Living Life in Chapters

Rick* and I married when we were just-turned-20.  We began dating one month after arriving on campus…both of us were 18 and college freshman away from home for the very first time.

Six weeks after we got married, we were pregnant.  Rick and I both quit college that semester (we were beginning our junior year).  Rick got a job as an office manager.  I was too sick to work.  We were married eleven months when our son, Warren*, was born.

By our second anniversary, I was pregnant again with our second child.  Our daughter, Abigail*,  was born only 17 months after Warren.

Rick told me that one of us needed to go back to school to finish our degree so I decided to go back and finish my bachelor’s in Elementary Education.  The year after I graduated, I had our third child, Savanna*.

Rick and I were married for a total of 21 years, although we separated the spring before our 21st anniversary.  In those 21 years, we moved 10 times (and that is not counting the times we moved from house to house within the same town).

Rick was a very talented speaker and leader.  He was highly respected by the members of our church and everywhere we moved, he was quickly recognized for his talents and Biblical knowledge.

He was incredibly conservative in his approach to his religion.  No drinking, no dancing, no music, no immodesty, no pre- or extra-marital sex, no rated-R movies (even for adults), no cussing, etc. and etc. and etc.  I was taught by my church and by my husband that to be a godly wife and mother,  I needed to submit to my husband, quit my job, bring my children home from public school and teach them myself, and be a homemaker. I did all of that as completely and faithfully as I knew how because I was promised that doing these things would “please God” and that God would ultimately bless me for the sacrifices I made for my family.

Then in year 20, with 3 children and not working outside the home for 17 years, after never having even balancing a checkbook or buying an insurance policy or paying a bill (because it was my husband’s role to make these kinds of decisions), the husband who had enjoyed the benefits of a submissive wife, a (mostly) clean home, and 3 gorgeous, well-behaved children decided that he had had enough of this “lie” and left.

Under all of that “appearance of godliness” lay a man mired in sexual addiction, lust, and adultery.

Rick and I divorced in 2007.  Our children were 19, 18 and 15 at the time.

I had to get 3 part-time jobs. I lost health insurance and all of the social security and 401(k) money that he had saved over the years. I eventually had to file for bankruptcy and my home was foreclosed because I couldn’t make ends meet even with 3 jobs. One part-time job I had with a “Christian school” fired me because I was divorced and “that was a bad example for the students.” My children and I were ostracized at our church and one-by-one, left it altogether.

Rick, on the other hand, had the financial and worldly knowledge to move away to another state, get a better job, and marry a woman with a career and continue teaching and preaching in conservative Christian communities. He had the advantage of planning his escape from our life so he could make sure he didn’t “lose too much” in the divorce.

All of the “promises” that were made to me about how submitting to my husband and giving up a career of my own would ultimately bless me and “please God”, WAS THE LIE!  What it actually did was handicap me beyond measure and leave me in my 40′s unprepared to live in the real world.

My children are all young adults in their 20’s now.  They are each remarkable, capable, amazing.  I have a wonderful relationship with each of them, for which I am grateful and humbled.  I know that the years I spent teaching and guiding and loving, the TIME I devoted to each one of them, was so precious.  I am so thankful to God for giving me those years with my kids.  I was privileged beyond measure…a privilege not every mother can enjoy.

And God is the Redeemer.  He knows how to create beauty from brokenness.  And I’ve learned that so many times, He removes people, plans, and dreams  from our lives in order to create room for new people, new situations, new circumstances, and new futures.  Futures that we could not have anticipated or asked for in our old lives, but will ultimately bring about the true desires of our heart.

I now have a career of my own.  I am a special education grade teacher in a public school.  I am entering my 5th year according to the state I live in.  I am also remarried to a wonderful, generous, amazing, funny, and loving man who loves me and loves my kids just as we are. I have also been blessed with a step-son, Chip*.

After a little more than 2-year search, I finally and thankfully found a church to belong to.  God is squeezing healing and grace into the fault lines of my heart. I am redefining what it means to have faith.  I am learning about Jesus’ heart all over again. I am humbled and grateful.

I am now embarking on a new adventure…graduate school!   This degree will give me a credential and a voice in some of the areas in this life in which I am so passionate: equality, ethics, and justice.  This is something I never thought I would do, but I’m very excited to see where I go from here.

I have learned that we live life in chapters.  When one chapter ends, that doesn’t mean that the story is over.  Jesus is the Master Storyteller authoring a unique, singular, abundantly rich adventure just for me.  I just need to keep turning the pages…

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