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Welcome Survivor!

Finances is the topic of this newsletter. As housing costs continue to rise in many communities, more divorcing couples are forced to sell the family home and downsize not only possessions but expectations. Divorce can leave us financially shaken when we are most vulnerable emotionally. Under pressure, we may agree to settlements that we would never consider in more lucid moments. We may face bankruptcy, an IRS audit, and shock that the person we thought would love us forever is not at our side or on our side—but feathering his own nest. Some of us never really know our spouse until the marriage ends and a long-term pattern of fraud is revealed that included keeping us in the dark about stock options, deferred bonuses, outstanding debts or doctored records and checkbooks.

Here’s what is new

Christian Women Today, a bimonthly e-zine of Campus Crusade for Christ , features two articles by Kari: “The Ups and Downs of Step-Parenting” and “The Power of Touch,” taken from Lynn’s story in Issue 17 of the newsletter. Subscribe to this free e-zine at www.christianwomentoday.com

Now let’s meet Desiree from Oregon and Elaine from Colorado, who share how they coped financially after divorce.

Personal Reflection by Desiree in Oregon

After seven years of marriage, my husband called home one night from his swing shift job to tell me that he had found someone else and wanted “to be happy.” He never came home again except three weeks later to get his personal effects. He took his paycheck and left me owing $140,000 on a house, $12,000 on my car, and around $11,000 in other debts (credit card, home improvement loan, etc). Shocked, I did not know if I could survive.

My church family stood with me. They let me cry, hugged me and even brought groceries for my girls (ages 12 and 16) and me. Some friends offered to loan me money for a house payment, but I refused as I didn’t want to owe money to anyone else. Many a dark lonely night I lay awake wondering what had happened and what to do. To be honest, I completely lost attack of time. I was terrified and spent hours in prayer. Finally, one Saturday morning I broke down and wept. Item by item, hope by hope, dream by dream, I laid each one on the altar before the Lord. “It’s Yours, God. If You want my children, they are Yours. If You want my home, it’s Yours. There’s nothing more I want, long for or need except You.”

I’d been advised to sell my house, so I prepared it and showed it, hoping to sell it on my own. After rejecting a cash offer because it was too low, I pleaded with God for a way to keep my girls with me and in their own rooms, schools, and neighborhood. I sought out a free consultation with a bankruptcy attorney, who immediately advised me to file. She said I could keep my car and house but that I would never make it with the debt load and must file right away. Walking out of her office, all I could do was pray, “Lord, please don’t make me go through this. I don’t want to cheat these people; please, Lord!”

The next morning my clock radio awakened me with a local Christian station playing worship music—and a commercial for Trinity Credit Counseling. I looked up the company online, filled out an application, and waited. A counselor called and told me that they couldn’t help me because of the type of debt I had. She told me to call each creditor, explain the situation, and ask for a financial hardship form, and said that they would probably work with me. So I made a list of creditors and began to call. I’d previously learned that Oregon was not a community property state and even though my husband had divorced me, he was still liable for one-half of all the debts (house included) because he had signed the contracts.

The first one I called on was the home improvement loan; we owed $6,350. I explained to the manager my situation and asked for a financial hardship form. She said there was nothing she could do; she couldn’t divide the loan in half, restructure my payments or help me. “If you don’t work with me,” I said, ‘you will force me to file bankruptcy. I don’t want to dishonor you or cheat you in any way. Please, can’t we work together?” She replied: “Would you be willing to settle the entire debt for $1,000?" After picking myself up off the floor (and not knowing where on earth I would find the money), I said, “Yes, I will.”

I called the next creditor; a $2,200 Visa bill. Again, the same result—they wouldn’t work with me. Then I mentioned being forced into bankruptcy. Immediately the man said, “Would you be willing to settle the entire bill for $550?” In faith, I replied, “Yes, I will!” And so it went one creditor at a time, me being honest and prayerful, and each time an agreement to settle for certain amounts. The only one that would not work with me was regarding my car. By the end of the day, God had miraculously relieved my debt load of $11,000 down to $2,200.

Still not knowing where I would get this money, I prayed. The next day was my birthday. I phoned friends from church who had offered me money for a house payment. When I explained what happened and asked if I could borrow the $2,200, one friend immediately said yes, adding, “We’ve decided that if it was a small amount we wouldn’t charge you interest. How about paying it off by the end of the year?” I cried. What an incredible birthday gift! I could only rejoice (float was more like it) at what God had done.

Now I began to earnestly trim my budget so that I could prove to the mortgage company that I had done everything in my power to work with them. I changed the date of my car payment so it came out of the second paycheck of the month, shut off cable, the newspaper, and downsized the garbage can. The girls and I pack our lunches. I did anything and everything I could think of until my budget was within $300 of being balanced. The only luxuries I kept was my cell phone for safety since I drive 50 miles a day to work and my dedicated line for my computer as I do contract work to earn extra money. Looking back I realize that it was only by giving away everything—every dream of being loved, every hope of financial stability, every right to raise my children, every single item that I held in high value—that God was able to bring the ram for sacrifice so that I did not have to sacrifice on the altar that which I loved deeply. By honoring Him with my whole heart, He more than honored me. I chose to believe that whatever happened that God is ultimately in control.

