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Welcome Survivor        

Forgiveness is our topic for this issue. Without it, unresolved anger will escalate to rage. In a life-altering divorce with its life-changing losses, we will be tempted to scoff at life, become bitter, or seek revenge. Yet forgiving those who hurt and betray us is never easy. As C. S. Lewis explains: “Everyone says forgiveness is a wonderful idea until they have someone to forgive.”

In this newsletter, you’ll meet Marilou in Maine who tells a tragic story of divorce anger and Kay in California who speaks not only of a devastating betrayal but a timely forgiveness.

Here’s what is new

Intimate Moments With God—Personal Stories From Women Sharing the Scriptures That Changed Their Lives recently released (Honor Books). Within its page, you’ll get an inside look at the lives of some of today’s leading women authors and speakers, including Carol Kent, Patsy Clairmont, Alice Gray, Leann Weiss, Linda Evans Shepherd, Cheri Fuller and more. You’ll discover how God’s touch turned adverse circumstances and ordinary lives into extraordinary testimonies of His grace. You’ll share in personal stories of hope that will encourage you through life’s tough times, and be uplifted as God’s faithfulness is proven time and again.

Kari contributed two stories to this collection as a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA), a professional support group made up of the top 10 percent of Christian women in publishing and speaking. This inspiring book is now featured on her website.

Now let’s hear from Marilou and Kay.

Personal Reflection by Marilou in Maine

I truly believe there is hope, healing, and peace after divorce. I was divorced three times. There was so much I did not know.

For almost three years, I have facilitated DivorceCare groups. In working with these groups I’ve seen marriages restored, anger dissipated, and forgiveness initiated. Twenty people have come and gone. I watched first hand how divorce hurts. It hurts all family members. Not only did I personally experience what divorce did to my children and to me in the past, but I recently learned how anger can become destructive. DivorceCare programs help most people get started again—but some people never get over their anger or their pain.

In one particular group was a young man named Joe Tracy. Joe was 43 years old, young to me as he could be my son. He was in a business where he worked outside most of the day and his time was flexible. His 10-year-old dog Sadie was his constant companion.

Joe was winsome but quiet. However, he did get involved in discussions. Many times he referred to things in his last relationship as “fair” or “unfair,” which led me to believe that he felt very strongly about fair play. His story was that he was divorcing his third wife. He had no children from these marriages; his dog was his family.

Joe said that when he met, dated, and planned to marry Eve, they both agreed to each sell the individual houses that they currently owned and put the money toward a new home they would occupy together. He sold his house. However, she did not—not until after Joe left. The divorce decree said Eve should get the new house. To Joe, it was not “fair” for Eve to have the new house and alla the money from the sale of her prior home.

Eve entered the marriage with two children by her former husband, who was killed in a car wreck four years prior. During those years, she became overly protective and almost smothering of her children, which Joe felt left very little room for him. “It just ain’t right,” Joe said when Eve showered the children with gifts and treats. When the family went out, Eve paid for the activity whether it was mini-golf or ice cream and toys. The children never saw Joe pay for anything. Although he paid the bills from the mortgage to lights, telephone, cable, heat, etc, Joe felt that the kids looked upon him as only a tagalong.

Joe tried to explain to Eve how all this looked and how he felt, but she laughed at him. She didn’t think it was important. This went on for two years until finally Joe had enough and wanted out. Realizing he had made some mistakes and wanting his life to be different, he came to DivorceCare and really seemed to be trying to put his life in order. He was not a Christian, but seemed very knowledgeable about God’s place in his life.

You can understand my horror when about a year after that group ended, I saw on the television news that Joe had been arrested for shooting and killing his exwife. Joe decided if he couldn’t have the new home, neither could Eve. He felt he had nothing left to lose since his old dog Sadie had died just a few weeks prior to this fatal shooting. Joe said he had been planning this for a long time. What a sad, sad end.

Personal Reflection by Kay in California

Some of us know when our marriages are in trouble. For others, the shock can hit you like a ton of bricks. My husband was having personal problems. Work was not going well. His father had passed away and he took the death exceptionally hard. His social drinking was rapidly turning into alcoholism. And he seemed miserably depressed.

The man I loved had been a model husband and a wonderful father for years. He had the respect of all who knew him. He was the loyal friend, the wonderful boss, the favorite son and son-in-law, a great coach; and his truck driver C.B. handle was “Family man.”

I was not about to let him fall apart. After all, I was his soul mate and the perfect wife. We were best friends. I was his cheerleader, his counselor, and his biggest supporter. I would save him.

One by one the bricks started falling. Two days before he entered a recovery treatment program for his drinking, I learned that for six months he had an affair with our oldest son’s 18-year-old girlfriend. When he tried to end the affair, she claimed to be pregnant with his child and threatened to tell everyone. In a panic, my husband left. He ran from everything. He ran from me, his children, his job, his home. He left everything behind. He never faced our family, our friends, or me again. He confirmed the affair on the telephone after he was eight hours and many miles away from us. The worst part is he never faced our son.

