she never stopped loving me, never stopped praying for me, never stopped proclaiming a miracle over my life.

As the funeral continued, my brother-in-law also said, “The greater the investment, the greater the risk, the greater the loss.” It’s eerie, the resemblance. I married four times without asking any guidance outside of myself. I married four times before I gave my heart to Jesus. I entered all four marriages with very little investment. However, three years into the fourth, I fell to my knees, seeking forgiveness, seeking grace, seeking mercy. Jesus offered them to me freely, and greatly increased the risk. I invested ten years in that marriage and risked the lives of seven people. When it crumbled—great was the loss. I know some of you can identify. You risked it all, invested even more years, and still feel the sting of the loss.

Let me encourage you.

John 8:1-11 (NIV)
1

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

2

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and

he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus

was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (Jesus spoke in the bold italics). In my heart, I know you could substitute adultery or divorce with any sin and the scene would play out the same. Remember, forgiveness is not an emotion—it is an act of the will. Forgive yourself. If you have asked God to forgive you, He has.

Psalm 103 of David. (NIV)
1

Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—3 who forgives all your sins and

2

heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6

The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. 7 He made known his ways to

Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: 8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear

him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 15 The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
19

The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. 20 Praise the

LORD, you his angels, When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need: words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you. Ephesians 4:29

It all comes down to choices. We choose life and love and freedom and growth; or we choose death and bitterness and isolation and decay.

No one can make the choice for us. I’ve wished many times that I could just lean on someone else-even Jesus—and everything would work itself out. Sounds simple and serene—and easy, doesn’t it? Yes, we rely on the Lord for everything. We trust Him with every circumstance. We rely on Him to always be there for us. Sorry ladies, but we can’t just lean on Him and make no effort of our own to move forward. If we sit back and do nothing, or avoid other people or painful situations or circumstances because they stir up uncomfortable memories, we get stuck. We stagnate, if you will. Ever been close to a stagnant pool of water? It stinks. It’s unfit for consumption. No one wants to get near it except bugs and insects who like the stench and the muck. Ugh. No thanks. Give me life, Lord, to the fullest! Leave the past in the past and move forward. Love yourself—or learn to—and love others. For most of my life, I have avoided the love yourself part of the formula. I have difficulty believing in my own self-worth. That Jesus loves even ME. It’s wrong of me to take that statement lightly. It’s no small thing that Jesus loves ME. And He loved me first. Not because I would never sin or embarrass Him or break His heart. He loved me, and chose me, before I ever committed one sin, gained one ounce of body fat, or fell for, married, and divorced even one man. Amazing. Amazing grace. Love everlasting. Sweet, perfect, unconditional love—for ME.

I urge you to embrace His love for YOU. Get alone with Him and let Him convince you.

Chapter 9

Spiritual Gifts

We are who God created us to be.

Every detail of our physical being is programmed by DNA. Its intricacies far outweigh the most sophisticated computer system on the market today. The color of your hair was preprogrammed by your DNA. The shape of your nose, your height, your body frame—all your physical characteristics were determined at the moment of conception.” (Discover Your God-Given Gifts” by Don & Katie Fortune—p. 23)

It’s hard not to appreciate a God who clearly takes an interest in us as individuals. It’s harder still not to love a God who does not focus on His handiwork alone, by marveling in the miracle He has wrought in our physical makeup—He chooses, rather, to focus on a personal relationship with us, a binding of our souls, a developing of spiritual giftedness that completes us. He chooses to make it possible for us to know Him as the ultimate Creator, the perfect human being,

and the infinite Spirit that indwells us, the Comforter, Counselor, Companion and Constant Mediator.

Whatever motivational gift you have been given is the best gift God could have given you for the working out of His purposes in your life and for the benefit of the other people whose lives you will touch. (Discover Your God-Given Gifts” by Don & Katie Fortune—p. 28)

Jesus, all God, all man, all knowing, all loving, lifted that weight off of me and carried it down the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. He did not let go. He did not lose His grip. I know in the depths of my soul that when Christ hung on the tree and bore all sin for all mankind, for all time, He did not toss divorce, or even adultery for that matter, to the ground, too weak to carry such a heavy load. Not my God! My God carried it all! All the way to Calvary, all the way to Hell, and all the way back. Don’t you see? He carries it still!

He reminds us (Himself) in Matthew 11:28-30:

28

”Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take

my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

You have probably heard the Army recruiting slogan, “Be all you can be”.

I believe the Lord has provided a way for us to be all we can be as witnesses among the multitudes, and as mentors to those who cross our path, and to live in harmony with our families. Families can present a challenge like no other subset of Homosapiens.

