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Welcome Survivor! 

Celebration is the topic of this newsletter, but it’s often a foreign word to those newly divorced. Sometimes you wonder if you’ll ever have cause to celebrate again. But as Mary in Michigan shares in this issue, celebrate we should, because nothing—not even the disintegration of a marriage—can separate us from God. And what can we celebrate? Life! We are still here with soul and sanity intact after divorce’s destabilizing blows. And through it all, we are gaining wiser hearts, growing deeper into God, and still becoming who our Creator designed us to be.

Here’s what is new  

If you’re a single parent needing encouragement as you tackle the overwhelming tasks that accompany raising a child alone, Kari’s article “Going It Alone” is now viewable online at the Salvation Army Eastern Territory website by clicking here or entering the following address: www.womensministries-tsa.org/SingleParenting-Goingitalone.htm

Personal Reflection by Mary in Michigan

Ever wondered how to celebrate the anniversary of a divorce? I have, especially after living for 33 years in a difficult marriage. To say that I am glad that I feel gratitude might sound suspicious or phony, but it’s the truth. Since the breakup, my life has become a series of thank-yous to God, friends, and family. But it was not always this way.

Celebrations were scarce for most of my married life. Looking back, I realize that what I thought I was doing for the Lord now seems of little value, as if I spent 33 years waiting for a bus. In spite of grim determination to live free of petty score-keeping, a backlog of emotions often jammed my heart and my feelings froze, except for moments of anguish and fury when I cried out to God for radical change. One has to wonder how much of what followed was His answer. All I know is that at some point inside the marriage, truth dawned on me and God’s presence, protection, provision, and power carried me through the chaos to clarity.

To make a long story short, my husband had repeatedly over the years threatened to leave. I ignored him the best I could, asking God to intervene and give him the love for me that God wanted him to have. One day out of the blue, my husband’s temper raged to the point of throwing furniture. When I tired to calm him, I became the enemy. When I warned him of the consequences, the tirade escalated. The next threat was a loud message that I was in life-threatening danger.

As I moved gingerly through the next moments, I had a peace that can only be described as other-worldly. It was as if I knew it would be okay; that God would not allow Satan to win. Now when I hear people muse as to where God is when it hurts, I know that He is right there hurting with us, bringing us through. At the time I was amazed that my words came calmly and from the depths as my husband, only inches from my face, glared at me in desperation and hatred. “Mary, I want a divorce,” he said. An icy cold sharp blade rammed my heart as I replied, “You’ve got one.” In that moment, I was “wife” no more. Until that memorable moment, divorce was not a word I allowed in my thoughts.

Since I had always been delegated to handle our legal, business, and financial maters, I knew this would be no different. One thing led to another as I prayed and cried and listened and learned. God brought resources to me to do the imponderable and to take each unimaginable next step: counselors, referrals, family, godly friendships, pastoral insights, financial and practical aids, offers of sanctuary, transportation and security. One sister flew to Michigan from the West Coast to join another sister and me on court day for the final decree. She stayed with me for more than a week. Her visit took the edge off the stinging devastation of applying that “D” word personally. We even had fun.

Were there also days of hell? Yes. It was difficult living under the same roof with a loose cannon from whom you are preparing to separate forever. His cavalier treatment of this pivotal event told me he had no idea what was coming, thinking only that he had gotten away with it and gained strength. When there was no apology or acknowledgment of his inappropriate behavior, I knew intuitively that there would be a “next time.”

If it weren’t for God, I would have been terrified. As if a clock was ticking, I never knew when zero hour would come where he could kill, disfigure, or permanently disable me. All I knew was that I was in a dangerous stage of a dangerous relationship. I discovered that counseling was not advisable if the goal was to repair the marriage. Once back under the same roof, I would never be sure of my safety. Trust had been so shattered that it would never rebuild. I sensed that I would always be perpetually listening and watching for signals to sound an alarm. My leaving was not only necessary but it had to be permanent.

Before I walked out the door, I tired to absorb the enormity of this decision. If there was one chance in a zillion that I would return, then I could not leave. I needed God’s wisdom and assurance that this was the next step and the right step. I had to have His sure-footedness about it. My feet on the Rock. I cried to the Lord, asking for sure if He were going with me—declaring that if He wasn’t going, I was not going. This is precisely where joy, faith, strength, peace, wisdom and courage came together, pouring into my heart from God Himself via song, His Word, friends, family, events and resources over which I had no control. These verses flooded my mind, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the earth” ... “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” In my heart I knew they were God’s answers to my question.

Looking back, it’s difficult to believe that any part of this was even real, that the marriage was real, that the woman I was then was real. How could I have thought what I did, tolerated what I allowed to happen, contributed to what I did, or continued to image this marriage was God’s will for my life? For too many years I had stood white-knuckled at corners as bus after bus of legitimate reasons for divorce came and went. I had ignored them, telling myself through clenched jaws that a limousine full of miracles pull up to transform my terrorizing bondage into a holy bond.

Today, instead of looking back or down, I’m looking forward and up. I know I have a future, whatever it holds. That future is full of joy and expectation, full of God’s presence and my pursuit of His will. Every step, however small, is a gain, even those that seem sideways or backwards. I’m discovering that in the most unusual times and places, the Lord makes Himself known to me. Often I am startled into fresh awareness that I do not journey to Abba Father and my eternal home alone. I no longer recognize the woman I was and expect that in a couple years I won’t be able to recognize the woman I am today. That makes me smile. Each time I hear the unfamiliar sound of my own laughter, I celebrate new life and give thanks to a gracious God.

Help for today by Kari

A survivor sister in Canada sent me an intriguing article stating that matrimony is a mixed bag for wives’ health. The bottom line is that bad relationships wreck havoc on a woman’s body from the immune system to the heart. Linda Carroll, a health and medical writer from New Jersey, states that studies indicate women’s blood pressure rises more than men’s during arguments with their spouse. Also, the women’s stress hormones increased and they had a higher incidence of influenza and the common cold than their marital counterparts.

“Women appear to function as ‘barometers’ of distressed marriages and are in part more sensitive to negative marital interactions than men,” according to Ohio State University College of Medicine researcher Janice K. Kiecoft-Gfaser. Perhaps indicating that men just don’t notice things are bad, she adds, “I think our research shows that men are simply oblivious to the nuances in a relationship.”

Whether or not all the data is in on this topic, one point is clear, good health is priceless. Each day we can move a limb or speak a word or feel the wind blow or see the sky is cause for celebration. Celebrate the ordinary moments of your life! As Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy aptly put it, “Life isn’t a matter of milestones but of moments.”

A promise you can trust

There is a time for everything . . . . a time to heal . . . . a time to laugh.
—Ecclesiastes 3, 1, 3, 4

In the meantime

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Copyright 2004-2005 by Kari West