In the beginning of my healing process, everything was an anniversary—the day we met, the day we married, the day he left. I was hypersensitive to dates and times. His birthday is June 25th (6-25), so it seemed like I woke up every morning at 6:25 a.m. I started the car to head home from work and the clock read 5:05, reminding me of our wedding anniversary on May 5th (5-5). I pulled onto the freeway and noticed a propane truck for the company he used to work for. I thought God was playing some cruel trick on me. In fact, it seemed more than a coincidence that every patient I treated shared his birthday or his middle name or his initials. Even our wedding song made a comeback during that time, playing once an hour on the radio at work. How I wanted peace! I longed for five minutes where I didn’t think about him. Five minutes where something or someone didn’t remind me of him.

There were days I thought I would never make it through. I couldn’t think straight. Then, the messages started on my answering machine begging me to call him, begging for my forgiveness. I broke down and called back. There were tears or a fight. Because he was so ashamed, he had moved two thousand miles and way could not come home. He told me he could not bear to look in my eyes and see the pain he had caused. He said he’d made a new life with the 18-year-old.

Years passed. His telephone calls never stopped. He missed us. He missed our home and our children. He wanted his life back. He must have told me he loved me a thousand times. He begged me to see him. I always said no. He was a cross-country truck driver and sometimes he would be only five miles away and still I said no. He continued to be a long distance father to our three youngest children, and there were fights several times a year that just ripped my heart out. The heartache of sending your children away, while you whisper for them to have a fun visit. The pain goes both ways, as I am sure it was just as difficult on him when he put our kids back on the plane to return to me.

A year ago today, he called me and we talked for five hours. He had been gone for five years. He asked me if he could come home. He wanted to reconcile with our oldest child. He told me that if our son could forgive him then maybe he could forgive himself. He asked me if I would consider seeing him again. He told me that even if I wouldn’t that he just wanted to be closer to his children. He longed to see my parents and wanted to spend the rest of his life trying to fix what he had thrown away.

I finally agreed. We made plans to speak the next morning. So he rented a car and said he was coming home. I was not sure we could ever be together again as a couple but we could at least parent together. He told met that he loved me and he would see me in three days. I finally uttered the words that I had not spoken for five years. I told him I still loved him, too. That was the last time I spoke with him. You see, he was killed three hours later. I cannot tell you what happened in those three hours except that he had packed his things, had a confrontation with the girlfriend, they struggled over a gun and it went off.

Now I have another anniversary to remember—the day of his death. I am eternally grateful for that five-hour telephone call. Our marriage ended but our relationship never did. We talked a lot about God during that call. He felt God was punishing him for the hurt that he had caused me and that God would never forgive him. I told him all he had to do was ask God for forgiveness. We prayed a very simple prayer together. It is the simple act of forgiveness that keeps my heart filled with peace today.                     

I now have entire days when I do not think of him. And when I do, the memories are not bad. Finally, the good memories outweigh the bad ones. There was a time when I thought this would never be over; and now that it is, I realize that I have the Lord to thank for seeing me through. God has blessed my children and me with his comfort and healing. God will take care of you, too. It’s a promise.

Help for today by Kari

As you already know, divorce forgiveness is the bridge that spans the distance from where we were in the past to where God wants us to be in the future. But forgiveness is never easy. It is not a feeling we conjure up but a choice we make–an act of our will. It’s not about forgetting past pain but about remembering what happened, then choosing to the direction of our heart. Forgiveness says, “Lord God, You are more important than anything my exhusband or exwife has done to me. I’m willing to no longer keep score of wrongs. I need healing more than I want revenge for the hurt. I need to be whole more than I need to be right.”

In our journey through the landscape of divorce, we will be angry. Look upon anger as a sign that something needs to change—realizing the only person you can change is you. Dare to pray for your former spouse, asking the Lord to make you willing to be willing to forgive. Pray Jesus’ blood over the doorposts of your mind so you don’t act out your anger. Know that you don’t need the cooperation of the other person to forgive. Someday you’ll see God’s mercy in the madness. As Kay discovered, you’ll find His peace in the process. Forgiveness is the most God-like act we will ever do on earth. It’s not about sanctioning unfairness or condoning wrongs. We forgive others because we recognize that we, too, owe a debt we cannot repay.

 A promise you can trust

Lord, if you keep in mind our sins then who can ever get an answer to his prayers?
But you forgive! What an awesome thing this is!
—Psalm 130:3, 4 TLB

In the meantime

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If you are an e-mail subscriber and wish to send a copy of this current issue to a friend, click the link inside the rose arbor on the first page, or log on to www.gardenglories.com/Newsletters and click inside the rose arbor of the online issue. To share your story, e-mail by Clicking Here or write me at the P. O. address above. Archived issues available upon request. ©2003 by Kari West

Copyright 2003 by Kari West