Personal Reflection by Elaine in Colorado

“You are a survivor,” a friend once said to me. I pondered her words, picturing a survivor as someone with head barely above water, treading water. At the time, that’s how I felt. But today, three years after my husband’s departure, I’m tired of treading water. I want to walk on water!

For twenty years of marriage, I stayed home with six beautiful blessings. I wore all those badges that the church tells wives to wear. I made my own bread, home schooled my children, and encouraged my husband. After my husband left me for a young girl in her twenties, I learned that he’d been gambling, was $70,000 in debt, and behind in our mortgage, gas, electric payments. He had emptied every penny out of our savings and checking accounts, leaving me with no means of support. Not only did I not have money to feed and clothe six hungry children, but worse yet, I had no job skills. How in the world could I support myself let alone seven of us! I was devastated, yet my family situation demanded that I go on.

I found a part-time job in a bookstore. The first week that I cashed my pitiful check for $120, I went grocery shopping. When Sunday came, I opened my wallet to pay my $12 tithe and discovered that I only had a $20 bill. I bargained with God for a few seconds, figuring I could pay Him next week until I realized that I couldn’t even go to Mac Donalds with the remaining $8. So I put the $20 in the collection basket. Before the offering song was even over, a woman I barely knew handed me a $100.

That was the start of God’s promises. God promises to never leave us or forsake us. He promises to be a father to the fatherless and a husband to the husbandless. Those children I have are a gift from God. Because they are His, I will do my very best to provide but God has to pick up my lack. I do not make enough to pay my mortgage, yet every month somehow it’s paid. Sometimes money arrives in the mail, through the church or strangers. I can’t explain it. All I know is that I’m in desperate need of God. And even though I qualify for food stamps and every humiliating program out there, I tithe. So can you. And keep giving—give old clothes and things that remind you of “him.” Giving creates an open pathway for God to give back to you.

Being a stay-at-home mom for 20 years I watched many neighborhood children. When I went to work full time, friends and people I barely knew volunteered to watch my youngest for free. I reaped what I sowed years ago. Somehow we always have plenty to eat. I don’t get it. I can’t explain it. I just trust God. Is it hard? Yes! And yes there are many panic moments. Yes, the car has broken down with no visible means to fix it, but somehow God always comes through—sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

Recently, while driving my oldest daughter to the airport to catch a plane to visit her father, she called his girlfriend “a blessing.” You see, my exhusband took off for the Caribbean to avoid child support, leaving us with only a post office box address and no way to trace him to garnish wages. He’s enjoying the best of life, sitting on the beach, being supported by a wealthy new girlfriend, who paid for my daughter’s plane ticket so she could see her dad. Isn’t that great!

Sure, there are days when I still feel that I’m drowning instead of walking on water. There are days the pain is staggering, days I rage at my exhusband’s slick outrageous behavior and wonder if I’ll ever be financially stable. I long to figure everything out, but I guess in the end it really doesn’t matter. One of God’s names is Jehovah Roe—the God who sees. He sees! He knows. God knows my hurt and yours. Best of all, Jesus came to earth to heal the broken hearted. He came for us.

Help for today by Kari

If you yearn for financial security, you are not alone. Results of a new poll reveal that most of us worry about the economic fallout from September 11 more than future terrorist attacks. Women feel especially vulnerable, with 46% worrying that their financial situation will worsen; 52%, feeling a general sadness; 26%, experiencing difficulty sleeping; 20%, battling unexplained anger and a sense of panic as layoffs increase, retirement plans take a hit, and bankruptcy filings increase.

The fear of not making it financially is real, especially after divorce divides a family’s assets or plunders them. I’ll never forget the day I stood in an office parking lot fumbling for my car keys panicked after another day without pay, no compensation for my daughter’s daycare expense, for my travel time, or the gasoline consumed during the 100-mile round-trip drive to my job. The memory is so real that I wrote about it in “Dare to Trust, Dare to Hope Again” (pg. 47). I know the disappointed look of children who can’t comprehend how a mother’s $25 checkbook balance affects them or understand why she can’t afford to take them out for pizza.

What helped me cope with life’s inequities and moments of panic were words of a friend, “When I get in a ‘tiz and start to worry about making ends meet, I stop and pray, ‘Lord, order my day!’ You’re in charge.” While these words don’t pay bills or put food on the table, they can sidetrack anxiety so our minds begin to function again. God doesn’t want us running scared, but into His arms as Elaine points out.

On a practical level, try not to make any major changes in your lifestyle, such as declaring bankruptcy before you seek wise counsel from friends, family, and/or experts. Desiree’s story illustrates the wisdom of learning about alternatives.

Money Saving Tips from Barbara in Connecticut

(Source: An Internet Forward)

           Economize and sharpen scissors at the same time by cutting SOS Pads in half to eliminate rusted, smelly pads under your kitchen sink.

           Keep celery fresh for weeks by wrapping it in aluminum foil before putting in the refrigerator.

           Candles last longer if placed in the freezer for at least three hours prior to burning.

 A promise you can trust

. . . We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, . . .

But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God. . . .

II Corinthians 1:8, 9 NIV


In the meantime

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To share your story or suggest topics for the newsletter, e-mail by Clicking Here or write Garden Glories Publications, P. O. Box 11692, Pleasanton, CA 94588. Archived issues available upon request. ©2003 by Kari West

 
Copyright 2003 by Kari West