Witnessing to a lost family member can be a real challenge. After all, family knows our faults and weaknesses better than anyone. And suppose you are the only member of your family who knows the Lord? It can be a little scary. However, there may be a few steps to take which can prove to be helpful when bridging a gap or approaching a loved one about salvation. Step one. Discover who you are in Christ. Take time to take a spiritual gift test yourself; then study the characteristics, weaknesses and strengths that are manifested through such gift, or gifts, if you are strong in more than one area. I might also suggest that you test every two or three years. As you grow in Christ, the scope of opportunity may grow and change with you. And keep in mind, too, that God is capable of granting any spiritual gift to anyone He chooses, at the moment you need it. No test required. So, practice listening for His voice, and be ready to use any gift He offers, in the moment He offers it. Step two. What is your God-given spiritual gift? There are a variety of spiritual gift tests available. I am partial to the writings of Don and Katie Fortune because I cut my teeth on one of their early books, “Discover Your Children’s Gifts”, which proved to be very helpful when I was trying my best to raise five very different children.

For example, my son is a perceiver, a very strong personality who “is never wrong” (). My daughter, even in her early years, had the heart of a server. Sensitive, calm, sweet, eager to please. I remember one day when my daughter was feeling particularly sensitive (she was about five, which made her brother nine or ten, depending on the time of year). Anyway, something was said that apparently struck a nerve, and my daughter began to cry. Knowing about their differences, my son shrugged his shoulders, looked over the top of her head at me, and simply said, “Blue”. He left the room without another word. A potentially volatile situation, defused. He knew, even as a young man, that he thrived in a different arena than his sister. He still does. The “blue” remark was the result of a combined study. One, a personality study that identified different personality types with a color (blue, orange, green and gold). The other, the Fortune’s spiritual gift test. The colors were easier to remember for the children (and for me, too), so we used the personality colors that fit the like categories in the spiritual gifts. It was fun. And helpful.

Step three. Go for it. Find out how you can be used s a blessing to others. Discover how it works when you shift your focus from your own woes, and help someone else. If you are interested, find a pastor, or contact me, for a spiritual gifts test, or request a full-blown study at your church. I could even throw in the personality color chart as a bonus, if you’d like. Or if you prefer, buy the Fortune books and learn at your own pace. Either way, I encourage you to do something. Get to know who you are in the Lord. Learn to appreciate the differences of those you work with, live with and serve with.

In the words of one of my stepsons, at the tender age of six, who had already experienced more heartache and disappointment than many people will experience in a lifetime: “Why can’t we all just love each other?”

Scripture References

The following scripture references were made, but not spelled out, in the content of Relationships that Rock Your World. They are printed below for your convenience.

Psalm 3:
2

Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head

3

Psalm 4:
8

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 5:
11

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.

Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Psalm 6:
9

The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer.

Psalm 9:
10

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who

seek you.

Luke 1:
79

to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path

of peace.”

Luke 7:
50

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Luke 8:
48

Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

John 16:
33

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have

trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Romans 5:
1

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord

Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
6

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

1 Corinthians 7:
15

But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such

circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.

1 Corinthians 14:
33

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

Galatians 5:
22

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,

faithfulness,23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Ephesians 2:
14

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the

dividing wall of hostility,

Ephesians 6:
23

Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 4:
7

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your

minds in Christ Jesus.
9

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.

And the God of peace will be with you.

1 Timothy 1:
1

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our

hope,

13

Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy

because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.

2 Timothy 3:
1

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.

Matthew 5:
23

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has

something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

1 Chronicles 16:
34

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

2 Chronicles 5:
13

The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the

LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 7:
3

When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple,

they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.”

6

The priests took their positions, as did the Levites with the LORD’s musical instruments, which

King David had made for praising the LORD and which were used when he gave thanks, saying, “His love endures forever.” Opposite the Levites, the priests blew their trumpets, and all the Israelites were standing.

2 Chronicles 20:
21

After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him

for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.”

Ezra 3:
11

With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: “He is good; his love to Israel endures

forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

Psalm 106:
1

Praise the LORD.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 107:
1

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 118:
1

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.” Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.” Let those who fear the LORD say: “His love endures forever.” Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

2

3

4

29

Psalm 138:
8

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever—do not

abandon the works of your hands.

John 15:
17

This is my command: Love each other.

John 17:
26

I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love

you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Romans 13:
8

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who

loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.9The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be,

are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Galatians 5:
13

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful

nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Ephesians 4:
2

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 5:
1

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ

loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Colossians 1:4
4

because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—

1 Timothy 3:12
12

A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household

well.

1 Timothy 4:9-10
9

This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10(and for this we labor and strive),

that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

Hebrews 13:1
1

Keep on loving each other as brothers.

James 2:8
8

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are

doing right.

1 Peter 1:22
22

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for

your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

1 Peter 2:17
17

Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

1 Peter 3:8
8

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be

compassionate and humble.

1 John 2:15
15

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the

Father is not in him.

1 John 3:11, 23
11

This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one

23

another as he commanded us.

1 John 4:7, 11-12, 21
7

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been

born of God and knows God.
11

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen

God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
21

And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 5:
2

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his

commands.

2 John 4-6:
4

It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father

commanded us. 5And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had

from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

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